Chris Hickey and Hilltop Farm owner Jane MacElree announced March 28 that Hickey will leave Hilltop Farm, effective as of the end of the Florida winter/spring season. Swedish native Michael Bragdell, who’s worked at Hilltop since 1995 and now rides for the United States, will take over as director of training.
“Chris has done a wonderful job in developing the horses in competition,” said MacElree in a press release. “I’ve had a lot of fun supporting him at shows in both the United States and Europe and am proud of what he's accomplished with my horses.”
Hickey, 45, has most recently competed Hilltop Farm-owned Douglas Hilltop and Witness Hilltop at CDIs. Since he started at the Colora, Md., farm in 2007, Hilltop horses ridden by him have won three USEF national championships, a reserve USEF national championship, gold and silver medals in Wellington, Fla., Nations Cup competition and five USDF horse of the year titles.
“I’m leaving Hilltop on really good terms,” said Hickey. “I gave Jane a good amount of notice, and I hope that we’ll remain close. Jane does so much for the Hilltop staff and for the breeding industry. I feel like these positions really help people. Jane supports people, and the continuing education she does for the staff is huge.”
Bragdell started at Hilltop as a working student, and he won the 2012 4-Year-Old Markel/USEF Young Horse Championship (Ill.) title with the stallion Hemmingway.
“Michael will be taking over the development of the Hilltop horses, and where we go beyond that will take some time to figure out,” said Hilltop's general manager Natalie DiBerardinis. “Our intent is to focus on Michael and his development. He definitely understands the focus and all of the pieces that go into Hilltop.”
Hickey said he will announce his future plans in the upcoming days.