When 17-year-old Kate Egan was called back to work off at the top of the WEC Premier Equitation Cup (Florida), she knew it wasn’t just her riding that would be tested—the final phase would also challenge her stress-management skills.
Egan was to face Carlee McCutcheon, Jordan Gibbs and Ellie Aronson in the final round of testing—all formidable equitation riders.
“I was moved to the top after the second round,” the Califon, New Jersey, native said. “It’s a lot of pressure to go in on top because you don’t want to lose that spot.”
But instead of viewing her top spot as a source of tension, she reframed it as an opportunity:
“Luckily, I was able to watch the other girls go before me,” she said. “I already had my plan that I was going to do, but it was really nice to go last and adjust my plan as needed in order to stay on top.”
Egan said her ability to change her thinking emerged after she started working with mental skills coach Nancy Dye, based in Wellington, Florida, about a year ago.
“I’ve learned to use pressure and channel it into being able to perform my best and hold my top spot” when such situations arise, she said.
Dye’s training has given Egan tools to use stress to her advantage and improve her confidence—which, she said, also brings confidence to her horse, Ypaja Kashmir, a 10-year-old gelding (Inshallah De Muze—Lasina) owned by Redfield Farm.
“It allows us to better understand each other, and allows me to know what I need to do for him to perform our best,” she said.
“Kashmir” came to Egan’s trainer, Emil Spadone, last April. He put Egan on the gelding, and they immediately clicked.
“He was imported as a junior/amateur jumper, but he was a little too slow for the job,” Egan recalled. “Within two weeks, we fell in love. We realized how much potential he has.”
Before the year ended, he and Egan had placed third among 231 entries in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Medal Finals (Pennsylvania).
“This past season was his first time at indoors,” she said. “He totally knocked it out of the park. He thrived indoors.”
That played to Egan’s advantage again Feb. 11, after the WEC Premier Equitation Cup was moved indoors at the World Equestrian Center-Ocala.
“I felt so confident and prepared for him and I, to be able to thrive just as much in the smaller indoor ring compared to the outdoor,” she said
The equitation cup was made up of four rounds, with jumping courses built by nine-time ASPCA Maclay Finals designer Bobby Murphy: a preliminary round; a flat phase; a second, more technical jumping phase; and the final work-off.
“McLain Ward recently challenged me to present equitation riders with a course that would help prepare them for the Olympics,” Murphy said of his course designs. “That’s the goal of every talented young athlete, so we really worked on the outdoor course to present that Olympic feel and did our best to translate that concept into our indoor tracks.”
For her part, Egan related the first phase to the Washington International Jumper Phase and rode accordingly.
“We wanted to establish a brilliant canter, because the first line was forward,” she said. “We were very confident and stuck with the plan.”
Egan was rewarded with a score of 88, which put her in third place out of 102 riders going into the flat phase.
“I was hungry to move up. [Spadone] and I discussed what I could do in the flat phase to move up or hold my spot.”
But there was a catch: The judges requested that the entire flat phase be performed without stirrups.
“It was definitely a surprise for all of us,” Egan said. “All the riders and trainers started laughing at that point. There was nothing more we could do.”
But Egan committed to moving up and began practicing in the warm-up ring.
“I needed to practice, but I also wanted to preserve my energy and stamina,” she said.
Spadone and Egan noticed that the judges had asked the group before hers to perform a flying change from the counter-canter to the correct lead.
“We discussed setting up that transition for the lead change a stride or two before the judge’s booth, so I could strike that lead change and really give them that wow factor.”
In the ring, Egan went into “fighter mode.” Between her flat performance and her performance in the more technical second round, she earned her spot at the top of the work-off, which challenged all four competitors, and ultimately the win.
Egan will finish out the season with Redfield Farm, showing at both WEC-Ocala and HITS Ocala. While Kashmir is the only horse she currently leases, she also catch-rides and shows Spadone’s sale horses.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to compete in all three rings,” she said. “Being able to do that with Redfield has put me on the map more.”
Egan will be heading to Texas A&M this upcoming fall after finishing her last year in the juniors. She plans to major in marketing while competing on the Aggies’ NCAA Division I equestrian team.
“I’ve been with Redfield for 10 years now,” she said. “I’ve formed a strong connection with all of my trainers and [Kashmir]. I’ve learned to deal with all different kinds of personalities and to not take any feedback personally. That has allowed me to become more coachable, which enables me to achieve things like this. I believe it has helped develop me as a rider, and I hope it continues to do so next year.”