Thursday, Jul. 25, 2024

Young Pro Genevieve Munson Gets A Leg Up From Katie Prudent And Hunter Hawk 

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The trajectory of your career can change in an instant—that’s what happened to 19-year-old Genevieve Munson when she found herself on the phone last May with none other than the veteran U.S. team rider and trainer Katie Prudent.

“It’s all very storybook if I’m being honest,” Munson said. “I got a Facebook message from Brooke [Mallin], who is on the board for the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge, and she simply stated that she knew of a prominent person in the industry looking for a rider in Europe, and to give her call if that was something I was interested in.”

Munson has participated in a number of USHJA junior programs over the years: She has won the national title in the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge multiple times, has ridden in many USHJA Emerging Athlete Program clinics, earned her first of many spots in the USHJA Gold Star Clinic program and, at just 10 years old, she won the USEF Pony Jumper Finals in 2014, making her the youngest ever winner of the finals.     

“I told [Brooke] I was interested, and it turned out it was a position for Katie Prudent and her Plain Bay organization,” Munson said. “I was on the phone with Katie within the day, I flew out to Virginia to meet her and the Plain Bay team within a couple weeks, and a month later I was in France working. It all happened very quickly.” 

Genevieve Munson (left) took in the French countryside while the horses took in some grass while hacking out from the barn Katie Prudent and Hunter Hawk (right) share in Rosières-aux-Salines, France. Photo Courtesy Of Genevieve Munson

Prudent said her past experience with USHJA’s Emerging Athlete Program encouraged her to look for another grad to fill the open position.

“Years ago, before Gen, I had someone call me from EAP and say I have this wonderful rider that I’ve seen, and her barn management is impeccable and she’s very serious—and that was Cathleen Driscoll who worked for me for years,” Prudent said. 

“I was so impressed with Cat, I thought you know, I would like to help someone else from the EAP,” she continued. “These are kids who don’t have enough money or sponsorship to buy a top jumper, because they’re so expensive now. I want to help these young riders who are highly motivated and talented and want to make it.” 

Munson’s journey to the serendipitous connection with Prudent was anything but typical—she started riding as a kid on her family’s farm in Rogers, Arkansas, where she was an active member of her local U.S. Pony Club chapter. 

Arkansas isn’t a hotbed for show jumping, so as Munson got serious about jumping—progressing from her success in pony jumpers to riding horses over increasingly large fences with ambitions to reach the grand prix level—she also got creative over the years to find top-notch training. 

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“I get asked, ‘Who is your trainer?’ and the short answer is, at home I haven’t really had anybody,” Munson said. “My dad is my eyes on the ground and helps me take videos, and he has helped me seek out the best. So we would do a lot of clinics, and when we went to a lot of the shows, we would meet different people.

“Through Richard Lamb and Pony Club, when I was a kid I met Linda Allen, and she is who my dad calls our ‘global advisor,’ ” Munson continued with a laugh. “Linda would visit us a couple times a year and meet up with us at the major championship events, and she is always available to give us advice or watch videos of horses.”   

And while they didn’t have easy access to big-name trainers, through their family farm they did have an easy place to keep horses.

“Growing up on a farm with 50 acres, one of the biggest assets I had was space,” Munson said. “I could bring horses and it didn’t cost me as much to keep them and bring them along.”  

Finding quality horses and bringing them along correctly at home has always been a family effort, she said.

“My dad is really good with business stuff, so he’s been great at helping me find ways to get horses,” Munson said. “We’ve had a few we’ve owned ourselves, we’ve gotten sales horses in, we put together some syndicates for horses, we’ve had some fantastically generous owners. It’s been a real mix.”

It was when Munson was coming up the ranks, not yet jumping in grand prix classes herself, that she first met Prudent. 

“When I was younger, my trainers would always tell me to walk the grand prix courses,” Munson said. “You can learn so much just listening to what the top riders are discussing about the course.

“And I remember once in Kentucky—I’m sure Katie doesn’t remember this, but—I was walking the grand prix and saw Katie,” Munson continued. “And I walked over to Katie and introduced myself and asked if I could walk with her group and listen, and she agreed.” 

When Munson and Prudent connected for work and Munson packed her bags for a planned five-month stay in France, she left her top mounts behind on her family’s farm, for her sister, Michaela Munson and nearby dressage trainer Aaron Wilson to ride.      

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Munson’s original five-month stay was extended to a full year after Prudent and Hunter Hawk, Prudent’s former barn manager with whom Plain Bay now shares a yard in Rosières-aux-Salines, France, to base their European operations, saw the quality of her work. 

Genevieve Munson and Hunter Hawk pose for a photo after Munson’s second-place finish on Hawk and Karine DuPont de Romémont’s Nefertiti Van De Kooldries in a CSI2* held in February in Lier, Belgium. Photo Courtesy Of Genevieve Munson

“Her work ethic is fabulous,” Prudent said. “She still is very young and has a ton to learn, but she really made the most of her time with us.” 

Munson primarily worked with Hawk’s string, and her typical day began anywhere between 5:30 and 7 a.m. throwing hay, grain and cleaning stalls for a rotating cast of between seven and 20 sales horses. 

“Once those morning chores were done if we were at home, we’d start working everybody, and we spent a lot of time on the road showing,” Munson said. “I got to show everything from the 4-year-olds to the [1.40-meter classes].” 

Near the recent end of Munson’s year in France, Prudent sat her down to talk about next steps. 

“Katie is very up front, and she very simply said, ‘Your job here is done, but I have another job for you,’ ” Munson recalled with a laugh. “Miss Dorothy Cox in Athens, Texas, is a longtime supporter and client of Katie’s, and she has a breeding operation and a lot of young horses, so once I finish up here in France, I’m off to Texas!”  

Prudent hopes to give other riders the same opportunity she and Hawk gave Munson.  

“I like to help these kids and then keep them in our Plain Bay fold somehow if I can, so I can keep mentoring their careers in the right direction, and I thought this was the perfect next step in Genevieve’s progression,” Prudent said. “She’s learned a lot over the last year, and Hunter and I just gave her enough salary to live on, but now she’s going to go to Texas and make a nice salary and start making some decisions on her own.”

Katie Prudent’s student Olivia Chowdry gave Munson the reins on her Chuck Berry 8 while Chowdry was busy with school, and Munson made the most of the opportunity: The two won the 1.40-meter Villers-Vicompte Grand Prix (France) in June. Agence Ecary Photo

As Munson embarks on the next stage of her career, Prudent is thinking about how to build on the experiences she’s had with riders like Munson and Driscoll.  

“I would love to start a foundation where I can, through some avenues of spotters out there around the country, be made aware of kids who are talented highly motivated, but don’t really have the financial means to go places like Wellington,” Prudent said. “I want to become aware of these kids and help mentor them, and my good friend Laura Kraut has said she would be interested in helping as well. 

“I just know there are so many more out there,” Prudent continued. “And they might not all become Olympic riders, but I think through our tutelage they could become really successful professionals in the industry, and wouldn’t that be great for our sport?”  

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