By Laura Scaletti
Portraits by Melissa Fuller
When asked, “Were you raised in a barn?” sixth generation horsewoman Haylie Jayne Rolfe proudly answers, “Yes.” Growing up in Elgin, Illinois, on the family’s Our Day Farm, Haylie and her siblings, Maggie and Charlie, were immersed in the equestrian experience from day one. “It was an amazing way to grow up, because I spent so much time with my family. Every day after school, we had lessons together and then we spent the summers on road trips to horse shows,” Haylie said. “Horses have always been a way of life for me and my siblings.”
That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Hayliee all decided to follow in the family tradition and become professionals. However, it wasn’t all work and no play at Our Day Farm. “My parents always did such a great job of keeping riding fun for us kids. I remember I would ride my first pony, Chanel, in my swimsuit with the ring sprinklers going,” Haylie said.
There was never a shortage of mounts for the siblings to ride when they were growing up. “My dad, Alex, filled the farm with green ponies when we were kids. Once we had them going, showing and winning, they were sold,” Haylie said. “So, it feels like we’ve always been developing horses.”
It was Alex who trained the trio throughout their Junior years. “Dad taught us everything he knew. His father, Frank, was an amazing horseman who made his business fixing horses. Whether they had an ailment or behavioral issues, Frank had a solution,” Haylie said. “To this day, Dad calls on his recipes and treatments a lot.”
As the youngest, with two years separating each child, Haylie had a different experience growing up with her siblings than Maggie and Charlie did. “My brother and sister were always really competitive with each other in a way they never were with me. The first time I won Maclay regionals, Charlie was second. He was so proud that he had the award presentation picture printed on a tie and wore that tie for years,” Haylie said.
At four years Haylie’s senior, Maggie took on the role of assistant trainer to Haylie from the time they were kids. “We still go over rounds together and bounce ideas off each other. I’m really fortunate,” Haylie said.
While Haylie always had a feeling she’d end up in the family business, she maintained her amateur status while she was in college so she could get the NCAA Equestrian Team experience. While at the University of Georgia (UGA), Haylie helped the team win two national championships and three SEC championships. She also was the NCEA Individual Champion in the Equitation Over Fences in 2009.
As captain of the UGA Equestrian Team, Haylie had the opportunity to meet the captain of the track team, Nate Rolfe. “When I first met Nate, he hadn’t been around horses. When he would come to watch our meets, he was scared to come into the barn,” Haylie said. “These days it’s a much different story!”
In 2010, Haylie graduated from UGA and married Nate. She knew he was the man of her dreams when he agreed to move to Illinois so she could eventually join the family business. “When we got married, Nate learned everything he could about horses. He shadowed my dad as much as he could and today there isn’t much he can’t do around the farm or with horses,” Haylie said. “He helps break the young horses, he handles the stallion collections, he helps ship, he can pull off a sprung shoe and clean up the foot. He’s also sells horse insurance through EMO.”
Haylie truly made the most of her collegiate days. Not only was she a rock star on the UGA Equestrian Team, but she also received a degree in classical cultures and, most notably, met Nate. “Not to sound cheesy, but marrying Nate is definitely the best thing I’ve done. He’s my best friend and biggest supporter,” Haylie said.
With Haylie and Nate’s roots firmly planted in Illinois, she officially joined Our Day Farm in a professional capacity in 2011. Today, Haylie and Maggie run the business together. “If you ask our father, he will say he’s retired, but I don’t think he will ever really retire. He still loves horses too much for that,” Haylie said.
With a mix of sale horses—some homebreds and some imports—and training clients, everyone has an important role to play to further the success of the Our Day Farm clients. “Dad handles the young horses until they’re ready to show. Maggie and I split the workload however we see fit; our roles seem like they’re always changing,” Haylie said. “We both train clients and right now it seems like Maggie is doing more jumpers and I’m doing more hunters, but a few years ago it was the opposite.”
As Haylie and Maggie both have kids now, they try to fill in for each other whenever and wherever they can. One way they divide and conquer is through sharing the tasks of operating the Illinois and Wellington, Florida, farms. “Now that my kids are in school, Nate and I have been going to Wellington and opening the barn at the beginning of the school year and staying until the end of school. Maggie keeps our farm in Elgin open until mid-November and then meets us down here,” Haylie said.
Having such a tightly knit family around allows Haylie to be the best mom and professional she can be. With three kids—Oliver, 8; Maylin, 4; and Chloe, 2—she feels very lucky to have parents who are super involved grandparents.
