Patience is a virtue. It’s also Jessica Springsteen’s lasting lesson of 2019.
“There was a point this summer where I felt like I could not jump a single clear round,” said Springsteen, 27, of Colts Neck, New Jersey. “Everything always turns around, and you can’t rush the process.”
Springsteen’s patience was rewarded on Dec. 1, when she rode the 10-year-old Selle Francais mare Volage Du Val Henry (Quidam De Revel—Cassina, Cassini I) to victory in the Sweden H&M Grand Prix, held during the Sweden International Horse Show.
” ‘Volage’ is a wonderful mare,” said Springsteen, who also won the Falsterbo Horse Show’s Grand Prix Qualifier (Sweden) with Volage in early July. “I’ve had her since she was 8 years old, and she’s always been extremely competitive and careful. She is such a fighter and has a lot of heart; she always tries to do the right thing. Stockholm was our first grand prix win together, and I was so thrilled because she’s been in amazing form all fall, and she really deserved a win that day.”
Springsteen’s year began at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, and she’s since traveled from China to France to Slovakia in pursuit of top sport. Following her win in Sweden, the Chronicle reached out to catch up.
You’re a frequent competitor on the Longines Global Champions Tour circuit. How has the format impacted your riding and your horses’ development?
The Global Champions Tour has taken my riding to the next level. I began competing over in Europe when I was 19, and going against the best riders in the world definitely forces you to rise to the occasion. You also learn so much just from watching these riders, seeing how they approach the course, and what they do in the warm-up.
The Global shows are quite big, so it’s important to make a good program with your horse and do the right classes with them. The grand prixs are always extremely technical and difficult, so you and your horse learn a lot, and it gives you confidence at the other shows.
What’s on your bucket list?
I’m dying to compete at Aachen [Germany]; it would be a dream for me. And of course, to represent my country at a championship is always a dream and a goal of mine.
Over the past few seasons, you’ve spent a greater part of your year competing in Europe. What led to this decision?
In Europe, there are endless options for competitions. Each weekend you have many national shows, two-star, three-star, four-star and five-star. The options seem endless, and it’s really helpful to pick the right competitions for each horse; it’s amazing sport here. Of course, I miss home, but for right now, I enjoy spending the majority of the time here. But I always come for [the winter circuit in] Wellington.
What’s it like living in Europe?
I enjoy living here. We live close to the stable [she keeps her horses at Stephex Stables in Meise, Belgium] and it makes it very easy for our schedule. I’m lucky to compete in some incredible cities, and it’s an amazing way to travel the world. I try to make time to do some sightseeing while I’m away!
You graduated from Duke University (North Carolina) in 2014. What was your degree, and have you ever considered pursuing a career outside of equestrian sport?
I studied psychology, and I loved it. If I wasn’t riding, I think I would have pursued a career there, but for me, there was nothing I ever felt as passionate about as riding, so the decision was easy!
Are your parents supportive of your career choice?
My parents [Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen] are very involved in the sport. They always pushed me to work hard, make smart decisions and give it my all. They see how happy the sport makes me, and that in turn makes them very happy. It’s become a passion for them as well, and I love to share it with them. I’m lucky, though, that whether I win or lose, they’re just as happy to be there watching. I never feel any pressure from them, which I find really nice; it’s just pure support.
Who are you currently training with, and how have you benefited from working with them?
Right now, Helena Stormanns helps me with the Rushy Marsh horses that I ride. She’s fabulous; she gives confidence and is very detail-oriented, which I love. When you walk a course with her, she really goes through every step, and you always feel very prepared going into the ring. I’ve really enjoyed learning from her. With my horses, I’ve been working with Lorenzo [de Luca]; he helps me a lot when we’re at the same shows or if I’m struggling with something. It’s nice to have someone who can sit on the horses and give another opinion; it’s so important.
What are you watching/reading at the moment?
I love reality TV, hate to admit it. I’m also watching “Riverdale.” Currently reading Michelle Obama’s book [“Becoming”], which I’m loving!
Tell me about your partnership with Rushy Marsh Farm.
I feel so lucky to ride for Rushy Marsh Farm. I love the horses that I ride for them; they’re such wonderful competitive mares. It’s been a new experience for me and a very rewarding one. I’m so grateful to be a part of their team. The energy around their stable is always so positive and contagious. It’s truly been a joy. It’s been different for me to ride for a sponsor, a new type of pressure and responsibility, and I feel that it’s really helped push me forward with my riding.
How many horses are in your current string?
Right now, 10 horses. Two horses from Rushy Marsh and eight of my own. Three are young horses. So, even though I have 10 [horses], it ends up being five that are for the big competitions at the moment.
How are Cynar VA and Tiger Lily, two of your longtime partners?
Cynar is coming back well. Tiger Lily is also doing well, but she’s a bit quirky; I have to pick the right venues for her.
What are your championship goals going forward, particularly on the cusp of an Olympic year?
I have a great group of horses at the moment, and I feel really lucky. The Olympics is always a goal and a dream, and timing is everything. I will continue to do my best next year and take it from there!
What’s a day in the life of Jessica Springsteen like?
A day when I’m not at the show normally consists of a lot of riding at home, getting organized for what’s next, unpacking and repacking, and preparing for the next show. We were at a show almost every week this year, so while I’m home, it’s quite busy in terms of preparing for the next event. It ends up being the horse shows that have more free time.
What are you most looking forward to next year?
I’m looking forward to having some of my horses back in gear for next year and keeping them all in good shape. They’ve all felt great this fall, so I hope to continue a good schedule for them. I also hope to get to know my new horse Don Juan a bit more and build him up.
Photo: Roland Thunholm/Sweden International Horse Show