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Written by Cynthia Dawn


Posted on September 11 2020



I believe that every horse is unique so it’s important to ride each one differently. I try to have a fresh mindset from one horse to the next —each time—a new version of myself.”

~Hope Cooper

When in conversation with accomplished U25 equestrian athlete, Hope Cooper, her exceptional riding, training, and horsemanship skills are beyond evident and one cannot help but salute her impassioned existence and profound awareness about interconnectedness—how her own actions affect others—horses and humans.

Hope and Diamond.  Photo credit: Callie O'Connell

Festival of Champions 2020

When asked about her choice to not attend this year’s Festival of Champions at Lamplight, Hope’s sense of moral responsibility takes the lead. “It definitely was not something that I wanted to do, but in thinking about what was best for myself, my family, and my horses - the best decision for us was to cancel.”

For recall, Festival of Champions came at a time when Covid-19 was on the rise in certain areas of the country, including Chicago, located about an hour from the Lamplight Equestrian Center, where the event was being held. FOC was also taking place just after the Pony Championships in Kentucky cancelled, after most of the competitors arrived, as a result of someone testing positive.

My horses and I have a strong bond and it doesn’t feel like that is going anywhere.” She professes warmly.

“I have big hopes and dreams for our future in this sport and preserving those dreams felt more important to me than going and risking them.”

 Hot Chocolate. Photo credit: Lily Ferado

Hope’s 2020 season was super impressive! Even with the pandemic closures, she qualified all three of her horses! Don Diamond, Hot Chocolate, and Sunshine Tour all ranked in the top 10 in the U25 Bretina Cup.   

Hope discloses more about her decision. “I’m also a bit of an activist. While in college I studied a lot about activism and determining when it’s important to speak up—this felt like one of those moments. Going to Lamplight would have gone against my intrinsic beliefs about the virus and my support for the population that it’s most affecting.”

When Hope speaks about her personal decision not to attend Festival, her tone is not one of judgement for the athletes who did attend. Instead, it’s a highly informed, intelligent conversation that points to her deep conviction that bolsters social justice and racial equality.

“I’m really glad everything went well and turned out to be safe for those who did go—and thankfully I have another year in the U25 program. Qualifying all three of my horses was reward enough for me this season considering the circumstances.” 

Diamond. Photo credit: Lily Ferado

It feels essential to acknowledge USEF and USA Dressage for doing such a remarkable job hosting the Championships at Lamplight! Their diligence in effectively upholding safety protocol will surely be a model for future events as we continue to navigate pandemic terrain.

Hope’s Horses

In addition to a moral compass, Hope has a fantastic sense of humor that’s highlighted when she playfully describes her horses.

“Diamond is like the best friend you’ve had since pre-school, you always go back to him for life advice and to hang out with him and feel nostalgic. Sunshine is like the older girlfriend you have that shows you the ropes, and she’s the one you want to talk to about your current life struggles. Chocolate is like a first boyfriend, he’s very goofy, but also really amazing and the one you’ll be in love with forever.”  

Diamond and Hot Chocolate. Photo credit: Hope Cooper

Noteworthy is that Hope has actually developed both Diamond and Hot Chocolate to Grand Prix herself with guidance from her coaches. “Diamond and I were both learning changes when we started training together; we had no idea how far he would go.”

When speaking about her accomplishments with Hot Chocolate, Hope expresses deep gratitude to Chocolate’s owner, Mary Mansfield. “She really believes in me and in Chocolate. None of this would be possible without her!”

Hope recaps Diamond’s and Chocolate’s successes these past two years. “In 2019 Diamond and Chocolate placed first and second in several CDI’s, then Diamond was third in the Youth Championships while Chocolate earned the Bronze medal at Festival of Champions. This year (2020) Chocolate earned first and second in a few CDI'S, and he was also the anchor for the CDIO Nations Cup team and would have likely gone to the CDIO in Aachen too if it had been held. Diamond only competed once this year because of Covid but he was second in the Youth Championships.” 

And there’s still Sunshine Tour! Their journey together started just a little more than a year ago. “It was my first year with Sunshine so I’m really happy with an average of almost sixty eight percent!” Hope also rode her to second place this year in the CDI-U25 Grand Prix in Wellington. “Sunshine was my Mom’s horse, but she felt that she would do better in the U25 ring; so, Mom handed me the ride. It’s one of the most unbelievable things anyone could ever do!” Hope’s gratitude and respect for her Mom is perceptible.  

Sunshine Tour. Photo credit:Jillian Miller

As most know, Hope’s Mom, Jane Karol, is a Grand Prix rider and has already trained 10 horses to Grand Prix. She is also USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist. Jane opened Bear Spot Farm and Foundation in Concord, Massachusetts in 1994 providing top tier boarding, care and dressage training programs. Jane is also a Doctoral Level Psychotherapist and provides Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy at the Farm.  

Coaches and Training

And Jane is Hope’s coach! “My Mom has always been my riding coach, even through my teenage years when I was really difficult. She’s been really smart about it though, like asking other people, like Lendon Gray, to warm me up before a show to avoid any stressful mother-daughter ringside moments.” She laughs.

“I honestly love working with my Mom! She’s always super honest with me about my riding, my horses and how they are going; she’s sort of my base for everything. And besides, what other person would give you their GP horse?! We’re very close both inside and outside of the barn; she’s definitely my best friend.”

Hope and her Mom. Photo credit: Jillian Miller

For the past two years Hope has also been training with Juan Matute, Sr. “Even though we haven’t known each other very long, Juan feels like family,” she says warmly. “He’s an exceptional teacher and mentor and I love how he is with horses! He’s taught me a lot about showmanship and not getting caught up in the intensity all the time; he encourages me to do fun things like go for a gallop once a week. Juan has honestly brought a side out of me that I didn’t know I had as a competitor. I am so grateful for him!”

