By Kathryn McMackin
Portraits by Isabel J. Kurek
A young Kim Prince dreamed of being a rodeo queen. “I wanted that crown on my cowboy hat. It was my first dream — and one I never achieved,” she added with a laugh.
It may be one of the only dreams Kim hasn’t conquered. Throughout her career, the show jumping rider and trainer, who divides her time between Wellington, Florida, and Upperville, Virginia, has ridden in the world’s greatest venues, trained under the watchful eye of the country’s greatest riders, and provided insight through her work as an on-air analyst for the sport.
And she’s accomplished it all through her own determination, hard work and love of the sport.
Now, the 53-year-old is re-invigorating her brand.
With Kimberly Prince LLC, expect to see Kim in the saddle competing, working with sales horses and guiding a few students up the show jumping ranks. “It’s a little bit more of a boutique barn — I like a little bit of everything that makes me happy,” she explained. “That’s my goal at this point in my life, to enjoy everything that I do.”
Growing up in Park City, Utah, Kim spent her winters on the ski hill and her summers riding western around her family’s ranching property.
“I had a little Quarter Horse when I was 3 years old; I never had a pony,” she said. “And I just loved riding. We had a pasture full of horses and I would be out with them all the time.”
Prancer was the name of her buckskin best friend. “She was awesome,” Kim exclaimed. “We would carry the flag in the Fourth of July parade. She did it all: pole bend, barrel race, English pleasure, everything.”
Major knee surgery sidelined Kim from the ski hill, so her parents bought her a horse that jumped. “It was total bribery to keep me happy,” she laughed.
“I picked up Practical Horseman, saw that Katie Monahan-Prudent was on the cover and said ‘I want to go take lessons with her.’”
At 16 years old, Kim moved to Virginia to start working with Katie, leaving her family and Utah behind. Although she did stints under the tutelage of John Madden and Mark Leone, Kim spent nearly 18 years working with Katie.
“I formed all of my opinions because of Katie,” she said. “Either with her, or by thinking I may want to try something a little differently.”
“It was the cornerstone for my career,” Kim continued. “I was determined to ride with who I thought was the best in the country, so that’s what I did. I completely committed and grew from a client to a working student, to her assistant, to running her barn while she was in Europe. It morphed into my whole career.”
Determination Vs. Talent
And what a career it’s been. Since that fateful move to Virginia, Kim has ridden at all the major show jumping venues worldwide, including memorable Nations Cup performances at Aachen and Hickstead. Twice she claimed the top prize in the American Gold Cup. Recently, she worked with Frank and Monica McCourt at Rushy Marsh Farm, competing all over the world and riding the likes of RMF Zecilie and RMF Swinny Du Parc.
Wherever she’s been, Kim made the most of it.
“I was a hard worker — I still am,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I was the most gifted rider in the world, but I was determined. I absorbed everything around me, watched all the professionals and lived in the schooling arena. I wanted to go to every single horse show, every single day.”
When her chapter at Rushy Marsh Farm came to an end in 2017, Kim got down to business creating a barn where she could focus on the things that make her happiest. And she’s got a keen eye out for students who are just as determined as she is.
“The path I took as an apprentice is probably harder for people today, which is a little disheartening to me,” she said. “But there are trainers, myself included, who try to give back to the sport. We’re trying to find someone who has real interest and real love in the sport.”
Like Chloe Reid. Chloe was riding ponies when she started working with Kim, and progressed all the way to international competition, competing as a member of the U.S. show jumping team as a 17-year-old. Now, Chloe has moved on to ride with Markus Beerbaum.
“I absolutely love to watch my students go on, succeed and continue,” she said. “I’m always rooting for them. Chloe had the thing I had — the determination and the love. She’s more successful than I was at her age, but she works hard and she loves her animals. In the end, the story is the same.”
Chloe isn’t the only grand prix rider listed on Kim’s resume. Alison Firestone Robitaille, Christine McCrea and Danielle Goldstein, among others, make up the impressive roster.
Operating out of Upperville, Virginia’s Belle Grey Farm, Kimberly Prince LLC is not the type of barn to spend all day at the equitation ring. She loves to compete, but for Kim, the real enjoyment of the sport is guiding young riders upward through the show jumping divisions. Alongside her assistant, Lillibet Motion, Kim is developing a barn full of students looking to progress. She aims to introduce her team of up-and-coming riders to the sport outside of North America, igniting passion with glimpses of European sport and top-notch venues like Spruce Meadows.
“We’re building a barn that’s exactly what we want,” Kim said. “The people are there for a reason — they have a goal, they want to go somewhere.”
Kim’s vision for her brand is broader than building a team of dedicated clients. A constant competitor, Kim is always on the lookout for four-legged talent to add to her string of competition and sales horses.
“I love going to horse shows,” she said with a laugh. “I like seeing progress. Competition shows you progress and development, both in yourself and your horses. I was lucky enough to be in Europe showing for the past few years. I feel very current, I’m riding well, I’m teaching well and I feel like I have a few more experiences to share.”
She’s already seeing results from her selective approach to re-invigorating her brand. The two weeks her barn spent competing in Upperville at the end of June proved to Kim that she’s on the right track. “We had the most incredible two weeks,” she said. “I’ve never had every single horse and pony in the barn go their very best all at once. Every single horse was jumping clean, happy and sound. It was remarkable.”
For Kim, show jumping and life are one and the same — not in the sense that she’s always around horses, although she is, but in the sense that the industry teaches lessons that transcend the time spent on the back of a horse.
One of those most important lessons: learning to lose. It’s a lesson she’s passed on to her clients, as well as her daughter, Lydia Frey, a professional dog handler.
“There are a lot of lessons you learn at a horse show, or even just working with horses,” she said. “It’s not easy; you lose a lot more than you win. When you come out the other side and you’re okay, you learn from it, and that’s when you start to do better. It’s more than winning a class, it’s the process of real life. Life is hard.”
Despite the challenges, Kim certainly made her dreams come true.
She did it at 16 years old when she moved to Virginia to work with Katie, and she’s done it with every chapter of her career since. And she’s come to grips with never becoming rodeo queen, although she’s reigned in the show jumping arena, earning accolades from tournaments around the world.
“I have those moments when I reflect on the little things,” Kim said. “I’m at the point in my career where I can see it all — I can enjoy the moment. I’m not wrapped up in trying to get somewhere or trying to prove something. Right now, that’s the best part of being me.”
For more information, visit www.kimberlyprince.com