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The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show Jumping








Image Credit: Quinn Saunders.

Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Publisher Founding: December 1, 2014

Web Domain: 

Location: Fort Langley, Township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Journal: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Journal Founding: August 2, 2012

Frequency: Three (3) Times Per Year

Review Status: Non-Peer-Reviewed

Access: Electronic/Digital & Open Access

Fees: None (Free)

Volume Numbering: 11

Issue Numbering: 1

Section: E

Theme Type: Idea

Theme Premise: “Outliers and Outsiders”

Theme Part: 26

Formal Sub-Theme: “The Greenhorn Chronicles”

Individual Publication Date: December 22, 2022

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2023

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewer(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee(s): Hayley Mercer

Word Count: 3,300

Image Credits: Quinn Saunders, Kim Gaudry.

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): 2369-6885

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations, after the interview.*

*Interview conducted December 16, 2022.*


Hayley Mercer is a U25 show jumper from Langley, British Columbia, Canada. She has trained with Samantha Aird and Natasha Brash, among a number of other trainers. Her more formal equestrian training and competing on the U25 circuit began at Thunderbird Show Stables under the tutelage of Laura Balisky and Brent Balisky, and LJ Tidball, on the mount Crown Royal. Currently, she is travelling the North American circuit in California and Florida. Mercer discusses: an inkling of horses as an interest; Samantha Aird; make it fun; humbled once or twice; a growth mindset; humility and teachability; industry; Laura and Brent Balisky, and LJ Tidball; 3-part team; Tiffany Foster; the United States; that extra leap; equitation; a bi-athlete sport; horses having independent thought; injuries; worst fear; long-term goals in this sport; great riders; problems in the sport; social media; the Irish and the Swiss; non-essential routines, superstitions, lucky charms; and pearl earrings.

Keywords: Andrea Strain, Ashlee Bond, Brent Balisky, CET Nationals, Eric Lamaze, Erynn Ballard, Hayley Mercer, Hyde Moffatt, Kelly Kennedy, Laura Balisky, LJ Tidball, Major League, Malcolm Gladwell, Natasha Brash, Nations Cup, Samantha Aird, Team Canada, The Greenhorn Chronicles, Thunderbird, Tiffany Foster.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show Jumping

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Okay, so, this is round 2 with Hayley Mercer. As with the Mac Cone and the Hyde Moffatt [Ed. Upcoming] interviews, an apology because of my mistake. I used the older system rather than the newer system for interviews. We will go over her narrative, work, and views, in show jumping, in the career of her choice. I am going to start as before. What were the moments when you were first getting an inkling of horses as an interest and a path for you to continue forward, in your life?

Hayley Mercer: Horses, as an interest for me, were since I was little. My grandmother moved to Vancouver Island when I was little. We used to go there and visit her. She would give us pony lessons as an incentive to keep visiting her. I was 5 or 6 when that started. When I decided I wanted to pursue it as a career option, I was in grade 9. I was 14 or 15 years old. I was training with Samantha Aird. That was when I started opening my eyes to the grand prix as an option. Mostly, at Thunderbird, I grew up there. I was watching the big players growing up: Ashlee Bond and Tiffany Foster. Eric Lamaze was big at the time. He still is big, but he’s not necessarily jumping internationally, anymore. Team Canada, I was watching those riders growing up. I remember being 14, 15, 16, and 17, and thinking, “I want to do this.” As I grew up, I fashioned how I wanted to go about it.

Jacobsen: How did you, originally, get connected with Samantha?

Mercer: Samantha, we met briefly. I was with Kelly Kennedy, as a little kid. Little pony club lessons, we ended up moving from her. We were going to go to Samantha Aird because she had a connection to Kelly. Kelly recommended Samantha to us. Samantha wasn’t ready, at the time, for any new clients. So, we went to Andrea Strain. We were there for about a year or two. That was all great. After that, we went back to Sam, who was ready at the time. She really made the sport fun for me. I learned a lot at Andrea’s. Although, Sam made the sport fun [Laughing], as a 15, 16, and 17 year old. It was all I wanted to do now. She gave me passion for the sport. It was all I wanted to do after school, which was go and spend time with her and the horses.

Jacobsen: What did she incorporate to make it fun?

Mercer: She took the stress out of competing. It helped me a little bit to this day. Where, you can put a lot of pressure on yourself. In this sport, when you get to 3*, 4*, and Nations Cup levels, you can get a lot of pressure put on yourself. She was really good. I wasn’t at that level with her. However, she was good at reminding you: Have fun when you go out to the ring. You’re doing this for the love of the horse, and to remember this when you go into the ring.

