Lexington, Kentucky has a new Olympian in town and he is eager to make the Bluegrass his long-term home.
After spending the past four years living and competing abroad in England, internationally recognized eventing rider and member of the U. S. Olympic Eventing team at the 2016 Rio Olympics Clark Montgomery and his wife, Jess, have returned stateside and, after considering a variety of locations throughout the East Coast region, decided to plant his roots in Central Kentucky as the base of operations for their training and show stable.
“We looked at a number of other areas, including Virginia, where my wife is from, but it is saturated with professionals,” said 36-year-old Montgomery. “Lexington has an incredible amount to offer to equestrians and small businesses alike, and while there are a number of top level riders here, the amount of opportunities throughout the area make it a great place for a professional to create a niche for one’s self as a coach and competitor.”
Success on Both Sides of the Pond
As a professional rider, Montgomery’s list of accomplishments is long. In addition to competing in the most recent Olympic games, Montgomery has been a fixture on the U. S. Equestrian Federation’s High Performance and World Class training lists. While living and competing in England he produced eleven top 10 finishes in international competition, which included four wins.
Since returning to the U. S., Montgomery’s credits include winning the inaugural U. S. Nation’s Cup CIC3* and competing in this year’s Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI4*. With the competition season coming to a close for the year, Montgomery has his sights set on his next major goal: making the U. S. Team for the 2018 World Equestrian Games.
To find success in the upper echelons of any sport, one must be fiercely competitive, with a healthy appetite for winning. While Montgomery is indeed competitive, he says that doesn’t supersede his primary focus – developing an equine athlete that is not only good at its job, but enjoys it.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t competitive,” said Montgomery. “But you’ll go crazy and put too much pressure on the horses if that’s all that drives you. It’s about building a relationship between you and the horse and creating the best training program and environment possible for them.”
Clark says that a horse will only perform to the best of his or her abilities if it is sound and healthy not only throughout its body, but in its mind as well.
“The most important thing you can do as a rider is to try to understand your horse, both physically and mentally, and base your training on its natural abilities,” said Montgomery. “By treating each horse as an individual, you are bound to get the best out of them without destroying their character to do so.”
Training Horses and Humans
The philosophy of addressing each horse as an individual in mind, body and spirit is one that Montgomery strives to pass onto his students as well. He has long enjoyed coaching amateur and professional equestrians alike, traveling throughout the country to give clinics and seminars. Now, with his new base of operations at Wimbledon Farm in Lexington, local equestrians can train with him regularly to hone their skills.
Montgomery spends several hours a day in the saddle, keeping his competition mounts, Loughan Glen (his partner at the Rio Olympic games and last year’s Kentucky Three-Day Event) and Universe (a quickly rising star in his stable that he brought from Europe), in peak condition between events. He also has a young horse, Engapore, that he has been bringing along in his training.
All three of his current mounts are Warmbloods, but now that he is in the heart of Thoroughbred country, he is eager to take on a retired racehorse as a training project.
“These people in Lexington are breeding phenomenal horses. Their goal is to breed an elite equine athlete and, if for whatever reason that horse doesn’t make a suitable racehorse, they are super eventing prospects,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery and his wife are eager to build a life for themselves in the Lexington community, but the reasons for doing so are not entirely equestrian-based. The couple will celebrate the second birthday of their daughter, Vivian, on December 1 and feel that Lexington is the perfect environment in which to raise her.
“Lexington offers us the perfect balance of a fantastic city to live in with endless opportunities for Vivian as well as world-class vets, farriers and competitions at the Kentucky Horse Park,” said Montgomery. “It’s great fun being in a city filled with neighbors who share my passion for horses.”