Thoughts on “A Conversation with Katie Prudent: U.S Show Jumping Has Become Dummied Down.”

This morning before work I was scrolling my life away (aka, I was on Facebook) when I clicked on an article published by the Chronicle of the Horse, linked here. It’s part of an interview given by Katie Prudent, who is a “veteran U.S. show jumper.” Throwing it out there right now that I had no idea who she is, hadn’t heard of her before, as I’ve never really followed show jumping, so I there was no bias either way.

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In answer to a question about what might be missing now from the sport of SJ that was there back when she was competing (70’s/80’s), she listed the example of having competition classes lower than 3’6″ to cater to the “fearful, talentless amateur.”

Sorry, America, for being a contributor. My bad.

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She then goes after the coaches who work with the aforementioned dummies, saying, “And many coaches have become coaches who just bring along amateur riders and make it easy for them. ‘Oh baby, here’s a bottle of water. Are you too hot? Are you too cold? Let’s get a fan. Let’s get someone else to ride your horse because it’s too difficult.’ It ‘s just become a sport for rich, talentless people.”

Based on the rest of the interview, it seems as if she’s actually upset because in her opinion there are no riders good enough to make up a competitive U.S. team once Beezie, McClain, Kent and that era of riders have retired. And maybe she’s right, again, I don’t follow SJ enough to even pretend to argue there. But I do take offense to being called a “fearful, talentless amateur” because I compete at lower than 3’6″.

And here’s why.

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I used to jump the big jumps as a junior. I never had a horse of my own so I would spend all day at the barn doing whatever needed to be done, and riding anything anyone would let me. It’s a wonderful way to learn, not to mention the fastest and most effective. There’s no denying that. I would show in whatever levels/classes I was told to, and jumped whatever I was directed to in lessons and schooling sessions without complaint.

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Now is a different story. I just turned 32. I have a career, a husband, and 2 kids. If I get hurt, I may not be able to work. Sure, you can get hurt just mounting a horse, or walking, or falling off over 2’6″ like I did so spectacularly last month. But if I’m not completely stable or confident in the saddle, what business do I have jumping 3’6″?

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While I would love to ride horses all day, I also enjoy paying my mortgage on time and keeping my family fed. Horses are a big part of my life, but at the end of the day, horses will never be my profession, perpetually just a hobby. That means I’m going to have to keep trucking along at my job during the daylight hours so that I can afford to continue boarding my horse, getting him the proper care, and sometimes (ok, often, sue me) splurging on tack and equipment that I want because it’s pretty. It also means I’m going to continue jumping 2’6″ until I’m comfortable and stable at that height. Then I’ll move up to 2’9″ because I believe in baby steps.

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My day job may not allow me to ride more than an hour or so each day, but it DOES  allow me to pay 2 incredible professionals who, yes, are MILES ahead of me in terms of talent and ability, but who also don’t baby me. I’ve never once been asked if I want a cold bottle of water, or a fan, and neither of them rides my horse for me when he’s being difficult (which is like NINETY-NINE PERCENT of the time. Well, except at Trainer J’s, because P is in love with her). The last time I fell off at Trainer B’s, he didn’t even get out of his golf cart. So no ma’am, not every trainer who works with amateurs coddles or babies them. I don’t expect it, and if they WERE like that, I probably wouldn’t ride with them.

And what’s so wrong with trainers working with amateurs anyway? It’s no secret that unless your average professional is already rich, that working in the horse industry is not the way to get there. My money is as good as anyone’s, and my spending one hour a week with them is certainly not deterring them from either becoming or bringing up the next U.S. Team member. While your typical amateur is not going to magically become an Olympic hopeful, we are no less deserving of quality instruction to make horseback riding as safe and as enjoyable as it can be.

 

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And sometimes P & I enjoy our selfie time. How very amateur of us.

