American Olympian Lauren Hough and her show jumpers spend the majority of their year in the U.K. now, but she’d love to get back Stateside in September for the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, North Carolina. A stellar 2017 with the 14-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare, Ohlala, placed Lauren in the U.S. ranking’s top 4, securing her spot on the United States Equestrian Team’s recently-released “short list” of riders in contention for the WEG team.
A many-time wearer of the USET’s legendary red coat, Lauren would no doubt find personal pride and pleasure in contesting a second WEG on home turf. Her first was 2010 in Kentucky with Quick Study. But giving “Lala” the showcase she deserves is perhaps the biggest driver in her current quest.
“She deserves it,” says Lauren of the petite, speedy star with whom she’s been partnered for seven years. “She had a tremendous year and if she can stay on form, she certainly deserves the opportunity. I’m going to try not to let her down! Going to the WEG would be an honor, and it’s always nice to have the home-field advantage.”
The 15.1-hand mare has an energy level well suited for the Championship’s unique multi-day format. Initially purchased as an investment horse, the then 7-year-old Lala didn’t take long to persuade Lauren to find a way to keep her. They were big winners early in the partnership and Lala exhibited championship chops in 2015. Her consistent performances and stamina throughout that year’s Pan American Games in Ontario, Canada, helped earn individual and team bronze, the latter a requirement for the U.S.’ spot in the 2016 Olympics. Coupled with three more years of mileage, over the world’s biggest tracks, Lala’s fitness, energy, scope and speed should put her perfectly on form should their WEG hopes materialize.
Of course, there’s a lot to accomplish in the final phases of the selection process. After spending the winter on the Wellington, Florida circuit, Lauren and her horses returned to Aston Farms in Gloucestershire, England, where hacking out through grassy fields and on an inclined galloping track are a bigger part of Lala’s home life than jump schools. “She knows her job,” says Lauren. “At this stage in her life, it’s mostly about keeping her happy and fit.”
“She enjoys her downtime, but if she’s home for more than a few weeks, she gets a little bored,” Lauren laughs.
The petite yet powerful pair will contest two WEG “observation events,” CSIO5* competitions in the Netherland’s Rotterdam, in June, and in Aachen, Germany, in July. “If we make the team, I’ll work backward from the WEG dates to make sure she’s in peak form,” the rider explains.
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Haygain® Steamed Hay is one of the horse management staples that keep Lala and her stablemates happy, healthy and fit. Developed to rid hay of dust, bacteria and various respiratory irritants found in even top quality hay, the steaming process came onto Lauren’s radar screen a few years ago. She’s not quite sure when she first learned about it, but it made immediate sense.
Haygain was developed at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, England, and international eventers based in Europe were among the first to embrace its benefits. As conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum become better understood, steamed hay has become widely recognized for its ability to help protect the horse’s fragile and sensitive respiratory system.
“It’s a safety measure for us,” Lauren explains. “When you’re travelling a lot, you don’t have the same hay and steaming eliminates the risk of a cough or infection coming from breathable particles. We all recognized it as very beneficial.”
As she continues her path toward the WEG, Lauren proudly carries on a family tradition of equestrian excellence. The California native’s father, Champ Hough, was a team bronze medalist at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Poland. Her mother, Linda Hough, is also a renowned horsewoman, whose Sutton Place stables produced some of the country’s most legendary hunters.
Lauren excelled in the ponies, equitation, hunters and jumper divisions as a junior, but winning the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association Grand Prix Rookie of the Year at 15 most clearly foreshadowed her future. In 1994, she won the USET’s Show Jumping Talent Search and she’s since more than fulfilled the potential reflected in that victory.
Ranked 37th in the world at the end of April, Lauren is a three-time Pan American Games medalist and a Team USA member for the 2000 Olympics, the 2010 World Equestrian Games, seven World Cup Finals and many, many Nations Cups. Here’s hoping the fates align for her to add September’s World Equestrian Games to that impressive resume.
Haygain is committed to improving equine health through scientific research, product innovation and consumer education in respiratory and other health issues. With offices in the USA and England, Haygain distributes products for healthier horses to 19 countries, including its Haygain® Hay Steamers, ComfortStall® Orthopedic Sealed Flooring System, ForagerTM Slow Feeder and Flexineb® Portable Equine Nebulizer. Visit www.haygain.us for more information.