Wellington, Fla. – Jan 28, 2020 – When South Florida native Hayley Iannotti first stepped foot in Carriage Hill Farms (CHF), it is unlikely she thought she would find herself in the same position 10 years later. Yet, after an impressive career spanning her time as a junior rider under Jane Fennessy, as well as an NCEA collegiate experience at Auburn University, Iannotti now finds herself back at the first barn she called home, this time as a trainer and professional rider.
Based in Delray Beach, Florida, Iannotti’s journey to a career as an equestrian began at Carriage Hill Farms, a barn that boasts a boarding and sales program in addition to an impressive instructional program that trains riders competing at an international level. Run by long-time equestrians Jane Fennessy and Tricia Carron, Carriage Hill Farms has been in operation since 1982, producing excellent horseman and horses alike, and providing a home to riders like Iannotti.
“Everyone here just made me feel super comfortable,” says Iannotti of her early years at the farm. “I know a lot of people that move around barns. Everybody teaches a little bit differently or has a bit of a different style, but I feel like because Trica and Jane have been together for so long, they have the same way of teaching and the same style of teaching. I could just tell that this was someplace that I could call home, and I knew it was a place that would lead me to great success.”
Iannotti’s first taste of competition came after leasing a string of accomplished ponies and later owning a 4-year old mare named Cenzina that she piloted through the 11 and Under Equitation, USEF Medal and ASPCA Maclay, as well as the Children’s Jumpers. The satisfaction Iannotti drew from the horse world, however, did not come exclusively from competing. Her sophomore year of high school she sold her mare, and left with no horse of her own to ride, her role at the farm transitioned to becoming a working student for Fennessy. It was during this time that Iannotti worked harder than ever before. In return for her dedication, she was exposed to the business side of the industry and uncovered the missing link of the horse world that would hook her forever.
“That’s when I knew I wanted to [be a part of the industry] for the rest of my life. I always had the thought because I loved riding and I loved the sport, but once I got into the behind-the-scenes, I realized that it’s something that I was really interested in,” stated Iannotti.
In 2014, Iannotti made her big break into the world of equitation and was named champion of the THIS National Children’s Medal Finals at the Capital Challenge Horse Show. Iannotti went on to earn a top-25 finish in the 2015 USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, also winning the South Florida Hunter Jumper Medal Finals and ribboning in the Under-25 Grand Prixs before concluding her years as a junior rider.
Iannotti, 22, was born in Boca Raton, but her family relocated to Wellington, the winter equestrian capital of the world, seven years ago. When the time came to research colleges, Iannotti faced the daunting decision of staying local or expanding her reach. For Iannotti, the pressure was doubled by the career she had already made for herself at home.
“Going into college, Jane and I had talked before I even left about coming back and working for her and being a part of the business,” Iannotti recalls. “It’s something I always knew I wanted to come back and do, but Jane always told me that if a bigger or better opportunity came along that she would miss me, but that I should feel free to do that if I thought it would benefit me. I never took another opportunity because I never had any thought of going anywhere but Carriage Hill.”
After discovering the world of collegiate riding, Iannotti began her own research into the world of NCEA riding and quickly discovered Alabama’s Auburn University, one of the top equestrian collegiate programs in the nation and home to an NCAA Division 1 Equestrian Team with many National Championship titles to its name.
After attending a four-day “Day in the Life of a College Athlete” summer camp at Auburn University, Iannotti fell in love with the campus and the small-town atmosphere she experienced during her visit. During her last day of camp, Auburn Equestrian’s head coach Greg Williams offered Iannotti and her family an official visit to experience the campus more in-depth and meet the riders on the equestrian team.
“I knew after leaving campus that was where I wanted to be. It was scary committing, because I was either going to Auburn or I was staying in Florida, riding at Carriage Hill, and going to school locally. It was a big decision, whether I was going to stay at home or go somewhere else that I was not comfortable or used to.”
Shortly after her official visit, Iannotti committed to Auburn and began a record-breaking four-year career. “Going into it, I had no expectations of being on the starting roster or competing because there were a lot of people who were really successful in their junior careers. I just wanted to be on the team, be a part of everything,” she says.
Iannotti did start all four years she was at Auburn and began a winning streak that would continue until her graduation. Her freshman year, the Auburn Equestrian team took home two championships, the SEC Championship and the NCEA National Championship. She recalls that year with excitement, “Going into Nationals, we had a lot more pressure on ourselves, but I think it helped because everyone rose up to that pressure and we were able to do it – It was crazy and it was so much fun.”
Her next three years followed a similar pattern, earning the team two more National Championships and one more SEC Championships. In her senior year, the Auburn Equestrian team went undefeated, the first team to ever do so in the college sport’s history.
“Being able to win both championships my freshman year and then go out my senior year winning both championships was amazing,” she said.
Iannotti took more away from her college experience than championships. Majoring in entrepreneurship and family business, she developed the skills she would need to run her own business after graduation. Being a college athlete, she learned skills such as time management, organization, and communication, things she calls “real-world stuff.” She also discovered that despite her successes in the ring, things would not come easy for her, and she would have to find other ways to stand out amongst an impressive and accomplished crowd of young riders.
Instead, Iannotti found every way to make connections and make herself seen. “Put yourself out there and in front of the coach’s faces,” Iannotti says. She made her name a common one by participating in the clinics and camps, communicating with team coaches and building solid friendships with her teammates. It was during her college years that Iannotti also discovered the importance of maintaining old connections with her Carriage Hill family, returning every summer and winter break to show for Fennessy.
Through it all, Iannotti’s dedication to the industry she discovered as a working student years earlier never waivered. “People’s plans change,” she says. “I knew a bunch of people on the team who went in thinking they were going to come out riding horses, and they got to college, and it’s not as intense as it was during their junior years. You ride one horse a day or two horses a day, and people realize they like that lifestyle more. Things always change.”
Things changed for Iannotti too upon returning to South Florida after graduation. No longer the working student and apprentice under Jane Fennessy, Iannotti’s role at Carriage Hill shifted to that of professional trainer and rider. Fulfilling her vow to return to Fennessy’s operation, Iannotti’s responsibilities took on a new and powerful meaning and satisfied her cravings for the industry she had always known.
“I couldn’t see myself sitting in an office from nine to five,” Iannotti says. “I couldn’t see myself not in this industry or being with the horses. I can’t see myself anywhere besides here, at Carriage Hill, because I’ve been here so long it’s like family now.”
For Iannotti, who flourished in the hunter, equitation and jumper world before becoming a trainer herself, her goal now is to make her students as comfortable and successful as can be, using advice she took advantage of herself not so long ago. “I can bring an aspect of being a student myself and give them pointers and tips that I used when I was in their position a few years ago. I love the training part of it.”
Moving forward, Iannotti plans to continue her impressive balancing act, maintaining her connections and keeping a foot in every part of the horse world. As a professional rider, she hopes to eventually represent the United States at international competitions. As a trainer, she looks forward to watching her clients grow and improve from the ground. Above all, Iannotti wishes to give back to the people, places, and horses that made her riding career a success, while continuing to strive for greater things herself.
“It’s going to sound super cliche, but during your junior and college years, make sure you just enjoy each moment and make use of that time you have, whether it’s spending time with the horses or spending time with the people that you’re with because it goes really, really fast,” she says. “Putting all your efforts into what you’re doing, spending quality time with your horses, and every time you’re on the horse making it something worthwhile, that’s going to make you the most successful.”