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Sara Kozumplik Murphy


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A Letter to Me – Sara Kozumplik Murphy

If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? That’s the topic of an ongoing series by Equestrian Marketing Firm Athletux. Today five-star rider Sara Kozumplik Murphy shares her letter. 

Previous letters: Tamie SmithJennifer WootenKaty RobinsonNatalia GurmankinJoanie MorrisWill Faudree, Jan Byyny

Photo courtesy of Sara Kozumplik Murphy.

Dear Sara,

You’ll get the news and you’ll be screaming driving home after teaching Pony Club.

You won’t be able to believe that anyone would back a 17-year-old to chase such a crazy dream, but guess what? Not one, but two families from your Mum’s riding school will. After working and teaching there since you can remember, people will want to help you because they love her.

You’ll be able to pack up your three OTTBs into the sturdy truck and trailer your parents take out a loan for and move to the great Jimmy Wofford’s.

It’ll feel exciting to be on your own. (Except you won’t really be on your own because Jimmy will watch over your every move). The amazing people that work at Fox Covert Farm will forgive your mistakes again and again.

You’ll keep your horses in a field next door with a run-in shed because that’s what you can afford.

The huge and seemingly impenetrable door will start to crack open just a little as you’re exposed to so many great horsemen and women.

You’ll barely understand a fraction of it, but you’ll watch and watch … a lifelong habit.

In three years, you will jump around your first Kentucky and be given a development grant from The Team (really Ms. Mars) to jump around Blenheim for the first time. You’ll do it in your Father’s old hunt saddle and by borrowing your Mum’s dressage saddle under pain of death. You’ll be listed for the first time.

Everyone will think that because you are there you must know how to ride, but you’ll be winging it.

Advice will go way over your head. The nuances of what people are saying will be far too complicated for where you really are. It will be similar to someone testing you with a calculus problem when you are just learning multiplication.

You’ll make up for it by picking yourself up over and over again and throwing your heart and your trust over each big track as it comes, because of your bond with an incredible American Thoroughbred.

In four years, you’ll win Young Riders on a different OTTB and go back to Blenheim in the same year on the steadfast Auggie.

By 23 you’ll have jumped Kentucky a few more times and Burghley twice.

By 25 you’ll have come 7th in the under 25 class at Bramham, jump Kentucky yet again, complete the World Cup at Pau, and jump clear around the last long format Badminton.

You’ll still know next to nothing. The more you realize this, the harder you’ll work … another lifelong habit.

People will underestimate you constantly. They’ll say you had great horses (true), amazing backing (true), and that you’re a lightweight ….

That’ll hurt more than you can possibly know. You’ll allow them to think this.

You won’t stop trying to be the best, and you’ll be kind to everyone along the way. You make that decision early on.

You’ll make money slightly differently than a lot of other riders. You’ll love site development and challenges that come up with helping countries new to the sport learn about it. You’ll be terrible with money, then much better … but you won’t lose your generosity and you’ll give back a lot to the sport you love.

You’ll have the best owner in the sport. She won’t walk away when times get tough for her or for you. She’ll become your family, she’ll never judge, she’ll always believe, and she’ll always forgive.

You won’t have an ego and you’ll surround yourself with the best possible riders and coaches. You’ll endure many feelings of inadequacy and frustration with yourself, but you’ll love the process of getting better in dressage and show jumping.

So many people will share their knowledge with you. A World Champion will be an incredible mentor and a lifelong friend.

For a bit, you’ll lose your cross country feel, and it’ll be the darkest time of your career.

Reclaiming what has always come without thinking is the biggest hurdle you’ll be faced with professionally. You’ll overcome it with the help of friends you made in the sport who understand like no one else can.

You’ll get to coach many wonderful people and you’ll even coach a country! It’ll be one of the craziest and best experiences of your life watching them look fantastic cross country at the international championships in Peru and Mexico. It will appear as if they hadn’t been doing the sport for such a short time. You’ll use your connections to mount them on lovely old horses that show them the ropes and keep them safe.

You’ll help the country qualify for the Pan American Games.

You’ll learn a lot from them about aiming high. It will re-inspire you.