Jacobsen: Are there moments when you have forgotten that?

Mercer: Definitely [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mercer: You get caught up in the sport, like any sport. What is happening next? What horse show is happening next? What thing do I need points for next? What do I need to qualify for next? It is such a difficult world to navigate that way. It takes one or two humbling experiences to remember, “I am doing this because I love these horses.”

Jacobsen: How were you humbled once or twice?

Mercer: Everyone gets humbled. Every day in the sport is like that. It can be from winning a class on the Saturday to falling off on the GPO on the Sunday. It can be… I came back from Toronto. I did the CET Nationals there. I qualified for them. I came back in the Spring back to B.C. when the season started again. The first five or six classes of the CET; I didn’t place [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mercer: And I just qualified for nationals. I came back from Toronto at the Royal Winter Fair. I didn’t qualify in the first 7 classes. It was humbling for sure. That was a small one.

Image Credit: Kim Gaudry.

Jacobsen: I am reminded of the first session, the lost session. You had mentioned – or we had discussed – that the rate of failure is much higher, regardless of the level of the sport, than the successes. How do you psychologically become a bit calloused to that or adapt to that to keep moving forward?

Mercer: I stopped viewing it as failure and more as development. I think that if you’re always viewing your career, your sport, your job, your parenting skills, your life, as a success or failure, then it’s very black-and-white, for lack of a better analogy [Laughing]. I don’t think you’re necessarily failing. You’re learning.

Jacobsen: Would you frame your own mindset as a growth mindset?

Mercer: I try to keep an open mind to everything and in anything that I learn in life. I think the human mind should always be learning, and is capable of so many things, every day. You should be open to growth and stay humble and stay teachable.

Jacobsen: Do you think humility and teachability go hand-in-hand?

Mercer: Yes, I would say they do.

Jacobsen: Who did you move onto from Samantha?

Mercer: From Samantha, I went to Natasha Brash.

Jacobsen: What did you learn from her?

Mercer: Natasha changed my thoughts on the sport in the sense that I could have a career and make money in the sport. In this sense, she owned a sales barn. She made money through sales of horses. I learned a lot about that with her, how to prepare horses for that and flipping sales of horses. If I had a horse that wasn’t amazing, but was cheaper, you ride it for a few months, bring it up, and sell it for a bit more. You keep going. She opened my eyes to that.

Jacobsen: Are horses in show jumping a highly profitable industry or a modestly profitable industry in general?

Mercer: There are so many aspects of the sport and so many disciplines. It depends on how you work it. I think horse sales, at a certain level of the sport, might make you more. Maybe, at a lower level, you might make less. In comparison, at the higher level, if your business is based on prize winnings, then that might better for you.

Jacobsen: Who did you move onto from Natasha?

Mercer: After Natasha, I went to Laura Balisky, Brent Balisky, and LJ Tidball.

Jacobsen: Why them?

Mercer: They were the next step for me in terms of wanting to further my goals of pursuing equitation at the time, CET, and the medals, at the time, which was a massive goal of mine. Also, I viewed them as a team who I could stay with a long time. They could keep teaching me and propelling me in my goals. Now, I’m in my 20s. I learn from them every day. I will always keep learning from them. They are the ones I have stuck with the longest.

Jacobsen: What does each person in that 3-part team bring to the table?

Mercer: It’s so interesting to have three different minds work together in a training business. Because you get so many different perspectives. Laura was an Olympian. So, there’s that. Brent’s mind is insane, how he breaks things down and explains them to you. It is so knowledgeable. I am never walking out of a lesson with Brent and never not learning something new. LJ is so relatable because she is jumping what I am jumping. She is in the same classes as me. It is nice to have someone in the class who is riding the same course as you, if that makes sense.

Jacobsen: Who inspired you the most, as you were a teenager?

Mercer: Probably, Tiffany Foster.

Jacobsen: Why?

Mercer: I viewed her as someone who always had such a kind personality and such drive in the sport. You can read multiple articles on her. She didn’t come from a super wealthy family. I look up to her in what she has created for herself, in the sport, and her professional standards. I have always looked up to her. She rides amazing. She is so fast. She is part of Team Canada. She is a really big role model of mine.

Jacobsen: What does she represent for the country?

