By Britney Grover
Portraits by Kristie Nichols
Brian Moggre exploded onto the show jumping leaderboards in 2019 like he and MTM Vivre Le Reve explode around a course of jumps. At just 18 years old, Brian finished his final junior year outranking Olympic gold medalists and international champions. His name joined those at the top of the sport that have long been household names in the equestrian world. This January, Brian was awarded the Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy at the 2020 USET Take Me to Tokyo gala for exemplifying sportsmanship, horsemanship and potential as an elite young rider.
MTM Vivre Le Reve, known as Erkel, was just 7 years old when Brian got him; Brian was 14. They’ve been learning how to jump big courses together, and “Vivre Le Reve” is more than just a name: It translates to “live the dream,” which is exactly what Brian is doing.
Brian’s passion for horses started before he could even remember. “At the age of 2, Brian had a very strong opinion about wanting to stop and see the horses,” his mother, Teena, related. “We would pass the barn every morning to take his sister to school and he would insist we stop there after dropping her off. We went there almost every day and if I didn’t have time, I’d have to take a different route to school so he wouldn’t be upset.”
By 3, Brian knew all the horses’ names at the barn near their home in Flower Mound, Texas — and which stall they belonged in. If a horse was missing, Teena was required to ask why. Finally, they convinced trainer Gianna Aycock to give Brian and his older siblings riding lessons. “I was supposed to be 5 years old,” Brian said, “So I was 5 years old for three years.”
Brian’s brother and sister went to a total of two lessons; Brian was hooked for life. He took weekly lessons until age 5, when he started taking two lessons each week and participated in his first jumper class. “I went to my first A-rated show when I was 7 and did the .85-.90m jumpers on a little black Icelandic pony named Tinna,” he said. “Ever since then, I just kept showing and kept traveling, going to more shows and earning our way.”
“We all knew that Brian was going to be involved with horses from a very young age,” Teena said. “He loved horses and the barn, and was determined to be involved with them daily. I don’t think we knew how much involvement he would have but by 8 he was already dreaming to represent his country in the Olympics. He participated in his first mini prix at 11 and won his first one at 12.”
By then, Brian had been getting horses from Mike McCormick and Tracy Fenney of MTM Farm, who also helped him out at shows in addition to his longtime trainer, Gianna. When Brian was about 14, he switched to online schooling and began traveling the show circuit with MTM Farm. “Then Brian was showing six to eight horses a week in jumpers, hunters and equitation,” Teena said. “I think once he started participating in all the different disciplines, we realized he had a strong equestrian future ahead of him.”
Not only did his parents support and encourage Brian in pursuing for his dreams, they taught him the skills to achieve them: His father, Martin, was the one who taught Brian to make short- and long-term goals each year, and to plan each day around those goals.
“I have the absolute best parents anybody could ask for, and that’s something I’m confident in saying,” Brian said. “My parents have done everything to get me where I am today, whether it’s been certain horse shows or certain horses and being in the right environment. They’ve always been supportive of this dream.”
Pursuing the Dream
With a growing support system, Brian took his riding to the next level — with big results. In 2016, he followed up a win in the Rider’s Boutique $50,000 Grand Prix at Lamplight Equestrian Center, taking home the $250,000 Black Barn Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Prix at HITS Saugerties on MTM Flutterby, all at just 15. And only more accolades followed from there, including winning the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final at the 2018 Pennsylvania National Horse Show.
“Winning the Hunter Seat Medal Final was a huge and meaningful accomplishment for me,” Brian said. “It took a team: We had Mike McCormick who was training me, and Ken and Emily Smith helping as well, and Don Stewart, who provided me with a horse. It was a group effort and something I’d always dreamed of, and with a great team behind me, we were able to make it happen. To this day it means the world to me.”
Though Brian thoroughly enjoys slowing down and the attention to detail of the hunters, it’s jumping he’s always had a passion for and it’s the jumping world he took by storm in 2019. At 17, he and Erkel entered their first World Cup with the $100,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Ocala at Live Oak International in March — and walked away with their first FEI grand prix win.
“That was a very special win for me and not anything I would have imagined,” Brian said. “While we were getting ready, I was joking around at the barn with Lesley Leeman, who helps takes care of my horses, and I said to Erkel, ‘Let’s win a watch today, buddy,’ and gave him a fist bump to the hoof. He’s a fantastic horse and everything, but I didn’t know what to expect — it was a big class for us. I told him, ‘Let’s win a watch, buddy,’ as a joke, and by the end of the day, we were able to pull that off. Now it’s been a little bit of our routine, give him a fist bump to the hoof and off we go.”
The routine is working: In November, they beat Olympians and world champions to make Brian the youngest ever winner of the $225,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Lexington, with a slew of impressive results in between. “I got Erkel four years ago; we were both young, so maybe at first I didn’t see the vision Mike and Tracey did but I’m grateful they saw a true pairing,” Brian said. “Without their guidance in buying this horse, I wouldn’t have had half of the success that I’ve had.
“All these classes, my first three-star, four-star, and five-star grand prix have been Erkel’s first time doing those classes as well, so we get to grow together,” he continued. “He and I do it as a duo, and just see what we can do. For it to work out in our favor just makes it more special to me.”
Living the Dream
Having won two qualifiers, Brian and Erkel have their sights set on the FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas this April. Brian turned professional in December and has begun building his business in Wellington with the guidance of Ken and Emily Smith, all while focusing on his three horses under Lesley’s impeccable care.
“MTM Flutterby, who goes by Izzy, is a little chestnut mare I’ve had for six and a half years now — and I know her like the back of my hand,” Brian said. “I’m very appreciative of her. She took me from the low junior jumpers to the U25 and national grand prix, and a bunch of ranking classes. And then I’ve had MTM Los Angeles, or Archie, for two years. He’s phenomenal, one of the most talented horses I think I’ve ever had and it’s been super fun developing him, getting to know how he goes and hopefully make him what I see in him — that’s super exciting.”
When it comes to the magnitude of his success so early in his life, Brian says it’s still sinking in. But he’s quick to give credit and gratitude to his team: his parents; Gianna Aycock; Mike McCormick and Tracy Fenney; Ken and Emily Smith; and Lesley Leeman. “It’s been an amazing experience for all of us,” Teena said. “We never had any idea how much he would accomplish at such a young age. We can’t wait to see what his future holds, and are extremely proud of what he’s achieved already.”
Every day revolves around horses for Brian, but planning out those days and setting goals has played a role in his success — and will continue to keep the dream alive. “I always had hopes for this kind of success,” he said. “Did I think it would happen between the time I was 3 and 18? No. I was for sure surprised it came as quickly as it did. It’s amazing to me, and gives me more motivation to keep doing what I’m doing, make more goals and hopefully accomplish many more amazing things.”
Photos by Kristie Nichols, moonfyrephotography.com, unless noted.