For Peter Pletcher, owner of PJP Farm in Magnolia, Texas, what began as an interest in horses and riding at the age of 12 led to an immensely successful career as both a rider and trainer. Pletcher has received some of the industry’s top honors, including three-time World Champion Hunter Rider of the Year, the prestigious President’s Cup at the Washington International Horse show, and other top national and international titles. But, among all this success for Pletcher and his clients, what remains most important to him is working hard and having fun while doing it. We caught up with Pletcher at this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.
1. When did you start riding?
When I was 12 years old I got a three-quarters Arabian. He was a normal Arabian, a bit spooky, but I just dealt with it, and I think it made me the rider that I am today. I did everything on him, Western, English, jumping—jumping was the last thing, and I got hooked.
2. What’s one piece of advice you would give a young rider?
Work as hard as you can and put as much time into it as you could ever give.
3. What other riders and/or trainers do you admire and why?
From back in the day, Rodney Jenkins and Bernie Traurig were huge influences on me as just a kid watching. Nowadays, Linda Hough, Missy Clark, Andre Dignelli, Jimmy Torano, McLain Ward, Kent Farrington—I think they’re all amazing in all different ways. What everyone has in common is that they’re all really hard workers. A lot of people don’t know how many hours we put into this sport.
4. You’ve had a very successful career as a rider. What was your most memorable win?
Winning the President’s Cup at the Washington International Horse Show in 1991 was a giant win for me. Even though I did the hunters mostly and I did a lot of the jumpers, winning that class at Washington was probably one of the most memorable wins.
5. What do you consider to be your greatest career accomplishment?
Winning the World Champion Hunter Rider of the Year three times (2002, 2004 and 2007) was a huge accomplishment in my career.
6. What competition would you most like to win?
The Derby Finals, for sure.
7. How would you describe your training style?
The biggest thing with me and my training is that I want it to be fun. Everyone tends to get trapped up in how good you are, but it’s important that it stays fun for kids and adults and amateurs. If you talk to a lot of people, one of the things you’re going to hear is that I like to laugh and have a good time, and if you mess up we laugh about it, we don’t really get too crazy.
8. What is the most challenging thing about owning a farm?
Keeping it looking perfect. I want everything to be in its right place and the grounds to look perfect all the time.
9. What do you love most about hunter-jumper sport?
Definitely the people. I have so many friends in this business, and we’ve been friends for a long time, and that says a lot.
10. If you could choose any other career path, what would it be?
My dad and three of my brothers are attorneys, and I probably would have gone down that line. My dad always said I probably would have been a good trial lawyer.