Plaidcast 376: Mark Miness & Karen Lucian by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

118
Plaidcast Episode 376 Mark Miness Karen Lucian

LISTEN NOW

To listen to the Plaidcast, you can use the player above, Stitcher, Spotify, iTunes, Google Play Music, or your other favorite podcasting app!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is THIS-Logo-300x153.jpg


Piper speaks with Mark Miness and Karen Lucian who are amateur riders that support professionals in this industry as owners and collaborators. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!

GUESTS AND LINKS:

  • Host: Piper Klemm of The Plaid Horse Magazine
  • Guest: Mark Miness has been riding horses competitively since he was twelve years old. As a young rider, Mark trained under Leslie Howard and Molly Ashe, whom he credits for both his horsemanship and riding abilities. After a hiatus that lasted about fifteen years where Mark built a career in sustainable investing, he returned to riding both as an amateur rider and as an owner. Today, Mark is a Partner at Generation Investment Management, which is a mission driven investment firm focusing on investing in businesses and technologies that will help address some of the world’s most urgent sustainability challenges. When he has time, Mark rides in the amateur owner hunters and focuses on owning and developing young horses primarily in partnership with Tom de Bel and Rene Dittmer. 
  • Guest: Karen Lucian lives in Newport Beach, California and keeps her  hunters in Wellington, Florida and trains with Keri Kampsen and Lexy Reed. Karen is a financial advisor at Raymond James and her lifetime dream has been to ride quality show horses.
  • Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services, Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
  • Subscribe To: The Plaid Horse Magazine
  • Photo Credit: Al Cook Photo & Anne Gittins Photography
  • Sponsors: American Stalls, Purina Animal NutritionAmerica CryoWordley Martin Premium Equestrian Surfaces, BoneKare, Show Strides Book Series, With Purpose: The Balmoral Standard and Good Boy, Eddie

This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.

Piper Klemm: This is The Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine. And today on episode 376, I will be speaking with two owners in our sport, two amateur riders who are supporting professionals in this business as owners and collaborators.

First, I’ll be speaking with Mark Miness, who owns the exceptional Corsica mare, who you might have seen competing in the five stars this winter in Wellington. And then I talk with Karen Lucian, who owns several horses for Keri Kampsen. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services.

Piper Klemm: Mark Miness has been riding horses competitively since he was 12 years old. As a young rider, Mark trained under Leslie Howard and Molly Ashe, whom he credits for both his horsemanship and riding abilities.

After a hiatus that lasted about 15 years, where Mark built a career in sustainable investing, he returned to riding both as an amateur rider and as an owner. Today, Mark is a partner at Generation Investment Management, which is a mission-driven investment firm focusing on investing in businesses and technologies that will help address some of the world’s most urgent sustainability challenges. When he has time, Mark rides in the amateur owner hunters and focuses on owning and developing young horses, primarily in partnership with Tom de Bel and Rene Dittmer.

Welcome to The Plaidcast, Mark.

Mark Miness: Thank you. It’s great to be here, Piper.

Piper Klemm: Can you tell us a little bit about the very exciting horse you own right now?

Mark Miness: Well, you’re talking about Corsica, Corsica X. Yeah, she’s exceeded all of my wildest expectations as an owner. I bought her, I bought half of her when she was about five years old off of a video. I buy horses and work very closely with a guy named Tom de Bel in Belgium. He owns a sales business called Equestrix. And I told him that I was interested in buying a amateur jumper for myself, but I certainly couldn’t afford to buy something that was super made and proven already.

And I said, so if you ever come across a young one that you think could be interesting, would you just keep me in mind? And so he sent me a video of Corsica, again, probably as about a five-year-old, and said, I really like this one. She’s young and she’ll take some time, but this could be an interesting one.

And I immediately fell in love with her. And so I bought 50% of her and then Tom owned the other half of her. And we agreed to develop her together.

So we’ll see where it went. And she developed really well. COVID happened.

And during COVID she won the German seven-year-old championships, or I think it’s the Holsteiner Championships. 

Oh and I should say, and maybe just before that, I went over and I rode her and I did absolutely still love her, but it became very clear the moment I got on her that she was not gonna be, she wasn’t gonna be a horse for me who rides basically only at horse shows and doesn’t get to practice very much. She’s a very typey, talented mare.

And I just didn’t think that I was gonna be able to put her together in a way that would serve either her or me and do either of us justice. So it became very clear that the plan for her was gonna be that I was gonna be an owner rather than a rider of her. And so then she won the Holsteiner Championships as a seven-year-old, which was the goal for us.

And depending on how she did there, we decided whether or not we would bring her over to the US. And she won those and I bought the rest of her and then brought her over to the US to develop there. And long story short, we spent about a year, year and a half trying to find a right situation for her. 

And as I mentioned, she’s quite typey, very specific type kind of mare. And ultimately just decided that we couldn’t find a really good match for her in the US, either because certain riders, you know, just weren’t necessarily, we weren’t on their radar or in the ones that we did try, it just wasn’t a good match. So I ultimately sent her back to Europe where Tom connected me with Rene Dittmer, who’s her rider now.

