Do you prepare for each competition with varying mental and physical fitness or is there constant?
I have a predominantly constant physical and mental preparation for every competition. Physically, I try to work out at least three times a week depending on my travel and riding schedule. Additionally, before I compete in big classes, I have a certain mental preparation routine. I like to walk away by myself, listen to music on my iPod, and visualize in my mind the way I am going to ride the course.
Is there ever a mixed-gender competition or is it always an all-female or all-male event?
Every competition is mixed-gender, one of the few sports in which men and women compete on even terms.
Besides your profession, are there other ways you use horses?
These days, I suppose that horses are mostly just used for different disciplines of riding, such as my sport of showjumping. However, the retired horses and ponies at my farm in Sussex seem more like pets now than athletes!
Do you find that each horse is distinctively different in character and personality?
Absolutely. Horses differ in their character and personality! Just as with people, you will find an array of personalities. For example, my two mares are clearly more sensitive and sweet in the ring and out—they require less leg in the competitions and are very sensitive and responsive to your aids. In addition, my girls are very quiet, yet friendly and sweet on the ground. However, I have one gelding (male) that requires more aggressive aids in the ring and loves to go fast. Similarly, on the ground he is cocky and has quite an attitude. He knows exactly how good he is at what he does.
What is it like to have won ten Grand Prix, to have competed and won in Europe your first time there, beaten Olympic Medalists, and represented the United States in competition in your first year at this level? Where do you go from there?
I have been very fortunate early in my career to have had the opportunity to compete against and learn from the best riders in the world. Nearly all of the top riders have been so very generous in helping me to improve my skills and understanding of the sport. Getting a taste of international competition has ignited even more of a passion in me to work harder, ride better, and hopefully represent the country again soon in the future. I’m proud of my career so far, but I also realize how much I still have to learn, how much more work I have to do to get where I want to be. International competition has opened my eyes to what will be required of me to push myself to the next level.
Of all the venues you have competed in, which is your favorite?
My favorite venues have been in Falsterbo, Sweden and Dublin, Ireland. The rings are beautiful grass fields filled with elaborate jumps. But even more than that was the atmosphere of the crowds. When I won the Swedbank Derby in Sweden, the crowds were roaring and the music was blaring as I galloped around the ring. They were cheering me on as if I were a native of Falsterbo. Similarly, 30,000 Irish spectators cheered as I cleared the last jump in the Nations Cup competition, and they didn’t care that I was an American competing against their team. Those were two of the best moments and feelings of my life.
Besides horses, you are concurrently studying government at Harvard University. How do you balance your schedule?
I have been very lucky to be able to manage a schedule that accommodates both riding and my studies. I schedule the bulk of my class load on Mondays through Wednesdays, during which I stay on campus at Harvard. However, if there are classes that end up on Thursdays, I choose classes whose lectures are video-taped and posted on-line. This works well in that I can watch the lectures on the road at the competitions and miss very little class. I truly do love both college and showjumping, so making my schedule work through long hours and more hard work is worth it at the end of the day.