By Nancy Jaffer
December 23, 2017
She’s done it all, from winning Olympic team show jumping medals and writing a book, to victories in the world’s major grands prix, as well as earning spot in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. Her mounts have included such famous names as Starman, Livius and Eros.
But now Anne Kursinski has something else on her resume, the title of U.S. assistant show jumping coach and development technical advisor, which she assumed this fall. Anne, who operates the Market Street training stable in Frenchtown, is working with U.S. team coach Robert Ridland.
It’s a perfect relationship, since the two go way back together.
They’re both Olympians, native Californians who trained at the Flintridge Riding Club with Jimmy Williams and later with U.S. Equestrian Team coach Bert de Nemethy.
Anne, who at 58 is younger than Robert, 67, recalled she looked up to him when she was a kid. Anne remembers Robert returning to Flintridge after he rode on the 1976 Olympic team, which made an impression on her. Anne’s ambition was also to ride in the Olympics, which she did three times, earning two silver medals in the process, and was an alternate twice.
“It’s a fun camaraderie with him,” she said of Robert, noting he has had quite a career, running the World Cup finals, having his own training barn, being a course designer and a technical delegate. Meanwhile, she has been a selector for the team, so their paths have crossed often.
“We have a rapport and get along very well,” said Anne.
“We’re very, very comfortable with each other. I have a passion for the team, I always have, and if I can’t do it myself, then I want to help other people do it.”
For his part, Robert said, “I feel Anne is essential to the program.” After spending a year shadowing former coach George Morris before taking on the job himself after the 2012 Olympics, Robert said, “It was hard for me to imagine that he was able to do all he could do as a one-man show.
“Our country is too large,” he observed, noting Anne “is an invaluable asset to the team and myself as the development coach and my assistant.” For 2018, he noted, show jumping involves “two parallel programs, one focusing on the WEG (World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C.) and then all the rest, including qualifying for the Nations’ Cup final.” And don’t forget the Longines FEI World Cup finals in Paris.
Robert also is a believer in putting younger, less-experienced riders on squads to bring them along. He and Anne are part of a larger team that includes DiAnn Langer, the Young Rider coach, and Lizzy Chesson, the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s director of show jumping.
Before taking the job, Anne said, “My concern was, I still have a business and I’m still actively competing.”
But she was reassured by Robert and Lizzy that she could still be involved with her other pursuits, which cleared the way for her to move into the position.
“I love the team,” she noted. “The Nations’ Cup and the tours were my favorite part of competing, I was passionate about that. I do love to teach and share my experience. To have done it from a little kid all the way up through the Olympics is helpful.” And she mentioned that when she is working with less-experienced team riders and “helping them up the pathway,” she’s giving a boost to many more people than she could by working on her own.
Anne, who has been a chef d’equipe in the past with Young Rider teams, now relies on information from DiAnn about those who have been in the Young Rider program and are moving up.
The group she deals with primarily “is different than the Young Riders, in that they need more structure in a way.” While they may have been on one or two Nations’ Cup teams, she mentioned, “These guys have already been over there, but they still need guidance.”
She went to Samorin, Slovakia, with a team during the autumn.
“When they had to ride in the Nations’ Cup, they were nervous. To be able to help them with that, I enjoy it. I’ve been in that situation myself.”
In fact, said Anne, “I was in high school when I went to my first Nations’ Cup at Spruce Meadows,” which helps her empathize with members of her squads. There’s no doubt that the mission is clear: “The bottom line is to get the next generation on the podium, doing what Beezie and McLain are doing,” she pointed out.