Love The Process, Not Just The Product

Love The Process, Not Just The Product Dressage Rider Lauren Chumley On The Value Of Personally Training Your Own Horses

By Charity Lucente

It is easy to look at a Grand Prix test as a spectator, and get lost in the polished, shiny, seemingly effortless presentation of the horse and rider pair. What spectators may not appreciate at the moment of that final salute are the thousands of hours of incredible investment that have produced it.

Lauren Chumley of Lauren Chumley Dressage knows the hard work that is required to make top-level dressage tests happen. She knows every aspect of fashioning a horse from a foal to the CDI ring, over and over again.

Chumley has made a name for herself in the industry as a supportive and fun coach, an honest and authentic businesswoman, and a relentlessly hard-working competitor. Starting her riding career at the age of 12 in Hamilton, Ohio, she knew right away that dressage was her path.

With the funding necessary to achieve her goals not always at her fingertips, Chumley developed her well-known work ethic and adopted her philosophy that success is the only option available to her. Currently, she is a United States Dressage Federation bronze, silver and gold medalist who is making her mark in both dressage and eventing. She has competed through Grand Prix and has earned multiple USDF year-end and all-breeds awards at the national level, in addition to running a hugely successful training and sales program both in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, and in down here in Loxahatchee.

Chumley brings a unique perspective on achieving the higher levels of dressage and the hidden value of investment in the individual by competing with a mount that you have personally trained. She places a high importance on becoming a well-rounded horseman, and how that can only enhance a rider’s career as a competitive professional.

When asked how she would inspire and direct the next generation of dressage riders, she warned of the importance of setting young riders up with an emphasis placed primarily on the FEI Juniors, FEI Young Riders and Under 25 riders.

“It is a pretty tall order and very rarely done, for someone 21 or younger to train a 70-percent-plus CDI small tour horse,” Chumley said. “This means that the rider is riding someone else’s training, which is great, and it absolutely is important to learn how to navigate the test. However, at the end of that time, the riders haven’t necessarily learned the valuable process of how to produce a horse to that level. They have learned how to steer through the Prix St. George really well on a horse that somebody else put the work in on.”

While this approach has its value, she believes that there is not enough emphasis on the path of training horses from soup to nuts.

“There are a precious few trainers in this country who will ride three-year-olds and then do a CDI Grand Prix,” Chumley said. “There are just not that many.”

The pendulum of a well-rounded trainer has to swing so far to train a horse all the way through. Yet riders and trainers need this knowledge on a very deep and intimate level, so they are able to reproduce a reliable result.

While a large number of young professionals are focused on how to secure funding to fuel their programs, Chumley cautioned this next generation to not make their career reliant on a sponsor. After all, lives change, and relationships change, putting the riders’ string of horses constantly in jeopardy.

“If I were to lose one of my FEI horses right now, I’ll produce another one,” Chumley said. “You can’t unhorse me. This provides me security that no one can take away from me in this industry.”

Ideally, the sport’s focus would return to the training process and investing in becoming a trainer wealthy in experiential knowledge, able to reproduce the result, not buying the finished product. This means that riders should surround themselves with qualified instructors and a team of people to support them.

As Chumley noted, there is high value in going out and earning gold on a horse that a rider personally trains, rather than achieving it on someone else’s preparation. Put your own education as a horseman first and chip away at it. Each horse will hopefully get a little faster as you become more skillful.

Learn more about Lauren Chumley at