“You learn from everybody. You can take something in from each trainer, from every ride on every different horse. That’s the interesting experience of it.”
Five-time Olympian and two-time Olympic silver medalist Anne Kursinski is committed to giving back to equestrian sport. With enthusiasm and a dedication to the betterment of the sport through rider education, Kursinski shares her experiences with riders of all levels, backgrounds, and disciplines with the goal of improved communication between riders and their horses.
“I approach teaching from the horse’s point of view, with a love for the horse. How can a rider be better to get the most out of the horse? That’s what the great riders have: a connection to the horse to get the best out of them.”
Kursinski is one of the most respected and accomplished United States show jumping athletes to date. Inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 2017 with countless World Championships under her belt, she is an active competitor, author, and popular clinician. With a dedication to continued development and promotion of the sport, Kursinski has served on the USET & USHJA Executive Committees, USEF Board of Directors, is the current Chef D’Equipe for the U.S Show Jumping Development Program, and was a selector for the 2014 World Equestrian Games and the 2016 Olympic Games.
STRIDER caught up with Kursinski in the weeks leading up to the annual Riding and Jumping Clinic at her home base of Market Street, Inc. in New Jersey to discuss her passion for teaching, some COVID-related silver linings, and more.
“I love to teach - teaching and instruction are so incredibly important. Through teaching all over different parts of the country and internationally I get a chance to see people that I wouldn’t normally see at the shows I go to. Seeing the level of riding around the country is always so interesting, too.”
“My teaching has a big focus on position, body awareness, and understanding how horses think. I want riders to enjoy the relationship they have with the horses. Without all of the fabulous horses I’ve ridden, I wouldn’t have gone to the Olympics. It’s the relationship and the journey with the horse that is so magical and fun.”
“My understanding has always been that to really develop horses you need the basics, the flatwork: the whole process. It’s not just buying the horses and getting on to go to the next show.”
“It’s been really fascinating to see during COVID when people didn’t go to shows . . . there’s been a shift towards really working with the horses and training instead of going from show to show. Yes, going from show to show is the sport, it has certainly become the sport, but I didn’t grow up like that.”
“This year everyone went back to showing after a long break from it and their riding, training, focus, and schooling on the horses had improved. It has been really interesting to see the shift as a rider, a trainer, and a coach.”
“The results were much better when they went back to the horse show. Especially the younger professionals I work with - they really had time to focus on their dressage and gymnastics, and really listen to the horses instead of pushing little fixes toward a result at the next show.”
Alongside the industry-wide shift to training and learning throughout 2020’s fractured competitive season, Kursinski saw an upswing in membership for her online teaching site, Riding and Jumping Mentor, whereby riders can subscribe monthly or annually to access a wide range of teaching tools.
“There are videos of me teaching all different levels of riders, from adult amateurs to Grand Prix, beginners to top riders in equitation, hunter/jumpers, and eventing. The clinic videos apply to all different disciplines, the emphasis is real riding and horsemanship and how to be a better partner to your horse.”
This year, Kursinski also launched a Mind Matters webinar series with Cindy McKee and began teaching remotely through her virtual learning program.
“People can send videos for critique and I’m teaching some virtual lessons. It’s really been quite fun, I have one student in Texas who has been doing lessons every week since COVID started. There’s a slight delay in the recording but it’s happening! I would rather be there hands-on, but in this time that’s a challenge.”
With safety first and foremost, Kursinski and her team will welcome horses and riders for their annual Market Street, Inc Clinic next month.
“It’s great to be able to bring people into my stable, to give them a look at how I do things. How I care for my horses, how the business is, what the stable looks like - clean and neat - a reflection of all of the things that I believe in. It’s a full look at my teaching. When I host clinics at my farm it’s really like inviting someone into my home.”
“It’s very immersive for riders. Typically, my sponsors are on-site throughout the clinic as well. They do great giveaways and presentations about the products that I believe in and I use. It’s a big educational weekend that focuses a lot on sharing information.”
Kursinski’s horse-first teaching methodology instills confidence in both horses and riders. With effective riding for the betterment of the horse as a cornerstone of her teaching, Kursinski guides riders through various exercises to access foundational basics as questions become more challenging.
