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...we find out what motivates, inspires and excites U.S. show-jumper and FEI Longines Rising Star Award winner Reed Kessler.
In 2012 she was the youngest equestrian athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, at just 18 years of age.
You can vote for your favourite inspirational athlete, groom or Rising Star just like Reed here, over at www.feiawards.com
Hi Reed, so what's your earliest memory of riding?
My earliest memory of riding is of my mom tying my stuffed animals to trees that I would steer my pony ShaSha towards to retrieve. My first ride was when I was just six months old – my parents held me in a basket on my pony… I could ride before I could walk!
Did you watch your parents or other relatives compete over the years when you were a child? What was that like?
Yes, my parents have been riding for 40 years and I grew up taking care of my pony with my mom in the backyard. I was already competing before I even knew what I was watching – my parents took me with them to their competitions to do the lead-line classes.
What drew you to jumping?
I always only wanted to jump. Same as my parents! It’s the adrenaline rush you get from show-jumping that makes me love it.
How would you describe your relationship with your horses to a non-rider?
I imagine that it would be similar to having a twin. You know each other so well you can complete each other's sentences!
Describe the feeling of Jumping, especially during a competition?
It's hard to describe because your adrenaline takes over in the ring. Finishing a great round in front of a big crowd is an amazing feeling. It doesn’t feel like anything in particular really – focus takes over and I’m only really conscious of it after I’m finished.
What is your fondest competition memory from childhood?
I think pony hunt teams at the Devon Show when the pony divisions got to do a class for fun. Teams of three picked a theme and dressed up and jumped a course all at the same time. One year we were The Incredibles, and another, we dressed up as characters from the musical Wicked. Dressing up was good fun!
Probably winning the 2012 Olympic trials, or the Queen's cup in Calgary. The Queen’s Cup is the highlight of the Spruce Meadows summer tournament – one of the most prestigious Grand Prix classes in North America.
Why is it necessary as an equestrian athlete to work on your own body as well as your horse’s?
Our careers as riders are long compared to other sports, so besides the immediate benefit of exercising, fitness can prevent injuries. I'm a small girl so it's especially important for me to be as strong and fit as possible. I train every day – I kickbox once, sometimes twice a week and mix up other days with cardio, stretching and high intensity workouts.
Do you have a nutritional or dietary plan that you follow?
I don't eat dairy or gluten. What I do eat is lots of protein, vegetables and healthy whole grains. It’s important as an athlete to take care of myself at a high standard, the way I would my horses. It’s probably just as important for us both to be fit and healthy.
Do you have any tips for aspiring competitive riders?
The only tips I can give are to protect and care for your horse the best you can, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Do you have any rituals for preparing and getting through a competition?
I like to have plenty of time to warm up without rushing. I check all my tack and get on my horse when there are 15 horses ahead of me. Whatever I’m feeling – nerves or excitement – fades away once I start work, and focus takes over.
What is life like in your hometown, Kentucky, and what is the equestrian scene like there?
I don't spend so much time there but it's lovely. It is quiet, peaceful, and ideal for horses. The town is full of great restaurants and of course UK basketball.
I actually live in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Holland is a very nice country to live in – centrally located for our sport. I moved here so that I would have less travel for the horses and me to get to shows.
What was your reaction to winning an FEI Longines Rising Star award?
I was very honoured to be recognized by my peers and the FEI. It really meant a lot to be recognized.
Do you have any other pets?
Yes, my rescue dog, Carly. I’m not sure of her breed – probably a Norfolk terrier and jack russell mix. She’s the best – so easy to take care of and happy all the time! She follows me around and sits by the ring watching me ride all day.
"Thank You For Smoking "and "Whiplash"
Cookie skillet at Malone’s in Kentucky
Name something from your bucket list that you hope to cross off?
Win an Olympic gold medal!
Describe your perfect day (this can, of course, involve horses!)
It does! Riding at home and probably going on a long hack out.
Vote for your favourite inspirational athlete, groom or Rising Star just like Reed here, over at www.feiawards.com