Kate Upton has become a familiar face to many after graving the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition this year. But in the horse industry, she’s been a familiar face for a long time as a top competitor on the paint horse circuit.
The 2012 magazine cover is her second time appearing in the annual SI issue that’s the equivalent of the Super Bowl for models. Last year, when Irina Shayk was on the cover, Upton was chosen as rookie of the year.
A 12-year-old Kate was first “discovered” by Trump Model Management in and airport when she was on her way home from the Memorial Day Classic horse show. Her parents decided against allowing her to pursue modeling at that young an age. At 15 she signed with Elite Model Management in Miami.
“I started showing in 4-H when I was eight years old and took my first lessons from Katherine Kope in Melbourne, Florida,” Upton said in the Equine Chronicle in 2010. “A year later I started showing at APHA shows with Cedar Stone Acres and my horse A Tad of Scotch. That’s when we got my second horse, Too Shiny Forya, aka Roanie.”
As an APHA youth exhibitor, Upton and Too Shiny Forya, aka “Roanie,” won three Reserve World Championships (in 13 and under Western Riding, 13 and Under Horsemanship and 14-18 Western Riding). In 2006, she was also named the 13 and Under Reserve All-Around Champion at the APHA World Show. In 2009, Upton and “Zipped From the Heart” won the 14-18 Western Riding.
Her older sister, Laura Upton still shows on the APHA circuit in the Amateur events and was a recent member of the Georgia Bulldogs equestrian team before graduating.