C.S. - I started in eventing when I was thirteen, so I’ve been doing it for 14 years now, however, I started in the Hunter/Jumper world when I was five and we did do foxhunts and Derby courses then too.
R.C. – Can you define cross-country jumping and why you love to do it?
C.S. - Cross Country combines galloping across terrain, and navigating through obstacles that involve solid jumps, ditches, banks, water, and any combination of the above! The horses don’t get a chance to see the jumps ahead of time. As a rider, I walk the course, plan my routes carefully and then hope to give my horse the best ride possible. There’s such thrill about developing the relationship needed to have your horse trust you that much that makes it all worth it – that’s what I love about it.
R.C. – Did you always know you were going to be a competitive rider?
C.S. - I come from a long line of riders, and started competing so young (5 years old) that I don’t think I’ve thought about much else! I did go to college and get a degree, but it seemed natural for me to end up in this line of work.
R.C - How many years of practice did it take for it to feel natural to ride a 1500lb animal over obstacles like fences, logs and creeks out in open land? Or does that every really feel natural?
C.S. – This question is interesting for me, because I’m actually a very careful, calculated, almost fearful person. I’m afraid of heights and many of the other adrenaline sort of sports (I leave those to my brother!), but I’ve been doing the horse thing so long that it does feel natural – I can’t remember a time when it didn’t.
R.C. – Cross country jumping is a real thrill seekers type of riding and it’s also only for the best of the best riders out there. Do you ever get scared when making those huge jumps over obstacles?
C.S. – Heck yes! But that’s when I really just have to trust my horse. There’s a particular table at one location that I’ve jumped successfully several times, however, every time I face that thing, I think “Holy Moly that things is huge!” Luckily my horse sees it as a normal jump and just takes the reins (literally), while I’m sitting up there holding my breath! There are also those moments of panic as the starter is counting down those last 10 seconds before you go off… you think about whether you did enough to practice… or too much… or have the right bit in… or the right conditioning program… or … or… or… It’s really amazing how many thoughts can pass through your head in those 10 seconds. I’ve gotten a lot better now though at shutting out those panic moments though.
R.C. - Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in pursuing the same path as you?
C.S. - It sounds so cliche, but I really recommend going to college, and then putting yourself into a good riding program as a working student. I think it’s important to have an education so you know you have something to go back to. I actually worked in the marketing/public relations field for a bit before deciding to compete and train full-time (I actually still do some freelance stuff, just to have a bit of bank-padding for when my lessons get rained out all week). I also think you have to put in your time as a working student – all the blood, sweat, tears, early mornings and late nights really will teach you what the sport is all about!
R.C. – What can we look forward to seeing from you over the next few years?
C.S. - I’d like to continue develop my business, C-Horse Eventing, with more teaching and training clients. (Subway) Prophet is really going well right now, so I’d like to continue to ride that wave as long as he wants to play the upper-level game, but also to get some youngsters in to fill his shoes. I’d also like to continue my education through the certification programs and perhaps even pursue a judges license!