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Hannah Hlopak is Riding High


Hannah displays her Novice Division High Point Rider title with coach Ashley Henry (standing). (Photo – Giana Terranova)

Hannah displays her Novice Division High Point Rider title with coach Ashley Henry (standing). (Photo – Giana Terranova)

A Native Of The Woodlands Earns Equestrian Titles As A College Sophomore

By Melanie Saxton

It all began at a Galatas Springetti Ele­mentary School fundraiser. First- grader Hannah Hlopak won a free month of riding lessons at a raffle, and from that moment onward she knew horses would always be a part of her life.

With the support of her parents, Ed and Holly Hlopak, Hannah embraced equestrian riding and the responsibilities that went along with the sport. While still an elementary student, she learned about the care, training and riding of horses, and then began participating frequently in Katy and Waco equestrian events. She pursued this passion while attending Mitchell Intermediate and McCullough Junior High in The Woodlands, as well.

“I don’t remember exactly what made me want to do English riding instead of Western, but I’m glad I chose English! It’s such a beautiful and challenging discipline,” says Hannah.

 

High School Competitions

Hannah’s family – parents Ed and Holly, younger brother Zac and childhood dog Lucy – moved to Colorado just before she entered her freshman year of high school. She enrolled in Regis Jesuit High School in Denver and left behind a wonderful childhood filled with memories of The Woodlands. One favorite included “the gate” — Hannah recalled being best friends with next door neighbors, the Dennis family, who moved into the house next door in 2000. “Not long after that the kids were running from house to house, playing and laughing. Our dads decided to take down a section of our fencing between the houses and build a gate, which would become so memorable. When we moved to Denver we had to take down the gate, but I’m almost positive it still sits in the Dennis’ backyard,” says Hannah.

One thing she did not leave behind was her interest in horses and equestrian sports. Hannah adjusted to life in the Rocky Mountains by pursuing national competitions. “Each year I competed in the Summer in the Rockies at the Colorado Horse Park, earning enough points to go back east for Medal Finals,” she says. She also competed in Kentucky, the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, the HITS Horse Show in Saugerties, New York, and The Capital Challenge Horse Show near Washington, D.C.

 

The College of Her Dreams

The Hlopaks relocated back to The Woodlands in 2015, the year Hannah graduated from St. Regis Jesuit. Hannah’s brother Zac enrolled in The Woodlands High School and graduated this year, while Hannah chose to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia.

SCAD was a top choice based on a childhood introduction to the college. During her early years of riding, she recalls competing at the Pin Oak National Horse Show in Katy and and attending a college fair that introduced her to SCAD. The college made a huge impression, and during high school Hannah applied to SCAD and nine other colleges that offered equestrian programs. “In the end, I decided on SCAD not only because of the team, but because I love art and have a passion for creative thinking. SCAD considers equitation a fine art form itself, so it was a natural fit for me,” she says.

Hannah resides with her 1-year-old puppy, Millie, and is tackling equestrian studies that include equine psychology, body language and social behavior, anatomy, conformation, conditioning, health and nutrition of sport horses. She is also a fashion marketing and management major and hopes to work in fashion event planning. Hannah looks forward to living in New York, Chicago, Paris or Milan when she graduates. Her long-term plan is to invest in a young hunter that she can train and grow with, and one day compete in the International Hunter Derby Finals.

Close Call

Hannah suffered a bad injury last summer when a horse flipped on her in a Denver show ring. She broke her collarbone just before flying to The Woodlands for a visit. Once home with her parents, she went to Sterling Ridge Orthopedics for a follow-up. They determined she needed surgery, which was successful, and thankfully she was back to full-time riding in no time.

After such a bad fall, Hannah experienced some nerves and jitters. A very special SCAD coach worked with her to overcome those obstacles, Coach Ashley Henry. Hannah credits Coach Henry as a wonderful mentor and SCAD graduate who understands the thrills and challenges of being an artist-athlete at a demanding institution. “She fosters a great sense of sportsmanship among team members and cares about our success as athletes and artists,” says Hannah.

 

Individual Honors

Hannah participates in hunter as well as equitation, which is the focus of collegiate riding. The discipline covers the mechanics of the rider, how he or she presents in the ring, and in Hannah’s opinion, how true horsemanship is demon- strated. As a SCAD sophomore, her mastery of these skill sets was evident as she competed in the 40th annual American National Riding Commission (ANRC) National Inter­collegiate Equitation Championship in April. The three riding phases of the ANRC competition are program ride, hunter seat equitation medal course and derby course.

Hannah rode the same horse throughout the competition and won the Novice Division High Point Rider title. She received first place in the Novice Division Program Ride, third place in the Novice Division Hunter Derby, and first place in the Novice Division Medal Phase, as well, earning awards for her school and herself.

 

A Bright Future

Hannah is grateful for the guidance and dedication of Cindy Crucciotti, her trainer in Denver, who has made her the rider she is today. “Without her I would not have had the countless opportunities and experiences I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy. She was my foundation and I cannot imagine how I would be riding without her,” says Hannah.

But it is Hannah’s mother, Holly, who gets the biggest thanks. “All my accomplishments in the equestrian world would not have been achievable without the support of my mom,” says Hannah. Her mother was there for countless early morning rides, traveled across the country, attended weekend shows, supported her daughter’s successes and encouraged her through failures. She has been to almost every show that Hannah has competed in.

“If she wasn’t able to be there in person, she was Skyping with another parent to watch me. I can’t thank her enough for all she has done and continues to do!” says Hannah, who will continue her undergraduate studies and equestrian competitions well into a very bright future.

 

Young Hannah with her horse, Stormy. (Photo - Hannah Hlopak)

Young Hannah with her horse, Stormy. (Photo – Hannah Hlopak)

 

SCAD Novice Team Division champions (l-r): Abbie Gibson (assistant coach), Ashley Henry (head coach), Tess Mroczka, Sarah Gordon, Grace Crawford, Hannah Hlopak and Mariel Cooper. (Photo - Giana Terranova)

SCAD Novice Team Division champions (l-r): Abbie Gibson (assistant coach), Ashley Henry (head coach), Tess Mroczka, Sarah Gordon, Grace Crawford, Hannah Hlopak and Mariel Cooper. (Photo – Giana Terranova)

 

Cassiopeia — barn name Peia — and Hannah in action. (Photo - Giana Terranova)

Cassiopeia — barn name Peia — and Hannah in action. (Photo – Giana Terranova)

 

Theodore K (barn name Teddy) and Hannah competed at the Summer in the Rockies Horse Show in 2012. (Photo - Hannah Hlopak)

Theodore K (barn name Teddy) and Hannah competed at the Summer in the Rockies Horse Show in 2012. (Photo – Hannah Hlopak)

 

Hannah competed in 2007 in Tyler, Texas atop her horse named Hannah’s Over EZ (barn name EZ). (Photo - Hannah Hlopak)

Hannah competed in 2007 in Tyler, Texas atop her horse named Hannah’s Over EZ (barn name EZ). (Photo – Hannah Hlopak)

 

Promo and Hannah competed at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida in 2015. (Photo - Sportfoto)

Promo and Hannah competed at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida in 2015. (Photo – Sportfoto)


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