Georgina Bloomberg on How an Injury Changed Her Life & Why She Loves Competing in the Hampton Classic

By Ann Liguori | August 17, 2016 | People Feature

Georgina Bloomberg sets her sights on the Hampton Classic.

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Georgina Leigh Bloomberg has always been consumed with sports—as an all-around athlete growing up, a sports fan, a student of the game, and a professional equestrian who has climbed the ranks to the elite level of the sport.

The 33-year-old, talking with me recently from Dublin, Ireland, where she competed in a team equestrian competition, frequents the Hamptons as often as she can, but not as much as she would like. The youngest daughter of former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Georgina juggles her busy schedule between training and traveling throughout the world competing; volunteering on many boards, working to save the lives of animals; and most importantly to her, being a single mother to her 2 1/2-year-old son, Jasper.

Her home base is in North Salem, New York, where she has her own stables with 15 or so horses, including show horses, a few retired ones, a few rescue horses, two rescue mules, two rescued miniature horses, and of course, a rescued goat and pig.

After a busy summer competing, the athlete/mother/ author/philanthropist will be back in the Hamptons to compete in the Hampton Classic, August 28 to September 4, one of the largest and most popular outdoor horse shows in the United States.

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Bloomberg loves the Hampton Classic for several reasons, not least because it gets her out to the East End of Long Island. “It’s a great horse show, a classic show with lots of traditions,” says Bloomberg, whose best finish at the Classic was third place in 2013 while she was five months pregnant. “The show attracts a special crowd which includes people who usually don’t come to horse shows, many who haven’t seen show jumping before. It’s a great, fun crowd, and nice that they like it and follow us and support it.”

Bloomberg’s father has a house in the Hamptons and is a passionate golfer and a member of several private golf courses in the area. Golf is a sport Bloomberg hopes to play more of one day. She recalls her “tomboy” childhood, where she grew up playing ice hockey and baseball with the boys, and bonded with her father because of her interest in sports and her athleticism. She was so passionate about the subject that she studied sports business and marketing, as well as studio arts, graduating with a BA from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2010.

“I was the only girl in the ice hockey and baseball league as a kid,” explains Bloomberg. “As a teenager, I played varsity soccer and basketball at Spence. I always loved sports—playing them, watching them (I’m a fan of the Knicks, Rangers, Giants, and Yankees), studying them. I’m fascinated by sports in every way. It’s a world I’ve always loved!”

“My father was the sports guy,” she continues. “He took me to my first baseball game, ice hockey game. He was excited to have a girl who adores sports as if I was the son he never had.” (Bloomberg has a sister who is four years older, whom she describes a more of the “girly girl.”)

Bloomberg was introduced to riding at the age of 4 by her British-born mother, Susan Brown, who rode. Bloomberg won her first competition when she was 6 years old. “I hated it at first,” she remembers. “I was scared of cantering. I lost in my very first competition, felt terrible, and hated the feeling of that... Some kids would have walked away at that point, but for me, it was the opposite. It made me go back to the barn and work harder and do what I had to do to prepare myself to win. I soon won my first competition, and I’ve been hooked on the thrill of winning every since.”

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Growing up in Manhattan, she would spend most weekends riding at Old Salem Farm in North Salem. “I actually was unsure if I’d pursue the sport. I worked hard at it, but I was also pursuing other things. Becoming a professional was not what I dreamed about doing,” she admits.

But she was winning at every step of the way. She won Best Child Rider awards at every major horse show on the East Coast. She began doing jumpers in 2000 and won the United States Equestrian Federation Talent Derby in 2001. She was a member of the gold medal-winning North American Young Rider Championships team for Zone 2 in 2002 and then won the individual gold medal in 2003.

“Winning the individual gold medal in the North American Young Rider Championships had always been my dream. Growing up, that had been my first major goal. My trainer, Jimmy Doyle, started working with me in 2002 and is still with me. He asked me back then, ‘What do you want to do this year, and we’ll figure out how hard you have to work to get there!’ I told him I wanted to win that individual gold medal. And I worked harder than I’ve ever worked my entire life. And it worked! And that taught me a lot. I realized there is no substitute for hard work. You figure out what you want to do and then work your ass off to get there!”

"The Hampton Classic attracts a special crowd, many who haven't seen show jumping before. It's a great, fun crowd, and nice that they support it."

Bloomberg savors that crucial learning experience. “That was a great lesson to me both in the riding world and in my personal life. It gave me the confidence to know that I can be at the top of the sport if I worked hard enough.”

The “eye-opener” hit Bloomberg when she became the youngest rider to qualify for the World Cup Finals at the age of 20. “That made me realize I could really make a career out of it. I was getting sponsors. I realized I had to be all in and that it would be a full-time commitment.”

Once she made that decision, her career took off. She immediately made a few US teams to compete in Europe, won the Maxine Beard Award—given to a rider that the US Equestrian Team thinks has the potential to represent the US in the future—and competed at the World Cup Finals. She has won more than 10 Grands Prix over the years and won her first championship medal (bronze) at the Pan American Games in Toronto last summer.

Equally impressive as her rise in the world of equestrian sports is the mental discipline and competitive spirit she embraces, which have helped her get there. She emphasized how tough an athlete has to be mentally in order to pursue and compete at the highest level.

“For any athlete, having your mind be incredibly strong to overcome fears, pain, illness, or anything that may affect your performance is so important. There are times when I’m nervous or scared or tired, and you have to shift into another gear and put all of that aside. I try to put mind over matter.”

As much as Bloomberg shines in the equestrian world, it’s not a sport she hopes her son will pursue when he’s old enough to ride, based on the ups and downs of competition. “He has learned to respect and appreciate animals, and that will be a part of his life, but I’ll never push him into it. When he’s a little older and if he decides to ride, that’s fine, but it’s a hard life. It’s grueling. It’s not something I’d wish on one of my children. It’s a sport that I love, but it’s very difficult.”

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Perhaps the most challenging time was her comeback after breaking her back in a fall from her horse in August 2002. It was the first time she was forced to take a few months off from riding.

“During the time off, that’s when I decided I wanted to turn professional. It recharged me, gave me a new beginning. The fall and recovery was very difficult mentally, but physically, it made me stronger. I respected my body more. And at the same time, the first time I got back on my horse I had to question whether I was afraid or not. It was odd, mentally.” It was an experience that made her really think about what she wanted and to what degree she would pursue the sport. Upon returning after the injury, she says, she was scared for maybe a day, and then she got over it.

"Going to represent my country and coming home with a medal was a thrill of a lifetime, but it also taught me to continue raising the bar for myself."

Winning the bronze medal as part of the USA Team at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto made all the pain and sacrifice worth it. “Going to represent my country and coming home with a medal was a thrill of a lifetime and an experience I’ll never forget, but it also taught me to continue raising the bar for myself and to never put a limit on my dreams.”

As for what the future holds, Bloomberg is setting her sights on qualifying for next year’s World Cup Finals. “If I don’t make it, then I will move on and set a new goal. You learn from each blow you get in life. I’ve had a lot of hard moments in this sport—failures, injuries, you name it. But each time, I come back stronger!”

Categories: People Feature

photography by ZEV staRR-tamboR. Styling by Seppe Tirabassi

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