Laura Kraut: Talent and Timing – Part II

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

BY ANN JAMIESON

Cedric

Cedric immediately captured Laura’s attention, yet she never dreamed he would go as far as he did. She picked the green seven-year-old out of a crowd of horses being shown for sale in Belgium because “I saw a horse that jumped a little like a Thoroughbred. He was so light, I watched him jump very high over jumps and I had no idea how small he was because he looked so big going around the ring. When I tried him, he had so much power!”

She jumped ten fences and bought him.

However, when she saw Cedric standing in a stall in quarantine after he arrived in Calgary, she looked down at him and thought, “Oh my God! He’s a pony! What have I done?”

She recalled why she’d bought him when she got on. He rode like a Maserati. He wasn’t easy. In fact, he was very, very difficult to ride. While he was calm on the ground and an absolute love bug, he spooked so badly when ridden that she fell off of him constantly, even at a standstill.  

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

“He was really challenging. He had talent but to be honest I never thought he’d be the horse that he became, a superstar. You couldn’t move on his back, and he was afraid of everything. He didn’t want to be the leader. While he loved people, he feared people on his back. It’s a miracle that he did what he did. But he overcame his fear through his talent.”                                                                                                           

Cedric was a character, always wanting all the attention. If you read a book by his stall, Cedric would take it out of your hand. If his groom took a nap, Cedric would take a nap with him. Everyone loved having him on the road with them. He earned the nickname “Monkey” from former owner Janice Aron who, after witnessing some of his playful escapades with Laura, felt it fit him. The name stuck, and after that, he traveled with his own stuffed monkey, which would be placed on his stall door.  

Photo © Shannon Brinkman

Laura’s faith in him was rewarded when at the 2008 Beijing Olympics they earned the most coveted award in show jumping: a team gold medal. Cedric knew when it was important, and “turned it on” in Hong Kong, teaming with Laura to make Olympic dreams come true. Laura remembers, “It was incredible to be there, and we had such a great team.” With McLain Ward on Sapphire, Beezie Madden on Authentic, and Will Simpson on Carlsson vom Dach, “it made the Games a lot less stressful. We just had to uphold our end of the bargain. Cedric was only 10 and a late developer, but he held up his end; he did incredibly well.” 

Her feelings standing on the Olympic podium to receive her gold medal were mixed: “Relief and elation.” Going into the event on a horse who was essentially untested at that level, Laura was relieved that, “We were able to be consistent, we put in a clear last round and a clear in the jump-off.” And then elated that they had done it together, with each other, and the team, they had won a gold medal!            

Coach George Morris was incredibly supportive. “He was so confident in Cedric; he was his biggest fan.” George said Cedric was “a great asset for the team. He is an absolute blood horse, all that Thoroughbred blood in him. There’s no bottom, he’s clever, so handy, so fast.” He wanted to go with him for the team because, “He’s such a careful, competitive horse.” George’s faith in Cedric allowed him to put the horse on the Olympic team when he was relatively unknown. Cedric lived up to that faith.                                                               

He had faith in Laura as well. “Nobody rides better than Laura.” Laura rode on teams representing the U.S.A. with George for 20 years.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Besides the Olympics, Cedric had many wins for the USET, and many victories for his fans, and for Laura. They won back-to-back Global Champions Tour events, winning in Chantilly, France, and then just two weeks later at Valkenswaard, the Netherlands in 2010. In 2011, they won the $150,000 Spy Coast Farm Grand Prix CSI-W and the $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, followed by two other GCT events (2012 in Lausanne, Switzerland, and 2013 in Wiesbaden, Germany). Cedric and Laura jumped a phenomenal 81 clear and 45 double clear rounds and scored over 20 FEI Grand Prix victories together.

Initially, Cedric was partially owned by Peter Wetherhill’s Happy Hill Farm, then by Margaret Duprey for her Cherry Knoll Farm in 2012. Margaret stepped up to the plate when Peter died and Cedric was about to be sold, knowing how important it was to have this amazing horse and rider team available for the 2012 Olympics. When she watched Cedric go, she thought, “Wow such a little guy with such a big jump. When I got to know him, he’s just a love bug, a very sweet horse. If you’ve got treats in your pockets he’s going to come up to you. But,” she adds, “when riding him he does sometimes have his opinions.” She is honored to have been part of his journey.

