It has been nearly a year since your sensational CHIO Aachen Rolex Grand Prix second place, what have you been doing since?
So many things! That was such a monumental show for me and such a wonderful experience. After that, I gave some horses some downtime and I spent the winter competing in Wellington, Florida. Now, I am back in Europe this summer doing a lot of shows for Team USA which is always such an honour. I’ve got a few more horses this year compared to last year so I am competing more. I am still trying to move forward and keep going onward and upward.
How is Balou du Reventon, do you plan on riding him this year at CHIO Aachen?
Balou du Reventon is fantastic; we have some goals for him later in the year that we are working towards. I competed with him in the Nations Cup at CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena the other week and he jumped brilliantly there. He was clear in the second round of the Nations Cup but unfortunately hit the last fence in the Grand Prix. He feels in top shape – he is such a great stallion. He is sixteen this year, so we use him sparingly, but we definitely pull him out when we need to, and he does his job which is the great part about it.
How do you keep a horse of his age in such good shape?
I think it is so important to understand the horse and to listen to them. He has so much personality, he is really going to let you know when it is too much or when he is not doing enough. I have a great team at my stables especially Lesley Leeman who is his primary caretaker. We take it day by day to see how he’s doing and to make sure he is always fit and as healthy as he can be, so when he needs to perform he is ready at all times.
Who are currently your top horses, and do you have some exciting younger horses who you think are future stars?
Absolutely, I have another horse right now at the five-star level who t I own myself. I’ve had him for about seven years, his name is ‘MTM Vivre Le Reve’. He was in America last year and had some time off with illness, but now he is back at the top of the sport. He is 13-years-old but he still has a couple of years left. I have a very promising nine-year-old owned by Anne Thompson [the same owner as Balou du Reventon]. I also have a couple of young horses that are look promising, including a seven-year-old of mine that is coming up through the rankings. It is so important to always have the horses coming up after your top level horses especially as they get older.
There are so many events in the show jumping calendar, how do you choose which ones to focus on and which horses to compete with?
At the beginning of the year it is important to make a plan for the horses that you have and the things you want to accomplish. For example, riding for Team USA is so important to me so I have geared Balou du Reventon towards those events primarily. I will keep him fresh for those events so that he peaks in those moments.
Do you find European competition different from the US circuit?
Yes, I do. Last year, I didn’t know what to expect when I came to Europe, I obviously knew the best riders in the world as well as the legends that I have looked up to my entire life, mainly compete in Europe. But it wasn’t until that first 5* event, which was in the first week that I was over here last year, that I thought to myself ‘oh my goodness’. I think it is incredible to go to these shows and compete with seven of the top ten riders in a single class. For me it really motivates me to be just like them and be competitive with those top riders at the top level of the sport. It is very motivational and it makes me very competitive – it is fun to be with people you used to look up to and now see them as ‘competitors’.
Of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which is your favourite?
For sure CHIO Aachen. I love the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament ; but CHIO Aachen will always have a special place in my heart. Out of the majors, all of them are fantastic shows that I really look forward to competing at, but CHIO Aachen holds a special spot.
What non-equestrian sport do you think show jumping can most be compared to?
I notice a lot of similarities to Formula 1, which I am sure a lot of riders would agree with. Ultimately to me, show jumping is such a unique sport that it is almost impossible to compare it to something else, but I would say that is as similar as you can get.
All we need now is a ‘Ride to Survive’ Netflix show?
Exactly, ‘Ride to Survive’ that has a ring to it - that is amazing!
What are the most important foundations to having a successful career in Show Jumping?
To connect with your horses is the most important thing. I started my career because of my love for the horses. What you put into them is what they will bring out for you, and I think it is really important not to lose touch of that. Whether you have one horse or you have 15 horses they are all athletes the same way you are and they have emotion, they feel and are top competitors. I think it is so important for them to feel appreciated, to get the best care and to really listen to them. You must understand your horse and remind yourself why you do it. For me, it was because I was a crazy horse kid since I was a baby and that has never changed.
When you are not competing or training, what do you like to do with your down time?
In my down time? That is a good question! I really use it as a time to unwind and regroup, whether that be physically or mentally. I love to cook, so I cook a lot when I am home, I enjoy that very much – but I am not very good at it! I see a lot of people at the shows, a lot of my closest friends and my family come to all the shows, so I get to spend time with them there. So when I am home, not competing, I like to take time for myself and get ready for the next few weeks that are coming up after that time off.
What is your signature dish?
There are so many, but I do make really good shrimp tacos!
If you could ride any horse past or present which would you choose?
I would have loved to ride Hickstead he was such a powerhouse type horse even though he was small; he was quick, and he was clever. I have always loved and had a soft spot for small horses so I think to ride that horse would be amazing and he was such a true athlete. Although I never knew the horse personally, he seemed a bit quirky and had a lot character, so I think I would have definitely loved to ride like that horse.