Up and coming trainer Kristen VanderVeen certainly has had a great season this far! You may have see her name on the Colorado Rockies series results that have been displayed on theSportHorse.com. She’s been building her own business and doing a great job turning over jumpers. We asked Kristen about her equine career thus far, and where she hopes to go in the future.
“I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago in Wheaton, Illinois,” she begins. “I started riding when I was young, about eight years old. I came from a very competitive family. It seems that anything we decide to do, we go all the way! We went from leasing one pony for me (Wildflower) to all of sudden, both of my brothers got a pony and my dad started riding as well. I progressed through the normal classes of Pony jumpers to High Juniors and finally Grand Prix. We went through a pretty typical process with a trainer, but my real growth into high-level competition came during the last six or so years when I went on my own and started to learn how to do everything for myself. Now I have to use my feel to get the most out of my riding and the horses.”
This 24-year-old has some big goals amidst a huge passion for show jumping that she realized in high school. “My dad was great about supporting me to go into this business professionally rather than going to college. I have a passion around fitness, nutrition and working out. My faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is also a really big part of who I am.”
Kristen’s business, Bull Run Jumpers, has an appropriate slogan: “Horses You Know, People You Trust.” She explains that she “wanted Bull Run Jumpers to be the gold standard of excellence, quality and fairness.” She has consciously set out to brand her farm as an honest, down to earth farm with great horses and fair prices. “I will not represent a horse unless it is honest and can do the job for the buyer. I want people to know that every Bull Run Jumpers horse that is bought will be a quality horse and that it will be at a fair price. Brand is how you stand the test of time and given my lofty goals, that’s critical to me.”
Her plans for the next few years all are interconnected with one another. “Obviously, I want to compete on an international level and represent the United States at the Olympics and World Equestrian Games, but that’s going to require a very special horse,” she explains. “Because such talented horses are rare, they are also expensive, which means I need to continue to develop my investor groups and give them a good return on their investment.” Hence her dedication to quality horses at fair prices, so that her buyers know what they are getting. “I’m also training other serious minded young riders and am interested in growing that side of my business. So it’s all related…help train other serious young riders, sell quality horses for fair prices in order to bring investors that want to get behind me. In the end, who knows? Maybe we will get to see the big Olympic dream come true!
Kristen has a hard time naming her greatest accomplishments this far in her show career. “[That question is] hard to answer because each great accomplishment at a certain level gets topped by a great accomplishment at the next level,” she muses. “Taking second at the National Pony Jumpers on Supersonic was awesome until I took third individually at Prix de States in the Junior Jumpers on Bradberry. That was great, until I won my first Grand Prix on Charlie Brown. And then this year was a big one for me taking second in a WEF Grand Prix on Thursday with the best horses and riders in the world, but each accomplishment was a necessary building block to get to the next step and therefore they are all meaningful to me.”
Some of her favorite horses include her “Hackney cart pony turned jumper,” Supersonic. “She caught everyone’s eye as she was super hot and trotted like a cart pony. What a blast to ride!” Kristen laughs. “La Bamba is probably my favorite mount from the past. I imported her as a 9 year old that was thought to be ‘crazy.’ But after a year, the mare and I had such a good relationship that we won a number of Grand Prixs and I got to jump the biggest tracks I had ever participated in. Since my business model is focused on sales, she was sold last year to the beautiful and talented Emilie Martinsen from Denmark. She continued on with La Bamba by bringing her back to Europe and competing in the Global Tour. I will always have found memories of this horse,” she smiles.
Kristen certainly is well on her way toward her Olympic dreams, but still seems to have her feet on the ground with a solid business plan and steadily increasing wins. We wish her the best of luck and can’t wait to see where her career takes her!