Anne Kursinski recently disclosed that she was a victim of sexual abuse and why it was important for her to speak out in light of the #metoo campaign and in the interests of Safe Sport
WiSP Sports Radio is brought to you by Hyland’s Earache Drops
The Horse Show is hosted by Chris Stafford
Podcast length: 58′ 56″
On this episode Chris Stafford talks with an all time leading American show jumping rider and coach, Anne Kursinski about coaches and coaching, and her story of being a victim of sexual abuse. Anne is a five time Olympian, double silver medalist from Seoul and Atlanta, won individual and team gold medals in the 1983 Pan-American Games, a member of three World Equestrian Games teams. She rode on 47 U.S. Nations’ Cups teams, and competed in 10 World Cup Finals as well as winning numerous Grand Prix’. In 1988 and 1992 Anne was named AHSA Horsewoman of the Year and in 1995 Equestrian of the Year. In 1991 U.S. Olympic Committee named her Female Equestrian Athlete of the Year. That year, L’Annee Hippique ranked her as the number one American and number one female rider in the world. In 2011 she was voted America’s Favorite Show Jumping Equestrian and i n 2017 she was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. More recently Anne has been the Chef d’Equipe for the U.S. Show Jumping Development program and assistant Chef d’equipe for the senior team as well as being an advisor for team selection. Her passion for coaching is well known and she embraces all generations to help them realize their full potential as horsemen and women.
LISTEN to MORE episodes of The Horse Show HERE
[00:00:00] This is Season 3 Episode 7 of the whole show on WiSP Sports Radio brought to you by Hyland’s Earache Drops.
[00:00:16] I’m Chris Stafford and at WiSP Sport we believe that women and sport deserve equal coverage. The whole show features exclusive interviews with riders and trainers around the world equestrian sports. My guest today really needs little introduction. She’s a five time Olympian double silver medalist from Seoul in Atlanta. She won individual and team gold medals in the 1983 Pan American Games. She’s been a member of three World Equestrian Games teams and written on forty sevenU.S. Nations Cup teams. She’s also competed in ten World Cup finals as well as winning numerous praise along the way in 1988 and 1992 and was named HSA Horsewoman of the year and in 1995 was the equestrian of the. In 1991 the U.S. Olympic Committee named her female equestrian Athlete of the year and L’Annee Hippique ranked her as the number one American number one female rider in the world. In 2011 she was voted America’s favorite showjumping equestrian and in 2017 she was inducted into the showjumping Hall of Fame. More recently and has been the chef at a cake for theU.S. showjumping development program and assistant chef to keep for the senior team as well as being an adviser for team selection. A passion for coaching is well-known and she embraces old generations to help them realize their full potential as riders and horsemen and women and recently revealed that she was the victim of sexual abuse as a child a young rider and bravely spoke out in the light of the #metoo campaign. And in the interests of Safe Sport I spoke with to discuss this and the impact and responsibility that coaches have how attitudes and styles have evolved. And was she so passionate about being a role model in mental well and I know how busy you are jetting all over the country all over the world. So thank you for taking the time to do this and welcome to the program.
[00:02:37] Thank you. Yes it’s great to talk to you as well. Yeah I’ve been fortunate to be all over the place and fun to take some time to talk to you. Thanks.
[00:02:48] Well obviously your recent revelations the stories of the abuse that you suffered as a young girl and as a young rider in the sport is something that is resonating unfortunately across not just across equestrian sport but across sport in general. Now it’s a topic that’s front and center in sport generally. So I went through on that a little bit not to retrace your steps so much. But as talk about the really the psychological influence and role that coaches have in coaching people and not just athletes. So let’s begin by just looking back maybe an annual career and summarizing if you would those coaching styles and how coaching has evolved and how right those becoming trainers and coaching and coaches has evolved in terms of their attitudes and styles.
[00:03:45] Yeah well it’s interesting what you’re talking about. You know my career and the different coaches and types of coaching throughout. You know I started with was this Jimmy Williams in California at the flat Ridge riding club. Well actually before him there was a beginner kind of teacher at the riding club. Marge Chamberlain who I rode with and then when I was old enough 11 then to ride with Jimmy. And he was a great horseman and was a great teacher coach. You know he produced Olympic riders like Mary Marsh SHIPPO and Robert Reed lunches went to the Olympics and has now shifted keep for showjumping in the States. So all of that he was a great coach in that sense and yet he was totally had been in the second world war. He had been in a remount in Italy and so that coaching at that time you know I was 11 but was the style then to me was more military in a sense. You know you rode in group lessons and you did a super told and lots of respect for the coach and but more you do wish you were told and at the time a lot of it was very very strict very could be belittling could be aggressive and. And yet and yet to some he was stronger than others. I want to say. But it was definitely early. He had been in the military.