And Rene took over the ride I want to say about a year and a half, almost two years ago, actually, started her slowly in the 135s, 140s, sort of moved up pretty, sort of consistently over the next year. And then they did their first meter 60, five star class about this time last year. And it’s all gone extremely smoothly and well under Rene, who’s, you know, anyone that knows Rene knows that he is an incredibly talented rider and, you know, is about six foot seven with very long legs and has just done an incredible job of connecting with the mayor and giving her the type of ride that she needs, including the type of confidence that she requires. 

“And then we made the decision last year around this time that our goal would be to bring her over to the US late in the summer and see how she did here. And so we brought her over right before the Hampton Classic. She did the Hampton Classic where she got out of quarantine the day of the jog.

So she was a little bit under prepared and we did fine there. We had a equipment malfunction on Sunday. And then, you know, after that, we just had just an incredible tour through the fall, mostly through the indoor season where we won the Welcome Grand Prix at Washington, we’re second in the World Cup qualifier at Washington, went on to Kentucky where she won the Welcome Grand Prix there, was, I believe, fourth in the World Cup qualifier at the National Horse Show in Kentucky.

We then went on to Toronto and showed at the Royal where she jumped two more clear rounds in the welcome class where she got a good prize and then was fifth in the World Cup qualifier there and then sort of rounded out the rest of our season by going down and doing a four star Grand Prix in Wellington, which she ended up winning as well. So needless to say, it was just an incredible fall for us. Rene was just spectacular with the mare. 

And then we’ve been based out of Wellington ever since where we had a pretty consistent winter season. She’s just shown to be an incredibly consistent mare. She does never make the same mistake twice.

She seems to be absolutely thriving in classes where there is an atmosphere and a crowd. She’s still got her temperamental ways about her and her spunk, but I think that’s a lot of what makes her special. And I just never imagined that I’d be the owner of what I believe to be one of the sports top horses today.

So I feel very, very lucky and feel very fortunate for the team that I have behind me working with her. 

Piper Klemm: A lot of people who bought a horse potentially for themselves, if it didn’t work out for them, they wouldn’t keep investing in the horse and the sport being part of the process. I think we have very few owners in the sport right now. So it’s interesting to me how this evolved, how involved you are and how much joy and participation you get from ownership

.

Mark Miness: Yeah, I mean, in many ways it actually suits me in the sense that I do, I work more than a full-time job. And so being an owner allows me a lot of the same sort of satisfaction and thrill that I get from actually competing myself without really having to dedicate the same amount of time that I would if I were in the ring competing on these horses myself. And certainly I get a tremendous amount of joy and satisfaction watching Rene and Corsica compete together because I know that they are a really good match for each other and just a fantastic team.

And so the idea of finding the right situation for a horse and then also being able to give an opportunity to an up and coming rider who didn’t have a long string of five-star horses that he could compete on is just like hugely satisfying for me. And so I kind of joke because I’ve become a little bit more antsy watching them compete than I ever do when I’m actually in the ring or about to compete myself. There’s a totally different feeling and the nerves are still there.

It’s just completely different, but equally as satisfying for me. And I do fully admit that as a working-class person in this sport, being an owner is a huge financial sacrifice. And finding good horses that don’t break the bank is very challenging. 

And so when you do find a good horse or do sort of find yourself in a situation where you end up with a horse that maybe others have overlooked, that is really special to me, both a responsibility and also a privilege to be able to hold on to them and make sure that they stay in a situation that is going to maximize their ability to sort of get to the top level that they’re capable of. I take great pride in them, but I also feel like I have a tremendous amount of responsibility to do right by them.

Piper Klemm: As an American owner, it’s a little easy to kind of roll your eyes and say, why don’t you buy a horse for an American rider? Can you walk us through that process and talk to us about that decision? Because I think it’s very easy in the abstract, but when you’re dealing with an actual horse with a personality and riders with personalities, I mean, it comes down to the minutia. 

Mark Miness: I mean, I’ve been around for a while, but I took many years off from horses. And so a lot of the riders that in my mind’s eye, I would have imagined for my horses are kind of out, but in the US. I mean, are somewhat out of reach for me and have been out of reach for me.

And so rather than trying to…

Piper Klemm: What does that mean, out of reach, too expensive?

Mark Miness: Too expensive, not necessarily interested in, or haven’t expressed any interest in working with somebody like me. And so I don’t even know if this is that true, but I hear stories of needing to put down million dollar deposits to go and ride with some of the top US riders. And that’s amazing if they can get that, but that’s not something that I’m capable of doing and probably not something that I would do, even if I was sort of financially capable of doing it.

And so my approach has been to surround myself by people that I trust, people who I believe will sort of share in my philosophy around developing horses and be interested in true partnership, and then pair horses with the most available, best possible rider I compare them with. So in the case of Rene, he and Tom de Bel, who I work with pretty often, knew each other. And Tom just had this idea that Rene would be the right person for Corsica.

And it was really appealing to me because after speaking with Rene, it was clear to me that he really believed in the mare, was eager to ride her, wanted to partner with me, and there was no ego about it. There was no sense of entitlement. He was hungry and passionate and really felt that he could do a great job with the horse.

And so that was really appealing to me. And I just haven’t had that kind of interaction with too many US riders to date. So for me, it was not really a hard choice to make, for me, partially because I just didn’t have that many US riders banging down the door to try and sort of take over the ride on the mare.

