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Piper speaks with Peter Wylde about his illustrious career, the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event and the MZ Farms/USHJA’s Emerging Athletes Program (EAP). Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!
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- Host: Piper Klemm of The Plaid Horse Magazine
- Guest: Peter Wylde is an Olympic gold medal show jumping rider who grew up in Massachusetts. Peter won the prestigious ASPCA Maclay Finals and the IHSA Cacchione Cup before turning his focus to show jumping. Peter won both individual and team silver medals at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, the individual bronze medal at the 2002 World Equestrian Games and a team gold medal at the 2004 Olympics among many other accomplishments. Peter has also trained riders at both the Olympics and World Championships in both Show Jumping and Eventing. Peter is actively involved in the MZ Farms/USHJA’s Emerging Athletes Program as its head clinician at their national finals.
- Photo Credit: Tracy Emanuel
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This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.
Piper Klemm [00:00:32] This is the Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine. And coming up on today, episode 332, I talk with U.S. Olympic gold medalist Peter Wylde about his illustrious career, the Land Rover Kentucky three day event and the MZ Farms USHJA Emerging Athletes Program. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services. Before we jump in with Peter Wylde, he talks a lot about friends and and people and doesn’t always use last names. We’ll do our best to get everyone in the show notes and for sure, a couple I know, he refers to Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum as Meredith. He talks about John and Beezie Madden. He talks about the WEG, the World Equestrian Games in Jerez, and that’s in Spain in 2002. He talks about Ludger Beerbaum and then he talks about the tennis player, Martina Navratilova. Hopefully that will- that’s some context clues and anything else we’ll try to put the show notes or or Google. But we don’t want anyone to feel lost through there in the conversation. We talk a lot about the MZ farms USHJA Emerging Athletes program. That is one of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association’s educational programs, and they do regional clinics all summer, and then they do a finals in the fall, usually around November. So if you want more information on that, go to USHJA.org and search the MZ Farms USHJA Emerging Athletes Program.
Piper Klemm [00:04:07] Peter Wylde is an Olympic gold medal showjumping rider who grew up in Massachusetts. Peter won the ASPCA Maclay finals and the IHSA Cacchione Cup before turning his focus to showjumping. Peter won both the individual and team silver medals at the 1989 Pan American Games in Winnipeg. The individual bronze medal at the 2002 World Equestrian Games and a team gold medal at the 2004 Olympics. Among many other accomplishments. Peter is also trained riders at both the Olympics and the World Championships in showjumping and eventing. Peter is actively involved in USHJA’s Emerging Athletes program as its head clinician for the National Finals. Welcome back to the plaiddcast, Peter.
Peter Wylde [00:04:48] Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Piper Klemm [00:04:50] I know we’ve talked a lot about various things on this podcast, but I kind of want to start with Land Rover, Kentucky last week. I know you’ve helped a lot of those riders and help so many eventors improve their showjumping. Can you talk to us a little bit about Land Rover specifically last weekend and what some of those riders have been have been doing to kind of collaborate across disciplines, which I think is so cool.
Peter Wylde [00:05:15] Sure. Well, it was a super exciting weekend for all of my riders. They had actually a great weekend, particularly for me. Liz Halliday-Sharp. She has a really spectacular new horse and she got it about a year ago. This was the horse’s, first five star. And she had a magnificent result. She was had a super dressage test and she had a few time faults cross-country. But that’s her first time doing a five star with that horse. So that’s totally understandable. And her showjumping was excellent. The horse jumped a beautiful, clear round and so she finished third. Tamie Smith from California was the winner. And that was just so exciting for Tamie, of course, and for U.S. eventing, because, you know, that horse is really a spectacular horse. And Tamie has been working really hard. And so she she pulled off a magnificent win, which was really exciting. And yeah, so I worked with quite a few riders there, Boyd Martin and Jenny Saville, now Jenny Brannigan and Ryan Woods. And so it was a a really fun it was a fun weekend. It’s an incredibly exciting weekend. The public there is amazing. There’s just so much support and just a really fantastic crowd for everything. I mean, even the vet inspection, there’s a huge crowd. But the dressage on Friday had a you know, the Rolex stadium had a ton of people. And then, of course, the you know, the showjumping at the very end was down to the very last ride. And it was absolutely silent when Tamie was jumping. So it was really exciting. It’s an it’s a really incredible event. It’s very, very exciting and also really exciting that now they have quite, quite a good Grand Prix on Saturday night Showjumping Grand Prix. So that’s sort of adds to the excitement of the weekend. They call it the best weekend of the year and it really is it’s an incredibly exciting weekend. But what I will say about the U.S. eventing, I mean, Erik Duvander, who was the chef d’equipe for four years and has continued to train, you know, a lot of these riders has he’s just done an incredible job with these the eventers and he’s the one that actually brought me into helping him. You know, he’s a former event rider himself from Sweden, now lives in New Zealand, and he brought me in three years ago. Yeah, I guess three years ago to help the Eventers and work with together with him. And he’s been in charge of Tamie and Liz and Boyd, and Ariel Grald, I mean, all of these riders are going to, you know, were at the Olympics or the WEG, and he’s just done a master job at working with these people and and sort of managing everything that they do. And the results are showing, you know, it’s it’s he’s incredible, incredible guy. So I feel very lucky to get to work together with all of these talented people and give the knowledge that I have with, you know, in showjumping and just blended into what they’re doing with their with their horses. It it seems to be working really well. Everybody seems to be very positive about the results and the way that we’re going. So I’m quite happy about that.
