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RIDER REVEAL Lauren Sprieser

Written by Cynthia Dawn

• 

Posted on December 20 2020

UNAPOLOGETICALLY LAUREN  

A conversation with Lauren Sprieser is an invitation to sit deeply into the saddle and ride a dance of unbridled wit, humor, intellect, and authenticity—all while being doused with profound, unforced wisdom. When reading this article, keep in mind that intent and intonation are sometimes lost in translation to the written word; therefore, proceed with vast amounts of light heartedness, imagination, and 5g reception. Spoiler alert…Lauren is hilarious! 

Guernsey Elvis. Photo Credit: Sue Stickle

“I’m not capable of putting on airs. I’m just not smart enough to have two different ways of comporting myself so I rarely edit anything. Wait, that’s not entirely true. I do have to edit my profanity.” This was her response when asked about her writing but one will feel an overarching theme of not taking life or yourself too seriously. 

 “Writing always came very easily for me which is why I can’t do it for a living. I’m an extremely talented writer and therefore never learned discipline as opposed to riding horses where I’m not so talented, therefore, I’m extremely disciplined.”  Funny, right?!

Helio. Photo Credit: Heather Richards

“My goal is to be more famous for the riDing than the wriTing .” Lauren articulates her words clearly and slowly for effect and clarity. “So far, writing definitely has the upper hand but hopefully not for long.” Lauren is modest about her riding accomplishments. In actuality, she is a USDF Gold, Silver and Bronze Medalist and an International Grand Prix Dressage Competitor, as well as, a respected Trainer and Clinician. As for writing, she’s an acclaimed blogger for the Chronicle of the Horse, and has also written for Dressage Today and Practical Horseman. 

“You know most people get into this business because they love horses; and, of course, I love horses—but I also really love people.” I’m kind of a weirdo in the horse trainer world because I really do like people and I think this job is way more about humans than horses, because horses are pretty simple, people are hard.” 

Gretzky RV. Photo Credit: Heather Richards

Lauren is based on her 135-acre, Clearwater Farm, in Marshall, Virginia where she is Owner and Head Trainer at Sprieser Sporthorses. Together with Assistant Trainer, Karrigan Norris, they train a wide range of horses from green to Grand Prix; their mission is to bring horses and riders up the levels of dressage with fairness, correctness and joy.

A Day in Lauren’s life is quite full, as you would expect of a trainer with twenty horses in her training barn. “I’m up around 4:30 because that’s how my brain works and it allows me to have a cup of coffee and do a little office work before I head over to the barn at 6:00. I’m on my first horse by 6:45. I ride and teach my boarder clients and staff all morning; then in the afternoons, I have trailer-in lessons before heading off-site to teach. I generally try to finish up by 4:00 at least two days a week so I can get some exercise in before I get rolling on dinner. Sometimes I go back and teach in the evenings.” In a non-COVID year Lauren is also on the road with clinics and horseshows about 30 weekends a year. 

“I love watching a human student get it for the first time, whatever IT is. There is no bigger thrill than watching your student click into an idea and really thrive.”   ~Lauren Sprieser

Lauren teaching. Photo Credit: Jeff Counterman

When asked about what she believes is a most important characteristic of a great rider, she replies with clever Sprieser zest. “The ones that know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em; it’s absolutely possible to be too demanding of a horse but it’s also possible to be too patient. I think, as in all things, says the Buddha, ‘the middle path is the way.’ You have to know when to tell your horse ‘come on let’s go’ and when you have to slow your reaction process down a bit to give them a chance to figure it out or maybe even just call it a day and go for a trail ride.” 

Gretzky RV.  Photo Credit: Heather Richards

"Grit" is Laurens’ middle name. “Every horse in my life is developing and not finished. I have had terrible luck! I’ve had a lot of horses not work out, get hurt, or both. I’m happy that I have these younger horses that are at the beginnings of their very exciting careers right now. My two show horses are 9-year olds. Guernsey Elvis is on the brink of Grand Prix and Gretzky RV or 'Puck' is on the brink of FEI. I have a yearling too, Ojala.” Lauren also recently sold a young horse that she co-owned with a client who sadly passed away this summer. 

Elvis 

“To know Elvis, you have to know about Danny, “she explains. “I thought Danny Oceans would be my career maker. I got him as a 6-year-old and was right on the brink of GP debut when he colicked and had to have surgery. A year later, at age 9, he colicked again and died. I was not looking for a horse but when I was in Holland looking for a horse for a student they showed Elvis to me and he really felt like home.” 

Guernsey Elvis. Photo Credit: Heather Richards

Adding Elvis to her string of horses would require some creativity. I did not have the money for a horse so I approached a lot of people that I thought might be interested in joining a syndicate, but they all said no; so, I borrowed the money to buy him anyway figuring that when we were good, people would be interested” 

But a series of unfortunate events prevented Lauren from reaching her desired outcome so she's had to dig deeper. “I knew I was good at writing so I wondered if there was a way to use that to make an experience that people would enjoy. And that’s what I did. The Sprieser Sporthorse Elite Club is a little bit of a club experience and a little educational opportunity with newsletters and behind the scenes access on social media to give people a glimpse of what goes on in the high-performance dressage world.” 

