LONDON, ENGLAND – Armonk native Reed Kessler, who became the youngest show jump rider in the history of the Olympics when she participated in the 2012 London Games at age 18, took time to relive her 17-day experience.
Back home in Kentucky, where her family moved earlier this year after selling the Armonk-based Kessler Stables, Kessler, who helped the U.S. Equestrian show jumping team place sixth overall, reflected on the whirlwind of preparation and competition in her first Olympics.
“The Games was an amazing experience,” Kessler said. “To ride against such an unbelievable group of athletes was a privilege and so inspiring. The venue was fantastic. The spectators and the scenery in front of the Queen’s House gave the equestrian aspect of the games an incredible atmosphere.”
Kessler said the long period of training made the anticipation of the Games even more acute.
The first day, I was really excited to get going,” she said. “It had been so much training and waiting for that moment my patience was running out. After jumping clear with just the one time fault, I felt like I was on top of the world. Looking back, that time fault was probably the biggest error I made because it kept me from advancing as an individual after the second round. But it was a really life changing moment to have tens of thousands of people cheer for you.”
The young Olympian recalled the team qualifying and finals jumping events on Days 2 and 3 as a big challenge and despite struggling over a difficult course lessons were learned.
“I learned so much this week,” Kessler said. “I've done junior and young rider championships but nothing like a senior championship where your horse has been jumping round after round and you have to help them even more. It is almost like riding a totally different horse at that point and that is something I have to learn with more championships that I do.”
Kessler said she had been told riders often struggle in their first world competition and that she had performed well under the pressure of the Olympic Games.
“I was very happy with my three performances,” she said “I think that they were solid and I did well under the pressure. I feel so lucky to have been a part of an amazing Olympics and to represent my country. I’m also happy that my story has brought more publicity to our sport, especially in America, and inspired a lot of young people that it is possible.”
Kessler thanked her trainers (and Godparents) Henri and Katie Prudent, who have worked with her since she was 13, her barn manager Tracey Edge, who has been with her for three years, Stacy Hall, who worked with her horse Cylana and her sponsors GPA, Butet, Ogilvy, and Alessandro Albanese. She also thanked her “vets, chiropractors, blacksmiths, everyone that has had a hand in my career and the careers of my horses.”
Although she missed the opening ceremonies while training in Paris prior to the Games, Kessler was thrilled to be part of the closing ceremonies and enjoyed the experience with her parents, who raised her in the saddle.
“Most importantly, I have to thank my parents (Murray and Teri). They are the best owners anyone could ask for. They love horses, riding and the sport. They have given me everything any rider or any child could ask for.”