Henri [Prudent] was with me on the tour, and as we finished up the last few shows, we started working with Cylana. But we babied her because she was so unfit. Katie likes to dig right in, so when we got Cylana home to Katie and Henri’s farm, she had me working her pretty hard. A week later, we took her to Chantilly [France] as her first show with me, and she was exhausted. I had three rails every day in the 1.35-meter classes, and Katie said, “I don’t know about this one.” But I really liked her, so I said, “Give her a little bit to get fit. Let’s try.”
We didn’t end up showing her that much over the summer. We just worked on fitness, and now she’s like a racehorse. We got to Florida, and she looked totally different. She looks like an athlete now, and she’s got so much energy.
I showed Cylana in a few smaller grand prix classes early in the circuit. She won the $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup in Week 6 and then had just one rail in the [$200,000 Bainbridge CSI-W]. She has such a great brain that we just kept moving her up and thought she might do well in the trials.
Cylana is a total professional. She has a briefcase and she goes to work. She’s so brave and scopey—she’s an overscoped equitation horse.
[Cylana jumped clear in Rounds 1 and 2 of the trials, then had 8 faults in Round 3, a massive course at night.]
She’s so fit, and she just picked up under the lights. She’s still a green horse, really—she’d only done one other night class. I don’t think I expected her to be as fresh as she was with all the jumping she’d done, but she went beautifully; she was just a bit electric, and so was I. And when I had that jump down in the last round [the back rail of the last oxer on course], I think I’d just gotten a little bit excited.
We still have to keep Cylana’s fitness up, so she goes on the treadmill every day. When I’m not showing, I’ll take her out along the canals and roads and trot and canter. She’s a monster now. When I rode her before the final jog after the trials, she was wild. Four huge rounds of 1.60-meter jumping in four days, and she was still insane!
Learning The Sophisticated Details
What I’ve really come away with from the trials is the realization that I can do it. I have what it takes to walk in next time and say, “Everybody had better watch out, because I can do this.”
Maybe I got a little excited to the last jump in the last round on Cylana, and I need to be able to ignore that and bring it home in the end. My weakest round for sure was the round with the largest jumps. Everyone said that was an Olympic-level round, and the experience of tackling such a big track was so educational.
I was happy because I did have a few mistakes that I could really identify and correct for the next night class. Mika has a pretty hard right drift, and as I was coming to 5AB, I let him drift a bit with his right bulge, and then the nine strides into the combination got a little bit long. So he had A and B down behind. After that, I thought to myself, “You know he goes right, so keep his shoulders straight so you can ride the line.” It’s just like in equitation, keeping your track straight.
Cylana’s still pretty green under the lights, and she was a little bit charged, and I was a little bit excited. As I was going to the double, she took me a little bit past the distance I wanted, and she’s so scopey and brave that I probably could have just taken my leg off her completely.
But you’re cantering up to this big 1.60-meter double of airy, wide, liverpool oxers and you think, “I just can’t help myself; I just want to help you with my leg.” There’s so much momentum in an approach like that that I probably could have just held her, but I legged her and she had a rail.
Then in C of the triple combination, I did need to help her. The scopey triple bar to an oxer to a really long one stride to a vertical is where I needed to kick, and I didn’t. I kicked in the wrong place. Lesson learned.
I talked it over with Katie and asked her what she thought of 5AB, and she said that maybe I could have held her off it and trusted her scope a bit more. But C of the triple, I immediately knew it was my fault. It was such a demanding jump off that distance. I gave her 90 percent, and I needed to give her 100 percent. There are some places where I need some insight into sophisticated moments, and Katie tells me what she thinks caused a problem. And of course there are also the obvious blunders where I mentally kick myself right away.
We’re going to stay in Florida for a while until it’s time to go to Kentucky [in early May for the first observation event] and then to Spruce Meadows in June.
But after this, it’s completely up to [U.S. Chef d’Equipe George Morris] where I show and what I show in. I’ll do whatever he says. I know it’s a long shot to actually be on the team, but I’m going to put everything I have into it as if I was one of the veterans going for it.
Fast Facts About Reed Kessler
Hometown: Armonk, N.Y., and Wellington, Fla. When showing in Europe in the summer, Kessler is based out of coach Katie Prudent’s farm in Rosières aux Salines, France.
Olympic Contenders: Cylana (birth name Cylana van de Ruitershoeve), a 10-year-old, chestnut Belgian Warmblood mare (Skippy II—Verona van de Ruiterhoeve, Darco), owned by Reed Kessler.
Mika, a 12-year-old, bay French-bred Selle Français gelding (Nidor Platiere—Faeva de Villiers, Rubis Rouge), owned by Reed Kessler.
“Cylana doesn’t have that much of a personality in the barn; she’s not a lovely and delicate little thing. But she’s all business in the ring,” Kessler said. “Mika is in general pretty nervous. We spoil the daylights out of him in order to get him cheeky and confident.”