The Featured Clinician article series is provided through a partnership between Event Clinics and the USEA.
Kim Severson’s incredible competitive equestrian career includes two Olympic medals, three wins at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, and a FEI World Equestrian Games podium finish. Last summer, Severson and Cooley Cross Border, The Cross Syndicate’s Irish Sport Horse gelding, were named to the reserve list for the Land Rover U.S Eventing Squad for the FEI World Equestrian Games at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Tryon, North Carolina.
Severson took some time to chat with Event Clinics about teaching, lessons learned, and more before kicking off a day of training at her farm, based in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Teaching clinics is always so rewarding, despite the travel. You help somebody do something they didn’t think they could do. You help riders in so many scenarios. I don’t do it for the money, but what does motivate me is people who are happy with what they have learned or accomplished.” Despite her renown as a great instructor and clinician, Severson told EC, “In the end, I’m always surprised that I can tell someone to do stuff and they do it."
“It is surprising to me when people are nervous to ride with me. In the wintertime, I have this hat. It’s my dog hat. It’s this great hat with dog ears, eyes, and a nose. It’s really cute. I always wear it because people like it a lot and seem surprised that I’m wearing it. But I like it, it lets people know I’m normal, it helps to break the ice.”
Severson does have expectations for riders who attend her clinics. “I struggle with the riders who don’t control the things they can control. Your turnout is one thing you can control. You can put a hairnet on, you can clean and polish your boots. You can clean your tack. It’s one thing if your bridle isn’t adjusted correctly— we can educate you on that.”
“The sparkles and the bling drive me a bit bananas,” Severson admitted, “but I would rather have someone go that route than completely unpolished.”
Severson leads by example, always making an effort to look polished. “I wear a hairnet every day and I have for all of my adult riding career. I have had judges write on my dressage test, ‘Look at the shine on your boots; that’s why you are who you are.'"
About her teaching style, Severson said, “I try hard to be cognizant enough to accommodate various levels. I try to make everything work for every person. You have to appreciate that everyone is doing the best they can. What I’ve learned, especially as I’ve gotten older, is that the adult amateur riders are doing the best that they can. They truly want to learn, and they are showing up and trying so hard."
EC asked Severson about notable mentors throughout her career. “You pick something up from everybody. It’s like riding - if you’re a good student, you learn something from everyone."
“Honestly, the one thing I always remember, at my first World Championships - my first team [experience] - David O’ Connor said to me, 'Do what you know you can do.’ That’s something that I’ve always remembered and tried to take with me. Whether it’s teaching or riding, I think of this on a regular basis. Don’t start something you’re not sure you can accomplish."
In 2000 and with the support of Joan Iversen Goswell, the Worth the Trust Scholarships were established to provide financial assistance to amateurs to pursue their education in eventing. The funds from the Worth the Trust Educational Scholarship may be used for training opportunities such as clinics, working student positions, and private or group instruction, or to learn from an official, course designer, technical delegate, judge, veterinarian, or organizer.
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