[00:05:20] Now some of that discipline and being on time and in boots and you know you’re riding in a group lesson and some of that I think is wonderful. I mean I do think that that’s a lot of that is that kind of discipline I don’t know. I was raised that way then. Then again my next big mentor with my showjumping of course was George Morris. I went from California to the east coast. And George wasn’t hadn’t been in the war but his coach Gordon right. Kind of like Timmy Williams they had. We had been in the war also second world war. And so he was from the cavalry school and everything was done like the cavalry organized in these kind of drills and exercises. And boy you know as a student you didn’t speak up you didn’t speak. You must have you know you didn’t cry you worked through it you made it happen. And I still tend to be a little like that for sure and my my teaching and that I don’t know that their stream structured so that that was sort of then and now it’s evolved. And George was also very George Marrs very very you know sort of his exercises and you’re doing as you were told and in the teaching very much you know one way you were just told what to do. And there never never a discussion about or anything was really very much yes sir. That was. And yet I have to say it worked for me that was that’s the way really the writing started and as I say really from the cavalry that kind of teaching. And then over time it has changed. I want to say grammatically in a sense I think George is slightly softer in his teaching but the basic principles are really the same for sure. But you know the coaching could be very very very strong and rather tough. I’m not exactly how to put it into words but. And yet now today I think with some coaches and trainers they they kind of can teach and there’s this back and forth dialogue and are you happy and you’re having fun. I mean there’s a fine line. Yes the kids should be having fun and even when I was a little kid I was having fun having fun doing you know with that instruction and at the writing club and I wouldn’t have continued if I wasn’t having fun.
[00:07:53] But today it’s almost gone the other direction. I think like some maybe parents were there. I mean I do think there does need to be discipline and there needs to be structure and that kind of stuff. I think some of it’s almost some of the professionals in the United States anyway.
[00:08:13] Mollycoddling the kids and make sure you know of course there’s a safety factor and you’re going to fall off before. I mean you’re just going to fall off. And you think that’s part of the fall off you get on that part of horseback riding things like that.
[00:08:28] You know they don’t. People don’t Gallop well. The three day event is but showjumping. Everybody wants to be in the ring and they want it very safe and have the horses make sure have a lot of them are quiet enough that nobody’s nothing’s going to go wrong. And as I say you know how are you feeling and if you don’t want to do it today you don’t have to wait for the other side of the spectrum that I don’t know is so healthy. Either it’s kind of gone to the other side there is a lot of that that is making the kids happy and are they safe and they oh they don’t really have to work that hard at it. The horses are a little fresh. They get prepared and to get you know not tranquilized but get make sure they’re quite enough for the kids and some of the fun. And I do talk to a lot of other professionals people from my era and even slightly younger.
[00:09:26] But if you know yes have the horses fresh I mean are you don’t to some wild and crazy thing with a little kid. But you know you figure out how to ride the horses bucking a little bit or the horse goes a little fast. I mean it’s all part of that and that’s the fun of it to learn all of that and to work at it. I was always about the journey. You know how do I paddle I met this horse better and so but some of the trainers as I say today they have maybe been good riders and then they turn out to be a teacher or some are better teachers than others. Michael matzot was on the Olympic team with a couple of times and a great writer. He was always get frustrated teaching and he’d say that he just didn’t. He had students of course now. Now of course as resources but you know pretty cute. He would get so frustrated he didn’t he didn’t teach very well and he didn’t really enjoy teaching it was amazing rider. I always loved to teach and I’m thankful that I can teach and I had great great teachers. But really this there’s always a balance again how much discipline and of course you listen to them I very often ask the students you know how did they feel. But but I will explain. Yes but you need to ride with that stirrups every day for a week or you know you need to learn some hard things that are hard to get good at anything not just always making it oh the easiest and the quick fix and how fast you can you know speed up to learn something. So so the coaching has changed dramatically. You know I mean I’m sure that you’ve seen it in the horse world yourself.
[00:11:08] Yes. I mean enormously. And you mentioned of course you know the background the military influence in terms of the style of those trainers and those coaches in previous generations. And that still hasn’t died yet today but as you say we’ve swung the pendulum completely maybe too much but I want to go back to the influence that generation still has had on writers like yourself. And it’s you mentioned how aggressive almost dominating assertive and they were very influential in the way we became Holst’s men and women and writers but also people I want to talk about the psychological impact that that had. When I think of what she went through with the abuse it wasn’t just that it’s sexual abuse it’s it’s it’s it’s emotional and psychological abuse and how it shapes you as a person. And I know I still have feel the effect of that as I’m sure you do. Having having grown up with that you know contemporaries you know have been influenced just people and you particularly influencing your coaching style now and as a writer and a mentor because I just want to mention. That that’s what is very noticeable and I don’t think I’ve seen this elsewhere. I often look at people social media profiles and how they label themselves. And some may put an Olympian or their coach or whatever it may be or a mother or father of a wife or a husband. But you just put riding and jumping mentor you specifically use that word mentor. So let’s unpack all of this a little.
[00:12:54] Well certainly the psychological effects of the abuse you know. Yes I was sexually abused when I was 11 and by this Jimmy Williams and for sure a huge you know very very young. And so of course it has a huge effect and I’m very very thankful that I ended up getting some help and all of that I don’t have to go through it in a big way but you know help with a therapist is fine. Finally when I was older not that it was a big secret. And Jimmy Williams was like God. And anyway one thing led to another and. But the psychological abuse is probably as much as the physical I have to say that yes he was very much from the military and the discipline and all of that.
