By Nilani Trent
Recently, Katie Prudent gave a podcast interview to WiSP Sport’s Chris Stafford about the bleak future of the United States in international competition. In the midst of the interview she stated, “the sport has become for the fearful, talentless amateur.” Not only do I completely agree with Katie, I celebrate her statement because had this sport not evolved into what it has become today, fearful, talentless amateurs like me would have no place to participate.
As a competitor in the adult jumpers and amateur owner hunters I spend a lot of time at the ring watching and I observe a lot of behaviors. As Katie stated in her interview, there are trainers that coddle their clients at the ring, but that is what those clients are looking for and there is nothing wrong with that at the amateur level. Katie has an old school approach that works, but it is not for all amateurs. I have a fulltime job and a busy life outside of riding, but that doesn’t mean that riders like me don’t deserve a place in the sport. I really appreciate that my trainer can school my horses for me over smaller “subterranean” jumps rather than waste their legs at a higher height. I also appreciate that if I have a bad day in the high adults, I can step down to the low adults at the next show to rebuild my confidence. Do I buy horses that are overqualified for their jobs? Hell yes! I want to be safe and have fun. My ultimate goal, win or lose, is to leave the ring with a smile on my face because I know that I get to do something special that’s meaningful to me.
So what does Katie’s generalization of amateurs have to do with the future of the United States international teams? Absolutely nothing. Having .95m jumpers at the same horse show as a 3 star Grand Prix will not affect the outcome of a US Nations Cup Team in 2025. The real issue I see in show jumping is there are not enough owners willing to buy top horses for professionals in general. I enjoy watching the international competitions online and I am often blown away by how well mounted the amateur riders are in comparison to how poorly mounted some of the most respected professionals in the world are.
So how do we fix it? Maybe horse dealers should be more selective about who they sell their top horses to. Maybe top professionals need to build stronger relationships and trust with their clients. Maybe trainers like Katie Prudent should stop criticizing the system they helped build and actually try changing it. Ultimately, I’m not sure how to prepare our future US teams for international competition, but in the meantime, let’s celebrate “fearful, talentless amateur riders” because it takes a lot of guts to walk into the show ring and do what we do, no matter what level.