Hardin Towell’s life changed in 2013. Growing up in one of the East Coast’s top equestrian families, the 25-year-old rider is a born horseman. His father, Jack Hardin Towell and mother, Lisa Towell own and operate Finally Farm in Camden, South Carolina, and his sister, top derby rider Liza Boyd Towell, is revered for her partnership with the great hunter derby horse Brunello.
All that is nothing to sniff at. But in 2013, Hardin accepted an offer to train privately for junior rider Jennifer Gates (yes, that Gates) and quickly made a name for himself in grand prix rings on a new side of the nation. With two talented mounts, one owned by Gates and one by himself, Hardin had heads spinning in his direction during the summer and fall seasons in California, where he logged several strong finishes in World Cup competition.
Just who is this stylish young professional? What does he feel grateful for when he wakes up in the morning, and what does he never leave the barn without? Horse & Style has all the answers. Read on:
Horse & Style: Describe your riding style.
Hardin Towell: Well, I don’t have much style but with the help of my girlfriend and my mom, it’s gotten a little better as the years have gone along! If I’m allowed to, I like to show in a polo and not wear my coat and tie. I have a thing about wearing white polos or white button downs. I probably have 20 polo shirts, and 18 of them are white!
H&S: What is your head-to-toe riding outfit?
HT: I have a GPA helmet and a GPA hunt coat. I also have a very old, cool-looking hunt coat that I wear sometimes. It was my godfather’s, it’s brown and looks like the one Todd Minikus wears all the time. I like Pikeur breeches and I wear Parlanti tall boots.
H&S: Do you wear anything for good luck?
HT: Well, I lose everything. Every time I’ve ever had anything for good luck, I end up losing it so good luck charms don’t really work with me. But I do always have the same spurs on me. I’ve had the same pair for three years and if I can’t find them before a class I get a little freaked-out. They’ve been the only things I’ve managed not to lose.
H&S: What are your favorite equestrian brands?
HT: Pikeur breeches are a definite favorite. They are comfortable, they fit me well, what else do you need?! CWD is another favorite. They sponsor me, and I have great saddles and bridles from them.
H&S: How would you describe your non-horse show style?
HT: It’s pretty simple, usually jeans and a polo shirt. If you see me on a normal day, that’s what I’m wearing all the time, where ever I am.
H&S: What have been your biggest accomplishments as a rider?
HT: This year has been great for me. I’ve had some horses that have been more for me, and I have a very nice 8-year-old of my own. In the past, it’s always been about selling them, but this year I’ve been able to step-up and build partnerships; the result is being able to do more FEI classes. I’m lucky to be in this situation, it makes the sport completely different. Before the goal was to compete and get a horse sold. Now, when I get up in the morning, instead of thinking what can I do to get this horse sold, I think what can I do today to make this horse better for Jenn and I. Being in that situation is an accomplishment in itself. As for results, I was 5th at the $100,000 New Albany Invitational in September; that was a great finish for me.
H&S: What are your riding goals for the future?
HT: Well, I’m very excited with how this year has gone, having the chance to show in new places and do some national level grand prix classes. Before this, I never had a World Cup horse to show, and now I have two. So for next year, I’d like to aim for some World Cup Qualifiers. If they go well, the Final is always a goal. That’s a long ways away but you’ve got to have something to shoot for!
H&S: If you weren’t a rider, what would be your dream profession?
HT: That’s hard for me to know. With being on the road all the time, my opinions change. I look at people with “normal” jobs and lives, and sometimes I think that would be nice. But I know that after a week of being in one place, I’m ready to show again.
I am really big into the Thoroughbred industry, actually. My barn manager and I just put a syndicate together and bought a racehorse at Keeneland. So probably, if I didn’t ride I’d do something with racehorses.
H&S: Who has been the most influential in your riding career?
HT: For sure my parents. If it wasn’t for my mom putting me on the longe line and making me ride when I was 7-years-old, I would never have developed the passion I have now. Also Missy Clark, she helped me a lot in the equitation. And just more recently, Eddie Macken has been a big influence on me. To see that after everything he’s done, he still has the passion for the sport that he does, it’s inspiring.
H&S: What is the one thing you never go in the ring without?
HT: My spurs! I have to wear them every single time I ride. Even if I’m riding a horse that I don’t need spurs on, I still have to have them, even if I never use them!
Photo: Hardin and Flip competing in the $100,000 New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix, September 2013. Photo ©Curtis Wallis