A PSA about Life on the internet 

“Opening up to my followers and allowing them a peak into my horse training life is a great opportunity. Incredible kindness and joy have come into my life from being a citizen of the internet. But it has also been an opportunity for me to open myself up to the absolute worst of humanity. People can be incredibly mean. And so please, when online interacting with people, ere on the side of kindness.”  

Gretzky RV. Photo Credit: Angela Buck

Lauren’s other competition horse, Gretzkey Puck won the 2020 Regional One Championships at Third Level after being somewhat of a project horse. “Puck was very green when I got him as a 6-year-old; he was a bit wild and even life threatening, but has grown up to be one of my favorite horses. He’s big and goofy and lives his life like a bull in a china shop “ 

But Lauren isn't deterred by a wild child. “I want my horses to be successful adults and not all successful adults are successful kids. You know some of my favorite successful adults both with two legs and four legs were phenomenally difficult kids, so I’m never stressed by the process. The horses that go to the Olympics are not so simple at five.” Bam!

 Gretzky RV. Photo Credit: Heather Richards

Ojala (or Lala) was bred by a friend of hers in Ocala. “It’s not a journey I ever thought I would go on but the opportunity presented itself for me to keep a foal and I decided to try. The reality of a high-performance sport like dressage is a pyramid and you have to have a deep bench.” 

Lauren’s goals for 2021 are for Elvis to make his Grand Prix debut and Puck to make his FEI debut. 

When asked about what brings balance into her life, Lauren jokes. “I’m still looking. It’s out there somewhere. Maybe. I think.” Then continues. “I think it’s really important to be well- rounded. You can’t have a singular focus because then when that focus goes askew you want to chew your own arm off. I love to teach, I love to ride, I love to travel and teach, I love clinics, and I also really value the long-term relationships. Some of my clients have been with me more than 10 years.” 

 Gretzky RV and Patrick. Photo Credit: Heather Richards

She also believes that having a life outside of the barn is essential. “I have a non-horsey partner, so when I go home we talk about other things. It’s important to have depth; this is a career and a passion that will absolutely eat you up and spit you out if you let it.” 

Gretzky RV. Photo Credit: Angela Buck

Lauren is an avid outdoor person who loves to hike, garden, and cook. ‘Cooking is definitely one of my favorite things. I am not a baker and there are several reasons for that. One of them is that my body desperately wants to weight 400 pounds and I think that if I knew how to bake I would eat it all the time and my body would succeed in its mission.  Also, baking is chemistry and cooking is art; as much as I am a pretty disciplined person I’m a freak show artist in the kitchen. I don’t believe in measuring. I think measuring is for losers” She laughs.  

With a BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, Lauren did a lot of heavy reading. “So now that I’m an adult, I admit to reading largely trash because it’s my escape at the end of the day – a lollipop for my frontal lobe. But I do occasionally fire up my frontal cortex and actually read something smart.”  

Gretzky RV. Photo Credit: Heather Richards

Relaxation, is a bit of a challenge for Lauren, “I don’t relax. I think that vacation on a beach sounds fun for about 45 minutes. Downtime is not good from this brain. I’m trying to meditate. It’s really hard and stupid and I hate it. I’m good at yoga for about 15 but that’s where it ends for me. Too much mind clearing is not good for me. Horse are kind of my meditation. I can become very tunnel vision in a productive way.” 

Lauren’s advice to aspiring professionals comes with a sarcasm alert. “Oh God, pick another career! No, I just think you have to get very comfortable being uncomfortable. Push your limits and take a gamble because nobody can achieve big things without taking big risks.” 

Hey Lauren, what’s in your tack room? 

“My Kingsley boots from the Dressage Store are in there and my schooling boots are as wild and raucous as I get. They’re a shiny navy, not patent but shiny, with brown leather detail at the toe and the top. They’re really fun with just the right amount of sass.” Sounds like a perfect match. 

Elvis and Lauren wearing her Kingsley Boots. Photo Credit: Heather Richards

“Also, in my tack room are my One K Helmets, Roeckl gloves, saddles from Advanced Saddle Fit, bridles from Sagmae, fly spray from Spalding Labs, my Nightwatch Smart Halter AND my two rescue dogs, Nike, a pit cross and my Georgia ditch dog, Georgia, who would probably mug you for a cookie.” 

Guiding principles 

“I am sitting in my indoor riding arena at the C end of the arena there’s a sign that says Go Forward," Lauren says. "That is, for sure, my mantra for all things. It’s important to keep in mind that everything is temporary and you just have to keep going forward.” I think we, as a collective, can all relate, especially during what has been a year of uncertainty and pause. 

Gretzky RV. Photo Credit: Britt Gillis

Lauren offers another meaningful nugget. “In that same vein, I like Joseph Campbell, who taught creative writing at my old alma mater. He said ‘say yes to the whole catastrophe.’ There are times when it’s easy to dwell. But just keep saying yes, keep saying yes, and embrace the crazy.” 

Beautifully expressed Lauren! And a reminder for us all to say, 'Yes' and to keep moving Forward!
 
Cynthia Dawn is an Author, Writer, Coach and Horse Mom. www.cynthiadawn.com Follow her on Instagram cynthia.d.a.w.n. and Facebook Cynthia Dawn