So it wasn’t like I had a million different options to choose from, but I’m also quite glad for that because maybe if I had, I wouldn’t have ended up with Rene and I’m really glad that I did.

Piper Klemm: Yeah, it’s this collaboration part of things where I think a lot of people think that they do or don’t wanna collaborate with other people, but in a lot of positions in the sport, it’s the only path forward and it requires that trust in other people and faith in other people and frankly, risking being wrong on both sides and that makes the great partnerships, but also if it doesn’t quite work, it’s a lot of risk.

Mark Miness: There is a lot of risk and it’s not just financial risk, which is obviously really important, but if you are trying to do this for all the right reasons and that’s to allow a very talented horse to reach their full potential, there’s a great deal of responsibility to make sure that you put a rider on that horse’s back that is aligned with that ambition and capable of supporting that horse in the way you need them to. And so, when choosing a rider for a horse, and this is true even of the hunters or any horse I own, to me, it’s always a high-pressure decision because you know one bad move can end a horse’s career. And equally, I think that also means that when you do make a mistake, you always have to be, as an owner, the one that’s advocating for your horses and first and foremost, be able to identify when you’ve made a mistake and then advocate for your horse by resolving or rectifying that mistake as quickly as you possibly can.

And so, you know, you always have to be watching, you always have to be thinking, and I think you have to trust your instincts as well as an owner because the reality is, like, I’m not with the horses every day. I am putting them with people often times who are continents away from me. And so I have to very much believe that the system that they have in place is the right system for that horse. 

And if I have any doubt, then I have to be willing to acknowledge that and then make a change quickly. And sometimes that just comes down to instinct.

Piper Klemm: Let’s talk about your background and where your instinct comes from and your knowledge base because a lot of this comes down to the fact that you have a lifetime in this sport, you know, in and out of this sport, but a lifetime of perspective from doing this sport yourself and being aware and being involved. Can you walk through kind of when you were young up to now?”

Mark Miness: Yeah, so I’ve been riding since really I can remember. It started out on a very sort of basic local level. My parents bought my first horse off the track.

I mean, I had a tattoo and I was very little and it was very big. And, you know, I remember crying every day in the stall because I’d be trying to put his bridle on and he wouldn’t let me and he was enormous. And then I would finally do that and I would get on him and he would take off with me inevitably in the little ring that we were riding in.

And at some point, almost inevitably, I would fall off. And I think my parents at that point realized that if that didn’t stop me from going to the barn, then this was probably going to be a lifelong passion of mine for better or for worse. And so ultimately that was probably a really strange way to begin, probably not terribly unusual.

Either, but it did sort of set me on the course to having a lifelong passion. And I was very lucky that my parents did support that through my junior years. I do credit a lot of my sort of horsemanship and education and riding to trainers that I ended up with when I was around 18 years old.

I was a pretty, I was like an okay junior, I wasn’t great. I got some ribbons at the Equitation Finals. You know, I was lucky enough that George Morris helped me a little bit when I started doing the jumpers and that gave me a really nice foundation, but I never really was sort of like a top top junior or anything like that.

And then the big change for me was when I was around 18, I went to ride at Fairfield County Hunt Club with Leslie Howard and Molly Ashe. Bruce Burr was managing the barn at that time. And those were formative years for me.

I mean, it was amazing. I got to ride with two of the best riders in our nation’s history. They became family to me.

I had some really fun horses at the time and got to travel around Europe and showed at Spruce Meadows and all around the US with Molly and Leslie. And really feel like I developed as a rider under their training. And then I took some time off.

I had to finish college. I remember sort of making the decision with in consultation with my family of what being sort of a professional horse trainer meant and decided that that wasn’t for me. And I wanted to go try getting a real job in the real world.

And so I took time off from riding and finished college and then spent about 15 years building a career, at which point, you know, obviously at some point my parents said like, no more if you wanna do horses again and you should go work hard and earn enough money to be able to come back to the sport and pay for it yourself. And so that’s what I spent the next 15 years or so doing and continue to today. And probably about 10 years ago or so, I started riding again, bought a few horses. 

And at that point I was, you know, because I’m working so much, I going and doing the jumpers was quite scary to me. I didn’t feel like I was able to dedicate enough time to riding myself to go and compete competitively in the amateur owner jumpers. So I sort of tried my hand at hunters for the first time and had a lot of success and frankly, a lot of fun doing it.

It’s been really enjoyable. And I think that’s actually been kind of surprising for me is just like how much of a different challenge the hunters are and how much I enjoy doing it and the level of precision that you really have to have. But it’s somewhat lower risk to me. 

And so I feel more comfortable sort of having a full-time job and showing up to the horse shows without really having ridden much between horse shows and going and competing and feeling like I can enter the ring and be safe, do the right thing by my horse and be competitive as well. So ever since I’ve really sort of focused my own riding on the hunters and I get to own a few jumpers here and there in the meantime and put them with some really exciting, amazing riders.

Piper Klemm: You’re traveling all over the world for work. How are you able to like kind of turn it off and like take a break when you get to the horse show? Cause I know that just like horse showing all the time feels almost addictive. ​​Like working all the time. Once you get in the groove, it like, it’s hard to see anything else and stopping that to horse show I’m sure is not like a popular hobby among your peer group.

