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The Next Generation: Kara Chad

Tuesday, 29 October 2019
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
23-year-old Kara Chad is a great example of what Team Canada has in store for the future. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


Team Canada has a unique combination of young talents and legendary champions, and 23-year-old Kara Chad is a great example of what the country has in store for the future. Kara has worked for Eric Lamaze for the past three years, being based in Belgium, just south of Brussels at Ecuries d'Ecaussinnes during the summer and in Wellington, Florida through the winter months. World of Showjumping met Kara to discuss some of her lessons learned while working under Lamaze’s guidance.

“My sister Bretton started to train with Eric previous to me joining when she was doing a semester abroad in Brussels,” Kara tells about how it all began. “Working with Eric seemed logical since we are all Canadian with like-minded goals.  Shortly after Eric asked me to work for him as a show rider,”she explains. “At Eric’s operation, Torrey Pines Stables, I ride the sale and young horses. I also compete with a few of my own horses owned by Stone Ridge Farms, my family’s business.”

“Eric has a number horses that Spencer Smith, my co-worker and I take to various international competitions including sale horses. There are always some up-and-coming stars at our stables,” Kara explains. “We gain tremendous experience with the number of horses we ride and compete with. It is a busy stable, especially when Eric is there. We ride anywhere from 5-10 horses per day depending on what we are preparing for,” she tells about her daily life. “We have a dedicated team at Torrey Pines supporting Eric, our riders and clients.  People visiting are generally surprised how much happens in a day at Torrey Pines! I love the team atmosphere Eric has created; we are very close and it’s always good fun along with hard work .” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Kara with her trainer and mentor Eric Lamaze. “Eric has a way of including everyone on the Torrey Pines team that fills us with confidence,” Kara says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Kara’s trainer and boss needs little introduction, but we are still curious to hear how Kara herself would describe him – and how it is to work for one of the true legends of the sport on a daily basis. “Eric is an incredible and very hungry competitor – and I have learned to be more competitive working with him,” Kara smiles. “Both Spencer and I are in awe of his ability to consistently produce top results and we work at following his lead!”

“Eric has a way of including everyone on the Torrey Pines team that fills us with confidence,” Kara continues. “He has provided some pretty amazing opportunities for me that perhaps I have been a bit young for yet it has given me invaluable experience and a belief that I’m on the right track with my career. As well, the quality of horses he has given me to ride have made it possible to rise to another level.”

“Eric is both an unbelievable coach and rider, and that combination is kind of rare.  No matter who he is teaching, he understands that each rider has their own style and he does not mess with that. However, he is not afraid to tell you what you need to work on!”

When it comes to exercises done at home, Kara tells us that Eric likes to recreate show situations in his training. “He wants to re-create what it will feel like in the competition ring so that you feel confident when you meet that circumstance. Then you understand when you see that in the ring for the first time. As well, he puts me on many different horses and lets me ride his top-level horses. With this experience which allows me to adapt to different types and know to expect different things from different horses.”

“Eric’s style is very much about feel – he continually tells me that plans change and that you must adapt and keep your cool. You need to learn to let go and really feel what is going on with your horse in the ring,” Kara explains.

“In Eric’s program, there is never a break, he is always on, always pushing,” Kara tells. “I have learned from him how creating a team atmosphere is extremely important. It is not just about you and your horse, but about everyone on your team that is there to support you.”

“Teamwork is also what helps us through Eric’s current health conditions. We are all prepared to do whatever it takes to keep his plans on track. His strength not only as an amazing human being but as a world-class competitor is a lesson for us all."

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
"I love how we are always discovering new ways to improve and that every day I learn something new," Kara tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Understanding the importance of team work has been one of the most valuable lessons Kara has learned from Eric, and it has also become one of the things about the sport that she enjoys the most.“The relationship with your horses is the most amazing thing,” she says. “But there are many other aspects about our sport that I enjoy. I love how we are always discovering new ways to improve and that every day I learn something new. I feel the equestrian community is very close-knit and I can approach anyone and ask questions or for help or for opinions. This type of interaction is something I really cherish.” As a competitive person herself, Kara naturally also thrives on the adrenaline of the shows. “I love competing, I love those few moments in the ring. And traveling all over the world to compete!” 

Despite her young age, and thanks to Eric and her family’s support, Kara has gotten some incredible opportunities – like being a regular on the Canadian team at different Nations Cup venues  “I was the alternate rider for the Canadian Jumping Team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and although I did not compete it was amazing to experience a championship at that level – ” Kara recalls. “Then being a team member at WEG in Tryon two years later, I had a good sense of what to expect. I understood the level of pressure and the team's mind set – the experience in Rio definitely helped me compete in Tryon.”

Kara has several exciting horses that she currently is campaigning, and is especially excited about the development of her 9-year-old Quidamo F. “I have been bringing him along since he was six, and was very pleased when he placed in the top 12 in the CN International presented by Rolex at the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' this year – that was pretty incredible,” she says.  

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
Kara with Quidamo F in the CP International presented by Rolex at the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' 2019. “I love competing, I love those few moments in the ring," she says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

The high paced life of a professional showjumper can be a lot to handle at times, and Kara finds the team around her helpful when it all starts to get too much. “It definitely gets to be a lot, and I think many riders would admit to that,” Kara tells us. “Especially when you start to compare yourself to other riders, and to where they are at and how they got there. I am lucky enough to have many friends in our stable to confide in. Everyone is really open, including Eric. He is willing to talk about pressure, and how we are feeling. Expressing how you feel with the people close to you definitely helps. It is very important. When you feel confident with your team it makes a big difference. 

"Everyone gets burnt out or scared every now and then, it’s good to recognize when you need to take a break. I’m still young and don’t overthink things — I don’t always think through the consequences just yet,” Kara laughs. “I believe it helps. Just go and make it work — survival; like going to Tryon last year and just trying to do my absolute best and not overthinking it. Eric is mentally so strong, I definitely try to follow his example.”

“Long-term, I see continuing in Europe,” Kara tells us about her future plans. “It’s tough to predict as there are so many variables in this sport and who knows where circumstances will take you, but my hope is to be competing at the highest level possible. I am also fascinated with bringing along young horses. This is a big part of what we do, working with Eric and I really enjoy it. Here in Europe everyone is very supportive and are willing to help you to do well. I really enjoy that mindset!” she says. 

Next to Eric, Kara credits her family for helping her to be where she is today. “My family did a great job of raising my sister and I to be very independent, and they are happy with our choices today”, she smiles. “They understand the sport and that really helps.” 

 

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