Nick Haness on Finding Your Next Hunter Prospect
Nick Haness on Finding Your Next Hunter Prospect
A feeling of pure exhilaration fills you as your horse lands after the last jump on a course. Behind that feeling is the countless hours of training and strategizing that turned horse and rider into a team and led to this moment.
Reaching the top of the sport and a successful show record begins with selecting the right horse. We chatted with Nick Haness, owner and trainer at Hunterbrook Farms on finding your next hunter prospect. Nick has an innate ability to find top hunters and senses the spark in a horse that others may miss. He nurtures that talent into successful and long careers in the highest levels of the hunter ranks.
Nick had a standout career as a junior rider and worked for other trainers before establishing Hunterbrook Farms when he was 21-years old. He is different from other riders – Nick finds horses that are overlooked or that need an individual training program and applies his magic to take the horse to the next level. His skill and feeling translate into horses from Hunterbrook Farms winning with Nick and their new owners across the country.
Reese’s, 4th overall Green Incentive finals, and highest placed horse from the 3”3 section overall out of 175+ horses. Photo: Tricia Booker/USHJA.
Evaluating a hunter prospect begins on the ground – the horse’s physical beauty, expression and disposition are all characteristics that Nick considers. He wants a horse that catches his eye, has an effortless way of going, is gentle and has a kind eye.
“When I am trying a horse, so much of my decision to buy is based on an initial intuition and good vibe the horse gives me,” Nick says. “It’s something you can just feel when you ride a horse, you’ll know if that horse has been treated well in the past or if he is a quick learner and wants to do the right things. That is one of the most beneficial factors when trying horses. Getting a read on what their mind is like is very important.”
That intuition and vibe that Nick gets when trying horses out serves him well with the horses he’s ridden and shown. Technicolor is a name we’re all familiar with – and a horse that became a household name under Nick’s guidance. Nick started riding Technicolor in Germany and the horse remains a favorite.
“It was pretty much love at first sight with Technicolor,” Nick says. “Even though the first trial didn’t go as planned, this horse had so much presence and an elegance about him that made me believe he was a keeper. He was one of the horses who operated on his schedule – not mine, and that was just fine. He was worth it.”
Nick imported Technicolor and then gave him six months to adjust to his new home before he started competing. Technicolor was an instant star when the pair entered the ring and claimed many championships over his long career. Those include being champion at the Devon National Horse Show and Pennsylvania National Horse Show. Technicolor consistently scored in the 90’s.
Technicolor winning at Devon with scores of 91, 92, and 95. Photo: The Book LLC.
“He was a true athlete and magical creature,” Nick says. “The bond formed from the first day was indescribable and I always knew he would be the famous horse we all hoped he would be.”
The time Nick gave Technicolor to adjust to his new life in the United States – and Nick’s ability to listen to the horse and understand what Technicolor needed to be successful are key factors that helped the pair rise to the top. Nick strategically plans training programs for all his horses to maximize their potential. The exceptional care they receive at home keeps the horses healthy and happy – helping them perform at their best.
“Buying and selling horses comes with high expectations and plenty of disappointments along the way,” Nick says. “But always go with the basics and start with knowing a horse and treating them well. They will always have our backs when we need them most.”
Nick’s horses have lengthy careers filled with trips to the winner’s circle – a testament to the exceptional care and training they receive. Reese’s is another horse that Nick found in Europe and has guided the career of since day one. Reese’s is eight years old now with many championships and at least 10 derby wins – an impressive feat for a horse that age. Vanderpump is an equitation horse that Augusta Iwasaki, a well-known top junior, rides and owns. The pair has ribboned in nearly every major medal final in the country.
The consistent characteristics with all these horses are their brains, a big heart, and desire to be team players. Those are characteristics Nick looks for when he’s trying the horse out. The horses at Hunterbrook Farms come from different parts of the world and breeding programs, however finding horses with the right characteristics shapes their future success.
Vanderpump and Augusta Iwasaki competing in ASPCA Maclay Finals in 2018. Photo: Shawn McMillen.
“Nothing makes me prouder than to spend the time developing a horse from square one and seeing them blossom into famous champions,” Nick says. “Every horse is different, but I believe in listening to the horse and going at their pace. Some horses take longer to develop than others, but always remember to listen to the horse – it is the biggest key to my success.”
Nick and his zebra at home. There are over 50 rescue animals living at Hunterbrook Farms. Photo: Simplee Focused.