Magazine Exclusive: Jessica Springsteen talks University, the Olympic Games & Managing the Media

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You had a strong season last year, what moments stood out the most to you and why?

Last year was a huge year for me. I feel like it was the first time I felt consistent and competitive at the top level. For me, my first big moment was being second in the 4* Grand Prix in Wellington. It was a huge really fast jump off with the top riders and I was so thrilled with that result. Then of course, being double clear to help the USA team win the gold medal in Dublin was an unforgettable moment. Just competing at a show like Dublin with that kind of history was an amazing experience. It attracts a massive crowd that is so educated and energized.

You worked with Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton for a number of years, explain that experience to us.

Working with Laura and Nick was definitely what took my riding to the next level of the past couple of years. I began training with Laura when I was Freshman in college and had just begun showing in Grand Prixs. I went to Europe for the first time that summer and competed on the Young Rider Tour, which is a really great tour for up and coming riders. It gave me great experience doing nations cup which I was unable to get in the states at that age.

Training with Laura was a much different experience than I had had at that age. The focus is completely on the horse and what the rider can do to make each horse individually jump and feel their best. After years of equitation and hunters, I had to work on not worrying so much about what my rounds looked like, and focus more on being a strong efficient rider. Laura really taught me how to fight for clear rounds.

What makes Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton unique in this sport both as riders and mentors?

They are both incredible riders and horsemen that I have looked up to since I was little. I remember watching Laura in grand prix when I was on ponies. I have always admired her, as a rider so to train with her now is really special for me. She is not only an incredible trainer, but also an amazing person. She has the best sense of humor and positive attitude.

This sport has such ups and downs, and she’s taught me to enjoy the highs, but not to beat yourself up too much during the lows. They are two Olympic gold medalists who have both been to the top shows around the world and competed on the most difficult tracks. To have two riders with such amazing experience and successes behind them is invaluable.

You are a regular on the GCT circuit, what differentiates GCT shows from Nations Cup shows for WEF for example?

The Global Champions Tour is amazing. Being able to travel to the most beautiful cities in the world while also competing is a dream come true. I have been lucky to compete on this circuit with the top riders in the world. It has taught me so much and pushed my riding to the next level.

If I want to be competitive against these riders, I have to be 100% on it every time I go in the ring and really go for it. The only negative I could say is that you can usually only bring two horses, which makes it very different from WEF where you are able to compete on as many horses as you want a day usually.

Now that you have graduated, what are your plans for the sport?

I am really looking forward to giving the sport my full focus now that I have graduated. It has been years since I have been able to train and ride every day, and that’s so important of course! I am looking forward to getting a few younger horses and bringing them up, which is something I really didn’t have time to do before.

Do you feel that the Olympic Games are within your reach? Is it a goal of yours?

I hope so! I have been working hard at this sport since I can remember, and the Olympics have always been a goal for me. Being short-listed for the WEG last year kind of made me really realize that it is in reach. I also feel like timing has so much to do with it in this sport. You and your horse have to be on your top game at the exact right time to be chosen, so I am just going to keep working hard and hope for the best!

How do you manage the attention you receive from the general media and the demands on your career as an international rider for Team USA?

I really try to just stay focused on the sport. This is what I have always wanted to do and I feel lucky to be where I am. I think in general, it is great that the sport is starting to get more attention from the media so I am happy about that.

Within international sport, there are always athletes that receive more media attention than others for one reason or another; do you think this is an advantage or a disadvantage to those athletes?

I think it is whatever you make of it! All athletes have to deal with a certain amount of media, and it is something that I am a bit used to. When you’re in the ring, there’s no time for distractions, so I think as long as you stay focused that’s all that matters.

The sport of show jumping is evolving, in Europe as well as the United States, what do you think the sport will be like in the US in 10-20 years time?

I honestly don’t know! It’s cool to be in the sport during a time where it is evolving. The Global Champions Tour has been huge for this sport; the fact that we get to compete in the most amazing cities all over the world is so incredible. I hope that the sport starts to get more attention and a bigger following in the states, which I think will definitely happen. I can’t really say what it will be like in the future but I anticipate only positive changes!

Lucy Davis and Georgina Bloomberg join you on our debut cover. What aspects of each rider do you admire or respect and why?

Both Lucy and Georgina are such amazing girls as well as riders. Something I think they both share that I admire is how competitive and focused they are inside the ring, but also how supportive they are outside the ring. I was so proud of Lucy for making the WEG team while also being enrolled at Stanford.

I think that set an amazing example for young riders coming up- you can study at an incredibly difficult school while also competing and being successful at the top level of this sport. I thought that was really cool. Georgina also balances so much. I really admire her role in the ASPCA and it is something I also want to get more involved in. Georgina is also competitive on every single one of her horses, which is really admirable.