[00:13:48] So part of that for sure of some maybe not you know standing up for yourself not trusting your instincts and things like that. I was always a good student and did you know what I was told. And so you know there are pros and cons to all of it. But in the end yes the the psychological part then of not being able to make my own decisions. I you know tell me what to do and I’ll do it you know if jumping off the top of the building was the right thing to do because it was going to make it go I would do whatever to you know to be a good student but then later ok gosh I got to. Now what do I really want. What do I really need. Things like that and I think also that you know sort of feeling strong and. But it’s interesting because I was fortunate. Something inside of me to say OK I’m going to.
[00:14:44] This happened I’m going to really in a funny way prove that I’m going to be great. One of the toughest things with Jimmy was he said I would never be good enough. You know I rode with him for years. I worked for him for many years the way he treated me was You will never be good enough. And there was this feeling inside of me. Really if I’m going to show you you know I took sort of lemons and made lemonade out of it. I was very fortunate. I got to go to five and watch the game that two Olympic silver medals and the World Championships and I mean I’ve had a great great great college career.
[00:15:22] But in a way sort of that yeah I’m I’m a survivor I’m look I’m going to be great news that I wasn’t going to be going to make it in a sense. So that worked well for me. Now other people drugs and problems and you know I know some of them didn’t fare so well from that. And of course learning about a sexual abuse that kind of thing. So I’m very thankful that I was strong enough and I found the right people and some therapy and even spiritual work and so that yeah I think I’ve I’ve come out of it well. But the part also the coaching and the trainers. The biggest thing and even me speaking up it’s about the abuse of power. You know whether it’s abusing the horses many many you know people that abuse. And Jimmy was very tough on the horses he was a good trainer.
[00:16:16] He all of that. Yes. You know it was quite tough on the horses sometimes. But the you know the mental kind of abuse and abusing their power whether whether it’s just mental bullying today they’d call it bullying. But again that sort of belittling and yelling and ranting and raving at students isn’t really not acceptable and some people still do it.
[00:16:41] But really the abuse of power. And that’s why I spoke up to you know. You know the little kids. I was a little kid and this guy was like God. And it happens and I’ve had and I’ve had kids you know that idolized me and write great notes to me and things. And you know from there school or whatever. And but it’s you know you don’t abuse your power you don’t abuse that. And that’s the that’s really kind of the biggest thing to speak up about there are some trainers that get into that and that they know that they’re powerful and they know these little kids would do anything they say and then that that gets taken advantage of or the or the again the just being overly strong overly tough when it’s not necessary. So the psychological part is is a huge part of it and even I tell people you know and they taught to go ride with some kids that want to come ride with me and maybe they’re too young and you know go go to another trainer a little lower level because the kid you know she’s a little bit of a beginner novice. But all of them I say somebody that actually called and asked you know even if they’re in a different part of the country and you know where where would they send a kid. And I said you know go and watch go and watch the teach and go and listen to the teacher give the lessons you see the care of the horses how they present themselves.
[00:18:05] That kind of thing also with the horse shows how they conduct themselves when they’re teaching to see what you’re going to gonna to get into and that how they treat the riders.
[00:18:16] I can be very strong and I and I even say at my teaching sometimes I mean when when a rider is maybe doing something pretty bad it looks totally dangerous you know then I keep them down to the lower level or even say you know I kind of raised my voice you know sometimes you have to know that that something doesn’t go wrong. You know pull up or that the rider has to be stronger and everything more more in the sense of of that that there had been an accident doesn’t happen. Or you know because I know from my experience you know. You know you really need to stop now. But not not that belittling kind of teaching you know that you know you’re stupid or you’re fat or you’re one of those kinds of things belittling things more more. Come on. You can do better. I believe you know you really can jump this jump and hold straight or you really can jump that big wall I had a little girl just yesterday jumping a wall out on the field and you could see she got nervous and she kind of leaned up the neck and the cute mare she stopped and and and and then you know come on you know I kind of you know yeah of course they yell at the field that they have to kind of yell. Come on you know you can do this more forward and use your legs and sure enough and she ended up jumping a few times and that there was a little piece of fear but the girl so I know. Yes of course. But it was more you can do what not you can’t do at mature. You know you can’t do it if you can do it. And since you were a little bit afraid weren’t you. And Nancy this little smile and she shook her head yes. And and later her mother told me just about two days ago I guess she had fallen off a wall somewhere else you know the mother at their farm at home.
[00:19:58] So there’s that encouraging them not belittling them. And then knowing you know I’m I’m proud to be a good teacher. And so how you conduct yourself and not again abusing the power not you know. Yes we’re I’m lucky that people look up to me and things don’t I would never take advantage of a kid or be little them or put them down. It’s to encourage them and to make them. How can I make this child be better. How can I make or be the best she can be. Or him be the best he can be. Same with the horses you know riding them and training them for sure. They need some discipline their horses their animals. But it’s more to how can I make that just be maybe an Olympic champion or this horse be the best that he can be. I don’t know that kind of feeling of that’s answering some of your part of your question.
