Colorado's Best Kid: Equestrian Show Jumping Star Kelli Cruciotti

June 5, 2017    By: KVRJillianBlackBrun

She's an emerging star in the world of equestrian show jumping, and she's only 19 years old! Kelli Cruciotti is one of the youngest competitors to win some of the most prestigious awards and classes in the world, and now she's got her sights set on Team USA for the 2020 Summer Olympics! She's one of Colorado's Best Kids, and she joined us this morning to tell us all about her favorite sport.

If you know an extraordinary kiddo that you think deserves to be featured on Colorado's Best, just go to the Colorado's Best Contact page and send us their information.


Watch Full Interview here! 

Overseas Adventures with Kelli Cruciotti

By intern Mackenzie Shuman

Entering the 2016 the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), Kelli Cruciotti, 19, of Elizabeth, Colo. had a lot to live up to as she had recently won both the Pessoa/US Hunt Seat Medal Finals and the Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championships and come in seventh in the ASPCA Maclay Finals and WIHS Equitation Finals. However, Cruciotti did not let the pressure get to her.

Competition in the U25 circuit at WEF was tough. With the country’s top young riders all fighting for a place in the top spot, there was no room for mistakes.

“My strategy in all of them really was just to place, because you win more points placing consistently than you do winning one and losing others. So my plan was to not be conservative, but just be smart in every class so I would get good placing, and I was fortunate enough to have two horses [Zidante and Chamonix H] there to help me achieve that,” Cruciotti said about her plan going into the series. This series, presented by Artisan Farms and the Ziegler Family, awards consistency, so coming into the final of seven events, Cruciotti’s lead was insurmountable, and she ended up with the Overall Series Champion.

Cruciotti did not come home with just a ribbon. The Ziegler Family generously awards the top placing rider an invitation to compete at the CSI2* Chantilly Horse Show, which is part of the Global Champions Tour from May 26th to the 29th in Chantilly, France. Along with the invitation comes two tickets to the prestigious Chantilly VIP lounge, transportation for one horse, and a layover at Artisan Farms in Vrasene, Belgium.

With Chantilly as her first overseas competition, Cruciotti was ecstatic. Coming along with her were Chamonix H and Quirado, along with two new equine additions, Hadja Van Orshof and Haylie Van de Groenendijk.

“We all flew on the same flight, as it was half passenger and half cargo. So I was sitting in the very last row and there was this little tiny trapdoor and [the horses] were all right behind me. It was really cool,” she said, even describing how she was able to occasionally get up during the eight hour flight to go back and visit the horses.

Initially, the team spent some time in Holland and competed at the exceptionally well run CSI3* Eindhoven Horse Show in the Netherlands. Her first horse show in Europe was certainly a learning experience, and one of the hardest learning curves was the warm up arenas. “Emile said to me at the beginning of it all; ‘Ok let’s get one thing straight: you don’t own any warm up jump.’ So, I found out that you have to share the jumps, and there would be at least six people on one jump at a time. So, when it was low, you had to make sure to get on it or else you would have to wait a while longer until those people were done.” With the help of veteran Emile Hendrix, Cruciotti sailed into the ribbons, earning a seventh place in the 1.50 Grand Prix qualifier on Chamonix, and a sixth place ribbon on Haylie in a 1.40 speed class.

Her next show destination was Opglabbeek, Belgium for the Centaur Park CSI2* Horse Show. Finding success once again, Cruciotti captured two ninth place ribbons aboard Quirado in the 1.35 7 year old classes, as well as a sixth place in the 1.50 Grand Prix riding Hadja van Orshof. When asked about how the language barrier effects the riding, she noted, “It definitely does come into play, and when I went over there, I was like, ‘I am going to learn all of these languages!’ But, it never happened,” she said with a laugh. “But the hardest was in Belgium, because they wouldn’t give you any counts until you were about two out, and you couldn’t understand what was going on sometimes, so you had to be on your game watching the arena and your rider list to see when you would go.”

After the fun of Belgium, Cruciotti then flew home for a few days to celebrate her brother’s college graduation. But, then it was back into the thick of things and straight to Chantilly, France, for the famed Global Champions Tour. “This was the ‘prize’ you could say from the Ziegler family for winning the Under 25 circuit at WEF,” Cruciotti said. She expressed her excitement about being able to gain a spot in one of the largest and most competitive shows in the world. True to form, Cruciotti showed her talent through several clear rounds and fast times, placing in the top 20 in a few of the very prestigious classes.

