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18-year-old Samantha Cohen and her long-term equestrian partner, Carmen, have become an unstoppable force at home and abroad.

Life is good for Samantha Cohen, or “Sammy” as her friends call her. Just 18, Sammy represented your Team abroad as part of the U.S. Young Riders Jumping Team at the 2018 FEI Young Rider Nations Cup Final in Belgium. And she’s competed — and won! — against some of the discipline’s toughest and most decorated competitors.

As Sammy’s show jumping career has taken off, her horse Carmen, a 12-year-old KWPN mare, has been with her every step of the way.

For the past three years, the two have grown together into a tremendous partnership that has turned more than a few heads in the High Performance equestrian arena. Carmen was originally owned by Laura Kraut and her son, Bobby, but when Bobby left for college, Sammy happened to be in the market for a new horse and Carmen seemed like a perfect fit.

Carmen and her new owner connected immediately. “She just kept getting better and better,” says Sammy. “She’s the most fun horse ever to ride in the ring. If I don’t get in her way, she’ll always jump a clear round.”

Exceeding expectations

No one had any idea what Carmen might be capable of achieving. She was a solid, reliable mount for a young rider. “I had no expectations of how far she would ever take me,” explains Sammy. “None of us knew how high she could jump.”

But Carmen proved herself again and again in the show ring. “She never struggled or showed any sign that she couldn’t do it,” recalls Sammy. And as Sammy advanced through the levels, Carmen did too.

“I did my first 2* and 3* classes on Carmen and my first Grand Prix,” says Sammy. “She’s the most special horse in the world to me.”

A global reach

For the past few summers, Sammy has brought Carmen to Europe to compete internationally against the best in the world. It’s a nerve-wracking challenge, especially considering all the legendary athletes they must share the ring with.

“It’s definitely different from what we’re used to in the United States,” says Sammy. “The classes are huge and they’ve got us jumping against all the top riders. It’s really intimidating the first year but it’s such a good experience.”

And Sammy is taking Europe by storm! Earlier this summer, she and her horse Billy Fanta, along with the U.S. Young Rider Jumping Team rode brilliantly to claim first place in the FEI Jumping Nations Cup in Hagen, Germany. “I had a great team — it was two of my very good friends who I admire so I was really excited,” recalls Sammy.

It’s also been a monumental year for her individual riding. In 2019, she took home her very first Grand Prix win at the Griffis Residential Grand Prix CSI2* during the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL — an incredible achievement for such a young rider. “I did it on Carmen and it was her first Grand Prix win too,” says Sammy. “To be able to win that with her was really exciting.”

From equitation to show jumping

It might surprise you to learn that Sammy, now an internationally acclaimed superstar in the high-speed, high-thrill sport of show jumping, used to be terrified of going fast. “I would have time faults in every single class,” laughs Sammy. “Even in the jump offs!”

Sammy first discovered a love for equitation — a slightly less adrenaline-filled discipline — when she was about 12 years old. As she progressed, her coaches encouraged her to pursue show jumping and compete in both sports as much as possible. “The jumper experience definitely helped me a lot in equitation and vice versa,” explains Sammy.

In time, Sammy began to work closely with Laura Kraut, a legend in the sport, and eventually decided to focus all her energy on pursuing show jumping as her sport.

New beginnings

After several years of devoting all her energy to horses, Sammy has a new challenge she’ll face this fall: starting her freshman year of college at Duke University. “I’m definitely nervous but I’m really excited,” she says.

As for horses? She’ll continue balancing both academics and riding — but horses will always be a priority for her and she doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. “I’m looking forward to being a college student,” she admits. “I’ll definitely still be riding as much as I possibly can.” As for what her academic pursuits might be, Sammy has an interest in business, economics, and public policy, but isn’t sure yet.

At the end of the day, Sammy is filled with gratitude for the opportunity she’s had to spend so much of her life devoted to horses — and she’s confident she wants to pursue a career in show jumping once she’s graduated from college. One day, she hopes to represent your Team at the Olympics and other international competitions.

When you support the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation, you can help support young talent like Sammy — keeping your Team strong into the future!

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