Reed Kessler’s wild ride


Reed her




At only 17, Reed Kessler was selected to compete for the US at the Olympics as the youngest rider ever. Less than a year later, she broke into the Top 30 – and became number one in the US  – keeping up with her ambitions full steam ahead…


By Camilla Alfthan, photos from Reed Kessler


”I’ve been riding my whole life and my parents have been riding for over 30 years. My dad was my trainer, Katie Prudent’s first customer and Katie is my godmother so I’ve ridden my whole life.

Even when I was younger I was always the younger person doing bigger classes than most people their age. I started doing the senior international classes when I was 15 so I’ve always pushed myself ahead to do bigger things. Katie always pushed me to do bigger thing so that’s probably why I’ve gotten here so fast,” told Reed Kessler when we first met at the Gucci Masters in Paris in 2012.

Since then, both Reed and her favorite mount, Cylana, have become  reigning US national champions – a highlight which was published in the July 2013 rankings of the USEF. And the following month, Cylana was ranked as the second best horse in the world.


“I was always the younger person doing bigger classes than most people their age. I’ve always pushed myself ahead to do bigger things.”




”I’ve been competing my whole life. I first sat on a horse when I was six months old. My parents used to put me in a basket and tied it onto my little pony and then they would tie my stuff onto  the trees so I would steer to get them. My whole life has been about riding and following my parents who competed in amateur shows.

It runs in the family and it was all I ever wanted to do. My parents and I are very competitive. I love horses. Before my dad’s career really took off we would have one or two horses at home and my mum and I would take care of them and the pony in the back yard. Besides just riding I love taking care of them. Its been part of my whole life.”




”They’re a little bit like my babies. My guardian was my first junior horse who is one month older than I am. I had him for six years and I first rode him in the children’s classes, and then high junior. When I went in the seniors he became my speed horse. It’s like I had him forever. And we would always joke that he was my boyfriend because he was one month older than I.

Another old friend is turning 19. I gave him to my father who is doing some smaller classes on him. I love him so much. He was getting a little old so it was time to step down.

When I was younger I’d ride a lot of other peoples horses and ponies. Now, I have a great string of horses. Cylana is my best well known horse since I took her to the Olympics, and I also had a second horse that finished as second reserve for the games. His name is Mika. And I have a couple of speed horses that fill in the gap but those are my two big horses.”




“Cylana is my best friend. She’s a spectacular horse, in my mind she is the best in the world. An amateur in Switzerland had her and he was only doing small one star classes. Then the a family bought her and she did a few, small classes with their daughter – 145cm but never anything bigger. When we got her she was unfit and a little fat and in a very short time she went from having no experience to jumping clean in the trials.

It’s like shocking how quickly she turned around. I can’t say enough good things about her. She’s incredibly smart. Everytime you ride her she wants to do exactly what you tell her and quickly. She’s way smarter than a horse. And she has the biggest heart of any horse I’ve ever sat on.”




”My first big moment was the Olympics trials. No one including myself expected me to do as well as I did so that was a huge moment. Besides just being around this incredible group of good riders I was also there with this incredible group of athletes. To think that we were all there and had earned it was just crazy.”

And then from there it was just to prove that I could do it consistently, that it was not just one spectacular week.

So it’s about being consistent. Kentucky was a big moment. And then Calgary couldn’t have gone anybetter, we just dominated it so that was also special.”




”I’m one of those people who really likes pressure.  Sometimes when there’s not a big enough atmospehere or when it’s not as important a show it can make me a little casual. So I really like high pressure situations, where there’s no room for air. It brings out the best in me and I think it brings out the best in my horses to. They sense it’s a big moment and that that’s important.


” I’m one of those people who really likes pressure. “


2012 was the first year that I was old enough to do the two stars. I try to stress that as much as I can. I’ve had so much success in the past year but I’m only a teenager.”





”There’s always ups and downs in the horse business. Dry spells. I’m so lucky to have a good group of horses but anything can happen. So you should really enjoy every show at the time. I’m having fun. Every experience is a new experience at this level. Maybe when you’re older, you’re like, oh I showed in the Paris Grand Prix ten times and its nothing new. But when your my age everything is new, everything is exiting!”


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