Piper Klemm [00:08:58] It’s so interesting that like, we silo off the disciplines and we kind of all act like we have nothing in common in a weird way. But when you look at everything, like everybody’s. You know, they might have different buttons and they might have different desires, but like kind of in all breeds and all disciplines, we’re all kind of searching for that, rideability and responsiveness and, you know, so what kind of what is the same and what’s different about that, about training these riders? Clearly, you’ve, you know, trained showjumping riders for for decades and decades. And so kind of what what do they bring to the table and and what’s, you know, maybe a little a little more difficult working with them.
Peter Wylde [00:09:37] What’s what’s really cool is the similarities, actually. And I’m really glad you brought that point out because, you know, I’ve worked in a lot of different you know, I’ve done Hunters and equitation and Show jumpers and now to get involved because I’m sort of I don’t teach them in dressage, but I watch their dressage and it so much of it relates to the ride ability in showjumping and what we do to train our showjumping horses it’s very similar to what we’re doing with event horses, except for the fact that event horses usually have just run a very long, very fast cross-country course. So everything that we’re doing in showjumping is almost like training equitation for show jumpers. In other words, we have to sort of put the horse back in the box, regain control, regain sort of ride ability and the politeness of the horse and the suppleness of the horse. After it’s done a really fast round, we have to sort of collect everything back together and slow everything back down again and try to translate the power to up versus forward. And you integrate, you know, sort of integrate the dressage aspect and it integrates the showjumping aspect and it really is sort of it it’s so similar in what we’re doing. And yet, you know, of course everybody thinks it’s a very different sport. But as the sport of eventing evolves, the dressage test and the showjumping test has become more and more important. And the sort of endurance test of the old days where they used to have roads and tracks and the steeplechase part of eventing, which they don’t anymore. It’s it’s much more sophisticated. And then with the cross-country courses now, instead of them being only sort of big, solid, natural, you know, beefy jumps, you have a lot of these what they call arrowheads and narrow fences and a lot of what they term as combinations. But we would term as a sort of a sophisticated line where you jump and of course the ground is not flat and even you have undulating hills and ditches and everything. But we do they we do lines in eventing where you can do a outside bending five to an inside direct four. And you walk these lines, you plan the track and and it’s almost like the equitation final’s doing at a very high rate of speed over solid natural jumps with undulating ground. Like that’s the really interesting part. Like you can do five strides up a hill to a log at the top of the hill, and then six strides down a hill to an arrowhead. You know, all of these different things can be on a curve, left curve, right. And even though you can do it any way and just get over the jumps, the art is if you can do it in fewer strides where you interrupt the horse, less, the smoother you can do it, the faster actually you are and the less you take away from your horse. So in other words, if you can slip through a line and a five and a four smoothly, as opposed to chopping in six and chopping in five, it’s so much actually nicer and easier for the horse. And it it makes the effort that the horse puts out much less. And that’s where the really top event riders can just breeze around a cross-country course with with little resistance and little effort and and a much easier experience for the horse. And then the horse ends up feeling a lot fresher at the end of the course. So there’s a real art to really top level event, you know, cross-country riding that you really learn to appreciate when you watch the really, really talented riders do their courses. It’s interesting. It’s very interesting and very similar. You know, it relates like when when you walk lines, it relates to the lines that we walk at the equitation finals indoors. It’s it’s so similar.
Piper Klemm [00:14:05] So I’m glad you said that, too, because I you know, I just watched World Cup finals in Omaha and I was sitting in the stands and I kind of had this like same revelation because you look at the questions that are being asked at World Cup finals and then at indoors and it was like the jumps are a lot bigger, but it’s very equatation finals like and it’s it’s very like for lack of a better term like basic like it’s it’s such a at such a high level but all the questions are forward back you know extend, collect, left right.
Peter Wylde [00:14:39] Yeah you’re absolutely right And that’s that’s. You know what what high level, particularly indoor showjumping is. What’s interesting about it, though, is, is that the best riders in the world make it look like an act with equiatation round. But what we don’t realize, or most people don’t realize, is how difficult it is actually to make it look like it’s easy. And that’s where the real skill and art form and sophistication of the training comes in. So in other words, people, you know, you can watch around, which is really rough. And I don’t want to say violent, but, you know, there’s a lot of pulling and jerking and pushing and Yahoo! And this sort of stage coach thrashing around, of course. But then you watch the really talented riders, you know, the best riders in the world, you know, pick your favorite. And it’s just artfully and skillfully done. And someone said to me once, and I love this expression is that I like riding that you don’t see, which means that there has been so much sophisticated training done that the conversation between the horse and the rider is almost invisible, and yet it’s still happening. You know, you’re still lengthening for five strides and then collecting for four strides afterwards. And it’s but it’s done so subtly that allows that. It allows the horse to jump clean and as effortlessly as possible. And when when a rider is really skillful and really connected with the horse, it’s seamless. You know, it’s it looks effortless. It looks simple, like an equatation round. And that’s it goes for the same thing when you watch, you know, the Maclay finals in Kentucky. The good ones make it look so easy. And then you watch less experienced riders who really struggle on exactly the same course. And that’s just, you know, that’s that’s what is the art of great riding is, you know, when you when you think of a Beezie Madden or Mclain, you know, when they go around a course and it just looks like so simple and so clean and sophisticated, that’s because they’re incredibly skillful, riding, incredibly talented horses that are beautifully trained. And that’s that’s what, you know, it applies to. I even went when I’ve recently become obsessed with watching Charlotte Fry and Glamordale and their rounds, like the rounds that they did at the at the World Championships in Denmark this past summer. And I mean, the horses, it’s incredible to watch that. But you watch her riding and she’s absolutely still and this horse is doing all of these things and she’s not moving like it’s just effortless, her ride. And that just is an a testament to her incredibly. Skillful training, her riding the horse, the combination all together. It’s just it’s just it’s art work and whatever it is that’s happening, you know, whether it’s a top hunter, you know, or a top equitation round or a top showjumping round or a top event round the the the best rounds, the most sophisticated rounds, it’s it’s effortless. And so that’s one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about working with these eventers is, is you know, sort of seeing and appreciating really, really high level, high skilled riding. It’s very exciting to watch Michael Young, for example, when he rides the cross-country round, it’s it’s it’s beautiful to watch. It’s artwork.
