As a young rider, Jessie Prpich not only watches what the veterans do on a horse, she also studies their demeanour when things don’t go so well.
As in, how they rebound from injury.
“When I was in physiotherapy for my leg, I would always remember back to seeing Kent (Farrington)’s Instagram posts of his workouts and his strength training and the balance and that really inspired me,” Prpich recalled. “Kent’s injury was really, really bad and he made it back there … if someone can do it, we all can do it. We can try, at least.”
Prpich, 21, hails from the Calgary area and has been riding since she was seven. “One of my grandpa’s friends brought me out to a farm to meet some horses and I fell in love,” she happily related.
Her family runs Telsec Farms just south of Spruce Meadows. When she was bucked off a horse and tore her PCL, it kept her away from riding for a year and a half and she is now just starting to return to form. Since March, she has been training with Ben Asselin and Kelly Koss-Briz at Attache Stables.
“I struggled a little while with my knee … but with the trust in my horse and everything, it definitely made it easier to get back in the ring.”
“It’s still new,” she said of the association. “They are full of knowledge. They care so much about the horses. I don’t train as much with Ben but he’s so helpful. Kelly is so supportive. I’ve loved it so far.”
The road back has been pretty smooth. During the September Series at Spruce Meadows, Prpich enjoyed several top-five finishes in the 1.30m division with Kazou van de Kwakkelhoek, her fine 12-year-old mare. Included in that slate was a victory at the Continental tournament, ending up on top of a field that included riders like Matthew Sampson and Paul O’Shea.
“It was a very big deal,” she acknowledged proudly. “I struggled a little while with my knee and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get back to the heights I was at before. But with the trust in my horse and everything, it definitely made it easier to get back in the ring. So that was definitely a big victory for me.”
As well, she got to ride in the International Ring on the opening day of the Masters tournament, when a rare 1.30m class was featured in that arena. Prpich was ninth, again with Kazou, and followed it up that week with a sixth and a third in the All Canada ring.
“My horse jumped a beautiful clear round; I had four time faults myself. I think with the nerves, I was a little slow,” she said of her first time in the enormous ring. “But I couldn’t have been happier with it. And Spruce Meadows is such a big deal. It’s very technical here but if you can get around with clear rounds … I only had one rail the two weeks I was here, so I was very, very happy.”
“Our main struggle was the open water; she doesn’t like to jump across. She would just jump in!”
Prpich’s goals are akin to all young riders – big Nations’ Cups, the Olympics. In 2019, she had her first international opportunity as part of the junior Nations’ Cup squad at Thunderbird in Langley, B.C. That left an indelible impression.
“It was amazing,” she related. “I was with the same horse I have here, Kazou. She jumped amazing rounds every single day. Our main struggle was the open water; she doesn’t like to jump across. She would just jump in! So that was our biggest struggle but she really jumped her heart out for me.
“It’s nerve-wracking for sure, but being on the team is such a great experience for us young riders. You have to think it’s not just about you and your horse this time; it’s about the entire team. So you’re really putting as much effort as you can to help your team and yourself. Being in Canada, it was so much fun for us all. We all helped each other and you learn a ton.”
Prpich and Kazou are certainly a pair to watch.
“She’s my best friend,” she said of the mare. “I got her in Belgium as an eight-year old and she’s the safest horse I’ve been around. She’s super easy-going; she acts like she’s a hundred years old on the ground. Even in the warm-up ring, she’s a little slow but she gets into the ring and lights up. She always gives one hundred percent.”
In January, Prpich heads to the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, CA, with Kazou and some younger horses to continue her trajectory in the sport she loves, hoping to do some grand prix there. Watching her favourite riders – Farrington, Tiffany Foster and especially Beezie Madden – has had an effect on Prpich. It’s that effort and success she hope to emulate one day.
“I want to keep moving up,” she said. “Just want to get back to where I was, the metre-40s, metre-45s. Do some U25s and keep moving up, see where we can go. Take it day by day. I learned from my knee … you just have to work through it and keep going.”