Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

Throwback Thursday: Cedric Was Laura Kraut’s Horse Of A Lifetime

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Cedric, Laura Kraut’s gold medal Olympic mount, was inducted March 3 into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, along with Francisco “Pancho” Lopez, longtime barn manager for Katie Monahan Prudent and then Elise Haas. Induction into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame is an honor bestowed annually upon individuals whose contributions to the sport have set them apart and whose influence has had a significant impact on the sport of show jumping and the equestrian community. The Election Committee, comprising some of the nation’s top riders, trainers and officials, elected Lopez and Cedric. In honor of Cedric’s induction, we’re looking back at this article, first published March 13, 2023, in the Chronicle’s Show Jumping Issue.


As Laura Kraut walked the course on the second night of the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, she paused at a giant wall.

She knew what she’d need to do: land from the massive wall and ride a very forward four strides to an enormous oxer. But her horse Cedric was infamous for being a bad wall jumper; he was terrified of them. He’d get to a wall, launch himself straight up in the air, and land on all four feet on the backside.

Once on course, Kraut thought she arrived at the wall with a perfect distance, but Cedric wasn’t just taking it in stride.

“He went straight up, and he landed straight down on all fours, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to make four, there’s no way.’ I don’t know what I did, but I just got ahold of him, and I gave him a few yanks, and I got him in five, and there was no five. I was the only person in the Olympics to have five strides on that line, and he flew over the oxer like it was nothing,” she said.

Kraut’s unconventional round with the Holsteiner gelding (Chambertin 3—Cortina, Carolus II) contributed to the U.S. team gold at those games. Their partnership became a thing of legends as they went on to win grand prix classes around the world and earn back-to-back victories in Global Champions Tour events, in Chantilly, France, and Valkenswaard, the Netherlands, in 2010.

Laura Kraut’s career with Cedric included Global Champions Tour titles, an Olympic gold medal and an appearance at the World Equestrian Games, among many other wins. Molly Sorge Photo

They jumped in their first FEI competition together in 2006 and won their final class, a 1.45-meter event at the Rotterdam CHIO (the Netherlands), in June 2016.

In addition to the 2008 Olympics, they competed at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Kentucky), where the team placed 10th. They also made numerous Nations Cup appearances, including at Rotterdam, La Baule (France), Rome, St. Gallen (Switzerland), Aachen (Germany), Wellington (Florida), Dublin (Ireland) and Barcelona (Spain) on multiple occasions. By the end of his career, Cedric had earned more than $2 million in prize money.

In 2010, he was named the Chronicle’s Show Jumping Horse of the Year.

Early Days

Kraut had plenty of international experience when Cedric came along. She’d ridden in the 2000 Sydney Olympics on Liberty and earned a team silver medal at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen aboard Miss Independent.

But at a horse show she was attending with Dutch rider Emile Hendrix in Lummen, Belgium, in 2005, she spotted Cedric, then 7.

“I just happened to look into the second ring and saw this little gray. I didn’t realize how little he was because he always looked bigger than he was. He was jumping around a 1.20-meter class, and there was just something about him that I went crazy over,” she said. “I ran and found Emile and said, ‘I’ve gotten a number; we’ve got to find out who this is.’ ”

It turned out that they knew the rider, Maikel van der Vleuten, who was a teenager at the time. His father, Dutch rider Eric van der Vleuten, was a friend who invited them to try the horse the next day.

It didn’t take Kraut many jumps to make up her mind. “When I pulled up, I rode over to Emile and said, ‘I’ll take him.’ He said, ‘Really? Are you sure?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I like him,’ and that was that. There was no question of having him.”

Kraut purchased the gelding with the help of Peter Wetherill and Janice Aron. When he arrived, Kraut got a bit of a shock.

“My jaw hit the floor because he was like a pony,” she said. “It was funny because when I rode him, he felt huge. I hadn’t noticed how little he was, and then when he stood in the stall in the quarantine area, I was like, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’ But he never thought he was little.”

Cedric was a difficult ride and for the first few years over-jumped enormously. “The very first few jumps you’d jump, even if they were small crossrails, he would give it four or five feet. He would just fly over,” Kraut said. “Thankfully, it improved. I think a lot of that was from fear. He had the greatest flight instinct of any horse I’ve ever had, and he used to run away with people. And when I say run away, I mean seriously bolt.”

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Cedric’s athletic ability caught the attention of Laura Kraut, who would go on to compete with him at the 2008 Olympic Games. Molly Sorge Photo

At first, Kraut rode him in a double bridle for control. “I would say it didn’t take too long until I put him in a rubber pelham, and he went in that for the remainder of his show jumping career,” she said. “In the end he had the best mouth. I could do anything with him; he was beautiful. I think a lot of it was a trust and a fear thing in the beginning. It took a few years for him to improve and relax.”

The gelding routinely dumped her in the early days of their partnership, but Kraut said she never thought of giving up on him.

“To be honest, I never thought he was going to be what he turned into. When I bought him, I just really liked him. I thought he was athletic,” she said. “Whenever I buy young horses, I buy them with the idea that if they don’t work out to be something or me, will they suit someone else? I realized pretty quickly he wouldn’t make a good junior jumper because he was dangerous to ride.”

The switch flipped when Cedric was 10, the year they went to the Olympics. “He started to just become a little more consistent,” Kraut said. “He still had his moments, but he just had so much jump, and because I could regulate it a little bit then he could put it all together.”

That didn’t mean he wouldn’t sometimes still spook or crash through a jump. “Truthfully, until he was 16, I never knew what I was going to get when I went in the ring,” she said.

