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The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1)










Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 30.E, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (25)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: August 22, 2022

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,826

ISSN 2369-6885


Dana Cooke is the Director of Equestrian Activities at Kingfisher Park Equestrian. She was a member of the Canadian Bronze Medal team at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. She is an “A” level Pony Club graduate and an Equestrian Canada Level 1 Certified Coach. She discusses: earliest inklings; Canadian bronze medal team in Lima, Peru; the feeling in anticipation; selection criterion for the Canadian Olympic team; 5-star; eventing versus jumping; financial barriers; the prices going up; and profit.

Keywords: Canada, Dana Cooke, equestrianism, Greenhorn Chronicles, Kingfisher Park Equestrian, Lima, Olympics, Peru.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations after the interview.*

*Interview conducted January 7, 2022.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Okay, so, I will begin at the beginning. So, you performed at very high levels in the equestrian world. You are at Kingfisher Park Equestrian now. So, there’s obviously a story before the start in Kingfisher Park Equestrian. So, what were some of the earliest inklings of being around, or riding, horses for you because the people start at different ages and their paces of development are also different?

Dana Cooke[1],[2]: My parents originally were from Vancouver. They moved out to a little town called Merritt, which is about three hours north of Vancouver. My mom was a schoolteacher and I think my father was working. I can’t remember who he was working for at the time when he first stepped out. They had bought like a little piece of, probably, a 20-acre piece of property outside of town and friends there decided to keep some horses there. People started a little pony club around the corner, so my brother started pony club. My parents just bought like two kinds of 500-dollar sale horses. They didn’t know really anything about horses. My brother started this pony club. I started watching him ride and stuff. I was like little; like those photos of me with a pacifier in my mouth sitting on a horse and one of my brothers boarding for lessons. Once I was old enough, I also joined the pony club. My mom met my stepfather. He is, actually, a cowboy and literally chases cows for a living. He has worked for several different ranches like those in Nicola Valley. He likes to break horses and stuff like that. So, I got into a little bit of rodeo because my stepdad. This is what he did. I did a little rodeo. I did a little pony club. Then probably by the time I was eight or nine, I started jumping and just then stuck with the more equestrian side of things; English style and Western. When I was in kindergarten, I think, or my early elementary school years, we had to write what we want to do when we grow up. I said I wanted to go to the Olympics. So, here I am.

Jacobsen: You were on the Canadian bronze medal team in Lima, Peru for the Pan American Games. You have your eyes on the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France.

Dana: Yes, absolutely.

Jacobsen: What is the feeling in anticipation of heading in that direction and being so close when you’ve been aiming for that for so many years?

Dana: Well, it’s exciting, but it’s also a little bit like disbelief because you work so hard for it. It’s a dream for so long. It’s still also three years away, so it feels like forever away. With the Pan Am, it’s the same. In the Pan Am, it’s a little bit interesting because the path that I took the Pan Am. I planned it out like three years prior: how to get her there and make sure she was qualified. I was like, “I’m going to get this horse there,” which I did. like I have a little bit of the same philosophy, same planning, but I’m, actually, hoping to have, maybe, two or three horses qualified as opposed to just having one. But yes, it’s a weird feeling; you get excited about it, but you also can’t really get hung up on just getting qualified for the team and just making the team because it can run your life, which is a great thing. Also, things go wrong. So, it’s also a bit disappointing when it goes wrong. So, you’ve got to have other goals and other dreams and plans going on simultaneously if that makes sense.

It’s exciting, but I try not to get too hung up on just making the team because it’s disappointing when you don’t make it. It’s really disappointing when we don’t make it. So, it is exciting, but there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it.

Jacobsen: What is the selection criterion for the Canadian Olympic team in any of the three major areas of equestrianism?

Dana: Honestly, they, usually, come out what our actual criteria is; usually, it’s the fall or winter prior, so usually the November-December of the year before we get a selection like they’ll get sent out to all the high-performance riders, what you need to do to qualify to be on the team. Then we have to declare to our National Federation, which is Equestrian Canada, to tell them that we want to be selected or we want to be included in the selection process. So, it’s just for the Olympics, which is run at a 4-star level, at least across countries 4-star level. Usually, you and your horse have to be qualified at the fourth CCI 4-star long level. Actually, being qualified at the CCI 5-star long level is the highest level of sport; it’s actually a level above the Olympics. To have the best shot at it, you would like to have a great result out of 5-star going into it. But I believe that in this past Olympics we had to have a qualification at the 4-star long level.

Jacobsen: What would count as a 5-star? What is the contextualization there for someone without the expertise in the field?