Mark Miness: Well, it’s funny. I, so there are times when horse showing stressful and either I just won’t horse show or I will sort of bring my work to the horse show and sort of put my laptop down when it’s my time to show. But there is something about the horses that is my stress relief.

I get a great deal of mindfulness and escape from the stress of my normal job, which is quite sort of cerebral and heavy and stressful and high pressure. I get just so much, I just get so much out of being around the animals that the horse shows become just like a great place of oasis for me. And the funny thing is like, I feel like I’ve developed a really nice new community, especially because I grew up on the East Coast competing in the West Coast.

I have like wonderful new friends that sort of compete with me and the amateurs. And so I have this really cool combination of like my old school crowd and my new friends. And I think there are so many incredibly impressive people that are competing in the horse sport in one way or another these days.

But when we get to the horse show, there’s very little sort of shop talk. And so you don’t always know what somebody’s background is. And so sometimes when you actually do sort of dig into, hey, what do you do for a living?

Or what do you do when you’re not horse showing? It’s just always amazing because it’s just like really impressive people. And I’ve actually created connections with people that have sort of bled into my professional life as well. 

​​And that’s always good, but there is something really amazing going to a horse show and you have all these incredibly impressive people, none of whom wanna talk about work and just being able to talk about horses or whatever. It’s just a really nice break from the pressures of your day-to-day job.

Piper Klemm: I think we’ve lost a little bit of like hope in the community. And one of the things talking to you about Corsica and other horses is you’re so excited and you’re so joyful. And this might be the one to, there’s stuff to look forward to and you’re willing to talk about it.

So many horse people like either won’t talk about goals because they’re so afraid to like put it out there. But it leads to this weird ethos of the era that like people aren’t excited or hopeful. And I think having stuff in your life that’s not the horse show like kind of helps that a lot because again, this is not your entire identity, how this horse does doesn’t change you. Whereas like I can see if you’re the rider or your trainer, your entire identity might be wrapped up and that horse that takes you over the next level or to the stratosphere. But like, how can we get people to be educated, to be excited, to not be irrational, but be hopeful again?”

Mark Miness: Yeah, well, look, I mean, like I opt into this sport every time I do it. I’m making a conscious decision that I wanna be a part of it. And I think you’re absolutely right.

Like I might be a very different person today and have a very different perspective had I chosen option B, which was to like not finish school, not go out into the world and create a career for myself that’s completely different and apart from horses. And had I chosen to sort of dedicate my life to it, maybe I would have a different perspective. But today where I sit, like I choose to be a part of a horse community because I get a great deal of personal joy out of it.

And it’s not so much the competition, although I am a competitive person and I like to win and I like to do well. But for me, it’s really about the horses. Like they’re the thing I can’t stay away from.

And so one of the things that I observe as somebody who grew up in the, you know, riding in the 90s and early 2000s and then took a long break and then came back to it is you don’t see a lot of people really focusing on horsemanship anymore. And certainly they’re amazing horsemen in the community. I don’t mean to disparage anybody, but what I, what you don’t see is like a lot of kids playing with their horses or spending time on the ground with their horses anymore.

You don’t see a lot of amateur junior riders spending a lot of time learning about horsemanship, learning about sort of veterinary care or taking care of their own horses or sort of engaging in terms of like the equipment that they’re using on their horses or really getting to know their horses at all on the ground. Part of that is because the world is a much busier place today and like a lot of kids have a lot of horses and a lot of things that they do outside of the horse community. And so I’m sure it’s a part of it is just a time management issue. 

But for me, the reason why I’ve always been drawn to this sport is because of a love and a passion for horses. That brings me a great deal of joy. And I don’t know how you can connect with the sport and have that level of fun that I remember having as a kid.

If you don’t have that part of the horse experience available to you, if you’re not sort of playing with them in the paddock or hanging out with them in the stall or just grooming them because you want to groom them. I don’t know how you connect with the sport in the same way that we got to as kids of my generation. I mean, I have like amazing memories of just being out in the pasture with the horses picking rocks out of the paddock and just having horses chase me around and stuff. 

Like, it was just like, that was the part that I always loved. And the competition was kind of just gravy on top of that. And that’s sort of always where I’ve gotten my joy.

And then, you know, horse shows are different today too. They feel very, I’m not entirely sure who horse shows are serving any longer. You know, I remember spending all day every day at the horse shows, including sort of barbecues with my friends afterwards or playing soccer or just like hanging out with both my friends and the horses.

And I don’t see quite as much of that anymore either. The horse shows have gotten, there’s just a sense of like, it no longer feels personal and it feels a little bit more like a product that serves its target audience a little bit less effectively today. And I don’t know what that, why that is, but it does feel like it’s become a little bit more of an industry in the worst possible way. And as opposed to something that’s just like a space for people to have joy.

I’ve thought about that a lot of, you know, I didn’t come back as an adult because of any ribbon. I came back because of how much, you know, yeah, how the horses made me feel and how much being around horses meant to me. And, you know, I worry with all the focus on competition.

Not that there wasn’t a focus on competition, but, you know, it felt different somehow, you know, today’s focus on competition. 

