Two-time Olympic silver-medal-winning show jumper Anne Kursinski has achieved the kind of resume in equestrian sport that most aspiring riders only dream of. Having won some of the world’s most coveted international titles, ridden on nearly 50 Nations Cups teams, and competed at 10 World Cup Finals, Kursinski was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 2017.
But behind it all, the dark secret that had partially driven the American rider to such success—that she had been sexually abused by her trainer since the age of 11—could no longer be concealed. “By God, to survive, [I thought], I’m going to show you. I’m going to make it,” says Kursinski of the coach she says was viewed as “a god-like figure” by the industry at the time. Eventually, Kursinski left her home state of California for the East Coast, escaping both her abuser and her past to follow her Olympic dreams.
In her late 20s, Kursinski began to speak up about what she had endured after learning that other young athletes at her riding club had also been abused by the same man, including her own sister. In 2018, she became one of the first and most influential survivors in equestrian sport to come forward, going public with her story in The New York Times. Kursinski credits therapy and her horses with giving her the courage to not only carry on, but triumph.
“Being a survivor [means having] that strength that comes from the inside,” Kursinski says. “I got lemons and I made lemonade.”