By Cheyenne Lord
Portraits by Kristen Scott-Crocker
Even before Lauren Knopp started riding, it was clear she had inherited her mom’s horse-craziness. During her early childhood, she briefly tried gymnastics and was an ice skater for three years, collecting Breyer horse models all the while. Although her heart really wasn’t in either sport, her mother, Teresa, thought it was important for her to be involved in something. The family reached out to a neighbor who kept a horse trailer in their driveway, and their neighbor later connected them with Terry Mardell at Hollandale Farm in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. Then-8-year-old Lauren took her first dressage lesson and was immediately hooked.
“Once I started riding, I knew it would be with me forever,” Lauren said. “I always found it incredibly amazing that the horses trust us to ride them, and the bond a horse and rider can share is something I can’t explain. My horses and I really have incredible relationships that are symbiotic, and we share mutual respect, trust and love. For me, that bond and my overall love for dressage are why I stuck with the sport. It’s still so amazing to me that an animal can do something so beautiful and harmonious.”
With an ambitious nature and perfectionist tendencies, Lauren finds every equestrian discipline, especially dressage, different than most sports because of that bond between horse and rider. She can always try to better herself with and for the horses, setting short- and long-term goals to keep herself motivated throughout her daily life.
Heading to Wellington
Lauren continued riding at Hollandale Farm until she was 13 years old. That year, her parents decided to sell their Pennsylvania home and move to Wellington, Florida, to further Lauren’s dressage training, buying a 7-year-old Belgian Warmblood named Nagir de Taillevent along the way. This transition allowed her to train and clinic with many talented people including the late Patrick Le Rolland, Sasha Newman Dubois, Carole Grant, Oded Shimoni, Raul Corchuelo, Laura Graves, Debbie McDonald, Juan Matute Sr. and Ali Brock. She now works with Devin Kane.
“My parents really are amazing people,” Lauren said. “They’re my biggest fans, and I’ve made so many memories working so closely with them at our IDA Farm! They’ve literally only missed two shows in my career, so every time I go down centerline, they’re there watching me. Also, when my mom started back up riding, I really enjoyed being the one who taught her dressage.”
Among Lauren’s accolades are her USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medals as well as team and individual silver medals from the 2009 North American Junior & Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) with Rho Dance. With her foundation in and passion for dressage, she prides herself on having correct basics instilled in her from the beginning. Her parents, Teresa and Harry Knopp, also taught her the importance of having a solid work ethic.
“I wasn’t handed any of this,” said the Grand Prix-level competitor. “They made me earn everything I have. I had to do well in school. They set goals for me and taught me how to set goals for myself. In addition to that, I envision myself completing those goals. When I need alone time to self-reflect, I carve time out at the end of the day to relax and recharge. It’s really nice having parents that are so involved in the industry because they understand the dedication it requires, and they have always supported my dreams and always tell me to go for it.”
From early on, Lauren knew she wanted to be an equestrian professional and train for a living. Now, she wears many hats around her family’s IDA Farm in Wellington: barn manager, trainer, coach, groom and whatever else is needed of her. Teresa and Harry help run the farm, and Harry owns an associated construction company, IDA Development, specializing in luxury homes, barns, arenas and equestrian estates.
“My dad is always busy making sure the training facility is kept at its best,” Lauren said. “The footing is a prime factor, and he’s made sure that we have what I think is the best I have ever ridden on. My mom is a people person; she meets and greets and makes sure everyone has a smile on their face. She is right there for me if I need her. I am so lucky. Even my younger brother comes and helps out when he’s not in school.”
Great Support System
With the ongoing encouragement of her parents, Lauren took a three-year hiatus from riding to become a full-time student at Stetson University. Keeping her goal of being a trainer in mind, she chose to study psychology with a minor in communication so she could effectively communicate with her clients and help them with their own goals.
Then in 2013, just three semesters shy of graduation, Lauren took a semester off to qualify one last time for the NAJYRC Region 3 dressage team before she aged out of the division. “It was my parents’ idea to take that break from school,” she said. “I wanted to graduate with my class and didn’t want to fall behind. But they said, ‘You only have this opportunity once. Don’t throw it away. Go have fun and see what happens.’”
Lauren’s return to the show ring brought her and her mount Rantaro to the 2012 Brentina Cup, where they placed third overall. That fall, she moved back home permanently and transferred to Palm Beach Atlantic University to finish her degree. She started Lauren Knopp Dressage, LLC, riding and teaching while commuting to school and back for her college courses.
“That break for Young Riders was actually very helpful to me in a lot of ways,” Lauren said. “It taught me a lot about time management and setting more goals to accomplish. Also, since I was a bit older than the other people in my final classes and running a business at the same time, I was super focused on getting my degree finished. My college work actually improved drastically when I started commuting, rather than when I was away for school without the horses.”
Hard Work and Dedication
Surrounded by her family and a fantastic string of horses, Lauren’s biggest long-term goal is to represent Team USA internationally, competing in the FEI World Cup, World Equestrian Games and, of course, the Olympic Games. In the meantime, she continues to be the best rider she can be for her horses and focuses on bringing a fun environment full of passion and commitment to her clients at IDA Farm.
“I am so blessed and fortunate to have the horses I have myself and those in training,” Lauren said. “Every horse has a tailored, individualized program at the farm. I’m a firm believer that no horse is created equal, so I take the time to really get to understand each horse and client to know them inside and out.”
Part of Lauren’s dedication to herself and her clients includes an emphasis on organization and a ritualistic pre-show routine. Everything is set out with enough time before a competition to go over the day’s test in her head, and she reflects on how lucky she is to do something she loves every time she gets on a horse. Lauren and one of her current FEI partners, Amadeus De Massa, had this same routine and many supporters at their back during the 2022 Adequan Global Dressage Festival, where they set a new personal best in the arena. Lauren was also voted the Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals Barn Manager of the Season by her peers, and placed 10th at the Festival of Champions at Lamplight in the Intermediare division with Amadeus De Massa in August.
“My family and other supporters are with me at every stride,” Lauren said. “Working with horses means you should show up every day ready to learn and to better yourself. Never give up, and always have the hunger to learn more. Go sit in on lessons; go watch the horse show; go look up endless videos of top professionals. Taking time to reset when you need it is still important, but this sport will reward you greatly for that hard work, determination and dedication.”
For more information, visit idafarm.com
Photos by Kristen Scott, www.sunsoarphotography.com