From Europe the team flew back to North America to the gorgeous show grounds of Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This renowned show proved to be a successful test of Cruciotti’s skills. One of her many triumphs in Spruce Meadows was her astounding victory in the Under 25 Grand Prix, winning over a competitive field of 31 of some of the world’s best young riders.

Kelli Cruciotti continued her winning ways throughout the summer. After her international adventures, she came back to her roots in Colorado and dominated the last few weeks of the Summer in the Rockies Horse Shows. Now at home with her horses, she reflects back on the success of the entire trip. “To know that you’re not only representing yourself over there, but also representing your country is a very proud feeling. You don’t want to just do well for yourself but also for your nation, and to also make sure you’re setting a good example.” One can only hope that Kelli Cruciotti is showing at the next show they are attending. She is not only an extremely talented rider, but also a humble human being whose demeanor exhibits her true values and makes her one to emulate.

One to Watch: Kelli Cruciotti


For many junior riders in the United States, this is the first week in months that they are not preparing for a horse show. And while last week marked the close of the biggest, and final, year of 17-year-old Kelli Cruciotti’s junior career, she’s only taking a short break before jumping back into the fray as a professional.

In May, Cruciotti, of Elizabeth, Colorado put her name on the map when she became the youngest winner ever of the historic $100,000 Sapphire Grand Prix at the Devon Horse Show. The class, which just her second career grand prix start, wasn’t one she expected to go clean in, much less win, but it was the beginning of an auspicious grand prix career for the junior rider. Fast-forward to this October, and Cruciotti added a coveted equitation final win to her resume with her first place finish in the 2015 Pessoa/U.S. Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Final at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show.

We caught up with this newly-minted professional (as of January 1st, 2016) and emerging grand prix star as she took a moment to reflect on the versatility required to win in two very different rings, who she counts among her most influential mentors, and how she sees the time spent on hands-on horse care in the barn pay off in the ring.

Q: To say that this year has been big is an understatement. Now that indoors is a wrap and you have some time to breathe, how would you sum it all up?
A: I’m really just so thankful for my entire team that worked so hard this year. All of the rest couldn’t have happened with out everyone’s input and work and time. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by such an incredible group of people, not the least of who is my mom Cindy Cruciotti, Peter Wylde, Don Stewart.

And the horses, they were in such top form this year. I have two very good equitation horses and three jumpers. Every time I took them to an important show or a big class they were always there for me. A big thank you to them would sum it all up.

Q: To people who might not know you as well, can you describe your background, your hometown and your barn?
A: I was born in California, my mom had a training business there for 25 years. We moved out to Colorado in 2004. I was still little at the time, but we’d always dreamed about owning our own barn, and we were lucky enough to have that dream come true and build our own farm in Elizabeth, Colorado, Serenity Farm Show Stables. So I’ve been lucky to live on the property (our house is just up the driveway from the barn) and have access to a lot of horses to practice on. We have 50 horses on the property – we have our hands full!

Q: Let’s talk about your second grand prix start ever, which was also your first grand prix win at the Devon Horse Show back in May. That unquestionably put you on the map!
A: It was amazing. It was kind of funny because I’d done junior weekend, the equitation and junior jumpers, and then I stayed for senior week and the grand prix. I was riding around in the warmup with Mclain and these other big riders and thinking ‘why am I doing this class, I’m so out of my league here.’ When I walked the course and told myself I’d be happy with a nice four fault round. And then, I don’t know what it was about that night but Chamonix was incredible. I don’t think I could have made her touch a rail.

It was such a shock to actually win that class, it gave me confidence for myself and my horse for the rest of the year, knowing that I could do classes like that. It didn’t change my plan for the rest of the year but it definitely gave me confidence.

Q: How does that Devon win compare to the achievement of winning the USEF Medal?
A: They’re so different. Devon was more of a surprise for me, because I hadn’t done that level at all. It was new for me and the shock of winning a class like that was so exciting. Compared to the medal final win – that was something I’d be working on my whole junior career. I’d first competed in a medal final six years before. So for that to come true was pretty amazing, not only for me but also for everyone around me who worked so hard for it. They’re both so different but both amazing.

