Champion riders form quite a sister act Brooke and Amy Hafets' training and talent shine

February 04, 1997|By Beth Reinhard | Beth Reinhard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Hafets sisters don't fight about boys and clothes as typical teen-aged siblings do, except for the time when Amy wore Brooke's lucky green sweat shirt backward and inside out.

Brooke happens to be very superstitious about her lucky sweat shirt. She wears it while training for horse shows. Amy should know better because the sisters, who live in the Kings Contrivance village in Columbia, are accomplished equestrians.

They each won first-place awards in the state equestrian championships, as well as top prizes for the region that includes Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

"We like to cheer each other on," said Amy, 14, sitting on a trunk amid the musty smells of hay and horses that permeate a barn in New Market, where the sisters train.

"If we fight, it's never about horses," said Brooke, 17, who tends to finish her sister's sentences.

Two other sets of sisters won awards in the state competition last year, but it is still considered rare for siblings to exhibit skills comparable to those of the Hafetses. Dawn Barclay, secretary of the Maryland Horse Shows Association, said, "I guess horse talent runs in the family."

Brooke and Amy appear to have inherited the talent of their father, Richard, who started riding when he was 8 years old on Long Island, N.Y. He focused more on football and lacrosse as a teen-ager, but he picked up riding again after Brooke was born.

Richard Hafets competed on the Howard County circuit for a few years, but then channeled his passion -- and money -- toward his daughters. The Columbia lawyer and his wife -- a reading specialist at Elkridge Middle School -- paid about $30,000 for each girl's horse, plus thousands of dollars for boarding, entry fees, veterinarian bills, equipment and lessons.

"It's been an enormous investment of time and money, but I can't think of anything I could possibly do that would bring me more enjoyment than watching the girls compete and be successful," their father said. "I think I'm lucky because sometimes it's difficult for fathers to do sports with their daughters."

Riding on Patapsco State Park trails, the girls learned to trot at the same time they were learning to read. They started learning the more formal English style of riding that is used in competitions about age 8 at the Columbia Horse Center. By age 11, they owned their own horses and began entering shows.

"They both have an innate ability to ride," said their trainer, Scotty Sherman, who works with the girls at Hunting Horse Farm in New Market. "Win or lose, they always have a really good attitude that most kids don't have."

This past year, the girls spent between 10 and 15 hours a week at the farm, where they board their animals and train. Every other day after school and on weekends, Brooke and Amy would drive 45 minutes to the farm. Their dedication paid off. Brooke won first place in the children's hunter horse division and Amy took first place in the children's hunter pony division in the Maryland Horse Shows Association. (The hunter division is the figure skating of the equestrian world, with its emphasis on form, grace and artistry.)

The girls also accumulated enough points with their jumping, trotting and cantering in their season of shows that they took top prizes in their divisions in the regional competition of the American Horse Shows Association.

"We used to hang up ribbons in our room, but it got to a point where there was more ribbons than wallpaper," Brooke said.

Brooke entered 37 shows in 1996 on her chestnut thoroughbred, named Back to the Future, and Amy competed in 32 shows on her pony, named Zim's Nehi because of his fondness for Nehi grape soda.

"You become best friends with your horse because you see them all the time," Amy said. "You develop a rapport."

The girls also excel in their studies and extracurricular activities at Hammond High School. Brooke has achieved a 4.0 average, serves as student council co-president and works backstage on high school plays. Amy has a 3.9 average, plays field hockey, and plans to try out for lacrosse.

This fall, Brooke plans to attend Cornell University.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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