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Brian Moggre: “I would love to look back and see growth, in whatever way that might be”

Tuesday, 09 November 2021
Interview

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
"She just wanted me to love Balou and that is exactly what I have done – I love him so much," Moggre says about Ann Thompson's Balou du Reventon. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

When World of Showjumping spoke with Brian Moggre at the end of 2020, the young American talent had just gotten the ride on Ann Thompson’s Balou Du Reventon (Cornet Obolensky x Continue). Fast forward a year, and the two have had an incredible summer, won their first five-star Grand Prix and been a part of the winning US team at CHIO Aachen.

 

Balou du Reventon

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
“I am obsessed with him, he is amazing,” Moggre says about the 15-year-old stallion Balou du Reventon. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

“I am obsessed with him, he is amazing,” Moggre begins when asked about the 15-year-old stallion Balou du Reventon. “I cannot even imagine being where I am without him. When I first got Balou, I had just turned 19. I had never had a horse that had gone and been so successful before: All the horses that I had prior to him that were mine, I got them younger and developed them. I would say that I was the only person that put a lot of pressure on the situation. I think a lot of it was about proving that I can do it; be successful with more than one horse.”

“Ann Thompson, who owns Balou, is the most lovely owner I could ever ask for,” Moggre continues. “She told me to do what I felt was right, what was best for the horse. She encouraged me to take my time, said that there was no pressure, that it was not about the results. She just wanted me to love Balou and that is exactly what I have done – I love him so much.”

Moggre and Balou developed an incredible partnership in a matter of months and taking the time in the beginning is something Moggre believes has made all the difference. “I had him for a few months before I ever showed him,” he explains. “Really just taking the time to get to know him was a huge part of our success: We really became partners before we ever stepped out into the ring. From the first time we competed, it has all just fallen into place and I am very appreciative and thankful for that. However, I really don’t have an explanation for it! I have had lots of horses come and go so far during my short-lived career, and how fast things went with Balou is not normal.”

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
"Every time we enter the ring, it is really the only time he feels like a stallion: He is so gentle on the ground, he is like a puppy dog, but when you enter the ring, you can feel him grow. He is big and powerful; he is like a little dragon under you," Moggre tells about Balou du Reventon. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

“So many people helped in the process of developing a relationship with Balou,” Moggre continues. “I developed a relationship with him both on the ground and on his back. Lesley Leeman, who works with me, created her relationship with him and we just had to make sure Balou felt like he was at home with us. It was not a matter of running to the shows, we took those first months to learn his mannerisms and see his personality.”

“He is such a war-horse, he has so much fight in him,” Moggre says about Balou. “He wants to do it, he loves to show jump. Every time we enter the ring, it is really the only time he feels like a stallion: He is so gentle on the ground, he is like a puppy dog, but when you enter the ring, you can feel him grow. He is big and powerful; he is like a little dragon under you.”

Moggre points out how it is important to have a relationship with your horse in many different ways. “It is great to have layers in your relationship,” he says. “With Balou, I’ll crawl into his stall when he is laying down and we can cuddle, but we also have a very competitive relationship when we are showing. How to work together with each other's personalities is important, and I think many forget that even though they might be horses, they have personalities. I see horses as people – there are so many things you have to learn about them. You cannot think they will come out each day and be the same – no, they can have a bad day, too. There are times they feel joy, times when they seem sad. Understanding a horse on a greater scale is essential. Lesley has done an amazing job in instilling this perspective in me. As a kid growing up, I did a lot of catch riding and rode a lot of horses for other people, where I would just get on and do the job. When Lesley joined my team and I started my business, she really taught me that these horses have hearts, they feel. She understands a horse better than anyone. It is something I have learned from her and I will carry that with me for the rest of my life.”

