Third-generation equestrian Hannah Isop teaches and trains at her family’s Harkaway Farm, in North Salem, New York, with her aunt, Tracy Freels, and her mother, Susie Isop, who manages the barn. Her grandparents, Jeri and Bob Freels, were both horse trainers. Hannah has earned top placings in many hunter and jumper divisions, including several wins in national and international hunter derbies, second place in the 2011 Ox Ridge Charity Horse Show’s Grand Prix, second in two consecutive years at the USHJA World Championship Hunter Rider Developing Pro Challenge, first and second at the 2018 Devoucoux Hunter Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson II, and a top-10 finish in the 2018 Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.
I caught up with Hannah at the beginning of January in Wellington, right after we finished her photo shoot for her training article in our Summer 2020 issue entitled, “From Hunters to Jumpers: How to retrain a former hunter to become a competitive jumper.” During our conversation, Hannah shares how she brought back one of her top horses, Red Ryder, from a collateral ligament injury, what she likes about the hunter and jumping disciplines, how she handles losing and insight into her training article.
You can listen to the full interview wherever you listen to podcasts, but in the meantime, below is a snippet of our conversation.
Did you ever get discouraged when you were rehabbing Red Ryder?
Absolutely. I give 100 percent of the credit to Tracy Freels and Kerry Critzer who own him, and my mother Susan Isop and our vet Dr. William Bradley for giving him the time he needed, never pushing. Dr. Bradley and my mom would just keep telling us, “Have faith.” Ryder … was an amazing rehab horse. My mom would hold him in the ring and he’d watch us work all day long.
And you were also sidelined from an injury a couple of years ago. Can you tell me about that?
That was at the beginning of 2018, right as Ryder was coming back. I got to show him one week pre-circuit and the Sunday before WEF [Winter Equestrian Festival], I had a fall and broke my collarbone. So that was incredibly frustrating because all I could think about was, I have Ryder back—but again, being patient. He was the first horse I started back riding four weeks after my collarbone [injury], which my doctor might not have liked!
You ride in both the jumper and hunter rings. What you like about each of them?
I like the jumpers for the speed, the turns, the fitness of the horse and jumping higher. A hotter, more bold horse is more of my type—which is why my hunters will be more on the fresher side than the duller side. [I like] the more technical courses of asking different questions—do we go inside here? Do we leave out that stride there? That’s also why I like the hunter derbies because it mixes that nicely.
In the hunters, I like the tradition of it, the smoothness of it. I like a more solid jump as well—beautiful derby jumps.
Do you prefer one more over the other?
How do you handle losing?
As a junior and younger professional, I definitely was more of a perfectionist and wanted to do well and I think it hindered my riding … I was more focused on the outcome than being in the moment. As I said with Tracy and my family—horses always came first, winning wasn’t the focus. I’ve gotten better with age and experience. Horses are not machines and we’re humans. They’re not the same every day and just be focused on the day, and the class, and the horse and do your best. And sometimes you don’t win, whether it was an unlucky rail, judging didn’t go your way, a miss on your part, a horse mistake—which happens. For me, being able to learn from it, let it go, laugh it off, shake it off and not carry it with me the next day really helps me.
Listen to the full interview here.
About the Practical Horseman Podcast
The Practical Horseman podcast features conversations with respected riders, industry leaders and horse-care experts to inform, educate and inspire. It is co-hosted by Practical Horseman editors Sandy Oliynyk and Jocelyn Pierce. Find the podcast at iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud or wherever you get your podcasts.