Q: There are not many junior riders who’ve won a rated grand prix and an equitation medal in the same year. Describe how that speaks to your versatility as a rider.
A: With my mom especially, her belief is that if you have a solid start in the equitation and use it as a stepping-stone into the higher-level jumpers, it should be a very easy transition. And that has been my foundation.

I think having that and being exposed to such a good found so early and growing up doing the equitation was really a big benefit. Our American style of riding translates into the higher levels, you see it in our top American riders, in McLain, Beezie, Kent, and of course Peter Wylde. Having that solid foundation is so fundamental.

Q: Speaking of Peter Wylde, during the last two years he’s been one of your most vocal cheerleaders. What’s it been like to work with him?
A: He is such a great supporter of me and my mom and our program. His information has been such an asset to our team. Being an equitation winner and an Olympic Gold Medalist. He has so much insight into the experience and what the you need to do the big classes. When you walk a course and he instinctively knows what number you should do, what track, he’s always one-step ahead because he has so much experience at that level. And when you’re walking the course and saying the fences look really big and he says they’re not that big, you’re fine. Well, it means a lot to hear that.

Q: As far as mentors go, your mother Cindy Cruciotti has been with you every step of the way. What does her support mean to you?
A: She really has, most of the credit goes to her. Since I started riding when I was five years old she’s been my trainer. She has so much depth and knowledge of equitation, hunters and jumpers. She’s always been my inspiration and has so many things to teach. It’s about the care of the horses and putting them first. You can do it and the horses can be happy and you can really have a great partnership with all the horses you ride. And I think you can really see it in the ring when you have a great partnership with them. My mom has taught me that and she is my total inspiration.

Q: You’ve said that you spend a lot of time in the barn, does that mean that you’ve got a hands on approach to the care of your horses? How does that translate to the ring?
A: Yes, I live in the barn 24/7. When you do it yourself and you’re always on the horse’s side, you have a greater respect for what they do for you. They’re not just horses in our stables, they become part of our family. And they really try for you. Every time I go in the ring they give me 100%, and it’s really special to me to know everything about them and their quirks. It’s about how your horse feels in the morning, what their favorite treat is… those are the things that build a strong partnership. It’s really rewarding to have a big result like Devon and a medal finals, and to know that your partnership showed.

Q: It seems that the writing is on the wall that you’ll take this step out of the juniors and move into being a professional. Is that the case?
A: Yes, I’m excited to start working under my mom as a professional. I’ll be working at the stable in Colorado and in Florida. I’m very lucky to have this position and opportunity to work here, and I’m looking forward to the future.

Q: Are you able to take a deep breath now and have a break from showing?
A: A little bit. You take a deep breath and take a step back and realize – wow, we were gone since July. We just kind of kept going. But now, we’ll maybe take a couple days off and then it’s back to work. The horses will have a nice vacation and time to be horses again, they’re not showing again until Florida. The only break I have is a couple of days to go to Washington to see my brother. When I get back we’ll get ready for Florida.

Q: What will be your 2016 goals?
A: Really just to continue with the horses that I have, and add to the string with some younger horses. I want to start doing some of the young horse classes, I’ve always been really interested in doing that. And I want to make the Artisan Farms Under 25 Grand Prix Series a priority, and hopefully start jumping some Saturday nights. After that, hopefully I can apply for some Nations Cup teams. Have the opportunity to represent the US team is a big goal.

We leave on the 15th of December for Florida, and we rent a farm there for three months. After that, it’s a bit up in the air, but I’m hoping to get the opportunity to go show in Europe. I’ve never been there to show, and it’s one of my dreams.

Q: How will you use the lessons you’ve learned this year?
A: Obviously that having that solid foundation in the equitation is a good springboard into being a professional. Coming off the wins, it will definitely help me, but it’s almost like starting all over again. When I was a junior I had to work hard and build up my name and now being a professional it’s almost the same. I need to keep working hard to build up my name as a professional. But I’m really looking forward to it, to entering classes I’ve never jumped and shows I’ve never done.I’m excited to see what the future holds.



Cruciotti Cruises To Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals Victory

October 11, 2015

By: Kimberly Loushin

Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 11

As the saying goes, first impressions mean everything.

