Young rider, young horse, the road to Rolex is possible – Kyle Carter explains

Kyle gives Courage a pat for a job well done at a training session at Five Ring Stables, Carter Eventing's training base in Citra Florida.


Every eventer in North America dreams of completing Rolex. In April every year, the pros and the first timers gather in Lexington, Kentucky, to tackle North America’s only four-star. Each year, there is always a mixed bag of results. Sometimes the veterans fail and surprisingly the Rolex rookies storm through the finish flags on their young rider horses. Young rider horses completing Rolex certainly demonstrates that not all riders need a veteran four-star campaigner to show them the ropes. Four-star horses are rarely for sale and end up selling for big money. Riders without four-star experience are in a difficult position to find owners. Producing your own horse to the level might be a more realistic option if you have the tenacity and patience.

Kyle Carter, US Area Three young rider coach, holds the coaching record for the most gold medal finishes at North American Junior and Young Rider Championships. His coaching expertise does not cap off at the young rider level as he has brought numerous riders to their first Rolex.

Kyle’s coaching program is known for developing riders to the upper levels on horses that they produce themselves. Kyle said, “It is not about buying the ready-made horse it is about spending the time training them. I encourage my students to buy horses with talent and then I work with them to develop a consistent program geared to succeed.”

Who can produce a young horse?
When determining whether a rider is ready to produce a young horse, Kyle takes into account:

  1. Preliminary mileage: “I like to see riders consistent at the preliminary level before I see them jump on a young horse,” advises Kyle. “It is better for riders to learn eventing basics on a horse with a solid foundation.”
  2. Ability to train consistently: “Erratic training and inconsistent work ethics of a rider are hard for horses to overcome. Horse are learning every time someone rides them,” explains Kyle. “Being a successful competitor and a successful trainer are two different things. Steady riding is necessary to imprint the horses with habits that are desirable and a rider needs to commit to regular training.” Consistent training is paramount to producing young horses but riders can overdo it. “If riders are too hard on their horses they will break their will and take the playfulness and fun out it. For some horses that is actually necessary but for most of them it will ruin them,” cautions Kyle.
  3. Guidance of a professional: “Working with a professional is the best plan of attack. I encourage my students to work with me in a consistent a program so I can steer them away from making mistakes that are common with training,” says Kyle. “This way we can avoid a rider’s lack of knowledge from hindering the horse’s training when challenges erupt.”

Scouting the four-star horse
“There is no obvious trait that makes it easy to spot a four-star horse. I knew right away after jumping some horses that they would make it to a four-star. I have had other horses do a four-star that I never thought would,” said Kyle.

Apparent four-star horses
“You can just tell that some horses have the desire. You realize you have that horse when everything goes to hell and it continues to jump the course like it did not matter,” said Kyle. He made a big mistake at Fair Hill over a corner almost landing him and Madison Park in the dirt. Despite the error, Parker continued effortlessly jumping around the course. Kyle knew after that Fair Hill run that Madison Park was a four-star ride. The pair went on to represent Canada at the 2008 Olympics and 2010 World Equestrian Games.

Libby Law’s Rolex mount, Sir Rockstar, was showing four-star potential before even going Advanced. “When I was coaching Libby on her horse at Young Riders I knew the horse wanted to go to Rolex,” said Kyle. Storming around Rolex cross-country this spring and then show jumping a clear round was no surprise to Kyle. The rare horse with blatant four-star potential is impossible to miss.

Surprise four-star horses
When Emily Renfroe bought her horse, Walk The Line with Kyle’s recommendation, he was not thinking, ‘this is a four-star horse’. Emily was 14 years old at the time and that was not the purpose of buying the horse. “With experience you could see the horse had the right instinct in its heart. I was not sure it would have the scope and step for a four-star,” said Kyle. The combination of Emily’s riding talent and Kyle’s coaching program brought the mare to the Advanced level. Once the mare was running Advanced, Kyle had the realization that a four-star was well within her capabilities. Emily and Walk The Line made easy work of the Rolex 2013 cross-country course cementing their status as a four-star combination. “You can inspire horses and develop relationships with them to get them to the top,” explains Kyle. “There will always be the rare horse with obvious four-star potential but horses that need more training and encouragement should not be written off.”

Producing your own horses pays
Bringing your own horse up the levels is a priceless skill that all riders should aspire to master. “It is easy for coaches to not teach a rider how to train the horse. However, there is no longevity in that tactic for the rider, unless they have deep pockets. If you do not want to train horses, there is nothing wrong with that. You can still be competitive and just spend the money to buy the horses you need,” says Kyle.

Purchasing a proven four-star horse simply is not an option for most riders. Getting to a four-star is possible with a talented young horse, determination and working with a professional. Dare to dream as many Rolex rookies are producing their own horses and medal-winning professionals are developing their four-star mounts. [Reference article: Medals winners  – produced not bought]

Kyle can help source a young horse and work with you to achieve your goals.

Contact Kyle:

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Libby Head and Sir Rockstar’s complete 2014 Rolex cross-country run

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