International showjumper, Yale grad and mother, Vanessa Haas Hood is pursuing her dreams in Wellington, Florida. Read more about one of our favorite equestrians and how she balances it all in this week’s Ringside Chat.
How did you get started with horses?
A little about me: I started riding at 5 years old in Malibu, California. Horses quickly became my passion and from age 8 until 21, I competed at the national and later international level.
In college at Yale, I was splitting time between my studies and international show jumping. I broke my arm riding one summer in college and it forced me to stop riding for a few months. During that time, I decided to finish college and embark on a career outside of horses. For over a decade, I worked in government and business which took me from DC to New York, London, the Netherlands and eventually back to California. I also started a family. I now have an 8 year old daughter named Milly with my husband Gavin.
About 5 years ago, I found my way back to the horses thanks to a good friend who basically dragged me to a stable in the area where we were living in northern California. I started riding casually and quickly realized that working with horses is my life's work. It took a bit of a professional and personal odyssey to realize that, but once I did, I decided to dive back into the sport of show jumping in a big way. I'm a go big or go home kind of person!
After a few years, building up my skills in California, I moved my horses and family (with incredible support from Milly and Gavin) to base in Wellington, Florida so I can train and compete more intensely. One thing I love about living in Wellington is during the winter circuit I can compete at a premier international show by day and be at home with my family at night.
Do you horseback ride or wear your FXR pieces just for streetwear, or both?
I ride full-time and wear FXR for training with the horses.
What is your favorite piece of FXR and do you style with anything else?
I'm always on the hunt for the best riding clothes! I scour pieces from equestrian brands and also general athletic apparel brands. In a typical day, I ride and work with horses all day so I need performance fabrics that can withstand the sweat and grime of riding life but also want pieces that make me feel polished.
The FXR Moto Equestrian Bodysuit in white is my favorite shirt for everyday! I love it for training because the fabric is really soft so I'm always happy to put it on in the morning and it's comfortable all day. The style looks polished and the neckline and sleeves keep me extra protected from the sun. I wasn't sure about how a bodysuit would feel for riding, but I've found it to be comfortable and flattering. A revelation really!
What is life and work balance look like for you? Any advice for women in the same boat?
Well I think this is a very personal question and the balance looks different for everyone. For me, I like to believe that I can pursue my biggest dreams in my sport and still be a great mom and partner to my husband Gavin. It's a rocky road for sure because the sport at the level I want to do it is physically and mentally demanding not to mention time-consuming.
The scheduling and logistics are complicated and require creativity to make it all work. It's definitely a team effort. I have an exceptionally supportive husband who embraces my passion for my career with horses. The genuine support I feel from both Gavin and my daughter Milly means the world to me. And I hope, in turn, that I show Milly that at any age you can pursue the life you want.
Having a family is not always viewed as compatible with pursuing a high-level sport career. And at times, I have my doubts that I can make it all work. But I think, at the end of the day, if you want something badly enough, in work and in life, there's always a way.