“To be able to carry on Peter’s love for this horse, and for Laura, made it very special.” Cedric gave Margaret entreé into the top realm of the show jumping world. Because of him, she was able to experience the sport at the highest level around the world. “It was so exciting to watch him compete. He’s such a little powerhouse!”

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

In Cedric’s first class under Cherry Knoll Farm ownership, Cedric took second in a $150,000 Grand Prix at WEF. Margaret enjoys working with Laura. “Laura is a professional, she’s very good at communicating. We communicate, we talk. We’re both horsewomen. It’s an easy working relationship.”    

Cedric was definitely Laura’s horse of a lifetime.                                                       

Although he could be wacky and spooky when ridden throughout their career, he really knew when it mattered. “I think he is just the most special horse I will ever have. He was my best friend. He was so quirky and difficult to ride, yet when he was 10 and made the Olympic team (and earned gold), it just made it that much more special.” Although Cedric was only 15.2 hands, “He had a big gallop and a big heart and there was nothing that he couldn’t jump. He thought he could do it all.” Cedric had everything Laura needed in a horse, and he will never be replaced in her heart.

You can catch Laura and Cedric here:  Cedric

In 2017 Cedric retired at 19. He had earned over two million dollars in his career and was a crowd favorite. His retirement ceremony took place prior to the Nation’s Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. Margaret had grown up with Peter and says it “was like Peter was watching over them that night. That he knew someone had him and was going to do right by him.”

Laura asked to not be included on the Nations Cup team that night. She knew she would be too emotional. Instead, Margaret hosted a private party with Cedric’s closest friends. She invited all of the people who she knew would be important to Laura, and to Cedric. “We had it at Laura’s barn, and he was the center of attention. There were bags of carrots and apples outside his stall, and he joined in the party.”

Margaret and Laura thought about it hard and long before deciding to retire him. Laura could feel that he no longer had the power he used to have. Margaret told Laura if she was willing to take him back to England and retire him “where you can go and sit and have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee with him, and pet him and spend time with him,” that would be fine with her. It was the perfect solution. Laura thanked her profusely.

No one has ridden him since his retirement. He shares a field with Lauren Hough’s Quick Study out in the English countryside at Nick Skelton’s Ardencote Farm. Margaret visits him whenever she’s in the area. “He does not look like he’s 23 years old. He’s in fabulous condition. He comes up to you and looks in your pockets because he knows there’s treats in there.” Margaret misses him. “It was always fun watching him, when he was competing, he was definitely a crowd-pleaser!” But she knows he’s happy and enjoying his life.

Photos of Cedric are posted on Facebook so his fans can follow and keep up with him. They are ecstatic to see him. “There is only one Cedric, and I am happy to be part of his journey,” declares Margaret.

An Incredible Record

Laura continues to add to her amazing resume. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, she officially competed at the Games, riding Liberty. A member of the silver medal winning WEG team at Aachen in 2006, Laura competed on Miss Independent. You can watch Laura and Miss Independent here. 

Competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, she and Cedric brought home a team gold medal, while in 2010 they were part of the WEG team.

In 2013, Laura took third in the Longines Global Champions Tour. She has been part of the U.S. team at three FEI Nations Cup Finals, including a bronze-winning effort with Zeromonie in 2016 and a team silver with Confu in 2017. A team player, Laura particularly enjoys competing in Nations’ Cup classes.

You can watch Laura and Zeremonie go clean at Olympia here.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

While Laura has been victorious at horse shows around the world, one WEG victory took place right at home. Winning team gold as part of the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team at the games in Tryon, North Carolina on Zeremonie in 2018 “was one the proudest moments of my career.” With McLain Ward, Beezie Madden, Adrienne Sternlicht, and Devin Ryan, in front of the home crowd, Laura was “thrilled to be part of such a great team.” 

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Laura reached her long-time goal of winning the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Qualifier at the 61st Washington International Horse Show. After competing there since her pony hunter days decades ago, nailing that victory was a sweet success.

She returned from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a team silver, riding St. Bride’s Farm’s incredible Baloutinue. Joining Laura’s string at the very last minute, she had a scant two and a half months to get to know him. Yet they won right out of the box with a victory at the Bainbridge Companies Grand Prix at ESP Spring 2 in April 2021, followed by a second place in the Rome Grand Prix in May of 2021.

