Let’s talk about a total dream job: Catie Staszak is a broadcast journalist who focuses on one of her favorite sports… you guessed it, showjumping. Staszak’s official title is the color commentator and journalist for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League—which means you can find her traveling the world doing live stream commentary and producing digital content features on the incredible world of show jumping. She’s also regularly competes herself, dabbling in events in all three rings. But when it comes to her personal mount, Staszak only has eyes for one horse: twenty-five-year-old Sobrie.
“Throughout my life, I’ve also always been drawn to horses that needed a little TLC,” she says. “I get such joy out of helping horses gain confidence and giving them a good experience in the ring. Sobrie is retired and has been in my family for 21 years. I was in kindergarten when we first got him—my mom actually rescued him after he was abandoned at a farm in Delray Beach, Florida. Many show horses have come and gone over the years, but Sobrie has been the one constant; I truly don’t remember life without him. He has taught me so much about being a horsewoman.”
As you can imagine, Staszak is constantly on the move. And we’re happy to know that Free x Rein is one of her favorite brands to bring along on her adventures.
“In my field, it’s all about being an individual and providing something unique,” Staszak says. “Free x Rein has done that with the Equestrian Hip Bag, I don’t go to the barn without it! It has quite literally changed the way I ride. It’s not unusual for me to get a work call or text while I’m riding, and with the hip bag, my phone is always safely at my side without interfering with my ride or—which has most often been the case—falling out of my pocket!”
More with one of our major girl crushes, below.
Free x Rein: What first drew you to horses?
Catie Staszak: I’m an animal lover at heart. I think that’s what drew me into riding as a young child: forming a deep connection with such tremendous animals. I love being able to accomplish a goal by working together with an animal 10 times your size.
FxR: What are your horses’ names and what events to you participate in?
CS: I ride as an amateur and have competed in all three rings. I have always ridden my trainers’ sale horses, so I’ve typically shown in whatever the horse I’m riding is best suited for, though right now I’ve been focusing my efforts on the jumper ring. I have to give credit to Castlewood Farm in Wellington, FL, for always putting me on as many horses as possible and being such big supporters of my career, in and out of the saddle. I grew up with Castlewood; head trainer Alan Korotkin’s son Tanner made his CSI3* Grand Prix debut this summer, and I simply cannot wait to commentate his first World Cup. I also have to thank Wilhelm Genn for sharing his horses with me this past winter. It made me so confident and strong, and I won’t ever forget it.
FxR: How did you get started in your career?
CS: I studied broadcast journalism in college with the aim to get into sports broadcasting. I always wanted to find a way to combine my passion for television with horses, but when I first graduated, there weren’t many opportunities. I started out in horse racing; I was a TV host and analyst at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, FL. At 22 years old, I was the youngest handicapper on a national simulcast in the country. It was a great experience; I was live on-air a minimum of 11 times a day.
Knowing my riding and broadcast backgrounds, management at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival asked me to commentate their grand prix in 2017. That led to opportunities at the Hampton Classic and the American Gold Cup, where I handed my resume to the NBC Sports/Carr-Hughes production team. It was the biggest leap of faith I’d ever taken! An hour later, I was offered a reporting job, and the next year, I was on the commentary team. We all still laugh about the time the quiet, tiny girl passed off her resume and what it all turned into.
Now, at each of the World Cup legs in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, I do the live stream commentary, write the FEI’s press releases and help produce digital content features about our sport and its incredible athletes, both two- and four-legged. I’m set to be a Chief Officer and oversee the broadcast rights holders for equestrian sports at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, another dream come true. I also have my own business, Catie Staszak Media, and offer a variety of multimedia journalism services. I love what I do and am so grateful.
FxR: What’s your favorite part of your job?
CS: I love sharing stories of partnership, of triumph, and of resilience. My goal is to help increase the exposure of equestrian sports by educating and sharing inspirational stories that people of any background can relate to. I want more people to get excited about show jumping!
FxR: Who is a female equestrian you look up to?
CS: There are so many great female riders in our sport. Beezie Madden and Laura Kraut are tremendous role models. They are so strong and confident! I love Laura for her apparent love for her horses and her grit. She’s such a competitor. When I first started commentating, she was also incredibly encouraging, and I will always be grateful to her for that.
When I watch Beezie in a jump-off, I am inspired. The way she rides a track is breathtaking; she is so incredibly efficient, and she never looks like she’s going that fast! I am not a naturally fast rider, but I know I can be accurate, so when I try to be quicker, I think about efficiency and try to model Beezie. I mean, don’t we all?
FxR: Favorite location for riding?
CS: Wherever I’m riding next!
I feel privileged to watch Catie thrive over the past 15 years. She is an inspiration.