 

Like I said in the beginning, if you read past the initial couple paragraphs, it seems as if she’s really unhappy with the “elite riders;” those who are, yes, good riders, but may not have had to work as hard as Kent Farrington had to work. Those whose parents bought them all the best horses, and they’ve probably never sat on a $500 OTTB, let alone brought one along themselves. So my questions to Ms. Prudent would be: How much do you charge for lessons and coaching? What do you sell your horses for? Buy your horses for? If you don’t want to work with spoiled rich kids, maybe look at making yourself more accessible to those who don’t have unlimited funds. Your website’s show schedule shows your team to routinely show at places such as Palm Beach and Tryon- a little out of most of our leagues.

At the end of the day, there’s just no need to insult those of us who make up the lower levels. Not everyone in the lower levels is talentless and fearful. I mean, I am, but don’t hold that against everyone else.

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19 thoughts on “Thoughts on “A Conversation with Katie Prudent: U.S Show Jumping Has Become Dummied Down.”

  1. roamingridersite

    The jump judge I scribed for was talking about a similar topic. She was on one of the PanAm teams that won gold, didn’t know a non rude way to ask her what year, and she is very upset that the US can’t seem to produce a decent internationally competitive team. Her biggest point was that everywhere else you can be a professional rider and just ride whereas here in the US you see our top riders giving beginner lessons which she felt was a waste of their time and expertise. I don’t follow SJ, or really any sport, but I do believe she has a point. As for me, I’ll stick to my fearful awful riding at 18″ and be happy to support the equestrian world with my dollars.

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    1. KC Scott Post author

      I think that’s up to the individual riders to decide. There’s one local eventer who doesn’t really do lessons or training. This woman really just rides. She also has 2 owners backing her that built her an amazing facility, buy her super nice horses, and pay her way to train with the best and to show. From the outside, it appears she lives the ultimate dream. She rides at the Intermediate level.

      On the flipside, there’s another local eventer who has competed up to the 3* level and qualified for Rolex. She teaches up-down kids (like true beginners) as well as some more advanced, and she can usually be found at both rated and schooling shows with a gaggle of kids around her. They love her, and she posts about her cross-rail students’ successes as much as she does about her more advanced students or her own results. She really seems to love what she do.

      So I don’t necessarily agree that top riders need to just stick to their own kind. Maybe I’m contributing to the problem by asking a 4* rider to help me with my green and oft-times problematic OTTB, but as long as he and my dressage trainer (who is an FEI level dressage rider) are willing to help lil ol’ me, I’m going to keep on accepting (and pay for) it.

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  2. Hillary

    I have also started to draft a response to this but do see it a bit different. I don’t want to be amateur shamed (as an amateur that busts a$$ in corporate america to afford my horses) but do feel as though the US has a serious issue in developing professional upper level talent the way other countries seem to. I don’t know how we fix that though.

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    1. KC Scott Post author

      Agree with the fact that the U.S. is far behind other countries when it comes to international competition. However, that’s not what I specifically wanted to write about because frankly, I don’t follow the upper levels enough (particularly SJ) to have much of an opinion about that, nor would I have the slightest clue on how to remedy it.

      My post is about the example this woman chose to use in response to why today is worse than the days when she was in her prime. She chose to bash any division lower than 3’6″ and the only way she described AAs was to call them “talentless and fearful.” It says this was an excerpt of her interview, so maybe the full interview is different, but the tone of voice she used when describing the lower levels and AAs was completely condescending.

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  3. Megan

    This one is tough because on one hand I do agree with her, the US is having piss poor team results across the board in equestrian disciplines for quite some time. However the way her message was delivered? I am NOT here for that. We “the gutless amateurs” buy your horses, pay for your clinics and lessons, and fill your shows. We are the reason you can even have your business model at all so I have no respect for someone who speaks about the lower level riders that way. A big nope from me.

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    1. KC Scott Post author

      Exactly! Completely out of touch. It was listening to the interview that really got to me. The tone of her voice as she was describing the lower divisions and then the way she paused and went “talentless and fearful amateur” was so incredibly condescending.

      There’s definitely an issue at the top level. But AAs are the ones who, as you said, pay for clinics and fill the show grounds. Good luck trying to have a horse show without amateurs.

