By Britney Grover
Portraits by Lori Ovanessian
Halie Robinson can be summed up in two words: tenacious equestrian. She knows what she wants, and she goes for it. She’s not afraid to fail. She dreams big, she wins big and she’s on a course for huge success.
Just 24 years old, Halie not only owns her own hunter-jumper business, Huntridge, but recently moved it into one of the biggest hubs of equestrian sport on the West Coast: Moorpark, California. But that probably didn’t come as much of a surprise to those who watched her win a major competition fresh off a plane from Europe.
In fact, it’s probably not surprising to anyone who’s known Halie along her journey, from the time she first sat on a pony at 2 years old and refused to get off to her successful junior career at Elvenstar Farm.
Halie’s drive, dedication and pure love of horses and the sport have opened doors to incredible opportunities. She’s been willing to take the risk and step through. The results? Impressive, and she’s just getting started.
Meant for Horses
Halie inherited her fondness for horses from her mother, Joan. Joan grew up begging for riding lessons in L.A., but was only allowed to rent horses for trail rides. She would go pay every day to rent horses — but wouldn’t ride them.
“Instead, she would find somewhere for them to graze, fully untack them, and let them enjoy a few hours of serenity in their hard-working days,” Halie said. “She just wanted to make them happy, so I think genetically I’ve always had a love of horses.”
That love sprouted when, at just 2 years old, Halie was invited to a friend’s birthday party with a pony named Sandy to give rides around the backyard. When Halie’s turn came, she loved it so much she refused to get off. Joan got the owner’s number, and took Halie to ride Sandy once a week — in addition to patronizing every single fair or carnival just so Halie could ride around in a circle.
When Halie was 5, she finally started taking lessons. Then her tenacity took over. At a young age, she could be found carrying her saddle from barn to barn at shows, riding whatever horse anyone needed ridden — heralding a renowned career as a junior catch-rider. By the sixth grade, Halie would ride a couple of horses starting at 6 a.m., go to school and then ride all afternoon until dark.
“Horses have always been the light of my life,” she said. “When I was 9 or 10, I’d make spreadsheets in my free time about my horses’ schedules. It was so dorky of me, but I enjoyed it, because I always dreamt of having my own barn. Looking back on that time, it seems like it was something I always knew would be in my future.”
Halie became a working student for Jim Hagman and Elvenstar Farm as a junior, winning a host of hunter and equitation championships from state to national level. One of her favorite memories, however, was showing Captiva in the Second Year Green at Capital Challenge as a junior — alongside the nation’s top riders.
“We got an 87 in the handy, and it was so meaningful to me to be jogging with the best professionals in the country as a working student,” Halie said. “It was a moment that I learned the harder you work, the luckier you get, and I was so fortunate to be a part of a team who really believed in me.”
Education in Europe
Riding with trainers like Jim at Elvenstar, Halie considers herself fortunate to have been treated like a professional as a junior — making her career path feel natural. As a working student, Halie was able to help train and compete horses Jim and his business partner, Johnny Bijlard, imported from Europe. Through that connection, Halie got to know Johnny over the years, which proved crucial in her equestrian development.
While attending Chapman University, Halie worked for Elvenstar at their satellite farm in Orange County, run by Rachel Mahowald. Always poised to take advantage of opportunities, she decided she wanted to go work for Johnny at the farm in Giethoorn, Netherlands — and as it turned out, Chapman had a study-abroad program an hour away at the University of Amsterdam.
Halie went to Amsterdam in August 2017, where she lived during the week and would ride the train to Giethoorn a few mornings before classes. On the weekends, she and Johnny traveled to different countries in Europe to try horses.
In early September, Jim joined them. While they were out trying horses, Jim would have Halie jump water — in preparation for competing Caracas 89 in the USEF Talent Search Finals – West.
“I’d been developing and showing Caracas in the open divisions for a while so I knew him really well, which made it easy to fly back to America mid-week and go straight to the show,” Halie remembered. “Then, after the final, I flew back to Europe still in my riding clothes, landed in Amsterdam first thing in the morning and went straight to my 10 a.m. class at school that day with my saddle!”
Of course, she also took the championship with her.
