Friday, November 11, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- During a time when most students are stressing over finals, Penn State junior Steven Hay will be heading to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
On Dec. 10, Hay will have the honor of competing in the Young Rider World Endurance Championship as part of the United States team. "I'm so excited," he said. "It's definitely nerve-wracking, but it's a big deal."
Riders, ages 14-21, were required to submit applications to compete. In choosing the team, a selection committee looked at the riders' records, their horses' records, how well and fast they've competed, and other criteria.
The 21-year-old Port Matilda native is ranked second in the country amongst those who applied for the event in the Middle East.
In addition to being a full-time student, the Environmental Resource Management major in the College of Agricultural Sciences has an impressive list of accomplishments, including two team gold medals as the 2010 and 2011 North American Champion and two individual bronze medals from the 2010 and 2011 North American Junior Young Riders Championships.
He also placed eighth out of 79 riders in the Biltmore 50-mile event in 2010, and fifth overall at the Biltmore 75-mile event in 2011.
With the competition approaching, Hay is looking for sponsors and donations to cover the expenses of the trip while making sure his horse is in tip-top shape. "I'm just working on fine tuning now, preparing for the sandy conditions of Abu Dhabi. The climate difference will be the hardest part, especially in comparison to the December weather here."
Having competed at local and national levels for years, Hay hopes to keep pushing his boundaries. "It's a cool way to step up into another level of competition," he said. "My goal is to move up to international riding."
His passion for horses started at a young age. By the age of six, Hay was riding and taking lessons. Over the next couple of years, he took part in local horse shows and events, but he became bored. When he was 12, Hay started to compete in trail riding and distance riding after hearing about it through a neighbor.
His interest in trail riding eventually led to endurance riding on courses that are 50 to 75 miles long. "It's pretty challenging, but I think it's worth it," he said. "Competing is my passion. To date, I have completed 2,850 miles of endurance riding."