[00:20:53] It then goes to that next level really and it’s you experienced as it actually manipulates someone’s career and career prospects and and that you enjoy it as well that threatening of your your career. And you know you won’t get the rights you win. You won’t become a success. All of that too and I mean that how demeaning was that. I mean how did you feel at the time that you weren’t a threat that if you didn’t play the game you weren’t going to make it to to become an Olympian.
[00:21:23] What part of that that the the threat of you’re not getting the next ride I guess or that I had to be tough.
[00:21:34] But it’s interesting that the strength that the way the way I was coached. I’m thankful I was strong enough and to be the best at anything you do need to have a toughness that does need to be strengthened there. You know whether you’re a top athlete and Olympic athlete the great doctor or a lawyer you know you have to have strength. So I’m thankful that that you know with that kind of belittling and humiliating part. You know I would never do it again. I mean it was just a lot of the way that teaching was and I wasn’t just him that was a style sort of at the time a little bit again from the cavalry in a very very male kind of teaching. But to be strong enough to say OK I’m not going to teach like that.
[00:22:26] And if anything else they say for me it was almost this reverse psychology of OK I’m going to prove to you that I really can do this. And then in a funny way that was his approach this reverse psychology and to put the pressure on.
[00:22:42] But I took it a step farther and when I left him I said yes I’m going to I’m going to try to go to the Olympics and I’m going to do this and where. But many people that doesn’t happen you know the humiliation and told you’re never gonna make it.
[00:22:56] And you’re you’re no you’re not good enough and you’ll never be good enough for me. I was like No I’m going to prove you wrong. So from me in a weird way it worked. I wouldn’t do teach like that again you know wouldn’t want to go through it in that sense. But it worked for me. But from many people many and especially children and especially girls know that doesn’t more. They believe that and not that I didn’t have to go through some therapy and work through that. No you’ll never be good enough. I mean you know that you know occasionally comes don’t ring in my ears a little bit but I know how to deal with it. But for many people it doesn’t or as I say maybe they go to turn to alcohol or drugs or things as well. So yes it’s it is a huge manipulation of the student.
[00:23:40] And what would you tell your teenage self now with the benefit of hindsight when you went through.
[00:23:49] I would I would say to speak up you know I would speak up sooner just to really speak up at the time.
[00:23:57] But again it was sort of you just didn’t speak up you were you know you couldn’t cry if you fell off and got hurt. That was that was a sign of sort of weakness. No no no you wouldn’t cry and that kind of thing. But yes. But the manipulation and this sort of brainwashing it was a bit of a brainwashing that you don’t speak up again whether you’re hurt or anything but or of course not about the abuse because you know God would get in trouble. I mean it would get a ball or I would get thrown out of the writing club. Know shameful. All this. Of course shame your parents. And of course he those kind of people know who to target. My parents were going through a divorce at the time and I was a little kid that just wanted to ride and ride and all I wanted to do was be the very best I could be. You know that’s all I wanted to do be with the horses and be the very best. And and I’m also very lucky because the the horses were really my savior. I have to say I think maybe when some kids turn to other things I just dove more into the horses. You know they were really my savior.
[00:25:01] And I and I really mean that you know that in their stalls and talked to them about my problems and things you know that you know being a little kid so so that and then and then today giving back to the sport sort of that same thing or in my teaching and then my writing you know a real love for the horses. I mean that’s always been my thing. And not to make lots of money and this and that. I mean that’s not. Not that it was more the love of the horses and giving back to the horses or or even sometimes in my teaching when I get a little strong with the students again that they’re maybe not paying enough attention and not focus them. Make some mistakes over and over that kind of you know break up. And I’ll say you know I’m here more for the horses and for you. I hate to say that but you know your horse is telling me you need to ride without stirrups or you need to look where you’re going or he’s bucking because your leg is loose and you’re hitting with the spur you know and I might raise my voice for that and I’ll say because of your horse you know because of your horse.
[00:26:04] You know that part of it. Very very passionate about that because they are such amazing animals and what all they do for us. So yeah.
[00:26:16] Yeah. And how unforgiving. Absolutely yeah. We have to stick up for them for sure. Just finally before we move on and the one thing that I did read through the journey that you endured and how strong you have always been and how you overcame this that at the end of the day you forgave Jimmy Williams for that abuse. And even though he manipulated you and you you know you became so successful. But what message do you think that sends now. Is this just a part of your personal journey that you had to get to the point where you were giving him in order for you to move on. Absolutely. And become the mentor and the role model that you want to become.
[00:27:01] Absolutely. You know forgiveness is huge life. You know that gratitude and forgiveness. Both of those are huge. I’m grateful for all I learned from him. And part of him I have to say he was a genius horseman. I learned so much I’m huge part of my career and you know somebody said How could you say all those things nice things about him for all these years and I said but on the other hand I did. He made me a great writer and a great horsewoman and understanding horses and like that cannonball at the Olympic Games in Barcelona and stop you know stop that with me the first round. And I went back to the old Jimmy Williams under overthrew and I got I got around four faults a second round. I mean it was amazing. That was horsemanship from Jimmy Williams No kidding from my childhood. So so much. I’m thankful for that.