Piper Klemm [00:18:42] When it comes back to your initial point also that you said about Liz Halliday-Sharp, you said this is a relatively new horse for her having it for a year. I mean, to kind of put things into context also on like building those partnerships on trust and relationships and in the kind of now, now, now culture, it’s, you know, all of the partnerships that the World Cup, you know, human horse relationships, I mean, it’s just such a reminder at this level that that that takes decades to build.
Peter Wylde [00:19:11] Absolutely. And you know, the I spoke about Liz with this horse. It’s new to her. And so we actually were very okay with having some time. You know, it’s very hard to make the time in a five star cross-country course. You really have to be on at every moment all the way through. And so for her to have some time faults, we were actually really okay with that. Like like the fact that she actually had a beautiful round but just wasn’t able to, nor would we actually want her to go at that, you know, that take that much chance or risk at this stage of the horse’s development. Because actually what we’re really looking forward is the Olympics next year. And so getting this horse ready, you know, to be able to do the Olympics next year, that’s sort of the the goal and we’re right on track with that. So. And Boyd Boyd Martin with a little bit in the same situation with his mare Contessa. You know he had also a beautiful cross-country round and had some time faults because this was her first time doing the Five Star. And he really wanted to have a clean, solid round. What was exciting was, is the mare got better and better as the round. She started a little fragile in the beginning and then just it just got smoother and smoother and smoother. And by the end, he actually could even go a little faster than than he was able to in the beginning. So it’s it’s a training process, even though it’s a five star, you know, they they it’s part of educating these horses on how to do that. It was really interesting. Tamie on the other hand, you know, her horse, Mai Baum is she’s absolutely together with that horse. They know each other. They’ve been together for many years. And so she was able to really, really go and she jumped within the time cross country and edge. But she because she was able to I mean not many people made the time in cross country. And that’s one of the reasons why she won. She had a fabulous dressage test and then a absolutely perfect showjumping round. So she really you know, she was deservedly the winner this weekend.
Piper Klemm [00:21:26] So U.S. eventing has kind of gone through a little bit of a lull. And we haven’t actually had a U.S. team member when Landrover in many years at this point. So can you talk about kind of the impact for for Team USA on on Tamie’s big win and and Liz Halliday-Sharp being so highly placed.
Peter Wylde [00:21:48] So I feel strongly that, you know, I’m pretty new to U.S. eventing. But Erik DuVander was hired by USEF to be the chef d’equipe I guess it was probably six years ago. And in the time that I’ve been there and from hearing from from, you know, the people that I work with, Erik has done an incredible job to sort of raise the bar, raise the standards, raise the intensity towards Americans wanting to do well. And what’s nice is, is that these riders, they’re not working against each other, but they’re working with each other. And that’s in large part due to Erik sort of, you know, his methodology, methodology and his enthusiasm for doing well. And, you know, he’s worked with Tamie extensively. And, you know, I will say I was not part of Tamie’s results at Lexington. This was all about Erik, and she works with Scott Keach in showjumping. So I give, you know, my hats off to them for the incredible job that they did. But I will say that, you know, Erik has really done an incredible job getting everybody to a higher level. And you can see it you can see it in our results, you know, with at the World championships, we got a silver. We actually could have gotten the gold. But, you know, we were very close to that. And we’re now starting to have these higher level, you know, Major. Championship results that has eluded us for a while and it’s very exciting. And the riders have all gotten there. They’re better mounted, they have better horses, they’re intensely training, they’re working in dressage, they’re with top dressage trainers, they’re working with showjumping people like myself and Scott Keach. And you can see it. And then, of course, Erik is sort of the mastermind behind all of it. And it’s really it’s an incredible result and we’re all very excited about it.
Piper Klemm [00:25:59] And we’re back with U.S. team member Peter Wylde. So let’s switch gears and talk about education and bringing up the next generation. You’ve always been very involved in the Emerging athletes program. That’s actually where I met you long time ago. And I remember just watching you teach for the first time all of those students. And it was so incredible. And, you know, I think I have this discussion with a lot of people. I do think riding well and teaching are two totally different things. And obviously you’re extremely gifted. You’ve worked extremely hard. And for you to be such an empathetic teacher to riders who, like, maybe don’t have your talent or, you know, like it’s been interesting to me. Is that something you like developed or like what do you think made you connect to so many riders? And I’ve watched you teach so much over the years and you really seem to connect with so many people.
