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Off to the Races

BY Charlotte Otremba | December 25, 2018 | Feature Features National

Don't let her age fool you: Jessica Springsteen has all the trappings of a seasoned Equestrian rider. The record shows it. Warming up to ponies on her farm at the age of 5 alongside her mother, she went from nervous pony rides (“I would fall off all the time!”) to winning world championships—and she's not stopping anytime soon.

Elite equestrian Jessica Springsteen’s voice lightens at the mere mention of her beloved riding partners. It was the animals she fell for before the sport itself, she explains. “I remember being little … I just would love to go to the barn and take care of the horses—more than ride, I just liked to brush them, give them baths, go on walks, just be around them. That was kind of what I fell in love with at first.” It soon became a family affair: her mom, her mom’s horses, her dad (yes, that Springsteen), and Jessica and her pony packed up to begin competing at local shows. “I have amazing memories of being at the local shows with my family.”

Springsteen initially rode in equitation classes, sacrificing a typical high-school experience to compete. “I would leave for three months and not go to school, so I really did not have a normal high school experience.,” she says. It paid off. In 2007, she won the Christy Conard Perpetual Trophy for Equestrian Excellence, the 2008 national championship and the 2009 Excellence in Equitation Championship. She then made the switch to pure show jumping, a natural next step for competitive riders for the more clear-cut judging approach: The goal is the fastest, cleanest round, and points are knocked for faults, like hitting a rail down, rather than style. “You either win or you don’t,” adds Springsteen. It was the right move; she won the 2010 North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, was selected for Senior Nations Cup teams and competed in the 2012 London Olympic trials. Springsteen trained under Olympic champion Laura Kraut, who showed her the importance of taking that extra push. “She’s such a fighter,” says Kraut of Springsteen. “You can see when she’s riding, she really goes the extra mile. She’s just always so consistent in everything she rides. It’s amazing to have the kind of versatility and to be able to be calm under pressure.”

In 2014, Springsteen won the American Gold Cup; in 2016, her first five-star Grand Prix at the HITS Championship; and in 2017, won the Falcon Stakes CSI5* at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. At the time of this interview, she placed second with her team, the Miami Celtics, at the Global Champions League in Doha, Qatar, bumping her ranking up to No. 6 in the U.S. and No. 68 in the world, based on the United States Equestrian Federation and the Longines world ranking list.

“You go through so many phases in your career because obviously a big part of it is the horse, the partnership you have. It’s not always predictable. ”

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