Your husband will teach you not only about show jumping but about riding the right horses for your dreams. He’ll convince you to stop pushing horses to do what is a bit too hard for them and let them be stars at a lower level of the sport. You’ll enjoy watching those horses happily perform their new jobs well.

You’ll think he’s crazy, but you’ll follow his advice and go into debt to buy horses with more natural ability.

He will help you, and he was right.

You’ll get to ride at Devon, and you’ll win. In fact, you’ll start winning a lot on these new horses. The education you worked so hard for will combine well with their talent.

After overcoming financial and mental difficulties you’ll have three years of terrible accidents. In the last one, you’ll break your back and your neck.

Your husband will go above and beyond taking care of you through an incredibly hard recovery. He’ll never ask you to give up what you love although it frightens him.

Everyone will think your career is over.

You never will … they will be underestimating you again.

You’ll follow doctor’s advice to the letter and be back at the top level of your sport a year after your accident, fitter than before.

You’ll tie for the lead at the event where you fell, finishing on your dressage score.

You’ll ride your unicorn to a top few finish at a four-star short a couple of months later, and you’ll win an adversity award from the Jockey Club.

In 2020 you’ll feel on the top of your game with fabulous horses and opportunities. It’ll feel like it’s all just beginning.

So, kid, it’s all worth it. Keep going. You will be more than you can even fathom right now.



Equestrian Marketing Firm Athletux is proud to be one of the longest running agencies in the business, working exclusively with equestrian brands, athletes and events. Athletux understands your audience, utilizing innovative and creative ideas to build your brand and image. By integrating a passion for all things equine with drive and knowledge, you will achieve unparalleled results. Think of Athletux as an extension of your team, providing highly specialized tools to take your business to the next level. Learn more about how Athletux can help you revolutionize your business today. Visit for more information, or follow along via social @athletux. 

What It Means to Return to Rolex

Sara Kozumplik Murphy returned to Rolex this year for the first time since she last competed with Manolo Blahnik in 2012. She has also competed at Rolex with As You Like It and Somerset, and she was thrilled to make her return to Kentucky with Debbie Foote's OTTB Fly Me Courageous. They finished 19th overall. Sara wrote a blog about how it felt to return to Kentucky. Many thanks to Sara for writing, and thank you for reading.

Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and Fly Me Courageous. Photo by Rare Air Photography. Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and Fly Me Courageous. Photo by Rare Air Photography.

“So if I do the one star at Essex in May and Radnor two-star in October, can I go to Rolex next year?”

To his everlasting credit, Jimmy didn’t burst out laughing, merely looked over his glasses at me with a typical Wofford weighing glance, before calmly putting together a plan for this lunatic child that wanted to do her first three-star on her trusted Pony Club mount. Never mind that I had only been eventing at the Preliminary level.

When I was asked to write a small piece about what it feels like to return to Rolex, that was the first memory that popped into my head. The man who was like a second father to me, and without whom I would never have been able to get started. Not only did I get to that Rolex (1999) with As You Like It, but we won the Developing Rider Grant that Jacqueline Mars generously donates every year.

So a teenager on her off the track seeing eye dog, purchased from Jeffery Curtis, went on to complete Blenheim that same year, Burghley twice, Blenheim and Bramham again, Rolex four more times, and the World Cup at Pau, before deciding to retire him after a lifetime dream of competing at Badminton. He cruised around the last long format there in 2005, an event that has special importance for me as my Mum grew up hunting over the same ground with the Beaufort.

Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and Fly Me Courageous. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and Fly Me Courageous. Photo by Jenni Autry.

When you have a horse of a lifetime so early, it’s a blessing and a curse. A blessing for obvious reasons, as this horse took me places I was in no way really ready to go, and a curse because you don’t realize that a four-star is as hard as it is — as I found out very soon.

I think I fell off more than any U.S. rider for a few years in my early 20s. After a particularly horrible crash at Blenheim on Somerset, I made a vow as I was trudging up the hill from the second water, looking like something out of a low budget horror film.

What was the vow? To NEVER rush a horse up the levels again. I still wear that number bib, with Blenheim dirt embedded into it, as a reminder of this vow.