Peter Wylde [00:26:55] First of all, first talking about the emerging athletes program. So I actually was the first clinician the first year that they’ve had it, and I’ve done every year except for two. The one year that I missed the EAP was because I went to help Kelli Cruciotti at the World Cup qualifier in Toronto. It coincides Toronto, the Royal Winter Fair coincides with the EAP final every year. It’s the same time and I really felt obliged to help Kelli that year. And so I missed I missed that EAP final. But I quickly returned to the schedule the next year and then the other year we actually didn’t have it because of COVID, so I only actually missed teaching one. I’ve done all the other national finals. And I must say for me, although I did just talk about Land Rover, Kentucky three day event, you know, people say it’s the best weekend of the year. I actually absolutely love the emerging athletes program national final. It causes me a lot of anxiety leading up to it because I’m always nervous about being on stage with those kids. But at the end of each weekend, I go away liking the program more. It is first and foremost an educational program that’s part of the USHJA They feel strongly that they need to have educational programs and it covers a lot of different kids during the week, during the year with their regional clinics. And then we take the 16 best kids from the regional clinics to the national final. And it again, even though it’s the national final, it’s also an educational program where I try to give to these kids as much as I can in a very short period of time and educate them with how to ride, but also how to train horses because they get on on a school horse or a borrowed horse that’s been loaned for the weekend. And a lot of these horses are some are wonderful, but some are not so easy. And we try to work together, me and each rider to improving the horse. That’s part of the sort of the goal of the weekend is to to figure out how to work with the horse and bond with the horse in a very short period of time and get it better so that on the Sunday they can actually do what we call a mini Nations cup. And it’s a great experience to sort of help kids appreciate and learn, you know, how to work with a horse and how to improve a horse. And I think the kids love it. They seem to and it’s a fantastic experience. And then the second part of it is, is it’s a competition. And we try to pick what we feel are the first and second place rider of the of the weekend. And we like to say that we like to open kids, we open eyes and we open doors in that we educate, but we also try to give these kids help in their careers as professionals, whether they become trainers or riders or even top riders that hopefully will go on to represent the United States. I mean, that was the original idea behind the emerging athletes program at the beginning, was was to identify and try to help really talented kids that will one day represent the United States in the international showjumping competition. And we fortunately, we’ve been blessed to have a number of really talented kids that have gone through the program and are doing great things. And that’s very exciting for all of us that are, you know, sort of run the program because we feel like we we do a number of different things to help all different kinds of kids. And so it’s a it’s an incredible program. I feel very lucky to have been asked in the beginning to be a part of it. And I look forward to continuing to be a part of it. I just feel like it’s a it’s very rewarding and I really like giving back to, you know, that I’ve been a part of this sport for almost 50 years and now I feel like I can, you know, share my knowledge as much as I can. And as far as the teaching, the teaching is concerned, I think that one thing that I find that is helpful for me is I try to talk to the kids as as intelligently as I can and explain it as intelligently as I can, and understanding that sometimes it seems like maybe you know, that you don’t want to say that that somebody is not trying, but that they’re not able to. And my job is to help them to the best of their ability. And and so whenever I’m teaching somebody, I feel like I have my job is to help them with their skill set, work with the horse that they’re riding with that horse’s skill set, and try to bring out the best of both of them. That’s sort of my philosophy about it, and it rests on me to make that work almost more than it rests on the kid, because I’m the I’m the one with the experience here. So I always feel like, you know, we’re blessed with the kids that the VIP program, they all are so enthusiastic and so excited and hungry and trying so hard that it it makes it actually quite easy to work with them because they’re very eager and we usually have quite a good time. So I fully enjoy that program. I’m really happy to be a part of it.
Piper Klemm [00:33:18] Can you also speak to some of the the horse management and kind of how that aspect of the program works? And that’s both at the regionals and the nationals? I think this is a really cool part of the program because as we we seem to get moving more and more away from horsemanship as as people want want results now, even if they have limited time at the barn and they’re putting pressure on the trainer for results. I mean, it makes sense that the trainers prioritize saddle time. But the long term in the sport, if you want success, you know you need to have it all.
Peter Wylde [00:33:48] Well, that’s that’s absolutely true. And, you know. I come from the background of when I was a kid, you know, even starting at seven and eight years old, I took care of my pony myself. You know, I said it and cleaned it, stall and put it in the paddock and bandaged it and braided it and put it on the horse trailer and begged my parents to take me to a horse show. So I was a real hands on kid from the beginning. And what that taught me and what I realized is, is that in order to be a a top horseman, you really have to understand horses and know how they think and have knowledge as to their health, their welfare, their well-being, their soundness, their fitness. I mean, it it. Either you’re going to be a rider that rides for someone who does all of that for you. Or if you’re going to be a professional yourself, you need to have that kind of knowledge and experience. And we all, all of us at the EAP, we all know or shall we say, believe that good horsemanship is what makes a good rider. And so what I love about the EAP is we combine not only the kids that come to the regional clinics, learn about how to take care of the horse, what’s important about horsemanship and the fitness and the feeding and the care, because there’s so much behind just riding well, in order to have a good result, a good sort of product, if you will. It takes all aspects of of horse management to make a top result. And so we have that, you know, for all the kids at the regional clinic and then at the national finals, in addition to the 16 kids that are also learning horsemanship, we invite five kids that come as stable managers. And the one of the wonderful things about. About the EAP is Colleen and Nancy are stable manager coaches. They’re just genius horse people and Anne Thornbury when she was there before that. You know these are really experienced top level international horse managers that know how to take care of horses at the highest level. And so. Their knowledge is just, you know, it’s so valuable for these kids to be able to spend time with these people and learn. And even though it’s a short period of time, again, it’s sort of opening their eyes to the whole concept of taking top, top, top care for the horse. And and, again, you know, I go back to saying what I said before, you know, either you hot, you know, you can afford to hire a team of people to do it for you. Most people can’t. And so we want to encourage those who who aren’t in that situation and even those who are how to do it themselves. And, you know, that’s another thing that we sort of you know, when I’m speaking about the finances behind riding, you know, we all understand that it’s very, very, very expensive. But there are plenty of opportunities for kids who are. Hardworking, sharp, hungry, certainly talented riding, you know, riding You know, being a talented rider is very important. But there are plenty of opportunities in the horse world, especially nowadays for people who really, really, really are hungry and really want to make it. And that’s another reason why we feel that the horsemanship aspect of our emerging athletes program is so important is the way if you can’t afford this on your own, then you need to be a really good, really smart horse person yourself. And so we feel very strongly that we want to help educate these kids in that department, which will will help them. You know, it helps them get somewhere. And so that’s part of the opening doors, part that we like to do for these talented, young, hungry kids, is to sort of give them a little leg up and show them how to do it and tell them to learn all aspects of the horse industry, not just sitting on the back of a horse.
