International sports reporter and commentator Catie Staszak is the only female and only American lead show jumping broadcast analyst for the FEI World Cup Jumping North American League. At just 26 years of age, this multimedia sports journalist covers the equestrian industry on the ground, in the saddle, from the announcer’s booth, and in front of the camera. Her coverage and articles have been featured on TV and in magazines around the globe. She has worked with Global Champions Tour TV, FEI TV, the NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network, ESPN West Palm, TSN and others during her relatively young career.
A competitive equestrian for more than two decades, Staszak competed in the prestigious ASPCA Maclay Championship and the USEF Medal Final as a junior and in the Ariat National Adult Medal Final finished top-10 in 2017 and 4th in 2018. She won American Horse Publications awards in 2013, 2014, and 2017 for her journalistic excellence.
Staszak is excited for the upcoming FEI World Cup season, which will take her across North America as well as Europe. She spoke with Horse Sport about how she got her start on this exciting career path.
Did you take communications courses at university with this type of career specifically in mind, or was something else in your sights?
I studied broadcast journalism, sport administration and photojournalism at the University of Miami. I was able to get on-air experience on a local Miami television station as early as my freshman year through the university’s student-produced sports television show, SportsDesk. I always knew that I wanted to get into sports broadcasting, and I hoped that would include equestrian sports, but when I first started out, there were not many opportunities available.
What was your first horse-related commentating gig?
I started out as a TV host, analyst and handicapper at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, FL, where I covered horse racing. It was my first job out of college, and I was the youngest handicapper on a national simulcast in the country. The opportunity came out of an internship I completed during my senior year. I was writing for the track’s press office, and at the end of the internship, the staff let me co-host the daily handicapping show. When I got off-air, management asked me, “Can you do that again?” I was subsequently hired and worked there for two years. I was on-air 10-15 times a day; all of those reps and that experience unquestionably prepared me for the next step when show jumping began receiving more on-air coverage and the opportunities that I had dreamt of began to materialize.
What came next?
When I started commentating grands prix, I got my first opportunity at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in Traverse City, MI. The show needed a commentator and, knowing my broadcast background, management asked me to give it a try. By the time the circuit ended, I had been hired for the Hampton Classic [in New York], and it continued to build from there. It’s just been a whirlwind!
How many shows do you work every year?
Oh gosh, I often lose count! I work all 14 legs of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League, plus the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ events in the USA and Canada, plus several other international and national shows. I’d say I probably work between 25 and 30 shows a year.
How many shows in Canada have you done?
I have really grown to love Canada! Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC, is one of my absolute favorite venues. I have covered two World Cup qualifiers at Langley, the Nations Cup, the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, and Bromont [Quebec].
What are the best aspects about your career?
I love the exhilaration of being live on the air. When my director gives our 10-second countdown, I always get butterflies. No day or show is the same, and I am as excited about the last grand prix of the year as I am the first. I really strive to convey a passion and excitement for the sport through my commentary, and I hope to better educate viewers as well. I also love traveling to such incredible destinations and meeting new and interesting people.
What sort of salary (or per-assignment fee) could someone in your profession expect to receive?
I have found that salary varies greatly in this profession, depending on the scope of work and experience level. I treat each event individually, because sometimes I am just commentating, and other times I am also writing press releases, producing, or assisting with social media (or all of the above!). Sometimes there will be a day rate, other times a flat rate for a series of shows, and still other times a rate per video or story.
Where do you currently live?
I live in West Palm Beach, FL, just outside of Wellington. I don’t feel like I’m there very often, but it is a great home base, especially in the winter.
Do you still ride, either competitively or just for fun?
I find myself traveling more than ever for work, but riding is what makes me happiest, and I am determined to fit it in whenever I can. When I am home, I am riding every day! I do still show when I can and I am very fortunate to be able to pick up catch-rides, or lease a horse from time to time (I do own one horse, but he is retired … I have had him for 20 years!). I have also been able to both ride and work at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival and the Capital Challenge Horse Show. Riding is truly my outlet!