Lauren Kieffer from Middleburg, Virginia represented team USA in eventing this year at the Olynpics. Read how she got there and where she plans to go now!
Written by Sarah McKay and appeared in our Nov/Dec 2016 issue
Ever since Lauren Kieffer was a little girl, it had been a dream of hers to compete in the Olympics. A passion and career woven into one, Kieffer’s love for horses and riding all began with a gift of riding lessons for her sixth birthday present. Now 29, Kieffer has had an impressive track record since her humble beginnings. Originally from Illinois, Lauren made the move to Middleburg, Virginia in 2005 to begin training and working with Karen and David O’Connor. Since then, she has begun her own business training and competing horses at all levels and has a long list of accomplishments, including finishing second overall and winning her second National Championship in the 2016 Rolex Kentucky CCI4, competing on the team that won a gold medal in the 2015 Pan American Games, and of course competing on this year’s Olympic eventing team in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In the August games, Kieffer rode Team Rebecca’s Veronica, a 13 year old Dutch-bred warmblood bay mare that she first rode in 2011, but with whom she has been competing since 2013. The pair represented Team USA in the eventing portion of the games alongside Phillip Dutton on Mighty Nice, Clark Montgomery on Loughan Glen, and Boyd Martin on Blackfoot Mystery. The Olympic eventing competition began on August 6th with Phase 1/3, the dressage portion of the eventing competition, where the US tied for 6th place. In Phase 2/3, cross country, Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin placed 5th and 6th respectively in the individual portion of Cross Country on August 8th and the US team moved to 12th place. Finally, in Phase 3/3, the Individual Jumping Qualifier, Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin placed 4th and 7th, respectively. While France took Gold, Germany won Silver, and Australia went home with the Bronze, the US ended up ranking 12th for the team portion of the eventing games. However, Phillip Dutton for Team USA came away with a Bronze for the individual eventing portion on August 9th. Germany’s Michael Jung and France’s Astier Nicolas took Gold and Silver, respectively. As far as the games go, the team competition is an added layer, as eventing is usually an individual competition. Kieffer points out that the team competition at the Olympics is different from the individual competition in that “the lowest 3 team member scores count towards the team score.”
Overall, the Virginian’s Olympic debut was one in which she continued to develop and an experience that she will never forget. She recalls that is wasn’t until once they were on the plane, that her going to the Olympics and realizing a lifelong dream became a reality for her. Leading up to the games, Kieffer kept both Veronica’s and her own training the same. “It had been successful in getting us [to the Olympics] and it didn’t make sense to change everything,” Kieffer says of her training and preparation after learning she would be on the Olympic team. While at the games, Kieffer notes that the “atmosphere was great,” and that although it was a paramount competition and a new location, “we compete against most of the other people and teams regularly, so everyone got along well.” Kieffer’s biggest realization during the competition was “how incredible the Olympic movement is” and since competing at the Olympic level, she “want[s] to be even more competitive” going forward.
And she has done just that. Since the Olympics, Lauren has won the Plantation Field Horse Trials CIC2*, competed at the Military Boekelo-Enschede CCIO3* in the Netherlands, where she rode Marie le Menestrel’s Meadowbrooks Scarlett to a 4th place finish as the top U.S. pair, and competed at the Fair Hill International Horse Trials, coming in third on Landmark’s Monaco.
At any given event, Kieffer tries not to compete more than 5 horses. She notes that her support team is huge “ranging from barn managers, grooms, assistant riders, owners, farriers, vets, physios, [and] masseuses.” She also notes that each event is different in terms of process and flow, depending on whether it is a one day event, spread out over a week, a CIC or CCI or horse trial. While physical fitness is key, she adds that “we use a variety of therapies depending on what works best for each horse from massage, chiro, acupuncture, [to] Theraplate [and] magnetic blankets.”
Kieffer credits two horses in particular who have developed her into the rider she is today, Snooze Alarm and Tigger Too. Snooze Alarm, a chestnut Anglo-Arab gelding Kieffer has had since she was 14 years old and who is now retired, was her first four star horse. Kieffer and Snooze Alarm, started at Beginner Novice and worked their way to Rolex, with Tigger Too having shown Kieffer the ropes along the way. Tigger Too, a chestnut Thoroughbred gelding, was originally a racehorse and was initially partnered with David O’Connor, and the pair competed at top levels for many years. Tigger helped Kieffer achieve many major milestones in her career including taking her to her first advanced and then on to her first three star. In 2007, the pair won the Markham Trophy at Jersey Fresh CCI***, which is presented by the United States Equestrian Team Foundation and is awarded to the highest placed rider under the age of 21 at the USEF CCI*** Spring Championship. Although she always had her sights on competing for the Olympics and plans to compete again in the 2020 games, Kieffer always sets smaller goals along the way and her advice for aspiring riders is “the slower you go, the faster you will get there.”
In case you missed it:
Team USA also competed in the dressage and show jumping portion of the Olympic games. Here’s a quick recap of the results:
Dressage (Laura Graves on Verdades, Steffen Peters on Legolas 92, Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet, and Allison Brock on Rosevelt):
August 10th—In the Individual Phase 1/3, Grand Prix Qualification, all Team USA members qualified, with Laura Graves ranked 5th and Steffen Peters ranked 6th. In the team competition, Phase 1/2 Grand Prix Qualification, the US ranked 3rd
August 12th—In the Individual Phase 2/3, Grand Prix Special, Laura Graves ranked 5th. In the Team Phase 2/2, Grand Prix Special, Team USA took home a Bronze with Germany taking Gold and Great Britain taking Silver.
August 15th—In the Individual Phase 3/3 Grand Prix Freestyle, the Dressage portion of the equestrian games finished with Charlotte Dujardin (Great Britain) taking home the Gold, Isabell Werth (Germany) taking Silver, and Kristina Broring-Sprehe (Germany) taking home the Bronze, with Laura Graves (USA) in a close 4th.
Show Jumping (Beezie Madden on Cortes ‘C’, McLain Ward on Azur, Kent Farrington on Voyeur, and Lucy Davis on Barron):
August 14th—In the Individual Jumping 1st Qualifier, Kent Farrington tied for first, and in the Team Jumping Qualification, the US tied for 8th.
August 16th—In the Individual Jumping 2nd Qualifier, Kent Farrington again tied for first and in the Team Jumping Final Round 1, the US moved up to tie for first.
August 17th—In the Individual Jumping 3rd Qualifier, Kent Farrington tied for 2nd and in the Team Jumping Final Round 2, Team USA took home the Silver medal with France taking home the Gold and Germany taking home Bronze after a jump-off with Canada.
August 19th—In the Individual Jumping Final, after Rounds A and B, the competition ended with a jump-off where Nick Skelton (Great Britain) took Gold, Peder Fredrison (Sweden) took silver, and Eric Lamaze (Canada) took bronze. Kent Farrington (USA) came in 5th.