Coach Spotlight – John French
John French is a magician, piloting horse after horse to stardom in the hunter ring. He is recognized as one of the most accomplished hunter riders in the sport today, with titles like Professional World Championship Hunter Rider (twice) and Inaugural Winner of the 2009 USHJA Hunter Derby, riding equine superstar, Rumba. In his videos, John thoughtfully sheds light on the key ingredients that result in winning rounds.
- As a junior winner of the Maryland Equitation Finals and Reserve Champion Virginia Equitation Finals.
- 1987 – Grand Champion Green Hunter on Double Big
- 1999 – Rookie Grand Prix Rider of the Year for the Pacific Coast Horse Show Association as well as Leading Hunter Rider PCHA (several times)
- 2000 – Professional World Champion Hunter Rider
- 2003 – Rode in the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas also rode for the US Team at such shows as Falsterbo Sweden, Royan France, Cummen Belgium and rode for the US in Spain.
- 2004 – Rode with the US Team at Hickstead England and Dublin Ireland
- 2006 – Again Professional World Champion Hunter Rider, Winner Zone X Equestrian Athlete of the Year, Champion Washington on Vida Blue and Overseas, Awarded the Emerson Burr Award for achievements in the Hunter ring, Show Hunter Hall of Fame Hunter Rider of the Year
- 2007 – Champion at Devon aboard Scout and Andiamo Leading Hunter Rider Washinginton International, Reserve Champion Professional World Champion Hunter Finals
- 2008 – Rode the Horse of the Year in the First Year Green Hunter Pringle Rode the Horse of the Year in the 2nd Year Green Hunter Wesley Reserve Champion World Hunter Rider Finals Pringle was also awarded Show Hunter Hall of Fame Hunter of the Year
- 2009 – Winner of both $10,000 Hunter Derby classes aboard Rumba at Thermal, CA
- 2009 – Winner of USHJA Hunter Derby riding Rumba in Lexington, KY
Video Interview with John French
Get to Know John
Q: What got you riding and when?
A: My mother was a riding instructor and we boarded horses on the farm my parents leased. So therefore I was riding or being led around on ponies at about 3 years old.
Q: Where did your equestrian education begin?
A: I rode mostly with my mother growing up. I was in the Pony Club, 4H and fox hunted all at an early age in Baltimore, Maryland.
Q: Your first horse?
A:The first pony I really called my own was Vickie. She was a Pinto or Paint Shetland pony. She was only about 12 hands. I used to fox hunt her and ride across country jumping 3’6″ chicken coops and post & rail fences.
Q: What inspired you to become a professional?
A: I always knew I wanted to be a professional. As a teenager, people at the barn would ask me to school their horses and at shows people would ask me to show their ponies. I loved doing that. At the end of my junior year I went to groom and ride for Daniel Lenehan and his son Brian. They were a famous horse family and Mr. Lenehan was one of the greatest horsemen of all time.
Q: Have you tried any other disciplines?
A: My mother was also into eventing, so I used to do a bit of that. I never really liked the fact that all you had to do was get over the fence and it did not matter what it looked like in regards to faults. I wanted to be perfect and get every fence exactly right.
Q: Best moment on a horse?
A: I won the Maryland Equitation Finals at the age 16. I had stopped showing my horse that year because I thought it was too hard to compete against some of the top show barns. Then I decided to go to the finals, borrow my friendʼs horse, braid it and trailer it myself. I even trained myself that day. A second memorable moment was when I won the Regular Working Hand class at night at Washington International. I was first, Rodney Jenkins 2nd, Katie Monahan 3rd and Charlie Weaver 4th.
Q: Who have been your mentors?
A: Of course my mother, who taught me, appreciate everything. And Bernie Traurig, who not only took me further than I thought I could go in the jumpers, but in doing so, made me a better hunter rider.
Q: Best time or place to ride?
A: My favorite time to ride is early in the morning and usually by myself. Thatʼs when I think of ideas on training myself or others. As well as it being therapeutic and relaxing. I especially love riding cross country on a fall day in Maryland or Virginia there is nothing more mentally relaxing than that.
Q: Your philosophy as a horseman?
A: Every horse is different, there is not just one system for every horse. You can learn a little from different trainers and especially from watching what works. Some of the best teachers are the horses themselves.
Q: Do you have any of your own horses?
A: I own about 6 horses right now, mostly young horses 3 years old.
Q: Career aside, non horsey accomplishments or interests?
A: As a child I was a quite a good gymnast and sang with a folk group, but had to pick one due to the hours of practice and I chose riding. Just recently, I sang the National Anthem at the World Cup Qualifier in Thermal, CA.
Q: Charities or causes you care about?
A: Equestrian Aids Foundation, equestrianaidfoundation.org. American Hunter Jumper Foundation, www.ahja.org. They have a special foundation for riders, trainers, grooms, etc. to help during times of hardship or injuries.
Q: Your inspiration to ride and teach?
A: There is always a new challenge and a new goal. Whether itʼs a horse or a rider, or maybe itʼs just the love of horses.
FREE Video: Winning Eye Exercises
John French finally shares the secrets of his legendary eye. In this video he reveals his favorite exercises that will not only develop your eye, but the confidence to find the distance to every jump.