Haylie Silliman, 2023 World Champion of the National Barrel Horse Association competition in Perry, Georgia, has a lifelong legacy of horse riding. At 33 years old, Haylie began riding on the lap of her mother Lisa Burch as a baby. Haylie’s faith in the entire journey, including hard work, dedication, and perseverance, in addition to her faith in God have led her to current day success.
The NBHA World Championship requires a qualifier for entry: each rider runs two preliminary races in order to gain entrance into the final competition at the end of the week. Unqualified competitors can also participate in the redemption round for one more chance at entry. Only the winner of each division of the redemption round may enter the finals, and this is how Haylie and Gambler earned a place into the finals. Placing in the top 25% of over 900 horses was an incredible victory, with all horses' run times coming in at less than one second of each other.
Haylie attributes her success to following God’s plan, which is always the best plan in the long run. Haylie’s encounters meeting people along the way has only added to her faith experience. Supporters, friends, and family have offered encouragement along the way. Her mother, other riders, trainers, friends, and mentors that all have helped spur her progress along the way. Haylie and her horse, Gambling With Fire (known as Gambler) have always had a unique relationship. From the beginning, has allowed Gambler freedom in his playful and sometimes feisty personality. She patiently waits for him to show her respect as he submits to her with a loving hug, redeeming himself. Surprisingly, Gambler will literally wrap his head and neck around her and display a silly grin on his face!
As a child of an equestrian family, Haylie spent many days in the horse barn under the guidance of her Pawpaw who first gifted her a rescued Arabian named Little Toot as a sixth-grade graduation present. “Toot” was not recognized as an ideal barrel horse, but he went on to prove differently as he went to the nationals in pole bending. After his retirement, Haylie had her eye on another little colt with a lot of potential, Gambling with Fire (Gambler). Haylie’s husband Harrison surprised her one Christmas with Gambler, who was owned by two close friends who also had a large influence on her riding. Haylie was selected for a sponsorship by Opossum Creek Boutique and Tack, sharing in her interview that her greatest influence in life was God and that she takes no credit for her own success. The greatest challenge, according to Haylie, is knowing exactly what each horse needs as they are all different and knowing when to hold back, when to move forward, and when to say goodbye.
Haylie’s future goals include returning back to the NBHA World Championship, The American Qualifier and also someday owning an equestrian facility to help senior horses have a good quality life in their last days. Her other hobbies include helping her husband and in-laws with farming, which provides equestrians with good nutrition for their horses. She really enjoys driving a tractor and offering a helping hand with the cattle! She also enjoys coaching other riders to be able to connect with their horses through groundwork. Haylie’s life motto is to “make the best of every day because every day is a gift.”