Getting to compete in top equestrian events like the Longines Masters, the third iteration of which took place this past weekend in New York, takes a lifetime of dedication.
Brianne Goutal-Marteau, who rode in multiple competitions during the event, first began riding horses when she was five years old. A native of Manhattan, she got on her first horse at Pony Camp in the Hamptons. By the time she was ten, she was serious about the sport. At 14, she began jumping horses.
“Once you’re in it, you’re immersed,” she told Unleashed. “If you love it, it becomes a passion. For me, it became also a livelihood.”
As one might ascertain from watching Bravolebrities like Teddi Mellencamp, Ariana Madix and Lisa Vanderpump ride horses, the sport is not for the middle class. Or even for the upper middle class. For the most part, only very wealthy people can afford to ride horses, which can cost six figures to buy, and six figures to house. Many of the horses that all of the equestrians were riding at the Longines Masters cost over a million dollars.
That’s not to say that those without means are excluded from the sport, Peter Wylde, who won a gold medal for the United States in Team Jumping at the 2004 Athens Olympics, told a crowd of reporters. Some people with immense talent are able to find sponsors who will buy and house their horses for them.
Even still, not matter if you are the daughter of a billionaire like Georgina Bloomberg — who also competed at Longines Masters — or just a regular person with regular parents, being a professional equestrian is a full time occupation. Wylde noted that anyone ranked in the top 100 in the world competes for at least 40 weeks a year, and spends the rest of the time raising money, teaching, and training horses.
To make it, Goutal-Marteau noted, “There’s a talent level, there’s a work ethic, and in my opinion, there is a luck trajectory. If you have bad luck, and you don’t get good horses, you are dead in the water.”
Goutal-Marteau has been lucky with the horse she is currently campaigning (in layman’s language, the horse she competes with). Her name is Viva Colombia, and she originally belonged to one of Goutal-Marteau’s students. “I fell in love with her, and really, we have a special relationship.”
It’s easy to see that watching the event. During the Grand Prix, horses jumped over a series of fences that each measured four-and-a-half feet. Up close, the massive, polished creatures looked weightless, like they were floating on air. Their riders were an extension of their bodies. Show jumping, for all of its dangers, is breathtakingly beautiful to behold in person. (Like the stunning final run of McClain Ward, who won the Grand Prix on his horse, Clinta, pictured above.)
As for the ultimate achievement in the sport of equestrian, competing in the Longines Masters, which also takes place in Paris and Hong Kong, is up there. At the top of the spectrum are the Olympics and the World Cup. But Goutal-Marteau insists that the most important achievement, for her, is riding for Team USA.
“I’ve been competing for Team USA since I was 18,” she says. “For me, the greatest honor is representing my country.”
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