On podiums, on course and from the saddle, it’s an unquestionable fact that women stand shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts in equestrian sport.
Or do they? We’ve all heard the familiar and well-used party line; that equestrian disciplines are the only major sport that pits women and men against each other. A generation ago, the gap between men and women in the saddle was far wider, but today, the daughters of those women who broke gender gap barriers are making their own names for themselves, on much more equal footing.
When you gather eight, young and beautiful female riders together and take them out of their element, these things tend to come up.
Catherine Tyree, Karen Polle, Mavis Spencer, Alex Crown, Adrienne Sternlicht, Kara Chad, Lucy Deslauriers, and Katherine Strauss share many of the same traits; strength, talent, intelligence, beauty. And let’s not forget privilege—both the privilege it takes to get a foot in the door of modern day show jumping, and the privilege it is to participate at their level.
As athletes, they are most comfortable in their respective barns; all of them have just spent the winter season in Wellington, Florida, USA competing and training in the most intense environment for equestrian sport that this country has to offer. So in a sleek Miami studio that feels a world away from the tack rooms and stables where they spend most of their time, it would be easy to say that these riders have been caught outside their comfort zones. Designer clothes and skyscraper heels are lined up on a silver rack, and palettes of makeup stand at the ready under a Hollywood mirror.
Some of them widen their eyes at the setup, and throw intimidated faces around, but when they’re reminded that their “comfort zone” is most peoples’ nightmare—an arena under bright stadium lights with 6,000 people watching them gallop a horse at six-foot jumps—that pair of stacked heels doesn’t look so intimidating.
Hair, makeup, wardrobe and coffee—a lot of coffee—equal a day off for these women. Aged 18 to 26, they don’t all rank at the top of their respective levels, not yet, anyway, but they are all looking in the same upward direction. Speaking of which, collectively, these women represent the direction of the sport—athletes all, they exemplify the depth of North American show jumping, as well as the product that the U.S. system has cultivated.
Mavis Spencer has done this before. The 26-year-old professional from Southern California is a child of Hollywood; she was raised by parents who work in film and television. That’s where the misconceptions about Spencer begin. While her family had the means to support her, she paid much of her own way in the sport with modeling gigs. Later, she chose to spend several years working as a groom to the world’s top riders. She’s since re-emerged as a professional at the helm of her own career and has solidly stepped into the grand prix ring, with strong finishes this year at the international level. This morning, she steps in front of the camera first, and without hesitation, gives a master class on modeling.
Spencer focuses on her riding career full-time now, working in partnership with Neil Jones and running a successful sales and competition barn on the East Coast of the USA. But back when she was mixing her job with modeling and appearing on the red carpet as “Miss Golden Globe”, Spencer would joke that she had a sister who did those things. That it was her “sister”, and not her, who was leading a double life….
…..This article was published in the Spring 2017 issue of NOELLE FLOYD Magazine.
Click this link and flip to page 85 to read more.