Catching Up With Catherine and Lauren Tyree: Branching Out and Starting a Business

For many years, I had the opportunity to train with Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run, which is where I met sisters Catherine and Lauren Tyree. Catherine (Cat) has had huge success on the international stage, representing the United States in multiple Nations Cup competitions all over the world. Lauren was a junior star who took some time off, but recently returned to the sport and her winning ways. Last year, Cat launched her own business, Catherine Tyree LLC with her sister, Lauren. I had the opportunity to sit down with them and discuss what it’s like creating your own business and what it takes to be young professionals at the top of the sport.

HD: It has been a long time, and there have been so many new developments!  You recently started your own business.   Please tell us how that’s going and what your goals are?

CT:  I have been very fortunate to have gotten to the high level of the sport and I really enjoy it, so now it’s gotten to the point where I want to support and sustain that.  So for me, going out on my own and focusing on that, in the back of my mind I’ve been trying to think of ways and different avenues to grow a business and help support it.  In my mind that looks like having 1 or 2 students that I can help, because I’ve done everything—the ponies, the junior hunters, the equitation, all the way up to where I am now.  I’ve taken all of that, and what I’ve learned with John and Missy, and applied it to the big picture of the sport by using my own experiences as a reference.  I think I could really help someone that has similar aspirations.

Catherine and Lauren Tyree

I really love getting to work with young horses, and the most recent group of horses that I’ve been lucky enough to acquire are on the younger side, so I’ve been able to develop them. That creates a really strong relationship that’s much deeper than just buying one when they are 10 or 11 and seeing how you can make things work.  When they are younger, you get to grow with them.  I have the opportunity to produce a 6-year-old, thanks to Michael Meller and Dennis Sisco of QBS Equestrian. That is something that I really love doing. Cantalupe V/D Holstenhoeve, AKA “Melon,” is a really special horse and I think he has tremendous potential.  He’s very smart, clever, and competitive—I’m lucky to have him in the barn!

HD: Lauren, what about you? You have taken a different path—what is your goal?

LT: Well to start off, I went off to college and actually didn’t ride for about 7 years.  So I’ve been back full time for almost 2 years.  Right now, I’m really focused on developing some younger horses—I just added  two new ones to my string that are a bit younger, but I’m really interested in the sales aspect.  I think that’s where Cat and I make a good team. It’s hard when you take a big step away from the sport. But again, that’s why Missy and John were so good for me growing up, because if you have really strong basics and you have a good foundation that you can continue to build upon, you really don’t lose that.  So, for me, it’s trying to learn as much as I can, in the moment right now.  That’s why it’s great to have Cat and her boyfriend, Vasco Flores, as mentors throughout this whole process and see where I can go with it in the future.  I’d love to have a nice string of young horses in a couple of years and keep chugging away at it.

Lauren Tyree and Koultan de Torres

HD: What is it like to be working together, sharing similar goals but with slightly different tracks in the sport?

CT: I got to see Lauren grow up in the sport, and she has always been very good, so I was sad when she stepped away.  I understand that everyone has to go on their own path to figure out what they want, so I was really happy when she came back!  Right now I couldn’t be more excited that she has two really special horses that she just added to her string. She’s really giving it her all, and I think she has everything behind her—the people, the horses, the family support, the work ethic, and the passion for the horses, to take her wherever she wants.  It’s been wonderful having her back, having the opportunity to help fill in those gaps, and help her figure out what she wants to do—and help her in any way that I can.  She’s been really great, asking a lot of good questions, and asking for help – it’s great to know she values my opinion and my experiences and what I’ve done.  It’s also a really nice way for me to start training somebody in a comfortable and familiar situation for me. 

HD: Ohh, isn’t that interesting! You have this ideal situation where Cat, you are sharing your knowledge and experience with Lauren, while she is also your first star student (first of many!).