Mercer: That’s a hard one. Because I think all the people who ride for Team Canada represent good pieces of our nation, not just one who rides for Team Canada. I don’t know. I don’t really know how to answer that.

Jacobsen: If we can now go and take a step back, Canada produces some of the best women riders in show jumping in the world, consistently. Why?

Mercer: I guess, we have grit [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mercer: Maybe, it is in the cold air.

Jacobsen: Hyde Moffatt had a similar response. He said something to the effect of “because we’re tough”. We’re resilient. So, it could be the cold air from the Canadian Shield. Now, you decided to take a road trip south along the southern parts of the United States in California and Florida for half of a year. Why decide to make this move?

Mercer: This was my Winter of experiencing everything I could in the span of a few months, not in my own country, because I am reaching the point in my life where I want to figure out where I want to be in this career and in this sport. I am lucky to have a horse reaching a 3* and 4* level. We’re competitive in the U25. That is a handy class to travel around in. So, this was wanting to hold myself to the level of sport at WEF and in California, to see if I like it and if I want to do it.

Jacobsen: When you’re getting a horse reaching a height of 1.50m, how does that feel getting that extra leap compared a lot of other people who get to about 1.30m, 1.35m? Then they cut their career short and stay at that level and don’t proceed further.

Mercer: The first time I jumped a 1.50m grand prix. I was in awe that I had a horse that could do that. I was so in awe. I’m shocked. Like, why? Why do they jump for us? They are so willing. The fact that I have one; I am immensely grateful. The feeling was… I don’t even have a word for it. I feel like I could accomplish anything.

Jacobsen: Does awestruck exhilaration come to mind?

Mercer: Yes.

Jacobsen: Do you think this horse could reach 1.55m, 1.60m?

Mercer: I think he could get to 1.55m. If he wanted to jump 1.60m, then he will. I will leave it up to him if he wants to do that because I can’t ask anything more of him. He has done so much for me. I would love to see that of him. I think he would try his heart out. If he wants to, great; if not, he doesn’t have to do it.

Image Credit: Quinn Saunders.

Jacobsen: Why did you focus earlier in your career on equitation?

Mercer: Equitation was something all of my trainers valued. As you start out, before you start moving up, it teaches you really good basics and discipline, in my opinion. It is a major factor when you jump big jumps. The tracks of the equitation courses are as hard as all the grand prix courses. Although, the grand prix courses are bigger. In terms of technicality, they are the same. In terms of pressure of nerves, I have never felt the same nerves – to this day – as I have in the Royal Winter Fair.

Jacobsen: One of the myths of this sport, as you have alluded in some of the responses, is the idea of this as a solo sport. In some real sense, it is a bi-athlete sport. There is a horse and a rider. Many riders will reference the horse as another athlete, which is real. Do you have that same sensibility about show jumping, where there are two athletes working together to make these jumps?

Mercer: Yes, I do. I agree with that. Because this is a sport where you depend on another animal to largely factor into your success or your development; it makes it hard to create a path for yourself. So, I believe that that is a very big factor to someone’s career choice, or how they want to play in the sport.

Jacobsen: About 12 months ago, when I first interviewed Erynn Ballard, she noted horses having independent thought as a problem, as a factor. In this sense, if you are in another high-octane sport, such as NASCAR or F1, you are dealing with a very powerful construct. It doesn’t think for itself. It does what you want it to do, for the most part. Unless one of the parts is failing or falling apart, or there is a malfunction. With horses, everything could be perfectly fine. They may just not want to follow your directions at that time. How do you deal with that level of uncertainty, at the level of psychology, of the sport?

Mercer: I think, for myself, you approach every day the same and don’t make things a problem. You deal with things when they happen. For the most part, give them the benefit of the doubt, these are good horses. I agree that that makes it difficult. In our sport, that is the most difficult part. Our partner is a living, breathing animal. A lot of the time, they pull through for us. If not, try another day, again, it’s not a failure; it’s development.

Jacobsen: Another myth, as I learned in 14 months in this industry without background – before, the public will see horse sport as something soft, similar to the mythology around cheerleading. When in fact, in both cheerleading and show jumping, the injury rates are very high, and the injuries can be extraordinarily lifechanging in their danger. Have you had any injuries, major or minor, so far?

Mercer: No, I’ve been lucky enough to have minor, minor injuries. I think the worst thing I did was dislocate my shoulder once and a few concussions, knock on wood. I have never injured anything in a major way. I have been quite lucky.

Jacobsen: There have been deaths for some riders in the ring.