Team-mates, not tools

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
"I think to an outsider, watching the competitive scene of the sport, they only see it as work and no play. It is important for those who are on the top of the sport to really highlight the fact that these horses are not tools, they are team-mates," Moggre says. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

“The hard part of our industry is that to the naked eye, all that appears is what happens in the ring – and that is probably the worst thing about the sport,” Moggre says about how equestrian sports have been subject to criticism in the aftermath of the Tokyo Olympics. “Being in the inner circle of it, looking at top horses and top caregivers – like Explosion with Cormac Kenny and Don Juan with Josie Eliasson – I know these horses are taken care of better than we take care of ourselves. Every operation runs their business differently and no program is the same as the other, but ultimately, that is the case. I think it is so hard to get people to understand this side of the sport. We should really open up those doors to show that these horses are loved, they are cared for."

"It is a balance of having security cameras on them 24/7 but at the same time letting them be horses," Moggre continues. "I am a firm believer in letting horses be horses; let them spend time in the paddock, go on a trail ride in the woods, gallop down the canals in Florida – it cannot be only work and no play. I think to outsiders, watching the competitive scene of the sport, they only see it as work and no play. It is important for those who are on the top of the sport to really highlight the fact that these horses are not tools, they are team-mates. They are your partners; one is not above the other. You have to be on a level playing field with your horse, but it is hard for someone who is not in our industry to see that.”

First summer in Europe

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
“When we first came over, I really did not know what to expect," Moggre tells about his time in Europe. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Moggre arrived in Europe on May 1st, and headed straight to the south of France to jump a five-star show with Balou. “This past summer has been a dream come true,” he tells. “When we first came over, I really did not know what to expect. Our first five-star show was an eye-opener: Those were some big jumps! Balou jumped double clear and was fourth in the Grand Prix there, and that really set the summer off to a great start.”

At that time, being on the shortlist for Tokyo, Moggre and his team were focused on the Olympics. “Sopot was the first team event I did over in Europe and Balou won the Grand Prix there,” Moggre recalls. “It was my first five-star Grand Prix win, which was really exciting. Shortly after that, Balou jumped clear in the five-star Grand Prix at Windsor and then we were selected as one of the non-traveling reserves for the US team for the Olympics. At 20-years-old, that felt as a huge success and I could not have asked more from Balou – he is just spectacular.”

Not being on the team for Tokyo meant that Moggre’s next big stop would be Aachen. “As soon as the Olympic team was announced, I shifted my thoughts on how to gear up on Aachen and really make that the peak of my time in Europe this year. I did not expect much; I had never been in Aachen before, all I knew was that the jumps are giants. Right from the start, I knew Balou was on his A-game. He jumped double clear in the Nations Cup and after that, I thought it was the best week of my life. But then the Grand Prix on Sunday came around… For me, CHIO Aachen and Balou jumping five clear rounds over 1.60m is probably something I will have to wait for the rest of my life to happen again – who knows…”

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
“I am here in the stable and it is just me, my horses and my team and you focus and you compete," Moggre tells about his time in Europe. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

“Here in Europe, you don’t see everybody every single day, but for me that is motivating,” Moggre tells about the difference between America and Europe. “I am here in the stable and it is just me, my horses and my team and you focus and you compete. When you go to a horse show, you are not driving down the road, you go to other countries, you see the world. I think that is incredible and I think it has been one of the coolest parts I have experienced this summer; all the different places we have been. Maybe because I am new to the circuit here in Europe, it feels cool to go from Italy to Poland. Also, the calibre of the sport is incredibly different as well: Here, you are competing against the top seven in the world in nearly every five-star class and it can be a bit intimidating. For me, that is motivation; to be better and be just like those people.”

“Something that I have always believed in is that everything happens for a reason. This summer, I kept reminding myself of that,” Moggre says when asked what was the biggest lesson that he is taking with him from this summer. “It has been hard, being so far from home and it was nerve wracking in the beginning, not knowing so many people. But I felt like I established new relationships and met new people and that has been a great thing – really, everything happens for a reason. I think we have to wait and see what next year brings, but I believe a lot of new doors have opened. I think I have educated myself on the breeding as well and I am eager to carry that back with me.”