[00:27:51] The forgiveness peace.
[00:27:53] People go around carrying grudges and holding on. There’s all this baggage. You’re not going to grow. You’re you’re really forgive the guy. He had his own problems he had his own. That’s why you resist this. You know abuser but for me the biggest part of the forgiveness is yeah to forgive him so that I don’t have to carry that around the rest of my life. You know he had his own problems and I survived it and I know I’m not going to. I’m I’m over it I’m OK. You know. So those are two huge things you know thankfulness and gratitude that I think a lot of people people can be stuck stuck stuck for years and years and years and they don’t have to be you know so.
[00:28:42] So for sure. To forgive and not totally forget of course the all that went on but I’m ok with it. You know it happened it’s part of life that is part of this go round. And yeah I learned a tremendous amount of it from it. So and again as a mentor today you know that I would never do that. Like some of the things he did with the horses. I would never do it. It worked for him or some old cat you know. Did cowboy kind of stuff you learn also what not to do. You know that’s life. There’s the positive and negative. You know whatever you want to call it and what not to do. And again how to get on the other hand how to get great results doing doing it differently my teaching some of it very very differently than than that aggressive kind of abusive or you know you know over a little bit over the top. Yeah how can I get great results more more working with the students and working with the horses not against them and belittling them.
[00:29:44] So so I think in a sense I can be a better mentor because I have seen both sides.
[00:29:52] I’ve I’ve been you know this abused kind of thing. I survived it. I can talk to people about that or I can show that part. I’ve also been very successful so I guess I can say I’m powerful and I’ve now I’m the chef to keep the assistant chef to keep theU.S. team.
[00:30:12] And I’ve judged and I’ve done things and you know people look up to me but I cannot cannot abuse the power. I’m thankful that people look up to me and I’m thankful and if I get my power I guess you call it if it can be helpful in the sport if it can be helpful in my teaching if it can be helpful. Right. Yes. Yes use it. And I’m thankful to have earned all that by by all that I’ve done. But for sure. Never never never to abuse it. You know what I mean you learn you learn from all of it.
[00:30:44] Yes and you become a positive influence. I think that’s what’s great. You know we shouldn’t forget that you’ve endured the homophobia to homophobic slurs all the time and you know it’s gay women. We have to rise above that as well. And even though it’s getting better we hope it’s getting better with time. It’s still again still prevalent so not abuse that and that’s you know the psychological and emotional impact all of this has on us as we emerges as adults. But a strong women too. And I think what you’ve now become is such a wonderful mentor and a role model and shown how you’ve had your difficult journey but look how you know how great you’ve become. You’ve become a great human being in spite of it all and that that must feel empowering in a way that you are such a strong and positive influence and role model for young girls now.
[00:31:42] I hope so. I didn’t set out to be that necessarily but yes that comes with with success. You know how you conduct yourself. I think that’s a inside feeling of mind to always be your best. Even that going to the Olympics always be your best. I don’t know if I was really taught that but it’s certainly a feeling to share with.
[00:32:09] Share with the young girls and I you know tell parents you know when I’m helping the kids and stuff I was a young girl you know I can relate to your daughter. You know I remember when I was a little kid. Yes I’ve been to the Olympics yes I won the Grand Prix Iraq years ago and things one of the first women to do that. And all of those things. But I can still relate to the little girl you know I was a little girl and what the excitement and the passion of the ride and just have fun doing that. And so but as a role model than these two to how you conduct yourself for now. Not yelling and screaming or ranting and raving and to you know how we are always influencing them good or bad. Same same riding the horses always make them a little better a little worse. You know how you how you ride the horses. So I’m I’m thankful I’m a good role model. I enjoy it. And even with that with the younger girls or even you know the teenage you know they’re going through different stages of life helping them and saying you know you know again how how do you. Are you perceived by the others. No. How are you. You know conducting yourself. And even just recently in a clinic talking to the kids at the lunch break and also even there with a gal about marketing and you know even at their most I’m that kind of driving get maybe a few of them around you know 12 14 15 16 teaching a young group and but also for marketing you know you want to ride somebody else’s horseshoe one they want to get an owner and have owners like McLaine board and Beezy Matt Miller croute you know how you conduct yourself how you know how polite you are.
[00:33:48] Thankfully you are not beating up on the horses or acting like a spoiled brat or those kind of you know all of that. It also not only yes for sure that you’re a better person and you’re a better human being but in life and in business still you’ll get further. You know being just being like that you know. So those lessons to share with the kids how and why and I share with my own personal experiences and in the sport there are the ups and the downs and with owners with winning an Olympic medal and then also you know not doing well at the Olympics as I’ve had both and I’ve been an alternate thanks so all those experiences as we get older of course. I think it’s at least for me it’s been easier than to take all that and then share it with with my my students or even young professionals that I work with. You know how to be your best and you’ll I think you’ll enjoy life more and will I think that’s why I’ve been successful a lot of that was always my sort of feeling on life philosophy personal philosophy on life.
