Practicing perfection: An interview with Olympic silver medalist Kim Severson

Severson and her horse, Cooley Cross Border, competing at the Fair Hill CCI three-day event in Fair Hill, Md., October 2016.

She’s a four-star international competitor, and she’s been called one of the premier event riders in the world. But Kim Severson, who operates Kim Severson Eventing from her farm in Charlottesville, says it’s hard work – not just raw talent – that put her in the saddle for success.

Q: Give us an overview of your background, your accomplishments and your current work.

A: I grew up riding in my hometown of Tucson, Ariz., as my mom has always been into horses. I’ve loved horses and riding since I was a little girl. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to make it my career. I began studying dressage at age 8 and eventing at age 11. Then I basically started competing nonstop. I’ve won the Rolex three times. I was an individual and team medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games, and I’ve competed in the USA World Equestrian Games several times.

These days, I’m busy running my own business, Kim Severson Eventing. I’m currently developing a few younger horses and competing my Irish sport horse, Cooley Cross Border, at the advanced level. I also teach young riders and give clinics in dressage, show jumping and cross country.

Q: What’s your proudest moment so far?

A: I don’t know that I have one proudest moment. There were so many amazing wins with my horse Winsome Adante, who went to the Olympics with me. All of them were special for different reasons, but there have also been many other accomplishments with many other horses, both before and after. I bought my own farm about four years ago and that’s another thing I’m proud of – just the day-to-day chores that go into running your own place and slowly making it better over time.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?

A: Typically I get up and start riding my own horses. I have a barn manager and a working student who help me with caring for the horses, which gives me more time to ride and teach. When possible, I like to get all of my horses ridden before I start teaching for the day.

Q: What’s the coolest place you’ve ever traveled for a competition?

A: The Olympic Games in Athens really stands out as being a competition like no other. I also loved going to the World Equestrian Games in Germany and France, and one of my favorite events is Blenheim in England, which I won with Winsome Adante.

Q: How would you sum up your philosophy on riding?

A: Always work your hardest. Never accept a jump or a transition that wasn’t good enough. Just practicing isn’t enough; you have to practice perfection – or as close as you’re able to get. I also like to make things harder at home than anything you will see in competition. I don’t believe in making things easy – for myself or for my students.

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