“It all centers on communication with your horse, how position affects the horse, how to use your aids so that the horse gets what you’re asking. It’s fun for me to figure out different exercises to help riders work through the basics that I have been successful with. That’s the fun of teaching, too - giving riders new and different ideas.”
“I have an idea when I go into the ring what I am going to teach. Depending on who I am working with and their needs I will change things; this horse needs this or that - maybe a shorter rein, longer rein, or different bit. To see changes happen rather quickly is really fun.”
“I am so thankful I can teach. Of course, riding and jumping are my first passion. I am so grateful to be able to share and teach feeling and how the horses think and respond to their riders.”
“I’ve learned to ask for a lot, be happy with a little, reward often. I teach that all of the time.”
“The reason I have been successful in competing is all of the other parts of it beyond just riding. The management and care of the horses is key. I hope people get that when I teach them.”
“It’s really about the love of the horses. I always did this because I love the horses. I’ve gained an appreciation for horse management over the years from experiencing it and watching the greats. After I was first immersed with the U.S. Team and experienced the top blacksmiths and veterinarians, I started to explore sports psychology and fitness to better my own riding. I was always trying to figure out: how can I do this? How can I be the best I can be? I figured out it wasn’t just the riding and I developed a holistic approach.”
“I’m lucky in that I’ve been to a number of Olympics and World Championships. I’ve watched top dressage riders and eventers get the most out of their horses, and I’ve learned from that- the horses really express themselves and they love what they’re doing.”
Kursinski continues to expand her understanding of horses and of the sport, while introducing techniques in her training and teaching. She shares some advice that has stuck with her over the years and continues to influence her teaching style. “I was told, ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.’ You think you know it all, but you’re always learning. You grow up and have to go through experiences. If you want to be good at anything you’re always learning.”
Appreciative of the desire to learn in her students, Kursinski enjoys teaching those who are game to experiment with a different exercise or a change in position. “I encourage everyone to try something different and be a blank slate. My way isn’t the only way, and maybe I am saying something that a rider has heard from their own coach but the way I’ve delivered the same information has finally caused a lightbulb moment.”
“My goal is to give back to the sport and give back to the horses. It has been an amazing sport for me - I have had amazing owners, traveled to fabulous places, and ridden incredible horses. We couldn’t do this sport without the horses, and I try to give back to them. How can we be better partners to our horses both in the barn and on horseback?”
You can find upcoming opportunities to #LearnFromTheBest with Anne Kursinski on STRIDER here. For more details on the training program at Market Street, Inc. visit https://www.marketstreetinc.com/. You can enroll in Anne Kursinski’s online training program Riding & Jumping Mentor at https://www.annekursinski.com/.
As a StriderRewards™️ perk presented in partnership with Horse & Rider Books, readers can enjoy 20 percent off the NEW edition of Anne Kursinski’s Riding & Jumping Clinic: A Step-by-Step Course for Winning in the Hunter and Jumper Rings. Enter code STRIDER20 at checkout on www.horseandriderbook.com to receive the discounted rate!
When it comes to eventing, it’s not just all about the horse’s fitness. The rider’s fitness is equally important for safe and successful riding. For graduate “A” Pony Clubber and five-star eventer Sara Kozumplik Murphy, out-of-the-saddle fitness work is a fundamental part of her routine.
The first CCI4*-L of 2020 officially got underway this week at Galway Downs International in Temecula, California. It is Boyd Martin and Luke 140, who topped the 12-pair field with a 29.40 from FEI ground jury members Sandy Phillips, Wayne Quarles, and Valerie Vizcarando-Pride.
For over 20 years the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) has been educating all levels of eventing instructors to confirm their knowledge base, both theoretical and practical, upon which they will continue to build throughout their teaching lifetime. The USEA is now shining the spotlight each month on some of the 300 ICP Certified Instructors.
2020 has been a rollercoaster of the year and unfortunately, it didn’t stop with The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse 5-year-old Championships as the jumping/gallop portion of the competition had to be halted today after the first 25 horses due to deteriorating footing and challenging weather conditions.