Kara Chad’s career leapt onto the international stage when she was called up to be the traveling reserve for Canada’s Olympic show jumping team in Rio 2016.
For the past year, this 21-year-old Albertan has been based in Europe, riding for Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze and Torrey Pines Stables. We caught up with her at Spruce Meadows to talk about her coach, the life lessons she’s picked up on the European circuit and her competitive spirit.
I don’t know if I can say a biggest, but my favorite was at Spruce Meadows, two summers ago, in the 1.50m TD Winning Round. I won it on my mare, Star La Tuiliere, and it was exciting because it was on the Saturday of the North American Tournament. It’s my home, so there’s a ton of people there—my friends, my family—and I got to compete in front of them and win, which was extremely exciting. And Spruce Meadows makes you feel so special, so that was definitely a favorite win for me.
The European system is very different than it is here in North America, even just show to show. There’s a lot more concentration in Europe, a lot more riders, a lot more depth. So, no matter what show you go to there are incredible riders and incredible horses—you’re exposed and your eyes are opened to a lot more.
I think you gain a ton of experience. After going from show to show to show, you’re not so obsessed about a certain result. It becomes more about balancing the shows that are important versus the ones where you’re developing your horse. I think that’s what I’ve learned—just the scheduling of it. It’s not “every single show is important.” It’s about taking your time and sorting out your priorities.
Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes he just growls!
I think from the first moment of my first class with Eric, he just instills so much confidence in you and pumps you up to feel like you can do this. Maybe even if it’s a little over your head or are not quite at that level yet.
You push yourself and believe in yourself and your horse, so that you are able to go in these classes and be competitive, not just be a passenger and survive. That’s definitely something that I’ve benefited from and that he’s the best at—making you feel like you belong.
Yes, he is a tough coach, and he gets mad when he needs to and gets after you when he needs to. However, when you do something right or do something well, he lets you know. He’s a real confidence booster, and I think that is absolutely huge in this sport. It’s like nothing else, honestly.
I’d say, determination and hard work. I don’t shy away from work and I think it has rewarded me in a lot of instances. I put my head down, keep working, keep working, and it may take a while, but eventually, you’re rewarded.
Yes and no. I’m hard on myself, which I think is a good thing. But sometimes it gets to a point where I can just push it away and move on. I wouldn’t say that’s one of my strengths! That’s a work in progress. I definitely think I’ve gotten better at it, but it’s like every rider—everyone wants to do better.
Was always super competitive. I was always at the front of the line, always the first one there. Maybe a little bratty, but definitely very competitive!