Piper Klemm [00:38:51] And so many of these kids come to you and come to all the clinicians for four years for advice and you help them with opportunities and make connections for them. I mean, it’s really like it’s not just those couple days like it. You really become a mentor to so many of these kids.
Peter Wylde [00:39:10] Well, we all do. And I you know, I’ve done as much as I can, including, you know, kids I’ve had go to tops Stables in Europe. Stephen Farren went to Hank Noren stable. We’ve had people go to Yost East Lansing stable in Belgium, the Philip Hartz, they’ve worked with Laura Kraut, they’ve worked with Val Renahand. Of course, Andre Dignelli had both Jacob Pope and Skyler Wireman. And you know, those people obviously are very well known and have done incredible things and will continue to be. It’s so exciting to see Jacob now who’s really hitting it in the international showjumping world. And Carly Anthony, of course, you know, we just have a long list of EAP graduates, Hayley Barnhill, that are that are top, you know, really successful riders in the industry. And a lot because of the exposure, the help and the exposure that we have, you know, given to these kids. I can’t stress enough how, you know, any kid that that you know. Feels like they’re good and talented and hungry, that this isn’t a incredible way to get, you know, doors open for them by going through that, going through our program, getting the education and then getting the exposure to top level trainers. Even John and Beezie have had riders from our program that have gone to work for them. So it’s really a successful program in so many different ways. And we really try to I continually follow up with with all of the, you know, not all of them, but many, many, many graduates. Text me and call me and ask for advice. And and I love it. I love I love helping them. It’s very fun, very rewarding.
Piper Klemm [00:41:17] Let’s talk a little bit about Europe. You moved to Europe kind of before it was cool. Is that is that a fair statement?
Peter Wylde [00:41:24] Oh. Well. Well, Meredith actually moved to Europe before I did, but I had when I went to college, I did a semester in France, and after that semester I stayed in Europe and I rode in Switzerland that Gerhart Eder stable. And it just sort of it was like a. I sort of said to myself, This is where I want to be. And I started my business and had a had a a very good early business and then got a job opportunity and working in Switzerland again for another year and a half, then had another job opportunity back in America, working in Millbrook, New York, actually where I live now for Chestnut Ridge Farm and Dan Lufkin. And that actually really changed my my career working for Dan. But when that job came to an end, Dan said to me, What do you want to do? And I said, You know, I really want to go back to Europe. And so I went back to Europe thinking that I was actually only going to stay there for like a year, a year and a half. And then this incredible horse Fein Cera fell into my lap and all of a sudden I was jumping clear in for the World Cup final in the final round and got a group of people to buy her for me. And then I made the team for the WEG in Jerez, that was 2002 and I, I got to the final four and I got a bronze medal that was probably the proudest moment of my life, or as far as showjumping is concerned, was was my my result there. It was very exciting. And having done that with that horse and and a lot of doors opened for me while I was in Europe. And so I ended up staying and I ended up living there for 12 years, which I sort of. Couldn’t believe in the beginning, but things went so well for me that I absolutely didn’t want to come home. And it was fantastic. And it changed my life. You know, it made me a better rider. I learned a lot. You know, one thing that I think people don’t do anywhere, I’m not just saying in the U.S., but anywhere is. When I was in Europe, I was sort of thrown into shows and practice areas of the best riders in the world. I rode very often with Lugar, Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning was Young actually at the time, but Rodrigo and Otto Becker and Yost Lansing and to to mix it up with them on a regular basis, meaning that I was flatting my horse in the same warm up areas that they were and watching them and, and I would just every spare moment that I could, I watched them. And that’s something that I try to tell anybody that I work with, even my eventers, is is pick, you know, pick the best riders that you’re exposed to and watch watch them flat their horses, watch them warm up in the warm up area. Pay attention to these things. It’s free. You don’t have to pay for it. You can just go and sit at the side of the ring and watch the best riders in the world and absorb for them and try to emulate them. You know, when I was when I was 18, Joe Fargas was my total idol and I would watch him and Conrad Holm felt actually both of them, and I would watch them ride. And in my mind I said, okay, I want to ride like that. And, you know, that’s, that’s something that, that anybody can do, no matter who you are. And I say that to a lot of my students is pick, pick your favorite rider, that that is the same size or body shape that you are. So in other words, you know, like a person that’s quite short should you know, I tell them watch Meredith Michaels Beerbaum ride or watch Marcus Ehning ride somebody that’s quite tall nowadays. I say watch Daniel Duesser ride, depending on on on what your style is or watch what you’re with. But pick a top rider and and study them. Watch them, watch their videos. It’s so easy to do that and it’s free. And you can learn so much from just watching and not just watching their rounds in the ring, but watching their warmup. Watch what they do. Watch what Watch how they flat their horses. One thing that was really, really interesting to me that I learned and this this is sort of an example that I guess I felt comfortable enough to do this. But Ludger had this horse called Gold Fever, which he rode. This was the early 2000s, and he was incredibly successful with gold fever. But gold fever was very, very, very difficult. And many times after he jumped the horse in the show ring, he’d finish around or finish a jump off. Even even if he won the jump off and he’d be out flatting his horse after the round. And not just like on a loose rein trotting, but like counter cantering and working the horse. And one day I got the nerve up and I was walking my horse out and he was walking his horse out. And I walked up to him and I said, Hi, can I ask you a question? And he said, Sure. And I said, Why do you flat after the round? And he said to me that for horses that are difficult on the flat, it’s absolutely the best time to get farther with them and better with them on the flat because they’ve just done a big endorphin release. They’re relaxed because the adrenalin has gone out of them and they’re usually much softer and more amenable to working. And you can get a horse really, really, really good, you know, really supple and soft on the flat in that moment. And it takes you to a higher place the next time you ride. And I’m telling this story for two reasons. One, because it’s really interesting and it’s really true. But two, because I just learned something by just observing, you know, I watch and then I had the nerve to ask, quote unquote, Ludger Beerbaum, who was the bit intimidating for me at the time. But but I just felt like I really wanted to learn that. And so I’m using that as an example of of how to, you know, sort of learn things and get an education. Oftentimes, if you’re polite and walk up to someone and ask them, they’re happy to tell you. So that’s why I shared that story.
