Schuyler Riley has been busy bolstering her already impressive show jumping resume, winning a stunning three straight FEI Grand Prix classes at the Tryon Summer Series. I watched her win the first two in person, and they were some of the most emotional and thrilling victories I have seen.
Schuyler has been involved in big victories and with special horses in the past, but there is one strange footnote to her career that I discovered during a recent Google search.
“schuyler riley borat”? What?
Here’s the story: From 2000-2004 Sacha Baron Cohen had a TV Show in the UK and the US on HBO called “Da Ali G Show,” where he created and acted as three characters posing as journalists. One was Borat Sagdiyev, a journalist from Kazakhstan whose mission is to explore the inner workings of U.K. and U.S. culture and report them back to Kazakhstan.
As Wikipedia describes: “Borat’s humor derives from his mocking of society through outrageous sociocultural viewpoints, his violation of social taboos and his use of vulgar language and behavior.” The segment on the show evolved into a full movie that came out in 2006 to much critical acclaim.
So what does Schuyler Riley have to do with Borat? Well, in 2001, Baron Cohen came to the Hampton Classic Horse Show as Borat and conducted interviews. The segment never made the show, but appeared on the DVD extras for Season 1 and 2, and features him interviewing Schuyler Riley in full riding gear after showing in the Grand Prix. Thanks to the magic of the internet, the interview is readily available in all four minutes of its agonizing length.
The interview starts off normally enough, with Borat greeting her with a European cheek kiss, asking her name, what she does, and then finally, “Do you like horse?” Borat then spends almost four minutes explaining to Schuyler that, in his country, they say that a horse is like a man, saying that when a horse does something, it is like when a man does something. Schuyler patiently follows along throughout it all. The interview comes to the merciful conclusion of him asking if, in fact, she understands what he is saying.
It’s certainly easy to see why the video didn’t make a final TV episode, considering Baron Cohen seems to have very little idea as it is going on what the punchline will be, and just eventually figures he will uncomfortably continue it for as long as possible. Normally he would insert one of his backwards cultural observations as he does in the segment’s introduction. Instead he simply tests Schuyler’s patience by rambling on about nothing in particular.
But what is Schuyler’s side of the story? After her big Tryon Summer win streak, I had to hear it from her directly.
Apparently, Borat caught her right after the Hampton Classic had held a rider’s meeting in which they were told there was going to be a lot of T.V. and PR done at the show. They had encouraged riders to, as Schuyler recalls, “be on their best behavior to help promote the show and the sport.” Enter Borat and his team, who randomly stopped her when she had a moment of free time. She agrees to the interview, but does not know of the British comedian.
Schuyler told me these were her thoughts as it was going on:
The interview didn’t resurface for Schuyler until a full four years later after the DVD had been released, when her friend Kamal from Saudi Arabia had rented it in Riyadh and seen her in the extra scenes. At this point, she realized who Borat was, and that the interview was part of a comedic routine. Her main feeling at that point: “I was just relieved that the guy I thought was a total lunatic was an actor and not completely psychotic. I had just lived the prior years praying I’d never see that guy again. Then I saw the interview and of course I laughed hysterically.”
Now, with the internet making the video readily available and “borat” a popular search term with her name, Schuyler gets comments about the video frequently. However, much like winning Grand Prix classes, it never gets old for her. I personally have watched it at least 10 times and still think it’s hilarious.
Schuyler saw the Borat movie, and said she sympathizes 100% with his other interviewees. It helps that the interview is less a showcase of Baron Cohen’s humor and more Schuyler’s patience. She certainly did as the Hampton Classic requested and represented the sport well, as she continues to do today in and out of the ring. I just hope that the next time she wins a Grand Prix, the first press conference question will be her opinion on the similarities between a man and a horse.