By Catie Staszak/Catie Staszak Media
In this behind-the-scenes series from Heritage Farm, we’re introducing you to the program’s horses and riders in a whole new way. Get to know our group beyond what you’ve seen ringside, accolades and all:
- Age: 19
- Horse(s): Casantos, Eclips, Sweet Escape
- 2021 Highlights: Finished 2nd in the $25,000 Saratoga Grand Prix at the Saratoga Classic; Won in the Amateur-Owner Jumpers at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show; Won the High Jr/Amateur Classic at HITS on the Hudson; enrolled at Harvard University
Eliza Kimball arrived at Heritage Farm four years ago with the aim of not only taking her riding to the next level, but to also work within a structured environment that valued aspirations outside of the saddle.
Kimball, 19, has always made her education a priority, and that focus has paid off in spades, as she is currently studying planetary engineering at Harvard University.
It’s widely known that Heritage has trained 10 winners of the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals — East. Lesser known is that the operation has also coached six Harvard students.
“The way Heritage is organized allows me to not have to choose between academics, riding and a career,” Kimball said. “[When I came to Heritage], I wanted a barn with a respected program where I would be able to leave for a few weeks [for school] and feel confident that my horses would be in good care.”
Kimball found success in the hunter, jumper and equitation rings in her two years with Heritage as a junior rider, but upon transitioning to the amateur ranks, she put a greater focus on her show jumping aspirations. In 2021, she made her 1.40m debut in the High Amateur-Owner Jumper division. By year’s end, she boasted ribbons in the division at indoors and finished second in the $25,000 Saratoga Grand Prix at the Saratoga Classic. Now, she’s commuting back and forth from school for weekends at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL with her mounts Casantos, Eclips and Sweet Escape.
“I used to always say when I was younger that I never wanted to jump the highs. That came out of the fact that I never thought I could,” Kimball said. “When I [started training with] Andre, he immediately believed in me. There’s no time that I go in the ring where Andre doesn’t think I can succeed. Having him believe in me and my horses really makes all the difference.”
Ultimately, it comes back to an intellectual, analytically-minded approach. In Dignelli, Kimball found the methodical, detail-oriented coach that would complement her constant thirst for knowledge.
“Andre has always teased me by saying that I ask more questions than anyone else. I am so academic, and I’ve always been taught that you get better by learning,” Kimball said. “Working under Andre, Laena [Romond] and Patricia [Griffith], I’ve tried to take advantage of their presence and being able to pick their brains.”
When she’s not in the saddle or the classroom, Kimball is hosting a Harvard University podcast “Student Spotlights,” which showcases the “smartest, most inspiring students” on campus, and writing for the Harvard Independent. She also started her own tutor company, Crimson Connections, which remotely connects Harvard students with other students seeking help around the country—a few of them equestrians—and hopes to make contributions in her career that would help prevent and reverse the effects of global climate change.
“The amount of work I have is quite insane,” Kimball confessed. “I do my fair share of Zoom [calls] at the horse show. I’m always the girl sitting in the golf cart working with my dog next to me.”
After a year of achieving big goals in the show ring, Kimball is relying more on her natural feel in the saddle than consistent practice while focusing on her collegiate studies. But don’t mistake that for a desire to fully pump the brakes on her riding career. There remain bigger aspirations ahead.
“Andre has certainly had clients that have surpassed my level, but he wants me jumping bigger classes, some FEI…we have that goal together, and I don’t feel any pressure from him,” Kimball said.
“I think I should be a walking ad for Heritage. You should see the ‘before and after’ videos,” she added. “That’s what makes Heritage really special. They bring the absolute best out of every rider and every horse. I wouldn’t be at the level I’m at without Heritage.”