Eventing Nation caught up with Kimmy Cecere, who has spent the last six months across the pond on a whirlwind of a trip. The biggest news for Kimmy is that 2023 is the year she strikes out on her own, with the support of her mentor and self-described “sister” Lauren Nicholson, and Ms. Jacqueline Mars, who owns her current ride, Landmarks Monaco.
Kimmy was the recipient of a Wilton Fair Grant in 2020, which she delayed to 2022 due to the restrictions enacted by the pandemic. The Wilton Fair Fund was started in 2017 by David and Cheryl Lenaburg in memory of their horse, Wilton Fair, and these highly coveted grants are intended to provide the support and encouragement needed for talented riders under the age of 29 to gain more international experience and education.
While in England, Kimmy trained with some of the world’s top riders in Chris Bartle and Tim and Jonelle Price. Splitting her time evenly between British Olympic Eventing Team coach Chris Bartle in Yorkshire and world number one- and two-ranked eventers, Tim and Jonelle Price in Wiltshire, Kimmy was in for a mind-blowing and enviable six months.
In those first three months with Chris, Kimmy says she was in full student mode.
“[Chris] had a lot of students come in, really anywhere from like, sort of low level, almost amateur riders that didn’t necessarily event, all the way up through five-star riders,” she remembers. “So I got to see not only how he coached and taught the big guys, but it was also very helpful for me to see him dealing with all level riders. I got to learn from the best on both aspects of that.”
While at Chris’s, Kimmy spent her mornings breezing racehorses at a nearby racetrack. She says the experience taught her a lot about what a “proper gallop” really feels like, as the horses were regularly clocked at nearly 30 miles per hour. After returning from the track, she would set herself up with a notebook and “the biggest cup of tea” to watch and learn from Chris.
From there she went to Tim and Jonelle Price’s farm, where she rode 10 horses a day. Because Tim and Jonelle work independently and run almost two completely different programs, Kimmy was able to see how two of the world’s best eventers can work their horses differently in pursuit of similar aims.
“It was really cool to see the different approaches they have to the horses, and I kind of got a little bit from each of them and got to sort of curate that to what was best for Monaco,” she says. “You could ask them both the same question and they would give you their own take but come to the same conclusion.”
Kimmy enjoyed learning from the variety of horse management and riding styles between her three mentors. “I feel like you can’t get to enough five-star barns — just to see who does what, and take what you want from all that and add it to your own program.”
While in England, Kimmy made a pit stop to compete in the prestigious Blenheim CCI4*-L, where she was struck by the crowds and the energy of the venue. “The first thing people asked me is, ‘what do you think of Blenheim?’, and my mind goes to the crowds because I’ve just never seen crowds like that. It was so cool. You’d gallop through the ropes and it was filled with people who were just lined up all throughout the course to watch you go.”
Despite a rider error at the corner – “I put my foot on the gas pedal a little bit too hard and flew right past the corner, which I’m still kicking myself for!” – Monaco still put in a great performance on a notoriously difficult course.
“I was really proud of him for the way that he tackled that course because that could easily have been one of the hardest courses, if not the hardest course, we’ve ever ridden,” she says.
So what’s next for Kimmy and Monaco? It’s looking set to be an even bigger and better year: she’s heading back to England to start her own program. While she finds the prospect of leaving her job working for Lauren Nicholson to be a bit daunting, she’s grateful for the support her mentor has given her along the way.
“She fully supports it, and she’s definitely helped,” says Kimmy. “I came back for three months and just went back into her program to help them through the holidays, and she sort of held my hand as I left. Not a lot of bosses would do that, so I think I’m pretty lucky on that front.”
Kimmy is also grateful to Ms. Mars who is flying her horse Monaco to England with her. “I can do anything as long as I have one friend, and that is Monaco. He brought a lot of comfort to the whole experience.”
The past year has clearly been a life-changing one for Kimmy and Monaco, who’ve totted up competition experience across the UK and in continental Europe, too. From learning from the world’s top riders in England to starting out on her own, Kimmy is dedicated to being a consummate student of the sport — and that makes her one to watch as we head into the 2023 season.
Her biggest takeaway from her time in England and decision to start her own program is that “there are many different ways to get to the top. There’s not just one specific path — and I think what I found for myself is to take the bits and pieces that worked for me from everybody I was with and put that into my own program and that will be my way to get to the top. We’re always learning.”