Purebred Talent: Hillary Dobbs

World-class equestrian (and Harvard senior) Hillary Dobbs saddles up for a breakthrough year.

Purebread Talent

Photograph by Conor Doherty 

Hillary Dobbs is holed up in Harvard’s Widener Library, writing an anthropology paper on human-animal relationships. It’s a topic she knows a little something about: At 21, the daughter of erstwhile CNN commentator Lou Dobbs is the 11th-ranked show jumper in the country, excelling in a sport that requires guiding a 1,200-pound horse over hurdles six feet tall.

Since turning pro last summer, the 5-foot-8, cherub-faced Dobbs has collected wins (and nearly $1 million in prize money) at prestigious shows both in the U.S. and overseas. This winter she’ll compete near Palm Beach, Florida, in hopes of qualifying for September’s World Equestrian Games.

When home at Harvard, Dobbs crunches through economics and English classes Monday through Wednesday and logs plenty of calls to her twin sister, Heather, and her horse-dealer fiancé, Roy Wilten. Come Friday morning, though, she’s up at 4 a.m. to kick off a day of practice that stretches until 11 p.m.

Following her May graduation, Dobbs plans to ride full time, with the aim of making it to the 2012 London Olympics. “I’ve always been serious about any goal, whether it’s school or riding,” she says. “It’ll be fun to see what happens when I don’t have to juggle the two.”