Piper Klemm: You know, if people leave the sport to go to school or seek out different things in their life, like, are they gonna come back? Are they gonna have the emotions to rejoin us in 10, 15, 20 years?

Mark Miness: Yeah, I don’t know the answer to that. I just, if you haven’t, if your riding career as a junior consisted of you having somebody bring you a horse to the mountain block, getting on it, riding it in a lesson or at a show, getting off and then getting on to the next one, I’m not sure how you sort of develop that personal connection either to the horses or to the sport itself. And let’s face it, like, it’s an insanely expensive sport.

And so unless you have that personal connection where you just cannot stay away, there’s plenty of other ways for people to spend their money. And also to satiate your sort of competitive spirit. So I just think it all has to come down to horsemanship. 

And that’s the thing that I personally observe sort of falling away from our sport a little bit is like kids and amateurs having the ability, whether that’s time or the setup, to be on the ground with their horses. Full service is amazing. And full service is the only reason why I’m able to do the sport.

So I like totally get it. But if I do have time, I am out there brushing my horses or trail riding or grazing. I am also asking questions and understand exactly what each horse’s program looks like and sort of why we have the plan in place that we do for each. 

“I get very involved because those are the connections that I wanna make. Those are the things that I’m interested in understanding. So I feel connected to my horses.

And so if you don’t have that, I just don’t know what keeps you in the sport. And then maybe it just becomes a vanity project for people and becomes a slippery slope. Because if the people who truly have a passion feel like there’s no path for them in this sport and they have to leave and then never come back, then you’re sort of left with just a lot of people that are buying and selling horses so they can be sort of at the VIP on Sunday night or Saturday night.

And that’s probably not the right thing for this sport. 

Piper Klemm: There’s also this layer of opportunity comes in the form of horses that no one else wants to ride for lack of a better term. And if you can go out and develop the skills that it takes to ride horses that other people don’t want to or can’t ride, like there is so much opportunity in this sport, but it’s not an easy road. And I even think of at the highest level, like you’re mayor and struggling to connect with American riders is like the opportunity came from having a horse that’s has a lot of personality and a lot of talent.

But like those things and what we’re breeding, especially what the Europeans are breeding, talent and difficulty often really go hand in hand. So I think this problem is almost exacerbated for the current generation.

Mark Miness: Yeah, no, it’s totally true. Like I can’t blame a top American rider who has a string of unbelievable horses from saying no to a horse that is unproven.

And look, my horse is actually like, she’s pretty straightforward today, but she was unproven and she was owned by someone that nobody ever thought about as an owner. So there were a lot of questions, I think, that kept me from having opportunity to work with the right American riders with Corsica. And then in Europe, there just seems to be a different attitude.

If somebody sees raw talent and they’re an up-and-comer, there does seem to be a willingness to embrace the unknown in a way that I just, I don’t think exists here, or at least it didn’t exist for me here. And that’s great because it can be a symbiotic sort of mutually beneficial relationship. I mean, I think Rene has had a lot of success with Corsica and that’s given him more opportunity to sort of be on the type of stage that he wants to be on.

And quite frankly, it’s not even just at the top of our sport. So I mean, a lot of the horses that I’ve had success with as an amateur hunter rider have been because I’ve been able to buy horses that other people passed up because they weren’t, those horses were not considered straightforward. And so, I’ve had, I think Park City is probably a perfect example of that.

I had a, I bought that horse when nobody else really wanted to because it was strong and it was just an incredible jumper, incredible mover. And I was very confused why nobody wanted to buy him, but I was grateful for it as well because I was able to sort of get a horse that I probably shouldn’t have been able to afford back then and had a lot of fun with him. I ended up selling that horse to Jennifer Dunion and Holly Orlando not too long after I owned it, but it was incredible experience to be able to develop that horse and prove that he was in fact, like a very amateur appropriate horse for as long as I had him.

And I was very happy to then send him off to be with a new family in a new situation. You know, I think if you’re willing to be creative in the sport and be patient, good horses will come your way. But you just have to be willing to think creatively because you can’t afford a million dollars every time you’re buying a horse, then creativity is absolutely necessary.

Piper Klemm: You mentioned before like trust and we’re talking a lot about collaboration. You know, it’s my horses aren’t near my house. And I’ve always said I would rather the horses be thousands of miles away with people I trust and down the street with people I don’t trust. And I think that’s a huge layer of this sport. And, you know, when I’m, you know, in the amateur lounge group or, you know, talking to people, there seems like just so much distrust in this industry. And I struggle with this because I’m like, there are a lot of people you shouldn’t trust here.

You know, it’s not like it’s a blanket statement of like, go trust your trainer. Like, you know, and how do you kind of seek out these people? How do you act in a way that they end up trusting you?

I mean, really elevating and having faith to buy a horse that, you know, every horse might not work out. And, but having that faith to try and put yourself out there, I mean, that takes a lot of really strong relationships.

Mark Miness: “Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, so the people I work most closely with today, Leslie Steele with The Hunters on the West Coast, Tom de Bel in Europe, buying and selling horses, Rene Dittmer.

You know, these are people that I trust implicitly. And that means everything to me. I am a person that just like, everything builds off of trust for me.

And so I have sort of really learned that you should keep your circle tight. You should only work with the people that you know, have your best interests at heart, the horse’s best interests at heart, and sort of have values that align with you. And once you find those people, don’t let them go. 