Team USA

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
“To be a part of the team, it really is the best feeling. You are representing your country, but you are doing so alongside people who are rooting for you," Moggre says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Point blank period, I love it,” Moggre smiles when asked how he feels about being part of the US team. “To be a part of the team, it really is the best feeling. You are representing your country, but you are doing so alongside people who are rooting for you. They really have developed Team US in sort of a pipeline system and I very much travelled up that way and so many others have before me.”

“From equitation to hunters and junior jumpers, you develop into a young rider and compete on these young rider teams, led by Erin Keating and Anne Kursinski, learning what it is to be a part of Team USA and how a championship works,” Moggre tells about the system the Americans have in place. “So, when the time comes and you are ready, you are just going from one step to the next. I think the team does a great job of really bringing riders up and having the youth come through. Right now, we have got Jessica Springsteen, Lillie Keenan, Lucy Deslauriers, Spencer Smith, myself – the upcoming generation is really breaking through. In Aachen, three out of four riders were under 30 and you could find that a risk – and maybe it was – but it paid off. Our chef d'equipe Robert Ridland and team leader Lizzy Chesson are doing an incredible job. The younger generation is proving to be hungry and ready. There are legends on the team and any chance we get to ride alongside them is massive. You might not be learning from them in a training aspect, but you are learning from them just by being with them on a team. That is a great thing: You operate as a team, you root each other on and fight together, it is another way of learning.”

Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
"With Laura and Nick, it is all about learning. I think the day that you stop learning is the day that you plateau," Moggre says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

At the end of last year, Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton started to coach Moggre. “They let me run my own business, they are there to guide me and help me along the way,” Moggre explains. “Over in Europe we based together and being in the stable with them was great. If I had a question, it was just two steps down the aisle, when normally it is a phone call away. It was great to spend the summer with them and learning from both of them has been huge to my success. Taking a little bit from each of them, I adapt that to my riding in my own way. I believe that you have to make it true to yourself and it has to work for you – not everything is going to work only because someone tells you to do something. With Laura and Nick, it is all about learning. I think the day that you stop learning is the day that you plateau. It has been great to learn from the best, I feel very lucky. As I grow and my business grows and the horses develop, I think Laura and Nick are always going to be people in my inner circle. I feel very close to them and I plan to always have them as part of the team.”

Be hungry and humble

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
“I think there are so many things that ground me on a daily basis, humbling experiences that aren’t necessarily always in the ring,” Moggre tells. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Everybody has their down-days, and for Moggre it is his list of goals that keeps him pushing on. “I have a list of goals that I do at the beginning of the year. Things are added as the year goes on, maybe some things are taken away,” he explains. “It is always changing, but when I have a bad day, I look at that list and remind myself of what I want. You remind yourself that bad days happen, and you push through, because you know what you want and you are manifesting that, instead of saying ‘that’s never going to happen’. For me, I look at that list and it fuels my fire, it makes me fight for it. It can be the smallest of things; like a long-term goal of mine is to have a stable, smaller scale is a young horse jumping clear – you have different goals.”

“End of next year, I would love to look back and see growth, in whatever way that might be; be it growth in my business or within myself or hopefully both,” Moggre continues. “Anything can happen, but I would love to in a year from now, see that I am on the path that I told myself I wanted to be on. The World Championships next year is a huge goal of mine, it is something we are going to gear towards. One day, I would love to have my own stable. Long term, it is something I have always dreamed of.”

After a summer of his dreams, Moggre is still hungry but humble. “I think there are so many things that ground me on a daily basis, humbling experiences that aren’t necessarily always in the ring,” he tells. “This past summer has been so successful, but it does not mean that I did not have my fair share of classes that did not go my way. Taking three horses to a show, you can have one that doesn’t touch a pole and another one you are struggling with at the same time. For myself, my parents play a huge part in grounding me. My father always says, ‘be hungry and humble’. It is something I keep reminding myself of, and Lesley as well – she keeps me grounded. Every day is a new day, anything can happen. What you do about the bad days is important – to not let them defeat you in a way that does not serve your bigger pursuit.”

 

No reproduction without written permission, © copyright World of Showjumping.com

 



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