Wellington, FL – Life isn't a dress rehearsal and while dressage rider Lauren Knopp's best friend is still at the top of his game, she intends to share as many acheivements with him as possible. “He means the world to me,” she says, referring to Rantaro, the 17-year-old, 16.1-hand, bay Holsteiner gelding that has been her partner since 2012. Knopp, who is now a full time student at Palm Beach Atlantic University studying Psychology with a minor in communications, recently earned her USDF Gold Medal with strong scores at the Wellington Classic II and last two White Fences shows. Last year, with the encouragement of her parents and just three semesters shy of her bachelor's degree, Knopp opted to seek to qualify one last time for the Region 3 dressage team for the Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) before aging out of the prestigious national division. When Knopp was 18, she first rode in the NAJYRC in 2009 as a Junior where shewas a double medalist and winning the Individual Silver medal and the Team Silver medal. She also was National Junior Reserve Champion at Gladstone that same year.
"My parents have always been really supportive. It was their idea to take a semester off. I wanted to graduate with my class and didn't want to fall behind. But they said, 'You only have this opportunity once. Don't throw it away. Go have fun and see what happens.'”
The experience transitioned Knopp and Rantaro into the 2013 Brentina Cup dressage divisions at Wellington and White Fences without missing a stride. “It means the world to me to have earned my Gold medal with him and my first Grand Prix. At seventeen, I try to be aware of how many seasons he may have left. He's a resiliant horse, and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to do the Grand Prix with such a special horse.
The support Knopp has received over the last decade from her parents, who relocated the family from Pennsylvania to Florida to allow their talented daughter to train in the heart of dressage horse country, has been instrumental in her success.
“From when I was 5 until 8 I was an ice skater, after I lost interest my parents suggested to learn how to ride horses since I collected Breyer horses models. My mom rode when she was younger and encouraged me to try. When I started dressage lessons, we lived in Pennsylvania. When I was 13, my parents decided to sell the house and move down to Wellington so I could continue training. I have always admired dressage because of the bond you can build with your horse, and how amazing it still is to me to be able to have an animal to do something so beautiful and harmonious.”
Today, Knopp's goals and aspirations for dressage success jibe perfectly with those of her trainer, Oded Shimoni. The veteran of two World Equestrian Games and European Championships has also twice qualified horses for the Olympics, and now works with top riders including Tuny Page,Todd Flettrich, Buck Davidson, Silva Martin, and a select group of Young Riders and adult amateurs.
It's heady company for a 22-year-old equestrienne to keep but also at the core of Knopp's confidence: “None of this would be possible without Oded.” Next, Rantaro and Knopp have qualified for their first Brentina Cup, at the Festival of Champions, October 8-10, 2013, at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Knopp also participates in the ShowChic mentorship program, a pioneering way for up and coming young riders to gain experience in the industry and have access to amazing equestrian fashions. “Working with ShowChic has really boosted my career and helped me achieve my goals. I cannot thank them enough.”
"I will be graduating in May 2015. My parents are currently building a barn, Regalia Farm, this will be my home base, and in the future it will be my training facility. In the meantime, I am currently training at Stillpoint Farm. I am looking forward to the many years ahead with our partnership with Oded." Between the school and the daily training of her horses, also fit in that oh-so familiar dream of little girls who collect horse models: making it to the Olympics. Knopp knows her family and sponsors will support her at every stride: "They always want what's best for me, and they're always there for me. They are always on my team."
Follow Lauren Knopp on her Ride What You Feel blog, at Barnby Notes Rider Journals.