By Haylie Kerstetter
Portraits by Alex Banks
Kimmy Cecere always knew she was destined to compete. Although her show career started in the hunter ring, she fell in love with the feeling of galloping across fields and exploring the woods, jumping anything in sight, and knew eventing was her calling. Now located in Middleburg, Virginia, and Ocala, Florida, Kimmy is a CCI4* rider with two FEI wins, one national win and three top 20 finishes at the 4*Long level.
Kimmy grew up on her parents’ farm in Littleton, Massachusetts, where she began riding before she could walk. When she was in elementary school, she went to Denny Emerson’s Tamarack Hill Farm every summer, where she found her life’s calling. After earning her undergraduate degrees at the University of Kentucky, Kimmy got a job as the assistant coach of the hunt seat team at Bridgewater College, while getting her MBA at North Central University and competing a small string of eventing horses.
Now a professional, Kimmy works for Lauren Nicholson (née Kieffer) helping to start young horses as well as show horses owned by Jacqueline Mars. Kimmy was selected as the 2020 recipient of the Wilton Fair Grant, which is enabling her to spend much of this year training in England, which will help her work toward her goal of producing CCI5* horses and eventually representing the United States on the Olympic stage.
Kimmy was selected as the 2020 recipient of the Wilton Fair Grant, which is enabling her to spend much of this year training in England.
What’s your favorite thing about eventing?
I love that the bond between horse and rider is incredibly strong. To successfully compete at a three-day event requires a blend of delicate artistry, powerful grit and a significant amount of trust. Plus, the adrenaline rush on cross-country day is pretty fun!
Who have been some of your most notable trainers throughout your career?
My mom started coaching me when I was very young. Coaching a stubborn teenage girl should be an Olympic sport, and she deserves a world of credit. Once we started eventing, I spent most of my summers with Denny Emerson. Denny ingrained patience and kindness with the horses, and had a work ethic that I’m still trying to measure up to. After I started going Preliminary, my mom took me for regular lessons with Jerry Shurink. Over the years, Jerry has become not only a trainer, but a mentor, sounding board and cherished friend. He has a wealth of knowledge and is always happy to share. In 2016 he introduced me to Lauren, as well as David O’Connor. Lauren and David have perfected the art of developing winning horses from 3-year-olds to five-star horses in a gentle and kind environment. I’m still learning so much from them.
What was your college experience like?
I went to the University of Kentucky for undergrad, and North Central University for my graduate degree. It was an irreplaceable experience that gave me a glimpse of, as well as a skill set for, life outside of competing horses. In addition to the classroom knowledge, college taught me time management and interpersonal skills, and gave me lifelong friendships.
Kimmy said getting to wake up and do what she loves every day is pretty special.
What’s it like riding and working for Lauren Kieffer?
I’ve been with Lauren for six years. I have grown as a rider, trainer and competitor in my time with Lauren. My primary job is to break the babies, and then Lauren competes them when they’re around 5 years old. We have a great partnership, and I’ve been fortunate to develop a small string for myself through the support of this team, and with the help of David O’Connor and Lauren.
What are your plans for the coming year?
I will be training and competing in England from March to September. The first three months I will be at the Yorkshire Riding Centre with Christopher Bartle, and the remainder of my time will be spent with Tim and Jonelle Price. I was the 2020 recipient of the Wilton Fair Grant, a generous grant gifted by David Lenaburg, intended to give international experience to young professionals looking to be competitive on a global scale.
Do you currently compete with your own horses?
I don’t personally own any horses. My parents graciously kept my horses at our farm when I was hired for my current position. Now they enjoy showing riders the ropes in hunters and eventing. I ride for Landmark’s Young Event Team, a breeding program developed by Jaqueline Mars and run by Sue Clarke and the team at Stonehall Farm. Working with the young horses is my favorite part of the day, and it has proven to be vastly rewarding in and out of the saddle.
Kimmy grew up on her parents’ farm in Littleton, Massachusetts, where she began riding before she could walk.
What is the best thing about your life?
My inner circle: My family, friends and boyfriend are incredibly supportive. I am grateful to have them in my life. Plus, I get to wake up and do what I love every day and that’s pretty special.
Best kept secret about what you do!
When we break the babies, I ride them for the first few months in a halter. We teach them to turn with a large orange rod called a carrot stick, and to slow down with a rope that is loosely draped around their neck. They get a bridle only once they are ready to start competing.
Kimmy Cecere in Ocala, Florida, with Landmark’s Jungle Gold, known as Richy, owned by Jacqueline Mars.
Follow Kimmy on Instagram @kimmycecere
Photos by Alex Banks, www.alexbanksphotography.com