Hallye Griffin, Managing Director of U.S. Dressage, helps Olympic athletes reach their dreams.
Even the most diehard fans of dressage may not have heard of Hallye Griffin. Yet, as we gear up for the 2020 Tokyo Games, she plays a key role in the U.S. Equestrian Team’s quest for Olympic Gold.
It is Hallye’s strategic vision and calculated approach to long-term success that guides America’s top talent to the pinnacle of the sport. She describes the years of planning that go into a successful Olympic performance, as well as why U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation supporters are critical to the Team’s success.
Strategizing for the Future of the Sport
Since 2015, Hallye has served as the Managing Director for Dressage at U.S. Equestrian, a broad role that requires her to manage athletes, oversee national program development, and even keep tabs on the governance side of the sport that includes rule changes and conversations between committees.
“Our focus is winning medals at the Olympic Games and World Championships,” says Hallye. “Since Rio in 2016, we’ve been working towards Tokyo.” And with Tokyo still a few months away, Hallye is already planning for the L.A. Olympics in 2028.
Why is there such a focus on the long game? It’s all about catching talent that will peak at the exact right moment. Long-term development is key.
Hallye, along with Debbie McDonald and Dr. Cricket Russillo, are kicking off the New Year with a string of home visits to the program’s top athletes. “We do vet evaluations, riding sessions, and strategic planning meetings,” explains Hallye. “We set competition and training targets for the combinations that they’re required to meet. We talk about their scores and what improvements can be made.”
They’ll also discuss each rider’s horses — their top equestrian athletes and their newcomers. Because the 2028 Olympics are still a long way off, a dressage horse who is 4- or 5-years-old today could peak at just the right time for Olympic glory.
“It’s important that we’re working with those talented athletes so we can keep them on a pathway to set them up for success in the 2028 Games,” adds Hallye.
“It’s going to go really fast,” laughs Hallye. “The home Olympics is a huge opportunity to engage the sport at a more national level.”
A Rewarding Role
Growing up in Lexington, horses have always been in Hallye’s blood. But she didn’t know that a role like hers even existed until the 2010 World Equestrian Games came to town.
After six months of backpacking through South America post-college, she was ready for a new challenge. She took a role as a competition assistant for the Games. From helping organize golf carts, to presentations, to sorting out how many meals would be needed in the athlete dining area … Hallye did it all and enjoyed every minute.
But, when she took on her role in dressage, Hallye didn’t immediately fall in love with the sport. With a background in Pony Club and eventing, But now she realizes just how exciting it can be to work first-hand with the best dressage horses and riders in the country.
“I think it’s very rewarding to work with our riders. When you work with people at the top of whatever sport they do, it’s very interesting. For me, I feel very invested in what I’m doing.”
And she can’t get enough of dressage — so much so that she’ll seek out a live competition to stream on her computer while in the office.
Achieving International Domination
Competing in Europe has become increasingly important for U.S. dressage athletes, as Hallye explains: “We have found that when we have a European presence and we’re getting our top and up-and-coming riders to European competitions and riding against the best in the world, we have more success in the end.”
The opportunity to compete in Europe is not without sacrifices, though. “Riders are leaving behind their businesses and their families to go and compete,” says Hallye. “They give up so much to be able to compete for the Team.”
Hallye understands the travel demands better than most. She is based out of the official U.S. Equestrian headquarters at the Kentucky Horse Park, but she’ll spend a lot of this Olympic year on the road, her husband and her newborn son traveling along with her — all to ensure that the future of the sport is looking strong.
Traveling to Europe, especially with horses, is not easy — “we have to cross the ocean,” laughs Hallye. But, it is critical to the team’s success and that’s why Hallye hopes more and more dressage athletes will have the opportunity to represent the United States abroad.
And that’s exactly why support from donors like you is crucial for all athletes, both newcomers and veterans of the sport. “I think every little bit helps,” says Hallye. “We would not be able to do anything without the donors and the people that give to the USET Foundation.”