[00:34:57] And is that you still really love teaching the children just as much as you do the adults. I mean you’re coaching not just the next generation but the current generation and you’re living every aspect of that whereas many coaches today get as they get more experience they become more selective as to who they coach. But you put your arms around everybody don’t you.
[00:35:20] I do. I do. I mean I love you know. And also this year of what used to be called a selector. But for the web team and that you’re one of those and I sat for the last Olympics so being at the top of the sport and you know going to those shows in Europe to select the team and so I love being with Robert Rudland who’s our chef and watching the other horses and riders the Americans but also the best in the world and there’s nothing like being involved in the sport at that level.
[00:35:51] You’ve competed at the Olympics the World Equestrian Games the top of the sport there’s just something special. I mean that’s where my heart really is and I wish I was still competing at that level.
[00:36:04] But at least you know doing some coaching and being an adviser. Those kinds of things. That’s where my heart is. There’s just nothing like it and yet I did a lot to teach and doing these different levels. I loved working with the young professionals and the young riders coming up. And some of these kids you know I do I have to say I do enjoy it. It’s sort of funny but I if I can give back to the sport and inspire some of them.
[00:36:34] Yeah come on let’s see how far you can go and this is what you want to do and even the the. Even if they don’t go on in their riding Coega they don’t go to the Olympics. But so many of the teachings you know the discipline the love of the horse the taking care of the horse the how you treat the horse and you that you ride better your feeling becomes better. So it’s not just jerking and kicking them or hitting them with something then go right of course the bond with the animal preparing for shows and things like that so many of those are really life lessons. You know how you think and how you focus and how you conduct yourself how you prepare.
[00:37:14] You know even help them this 12 year old the other day and the father afterwards saying you know he just loved my teaching and not only because of the writing but there was so much more sort of life lessons that go into it as well. Focus and discipline. And yes having fun with their horse. So yes every aspect of the sport I must say I do love. Maybe it’s kind of crazy but I do love it.
[00:37:40] It’s wonderful. I love it. It gives me goosebumps listening to you because you just now as you. And I just wanted to talk to a little bit about the Safe Sport initiative now. You know when you think about the evolution of coaching per say and how writers do become trainers and coaches with sometimes without any any transmission between those roles without any guidance or instruction about becoming coaching becoming becoming a coach rather so that there’s not been the policing of the standards if you will in a way when there is abuse as we’ve seen recently there’s been no no oversight. And now finally some federations across sports are stepping up to their responsibility. And you’ve been a great advocate of that too of course with your role with the National Federation. Talk a little bit about that and how important it is for you to be sharing that message you would have done with your young self speaking out.
[00:38:44] Yes I’m very excited that the that our Federation USCF has really taken this on the safe sport. I mean now it is a federal law. You know that if you even if you know hear of something you need to speak up if you hear of a child being abused or a child speaks up. So I think it’s great that that there’s a place for everybody to go that there are phone numbers and things for the kids to call. A lot of it. And even my speaking up that not only the parents yes the parents but the adults around you know are if they see something if they have an inkling to speak up if they think something’s a little off. But the real safe sport program I guess at the Federation it’s been in place for several years. It was interesting for the judges to take. And it’s not that some judges aren’t horsemen and have businesses horse businesses but it’s sort of funny because most judges actually don’t get very close to the or they shouldn’t but don’t really get close to the exhibitors. So now it’s perfect that this Safe Sport initiative that the trainers now are going to all have to take it if they sign an entry blank for a kid showing they have to take the same sport. It’s a oh I don’t know if it’s an hour and a half maybe long like a video you can see on your phone. It’s a it’s a program that you take and it’s a little bit of a test I guess. I mean I’ve done it a couple of in the last couple of years and it’s not difficult. It takes a little time but it really did too. It talks about you know what you’re looking for what you sort of see and to speak up about. So it’s great to see that the trainers now really do have to take that. And it really isn’t difficult to take but not just the you know the World Cup coach myself as a chef. That’s why I had to take it that the judges and things. And as far as the sort of standard I really think also this trainers certification program that has been in the works with the Federation for years but it’s never been mandatory. I think that’s going to happen in the next couple of years. Again all the trainers will have to take something. Just what you say of course you know and if I’m sure it is not so difficult. Quite honestly I haven’t taken it. I do need to take it and yet they use my book for for it for part of it. They take some some some of the the work the questions and things out of this book that I wrote on writing and jumping in. But I think that’s going to happen years ago when David O’Connor was the head of the Federation. He really wanted it. He really pushed for inventing and dressage and showjumping all of the disciplines that there would be this trainers sort of vacation more like I believe in England where you come from. That’s been there. I think in Germany they sort of have a program like that you couldn’t really get a teacher’s license and let training license coaching license unless you did something like that and read not the way it’s always been. You know anybody can hang out a shingle. Anybody can be a professional.
