Good things come to those who wait. For Olympic medalist Laura Kraut, the yearlong delay for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo was definitely worth it. Kraut was a member of the Silver Medal team representing the USA, and the postponement allowed her to find the ideal equine partner for this year’s event.
“It was very, very fun and worth all the nerves to have the outcome we had, so it was great,” said Kraut, who lives in Florida when she is not competing internationally. “Funny enough, having it delayed was a little bit of a strange situation, but it actually ended up working out for me because I wouldn’t have had the horse I took if it hadn’t been for the delay. In the end, it worked for my favor.”
Kraut was able to secure her ideal equine partner, Baloutinue just days before the Olympic-imposed deadline. She had spotted “Balou” three years previously, when he was being ridden by Adam Prudent. At that time owners Katie and Henri Prudent were not ready to sell him; a decision that Kraut respected, and she didn’t push the issue.
“Katie and Henri have been really great friends and mentors to me, and they said three years ago, they really didn’t want to sell him. They wanted to keep him for Adam. I never asked again because I respected that. The very beginning of April, end of March, Katie came to me and said, she would only sell the horse to a professional and asked if I had an owner who would be able to buy him for me? As luck would have it, I have a wonderful owner who was willing to take the leap of faith and buy him. She bought him April 8, and the cut off for the Olympics was April 9. It was just a matter of hoping I could get to know him and feel like I could contribute well enough so if I did make the team. It was a stressful few months. Fortunately, with a lot of help from the Prudents, we were able to pull it off,” she said.
Teamwork Comes in Different Forms
Pull it off is an understatement. Kraut and Balou, along with their teammates helped Team USA achieve Silver Medal status during the 2020 Olympics. And regardless of if it is your first or your fifth Olympics, there is nothing better than the sense of pride one experiences when representing Team USA.
“As part of the U.S. Equestrian Team, we have a long history of being formidable. We are looked upon as being one of the strong teams of the world, and I take a lot of pride in that. When we show up, other teams and other countries pay attention. You don’t want to let that down. Being there for the United States is a huge honor. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I think the United States is one of the greatest countries, and to be on that team with the history of success we’ve had, I think that’s great,” Kraut said.
Part of what she likes most about the team sport is the camaraderie, and with the COVID restrictions, she and her teammates spent ample time together in Tokyo. She gives kudos to those who rounded out the team, McLain Ward, Kent Farrington and Jessie Springsteen, along with Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland. Kraut said that this group spent a lot of time together between the hotel and the jumping venue, but never had a bad moment and all stayed in good spirits despite being in lockdown.
“The part I really love is the camaraderie. I love the team atmosphere. I love where we are all banded together for our country and for me there is a lot of excitement for that and a lot of honor. The con is there is a whole new level of pressure. You don’t want to let your teammates down; you don’t want to let your country down at the Olympics. When you’re riding and competing as an individual, you want to do well for yourself and your owner, but when you’re on a team, you add a lot of layers to that. But when it goes well and it goes great, there is no greater reward,” she said of sharing the celebration with her team.
Makes the Dream Work
Kraut started riding when she was just a child, and has she said advises that anyone who wants to find success in the world of horse jumping will need to have determination and be willing to put fort the effort along with the blood, sweat and tears. However, it is more than hard work; it is a passion, as well.
“They have to really love it. If you really love doing something or being part of something, it doesn’t really seem like work. If you are young person, if that is how you feel, wherever you end up in the sport, you will be successful if you love it,” she encouraged.
One title that Kraut didn’t expect to earn after the Tokyo Games is the oldest American woman to win a medal since 1904. At 55, Kraut is just in her prime, and she said she laughed when she heard that statistic after the Olympics.
“All joking aside, it is very cool. It is something I never thought of. One of the great things about our sport is the longevity and the ability to stay in for many, many decades. I was proud of that. It is a cool thing to see, and I hope to break that in 2024 in Paris,” she said.
Traveling and competing internationally isn’t always easy on the rider or the horse, but it is something both Kraut and Balou are accustomed to. She said her flight to Tokyo was around 11.5 hours, and his flight was nearly 20 with a stop to refuel. At his home stable and on the road to competitions, she keeps Balou feeling his best with Vitalize® Alimend®. Vitalize Alimend is a natural product that supports gastric health and GI tissue in horses, giving them a good gut feeling.
“Balou is on Alimend the entire time. He traveled unbelievably,” she said. “He didn’t even look like he had been on a trip when he got there. He was in great form and is still in great form.”
Teamwork does make the dream work. Regardless of if it is the team of horse and rider or four riders with impeccable jumps under pressure, their Olympic dreams came true. Perhaps it was a year later than planned, but good things really do come to those who wait.