Piper Klemm [00:48:40] But that’s incredible. And it’s like it’s so obvious in hindsight, but it’s it’s not something many people would have thought of.
Peter Wylde [00:48:48] No. And I tell a lot of a lot of my you know, even my top eventers, you know, I give them that example and they’re like, wow. I mean, it makes total sense. And then you try it and it actually it’s it’s fantastic. I mean, it’s really a wonderful, you know, especially horses that you’re going around the jump off and they’re arguing with you and they’re you know, you might win the jump off, but there are still a little bit or a little bit hard in them. You know what, difficult or hard in the mouth, you can really get a horse soft and loose in their back after they’ve done a big a big round, a big endorse endorphin release. And and then, you know, you do it’s sort of a nice lose trot cool down afterwards which, you know, I sort of always try to encourage people to do rather than finish a top round and then get off at the gate. You know, I like I like the horse to have sort of a loosening sort of a post high adrenalin moment, you know, a post ride cooldown that sort of chills their mind a little bit. It’s very effective.
Piper Klemm [00:49:54] So I would say every year I have probably 15 to 20 very earnest, ambitious young people tell me that the Olympics is their goal. We obviously have a very small Olympic team. It takes so much to peak and be selective and have other people have the faith in you. You know, it seems like a really challenging goal, like just to to make everything happen in so many avenues. But my question for you is like, what did the Olympics change or not change about your life? Because at some level, if you don’t love the process, like going to the Olympics doesn’t really change anything in your life. Is that like an unfair thing for me to say? I’m not really sure.
Peter Wylde [00:50:41] it’s actually absolutely not at all an unfair thing to say. I even as a young kid, you know, seven and eight years old, I thought about the Olympics, you know, like that was, you know, every kid’s dream is could you know, you went if you’re you know, you’re a young rider and you think, oh, I want to go to the Olympics and you hear the stories about the Olympic team and how exciting it is. And, you know, people who ride and wear the red coat with the color and, you know, it’s that’s a dream. It’s an absolute dream. Having said that, I think you’re very correct in saying that it is an incredibly hard goal to achieve. It takes a lifetime of work and there is some sense of of luck to it in that the the star, you know, the horse has to be in form. The rider has to be in form. You have to have the horse. It takes the money, it takes the management, you know, all of those things behind it. It’s it’s an incredibly difficult thing to achieve. And yet at the same time, one, a wonderful quote that Joe Fargis just told me once at one point when I was I think I was about 28 and feeling pretty down about not accomplishing I wasn’t getting where I wanted to get to and I wasn’t doing the things that I want to do. And he said, you know, Peter, looking back. For me, the the the most important thing to look at in your career is your body of work. And how do you feel about the body of work that you’ve done? It’s not ever any one moment, but it’s what you’ve done in your in the span of your career. And if the Olympics falls into that, great. But there’s so many other things in the sport that are so important that that that for him was, you know, of course, he’s a double Olympic gold medalist. But there are a lot of different things that Joe did in his career that are really commendable. And I actually can now look back and say that I feel very similar. I was I will say I was lucky that I had a fantastic horse in my life at the time when the Olympics came around. And I had a lot of Stick to it. You know, I wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I went to the Olympics. But it was a, you know, a dream that I never gave up on. And I continued to try as hard as I possibly could, making huge sacrifices in my life to, you know, focus and work towards that goal. Again the WEG Fein Cera winning best horse in the WEG. And for me you know at the end of the nations cup you know there were the speed round in the two rounds of the nations cup. So the three rounds that counted for the team score, I was in first place at the WEG and it it was an incredibly proud moment for me because basically my my score would have been the best score for any team at the way, you know, I was in first place. So that to me was actually the the proudest moment of my life was to be in first place at that point And for FEin Cera to be best horse in the final for that whole weekend was was that what I’m most proud of? But of course, getting to go to an Olympics riding for the U.S. in the Olympics winning. Eventually we won the gold medal. Actually, walking the opening ceremonies with Martina Navratilova was a huge honor and excitement for me. I couldn’t believe it. But as we were lining up to do the opening ceremonies and we were standing outside the stadium waiting to go in, all of a sudden I looked to my right and there next to me standing next to me was Martina Navratilova. And I was able to spend quite a long time just chatting with her about random things. It was really an incredible moment that I’ll never forget. So. The Olympics, I mean, they are a dream for anyone, any athlete. That’s the other thing that was really incredible is is is to spend time in the Olympic Village and to see all of these unbelievable athletes at the peak of their careers in the best shape they’ve probably ever been in their lives. And and to be a part of that was incredibly exciting and rewarding and something that, of course, I have with me for the rest of my life. It’s a proud moment.
