Endurance rider glad to go to Abu Dhabi despite disappointment

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Standing on the sidelines watching his U.S. teammates compete at the Young Rider World Endurance Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Steven Hay couldn't help but feel he was missing out.

The senior in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences had expected to compete in the championship on Dec. 10, 2011, after placing second in the country amongst those who applied (see earlier story). The night his horse was scheduled to depart for Abu Dhabi, however, Hay received a phone call informing him that the animal was not approved to travel by the organizing committee in the United Arab Emirates.

"The people who were supposed to review the papers didn't do so before sending them to the organizing committee overseas," explained Hay, a 21-year-old Port Matilda, Pa., native.

The call came as the Environmental Resource Management major was leaving his last final exam of the semester and just days before he was scheduled to depart himself. Regardless, Hay put his disappointment aside, packed his bags and made his way to the Middle East to support his teammates.

"I was pretty upset, but I'm really glad I went -- it was a great experience," he said. "It's a different world over there."

When he wasn't watching his teammates compete, Hay helped by taking horses from the stable out on the trail. During his free time, he also had the opportunity to sight-see and explore the city. "I got to see the world's tallest building, ride the world's fastest rollercoaster and visit some of the biggest mosques in the world," he said.

"My favorite part was touring the endurance-riding stable there," Hay said. "To see how they compete and take care of their horses was fascinating. The stable even had its own veterinary clinic and state-of-the-art equipment for monitoring horses."

The United States placed fourth out of 18 teams. "The whole experience was enjoyable, even if I didn't get to compete," he said. "Just knowing I was picked to go was quite the honor."

Hay won team gold medals at the 2011 and 2010 North American Championships and Individual Bronze medals at the 2010 and 2011 North American Junior Young Riders Championships.

His passion for horses started at a young age. By the time he was six, he was riding and taking lessons, taking part in local horse shows and events over the next couple of years. When he was a 12-year-old, Hay started to compete in trail riding -- distance riding that is less than 50 miles.

His interest in trail riding eventually led to endurance riding on courses that are 75 to 100 miles long.

"It was exciting to watch and be a part of everything in Abu Dhabi," Hay said, adding that he is motivated to continue riding. "Competing is my passion."

With 2,850 miles of endurance riding completed so far, Hay is moving forward and hoping to train for the 2013 North American and 2014 World Equestrian Games as a senior rider.

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Last Updated February 28, 2012