CT: At the same time, I get really nervous when she goes in the ring, so it’s definitely a new situation—not one that I’ve been super familiar with before, but it’s really nice having her and having someone that has your [very] best interests at heart and will do anything to help you get to where you want to be.

Catherine Tyree and Bokai

HD: Everything that you’ve done has been a new situation. You bring that to the table, that you’ve been through every stage and moved up through the ranks in each—and not always with horses that are ready to just walk in and go! Weren’t your greys green to start?

CT: Yes, so Lorenzo, who I still have, I got him at the end of his 7-year-old year – he was a bit on the younger side, a bit green, and he was just kind of awkward in his body and his technique.  Now he’s 11, and we are about to jump the 5* Grand Prix on Sunday!  It was the best way to start out—having young ones and developing them.  It’s the situation that everyone dreams of [with a young horse], and I was lucky enough to find myself in that situation the first time around. 

Catherine Tyree and Cantalupe V-D Holstenhoeve with groom Alex Weinman

HD: Both of you are riders (and people!) that you cheer for—horses love you, you work hard, you are gracious, and you deserve all of the success that you have had. Michael Meller is thoughtfully matching each of his young superstars with who he believes is the perfect rider to suit the horse. Talent can get overlooked and I believe you may not always look to a rider that has been lucky enough to have had family support, or had nice horses, and I think what Michael and Dennis have done in entrusting you with his special young horse is very special.

CT: I was so humbled and gracious because I think it’s hard for people to “take a chance” on the ones who have been lucky enough to always have been consistent at the top level of the sport. I would never trade the support I have had from my family [I am so grateful, etc.], but it is nice to be seen for the hard work and effort that I’ve put into it in the last 15 years.  It was very humbling, and very validating, and definitely made me feel more confident getting that gesture and nod from an incredible horseman like Michael.

HD: Lauren, what has your experience been like coming back to the sport?

LT: It was hard for me coming back to riding… I experienced some success as a junior and had started to make a name for myself, so then leaving and coming back as an adult in a different place in the sport, it was difficult.  It’s hard to get people to see you in a different light—keep your head down, keep working at it, and be a sponge.  Watch the warmup ring, watch the other riders.

Lauren Tyree and Koultan de Torres

HD: What brought you back?

LT: Honestly, I don’t really know!  I was always drawn to it—it was one of those things that you just can’t stop thinking about.  It was one of those things where I had to figure out a way that I could make it work.  In terms of this being a career path—it took a while to figure out a certain structure that would work for me and that I could see long-term. But leaving was also the best decision I ever made—just because it gives you this different approach to the whole sport.  It’s another place where Cat and I work so well together, because I was not completely absorbed in [the sport] for so long, that I have had “real people” jobs, real life experiences, you come back and see it for something a little bit different.  In a good way.

HD: And what about this team that you are building within your operation? The three of us come from a very team-driven system in North Run. That has certainly translated into my personal and professional life. Can you tell me a bit about your team? 

LT: We have three girls, Ally [Bradley], Alex [Weinman], and Kristen [Chandler] that work for us—and they all bring something unique and important to the table. When we hire new people, it’s always so important to us how they feel about the horses. Is this their passion, or is this something they do for fun? We always hire someone who puts the horses first and puts everything into it, and the three girls we are lucky to have are incredible. They love what they do, understand all the horses, and get really connected to them—which to us, is very important. We spend all hours of the day in the barn. As someone who took such a long break, it’s so important just to spend hours watching, listening, just being in the barn and getting to know your horses.  It just makes the team that much stronger.

HD: You and Cat work so well together — has it always been this way? If you had said to your teenage selves that you would be in the business and working together, would you believe it?

CT: I would believe it.  I mean, when it comes down to it, we are really supportive of each other and just want the best.  We have always encouraged each other to go and do whatever makes us happy and what will help us achieve our goals and follow our dreams.  On the surface, we have those “sister fights,” but when it comes to the sport, we are aligned in a lot of our thoughts and kind of our approach to all of this.  It really doesn’t surprise me that we are able to work so well together and build something together right now. 

