Horse sport is great for teaching us to make lemonade out of unexpected lemons, though in practice, that concept is often easier said than done. With her top horse taking some time off, Alexandra Crown had to adjust her summer expectations accordingly. But instead of pining for what could have been, Alex has put in the work and shifted her attention to the other members of her string—and the decision is paying dividends.

“I had a bit of a transitioning year because my best horse, [Von Cim], who I was jumping the big classes on, was off for a little bit, so I needed to kind of regroup and rebuild,” Crown explains. The rest of her relatively young string required practice and miles, and Europe—under the guidance of her coach and World #1, Kent Farrington—has been the perfect place to find all that and more.

“There’s a lot more shows in Europe in more concentrated areas, whereas in America, you have to drive a long distance to get to shows. I think there are a lot of really great [events] coming up in America right now that are trying to create a European atmosphere and feel, which is fantastic. But over here, it is just really special.

“Getting to ride in the warm-up ring next to Marcus Ehning or Christian Ahlmann when they’re flatting their horses is very, very cool.”

In the three-odd months she’s been on the Continent, Crown has achieved a new level of consistency with her horses, beginning with slew of recent successes with the 11-year-old KWPN mare, Basic, who Crown has had for three years. “I think besides maybe one show this summer, [Basic] has won a class at every show she went to. At the 1.35m/two-star height, she’s one of the most competitive horses there is. She just fights to win,” Crown explains. “I could not ask for anything more from that horse.”

Last week, Alex and Basic won the CSI1* class at the Stephex Masters in Brussels, Belgium, as well as a CSI2* class at the Longines Global Champions Tour of London in August. And she’s been similarly successful with her 10-year-old KWPN gelding, Charley, earning back-to-back wins at the CSI1* level at Valkenswaard in the Netherlands.

“I’ve had [Charley] since the beginning of his 6-year-old year and he’s my baby. He’s very lazy, but once he starts going on course, he has a big stride and he’s really competitive and fun to ride in the ring,” Crown says, adding that the ability to compete her horses frequently at a variety of different venues throughout the summer has benefitted them all.

“If I just go to one show here, and one show there, and I’m not really jumping in between, my results aren’t as consistent. I think that’s a really important factor—getting in the ring a lot on a lot of different types of horses really helps me.”

That practice has also assisted her getting up-to-speed with a new addition to the stable: Quentucky Jolly, a talented 13-year-old gelding who’s been brought up the ranks by Chicago-based rider, Emma Heise. “I’ve always loved him—he’s a very hot horse and I’ve seen Emma riding him and he always looked kind of my type,” says Alex.

After a few weeks getting to know each other, the pair bonded quickly, earning a win at their first show together at the Longines Global Champions Tour of Berlin and in a CSI2* class at Valence in France last month. “I was very fortunate to be able to add [“Jolly”] to my string because he’s very experienced at the level that I want to be jumping at. Emma showed him all the ropes, and he’s been winning all the two-star classes with her—they’ve just been a fantastic pair so I’m really excited to have him.”

Though she returns to the States this week, Alex is already looking ahead to her busy fall schedule, beginning with the American Gold Cup this month, where she hopes to put her experience this summer to use while continuing to get to know Jolly back on home soil.

“I still have to figure him out a little bit but he is such a naturally competitive horse, he’ll win with or without me,” Crown jokes. “I just have to keep up with him!”

-Photography by Erin Gilmore & Tori Repole.