Eventer in Crisis Mode: Joining the Jumper Nation Team as a Writer

Jumper Nation is thrilled to welcome our newest team member, Ema Klugman!  Read on to learn more about Ema.  Ema is a 4* event rider who also competes in show jumping.

A friend once told me that even if she knew she only had eight years to live, she would go through the seven years of required medical training just to become a doctor for a single year. I couldn’t believe it: all that training for just a single year of practicing medicine? I admired the clarity of her professional goals and the unwavering enthusiasm she had for them. If someone asked me the same question, I don’t know what I would say. I haven’t wanted to be a doctor since I was a kid, or a professional rider for that matter. Sometimes I still wonder what I want to be. 

If you know event riders, you know we are masters at adapting to situations as they arise: sitting up quickly if our horse trips on landing into a water jump, or changing our plan from four strides to three strides if the terrain throws us more directly on our line between jumps than we’d planned. The best cross-country riders aren’t afraid to change their plans. They adapt to get things done. 

If you know me, you know I wear several hats. I’m 22 years old. Last December, I graduated from Duke University, majoring in Public Policy and History. I have been eventing at the Advanced/4* level for three years on horses I produced myself. For the past three months, I have been the head rider for Marilyn Little’s operation in Wellington, Florida, riding both jumpers and eventers. In the fall, I am planning to start law school. Like a good event rider, I have a few different options in my head about how I want to get things done. I’m not quite sure what my path will look like. Unlike my friend going to medical school, I’m not singularly focused on one particular goal. 

Ema Klugman. Photo by GRC Photo.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve just jumped into the water jump and my horse has tripped, and I have to figure out how to fix his balance and create a canter to do the up-bank to the arrowhead coming up in six strides. I have been job-searching since before I graduated and haven’t come up with anything full-time or permanent. Now the COVID-19 pandemic has initiated a crashing economy, which nudges me toward attending graduate school while the job market is tough. I’m focused on my riding goals but also wary of the difficult and sometimes unrewarding life of a professional rider. 

I hope that my experience as a young professional offers a useful perspective for Jumper Nation readers. I also bring to the table the viewpoint that no matter how exciting and fulfilling our sport can be, it is also a small community that is sometimes out of touch with the goings-on in the rest of our country. I recently started a part-time job editing memos for an economics publication called Econofact. The site features economists writing about topics like the financial impacts of COVID-19 and the future of work in an increasingly online economy. So far I love the job because it is teaching me a lot, and it’s also reminding me to consider how economics shapes our world, even the horse world. 

Living in Wellington—the winter horse capital of the world, as they say—for the last three months has given me the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in the hunter/jumper world. Coming from an eventing background means that I notice differences in the industries, whether it be the types of horses, the way the shows are run, or the warm-up techniques of different riders. I’m also aware that a place like Wellington—and in particular WEF (the Winter Equestrian Festival)—represents a tiny slice of the hunter/jumper community, and not necessarily a representative one at that. These are the top riders and horses in the world, and the wealthiest owners, juniors, and amateurs. I firmly believe that Pony Club kids doing their first jumper shows and adult amateurs showing in the local hunters are just as valuable members of our community. A lot sets us apart, but we all like riding horses and figuring out how to jump the jumps in the best way we can. A site like Eventing Nation—where I’ve read a lot of news articles and op-eds over the years—shows that a kid attempting the lowest level of the sport on her 12-hand pony is connected to an Olympian at the highest level of the sport. The sport brings us together.

Ema Klugman. Photo by GRC Photo.

I have a few people to thank as I join the team. I was lucky to chat with outgoing editor Meagan before she started her new position at Phelps Media. I could tell she was fond of Jumper Nation and proud of its evolution over the past few years. Thank you also to Lynn, John, and Leslie for talking to me about the future of Jumper Nation. I’m so happy to be a part of this collaborative, encouraging team working toward the goal of sharing the joy of this wonderful sport!

Here’s to jumping jumps and not being afraid to change our plans. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to writing for you.