[00:41:59] And there are some good ones that you know but there are a lot that also maybe whether it’s even in there how they conduct their business or their buying and selling of of horses and things. All of it along with the coaching along with a safe sport just so there’s more continuity in their training practices and there is something that some sort of test that you’ve got to take you know in all other businesses. You know you’re you’re selling real estate. Everybody you know has to has to take these kind of courses to be able to do that to get a license. So I think they say sport and the the trainer certification isn’t in the works 100 percent yet. The trainers have to take it but I really think it’s going that well in that direction you can take it. There are many professionals that have taken the training certification and I think it’s just a better level of coaching. So but the Safe Sport is is fantastic. It’s a great program not only for that. The trainers are doing it but so the parents know that the trainers are doing that.
[00:43:09] I even think the parents Diane Diane Lang or our youth chefs is pushing that even the parents ought to take it. And of course they can. You can electively take it. It’s on the federation USA sorry USCF Web site. I think anybody can take this course if they want this 90 minute kind of thing on the video program. But more for awareness. And as I say Ms. When I decided to speak up hearing what was happening in Hollywood. And then of course with the gymnast and really just struck a nerve and Me Hi I really need to speak up to help the children. What can I do so it doesn’t happen to another kid. And if it helps one child. Great. But I think it’s it’s helping a lot and raising the awareness of Yeah there’s bad stuff can happen.
[00:44:07] But I love my sport. I love the horses. You know when I first spoke up and of like the couple of reporters I’d talk to you know I don’t want to you know make my sport sound awful because it’s not the horse is the sport. There are great coaches out there. There are. It’s a wonderful thing especially for little girls for self empowerment for growing and you know controlling this big beast and having them be your best friend. There’s so much positive about it but then it keep it like that you know to not let the these creeps take advantage of it. You know that that’s the main thing. So I think the safe sport is great. It’s started the conversation. People are talking about it. There are phone numbers you know with a little kid gets brave enough to call the phone number they can or or the parent or a friend or somebody sees something that doesn’t really look right. Now there are things that you can do whereas when I was growing up there really there really wasn’t much of that and that would be the biggest thing to you know speak up parent parental awareness adult awareness and that the jerks that are line that they know they’re going to get in trouble. You know it’s not going to we’re not all going to be silent anymore. There are consequences if you’re a do something wrong. You know absolutely.
[00:45:35] You know one of the things that we want young girls to do to be safe and feel comfortable in is the bond. I’ve talked to Katie prudent on this program about how young girls often are not encouraged to spend time in the barn. Trainers have them off the off the pony and onto to the next client and they don’t have that bond type and they need to feel that this is a safe environment for them. I mean this is critical isn’t it.
[00:46:02] Absolutely. Being in the barn is just so wonderful. Yeah but it’s it’s interesting. But what they call a barn rat. I mean I’d love to be there 24/7. Now again maybe I needed. There needed to be more supervision or you know as I say my parents were going through a divorce but some of the other adults around would also notice. But yes the parents need to pay attention. But yes to be in the bar too to how the horses you know grooming them and bathing them and putting them away and watching them eat. And you know in time yes mixing their feeds and things and you know I’d go and sit as all kids talk to the blacksmith and watch him put the hot shoes on the horse and all those things to be a great horseman or great horse woman. You’re in the barn what it feels like and bonding with your horses that is so so so important and yet. Yes it has to be a safe environment for sure that that the parents can feel that it’s safe and that the kids want to be there.
[00:47:07] You know whether they leave because they there are also the children can be on the next thing and on their cell phone too much and that kind of thing.
[00:47:16] I wish they’d be more involved in the barn some of that. Sometimes it’s the parents have all these time commitments and then they’ve got a rush to the soccer practice or take the boy to baseball or something. So that’s tough.
[00:47:28] But but also just just being able to be safe and yes to be in the bar and be with the horses just learn so much that that I would would never change. I mean the time in the bar and there’s just something magical and healing and wonderful now not just the writing it’s the off the horse with the horse that’s very very important for sure.
[00:47:54] There’s nothing like sitting with your pony in the stable.
[00:47:57] You got it. Yes yes. Absolutely.
[00:48:02] And this just so many takeaways from this conversation and it’s really been an inspirational night.
[00:48:09] And of course your work continues you’re playing really valuable roles with young writers now and of course with your role as assistant chef and developmental developmental chef Viva developmental chef get that right.
[00:48:25] So many different roles from right across the spectrum of the sport. I’m curious what’s on your bucket list now at this point in your career.
[00:48:36] Wow. Oh that’s good I guess I should think more about that.
[00:48:42] Howard it just keep doing what I’m doing. I do love it. Maybe maybe finding a top young horse and developing it and even you know getting another you know younger Olympian to ride it eventually competing I mean that that would be fun also to bring along another top top horse even if I don’t ride it. I can’t believe I’m saying it because I never ever ever would have said that a few years ago. Ever. Always want to do it all myself and still riding and training and competing and things. But that that would be fun to find and you know I was so fortunate to have horses that went to the Olympics and even you know today to find another another one and do that with with another horse. But at the same time you know to continue what I’m doing with my coaching jobs I really love that and you know the next generations of the Bar Sport men and women boys and girls developing them to to be our next after Maclain after Beezy this group that we have now. How do we inspire them and you know get them to be on the podium eight years 12 years from now you know how to inspire people to do that. Want to do that especially the riders for sure but even even owners you know people that want that that journey how to how to share what I’ve done in my career with others and help them along the way that does inspire me and I think it’s fun and that’s yeah working on that.
