Monday, May. 20, 2024

Eying A Career Change, Doug Payne Pulls Double Duty At Kentucky

Sponsored by


Lexington, Ky.—April 25

Doug Payne is going to have a busy Friday: After riding his second horse, Camarillo, in the Defender Kentucky CCI5*-L around 3:40 p.m., he’ll turn around to prep two more horses to come back out later that evening in the Kentucky Invitational Welcome Cup, the kickoff to the Kentucky Invitational CSI4*.

Riding both eventers and jumpers on Kentucky weekend is nothing new for Payne, who has been pulling double duty at horse trials and jumper shows for the past decade. He’s entered the Kentucky Invitational—newly upgraded from a three-star to four-star this year—since it joined the lineup for the three-day event week in 2018.

“Since they’ve been doing it, I’ve had at least one horse in there,” he said. “I guess the busiest I’ve been, I had two in the [CCI4*-S], two in the five-star, and one jumping.”

This year, he’s got two horses in the CCI5*-L—Quantum Leap and Camarillo, the latter of whom he co-owns with Patrice Jennings-Rado—and two in the CSI4*. Those horses are Quintessence, a 13-year-old Holsteiner, and Chaccolate RFB, an 11-year-old German Sport Horse he co-owns with Issy Kelly. All four are U.S.-bred, and all four have been with Payne and his wife, Jessica Payne, since their youth.

Doug Payne will compete Quantum Leap in the Defender Kentucky CCI5*-L. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Switching between the disciplines on a weekend as big as Kentucky—or a day as seemingly busy as his Friday will be—isn’t hard, he said, especially after years of practice.


“It’s kind of just plug and play,” he said. “The moment you’re getting that horse ready or walking that course or phase, you kind of just lock into it.”

The Paynes have been buying horses young and developing them for years now and have found it beneficial to take their young eventers along to jumper shows with their rising jumpers. It’s also part of the lifelong eventer’s long-term strategy to switch sports entirely, migrating gradually from events to the jumper ring. 

“Business wise, we’ve got three event horses left—these two [Quantum Leap and Camarillo] and a horse called Quiberon, a stallion, that’ll do the Tryon [CCI4*-L (North Carolina)],” he said. “We’ve had all those guys since they were babies, so we’ll try to roll out until whenever they’re done. Everything else we have right now is jumping.”

With that in mind, Payne now makes the Florida jumper circuit a big part of his winter season.

“We’ve kind of morphed [eventing and jumpers] together for the past 10 years or so,” he said. “As the event horses develop, we take them to fewer smaller shows and bring them along to the jumper shows. The guys doing [Kentucky] do the 1.35 [meter classes]. ‘Quantum’s’ done a small grand prix.

“I think it’s a huge advantage, as far as preparing the event horses, because it’s putting them in a massive circus all the time, and they get pretty accustomed to it pretty quick,” he continued. “Versus, there’s nothing wrong with a smaller competition, but the environmental factor is what’s often limiting in your performance. If you can put them as babies in a big, chaotic environment—you know, both feet in—the first couple of days are sketchy as anything; by that weekend, they’re kind of OK; and two weeks in they’re like ‘Oh, no big deal!’ And then they come to this and it’s not that intimidating or unfamiliar for them.”


Doug Payne competed Chaccolate RFB at the Kentucky Invitational last year and will do so again this week. Michelle Dunn Photo

As for Doug himself, he appreciates the challenges of jumping colored rails in both sports:

“Jumping a 1.60 [meter course], the margin of error is very small,” he said, “but I will tell you that, on a horse that just galloped 11 minutes the day before—yes, it’s a smaller jump, on frankly not as scopey or careful horses—the margin is still pretty damn small.” 

Doing the jumpers has also helped him as an eventer, he said, but perhaps not in the way people might expect.

“Honestly, it probably helps more on cross-country [than stadium]: Your max brush height can be 1.40 [meters] here, but really it’s 1.20—that starts to look pretty small after you’ve done this other stuff. Now, conditions, like coming out of the Hollow on a tight line to the corner? That could probably go a bit wrong, but the thing is there, if you’re going to make a mistake, you’ve got to make the mistake thinking forward, and that’s the same thing as jumping: If you’re jumping a 1.50 [meter] oxer, that’s pretty wide. You can’t get there pulling; you’ve got to get there moving. That’s the challenge; I love it.”

The Chronicle is on-site at the Kentucky Horse Park with two reporters to bring you everything you need to know at, so you don’t have to miss a minute of the action. You can find all of our coverage from the week here. You can also follow along on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to read our May 20 issue for more in-depth coverage and analysis of the event. 



Follow us on


Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse