Get up to speed on the newly crowned Gloucestershire-based British national dressage champion — and don't miss this week's issue of Horse & Hound magazine (5 October 2017) for our full interview with Hayley
1. Her horses have their own mascots
Her grand prix partner WG Rubins Nite (Squeaks), with whom she was crowned British Dressage national champion, has his own mascot. Kevin the carrot — from the Aldi Christmas advert — has travelled the world with the pair, in honour of Squeaks’ favourite food.
“Kevin has been spotted everywhere, including Doha,” laughs Hayley. “My five-year-old Hector also has a mascot, though his is a pink My Little Pony, as Hector loves to be pampered – we call him ‘Barbie’.”
2. She gave up horses to go travelling as a teenager
“After I finished on ponies I decided to go off and see a bit of the world, without knowing if I’d return to horses,” she says “My now fiancé Paul’s parents emigrated to Australia, so I followed him out there.”
3. She has designed her own saddle
Hayley has designed her own saddle in conjunction with Ideal Saddles. Since going to market last year, it has been sold across the world.
“It took two years to design it,” says Hayley. “The tree is curved, giving more freedom for the shoulders – the horses go really well in it. Several of my clients have it too.”
4. Dressage is not her only business venture
After returning from travelling, Hayley worked for her family’s promotional merchandise printing business. Six years ago, she bought the business, and now runs it with her fiancé Paul.
“Paul runs it on a day-to-day basis and I go in about once a week to oversee things and have meetings,” explains Hayley.
5. She shares her yard with some rather unusual animals
As well as horses, dogs and cats, WG Dressage is home to llamas, alpacas, emus, chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl and a peacock.
“My parents ran a private rescue centre for exotic animals while my three younger brothers and I were growing up,” explains Hayley. “We had a great time here as kids!”
6. Her riding career didn’t start with dressage
Hayley competed in showing as a child — “our family holidays were to the British Show Pony Society championships at Peterborough” — before taking up eventing.
“I had a couple of nasty falls eventing and I was having dressage training at the same time and just got the bug for it,” says Hayley. “It’s like a puzzle — working out how to improve the horse.”
7. Her school nickname has stuck throughout the years
“My nickname has been Skippy ever since my parents brought a wallaby into school for an assembly when I was in Year Seven,” recalls Hayley. “It’s had many different forms over the years but it’s stuck!”
8. She has very useful brother
Hayley’s brother Robbie is a farrier, who has a forge at WG Dressage. He is a member of the English farrier team and just one week after Hayley’s victory at Stoneleigh, Robbie competed in his own championships at the same venue.
9. She’s rather particular about her stock pins
“I’m not really superstitious, but I do wear a different stock pin for the different tests at a competition,” said Hayley, who is sponsored by Stockpin Chic. “I have one pin for the grand prix, another for the special and I wear my opal pin for freestyles. I also have a special ‘winter’ ruffle stock that I wear at Olympia.”
10. Hard work doesn’t faze her
Until her groom, Sam, started working two years ago, Hayley did everything for her horses herself, with up to eight on the yard at a time. Even now, she still does all the plaiting, riding and driving herself.
If you're in the market for a dressage…
11. She nearly went a whole decade without falling off
“I fell off a couple of weeks ago for the first time in nine years,” she reveals. “I was riding my four-year-old when the turkey fluffed up its feathers — Ziggy stopped dead and I went down his shoulder. Luckily it didn’t hurt too much.
“I’ve had a few near-misses over the years though – the peacock’s nearly had me a few times!”
Don’t miss the latest issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out today (5 October), for an exclusive interview with Hayley Watson-Greaves