As September rolls around each year, Kymberly Pullen makes sure to submit her entry for Hot Date HLF at Dressage At Devon. She debuted the now 11-year-old at the show in the 4-year-old test in 2012, and she’s returned every year since, with two exceptions—once she went to a friend’s wedding and then last year she was sidelined due to injury.
After tearing her ACL once in 2009, she did it again in 2018. She underwent reconstructive surgery on the ligament in July and was out of the tack for six months recovering.
“Because I’d done it before—I think the first time was four months off in 2009—and this time [my doctor] was like, ‘Six months no riding.’ And I actually stuck with that,” she said. “So that was not fun. And hard to run a business taking six months off, but it’s all good now.”
Her doctor gave her permission to get back in the tack five days ahead of schedule this January, but she’s under strict instructions to continue riding in a knee brace until the end of January 2020. But she returned to Devon, brace and all, this year to make her Grand Prix debut in the CDI3* with “Hayden,” who also sometimes goes by “H-man.”
“He is super,” she said. “He’s the boss of me, definitely. This is all him, so if you just sit back and kind of acknowledge that it’s all him then he will take care of you, but if you try to have too much input or say then he’s like, ‘No, I’ll teach you.’ He’s super. And he’s been like this since he’s a baby.
“Every year like clockwork it was like this is what we do, right up the levels, whereas I have another horse that needed a few more years before going on to certain levels, so he’s been very much like, ‘At this age, we do this; at this age, we do that’ kind of thing.”
She purchased the Hanoverian (Hotline—MS Finalee, ES Webster) as a 3-year-old and brought him along herself.
“He was sassy when he was younger,” she said. “He was generally overall a very good boy, but he definitely had his naughty teenager, brat years where he would refuse to trot an 8-meter circle, and he would just counter-canter an 8-meter circle and then I couldn’t get his head down on the right 10-meter circle for like a year. So we had our moments. He’s generally was a very good boy though.”
Pullen, 32, grew up in Sugarland, Texas, where she rode in the low-level hunters before she was drawn to the perfectionist nature of dressage. After she graduated from Texas A&M, she moved to Pennsylvania to put herself in a strong dressage environment. A years after she moved north, she took a job with Boyd and Silva Martin, working as Silva’s assistant.
“It was better than any college degree that you could get for sure,” she said.
“[They taught me] a lot of things, like really hard work, and Silva taught me a lot about training horses, obviously, but the two of them, Silva and Boyd, taught me how to run a business, how to treat clients and everything because they’re great at that,” she said. “So it was very, very helpful running a business after seeing how they treat their clients and that kind of stuff.”
After four years Pullen started her own business, Kymberly Rhea Dressage in Boyertown. Though her main focus is dressage, she’s recently started dabbling in eventing.
“So I am starting to drift just to the dark side for fun, but it’s becoming more of a not just fun [thing]—it’s a lot of fun though,” she said. “I started eventing my client’s horse that does better in dressage if he’s eventing and jumping, and then I have another client that was like, ‘Oh my horse is green, make it less green, take it eventing.’
“And then my personal horse decided at the moment that working towards the Grand Prix, the piaffe and passage was frying him a little bit, so on a whim I took him cross-country schooling, and he was a beast, so now I’m pretty pumped about getting him up the levels for eventing and see how far we can go there.”
Pullen has competed up to novice so far, but she’s going to do her first training level event this fall with a client horse while also taking her own Sir Eastwood out for the first time at beginner novice.
She never planned on making eventing an integral part of her riding career, but she’s friends with Lauren Chumley, a New Jersey-based Grand Prix rider who has competed up to the two-star level in eventing, who convinced her to give it a go.
“I think it helps me ride the young horses a lot better in dressage because I believe the most dangerous thing I do every day is ride young dressage horses,” she said. “So it makes me a little bit braver because I’m like, ‘Oh if I can jump this big massive oxer or table, then I can handle that hopefully.’ ”
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