Seventeen-year-old Emma Reichow won the 2019 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West in a come-from-behind victory! The sun was shining on the verdant field at Blenheim Equisports in San Juan Capistrano when Emma Reichow made the trek from Menlo Park to Southern California with her trainers Olivia and Harley Brown to compete on Campitello 5. Campitello 5 was generously loaned to Emma by Craig and Tina Yates for the competition. I had a chance to catch up with Emma after her win.
Winter Hoffman: What was your childhood like and how were you introduced to riding?
Emma Reichow: I was born in Austin, Texas, and actually moved to the Philippines when I was 2 for my dad’s job. I started riding there when I was 7 at a local barn and just fell head over heels in love with it. When I was 9, we moved back to the States and my passion for the sport really started to grow.
WH: How did you come to have a passion for the sport – through your parents or through your trainers?
ER: My first time riding a horse was in Hawaii on a trail ride. From there I caught “the bug” and begged my mom for months to let me start taking lessons. Nobody in my family had any ties to the riding world or horses in general, I was always just so infatuated with them.
WH: You did the hunters, but what are your thoughts on the equitation as a foundation for show jumping? You won the Ronnie Mutch in 2018 – how did that alter your riding career?
ER: When I started riding with Harley and Olivia all I wanted to do was jumpers, however, they told me that if I wanted to be successful, I had to start in the equitation as it gives riders such a strong foundation. It really emphasizes accuracy, track and style which has been extremely vital for my riding. I am such a strong believer in the equitation and believe that it has majorly contributed to me being able to move up in the jumpers. Winning the Ronnie Mutch in 2018 was a huge moment for me as it is such a prestigious class. It was my first big equitation win and it presented me with so many new opportunities.
WH: Was Northern California an advantage or disadvantage for your Junior show career?
ER: Living in Northern California has not had too much of an effect on my junior show career as we are still able to travel quite frequently to Southern California for shows. Northern California has a few great shows throughout the year and it is always nice to be so close to home. Traveling to indoors and other major shows on the east coast, on the other hand, is definitely a journey but my parents and trainers are so supportive of my goals.
WH: You train with Olivia and Harley Brown please tell us how this came about, the high points and what you learned from this experience.
ER: I was riding at a local schooling barn and my trainer told me that if I wanted my riding to progress, I should move to Harley and Olivia. We decided to make the move and I started leasing a pony from them. I have been with them ever since and they have brought me from basically falling off my pony every week to jumping at the grand prix level. They are the most incredible trainers and they care so much about all of their students. They always put the horses first and teach such invaluable lessons both in and out of the ring.
WH: You must have a very supportive family – please tell us about them. Did they travel with you in your earlier Junior years?
ER: I am so incredibly lucky to have such a supportive family. My mom travels to every show with me and my dad comes whenever he has the opportunity to. I have two older sisters who are in college out of state who constantly support me from a far.
WH: What are you planning to do after you graduate ?
ER: I have committed to ride on the team at the University of Georgia. Balancing riding on the team and focusing on my personal goals will be difficult but both are priorities of mine and I am determined to make it work.
WH: What is your view of the sport and how does it impact the training plan and path you chose for you and your horses?
ER: The sport is so incredible as it relies on the relationship between a horse and rider. Getting to know a horse and building a mutual trust is a vital part of it and has always affected my training plan. When I get a new horse, we always start slow to learn the horse’s mannerisms and have the horse get a feel for me as a rider. Once we develop an understanding for each other, we start to move up.
WH: How do you manage the peripatetic lifestyle of an equestrian and the stress of traveling to horse shows?
ER: This lifestyle definitely has its ups and downs. Before switching to online school, traveling and missing school was tough and stressful at times. Now that I have more flexibility when it comes to my schoolwork, I can focus on both riding and my work instead of just one or the other. It was definitely an adjustment traveling so frequently but I don’t think I could handle staying at home and being a “normal” teenager.
WH: What are your thoughts on the current state of showjumping in the USA and the rest of the world?
ER: I think the current state of showjumping in the United States is incredible. There are so many opportunities throughout the world for young riders to gain experience and compete abroad. These experiences act as stepping stones to the top of the sport and allow riders to experience riding on teams prior to competing on senior teams.
WH: What is your favorite piece of equestrian equipment for horse? For rider?
ER: My favorite piece of equipment for my horses is my Acavallo memory foam half pad. For me, I love my Freejump stirrups and Animo breeches.
WH: What advice do you have for ambitious young riders?
ER: I believe the best advice is to work hard and take every opportunity that is presented to you. Every rider has bad days and it is important to not give up when things are not going smoothly. In the end, hard work is the most important aspect of any sport and will eventually be repaid in the show ring.
WH: What is your day like? Please describe for the readers your training program.
ER: A typical day consists of riding 5-7 horses in the morning and then going home to do some schoolwork. We focus a lot on getting the horses responsive and supple on the flat so that it can translate over to the jumping. Typically at home we flat and do some small jumping exercises working on the rideability of the horses. Before a show, we jump maybe once or twice to prepare.
WH: You have outstanding horses, please tell us a little about each one and what qualities you favor in a hunter or show jumper? What were the high points of the past year?
ER: Thank you! Forever Alve, or Evie as she is known in the barn, is my 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare. I imported her last year and focused on Young Riders this past summer and Prix des States in a couple of weeks. We have done a couple grand prix classes and the plan is to keep stepping up on her. She 100% has the attitude of a mare and can be quite opinionated. However, with that being said, she also has the biggest heart and capability.
Cubiki is my 10-year-old Holsteiner stallion. I have had him for about 3 years and have been taking my time stepping up on him as he is very careful. We have started competing more at the national standard grand prix level and I hope to step up into some FEI classes this fall with him.
Then there is Apex, or Rye as we call him, my 15-year-old Anglo European gelding. I bought Rye about 4 years ago and at the time I was a very inexperienced and green rider so Harley rode him for a couple of years stepping him up to the international level. I took over the reins two years ago and he has been the most incredible horse for my riding. He has an insane amount of scope and has helped me step up into my first 3* and 4* grand prix classes.
My other jumper, Cocobongo Cr (Beau), was actually imported last year to be my big eq horse and I took him back east last fall for indoors. He is a 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding. We started doing jumpers on him this year and he has blown us away. Currently, I am showing him in junior jumpers but I am excited to keep seeing were he goes!
The last horse I own is Chacco D’Accord (Chacco) who is a 6-year-old Westphalian gelding. We imported him as a 4-year-old to be my junior hunter and Olivia rode him for the first 6 months and did an incredible job bringing him along. He is the absolute sweetest horse and can brighten anyone’s day. My equitation horse that I have leased this year is Breckenridge or Clari. He is owned by Ashland Farms and he has been incredible. Him being a veteran in the equitation has been really substantial to my equitation and I am excited to head to indoors with him this fall.
WH: How did you transition to the jumper division and what do you love about it?
ER: About two years into riding with Harley and Olivia, I started leasing one of Harley’s old grand prix horses. He was my first jumper and really instilled my desire to jump at the grand prix level. I absolutely love the adrenaline that comes along with it and the challenge of jumping technical and bigger courses.
WH: How do your trainers prepare you and your horses? What do they have you practice?
ER: Flat work is a major part of our training schedule. During the winters we basically only flat and jump gymnastic exercises until about a week before the season starts up again. This includes a lot of dressage movements and pole exercises to practice lengthening and collecting the stride. Before a show, we jump a couple of times to practice.
WH: You must have a routine to prepare yourself mentally before you go in the ring, what is it?
ER: Doing hunters, jumpers and the eq, I am basically always doing something and do not have too much time to focus on my nerves. This is extremely helpful and I find doing all these rounds helps get me on a rhythm in the ring. However, on the rare occasion where I am sitting and preparing for a big class, I like to go over my course and focus on my plan.
WH: What are your equestrian plans for the future?
ER: In the future, I would love to ride on American teams. Representing the United States in Nations Cups, at World Cup Finals and the Olympics – everything everyone wants to do – has always been a dream of mine. For this year specifically, I would love to finish off my junior career strong at indoors as well as step up into more FEI classes.
WH: What do you look for in a jumper prospect ?
ER: Scope, rideability, and a mix of bravery and carefulness are definitely what I like in jumpers. It is also a bonus when they are nimble and can make tight turns in jump-offs.
WH: Please describe your favorite place to visit and ride in Menlo Park or another part of the world?
ER: My favorite place to visit in California is Lake Tahoe. Living overseas and in the bay area, I have not got to experience snow very much so I love going up to Tahoe in the winter and skiing.
WH: Who is your favorite amateur jumper rider and your favorite international rider and why?
ER: I cannot think of a specific amateur rider as there are so many talented ones. My favorite international rider is probably Eric Navet as he is such a soft rider and makes everything look so effortless.
WH: Who is your favorite international horse and why?
ER: My favorite international horse is either DSP Alice or Cristalline. I absolutely love mares (these specifically) and their hearts and competitive nature.
WH: Do you follow breed prospects for show jumping? If so, which bloodlines do you favor?
ER: I do not follow breed prospects that intensely but as I continue to progress I feel like I will start to follow them more. My horses come from all different bloodlines but I have had multiple Holsteiners so I guess you could say I favor them.
WH: Not sure you’re doing the Indoor Finals, but if so which ones will you do?
ER: As this is my last junior year, I really focused on qualifying for all of the medal finals. This fall, I am going to Harrisburg, Washington and Kentucky.
WH: Is it possible to instill courage in a rider?
ER: It is definitely possible to instill courage into a rider. I think having a horse that makes you comfortable is a major part of this. For example, my horse Apex has given me the confidence to step up to the grand prix level as I have complete trust in him. It is an extremely helpful feeling knowing that unless something goes majorly wrong, you will start and finish each course.
WH: Is it possible to instill courage in a horse?
ER: I think it is possible to instill courage in a horse. It is our responsibility to cater to each horse’s needs and give them the confidence they need to be their best. I think through this, horses start to build up courage and trust their rider.
WH: Is it possible to make a rider competitive (ie. give them that blood-thirsty “go for the jugular” desire to be #1 in the world) to beat the other riders?
ER: It is definitely possible to make a rider competitive. Through success and building up their confidence, riders will eventually become more competitive and have the desire to be #1.
Emma, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and best of luck in your competitions this Fall.
About the author: With a background in filmmaking , fashion and contemporary art, Winter Hoffman brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. A life long horsewoman she helped her daughter, Zazou Hoffman, navigate her way to a successful Junior career culminating in 1st place in the 2009 ASPCA Maclay Equitation Championship at the National Horse Show and second in the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final with East Coast trainers Missy Clark and John Brennan. Zazou is now an assistant trainer and professional rider at Meadow Grove Farm in California.