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      1. Megan

        And in what other industry could you make such disparaging remarks about your largest customer demographic and not see your business suffer? This is a different age of professional riding and if you are going to put forth some sort of public statement as she has done then you need to check your tone and in this case clarify who you are really upset with. Is it the system that has allowed the big money to blame? If so then Prudent is in one of the few places where she can actually effect change. I mean come on! The Kesslers were one of her biggest clients and you can’t tell me that Reed/her family haven’t bought the nicest horses and the best training they can for her! It doesn’t sit well with me when people bitch and moan about a system in which they are both active participants and are benefiting greatly from! You are right. Out of touch. Man. This is stirring up some emotions in me hahahaha so apologies if this is one of the least articulate things I’ve written.

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      2. KC Scott Post author

        So many people are talking about it that I wonder if it will actually make a difference. Probably not, as I don’t think this woman is working with many, if any regular AAs. I didn’t know she worked with the Kesslers- the way the interview went, it seemed she was targeting those types of riders as the brunt of her rant. She even said Reed was one that had “good basics” but have only ridden the best horses her parents bought her. I’d be wholly offended if I were one of those that she basically called out by name as being the problem with the the sport.

        And you’re completely right that she’s an active part of the problem. She’s a high end H/J trainer. The only people who can afford what she undoubtedly charges for her services are those that apparently “sicken her.”

        I’m curious to see what happens after this.

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  4. Megan

    i think she’s off base with the amateur thing. although to be honest, I do not think she means you. You’ve bothered to learn how to ride, and are at least aware of your own shortcomings. you didn’t say “i want to ride novice”, go buy a packer novice horse and scrape around courses clinging to its neck.

    i do 100% agree with what she says about the upper echelon of riders. i don’t know the young up and coming riders she mentioned personally but I do know that for at least some of them they’ve been fortunate enough to ride the best horses money can buy their whole lives. i’m not sure what kind of rider that breeds. i guess we’ll find out.

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    1. KC Scott Post author

      Of course she didn’t mean me personally (she would have no clue who I am, I don’t frequent Tryon, Palm Beach or any upscale venues), but she was definitely bashing competition levels under 3’6″, and said directly they were for the “talentless and fearful” amateur. That was after she made it clear that when she was a kid, if you wanted to show in hunters or jumpers, you started at 3’6″.

      I’m not disputing the fact that there’s a definite difference in the quality of riders then vs now, not the fact that the top levels of the sport have become for pretty much only the elite. Gone are the days when a middle-class hardworking kid can find a diamond in the rough TB and compete at the highest levels. But I don’t have a solution for that and that’s not the part of the interview I wanted to address. Her comment about amateurs, while maybe not the point she was trying to make, came off callus and condescending.

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  5. melroseequestrianservices

    My horses welfare comes first always! and ribbons come second, well actually third, my health and well-being comes second, but I digress.
    I love this article and the awesome conversation we have going on here. As an instructor I personally see the problem is that most instructors/trainers tell their clients what they want to hear so that they will come back for more lessons. I have lost clients because I do not tell people what they want to hear, ever. I don’t do this in my professional life or my personal life. Sure I am tactful but at the end of the day people need the truth, end of story.

    I think a lot of trainers/instructors enable bad behaviour, bad riding and bad horsemanship. They keep their mouth shut so that the client keeps coming back. Everybody likes to hear how good they are doing, but they isn’t going to improve riding nor your horsemanship. I have lost clients because I tell them to stop pulling on their horses mouth and use their seat, then they attend a clinic or lesson with someone else who tells them that the horse needs a stronger bit or be taught a lesson and boom they don’t come back to me. And that is okay. I think the people that succeed are those that want to learn, but more than that, in our sport those that want to help their horse succeed too. That’s vital.

    I am a fearless rider with no natural talent. That’s the good news because talent can be learned. So if you never quit and work at it we can all have talent and be fearless and be awesome amateurs.

    Don’t get me started on people with money and no horsemanship. But just keep watching them and you will see they only go so far up the grades or their scores in dressage plateau or even start to get worse. Without horsemanship and looking after your equine partner you’ve got nothing!

    Happy Riding & Keep Smiling
    Mel x

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