[00:50:17] If you look back all the way back to all the things that you’ve done in your career and what do you value most about having been involved in sport per se.
[00:50:27] Oh. Oh I love sport. I love the competition even in a funny way I say I’m not very competitive but I guess I must have always said that. Oh just that you know the the hard work the better you’re going to the Olympics are the World Equestrian Games are going to ask him the hard work. You know you put into it you as much as you can can control your fitness your diet your. Same with the horse’s fitness having really finding a top horse like an arrow or a star man bringing them along focused on the game show that that whole journey there’s a there’s such a I have such a passion for that. The journey. And then and then if all goes well you know I’m getting to the games and then then that experience is sort of flat. It’s hard to say exactly but the whole preparation for something like that that’s probably been the most fun. I don’t know I really would thrive on that. You know working sort of four years backwards for the next Olympic course in the next Olympics and to prepare and get ready mentally physically having the horse mentally ready yourself mentally ready for it. So that’s what sports are about to me. And yes winning along the way. Yes you got to go through the trials You’ve got to show your country and the world that you’re one of the very best and that you earn the right to be on that four man squad. That that is what sports are about you know proving yourself having the dream and really going after it 100 percent. And I was fortunate to like I say good on many top top top teams. That’s the fun of it. That’s what sport is all about. And yes if you can win you know when a medal gold medal I guess I’ve always been that I’ve been win Olympic gold medal I have two Olympic silver medals. Panamerican gold medals. But it’s the journey it’s really that’s what I love about sport. Yes it’s a competition but it’s really more of a personal for me. Can I find the next top horse. How can I get good on the next team that bat that. That whole journey to me is the fun of it.
[00:52:45] Do you miss that.
[00:52:47] I do. I do. There’s nothing like it. And then with my kids trying to share that with them whether you know my own stable my my own business but also now with these developing teams you know I am a good young group of riders five riders that went to Madrid Spain and then and then Lisbon and compete as a team. TheU.S. team and most of them have never been on a team before so you know telling me stories and doing that and getting excited for it. I’m trying to share that with some and what it’s all about how to get there and all the sort of steps to take. And so I do I do personally I do miss it. And yet if I can help them with that again watching our team you know being a selector being an adviser watching them and being part of it and yes you know you’re part of the team because you’re the assistant chef to Robert helping to name the final team that will say jump and try on the summer. So it’s a good part of it but I’m not doing it myself. Yes I miss that. I do miss that. But I feel like I can get a part of it still with what I’m doing.
[00:53:59] We’ve got a long way to go before you actually look back at your legacy. But if you watch to right now. What would what would that look. What would you really like to say. You know I left my mark as doing being oh man I don’t know.
[00:54:18] Oh you know a little girl that loves horses that really followed her dreams and I’m just so I was so fortunate to get to do what I wanted to do to end up being this little girl from California that got to go to the Olympics. And and I think in that hopefully helping other I guess today you know to hoping it hopefully inspiring other young riders to follow their dreams and go for it a little girl from Brazil that I helped in Florida a little bit.
[00:54:54] And she just qualified at 14. I think she is and she just qualified for some Brazilian Championship and they’ve been going for a couple of months having to qualify. And it’s cute she qualified second in the whole thing and her coach just sent me and sent me a few videos but she’s been doing. And he said you know her preparation in between these last two rounds was to watch you jump at Spruce Meadows in nineteen ninety eight or something and then now before the the the fire the final one she’s watching you win the Grand Prix back and it’s on star man. You know I’m just so so cute. And if I can help somebody some little kid inspires some little kids I guess that would be it.
[00:55:39] Well I think you’re already making that up and you’re inspiring generations to come. You really are.
[00:55:46] I always love talking to you. You really have made a mark. And I think it will continue to do so. So thank you for your bravery and coming up speaking out.
[00:55:56] When you did. And you know being the mentor and role model that you are being and always lovely to talk to you thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show. And we’re going to be following you all the way to wake because you can’t have your role to play as the assistant chef as you said. So we’ll see you at the World Christian guys.
[00:56:17] OK well thank you for having me on your show I really appreciate it. Great to talk to you again.
[00:56:38] And you’ll find links in the show notes accompanying this episode. And social media and to her Web site and as I’ve mentioned we’ll be at the World Equestrian Games for daily coverage and costs. Do join us then. That’s from September the 11th through 23rd in Tryon, North Carolina. If you’d like to reach us if you have any comments or questions or suggestions for guest drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can also follow us on social media and join in the conversation that just look for @WiSPsports. Thanks again to sponsors Hyland’s Earache Drops you can find them at www.hylands.com/ear-pain. My thanks again to Anne and to you for dropping by. We know you have lots of choices when it comes to podcasts these days so thanks for listening. And if you feel inspired do leave us a five star review on iTunes. That would mean a lot to us until the next time. Thank you for listening and supporting women in sport everywhere.
Photo: Anne Kursinski supplied