This past August, Oliver did his first USEF Pony Finals, where he won team silver in the Pony Jumpers. “When he was done showing, Nate and Dad got in my car with all three kids and road tripped to Florida to start school while I stayed in Kentucky to show in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals,” Haylie said. Staying in Kentucky paid off for Haylie as she ended up fifth at Derby Finals with her mount Daydream.
Haylie and Nate can rely on the Jaynes daily to help make everything work. “My mom picks up May from school most days and takes her swimming. My parents keep a crib in their house in case Chloe needs to nap there,” she said. “Now that Maggie and Charlie have kids of their own, they are always happy to help and I’m happy to return the favor. That’s how family works.”
In addition to producing top riders in the show ring from Short Stirrup to Grand Prix and hunter derbies, Our Day Farm is proud to produce the next generation of champions through their breeding program. In 2011, Alex decided it was time for Our Day Farm to expand the operation and begin breeding their own horses that they could develop in house.
Haylie and Alex jointly own Our Day Farm’s main stallion, Dulf Van Den Bisschop. Initially imported by a client, Kelsey Thatcher, to show in the Young Rider division as a 7-year-old, Dulf has an impressive resume in the show ring and in the breeding shed. It was having access to a quality stallion like Dulf that really inspired Alex to get more serious about the breeding aspect of the business.
“Dulf’s won lots of National Standard Grand Prix, high junior/amateur titles and Young Rider classes with our clients Kelsey Thatcher and Gia Rinaldi. When it was time for him to retire, Dad and I bought him to keep as a breeding stallion,” Haylie said. “He’s had some amazing offspring including Steve Guerdat’s Hannah, Emily Moffitt’s Hilfiger and Bertram Allen’s Harley David.”
Part of what makes Dulf so special is his easygoing personality, which makes him a joy to have in the barn. “Nate handles his semen sales and collecting him. We breed anywhere from five to 20 mares a year ourselves,” Haylie said. “We keep our broodmares and young horses at a satellite farm a couple of miles from our farm in Elgin.”
Some of Dulf’s offspring are sold as weanlings or yearlings, while others are held onto longer. Alex and Nate work together to break those youngsters. “Besides his grandkids, I don’t think anything brings my dad more joy than working with his homebreds. For a ‘retired’ man, he works so much with them,” Haylie said. “Dad spends all his summers managing and working with his youngsters.”
With close to 40 horses under the age of 4, Alex definitely has a lot to keep him busy. When the horses turn 3, they go to the main farm for a week or two for breaking. Then they will return to Our Day Farm as 4-year-olds to spend the summer in training. “During that summer, we decide who should come to Florida for their 5-year-old year. Some will be sold and sometimes we will breed the 4-year-old mares,” Haylie said. “Developing young horses isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of work, but really rewarding.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of the breeding program has been breeding mares who played a significant role in the Jaynes’ equestrian careers. “It’s been really fun, because a lot of the mares we’re using are our old show mares, so we all have emotional attachments to the babies right away! Michigan ODF, whom I show for our client Leslie Coolidge in the derbies, is a homebred out of a Small Junior I used to show,” Haylie said. “Maggie’s Grand Prix horse Arizona ODF is out of Athena, who was a mare Charlie competed at World Cup Finals.”
As Haylie raises the seventh generation of Jayne horsemen and -women, she’s trying to keep things fun in and out of the saddle like her parents did when she was growing up. “My son, Oliver, rode for years with a sword in one hand. Some days, my daughter, May, wants to ride in a princess dress,” Haylie said.
While horses and family have always gone hand-in-hand for Haylie, she’s savoring every moment she gets to share the sport with her children. “It’s giving me a new appreciation for what my mother went through raising three kids and horse showing all over the country,” she said.
Now that Oliver is showing, you can always spot Nate with his giant camera to capture every moment. Meanwhile, Haylie gets extremely nervous when Oliver shows—though she did have a moment this past summer that left her chuckling. “Oliver and I actually showed against each other in some 0.90m jumper classes. I was on a young jumper and he rode his pony Pippa,” Haylie said. “He smoked me!”
Haylie feels very fortunate to be able to be in a family business that can be shared with her kids. “I’m really looking forward to the future, both to develop young horses and bring them along and to watch my children grow up in this sport that has meant so much to my family,” she said.
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Photos by Melissa Fuller, melissafullerphotography33.mypixieset.com