Our Interview with Kate:
1. When did you first start riding Dressage?
I’ve been riding horses since before I could walk, but I didn’t really start riding dressage until I was fifteen when I wanted to event with my off-the-track thoroughbred. Then when I turned seventeen, I stopped eventing to focus my full attention on dressage riding.
2. Do you ride without stirrups when schooling your horse?
I occasionally ride without stirrups or bareback while schooling my horse but in general, I ride with stirrups.
3. What is your training regime on a daily basis with your horse or horses?
My daily training regime is work in the arena, supplemented by walks around the farm and work on trails. Thankfully, there are trails nearby with some decent sized hills to work on, so a few times a week my horses will do hill work (as long as the weather cooperates). This really helps develop their topline and strength while giving them a bit of a mental break as well. I attend college full time but do my best to ride at least four days per week.
4. How important is the warm-up and cool down of your horse?
Essential. I learned a lot about the science behind warming up and cooling down horses when I was writing a research paper on alternative therapies for horses. Both warming up and cooling down help reduce the risk of injuries while providing some extra time for both my horses and I to mentally prepare or unwind.
5. What is the importance of transitions in your schooling?
Transitions are incredibly important as well. Transitions between gaits and to/from collection and extension are very useful in developing your horses’ balance. Transitions will also make or break scores on a test. Riders often underestimate the point value behind transitions.
6. Do you follow the Scales of Training on a daily basis?
I do. It’s crucial in developing young or green horses. I didn’t learn about it until I left eventing and really focused on dressage, but it was incredibly helpful when retraining my OTTB.
7. What is the most essential quality in the early stages of training a horse?
I think that the most essential quality in the early stages of training a horse is trust. Establishing a bond and getting to know your horse will help you better understand how they learn and how they’re feeling, making you more in tune to their specific needs.
8. Have you ever owned a Schoolmaster or have you done the training yourself with your horse?
I have never owned a schoolmaster. The horse I rode while I completed my bronze medal, Sovangs Lima, could possibly have been considered a schoolmaster, although he was quite hot and very sensitive.
9. Do you include interval training for your horse?
I don’t have much space to do interval training with my horses but I do try to take them on long trail rides with hill work.
10. How often do you show?
Depending on where my horses are in their training, I usually show a couple of times throughout the summer. I try to keep year-end goals in mind but not go overboard with the amount of showing I do. Even though I absolutely love competing, I invest most of my time and money in my education and the well-being of my horses.
11. Do you braid your own horse’s mane?
Yes! I braid my own horses’ manes and other people’s horses as well. I used to hate braiding and get so stressed out by it but I’ve learned to love it. I also teach grooming classes and try to help other riders learn to enjoy braiding.
12. Who grooms for you at your shows?
Usually, either a friend or family member will come to shows with me but I do all the grooming myself. I’ve learned a lot about grooming throughout the years and I am pretty particular about turnout. Whoever comes to shows with me is usually just along for the ride.
13. Do you trail ride and how often?
I trail ride at least once a week. I think it’s really good for horses’ brains because it gives them a break from arena work and exposes them to different stimuli. At Xenophon farm, we are lucky to have our pick of trails and a state park. One time Sovangs Lima and I hiked to the top of Mt. Tom!
14. What are your goals for you and your horse?
My goals for Solstice (“Grey”) and I are to work our way up through the levels in a manner that will establish a good foundation for the upper levels. He definitely has the talent to be an upper level horse, but I want to take it slow because he is very sensitive. A personal goal of mine is to ride a Grand Prix test before I turn 25 years old. Another short-term goal I have is to compete at Devon this year. I am working with a breeder currently and have hopes of riding some young horses in the breed show at Dressage at Devon. Devon is one of my favorite showgrounds and I’ve had dreams of riding there since I was a kid.
15. Do you have a musical freestyle for you and your horse, and if so what type of music do you like?
I do not have a musical freestyle for my horse but I hopefully will soon. I like many different types of music and I want my freestyle to be unique and innovative. I play a few instruments and music is such an integral part of my life that I am so excited at the idea of creating a freestyle. I listen to music every time I ride and feel that it helps me focus and keep tempo. Actually, I recently found out about a really interesting product called horseCom. HorseCom is a wearable device that allows both you and your horse to listen to the same music from your smartphone using bluetooth technology- I cannot wait to try one out!
16. Name your favorite horse and rider?
I don’t have a particular favorite horse but my favorite rider is definitely George Williams. From watching him school at Havensafe farm, to watching him warm up while I groomed for them at shows, I was just so impressed. He is incredibly patient and kind. I have never heard a foul word come out of his mouth – neither towards horse or human. He truly respects his horses and to me that’s the most important quality of a great rider. I could see the bond he has with his horses because they always give it their all in the arena and try so hard for him.
17. What can you tell other junior riders about reaching their goals in dressage?
My advice for junior riders is that there are always going to be people who tell you you’re not good enough – ignore them and make it a plan to prove them wrong. If you ever lose faith in yourself and believe you’re not good enough, you’ve lost all your chances. Surround yourself with people who push you, but also wholeheartedly believe in you.
18. What is your horse’s personality like and what is the funniest thing he/she does?
My current horses – Grey and Cappy – both have very different personalities. Both love people and are very affectionate. Cappy is more reserved but Grey is more outgoing. Honestly I think they’re both perfect in their own ways. The funniest thing Cappy does is when he plays in water. Whenever he steps in water he splashes and splashes and will even roll if I don’t make him stop. Grey always has an itchy spot on his withers, and he makes me laugh by tilting his head sideways whenever I curry him there. He’s also very affectionate, almost like a lap dog.
19. Please tell us who you would like to thank for being your best supporters?
I’m incredibly lucky to have the strong support system that I do. First of all my parents have both been supportive of riding throughout my entire life. I’d also like to thank my family, my trainer Brenna Kucinski, Cara Kettenbach for letting me ride her phenomenal horses and trusting me to take Grey to school with me, Sharon McCusker for connecting me with Cara, Janice and Elaine Kachavos from Xenophon farm, Grand Meadows for providing me with supplements that keep my horses performing their best, and Goode Rider for sending me beautiful clothing! I’d also like to thank my horses for putting up with me-they always try their hardest and that means the world to me.
20. What is your favorite quote that you love and want to share with others?
“Somewhere behind the rider you’ve become,
the hours of practice you’ve put in,
the coaches that have pushed you,
the hard falls you’ve taken,
the long distances you’ve hauled,
the strides, the sweat, the tears, the blood.
Somewhere behind all of this is the little girl who fell in love with the sport, the horse, and the idea…
and never looked back.
Ride for her.”