Photo © SportFot

You can watch the nail-biting finish of the team show jumping event here: Olympic Jump Off

Owners Barb and David Roux created their stunning farm in Upperville, Virginia, to breed and train top competition horses for the sport, and for Laura to ride. Barb met Laura through a mutual friend six years ago. She was looking for the person she wanted to ride her horses (and hoping that person would want to join her team). They met in the hospitality tent, and Barb “knew I’d found my person” when Laura walked up carrying chopped apples and carrots for the horses. They hit it off immediately and Barb was thrilled when Laura agreed to join the team.

Baloutinue (BooBoo) had been at Katie and Henri Prudent’s Plain Bay Farm. After they called Laura to let her know they had a great horse for her, she called Barb and David, who agreed to buy him. Purchased two days before the deadline for the Olympics, he was registered on the final day to Saint Bride’s Farm, just squeaking in for Olympic eligibility. 

“Laura says her best horses just seem to come to her,” says Barb, and Baloutinue was no exception. St. Bride’s Farm actually had two horses in contention for Laura for the Olympics (Confu was short-listed as well) but Chef D’Equipe Robert Ridland made the call, choosing Baloutinue. One consideration was that he was younger, and thus more able to tolerate the heat and humidity of Tokyo. In the understatement of the year, Barb says, “I think we made the right choice.” 

Photo © SportFot

Watching Laura and Baloutinue win a Silver medal, she says, “was thrilling and we just enjoyed every moment of the experience. Watching the riders congratulate one another, being so happy for each other, was tremendously heartwarming!”

Barb also notes that most people don’t realize the tremendous infrastructure it takes to get horses to the show ring at the upper echelon: the grooms, vets, farriers, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and the riders who start the young horses. “Grooms are tremendously important; they are the eyes on the ground.” She credits Baloutinue’s groom Margo Thomas for being a large part of his success. And, she adds, “If the riders who start the young horses mismanage them, the horses don’t get a fair shot at success.”

Katie and Henri Prudent purchased Baloutinue from Danny Etter three and a half years ago. They knew he was a special horse. “He was a fabulous jumper, but incredibly sensitive and difficult to ride,” says Katie. They were told, “Whatever you do, don’t touch him with your leg. I was very, very anxious to get the horse because I knew we could train him, and I knew we could teach him about leg.”  

The Prudents have a good friend in Switzerland, a massage therapist. He worked on Baloutinue at one point and said “I have never felt such a powerful horse. He’s a machine!” exclaims Katie, “He’s just everything.”                                                      

Adam quickly named him Boo Boo. The horse, says Katie, “had been in a system that was too strong for him, and had developed a dislike of the rider.” He was sensitive like a Thoroughbred, and Katie grew up riding Thoroughbreds. “He was very smart, super careful, and super brave. He was scopey and powerful but all his energy needed to be contained.                                                                                                              

“BooBoo needed a very, very soft, patient, sensitive rider. If you asked for a leg yield, he would do a passage. If you asked him to halt, he would take one foot and just stomp the ground. But he wasn’t a mean horse. Over time, he grew to like the rider better because he was ridden in a way that was more sensitive and more suitable to his type. We did a lot of work through gymnastics and combinations; the combinations were always tight for him. But he wants to be a good boy, and once he understood what we wanted, he got easy. Adam did a very, very good job with him. He started showing him in Florida as an eight-year-old. He showed him through nine, 10, and 11, and then he was ready to sell. 

The decision to sell him was made by Henri, and Adam. Katie was not on board. “I never want to sell any horses,” she laughs.        

There were two riders who the Prudents felt could bring out the best in Boo Boo: Beezie Madden and Laura Kraut. Laura grew up on Thoroughbreds and has a real knack for being soft when needed and strong when needed. In addition, she has been a student (who would fit right into BooBoo’s program) and friend of the Prudents for decades.

BooBoo was sold to Barb Roux, who “had found her person” in Laura to ride her horses.  The Prudents knew Barb was a great owner who would provide BooBoo with everything he needed to bring out the best in him. Barb wanted to have an Olympic horse and felt that he was the perfect horse for Laura, and she deserved to have him. “It just was the right timing and the right fit. He’s a great horse, and Laura is just the perfect rider for him.”  