And it’s not to say that I haven’t made mistakes. I mean, I kind of joke that I have like a two year expiration with a lot of trainers that I’ve worked with since coming back to riding, where it all starts out really great. And then something happens where the relationship breaks down.

And two years later, there I am sort of out on the street looking for a new situation. And a lot of that is because there just hasn’t been, you know, a sort of a foundation of trust in there. And without that, it’s just really hard to work with someone.

So I trust Leslie entirely. She has a hunter of mine right now that she’s bringing along named Blackbird that is super talented, but had never even been to a horse show before this winter. And she’s just an incredible job with it.

And I know that when I show up to the horse show, that horse will be incredibly well prepared for me, that she’s done everything she can to get that horse in a good situation. And I know that she is taking sort of the very best care of that horse that I could ever ask for. I think the same thing about Tom and Rene as well.

And so for me, trust is truly everything. And without it, I just don’t think I could work with somebody.

Piper Klemm: And it’s like the privilege of collaboration as an amateur with another job is to like dip into the obsession of the 24 seven horse mindset of these people.

Mark Miness: Well, exactly. And I’m not for everybody, right? Because I do want to know what’s going on with my horses in intimate detail.

And so I speak with Leslie very, very often. I talk with Rene very often, Tom as well. And I ask a lot of questions.

And I sort of insist on being kept informed about the good, the bad, and everything in between. And that’s not a relationship that works for every professional, particularly for the bigger barns that have a lot of clients, and they wouldn’t be able to deliver that kind of service to all of their customers. And so I totally get it.

But at the very core of all of it is I absolutely trust their horsemanship. And I trust that they’re not gonna do anything for these horses that isn’t in their best interest. I get to learn a lot from them along the way.

You know, there’s just a lot that I don’t know. And so, you know, I can always lend my opinion, but I’m putting the horses with these people because I know that they are very well educated, excellent horse people, and, you know, know tons of things that I don’t know. And that’s really comforting.

Piper Klemm: I think also part of that trust is, you know, there’s no playbook, there’s no rule book, there’s no the answer, you know, they’re doing the best they can with the enormous data sets that they’ve built over their entire careers, but like everything might not work for every horse, or, you know, you might make a mistake, you might go backwards. You know, a lot of this is trusting in you that like you’re there for the entire process. And if they try something that’s outside the box, you know, you’ll be there with them to fix it if you need to. 

Mark Miness: Yeah, and it’s also like knowing when you’re not comfortable with something. So, I mean, there’s plenty of instances where I will say, no, you know, I don’t think that that’s the best idea, or why don’t we try this instead? And I’m very happy to be proven wrong or be told that my idea is not the right idea, but you have to be willing to sort of have that dialogue with somebody without getting shot down immediately because you’re not the professional and the professional doesn’t want to be questioned on their plan or anything like that.

And so there just has to be a certain level of respect, mutual respect that enables you to have a two-way conversation and make a plan together without anyone’s ego getting in the way. And, you know, I also should say, like when I’m talking about trust, I also do mean talking, like I am also sort of insinuating that you also have to trust yourself. You have to trust your instincts because the horses can’t always tell you what’s going on. 

And so when you think that a plan is not right, or you think an alternative is worth considering, or you think that a professional that you’re working with doesn’t have the right program that suits your horse, you have to trust your instincts and be able to act upon them. And that’s really hard to do because there’s many reasons why you would sort of override your instinct. But at the end of the day, I feel like I know my horses best.

I feel like I’m in a good position to be able to advocate for them appropriately. And I know that I have a lifetime worth of experience in horses that I can draw from when trying to set those horses up for success. I don’t doubt myself anymore.

And that’s been a really important lifelong journey.

Piper Klemm: You explained to me something really interesting that I hadn’t entirely thought about it as concisely as you explained it to me about owning horses for teams and kind of how team competition is very different than individual competition. Whereas maybe if you were just entering your horse say in the five-star Grand Prix and your horse maybe takes a misstep or something in the warm up, you would just scratch it and not think twice about it really. Whereas in team competition, especially in the new formats that we’re starting to see where there are only three horses on the Olympic teams, I was just at League of Nations and Ocala where you have four horses in the first round, three horses in the second round.

It kind of leads to a different decision-making track and you kind of get put on this like different track for thinking about things that are much larger than just you and your horse in that day. 

Mark Miness: Yeah, I mean, if your horse is selected or even close to being selected for a team, I think you’re in a really good spot and very fortunate. But for somebody who only owns one horse that’s at the top of the sport, it is really hard to not think about the risks of making your horse available for a team. And if you’re going to pursue that approach, which is amazing, if you have a horse that is capable of going to the Olympics or being part of the WEG or going to the World Cup, that’s an amazing opportunity and it’s really hard to say no to.

But for me, it’s always a little bit like wanting to make decisions that are fundamentally the right decision for the horse and the rider, not necessarily making decisions that are right for all the other factors that would maybe influence the way you think about making decisions for your horse. And so Corsica was qualified for Riyadh this year and we decided not to go because it just didn’t feel like the right choice to make for her. And that was a hard decision and I think for everybody involved, but it was the right thing to do for the horse. 

