Kirsten Coe never thought her life as a rider and trainer could involve so much math. But as the schedule of qualifying classes for the Rolex FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final neared its end, she was frantically tallying up points, trying to figure out if she had, indeed, succeeded in earning a spot in her first World Cup Final.
Four months ago Coe wasn’t really thinking competing in the World Cup Final was a possibility, or even a goal for herself. But after she took third in the $100,000 Green Cove Springs CSI-W in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan. 15, she looked up the World Cup points and whipped out her calculator. And the prospect of a possible trip to Leipzig, Germany, for the Final started looking not-so-impossible to Coe and her fiancé and partner, horse dealer Ilan Ferder.
“We looked at each other and asked, ‘Should we try and qualify for the World Cup?’ I knew it was a possibility, so we decided we were going to have to make this happen instead of just waiting and seeing if it happened,” Coe recalled. And so Coe embarked on an epic quest for World Cup points, flying from coast to coast to ride in every CSI-W she could.
Kilkenny Randall Z was Coe’s main weapon in her battle for World Cup points until mid-February when Tristan arrived in Florida. Ferder owns Tristan, and the talented chestnut had been showing in Europe with Samantha McIntosh. But Ferder had a plan to put Tristan and Coe together. “We went to try him to see if he’d be a match for me, and it just was instantly my ride, which was nice,” Coe said.
Coe had picked up 38 World Cup points in 2010 riding Randall in CSI-Ws in Canada and on the West Coast. After their third-placed finish in Jacksonville, Randall continued to show with Coe at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida. But when Tristan arrived, they decided to fly Randall to the HITS Desert Circuit venue in California.
“It was close in the points between me and Charlie Jayne, and Charlie went to Thermal, so I knew I had to go too. Charlie and I basically were following each other around, duking it out,” Coe said.
“Ilan and I would take a flight to California on Thursday, show there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then take the red-eye back to Florida and show there the next week. The week of the last World Cup qualifier in Florida, and the last week in Thermal [March 12-13], I showed Saturday night in Florida [in the $231,000 WEF CSI-W on Tristan], and then flew to California on Sunday morning. We got to Thermal at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and I changed my clothes, showed [and placed third in the $200,000 Lamborgini Grand Prix], and then we flew back for the next week of WEF. It was a lot of flying!” Coe said.
In fact, Tristan even flew out to California for one week of showing, March 3-6. He and Coe won the $31,000 HITS Welcome class, then were third in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix CSI-W on March 5. That third place earned them 17 World Cup points, just enough to put Coe into eighth place in the World Cup standings and send her back to the airport to book a flight to Leipzig.
A Fantastic Partner
Coe is excited to take Tristan to her first World Cup Final. The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Lancelot—Lyande, Ferro) won the U.S. selection trials for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games with Nicole Shahinian Simpson riding in 2010. Although Coe hasn’t had the ride for long, she said they’ve forged an instant rapport. “You feel like you could jump a house; he does everything so easily. You feel overqualified for any course. I feel very confident on him,” she said.
“Kirsten and Tristan have only been together for a very short time and so far it has been very successful. They have mutual respect for one another, which makes a great combination,” said Ferder.
After the last grand prix of the WEF circuit on March 26, Coe and Ferder flew to Israel for a week of vacation. Ferder is originally from Israel, though he also has lived in Belgium and now resides in the United States. The couple became engaged in February.
After that week off, they flew back to the United States to check in with their horses and clients for a few days, then flew to Belgium on April 9 to settle in for the last few weeks of training before the Final. In late March, Coe’s horses bound for the World Cup Final—Tristan and an 8-year-old Coe is planning to ride in the speed leg, Vernon G—flew to Belgium, to the farm of Ferder’s European partner, Tal Milstein.
The long hours in airports, countless miles in the horse vans, and the perpetual living out of a suitcase is all worth it to Coe, who has been dreaming of riding at the top levels her whole life.
The Countless Hours Paid Off
The daughter of hunter/jumper trainer DiAnn Langer, Coe, 30, grew up showing in the hunters, jumpers and equitation in California. “I always had a lot of catch rides. We always bought and sold equitation horses. It trains you for what being a professional is going to be like,” Coe said.
She won the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search-West (Calif.) in 1996. For her last junior year, Coe came east to ride as a working student for Andre Dignelli, and took second at the 1999 Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals.
Coe returned to California and worked as a young professional there for a few years, but she wanted to return to the East Coast to jumpstart her career. She signed up as an assistant trainer for Dignelli at his Heritage Farm in Katonah, N.Y., and stayed for five years, until early 2010.
“You learn what real work is! It was a great experience, but it was a lot of hard work. It was amazing; I was riding, training, doing everything. You have to be a jack of all trades to be there,” Coe said. She showed in the hunters and jumpers, and in 2008, she got a big leg up in her jumper career.
Dignelli had found a flashy and talented jumper for junior client Laura King-Kaplan, but Starlight was a bit green for a junior ride. Dignelli assigned Coe the ride on the green horse for the 1.40-meter division at WEF in 2008. By the summer, they were placing well in grand prix classes, and in August, they were third in the $200,000 FTI Grand Prix at the Hampton Classic (N.Y.). They caught the eye of Chef d’Equipe George Morris and were named to the U.S. team in the Buenos Aires Nations Cup in Argentina in November, which the team won. It was Coe’s first time wearing the famed pinque U.S. Equestrian Federation team jacket.
In early 2010, Coe decided it was time to venture out on her own, and she caught Ferder’s eye. He offered her a job showing his horses and helping him train. “We started doing a few horses together, and it’s just grown from there,” Coe said. “We both ride and train and prepare them. I show them, but we’re both very involved.”
“I’ve known Kirsten for a very long time and have always had great confidence in her riding. I offered her the job because of our long-standing relationship and because I knew she could get the job done,” Ferder said.
Coe and Ferder split their time between farms in Bedford, N.Y., and Thousand Oaks, Calif. They have students who show in the jumpers and sales horses. “We had about 18 horses in Florida this year. The sales business is focused on 8-year-olds and older. The sales horses we show, and the ones that get sold go right away, otherwise we make them up,” Coe said.
Coe plans to ride Vernon G, an 8-year-old gray gelding, in the speed leg at the World Cup Final. “The last four weeks of Florida, I just practiced doing the speed classes with him because that’s not my favorite thing. I have to kick myself to go that fast. But I feel ready!” she said.
For the second and third days, she’ll rely on Tristan’s scope and power. “You just have to put in your rounds and act like it’s just another show, even though it’s so exciting to be at a championship like that. I’d love to be in the top 10 and do well, but I’m just looking to put in solid rounds each day. Wherever that puts me in the end is great,” she continued.
Chronicle reporters Molly Sorge and Kat Netzler will be on the scene in Germany. Be sure to check out all their World Cup coverage.