Meet Kiera Phlipot, Hunter Jumper rider and owner of Gardian Farm based in Michigan. As a dressage rider, I have long been intrigued by the hunter jumper world. And I have wanted to know more about it, so naturally I jumped at the chance to get to know both Kiera and her world a little better.
How did you find your way into the equestrian world?
My babysitter when I was 2 had horses, and that really kicked off the horse bug. My elementary school was a block down the street from the Grosse Pointe Hunt Club and we passed it every day to get to school. The constant nagging to my mom got me started with lessons as soon as they would take me at age 5.
Tell us about your horses
Allie – Rhea’s 2019 foal. Allie is a bay filly by Figaro B (a big derby hunter Belgian Warmblood stallion). Allie was born at the end of April and is the cutest! I’m excited to bring her along in the hunter ring.
Maestro – Allie’s paternal half-brother. So they share the same stallion (Figaro B). He’s a chestnut with tons of chrome, and a beautiful mover already! I just acquired Maestro a couple weeks ago from the person who manages Figaro B’s stud career.
Is there a horse that has had a really big impact on you?
Paddy. He’s the bane of my existence and the love of my life all in the same horse. He’s been my toughest project and biggest accomplishment. He’s forced me to push myself to my limits both physically & emotionally. He’s made me elevate my riding to a place I had only hoped of getting to!
How do you describe the hunter world to those outside of it?
The hunters should be like watching paint dry…. Until you know what you’re looking for. It should all look “boring” until the horse jumps the jump, at which point your response should be “wow!” at their form over the fences. The horses cadence & rhythm should be so methodical it puts you to sleep, the distances at the jumps should all just come neatly out of stride and match each other perfectly, and if the horse needs to swap leads he should do so without disrupting the flow of the canter.
So yes it should look boring! But when you sit down and truly watch the riding that goes on its magnificent! The horses need to have self carriage while maintaining a steady rhythm, then jump in top form and settle right back into self carriage. And the rider needs to magically make all that happen without looking like its tough to do! Poetry in motion!!
What’s your favourite thing about the hunter jumper world?
The power of the horse. They are amazing and watching a good horse jump, in either ring, is a privilege. Watching top riders produce the best from their horses, and how they go about doing it is inspiring. The riders who can do both rings are masterful. I aspire to be like those riders!
Tell us about the three phase equitation challenge and what inspired you to develop and run it?
I was at Capital Challenge last year watching the 3’3″ Jumping Seat Medal Finals, and really wanted to do it myself! Then the more I thought about it the more I realized no one else hosts a “Gymnastics Phase” except at the Finals. So these kids don’t get to see anything like that before they step onto that big stage at Finals!
I originally was going to host just a Gymnastics Phase, but having a whole Challenge open to both Juniors & Amateurs made more sense: We have a 3 week spring circuit, and it matched the 3 Phases you see at Finals (Gymnastics, Flat & Jumping Phases). HJAM was gracious in considering hosting the Challenge and it went great this year! In an effort to be inclusive to as many riders as possible, we created the two Tiers so the 3′ Equitation riders wouldn’t have to compete against the 3’6″ Equitation kids!
You can read more about the challenge here.
And finally Kiera offered some brilliant advice for other riders…
Watch. Watch & learn & absorb. I don’t just sit back at the barn at the shows. I hang by the schooling rings, help my trainers set jumps, & be as involved as I can. The little tid bits that may go unnoticed to others may be something you learn & help you and your horse in the future! Also – I sit and watch most equitation finals that are live streamed & the grand prixs at WEF and whatever top level of competition is happening. Yes its fun to watch but you can also see certain elements in the courses that might be fun to practice, etc.
If you would like to read more rider stories head over to Featured Ballerina’s.