First Person

Leap years

Harvard senior and Grand Prix show jumper Hillary Dobbs hopes to continue her winning ways this winter and qualify for the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

By Shira Springer
December 20, 2009

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What would it mean to compete in the World Equestrian Games next summer? It’s definitely my next goal. That and the World Cup finals are probably second to the Olympics. We’ve been planning our show schedule around these trials that are coming up as well as my school schedule.

For the trials, you’ll commute weekly to Florida from January through March. Tough to miss a lot of your senior year? Academically, it’s always challenging scheduling classes mostly Monday through Wednesday. I’ve had great friends to help with notes and very accommodating professors.

What will you do with all your frequent flier miles? My boyfriend lives in Holland. So I’ll use them to go visit him. I need those miles.

Are the 2012 Olympics in your future? It’s a very lofty goal. It’s not something I expect, especially competing against riders with so much more experience. But it is something that I and my trainers have in the back of our minds. Unlike swimming or gymnastics, our Olympians are usually 30 to 40 to even 50.

But you’ve won 21 Grand Prix events, and you’re only 21. I’ve competed since I was 5. I had a breakthrough when I was 19. It’s taken seven years with my trainers to get to where I am now. And I still have a long way to go.

Have you learned anything from your father, former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, about succeeding in the spotlight? We both can relate to, in his case, having an audience or, in my case, having to perform under pressure. We’re both pretty calm under pressure.

With five different horses, how do you choose which to ride in different competitions? They’re like people. They all have different personalities and different strengths. You feel what your horses want and you adapt to them and have your own personal relationship and riding relationship with them.

Who’s tougher to have a relationship with, your horses or your boyfriend? I suppose they all have their days. But I’m happy with all of them right now.

(Photograph by Mitch Weiss)
  • December 20, 2009 cover
  • december 20 globe magazine cover
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