It is clear when you watch Tina Konyot ride, that she is magical. In the growing sport of Dressage, few riders qualify as stars: Konyot is one of them. A truly gifted performer, Konyot—in perfect accord with her horse—can engage, mesmerize and delight. Tina Konyot rides, to quote one of her colleagues, “beyond competition—with an excitement that emanates from her and broadcasts to those watching that something brilliant and extraordinary is taking place.”
While Tina is an extraordinary rider, she also experienced an extraordinary 2010. Tina and Calecto V, her big black Danish Warmblood stallion, swept four Grand Prix classes at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions, winning the Selection Trial and cementing their place in the United States World Equestrian Games history books. Tina and Calecto V represented the United States at the World Equestrian Games, the first time the Games were held in the United States.
Horses are truly second nature to Konyot, as is the bearer of a genetic code that spans five generations of stellar horsemanship and performance.
Discovered by Ringling in Europe, Tina’s grandfather, Arthur Konyot, went on to conquer American audiences and occupied center ring in the acclaimed Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He then trained horses owned by celebrities (Arthur Godfrey for one) and was honored posthumously to the Circus Hall of Fame in 1974. A book, The White Rider, was written about his life.
Tina’s grandmother, a relative of the world renowned prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova, was a bareback equestrienne and ballerina who incorporated into her performances all the beauty and discipline of both high art forms: Dressage and Ballet.
Tina’s father, Alex Konyot, played a major role in bringing the art of Dressage to the attention of American audiences. Following in his father’s footsteps, Alex Konyot used his unique lineage and experience with horses to start an equine training facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the course of his more than 80-year career he nurtured neophyte riders and horses to Olympic status including a very young Robert Dover, who has now earned for the United States 6 Olympic medals in Dressage and who recently co-produced the first equine reality TV show on Fox Network. Dover says of Alex, “he was a genius who gave me key information at a very crucial time in my development as a rider.”
Tina’s mother, Josephine, a stunning blonde, was a high wire artiste who performed without a net, high above the center ring. Her signature was that she used only a plume for balance. By the time she was 14, she had audiences standing in awe all over Europe and had performed on demand for several European Heads of State.
Given this unique heritage, no one would be surprised to learn that Tina is more comfortable on a horse than sitting on a sofa. Her favorite quote comes from her great-grandmother, “no one can arrive from being talented alone, and work transforms talent.”
And work she has. A natural and eager competitor, Tina found that she could excel at training and showing horses, yet early in her career she knew that she had to push herself to a high level of both experience and knowledge that at the time was not available in this country. She spent five years in the grueling training/show world of Dressage in Europe: two years as a student of the Master, Herbert Rehbein, then Rudolf Zeilinger, and after that, Klaus Balkenhol (now coach of the American Olympic Team). There were others: colleagues, friends who offered advice and council: Kyra Kirklund, Jurgen Koschel, Johnny Hilberath, Daniel Ramseier (of the Swiss Olympic Team)—all (like the beginning of Ballet in America when Balanchine, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Chagal) sharing ideas and exchanging techniques to create the foundation that built Dressage to the place it holds in equine competition today.
Returning to the United States, Tina accumulated scores and attention and rose, in 2000, on the very young 9-year old horse Justice, (who in his very first year at the Grand Prix level), she was short-listed for the United States Equestrian Team Trials for Sydney. In 2004, she was short-listed with the horse, Anna Karinina, for the Athens Olympic Trials. Tina and Anna Karinina were a favorite in the sport but unfortunately; Anna sustained a devastating injury, which ended her career.
With her sights on the future and the 2010 World Equestrian Games taking place for the first time in America, Tina continues to turn her focus to her legacy, “my grandfather and father dreaming of seeing Dressage rise to the level of art and sport equivalent to the huge spectator sports. They wanted to teach people to appreciate what it takes to develop the partnership between horse and rider. To a certain extent the interest is just now beginning. When world-wide companies like Rolex, Pfizer and Bayer sponsor major equestrian events”, Tina explains “you know the our industry is strong enough to attract big advertising dollars.” Tina goes on, “the FEI World Cup Championships drew standing-room-only crowds in Las Vegas this year, and the biggest surprise was that Dressage was more popular than the Show Jumping.”
October 19, 2007 for the first time ever, an equine reality TV series aired on Fox Television. Drawing on the popularity of Dressage across the country, young riders were asked to submit videotapes of their riding along with statements about their hopes, dreams and goals. As a reward the winner would be awarded many gifts, money and the opportunity to train and ride with Olympic rider, Robert Dover. Professionals in the world of Dressage were invited to work with the six finalists. Tina Konyot was included in this elite group and her segment was one of the first aired. “Tina’s segment was especially relevant,” said co-producer, Dover, “because Tina is clear, humorous, and informative. She has talent and exudes self-confidence. She is a wonderful leader and an important person for young people to meet and emulate.”
The explosion of communication devices will increase the potential for new and more informed audiences. Today a tradeshow that takes place in one city only once a year will have ripple-effect impact months after it happens. According to executives of Equine Affaire, organizers of the longest running largest equine trade show in this country,” since we have begun, in 1994, the show has grown every year and is getting stronger. Our figures confirm that our billion dollar industry creates millions in tourism and tax revenues.”
Dressage riders are at the pinnacle of the equine world. “And like all artists, we need support: we need the good horses, excellent venues and the financial backing it takes to get the job done, “ explains Tina. Articulate, knowledgeable, experienced and committed, Tina Konyot possesses the perfect qualifications to be the standard bearer of the new age of Dressage. “She is just what this sport needs,” says FEI Olympic Judge, Axel Steiner: “Tina is a natural rider with the ability to command an audience when performing a test, and the bonus is that she is able to bring her talent to teaching and training.” Tina Konyot brings a dimension to the World of Dressage that few can claim. She is more than a rider—she is an athlete, a dancer, a trainer and a performer of super star quality.