Violet Tatum: Fast Track to the Top

Tatum and Valedictorian (a.k.a. Brooks). Photo © Sara Shier Photography

BY TYLER BUI

Top-ranked junior rider Violet Tatum has amassed an impressive collection of championships and victories in the five years she’s been riding. And she’s only 13 years old. 

Taking after her mother Jenny, Tatum started lessons at age seven in the same riding arena where her mom rode as a young girl.

Tatum began with a pony named Annie, who she still owns, and started showing in 2′ divisions at local shows. Next, she got a retired jumper named Ed. “He carried me around my first jumper class at .65 m and we went up to .85 m,” she tells The Plaid Horse. Early horse showing was well-rounded for Tatum, who, in addition to the jumpers, also showed in the 2’6 hunter and equitation divisions.

Her riding career shifted in 2020, as she moved up from local shows to winning classes at the top A-rated horse shows on the west coast.

The pandemic also prompted a change in barns—riding was restricted at Tatum’s first barn, so she moved to Brookway Stables with Archie Cox in April 2020. 

The move “quickly turned into a permanent situation,” says Tatum. “When I first moved to Brookway Stables, the highest I had ever shown was 2’6, and the highest I had ever jumped was 2’9. I got a horse named Fred, who I still have, and the first show I did with him I competed in the 3’3 Junior Hunters. By my fifth lesson on Fred, I was already doing 3’6 courses.”

A quick study, Tatum was eager to spend every moment of her free time at the barn or on the road traveling to horse shows. Today, she still rides with Cox, as well as John Bragg of Bridgeport Farms, competing on several different mounts, and now mainly focusing on the hunters while searching for an equitation horse. 

Her two horses, Valedictorian (‘Brooks’) and Fiorucci (‘Ru’), are stabled with Cox. When she got Valedictorian in 2021, he was just seven years old, and had only done the 3’0″ with a professional. At 12 years old herself, Tatum did her first 3’6″ class with him, and the pair were champion in their first show together. 

That was only the beginning of their success. Tatum and Brooks won the 2021 Horse of the Year National Champion in the Small Junior Hunters 15 & Under. “I was really proud of him. It’s probably my biggest accomplishment so far,” she says. “Every time we go around a course, I always know that he is trying 100 percent of the time. He’s really sweet and willing, and he jumps his heart out over every jump.”

Showing Fiorucci (‘Ru’) at the Desert International Horse Park. Photo © Sara Shier Photography

Fiorucci ended up fifth nationally in the 3’6″ Junior Hunters. He took Tatum to her first Junior Hunter Finals, and they were champion in the combined 3’6″ Junior Hunters at the Las Vegas National in 2021. 

Tatum rides two other horses with Bragg at Bridgeport Farms. “One of the horses is named For Fun, or Rupert, and I’m really excited to bring him to the national shows this season,” says Tatum. “Since August 2021, I have also been showing a horse named Northstar in the Large Junior Hunters 15 & Under, who is owned by Colleen Harp. He’s a great horse, and we’re really excited to show him at Devon. I’m so grateful to Colleen for trusting me with him.” 

As an emerging catch rider, “I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities already, and I am so thankful for them.”

The seventh grader, who goes to school in Los Angeles, balances her academics and riding through practiced time management and communication with her teachers. 

“A typical day for me starts with school, and then I do study hall so I can get as much work done as possible so I have more time for riding,” she says. 

“I usually go ride my horses after school, and then if there is a show I leave on Thursday for the weekend. Riding has taught me the importance of hard work and dedication—I think it’s really important to always let your horse know that you love them so they’re willing to try their hardest, too. It’s also important to be coachable, to listen to your trainers and be open to any instruction to help improve your riding.” 

For the remainder of the season, her competition schedule includes Devon, Junior Hunter Finals, Capital Challenge, Pennsylvania National Horse Show, Washington International Horse Show, and The National Horse Show in Kentucky. Tatum notes that her goal is to stay consistent with her riding—and to be champion at one of the aforementioned shows.

Her parents, Jenny and Mike, wouldn’t be surprised if she achieves those goals. And more. “We are in awe of everything she achieves,” says Jenny. “I’m very proud of her and how much of herself is dedicated to the sport. It’s mind-boggling to see how much she has accomplished at such a young age and in such a short amount of time.”

“Learning is a part of this humbling sport, and I think the biggest life lesson out of this is that no one ride defines you. I hope Violet is always proud of herself.” 

Horse Power

Valedictorian 

  • • 15.3 ½ hh
  • • Bay, KWPN, Gelding
  • • Cassini Gold x Goldika XI

Fiorucci

  • • 15.3 ½ hh
  • • Chestnut, Hanoverian, Gelding
  • • First Edition x For Fame

For Fun

  • • Owned by Troy Christiansen
  • • 16.3 ¼ hh
  • • Bay, Hanoverian, Gelding
  • • For Edition x Revanche

Northstar

  • • Owned by Colleen Harp
  • • 16.3 7⁄8 hh
  • • Chestnut, Hanoverian, Gelding
  • • Carrico x Astrid

Fred The Horse

  • • 15.3 7⁄8 hh
  • • Bay, Belgian Warmblood
  • • Arko III x So Nice De La Brisse

Freeport: 

  • • 14.1 1/4h
  • • Dark Bay, Mare, Welsh Pony Cross
  • • Meadowbrook’s Special Edition x Cindy Lou Who

Show Highlights

2021 Horse of the Year: 
National Champion Small 15 & Under 3’6″ Junior Hunters – Valedictorian

Las Vegas Horse National: 
Champion 3’6″ Junior Hunters – Fiorucci

Desert International Horse Park: 

• Mid Circuit Champion Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under 3’6″ – For Fun
• Mid Circuit Reserve Champion Small Junior Hunter 15 & Under 3’6″ – Valedictorian

Week 1 & 2 Holiday Desert International Horse Park: 
Champion Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under 3’6″ – Northstar

USEF Junior Hunter National Championship: 
$1,000 Small Junior Hunter 17 & Under 3’6″ Classic Winner – Fiorucci

USEF Junior Hunter National Championship: 
Small Junior Hunter Overall 17 & Under 3’6″ – Fiorucci 

Ranch & Coast Classic: 
3’6″ Junior Hunter Grand Champion – Fiorucci


*This story was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!

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