Lauren Kieffer capped off her year as USEA Lady Rider of the Year, earning the top female spot on the 2014 leaderboard with a total of 509 points. Lauren finished as the fifth highest scoring rider of the year, adding a second place finish at Rolex Kentucky and a ninth place finish at Les Etoiles de Pau to her impressive record, and she credits strategy and, more importantly, consistency with her success.
“The funny thing is I probably fell off more this year than any other year!” Lauren said. “Overall, though, I’ve just got some amazing horses who really stepped up and performed consistently for me. The great thing is that many of them I’ve had from very early on in their careers, and some I’ve even broke myself.
“I didn’t run my horses a ton this year; they were just consistent. Sometimes to win some of these awards, you feel like you have to go out and run a lot. I mainly tried to have really good FEI results, which count a lot for the leaderboard. Mostly, I’m just thrilled with how well my horses are going.“
Competing horses in Young Event Horse classes all the way up through the CCI4* level, Lauren knows the importance of distinguishing between competing for mileage and competing to win. “I definitely try to pick and choose where I want to go to win,” she said. “I will enter an event with the goal of getting qualification or just education, and then there’s places where I’ll pull the trigger and go out with the intention of being competitive.”
Certainly having a string of solid up and coming horses is instrumental to growing her business, something Lauren credits to her relationship with her owners and U.S. breeders. “It’s very important for riders to build relationships with breeders. It really is my preferred way of acquiring horses because I really do like to have them from the beginning. Buying a nice going event horse is always a great route as well, but that isn’t a sustainable way to go for many riders.”
While bringing young horses through the levels is a much longer process, Lauren believes the view is worth the climb, and supporting U.S. breeders remains extremely important to her. “It’s a big commitment on their part; at the end of the day, it’s likely going to be a decade before one of their horses has top results or becomes team quality. And they’re going to have some duds along the way as well.
“But as much recognition and acknowledgement as we can give them, it gives them more reasons to keep breeding. The more we can keep a running conversation with them in regard to what we’re looking for, the more they know what to try to breed into their next generations.“
Thanks to her relationship with Karen and David O’Connor, Lauren and Jacqueline Mars struck up a partnership, which has resulted in young and talented horses coming to Lauren’s training program ever since. Lauren also built relationships with owners like Shannon O’Rourke, the Ramsay family, and Marie le Menestrel, whom she feels have been instrumental in helping advance her career.
“It’s really all about people taking a chance on me. (This award) is a huge credit to my owners, who have stood by and believed in me, and they all had the horsemanship, vision and patience to wait until their horses were really producing and moving up,” Lauren said.
So what is it that Lauren looks for when she’s evaluating an event prospect? “I certainly want something very trainable,” she said. “You can get a lot further on the trainable ones. It can be the most talented horse in the world, but if the brain isn’t there, I’m not too interested. It doesn’t really matter if they’re the flashiest mover if they go in the ring and melt.”
Aside from that, Lauren also looks for three quality gaits, but puts a lot of stock into the walk and canter. “I feel like training can improve the trot. I also want them to have good instincts. I’m not too concerned if they hit a jump; I’m more interested in what they’re going to do after.”
What’s on tap for 2015 for Lauren? “These next few seasons are going to be great because a lot of these horses are turning into Intermediate and Advanced horses. They all got really consistent results this year, and hopefully as they gain more experience, the results will continue to improve.
“With Veronica, I was a bit disappointed in myself at Pau. If you’d told me at the beginning of the year that I’d be disappointed with a top 10 finish at a four-star, I would have laughed at you. But I really felt like I left a lot on the table. But we’ll shoot for Kentucky again this year. We’ll keep going for consistency and will look to improve on the results we had this year.”
Lauren’s also got several younger horses who will be ready to begin their eventing careers this year, so she’s certainly got plenty to keep her occupied as the new season draws closer.
Please join us in congratulating Lauren on her year-end award as USEA Lady Rider of the Year, and we’ll be looking forward to following along with her 2015 season.