Laura loved him immediately. “He’s just like the horses I grew up with; he’s just like a Thoroughbred!” she exclaimed.                                                                                                

Katie says, “Laura is so good with him. She’s a great rider, he’s a great horse, and they are a great team. We’ve known each other so long, the relationship is really easy, and it enabled her to come along really fast with him.” Katie teased her, “I hope you don’t mind but we’re going to come to every show with him.”

The Prudents are looking forward to watching them together in Florida this winter.

Current Horses

Laura’s current partners include Baloutinue, Confu, and Calgary Tame. Laura refers to Confu, a 2007 Holsteiner gelding as her “security blanket.” Whenever she needs one to come out and do something well, “it’s him.”

Watch Laura and Confu clinch the Dublin Nations’ Cup.

Some of Laura’s other recent wins include the Grand Prix of Saint-Tropez in October 2020 with Goldwin, and the Spy Coast Farm Holiday II Grand Prix in December 2020 with Confu. In April 2021, she rode Constable II to a second-place finish in the NAB Bliksembeveiliging Prize at The Dutch Masters.

Family Support

Laura is quick to credit her family for their support, and for all they do. Her mother has helped raise her son, Bobby, taking him to and from school, and caring for him while Laura competed in Europe. This allowed Laura the freedom to travel and compete.

Photo courtesy of Laura Kraut

Bobby, like the rest of the family, learned to ride. He was about six or seven years old, and Laura told him he was going to learn to read, and do math, and write…and he was going to learn how to ride “because that is what your family does.” It didn’t turn out to be Bobby’s dream. Instead, he is out in L.A. pursuing his passion for the film industry. Laura is totally behind him, letting him pursue what he loves just the way she has always done herself.

Photo courtesy of Laura Kraut

Mary Elizabeth manages and runs everything, caring for all the details, and riding the horses. Since the two grew up riding with the same trainers, they ride very similarly so Laura trusts her completely. Her family has allowed Laura to do what she loves, and what she is best at: competing at the top, while still maintaining a family life.

Laura summers in England at Nick Skelton’s Ardencote farm, and returns to her home in Wellington for shows and family the rest of the year. She’s been with Nick for 15 years now. The farm is “beautiful, right on the edge of the Cotswolds down a one-lane road, up on a hill with gorgeous views. It’s not fancy, but it’s immaculately kept, you could eat off of the floor.” Laura enjoys living in England and finds it easy to move back and forth between there and the states.

As two of the best riders in the world, there were many times when she and Nick competed against one another. Laura says, “It was easy, he’s competitive as anyone but he knew when he was winning or not and he was fine.” When he beat her, Laura “just figured that that was a given. If I was second to him that was nothing to be ashamed of.”

Nick has retired from competing and is now Laura’s greatest supporter.

Just World

As an ambassador for Just World International, Laura understands that helping children have better lives is incredibly important. She’s known founder Jessica Newman “forever.” She attended the gala opening, and “really liked what she was doing.” Laura was inspired, realizing “what a responsibility Jessica had taken on.” While it can be hard to find time to do things that are charitable, Just World “is a way to help people that fits in with what we do.” 

Bobby started volunteering with Just World when he was young and Laura was impressed with what it did for him. She felt it was good for Bobby to see what she was doing, and to see another side of things, especially coming from “our world where things are pretty nice. Giving back,” she feels, “will always be a part of him.”

Laura feels that she gets the best out of horses by giving them the time they need, and working harder or longer with them, to get them to where she thinks they can go, because of her absolute love for them. She doesn’t just love to ride, she “loves spending time with the horses.” Although sometimes she’s been proven wrong, in most cases her patience and love allow her to let them shine. 

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

When Laura first sat on a horse as a little girl, that was it. “It was like breathing.” She immediately knew it would be a lifelong passion. With an abundance of talent, hours of hard work, and a good sprinkling of luck, she has built her life around horses.

She loves every minute of it.

Click here for Part I.


About the Author: Ann Jamieson wanted to be a horse show judge since she was a child, and has now held her USEF “”r”” judge’s cards for over 30 years. She writes about both horses, and travel, (and particularly loves combining the two). Ann is the author of the “”For the Love of the Horse”” series, four volumes of amazing true stories about horses, and the proud mom of her Secretariat grandson, Fred Astaire (Tucker).
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