Interview Reed Kessler – the youngest Olympian ever in show jumping

09. Jan 13 | 12:12 | By | Category: INTERNATIONAL NEWS, interviews


18-year-old Reed Kessler set a world record last year being the youngest person ever to go for an Olympic medal in show jumping. In the end she and the US-team could not reach the medals but it was an unforgettable experience for young Reed who started riding before she could walk. London motivated her to even already think of the next Olympic Games in Rio. Gold would be a dream come true there. But she is proud already now on being a role model for young riders. For her German fans she did an exclusive interview with me talking about her amazing horse Cylana, the Olympic experience and the art of show jumping in Europe and the USA…


2012 has been an unbelievably successful year for you with the highlight Olympic Games. Did you ever think you could be in the team for London?

I couldn’t have dreamed it possible at the beginning of the year but after the trials in Florida it started to seem possible.


You were the youngest person ever to go for an Olympic medal in show jumping – is this something that matters to you? That you wrote riding history?

It is very cool to set a world record. But what was the most cool was all the people that reached out to me saying how I inspired them. There are lots of young riders who were inspired to work harder and push themselves as far as they can.


How did you experience the Olympic Games in London? What war the most exciting, the most interesting, the best moment for you?

It was a whirlwind! We spent so much time preparing that the actual week went by in a flash. Team processing was really cool, trying on all of the gear we were given made it seem so real. Walking into the ring each day and literally hearing the support of so many young people cheering for me was just amazing. And the closing ceremony is something I will never forget.


In the end the US did not get an Olympic medal… Was this very sad for you?

Of course I was disappointed. I had a great performance the first day but was not as good as I had hoped the next two rounds. I did my best and put in so much work that I could say I did everything I could. Next time I will have more experience…

Cylana is said to be one of the best horses the US team has at the moment. What is so special about her? For how long have you been her rider? How did you get her?

I think she is even the best horse in the world. I got her in June 2011. She was doing 1.30 amateur classes most of her life in Switzerland until Marie Etter bought her. She did a few shows with her before I went to try her. I was looking for a speed horse but when I sat on her we decided she would be a great project.  At first she was very overweight without much experience but after a few months of fitness she was a new horse. What is so amazing about her is her attitude. She loves nothing more than to be ridden, to work, to jump, and to compete. She is very cranky in the barn and she hates vacation – she lives to show. Every time you ride her she gives 1000% she wants to do exactly what you want, she tries so hard and is always listening. She has so much heart and we really love each other. I think we are both at our happiest when we are together working.


You have some further top horses at the moment. Tell us a bit about them…

I have two new horses. The first is Wolf S, a 10 year old KWPN gelding by Numero Uno x Peter Pan. Romain Sottas was riding him in 2 and 3 star shows in Switzerland. When I tried him it was instantly a good match, he likes being ridden in the American style. He has already been successful with Romain so hopefully once we get to know each other we can start doing some bigger classes soon. The other horse is Soraya de l’Obstination, an 11 year old Belgian mare. She was ridden by Jose Thiry in mostly 1.45 classes. She is very fast and careful and has her own style. When I tried her she also felt like she had more jump in her so it will be exciting to see what she is able to do, I think she will be very useful.


In 2011 at least here in Germany we never really heard your name. Was everything happening last year also for you a meteoric rise to success for you?

I have been showing in Europe most summers since I was 13. I had some success in 2 stars mostly in France, I won the 2 star Grand Prix at the Gucci Masters in 2010. Of course I was not old enough to show above 2 star until this year so of course you would not see me at the biggest shows until this year! Yes everything happened very quickly this year, also because Cylana and I became a partnership.


You´ve been in Europe for a long time in 2012, went to many shows. How did you like it here? Will you go to Europe again in 2013?

I show in Europe each year so yes. I will be back this spring for the World Cup Final and hopefully some other shows and then I think I do Spruce Meadows in Calgary and after back to Europe again.


What do you think is the difference between US-American and European riding? Is there a big difference at all?

It depends, each country is different. Obviously German style and American style are very different. But I think French and American style are similar. In terms of shows, Europe has overtaken the U.S. In North America we have a few great shows like WEF and Spruce Meadows, but Europe has most of the 5 star shows. It is a more popular sport in Europe. In general when you go to a show in America there are 6-10 people who can win the Grand Prix – when you go to a big show in Europe, every person there is good enough to win. The standard of competition is higher – it is bigger, harder, and more competitive.


How did your love with horses start? How did you start with show jumping?

My parents have been riding for over 30 years. That is how they met. My trainers Katie and Henri Prudent are my godparents. I started riding at six months old and it is the only thing I have ever wanted to do.


What is it that makes horses so fascinating for you?

I grew up with horses, they have always been what makes my family so close.


What is the special thing about show jumping for you? Did you also try other disciplines?

I haven’t tried anything else. I love the thrill of a big course and crowd.


What are you doing when you are not riding? Will you go to college? What are your plans for the future?

No I won’t attend school. I plan to become a professional and have a business. Eventually I will take on students. In general I am either at the gym or sleeping if I’m not riding! Maybe shopping too…


What are your plans and goals for 2013?

I plan to attend the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, so that is my biggest goal to do well there. I also want to crack the top 30 of the world.


Finally: Do you have a special philosophy in life?

Rome wasn’t built in a day! Take it one day and one jump at a time. But also never to be complacent – don’t be happy with mediocrity.


What is a big wish you want to fulfill in the future?

Now that I have been to an Olympic games I want to win a gold medal. And also get medals at other championships and represent the United States.


Interview: Alexandra Koch

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