Kelli Cruciotti certainly made a good first impression on the judges, Julie Winkel and Scott Hofstetter, leading from start to finish in the Pessoa/US Hunt Seat Medal Final.

“She went early in the class, and we couldn’t stop thinking about it the whole class,” said Winkel. “We’re like ‘Oh my God, that girl was so good,’ and kept going back to her to compare the other riders, and it was like wow. Then to come back in the second round and do it again, we’re like, “Oh my God, that was awesome.”

“The thing that stood out with Kelli’s first round was the way she rode the first line,” Hofstetter said, “The first jump she really came forward, and it was kind of a blind turn, and she left the stride out. She looked like right away like she was going to go for the seven strides, so we really liked that. 

“She was just so forward everywhere on the course and seemed to be knowing everywhere where she was and she had a great partnership with her horse the whole time. That’s what stood out to us. She was very confident with the way she started,” he finished.

(Want to read more about Cruciotti's ride? The Chronicle has a ringside blog of all the rounds.)

Cruciotti, Elizabeth, Colo., paired up with her longtime mount Monterrey, and her relationship with him gave her the confidence to go for it.

“I’m very overwhelmed by everything and my horse,” she said. “He was amazing. I couldn’t have asked him to be any better. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime partner.”

Cruciotti has quite the team behind her. She trains with her mother Cindy Cruciotti along with Peter Wylde and Don Stewart—all of whom had nothing but praise for the 18-year-old.

“She’s one of the most gifted riders I’ve ever known,” said Wylde. “She’s incredibly talented, and I think she’s going all the way. I think this is just the beginning of her big thing that she’s going to do in this sport.”

Hunter Holloway has been on a bridesmaid streak in the big eq finals, and she continued it again, taking second aboard Any Given Sunday.

“He’s an amazing horse, and he comes through for me every time,” said the 17-year-old from Topeka, Kan. “He’s a very trustworthy. He’s always Steady Eddie and handles very well through the turns.”

Stewart, who also helps train Holloway, was quick to point out that their secret to success lies in their drive to work.

“They work like dogs. They want to do well,” he said. “They’re ferocious as far as competition goes. They’re a lot of fun to help.”

Mckayla Langmeier rounded out the top three with Eclipse—a horse she first sat on two days prior to the final. “He’s really fun to ride,” she said. “He’s really scopey and brave. He just walks right in there and performed the best he could.”

Eclipse, an 8-year-old warmblood, is owned by Missy Clark. Sophie Simpson piloted him to fifth in the Medal Final last year.

Want to know about what makes the top three riders special? Be sure to pick up a copy of the Oct. 26 print issue of The Chronicle of the Horse for in-depth coverage of the Pessoa/USEF Medal Final and the rest of the Pennsylvania National Junior Weekend.

Cruciotti Gets It Done At Capital Challenge

By: Katie Allard and Kimberly Loushin

Upper Marlboro, Md.—Sept. 27   

As Kelli Cruciotti’s horse Darius was walking away from the ring after the awards ceremony, he was spooked by his championship ribbons from his victory in the Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championships. A fairly green horse, the 7-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding hadn’t had a lot of experience with the equitation division. So, coming into the medal final, Cruciotti was hoping to gain experience for her new mount, and was surprised to come away with the win. 

“We purchased him in July, to be an equitation prospect,” said Cruciotti. “This is really his third show that we’ve done with him. We just thought, we don’t know what’s going to happen but mileage can't hurt. Everything we asked of him he just, he was incredible, I can’t even believe it; he was unbelievable.” 

Cruciotti and her young horse bested a field of class of more than 100 competitors, riding over 2 phases of jumping and a testing portion. Leading going into the second round, she dropped to third for the testing portion, when the judges called back the top three riders to showcase their talents over a shortened course which included a trot fence and a hand gallop to the last jump. Going first had its advantages as Cruciotti wowed the judges with a slick inside turn towards the trot jump. Katherine Strauss ended the day in second, while Ashton Alexander took third.

This was Cruciotti’s first big medal win, and consistency was key throughout her rounds, as she posted scores of 90.60, 90.70, and 90.80 to finish on a 272.10. The 18-year-old has a whirlwind week—she came into town on Friday after taking second in the $25,000 U.S. Open Under-25 Grand Prix at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show with Chamonix H.

