About Hap Hansen
Hap Hansen’s winning grand prix career began in 1983 and he continued to be victorious from coast to coast and internationally for the ensuing twenty-five years on over twenty horses, including Juniperus, Zulu, Mirage and Amerika 7. His talent also topped the hunter divisions on numerous occasions, earning countless championships on many mounts making names for several stallions including Sir Caletto and Best of Luck.
This extremely gifted rider is also a tremendous teacher. Just in the last five years, Hap’s students have won the West Coast Junior Hunter Finals twice, the CPHA Adult Medal Finals, been crowned champion in numerous hunter and jumper divisions and qualified for regional and national medal finals. Natalie Rae Medlock (now professional) was a star in every arena from Hunter Derbies to Grand Prix aboard Hap’s fabulous horse Y2K.
Born into a non-equine family, Hap started riding at age 10 in La Cañada, CA. Always asking for the fastest horse on the rental string, Hap’s parents decided that corralling that instinct via riding lessons would be the safest route for their fearless son. Within a couple of years Hap’s commitment led to a membership at the Flintridge Riding Club, giving him the opportunity to ride with the legendary Jimmy Williams. Alongside other equestrian-stars-to-be, Susan Hutchison, Robert Ridland and others, Hap Hansen was victorious early on. He won the Barbara Worth and Zone 10 Medal Finals and had a knack for catch riding.
Remembering his first time in the jumper ring like it was yesterday, Hap tells the story from 1960’s. “My first open jumper class was at Santa Barbara on Hale’s Pride. The horse had become so ‘hot’ that Jimmy made me get on the horse in the barn aisle. Back in those days you used to ‘warm up’ in the barn aisle, but Jimmy wouldn’t even let me warm up. I rode right to the ring; no trotting, no cantering, just right into the ring. I was scared to death. But, it worked out fine and it was on from there.”
Besides becoming a fierce competitor, Hap learned a lot about training horses and riders from Jimmy as well as by observing other top trainers, namely Karen Healey, Missy Clark and Mike Henegan. The Jimmy Williams philosophy of treating each horse as an individual and not trying to ‘mold’ them into something they are not, but accentuating their talent is one that Hap carries with him to this day. Considering his success spans several decades on a wide variety of horses, he clearly comprehends the theory and continues to illustrate its veracity.
Ready to make the leap into the professional ranks in the 1970’s, Hap hung his shingle a couple of places before settling at Rancho Riding Club. Starting out in a partnership with Sandy Aston, a well-respected horsewoman with a great eye for talent both then and now, Hap remained at RRC for almost twenty-seven years.
During this tenure he started his grand prix prowess. When Hap found a horse he wanted to own, he couldn’t fund the purchase himself. So he started one of the earliest horse-owning syndicates and acquired Sail Away. Then in the late 1980’s Hap fell in love in France. It all happened after a single ride in a field in Fontainebleau. No other potential match came close to the talent of Juniperus. Hap literally mortgaged his home in order to purchase the horse. While at the bank, he was asked, “You mean you want to buy another house?” And Hap replied, “No, a horse.” And he wouldn’t leave until the deal was done. The investment proved to be well-worth the risk. From top ribbons in their first outing together to numerous grand prix victories, the couple of Hansen and Juniperus also clinched a very prestigious win for the US Nations Cup Team at Spruce Meadows in 1986.
When asked about the chance to be an Olympian, Hap’s reply proves his understanding of the sport and the horse. Having competed at Olympic trials as well as internationally, he knows it takes a particular type of equine talent to rise to the top of the Olympic team selection system. “In the past, I’ve had a couple of horses come away from the trials worse off than when they started. I think it’s important to have the right horse to survive the American system of selection for the Olympics. It would have to be a horse that could win at the Olympics.”
As one of a handful of riders who have achieved 100 grand prix wins (or close) in a single career, Hap has earned a place among the greatest names in show jumping history.
He now trains, and offers for sale, the nation’s top hunter/jumper horses.
A lover of things that fly, over the years Hap has also found the time to earn his pilot’s license and build an aviary for his feathered friend collection. His bird buddies include an African Gray Parrot, lovebirds, lorries and an African Crested Crane, to name a few, and of course his own airplane.
He also has several hand-raised cockatoos available for sale – adorable and loving birds – contact him for more cockatoo sale info.