Piper Klemm [00:55:52] And you have a couple exciting education projects coming up. Do you want to tell us about some of the riders you’re training and some of the things you’re looking forward to?
Peter Wylde [00:56:00] Absolutely. So I still have my one foot in the the door of the of the Hunter jumper world. I proudly am the owner of what I believe is to be quite a nice hunter. And I’ve been working with a young rider, young girl called Nora Peters who is the granddaughter of Fran and Joe Donnelly, who were my riding instructors when I was a junior. They were my trainers when I won the Maclay finals in 1982. And their granddaughter, who is the daughter of Annie Dudley, and Astor Peters, the granddaughter is called Nora Peters. And Nora shows my hunter for me, and I spend as much free time as I can working with Nora and my hunter, whose name is Graf and Nora has a wonderful equatation horse and Nora’s 14, and she had an amazing year last year. At 13, she won the USHJA East Coast hunt seat medal finals, which were held at the New England Equatation championship at 13. And she was second at the Hamill Cup in at the National Horse Show, the three foot three equitation finals on the weekend before the Maclay. So she had a big a big equitation weekend and I look forward to continue to working with her and my hunter, who she has competed eight times now in Junior Hunter, large junior Hunter, both three foot three and three foot six, and she’s been champion all eight times. So we’re very excited about that. And then the other young rider that I’m working with is 18 year old Skylar Wireman, who I met when she was 14 at the Emerging Athletes program. She was riding in the national final and I thought, Wow, this kid is really talented. And she finished second and her mom and Skylar came to me afterwards and said, You know, her mom’s a professional. And she said, We really liked how you worked with Skylar. We’d love for you to continue working with her if you could. And I did. And I invited her to come to Wellington to ride at my stable. And actually, she came to ride my Hunter Graf, who was a six year old at that time. And I gave her lessons for ten days and. We were kind of in the middle of COVID, you know, everything was on pretty much lockdown, but they were letting us show in Wellington. And so we went over to the show and I rode him the first day and she rode him the second day, and she actually won with him the second day. And it just convinced me that she was really, really talented. She was 15 at this time. And so I did the equitation finals with her that fall. They were in Tryon, and Andre Dignelli asked me about her and I said, I really think that she is special. And so I connected Andre and Shane, Skylar’s mom together, and Skylar spent two years working with Andre and had incredible results. As everybody probably knows, she had just some of the most impressive equitation rounds that we saw in the last two seasons and won a lot, lot of important competitions. And now Skylar is 18 and she’s a professional. And so I’ve sort of committed to Shane and Skylar that I will do as much as I can in between my Eventers and Nora. And I will try to come out to California as much as I can to spend time with Sklylar and work with her and her horses and help her develop her strength and transition into international showjumping. She’s already done very, very, very well trying to qualify for young riders for this summer. And also she’s done some three star Grand Prix and National Grand Prix and very successfully. So that’s really exciting. And I was asked by Noelle Floyd to do the Do an Equestrian masterclass. So actually this weekend Skylar and I are going to be filming a master class for Noelle Floyd, and that will come out. I’m not sure the summer, I guess, which we’re all very excited about, and it’s going to be a lot of things actually, that you and I, Piper, you and I have been talking about today, about skillful riding and training horses and the similarities of equitation and showjumping. And so hopefully it’s going to come out really well. I’m really looking forward to to that result and doing it together with Skylar. She’s a really, really, really talented, talented rider who also actually has Olympic dreams in her future. And she hopes to someday be able to represent the U.S. and ride the Olympics. So that’s very exciting and a very exciting person for me to get to work with. And she’s extremely hard working and does so much in the barn herself and and rides all day long.
Peter Wylde [01:01:52] But she, she she reminds me a lot of myself when I was a kid. You know, I spent every moment that I possibly could riding as many horses as I could and bandaging, braiding, driving the horse trailer, mucking stalls, doing everything. And Skylar is every bit that person and is an incredibly knowledgeable horsewoman knows how to do. Anything and everything about the care of horses. And and I believe that that’s what one of the reasons that makes her such a good rider is, is that she she she knows her horses inside and out. She knows everything about what they’re doing, their health, their welfare. She’s involved in it. And she’s also an exceptional talent. I mean, she’s incredible under pressure. She has incredible body control and incredible I feel. So she’s she’s a she’s a Tiger Woods in my opinion. She’s she’s a very, very, very gifted rider. And I really enjoy working with her because it’s it’s very exciting. It’s a lot of fun. And she’s like I said, she reminds me of myself when I was a kid. And so it’s it’s fun to help her out the best that I can. And her mom, you know, we I have a lot of respect for both of them. And they’re they’re hard working horse professionals that are trying to make it in a very difficult, very expensive world. And I’m doing everything that I can to help them in the sport.
