10 Questions with Tiana Coudray

With the onset of the cold weather, it’s a great time to cozy up and get to know some of your favorite riders. We’ll be posting Q&As with riders throughout the upcoming months, giving you an inside look into their life as equine professionals and getting tidbits of advice that we can all put to good use. Do you have a rider you’d like us to profile? Email [email protected] and we’ll get the chinchillas on it!

Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister. Photo by Jenni Autry. Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister. Photo by Jenni Autry.
Tiana Coudray packed her bags and moved to England in a quest to further her eventing career in 2011. Since then, she’s represented the U.S. at the Olympics and made her way around some of the top events in the world with Ringwood Magister.
But what about the reasons behind her decision to stay in Europe and grow her business? Her recommendations for up and coming riders? We’ve got the scoop below! Many thanks to Tiana for taking the time to answer our questions so thoughtfully, and thank you for reading.

EN: What prompted your decision to move to England?

Tiana: My decision to move was a bit of a progressive one, as I only planned to be here for three months. I came over with Ringwood Magister in the summer of 2011 to get some “European experience.”
The plan was to do Blenheim and come home, but when I landed here, I realized just what a big world it was and how much we needed to learn and grow. At the same time that I was struggling to find my way and to replicate the good results we had achieved stateside, I was fortunate to make some very supportive friends and acquaintances.
The decision to stay was made partly out of stubbornness — “I’m not going home until I have something to show for this trip!” — and partly from knowing that if I was going to make a bid for the Olympics, then I needed to stay in Europe and keep learning as much as I possibly could.
I was fortunate to have everybody’s help and support, both of the decision and in helping me to stay here. Similarly, after the Games (in 2012), I asked myself what I had to rush home to, and the answer was nothing.
I was only 24 and would have to start from scratch building a business, so thought I might as well do it here. From my point of view, as long as I have good horses and have big competition goals, then this is where I should be.
Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister at Badminton. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister at Badminton. Photo by Jenni Autry.

EN: What’s the biggest difference you see between U.S. eventing and eventing in the UK?
Tiana: Numbers. At home we have fantastic events, organizers and volunteers, and some very talented riders and horses. We have a very sound structure for developing young talent to ride correctly, with solid basics and good stable management. I would argue that we do that much better than the Brits.
What we don’t have is the numbers. A good CIC in England will have 150 horses in the three-star alone, another 200 horses in the two-star and so on. The points spread from 1st to 40th place after dressage can often be as little as five points.
If you miss one flying change, you will drop 20 places. If you have a rail down in show jumping, you will drop another 20 places. To finish with a top result against those kind of numbers, you have to be perfect in all three phases, because Andrew Nicholson, William Fox-Pitt, Piggy French and the likes won’t make any mistakes.

If you compete against that standard every day, even on your young horses, you can never forget just how high the bar is set. It is very easy to be a big fish in a small pond at home and to think that you’re doing pretty well (and you are!), but if you want to be competitive on a world stage, then you need to know just how well the rest of the world is doing, too!

EN: What’s the one thing you miss the most about living in the U.S.? Is there a certain food you can’t get? Weather? Holidays?

Tiana: I miss the structure of having your coach at every event, watching how you’re doing, helping you at home and going to the next event with you.

I miss the weather in California for sure, but every time I’ve been home for a visit, it’s rained, so maybe I’m destined to live in a rainy climate!

I miss being able to go to Walmart to buy a big jug of rubbing alcohol or witch hazel for a couple bucks! I definitely miss Mexican food, but generally I’ve settled pretty well into life in England.

EN: What would you be doing if you weren’t a professional event rider?

Tiana: I think I would be teaching something — school, riding, dance …

Chinch getting some love from Tiana. Photo via EN's Instagram.

Chinch getting some love from Tiana. Photo via EN’s Instagram.

EN: If you could pick someone to go off and train with for six months, who would it be?

Tiana: I would absolutely love to spend time with quite a few different people who I view as truly incredible horsemen and women. Some I respect for their ability to ride sharp and tricky horses; some are just classically beautiful riders. Others just get the results, no questions, no excuses.

I am fascinated with how top riders do what they do, even when I completely disagree with the methods by which they do it. I could spend years just being a fly on the wall in different barns and watching.

I have been lucky enough to watch Edward Gal a few different times on incredibly fiery, sensitive horses and seen them settle as if under a spell. I would love to know what he could do with some fit and explosive event horses.

I love watching Beezie Madden and Pénélope Leprevost jump, because they’re both such beautifully correct riders, and Scott Brash has got a completely unflappable nature to go out under pressure and get the result, time and time again.

Obviously Michael Jung has got a pretty successful system as well, but I don’t think he’s very keen on sharing his secrets with many people!

EN: What events are on your competition bucket list?

Tiana: Since I’ve been in Europe, I’ve been able to tick a few off the list. I haven’t yet had a horse for Burghley, and I’d love to get to Tattersalls, as I’m told the parties are great.

I want to go back to Rolex because twice I’ve gone and twice I’ve fallen towards the end of cross country. They’re the only two falls I’ve had on cross country, and I won’t be happy until I’ve jumped around all the way to the finish! I want a go at the Worlds, another go at the Olympics and to win Badminton, but I don’t think I’m asking for much! Right?

Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister. Photo by Jenni Autry.

EN: We all know you aren’t supposed to horse shop based on color, but if that wasn’t an unspoken rule, do you have a color preference?

Tiana: I have a soft spot for greys but can’t think why!

EN: Someone is preparing to contest their first four-star event. What piece of advice do you give them?

Tiana: Trust that you and your horse have the goods to get the job done. I think plenty of horses and riders have got around big tracks on nothing more than the belief that they could do it.

If you’ve done your homework and your coach believes you’re ready, then kick on and don’t look back.

EN: Where do you want to be or where can you see yourself in five years?

Tiana: I’m not sure where I will be, but I would like to have a solid string of good horses and some good owners so that I don’t have to sell all my nice prospects like I do now. Basically what every rider is hoping for! I love producing horses up through the levels, and it’s always sad to have to sell them when I believe they could be my next superstar.

EN:  Share a funny story about your riding career.

Tiana: I bought Ringwood Magister (Finn) as a youngster and did everything with him all the way through. He is quite well known for being a handful, but amazingly he never actually bucked me off, until NAJYRC 2008, that is!

We had a great event, our team won and we were adorned with our gold medals around our necks, a slick awards cooler on each horse, a beautiful bouquet of flowers held up in each of our hands as we proudly did our victory gallop, the Area VI team four abreast.

As we came around right in front of the cheering crowd, Finn jinked sideways and deposited me on the ground. There I was sat on my derrière, wearing my gold medal, still holding the bouquet of flowers, and I thought nothing better sums up our sport and how quickly you can go from the highs to the lows than that!

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