Longines Global Champions Tour reaches Miami Beach
Georgina Bloomberg describes her horse Lilli as mellow and lazy.
“When she retires she’ll be happy to hang out in the pasture and get fat,” said Bloomberg, adding that the best method for motivating Lilli is simple: “Big spurs.”
Scott Brash’s horse Hello Guv’nor is “scopey” — which is how show jumping riders describe the leaping ability of the Michael Jordans of the equestrian world.
“He’s a cheeky horse, a mischievous character knocking things down in the stable,” said Brash, in contrast to Olympic gold medalist Hello Sanctos, who is “very clever and cooperative.”
Jessica Mendoza’s horse Sam de Bacon is a sweet, lovable dimwit.
“He’s a bit stupid, actually,” Mendoza said. “He’ll stand in the stable all day and lick the wall because that amuses him.”
Her secondary horse Toy Boy has a split personality.
“One minute he’s trying to attack you and the next he’s trying to get a kiss,” she said.
The stars of the professional show jumping circuit making a stop in Miami Beach are celebrities in their own right, even if they can’t sign autographs. The distinct challenge of the sport is that two athletes have to weld a seamless rapport while navigating 14 fences up to five feet tall — and one of them is a 1,100-pound animal.
Spectators can watch the spectacle at the Longines Global Champions Tour competition through Sunday on the sands of Miami Beach at Collins Park, 2100 Collins Ave. Admission is free.
The horses — worth up to $15 million — compete in front of kings, princesses, sheikhs, business moguls (the daughters of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are riders) and other members of the rich and famous (the daughters of Bruce Springsteen and Steven Spielberg and granddaughters of Jackie Onassis and Grace Kelly are riders). They travel to such locales as Monaco, Doha, Cannes and Shanghai. But a seaside stadium might make them nervous.
“Some horses can be a little spooky because we’re riding right next to an ocean where the waves are constantly washing in,” said Brash, who started riding as a boy in Scotland when his father bought him and his sister a pony. “If there’s a distraction, it’s our job to calm them and get them adjusted to it.”
This year the tour is introducing team competition starting at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The Global Champions League is comprised of 12 five-person teams.
“I think it’s going to revolutionize the sport,” said Brash, who won the team gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics and is hoping for another gold at the Rio Games this summer. “It’s going to create rivalries, bring in new audiences and be a healthy change.”
Bloomberg, daughter of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, is owner of the Miami Glory team and chose U.S. riders Kent Farrington and Kimberly Prince and Great Britain’s Brash and Mendoza for her roster.
“Instead of representing your country you get to compete with your friends,” Mendoza said.
For Bloomberg, who will be riding on Lilli and Caleno through the weekend, the team format takes her back to her childhood days, when she played soccer and basketball and was the only girl in her ice hockey and baseball leagues.
“I enjoyed all team sports but at that age boys don’t like girls and girls don’t like boys and I backed out sooner than I should have,” she said.
But she stuck with riding, which she started at age 4, and it suited her.
“I was the type who wanted attention and never wanted to be bland or just fit in,” she said. “In every picture of me as a kid I’m always posing. So I loved the competitive side of riding and being able to show off in front of a crowd under the lights.”
As for following in her father’s footsteps into the political arena, Bloomberg has no interest.
“I don’t like politics, it’s a gross world — never, ever for me,” she said.
She prefers collaborating with horses. Show jumpers must be “careful and brave,” say their riders, in order to succeed in the co-ed sport where scoring combines time and number of faults when jumping the obstacles. If a horse steps in a water hazard, it’s penalized four faults. If it refuses to jump twice, it’s eliminated. The rider must pick a line for the course based on the horse’s stride and position it properly for takeoff.
“It takes a lot of time and training in the barn and the ring to develop each horse and each relationship,” Bloomberg said. “It’s a bond with a very talented partner.”