Dana: So, the 5-star is the highest level in in eventing. It would be… trying to think of one good equivalent would be in like a different sport… It’d be like doing a full ironman, like it is compared to doing just a triathlon. It’s the dressage. It’s more technical and the test is longer. The cross country, the jumps are bigger, of course. It’s also more technical than the levels below it. The course generally takes significantly longer, and then the show jumping again. It’s more technical. It’s a larger show jumping track than you know the levels below it.

Jacobsen: How did you get into eventing versus jumping?

Dana: Well, pony club is actually based in the eventing. That’s where they started with everything. When you’re in pony club, you can go down different avenues; you can go down just the dressage avenue, or you go down the show jumping avenue, or you could go down eventing one. Whichever avenue you choose, it used to be like an all-around type. It’s an organization, but it’s also a bit of an education as well. So, you could focus on the whole thing and eventing would be like an all-around type of thing. So, that’s where it started. Honestly, I love the cross country. Which if you ask any event clutter, they’ll all say the same thing that they’re in it for the cross country. We have to do all the other things, but we learned to enjoy the dressage, or at least get good enough at it. We learned to love the show jumping as well, but the cross country is really why we do it.

Jacobsen: For the sport, especially at the higher levels, I have come across some commentary of financial barriers to it. Is that a common thing, or is that more an urban myth?

Dana: No, it’s common. Horses are expensive. Everybody says, “Oh, you have horses.” There’s so much money in horses and the money is literally in the horse, like the care of it, the feeding, maintenance, the veterinary, the farrier, competing; it’s expensive. I tell people all the time the cheapest part about owning a horse is the purchase price. It doesn’t matter whether you get it for free or you spend 500,000 dollars on it; that’s the least amount of money you’re going to spend on that horse. And after that, it’s expensive. That’s why a lot of us, especially the upper-level riders, have reformed syndicates because most of us can’t afford to do it on our own. I’m lucky enough that I have the owners of Kingfisher to support me, but they could only support me so much. So, trying to bring other people into the sport and to want to be a part of it, there’s a lot of people that want to be a part of your team and your sport and your journey, but they also can’t afford to own the whole horse, so they have the option to own a share of the horse and pay for a share of the expenses – which makes it actually a lot more affordable to them and to us as riders. So, it is expensive.

Jacobsen: Are the prices going up?

Dana: Yes. The horse purchase prices, some of them. Yes, it’s going up. I wouldn’t think that it’s changed in the last two years. It doesn’t change that much, but absolutely the care of them and competition costs and travel costs, absolutely. That has definitely gone up.

Jacobsen: For the industry to become profitable for an individual, or for a syndicate, or for a business, or for farmers, stables, etc., how do North Americans make the bulk of their income to sustain themselves versus Western Europeans?

Dana: Well, most have teaching businesses. We teach a lot of lessons. Europe, there are a lot more equestrians for disciplines, all of them. There, it’s definitely part of their culture; whereas, that’s not here in the US, so it’s a lot easier to get owners in Europe, but it actually is a lot more competitive. Because if you’re not doing a good job with that horse, they’ll take the horse and give it to somebody else. So, you have to stay quite competitive with those horses. So, here, you’ll find a lot of people start out getting the thoroughbreds, which are fine. You can find some really good thoroughbreds, but majority of them are not as competitive in the dressage. They’ll, maybe, have a little bit of a flatter jumping style. So, they might not have the best show jumping records. They generally are great cross-country horses, but not always the most competitive in the in the other two phases. But they’re more affordable to buy. So, you definitely see a lot of people starting out with that.

In Europe, they do have teaching and riding businesses like they do here, but I think probably a little bit easier to build up a little more clientele because it’s part of the culture. I haven’t spent that that much time actually living in Europe; not that I’ve lived in Europe, but I haven’t been there long enough to actually really see the difference. But my coach is Australian. He lived in England for a long time. He had a teaching business, but it was more of a riding business. He had competition horses, so it’s just a different style. He would have 12 horses going at any given time. So, you don’t see that as much here in the US or in North America in general.


[1] Director of Equestrian Activities, Kingfisher Park Equestrian.

[2] Individual Publication Date: August 22, 2022:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022:

Image Credit: Dana Cooke.


American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1)[Online]. August 2022; 30(E). Available from:

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2022, August 22). The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1). Retrieved from

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E, August. 2022. <>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.E (August 2022).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.E. Available from: <>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.E.,

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 30.E (2022): August. 2022. Web. <>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 15: Dana Cooke on High Performance Equestrianism (1)[Internet]. (2022, August 30(E). Available from:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Based on a work at


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