Looking ahead, Cruciotti is preparing for the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals—East (N.J.) on Wednesday with her other equitation horse, Monterrey, but looks forward to possibily competing with Darius at the Washington International Horse Show (D.C.) in October. 

Summer in the Rockies III Wrap-Up: Big Wins for Kelli Cruciotti, Andrew Kocher & Courtney Calcagnini

Cat Allen for Jennifer Wood Media
Parker, CO – June 23, 2015 – Colorado Horse Park’s (CHP) Summer in the Rockies III concluded this past weekend in Parker, CO. It was a full week of competition including the $50,000 Griffis Residential Grand Prix, $20,000 Open Welcome Stake, $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby and $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby.
The $50,000 Griffis Residential Grand Prix saw 22 participants contest the impressive course, designed by Hector Loyola. The class only saw three clear rounds, and it was 17-year-old Kelli Cruciotti who ultimately rode to victory aboard Serenity Equestrian Ventures’ Zidante with a speedy clear jump-off time of 44.96 seconds.

Kelli Cruciotti Captures First Grand Prix Win in $100,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon.

Beginners luck or youthful indiscretion can be used when a young person takes home a major victory, but none of those correctly describe Kelli Cruciotti. Hard working, determined- those are the best adjectives to describe the 17-year-old athlete who won her first grand prix with

Chamonix H during Thursday night’s prestigious $100,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon.

“I can’t believe it. This is actually my second grand prix with her,” expressed Cruciotti at the end of the night. “She’s unbelievable. She’s the best horse I could learn to do this on. It hasn’t sunk in at all.”

In front of a packed house, Cruciotti navigated a seven-horse jump off to claim the first major win of her budding career and to be the youngest rider to ever win the historic event. Course designer Michel Vaillancourt narrowed down a field of 28 entries, which included Olympians such as McLain Ward, Peter Leone and Beat Mandli, to just seven riders for the tiebreaker. 

Kelli Cruciotti, 17, Wins Grand Prix at Devon.

A week ago, Kelli Cruciotti missed her Skype graduation from online high school because she was riding in a competition. That paid off Thursday night, when the 17-year-old became the youngest winner of the Sapphire Grand Prix at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair. The Grand Prix dates to 1978.

“I’ve always dreamed about doing a class like this in front of as many people,” Cruciotti said. “To have such a great result is a dream come true.”

Cruciotti, of Elizabeth, Colorado, riding her own Chamonix H, took home the $30,000 price with a time of 38.678 seconds. 

One to Watch: Kelli Cruciotti is Doing the Work to Get to Devon

If you're looking Kelli Cruciotti after a day of showing at Devon (Pa.), dont look in the stands. Or at the fudge booth. Or even back at the hotel.

Odds are Cruciotti, 17, will be back at the barn grooming and wrapping horse or cleaning tack. She might have help, since she’s got five horses showing at Devon, but Cruciotti

makes it a priority to do as much as she can of her horses’ care.

“My philosophy is that the horses jump so hard for me and try so hard for me, the least I can do is take care o them well,” Cruciotti said. “That’s ways been a big part of my life. I do enjoy it, taking care of them and making sure they're put away correctly and that they have the best care. If they're giving me 110 percent all the time, then I need to give them 120 percent of my effort. It’s hugely important to me. My mom raised me to always put the horses first and that it’s not about the blue ribbons; it’s about taking care of them.” 

Fabulous Win for Kelli Cruciotti in the $100'000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon (UK Publication)

The 17 years old talented American lady rider, Kelli Cruciotti has proved unbeatable in the prestigious $100’000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon and takes her first ever Grand Prix win aboard her very well jumping Chamonix H. The pair bettered a list of 28 entries in this

class proposed by Michel Vaillancourt that saw 7 of them qualify for the jump off track against the clock. Kelli Cruciotti and Chamonix H stopped the clock in an amazingly fast time of 38’67 to take their first Grand Prix win ever ahead of Michael Hughes in the saddle of Mc Arthur who crossed the timers in 39’49 to settle for runner up position and of Devin Ryan aboard Cooper who ended their jump off round faults free in 40’05 for 3rd position.