BY JESS CLAWSON
Briley Koerner believes in the importance of connection—both with horses and people. She started riding at six years old, and still thinks of her first trainer, Kim Cox of Tally Ho Farm, as one of the most influential people in her life. “Mrs. Kim taught me the ropes,” she says.
Her horses, too, have taught her a great deal. “Every horse I’ve ever owned or ridden has definitely helped make me the rider I am today,” Briley says with gratitude. Her family, including older brother Barrett who shares all of her successes on Facebook, and grandparents who have supported her in this challenging sport, have helped foster that sense of connection as well.
Briley’s career as a young rider includes many great many successes in the past two years. In 2017, she won the NAJYRC Zone 7 team gold and individual bronze; the Prix Des Stats zone 7 team gold; and was in the top 25 at the Maclay Finals. In 2018, she won the Prix Des States Zone 7 team gold and the $25,000 1.45m Welcome Stake at the Hampton Classic Horse Show on her own For Jef Vd Wezesle.
For Jef Vd Wezesle or Seth, as he’s known around the barn, holds a special place in Briley’s heart. “If there’s one horse who has impacted my riding the most, it would be Seth,” she says. The horse is undeniably talented, and they make a great team, earning three gold medals during her junior career. But he’s special to Briley for other reasons, too.
Briley suffered tremendous loss when her brother Brody died on July 28, 2017. Upon hearing this, Seth’s previous owner, Natalie, called Briley to express her condolences and also tell her the story behind the horse’s name: Natalie’s brother, Jef, also passed away unexpectedly. She named the promising young horse after him. “That made me feel closer to my brother,” Briley says.
“I will forever and always be grateful to have Seth. I consider him my horse of a lifetime for sure. Without him, I wouldn’t be the rider I am today. I can’t thank my trainer Martien and Maarten enough for finding this special horse.”
Her trainer, Martien, has taught Briley about connection, figuratively and literally. He encourages her to make connections between flat work and jumping. “There has to be a purpose behind what I’m asking my horse to do,” she emphasizes.
She also thinks fostering that genuine connection in the leg-to-hand sense is important. “I think we all as riders get caught up depending on draw reins and martingales for our flat work,” Briley says. Flat work and pole work are important, because they’re the foundation of the big jumper classes. Working to develop a good canter with the right balance is critical.
Briley admires connected, quiet riders like Beezie Madden and Laura Kraut. “I admire Beezie’s consistency and horsemanship. When I watch her ride, she stays in one position which allows her to stay connected with the horse.”
“Laura Kraut is another rider I really aspire to be like,” she says. “You can tell she has natural talent. Laura clicks well with all her horses, and I think that is important.”
Briley has big goals for the future: she wants to represent the US at the Nations Cup and the Olympics. “In the meantime,” she says, “I want to train clients and bring them up to the highest level of show jumping that I can.”
Competition is in her bones, and Briley is one of the rare people who doesn’t get nervous competing. “I tend to do a bit better under pressure and when competing in front of a big crowd. As a junior my trainer Martien was sure to expose me to different venues like grass rings and small indoors and I think that definitely helped,” she says.
Briley loves competing at Pin Oak in particular. “The one thing I love most about Pin Oak are the people. After competing in WEF for the past 8 weeks, it sure is nice to come home to some familiar faces! Pin Oak does a fantastic job of having a special atmosphere. There is nothing like competing at a show that gets its hometown people to come and watch the show. I can’t begin to thank Pin oak enough for all there amazing sponsors and kind hospitality,” she says. “It is an honor to get to compete at such an amazing show!”
Briley’s dreams are big, but her talent, work ethic, and support system are too. Watch for this gifted young rider this year.
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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