And so I don’t know if this is my only horse that I’m going to have at this level in my entire lifetime. I just want to do what’s right for her and what gives her the longest possible and most successful career possible. And that may end up meaning that she doesn’t get to be on teams or anything like that.

But I’m okay with that. And I will say too, that is sort of an interesting dynamic when you do have, when as an American owner with a German rider, I will say it like nobody’s also asked me to be on the team or and nobody from the US has ever even approached me about, hey, you have a really nice horse and, you know, why do you have a German rider on it or anything like that? So, you know, again, like, I mean, I did, but I asked.. .Other than you and maybe my friend, Chrissy Tribble, sorry, Chris McCray, like very few people have approached me even with just curiosity about why, you know, as an American owner, I don’t have an American rider on the horse. And so, again, like, it’s something that hasn’t, it hasn’t been a decision I’ve had to sort of grapple with very often because I do tend, I guess I just fly under the radar among sort of decision makers in the US part of the sport. And so, you know, maybe if I was a little bit more well known or visible, maybe it would be a decision that I, you know, I had to really struggle with more.

But part of it’s been pretty easy because nobody’s asked.

Piper Klemm: Looking back on your career, when you kind of left to take a break, kind of what advice would you give yourself from you now to you at that point? Like what, you know, how would you, if you got to speak to yourself back then and when you were making all these decisions, you know, what would you say to yourself?

Mark Miness: When I was like, by myself, meaning myself, as I was grappling with whether or not to leave the sport to go build a career? 

Piper Klemm: Yeah, to focus and, you know, and not knowing that it would be back here for you. I mean, you sort of know it’s a lifelong sport, but until you actually come back, you don’t really know how much it is back here for you. 

Mark Miness: Yeah, well, I guess my biggest piece of advice I would give myself is that there’s just there’s no single right way to participate in this sport. And if you care about the horses and that’s why you’re doing it, then you should be open minded about all the different ways that you can participate in it, many of which are incredibly gratifying and sort of scratch the itch. And so, you know, I never would have imagined being an owner of a top horse.

I never probably when I was leaving this sport would have imagined that I would come back and reinvent myself as a hunter rider. But I’ve discovered that there’s just like lots and lots of different ways to get the kind of satisfaction that I seek out of the horse world. And I’ve left myself open to all those different possibilities.

So that’s been really important. The other thing is, is that this sport is always going to be there. And I actually think that I’m better today as a rider than I was my first time going sort of around the sport, even when I was riding six, seven days a week, because of all the life experience that I’ve had, because of my ability to sort of handle difficult situations and stress in a more mature, more healthy way today.

I don’t, you know, I’m able to sort of problem solve in the moment when I am riding in a way that I probably didn’t before. And that’s because I have a lot of different experiences today. And so the horse sport will always be here.

And, you know, it’s good to sort of know what else is out there in the world. So, you know, I certainly don’t regret leaving the sport, taking time off and then choosing to come back to it, because it truly was a decision, a choice when I did decide to come back.

Piper Klemm: Mark, thank you so much for joining us on The Plaidcast.

Mark Miness: Thanks, Piper. It was fun.

Piper Klemm: Karen Lucian keeps her hunters in Wellington, Florida, where she trains with Keri Kampsen and Lexi Reed. Karen grew up in Santa Barbara and now lives in Newport Beach, California, where she is a financial advisor at Raymond James. And her lifetime dream has been to ride quality show horses. Welcome to The Plaidcast, Karen.

Karen Lucian: Hello there.

Piper Klemm: So you are an owner of the sport of which we don’t have many owners left, it seems some days. Can you tell us a little bit about your riding and horses you own and getting to watch and getting to enjoy them?

Karen Lucian: I have two horses I ride and get to take to the shows. And then currently I have another horse that’s an investment horse that I never get on because that’d probably be the last day I’d ever get to ride. And then I watch as much as I can, like everybody else.

I mean, it’s so wonderful that we can turn on our computers and see rounds of the most wonderful riders in the world being recorded for our pleasure, so.

Piper Klemm: Do you go and watch your investment horse horse show?

Karen Lucian: No, because he usually shows on a day when I’m in California. And I’m in Florida for my classes and my lessons, my practice events. But the rest of the time I’m in California.

So the open horses, as you know, they show midweek. And then the amateur horses get to show on the weekend. So I don’t really.

Piper Klemm: That’s something we have talked about on the plaidcast. Do you think more people would own open horses or horses for professionals if they got to watch them horse show?

Karen Lucian: I think definitely. I mean, now the open horses tend to go Wednesdays and Thursdays. And it’s always been that way. Since I started going to horse shows at any rate, I think that’s pretty much still the format. And I think you are correct that if there were a way to maybe, even if they were just to have one class on Saturday, perhaps, you know, maybe the majority of the class is still midweek, like they like to, and then maybe one or even on a Friday. I think so.

I think more people would be tempted to buy a horse show. I mean, there are videos available, so I have to content myself with watching a video. But of course, it’s not as nearly as exciting as being there.

Piper Klemm: Absolutely. I think part of owning a horse is supporting, you know, the professionals that work so hard for all of us. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Karen Lucian: I think it’s, I would agree with you. I think it’s important that professionals continue to be providing horses that they too can show. All of these wonderful high level professionals can still perform at a very high level.

Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t have horses that they can, and I think for them to continue to be able to compete at their level, obviously they need to ride too. Certain amount of money that we amateurs, a lot to our support, should go towards supporting professionals with providing them with appropriate mounts. So yes, I do agree with that.

Piper Klemm: Do you think you’ll continue to own horses, own investment horses, and own horses for your trainer?

Karen Lucian: Without a doubt. She knows that it’s an open checkbook. As soon as one sells, then she’s to go look to buy another one.

And we’ve done this successfully numerous times. It’s an easy recipe for us to repeat. She has a great eye for selecting horses that would be appropriate with some retraining for a resale.

So it’s been a great experience for me as an owner because I’ve had the opportunity to own show horses that have gone to the shows and won. And won in divisions that I could not at my point in my riding career enter myself. So it’s exciting to see owning horses that can compete at a higher level.

And I’ve owned those kinds of horses all the way up to ones that were competing in the Grand Prix. And then likewise, it’s also very gratifying to see one’s trainer enjoying the opportunity to show as much as I enjoy.

Piper Klemm: I think many people don’t think of their trainer as human. I love to hear you say that. But I think a lot of people don’t think of their trainer’s feelings or it’s a sense of like, well, I’m already spending so much money.

Like, what do they expect?

Karen Lucian: I recognize that for trainers to stay fresh and want to stand out there all day long in the dust and tell us, do it again, do it again, do it again, that there has to be something else in this for them, I think, other than that aspect of their professional career. And since the vast majority of them are still able to ride and compete, I think we as owners have a duty to make sure that they are mounted so that they can still ride and compete. Because it spills over into our own level of enjoyment if our trainers are happy people in their own right and continuing to receive the accolades that they all deserve.

Piper Klemm: It’s interesting, we’ve talked a lot about horses and horses’ stress on The Plaidcast, but I didn’t really think about it until you just said it. Like, if your trainer is happy, your horses are going to be less stressed out. They’re going to have a better quality of life.

Karen Lucian: Yes, I believe that very strongly. And being a horse trainer is a very, very difficult career. It’s a very difficult career choice.

And it’s a very long work week. And as it can be punctuated with some apex experiences in the show ring for the trainer, I think it allows the trainer to better weather the rest of the week, quite a bit of which is quite thankless and onerous.

Piper Klemm: Yeah, I never really thought of it this way, but it’s so interesting and good for you for coming up with all of this. I would love to see more people emulate you. How did you kind of get started? Were you asked to buy a horse? What did you offer? What led you down the path to having this viewpoint and really supporting your trainer like this?

Karen Lucian: The first time I bought a horse that I selected on my own, it turned out the horse was really too valuable for me to ride it because I was an amateur and it clearly was a professional level horse. And so I asked my trainer at the time if she would be interested in continuing to show the horse at the levels which we could both agree on that point the horse could achieve. The answer was yes and the horse did go on to be a Grand Prix horse.

I enjoyed that experience so much that I decided I would always have at least one extra horse going to the horse shows that I didn’t ride because sometimes one goes to a horse show and one doesn’t really have a very good show but then maybe the other show that the professional is riding has a great show. So it gives you a 50% chance of having a good show even if your own show didn’t quite live up to expectations. And there’s also something wonderful about going to a ring that you normally wouldn’t go to, watching riders you might not necessarily watch and who obviously are competing at a much higher level.

And I think it gives you quite a bit to take back to your own ring for showing purposes.

Piper Klemm: You have made such a huge commitment to your training program. After your trainer moved to Florida, you continue to meet her every week showing from California. Can you tell us about what it’s like and what the community is like and why you think that commitment is so important?

Karen Lucian: I had excellent results with my trainer Keri Kampsen in California, going all the way up to winning some Pacific Coast Championships. And it was actually she who suggested I come take a look at Wellington. I had no interest in competing outside of California, but she had moved there and I had decided I would try riding with a different trainer.

And she had contacted me several times and said, you really need to come back here and take a look at Wellington. And I kept thinking, how can Wellington be any better than Thermal? Thermal is so beautiful or Showpark was beautiful and the Oaks is really beautiful. We have so many beautiful venues in California. Why would I care about that? And she was very adamant about come back and see Wellington.

We really need to come back and see Wellington. So the first time I went back and saw Wellington, my comment to myself was, oh my gosh, look at all the commerce that’s transpiring here. It’s overwhelming the energy and the air when you walk around and you see all the excitement from the vendors to the riders, to the owners, the restaurants.Everything is at the highest level possible and it’s impossible not to be excited to be part of it. So the second time I went back to Wellington, I decided I think I want to buy a place and I think I want to bring my horses back here and I think I’m going to try and see if I can make this work, maintaining my professional life in California and being able to transport my equestrian life to Florida. And I’ve done it for over five years now and I’ve been pleased with the results and I’m now an expert traveler also.

Piper Klemm: That’s so amazing. Well, Karen, thank you so much for joining us on The Plaidcast.

Karen Lucian: You are more than welcome.

Piper Klemm: To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit thepladhorse.com. You can find show notes at theplaidhorse.com/listen. Follow The Plaid Horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of The Plaid Horse Magazine at theplaidhorse.com/subscribe. Please rate 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!