“He would throw a curve ball, and I’d be on the ground in the ring,” she said. “I think he just was that kind of horse. He always knew when it was really important. He never did that at a super important event; he was always true blue. But if I wasn’t 100 percent on my game, he would remind me of that, which was humbling, and I think it was a good lesson.”

His longtime groom Johanna Burtsoff will never forget the Global Champions Tour event in Lausanne (Switzerland) where Cedric landed wrong coming off an oxer and got a bad distance to the next jump, dumping Kraut and losing his bridle. “He got really scared and jumped out of the ring,” Burtsoff said. “Luckily, he didn’t get hurt.”

Burtsoff learned to keep her eyes open for anything that might be scary to him. “You had to check the schedules for when the carriage drivers were going on; he didn’t like those,” she said. “If carriage driving was happening next to the warm-up, everything else was out of his head. He couldn’t think of anything else except the need to escape the terrifying things.”

A Personality Like None Other

On the ground, Cedric had more personality than any horse Kraut ever had, often more dog-like than equine, which earned him the nickname “Monkey.”

“He was a cheeky little monkey. As rambunctious and unpredictable as he could be when you were on him, when you weren’t on him, he was like the biggest pet ever,” Kraut said.

Laura Kraut doesn’t hesitate to call Cedric her horse of a lifetime. “His personality was like no other horse I’ve ever had,” she said. Erin Cowgill Photo

He’d eat anything from donuts to mints to candy. “Anything you were eating, he thought he should have,” Kraut said.

He had an affinity for napping, and Burtsoff could sit in a chair outside his stall and go to sleep beside him. In the field, he was prone to lie flat out and take a snooze.

At other times, Burtsoff would teach him tricks, like how to bow. “He thought it was a great idea because it meant he would get a carrot or something,” Kraut said. “He could do anything.”

His memory was legendary among those who worked with him.

“He remembered everything,” Burtsoff said. “In every stable, he remembered where everything was from the year before.”

He also loved to let himself out of his stall, and he was often allowed to roam the property.

“He didn’t go very far; he’d spot a person with a handbag and go to see if they had treats in the handbag. He wouldn’t go any further because he was scared of everything,” Burtsoff said.

“When we retired him in Florida, when the day was finished, we’d open the door, and he could go around wherever he wanted. He checked all the aisles, had some grass, and came back to the stable when he felt like it.”

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As a result of his free roaming, he once showed up at a barbecue for Burtsoff ’s 40th birthday outside the home the grooms shared in Wellington.

“He did come over there, and he did perform his tricks under the palm trees with the DJ playing. He stood there for a while, and then he decided he wanted to go away, and he just turned around and trotted off,” Burtsoff said. The others at the party worried about where he was going, but Burtsoff knew he was headed for his stall. “We went and closed the door, and he was happy. He’d had enough of my party.”

Forever In The Family

Kraut kept the ride on Cedric through a few ownership changes, starting with Wetherill and Aron. Ownership then transferred to Kraut and Wetherill until he passed away, leaving his share to his brother, Cortie Wetherill.

In 2012, Peter’s close friend Margaret Duprey of Cherry Knoll Farm entered the equation when she bought Cedric from Cortie.

“She came in as a fairy godmother,” Kraut said.

Duprey knew her old friend Peter wouldn’t want Cedric to be sold to a rider in another country and bought him anonymously. Kraut learned the gelding had been sold and received a message to go to a house at a certain time to meet his new owner.

“I was devastated because I thought he was going to go to someone else,” Kraut said. “When I got to the house, she came out and said, ‘I bought him for Peter, and I want to give you back your part ownership,’ ” Kraut said. “She allowed me to still be his part mother, and that’s why I’ve gotten to keep him and retire him. It was really great.”

The End Of An Era

Kraut doesn’t hesitate to call Cedric her horse of a lifetime.

“He became something we never thought he would, and he was such a crowd favorite. He could still have his own Instagram, he had so many fans around the world,” she said. “Cedric was like my child. It wasn’t even so much of what he won; it was who he was as a person. He was just a great companion.”

Kraut and Duprey decided to retire Cedric after the 2016 season. “He won the last class he ever went in, which made me really happy,” Kraut said. “He didn’t have the same power, and I just thought it was unfair to a horse that had been able to do things so easily his whole life to all of a sudden have it be more difficult. We all decided it was the right thing.”

Cedric lives in Warwickshire, England, where Kraut also spends part of the year with her partner, Olympic gold medalist for Great Britain, Nick Skelton. Cedric is pasture pals with fellow retiree, Lauren Hough’s Quick Study. Cedric and “Joey” both competed on the U.S. team at the 2010 WEG.

Cedric lives in his retirement condo in England with Lauren Hough’s gelding Quick Study. Photo Courtesy Of Laura Kraut

“It was funny that he ended up with Joey,” Burtsoff said. “They did a lot of tours together, and now they can look at the youngsters go around in the field.”

Kraut visited her old friend at Christmas. “He looks great; he has the best life,” she said. “He became completely feral once we put him out to pasture; he doesn’t ever want to go in.”

For Kraut, the hardest part about retiring Cedric wasn’t that she would no longer compete with him; it was the daily interaction.

“He was such a great companion. It’s hard when you get that attached to the horses. Yes, he won a gold medal, and he won many, many grand prix,” she said. “But I think it was more of the fact that his personality was like no other horse I’ve ever had.”


This article originally appeared in the March 13 & 20, 2023, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. You can subscribe and get online access to a digital version and then enjoy a year of The Chronicle of the Horse and our lifestyle publication, Untacked. If you’re just following COTH online, you’re missing so much great unique content. Each print issue of the Chronicle is full of in-depth competition news, fascinating features, looks at issues within the sports of hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage, and stunning photography.

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