HD: Speaking of building, I’m curious—Lauren, what kind of sales horses do/will you have?  What do you look for in a horse? 

LT: Right now my main focus is jumpers, and there are certain qualities I like to check off. Do they have a good brain?  Do they have nice balance? Do they want to do the job? These are the things I think about, in addition to character, what they are like to be around, and if they have just the right amount of “blood.” I like a good, safe, honest horse with the right amount of blood to suit the American “type”—and I’m a sucker for a great personality!

I bring some prior experience in the horse sales business, and Vasco has a huge sales business, so he mentors me in that—how he runs it, what kind of horses he looks for, etc. Things like that have been the most helpful. Just spending time seeing what deals work, what doesn’t, seeing the dynamics of the whole sales business.  It’s something that really excites me, and I look forward to developing that component of our business!

Lauren and Catherine Tyree

HD: When you come back to WEF this season, in which rings should I expect to see you?

CT: You’re definitely going to see Lauren in the big ring! I think I will be mainly focused on the FEI stuff.  I’ve got a younger string that I think will be ready to step up—maybe not the step to the 3* Grand Prixs, but maybe the 1.45m/1.50’s, I think I will have a good group for that.  And just protect my grand prix horses a little bit.

HD: Do you sit down together and make a plan?

LT: Cat and I stable together and work together, but it’s mainly Vasco [Flores] who trains me.  They do a really good job at teaming up!  He has his own stable himself, and so we all sit down and make a whole plan.  Adding another person to our team.

CT: Short and long-term goals, I am pretty good at sitting down and mapping out the year, around Christmas time, and then I keep changing it [as needed] as we go.  I have such a good relationship with John and Missy—they help me when we are at the same shows, and they are always a phone call away. They have always been so supportive of what I’m doing and the horses, that I always run my plans by them!  Especially John, he [is so good at strategizing] and gets so into the horses and when they are going to be ready for certain different levels of competition. I always seem to find myself on the same wavelength as John!  They are still a very important part of my team, and I am lucky to have them.  They help me figure things out as far as long-term goals and plans, and they have been great mentors.  So I feel really comfortable and confident doing it on my own now as well.

Catherine Tyree and Camilla Z

HD: Missy and John’s program—I didn’t want to mess with what worked. It’s a well-oiled machine. We are very lucky to have had that foundation, but it’s tough to do it on your own almost because of that. Was it scary?

CT: Yes, honestly.  But the year before, I was working for John and Missy, so I was intertwined with the behind-the-scenes, and inner workings of what it takes.  I got the full picture that year.  I always knew I wanted to do it on my own, and if I wanted to be in this, I was going to try to do something myself.  So I absorbed as much information as I could during my time with them.  I was scared at first and put a lot of pressure on myself, but they really did everything they could to set me up for success.  I had all the knowledge to fall back on if/when I needed it.

HD: You have never taken that for granted, and that has allowed you both to be like sponges. What is one piece of advice you would give young riders hoping to become professionals?

CT: One piece of advice I would give to young riders or aspiring professionals is to block out what everyone else is doing and to stay true to who you are and what you want. Someone’s evolution in this sport is not going to mimic someone else’s; how we get from point A to B is very personal. All you can do is keep your head down, work hard, and stay dedicated to your dream.

HD: Thank you so much for your time! It was great speaking with you and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for both of you!

Hillary Dobbs is a former grand prix show jumper, Dobbs is now the Assistant Vice President and Private Client Officer at Malvern Bank. The new Equestrian Business Division at Malvern Bank is able to tailor programs to individuals and businesses and prides itself on its ability to structure loans based on individual needs. Malvern Bank offers lending services for equestrian properties and equipment, a high yield money market account for equestrians and can handle client deposits, insurance and wealth management. To learn more about Malvern Bank and the Equestrian Business Division click here.

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