Mercer: Yes, it is scary.

Jacobsen: What is your worst fear in show jumping?

Mercer: That is a very deep question. In terms of safety, or in terms of… what?

Jacobsen: Both safety and interest in the sport. It could be a psychological thing. Some people could fear that they lose their motivation. Erynn Ballard noted this, when she had her injury. She had this one thought. Where, basically, she felt as though she could retire. She could just drop it, make a good living, and get on with it. That dropped pretty quick. But it can happen. Those thoughts can pass through the thoughts of someone, even performing at a high level of the sport. Those could be fears as well. The intrinsic motivation is gone.

Mercer: That’s very accurate. My two biggest thoughts that came to mind when you asked that. Psychologically, if I lose motivation and don’t want to do this anymore, what do I do with my life? I didn’t go to university. In high school, I didn’t really try in terms of academics. If I lose interest in this, where do I go, that’s a normal thing to have; I’m sure lots of people feel this when thinking of their career. Another thing would be injuring a horse in the ring. Those videos of injuring a horse in the ring. That would be really terrible.

Jacobsen: What are your long-term goals in this sport? What are your hopes for it?

Mercer: Long-term, I want to have my own business in teaching and riding. Maybe, mid- to long-term, I want to be on the team, whether a Nations Cup team or a Major League team. Those are two big goals for me.

Jacobsen: What tends to set apart nationally great riders from internationally great riders? Those who rise above the circumstance of their country and perform as well as any other world-class rider.

Mercer: I think it depends on the rider. The determination and the grit to get there. It is a full-on sport. You talk about 10,000 hours devoted to any sport. I think about the amount of hours in the saddle. I have spent way more than 10,000. So, I think when you’re talking about who goes that extra step to the international level. It is who puts the time and the effort in.

Jacobsen: What do you see as problems in the sport, issues?

Mercer: I think funding can be an issue, especially for young ones coming up. Exposure: Wanting to get onto people in the sport’s radar, for lack of a better word, to put yourself on the scene. It is something I have found to be difficult. Something that I have had to work at, for sure.

Jacobsen: I have noticed something in reaching to a lot of the Canadian prominent show jumpers. It is social media. They are on Facebook. They are on Instagram. Is there a reason for these media as a means by which they show off performances or communicate with one another over others?

Mercer: Instagram, you can share photos and videos. It is an easy way to attract a following, which is through posting memories of a show or a barn party. Same with Facebook. Facebook is massive. You can reach so many people. Everybody has Facebook, whether 80 or 18. I think it’s different demographics for both. I think they both have the most outreach, in my opinion.

Jacobsen: Which country do you think is doing well overall?

Mercer: Ireland is on a hot streak. Switzerland, all the European ones are always on there. Switzerland is doing really well. U.S.A. is always at the top.

Jacobsen: Why the Irish and the Swiss now?

Mercer: Ireland seems to have really good riders and horses right now. All the good riders have found good horses with them. They ride really well. I think it is showing in their placings and their team competition.

Jacobsen: Do show jumpers have non-essential routines, superstitions, lucky charms that they bring to each event, to psychologically prep them?

Mercer: I’m sure they do. Lots of people do. I have a specific pair of pearl earrings that I have to wear. I know lots of people who do a certain prep the night before or the morning after. It all depends on who you are.

Jacobsen: What kind of prep?

Mercer: I used to know this one girl who had to have a bath every night. She would have an Epsom salt bath every night. She would get candles and everything.

Jacobsen: Why those pearl earrings?

Mercer: [Laughing] They were gifted to me on my 16th birthday. They were the same ones I wore to the Royal. The same ones I wore competing all over, same horse or different horses. I have a lot of good memories – good and bad. It is important to remember.

Jacobsen: Hayley, thank you very much.

Mercer: Yes, of course, thank you for reaching out and thinking of me.






American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show Jumping. December 2022; 11(1).

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2022, December 22). The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show Jumping. In-Sight Publishing. 11(1).

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show Jumping. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Fort Langley, v. 11, n. 1, 2022.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show Jumping.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (Winter).

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show Jumping.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (December 2022).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2022) ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show JumpingIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(1). <>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show JumpingIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, <>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show Jumping.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 1, 2022,

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: The Greenhorn Chronicles 28: Hayley Mercer on Personal Story and Aspirations in Show Jumping [Internet]. 2022 Dec; 11(1). Available from:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, or the author(s), and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors copyright their material, as well, and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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