Piper Klemm [01:06:00] You can subscribe to the print edition of the Plaid Horse magazine at theplaidhorse.com/subscribe. Please write and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it. And if you enjoy this episode, please share it with your friends, I will see you at the ring!
[01:07:13] Thank you for listening to the podcast. We’re going to listen to a selection right now of our new book that’s coming out. Good boy, Eddie. Good boy. Eddie is currently available on theplaidhorse.com or on Audible and Kindle on Amazon.
Rennie Dyball [01:07:30] Chapter one New Barn. Up. Flop, up, flop, up, flop. That’s it. You’re starting to get it up. Down, up, down, up, down. That’s how you post the trot, says the instructor. But try to sit more lightly on Eddie and not come crashing down like a sack of potatoes. Okay. I’m teaching my first lesson at New Barn, and it’s going pretty well.
Rennie Dyball [01:07:57] I am a school horse and it’s my job to teach people how to ride. The instructor, Melissa. She’s the person who teaches the lessons with me, is standing in the middle of the ring while I trot around her in a big circle. The way my rider flops down in my saddle doesn’t hurt. It’s just a little uncomfortable. But I can tell she’s new to riding, so it’s fine with me. We go around and around the ring. There are walls on every side to keep the wind out. Wooden beams criss the high ceiling, and I think I can see some bird’s nests tucked up in the corners. Before I came here to this new barn, I taught lots of riding lessons at a place much bigger than this one. I was one of about 15 horses back at the old barn. I had so many riders I eventually lost count. I really liked it back at Old Barn, and I’m not sure why I had to leave, especially because I thought I was good at my job. My new writer, Melissa, keeps saying Kennedy. So I suppose that’s her name was very nice to me in my style when we were getting ready for the lesson. Chatting the whole time. She smelled like soap and flowers. I don’t know exactly what she was talking about, but she had a lot to say, and I was happy to listen. You might be surprised to know that horses understand about 7 to 10 spoken words. I call them spoken words rather than English words because the people I know speak more than one language. I personally know nine words. But the really great thing is that I don’t need a whole lot of words to communicate with people because I can interpret so many emotions.
Rennie Dyball [01:09:39] I get body language, too, and I always know kindness when I feel it. Basically, I understand much more than people think. The specifics vary from horse to horse, but I personally understand all the following words when they are said aloud by people. Walk. Trot. Canter. Whoa! Halt! Carrot. Good boy. Eddie. When you take the words that Melissa just said to Kennedy, for example, all I really got out of that was trust. So I kept trotting. Melissa’s voice also sounded kind and encouraging, which are good signs that I should continue what I’m doing, that I’m helping my writer learn. I also know the meaning of two sounds that aren’t technically words. I know that the clucking sound when people suck down tight on their tongue and then release it means to move forward. If I’m already moving forward, then the clock means to go faster. I’ve come to learn that people can mean more than one thing based on a single sound. It gets a little confusing. I also know the sound of someone shaking my grain in a feed bucket, which means it’s time to come into the barn to eat. All of us know that sound even from three paddocks away. I feel pressure as my rider pulls on the reins, drawing the metal bit back into the corners of my mouth. I slow from a trot to a walk before I even hear Melissa say, Whoa. Good boy, Eddie, she says with a laugh. Now that I understood in its entirety. I love a good boy, Eddie. We walk a lap around the ring before Kennedy steers me to the center. Melissa pats my head. Gallagher One of the horses who gets turned out in the paddock with me is also in the ring now.
Rennie Dyball [01:11:34] His lesson is about to start. We give each other a look like a changing of the guard. It’s his turn now to take care of his rider. I love what I do, but I’m still a bit relieved when the lesson is done. It’s hard work to keep a rider safe. Also, the end of the lesson means I get a nice brushing. As I walk past Gallagher. I wish him good luck. Horses don’t communicate out loud the way people do, but I can hear what other horses are telling me and they can hear what I tell them, especially once we get to know each other. People don’t pick up on this, of course. If they did, we’d all understand each other with a whole lot less fuss. Horses do speak to each other from time to time, but mostly it’s just listening and feeling. If you ask me, I think people could probably benefit from less talking and more feeling. Horses use our bodies to to show what we are thinking. People can usually decipher our body language if they’re paying attention. Pinned ears means were angry and ears perked forward. Mean we’re concentrating on something. One or both ears cocked gently back means we’re listening. It all seems much easier than the way people communicate. Kennedy takes her feet out of the stirrups and swings one leg over the back of my saddle. Melissa is taking her through the steps of dismounting. Next, Kennedy slides down my left side, gripping the saddle with both hands as she allows her body to slink down to the ground. When her feet hit the dirt, she stumbles back a few steps as she regains her balance. I may not be very big for a horse, but it’s a long way down when you’re not very big for a person.
Rennie Dyball [01:13:25] Kennedy gives me a big pat on my neck. It was a good first lesson. Melissa leads me out of the ring and we walk outside on the way back to my stall. An evening breeze rustles the leaves on the trees all around us. I watch as a few of them float lazily to the ground. I think I’m going to like this place.