Halie returned to the States in December after completing her study abroad, and enjoyed riding the same horses she’d helped Johnny find in Europe, that had then been imported. “Johnny and I had so much fun together, and those five months proved to be really pivotal for my career,” she said.
While trying horses with Johnny in Europe, Halie met Canadian rider Chris Sorensen. The Sorensens were about to put on their first European hunter auction, called The Hunt, and Halie was enamored by the idea. During the trials, Chris taught her how to showcase each horse’s abilities. Halie sensed a valuable connection, and stayed in contact after her return to California.
“Chris, who is a wonderful mentor to me, always talked about how my business should and would be in the future,” she said. “I was of course still in school then, and whenever we’d have those conversations I’d imagine myself 10–15 years in the future.”
Little did she know she would be able to put those tips to use not years after graduating, but months.
During her four years at Chapman, Halie was totally focused on getting her degree and building her career. When she was getting ready to graduate, one of Chris’ best friends, Dave Belford, offered her a job on the East Coast. Halie told Chris, “But I want to be in California.” He replied, “You will, but you have to trust me and have a little faith.”
Halie graduated in May 2019 and left to work with Dave. True to Chris’ words, Halie was headed back to her home town of Santa Barbara just three months later — to take over Alanna Snowden’s Gracelynd Hill and transition it into a business of her own.
“I’m so grateful to have learned so incredibly much from Dave including what it takes to be the best,” Halie said. “Those three months, unknowingly at the time, really prepared me for this opportunity.”
Huntridge opened in October 2019, and Halie had a busy fall and winter getting everything in order: transitioning the business and learning a lot in a very short period of time. But by then, she was used to it. She took her clients to four weeks of the Desert Circuit before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“When I got back and had so much time on my hands, I felt like I could finally take a breath and let it all sink in,” Halie said. “It fortunately didn’t impact my customers much and it gave me time to really think about how I wanted my business to be and where I wanted it to go, so in that way it has been a blessing in disguise.”
After just one year, Huntridge is already evolving. On October 1, Halie moved her business to a 22-acre farm in Moorpark, California, thanks to a like-minded connection with owner Steve Resnick. Steve bought the farm, which he named Bought The Farm, LLC, with the intent to collect revenue from the nine acres of avocados and to find a young, driven equestrian to hand the keys of a previously private state-of-the-art equestrian facility.
“My first phone call with him about giving me the farm felt similar to the first phone call I had with Alanna about taking over Gracelynd Hill; an overwhelming sense of gratitude to have been handed such unique and substantial opportunities to establish my career immediately upon graduating,” Halie said.
The new location allows Halie not only to have select students and a group of sales horses, closer to competitions, but Huntridge offers a retirement program with a reserved two-acre pasture. Halie has also invited a top dressage trainer to train out of the facility, raising the quality of the farm.
Living the Life
Halie’s mom, Joan, is involved with the retirement program, as well as barn management, bringing Halie’s budding program full circle. One of Halie’s favorite parts of her day is barn meetings — because Joan always brings her dog, Cali, with whom Halie says she’s obsessed.
Even after a day at the barn, Halie still likes to stay busy — buying new barn equipment, finding new courses to build or watching horse videos. “It’s not in a workaholic way, I just find a lot of pleasure in what I do,” she said. “When I’m truly not working, I love being at the beach, paddle boarding or doing yoga. I’m definitely a California girl!”
In her business, Halie is excited to offer individualized, hands-on attention to a small group of students in order to help them achieve high-level success, primarily hunter and equitation finals. She’ll continue developing young hunters and doing sales, as well as striving to become a contender in the WCHR Professional Challenge and Derby Finals.
In other words, she’ll keep doing what she’s always set out to do, and what is bringing her such early success.
“Being able to already enjoy at such a young age what once were my long-term goals showed me that you really can do anything you set your mind to, and that nothing should hold you back if you’re willing to work hard,” Halie said. “Jim taught me the importance of being tenacious. I’ve always dreamt big, and I think over time that manifested. Hopefully that continues!”
For more information, visit www.huntridgellc.com
Photos by Lori Ovanessian, simpleefocused.com