Hope’s coach in the USEF U25 Kundrun Developing Program is Charlotte Bredahl. “She’s been really amazing! I feel so lucky to have the three of them!”

When asked about her most valuable personality trait as a rider, the word attunement comes to mind as she expresses her priorities on individuality, balance, and connection.

“I believe that every horse is unique so it’s important to ride each one differently. I try to have a fresh mindset from one horse to the next—each time—a new version of myself.”

Diamond. Photo credit: Anna Jaffe

“My number one goal for my horses is for them to be horses first and dancers second. So, they’re turned out every day from 7 in the morning to 7 at night and brought in to be ridden. And I love spending time with them on the ground too, so I hang out with them in their paddocks or stalls whenever possible.”

Hope’s connection with her horses is discernible and her wisdom and wit commendable.

“Having a friendship with a horse is not like any relationship with a human being I’ve ever had. They are a mirror when you need them to be a mirror, a best friend when you need them to be, and they can give you a kick in the butt when you need it too. They are never lacking in their side of the relationship.”

I know right?! She’s an old soul for sure.

Sunshine. Photo credit: Robert Celado

Her Team

As an Assistant Trainer at their Bear Spot Farm, along with Callie O’Connell, Hope’s days are full and she is quick to acknowledge the value of a good team.

“My Mom is definitely at the top of the list along with Kariel Swanfeldt–Yacino. Kariel is technically our Barn Manager and Head Groom, but I also call her my nanny, and I joke with her and tell her that she has like 8 million things on her resume because she does it all. Kariel goes everywhere with us and we could not do this without her.”

Hope gives a gratitude shout out to other core team members including their vet, Mark Hollman “who literally saved Diamond’s career and changed Chocolate’s life.” Jillian Miller, Sal Salvetti, Rodrigo Naranjo Cobo, and Mary Mansfield all are held in high regard.

“An amazing support system is the best thing ever!” She punctuates.  

Dreams, Collaborations, and Pastimes

While in college, Hope found a masterful balance between school and riding that allowed her to graduate last year from the University of Connecticut with a triple major in Neuroscience, Dance, and Africana studies.

Being a dancer since the age of five (primarily ballet and modern), Hope keeps it relevant when she says,

“It’s really amazing how human bodies and horse bodies move; the finesse of each movement is very similar.”

Chocolate. Photo credit: Lily Ferado

Africana studies peaked and nourished Hope’s interest in and service to marginalized populations. As a result, she is now working on a project that combines her passion and humanitarian efforts with her sport. I’m currently working with an organization called City to Saddle and we’re hoping to do some clinic projects with minority riders on the near future.The eventing world is doing programs like this really well, so I’m hoping the dressage world will be open to it.”

With her continued pursuits in the field of Neuroscience, Hope has a dream of also bringing this realm into her sport. “My dream has always been to go to grad school, then work with my Mom on a project that studies what our brains do while we’re riding and whether or not we enter into a state of flow, similar to monks when they meditate and an athlete’s “runner’s high.” And so, my BIG dream would be to get my PHD, go to the Olympics and do that!”

Here’s to the trifecta Hope!

Diamond. Photo credit: Jillian Miller

When not riding, Hope enjoys cooking. “I like to make vegan food. I’m not totally vegan, I’m like sixty percent because I also have a lot of FOMO about food; so, if someone makes an awesome chicken dish I’m going to try it!”

Hope also likes working out, biking, reading and listening to podcasts. And her number one hobby? “Singing in the car VERY loudly! I’m a terrible singer and that’s what makes it so great!”

Hope’s Kingsley Boots

Hope says her new Kingsley boots will be arriving in the mail soon.

“I have a pair of plain black ones right now that I love! They’re super comfortable, but I’m very excited about my new ones! The Dressage Store has gone above and beyond, and when I say above and beyond, it’s a new definition of that! They have basically designed a pair for me that is kind of a combination between a jumper boot and a dressage boot so it fits my ankles better. I can’t wait to debut them in Florida this winter season!”

She adds. “I’m also a number one fan my Team USA flag sneakers! I wear them everywhere!”

What’s in your Tack and Feed Rooms Hope Cooper?

“We have Antares Saddles, Finesse Bridles, and Henneg Bridles. Then in the feed room you’ll find lots of Nutrena.”

Hope also recently became a represented rider with Piaffe Sport who will be helping her to grow her dressage career by developing opportunities with new sponsors. Piaffe already works with riders such as Charlotte Dujardin, Matt Harnacke, and Carl Hester.  


Hope has a heartwarming and profound response when I ask her about guiding principles in her life. “I’ve never been one to live by inspirational quotes.” She says. “But I have a tattoo that says Be Bold. It’s kind of a family motto. My mom’s dad said it pretty close to his death, so a lot of relatives on my mom’s side have this tattoo.”

Photo credit: Lily Ferado

Curiosity is another power word for Hope. “I believe the reason I’m able to pursue multiple interests is because I try to be curious about anything that comes my way—and I ask questions.”

“If I’m with a horse, I’m trying to be curious about their world and what they’re experiencing. I feel like that’s how you can find the energy to do anything.”

Thank you, Hope Cooper, for daring to Be Bold and Curious and inspiring others to do the same! You are a rising star!

Cynthia Dawn is an Author, Writer, Mindful Life and Awareness Coach and Horse Mom. Follow her on Instagram cynthia.d.a.w.n. and Facebook Cynthia Dawn