There’s only one way to prepare for a championship, and that’s by riding among, and as, one of the best in the world. The United States’ Lauren Hough has been doing exactly that all spring and summer from her European base, busy with her string of horses and a growing group of students who have accompanied her to five-star stops from the South of France to the United Kingdom.
Based on her success and her growing partnership with the light-footed Ohlala, an 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare [Orlando x Cardento], Hough, who is the FEI-ranked World No. 25, was singled out by her federation and USET chef d’equipe Robert Ridland to represent the USA at the fast-approaching Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. Hough, already a two-time Pan Ams veteran, is well-positioned to be an anchor player at the Pan Ams, even though the week will mark Ohlala’s first-ever team championship. We caught up with Hough as she wrapped her last show in Europe (pictured above) before heading to Toronto, where the show jumping competition will begin on July 21st:
Q: Where are you based this summer? Can you describe your stables?
A: I am in a town called Cherington-Tetbury, which is in the Cotswalds area of England. It’s Mark Phillips’ farm, and we have a really beautiful facility to call home. The horses are really happy there.
With all of my students, we have 18 horses based here for the summer. And including the young ones, I’ve got about six for myself.
Q: What was your schedule for Ohlala in the 90-day lead up to the Pan Ams?
A: Well she had quite a busy end of the winter there in Florida, and she was in very good form but I gave her a bit of a break. She did GCT Madrid and GCT Hamburg in May, and
then after CHIO Aachen at the end of May, again she had a few weeks of break. Then we just did GCT Monaco and GCT Paris, with Paris being her last show leading up to the Pan Ams.
I try to keep her on a schedule of two weeks on, two weeks off. So she’ll have about 10 days break from Paris (pictured at top on July 5th) until she jumps in Toronto.
Q: Was making the team for the Pan Ams a big goal for you, or were you pleasantly surprised to have been chosen?
A: I don’t know that I would call it a big goal, this will be my third Pan Ams, but we felt that it was a good venue for Ohlala. I like the location and I like that we’re not traveling too, too far away. It’s a place we’re all familiar with so with all those factors and in having a good support crew of owners, we wanted to do it, as it is good to have a championship under our belts with the Rio (Olympics) goal in mind for next year.
Q: In terms of all those shows that you mentioned, what was your best preparation for the Pan Ams?
A: That’s a bit hard to say, the horse doesn’t really care what kind of venue she goes in. She’s pretty adaptable for any sort of environment so I wouldn’t say that a particular place or class has been extra important. It’s more that she is fit and fresh and having consistent results in the lead up to Toronto, and we’ve accomplished that.
Q: Describe your training program, and your focus for Ohlala?
A: We don’t jump her so much at home, we just focus on keeping her fitness level up. I’ll give her one school before she flies to Toronto.
My manager when I’m away at shows, Nina Ulenberg, does a beautiful job with her on the flat. She goes on the gallop track, the treadmill, and the fields. She has a full day when she’s not showing, and she does enjoy being home, but not for too long!
She’s been quite consistent, I haven’t really won anything big as of lately but her consistency over these last few months has been good, so I think we’ll be ready.
Q: Does Ohlala have any special quirks or requirements?
A: Well, she does like a vacation but not too long of a vacation! She’s quite grumpy in her stable. Normally when you open the door to her stall, she turns and faces the corner. But she looks a lot tougher than she is. She is a horse that kind of has a lot of blood, which helps her out a lot in the ring because of her small size.
When you sit on her, she feels like a small horse, but she gets bigger when she gets into the ring. She definitely doesn’t know that she’s a small horse, and her character lends herself to that.
Q: Who are Ohlala’s owners, and will they be at the Pan Ams?
A: Her owners are the Ohlala Group; I’m an owner, as is Dennis Singer, Desi Dillingham, and Fred and Heather Briggs. Most of them are all attending the Games, which will be really nice. They always watch her on the Internet, so for them to be able to watch her in person will be a treat.