If you need to mend a broken heart or make a famous last name your own, a show-jumping ring may be just the place to do it.
Top international equestrians gathered this past week, October 1 – 4, in the Los Angeles Convention Center for the second annual Longines Masters competition. Among them were Jennifer Gates (daughter of Bill), Eve Jobs (daughter of Steve), Destry Spielberg (daughter of Steven), Georgina Bloomberg (daughter of Michael), Jessica Springsteen (daughter of Bruce) and Hannah Selleck (daughter of Tom).
Also on hand was “The Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco, who recently split from tennis-player husband Ryan Sweeting, citing his addiction to prescription painkillers. She’s now gotten back in the saddle – literally.
Of all the famous names, only Cuoco walked away with a win, giving her geek fans a thrill by going full Jedi to take the top spot in Saturday night’s Pro-Am Style & Competition for Charity event, for the benefit of therapeutic equestrian program Ride On.
Dressed as Luke Skywalker, amateur Cuoco teamed with professional rider Tracy Wade, who wore a Darth Vader costume. As this was not a serious competition, there were judges – actresses Denise Richards and Perrey Reeves, and KTLA anchor Sam Rubin – to assess costumes as well as riding penalties.
But in real competition, the basics are: rail stays up, good; rail falls down, bad; don’t go too slow.
Complete a preset course of flimsily constructed (but tall and wide) jumps without knocking any bits off, and do it as fast as you can, but definitely within the time allowed.
There are no style points awarded. It’s undeniably elitist but also somewhat egalitarian. Men and women, ranging from teenage to middle age, compete together, as do male and female horses (and there are no breed restrictions).
It’s also dangerous, with broken bones, concussions and other injuries common both among professionals and amateurs.
Show jumping can be a haven for the daughters – but interestingly, not the sons – of the rich and famous. They can distinguish themselves in a quantifiable way that does require skill and courage.
Of course, being able to buy the best horses and hire the best trainers doesn’t hurt either (but it doesn’t make flying off that horse at the apex of a jump any less painful upon landing).
The large crowds represented a cross-section of Los Angeles, but was heavy on clusters of ponytailed little girls. In the professional ranks of show jumping, there’s a roughly equal split of men and women, but below that, any survey of a horse show entry sheet will reveal far more girls than boys.
The logical conclusion is that a lot more of the boys than girls stick around to go pro – which could be upsetting to those who think different gender ratios in professions are just the result of sexism rather than personal choices and motivations.
In show jumping, the horse is the equalizer, and gender (man or woman; mare, gelding or stallion) is never mentioned as a determining factor in winning or losing.
Everything surrounding horses is expensive. There are riders from middle-class backgrounds, but they’re often hired guns for wealthy owners (or they’ve married well – and that goes for both men and women).
Gender equality, yes. Income equality – not so much.
More photos on next page.