Faces of Pin Oak: Matt Cyphert

© Alison Hartwell Photography

BY JESS CLAWSON

Matt Cyphert didn’t grow up in a horse family. His family didn’t push him into riding. He hasn’t been riding since he was a toddler. But he found his gift.

Matt’s aunt owned horses, and when his family visited they would go on trail rides. “I fell in love with it. We rode western then,” he said. One day they came across a log, and he watched the other riders and their horses hop over it. He was more hesitant. “After a lot of encouragement from them, I jumped it. The next day I took my first English riding lesson and never rode western again. I was hooked.”

Once bitten by the bug, Matt set his sight on the grand prix ring. He idolized Michael Matz. “He was so smooth on a horse. Just a class act and a great competitor,” he said.

Photo © Don Stine Photography.  2015 $50,000 Fleir de Lis Grand Prix with Lochinvar

Now Matt is a professional at Woodhill Farm in Argyle, Texas, where he’s making his grand prix dreams a reality. “I have been fortunate to win some big classes and each one is truly special, because that kind of success seemed very unobtainable being from a non-horsey family and starting later with my riding than most,” he said. “I always say riding in grand prixs is one of the few things in life that is ‘as advertised.’ It is truly as cool as you hoped it would be growing up.”

Matt is focused on finding the job each horse loves and letting them be themselves. “Even if they are unconventional,” he said, “all horses have a job. It just might not always be the one you want it to be. Find horses that love the sport, and let them shine.”

He also enjoys coaching riders, particularly from the psychological standpoint. “Finding what brings out the best performance in a rider changes from day to day. Some days you have to push them and other days you need pump them up,” he said. He himself rarely gets nervous about competing anymore, but if he gets amped up for a big class, he uses the same mental exercises he teaches his students to help him focus.

Matt draws his inspiration from the other professionals around him and his own horses, like Lochivar. “He is a true competitor, like me, and we bring out the best in each other because of it,” he said about his equine partner. “Here in Texas, there are no shortage of great riders to inspire me. We take a lot of pride in the quality of our hunters and jumpers. If you can win here, you can take your game anywhere.”  

With fiancé Kelley Buringa from  2017 Grand Prix of Tyler. Photo © Brie Mahlke

Matt and his fiancé, Kelley Buringa, are now in the process of building a farm in Argyle and are excited to begin training there soon.  “We have a great group of horses and clients and we love to watch them grow as riders and achieve their goals,” he said.

Photo © Lili Weik Photography. 2016 International Omaha Grand Prix with Lochinvar

Pin Oak has always been special to Matt. “I showed here as a junior and even then I realized it was not your typical horse show. It brings out the best horses and riders from all over the country.  Winning a class at Pin Oak is an accomplishment to be proud of,” he said. His program works to have horses and riders peaking for the three week show, which he describes as a barometer on one’s riding and training.

He also appreciates Pin Oak’s charitable donations. “It reaches beyond the sport and into the community with its influences. Its educational programs bring new interest to the sport every year,” he said.

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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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