What I think most people don’t understand is how long it takes to get a horse to this level. I’m a coward when not on my own horses, so even if I could buy good upper-level horses, I would still buy young ones. It works better for me to develop a partnership through the levels.

My husband, Brian Murphy, has been wonderful helping me find super young horses. Thank God for my sainted owner/best friend/enabler, Edy Hunter Rameika. She has been in my life since I was a young rider and is just as much of an eventing addict as me. Nine years ago, Edy and I started the PRO As You Like It Award for owners to honor our first amazing horse and the incredible contributions to the sport by its owners.

Edy's arm and mine with our matching bracelets made from Somerset's tail. It's a good luck thing we do for big horse shows since he was a special horse to us.

Edy’s arm and mine with our matching bracelets made from Somerset’s tail. It’s a good luck thing we do for big horse shows since he was a special horse to us.

My show jumping husband thinks all eventers should be hauled off to the looney bin stat. “So let me get this straight,” says long suffering husband his first time at an event. “You get up at 4 a.m., go to bed at 10 p.m., spend a fortune, all to win a body brush, if you’re lucky?”

“Yes!” says addict wife, trembling with excitement. “You knew what you were getting into when we met! By the way, can you set up something to make Fluffy go clear in show jumping no matter what ride I give him?” I probably shouldn’t write his response to that here …

Walking Rolex this year made me so proud of our beautiful American four-star. Many of the overseas riders said that Derek di Grazia’s course was a “proper” track — praise indeed — and they were right. I think Rolex goes from strength to strength, and everything from the beautiful park to Richard Jeffery’s stunning show jumping course was at the very highest standard that can be reached in our sport.

What does it feel like to return to Rolex? Walking a four-star cross country course is where I feel most alive in the world; it’s like an extension of who I am. All the hard work, setbacks and heartache melt away, and a feeling of pure joy floods my body from top to toe. The prospect of returning to Rolex is what drives me to become a better rider and horseman. It’s my daily inspiration.

Natascha Barrientos Leads the Way for Venezuela

Natascha Barrientos and Clifton Peekachu after their winning dressage test. Photo by Hector Garrido. Natascha Barrientos and Clifton Peekachu after their winning dressage test. Photo by Hector Garrido.

Go Natascha and Mr. Chu! All of our Venezuelan riders tried very hard, and two of them put in personal bests at this level. Last year when Natascha did her first event ever, she was moaning about how much walking is involved in eventing (a similar theme to my show jumping husband, Brian Murphy’s constant refrain).

I told her that event riders have to be fit, so the only way I would allow her to buy a motorbike was if she went to the gym four days a week AND she scored below a 45 in dressage at a CCI. In all honesty I thought I was pretty safe.

Yesterday she earned her mini bike by putting in a flawless test on the fabulous professional, Clifton Peekachu, to go into the lead. That performance also placed the Venezulean team solidly into the team bronze position going into today’s challenging cross country.

Roberto Delgado and Tatton Winter. Photo by Hector Garrido.

Roberto Delgado and Tatton Winter. Photo by Hector Garrido.

Roberto Delgado was not only the first out for Venezuela, he was the first of the entire competition! Talk about pressure. He rose to the occasion to put in his best score to date.

Gabriela Suarez and Irish Diamonds. Photo by Hector Garrido.

Gabriela Suarez and Irish Diamonds. Photo by Hector Garrido.

Gaby Suarez also put in her usual excellent test, although one of the judges was quite a bit lower than the others, and I honestly felt her score of 55 was harsh. Irish Diamonds was through, up, and forward, and Gay rode accurately….oh well, that’s dressage!

Juan Larrazabal and Alasca LV Z. Photo by Hector Garrido.

Juan Larrazabal and Alasca LV Z. Photo by Hector Garrido.

Juan unfortunately didn’t have the day we thought he would. He is a nice rider on a lovely horse, but sometimes the fates aren’t with you? Alaska fell behind his leg, and it just wasn’t his day.

I am really looking forward to the cross country today, we have the most experienced horses here and are determined to kick some butt!

[Day One Report]

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