Born to ride: Springsteen's daughter rocks showjumping

PARIS - "There's nothing I am as passionate about as equestrianism," says Jessica Springsteen, whose talent for showjumping is marking her out as more than "just" the daughter of rock legend Bruce Springsteen.

The younger Springsteen took part in a weekend international showjumping competition (CSI) at Saint-Lo in western France, giving her new purchase, Vindicat W, its competition debut two months after the 10-year-old gelding, then ridden by Peter Charles, helped Britain to a first Olympic team showjumping gold medal since 1952.

Springsteen, whose father shot to fame with working class anthems such as "Born to Run" and "Born in the USA", inherited her love of horses from her mother, singer-songwriter Patti Scialfa, who was at Saint-Lo to watch.

"We moved to a farm in New Jersey and it's there that I first started to ride horses, first for pleasure then competitively," explained the 20-year-old, who was a reserve for the US team at the London Games.

"I had a few problems with my first pony. He often made me fall and preferred to graze," she added.

"I had my first jumper aged 13. I went jumping as soon as I could after class and participated in competitions at the weekend.

"I took three months out to go to Wellington (in Florida) to take part in the winter circuit. For me, at that stage it wasn't a passion, just natural."

Three years ago, psychology student Jessica began collaborating with Laura Kraut, a 2008 Beijing Games team gold medallist and made her bow for the US national squad.

The price of her purchase of Vindicat W in September was not revealed, although top class showjumpers have of late been changing hands for as much as six million euros (S$9.5 million).

"Laura thought Vindicat W was a horse just made for me. She has an unbelievable eye. She knows how I jump so well that she knew he would be just right for me," she said.

Springsteen's rise to prominence has not gone unnoticed, with upmarket British magazine Town and Country calling her part of "the new horsey set" in a feature on what they called "Risky Rich Girls" taking part in "the most dangerous Olympic game".

Also mentioned were Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Jennifer Gates, whose father is the Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's daughter Georgina and Princess Caroline of Monaco's daughter Charlotte Casiraghi.

Phillips won equestrian team gold with the British team in London.

Springsteen has come through the ranks in recent months and only just missed out on a place on the Olympic roster, spending much of the second half of this year in the saddle, with her studies for the moment playing second fiddle.

"Of course it's a sport which demands a lot of work, especially when you are trying to combine riding and studies. But I always loved competition," she explained.

"I wanted to get to know my horses better and see them in competition. I've two years of studies remaining so I am going to continue to merge these two lives a little longer," she said.

"Really, there's nothing I am as passionate about as equestrianism." Springsteen admitted that she was surprised at the fuss made in Europe over the daughter of a major star riding compared to the low-key treatment her events receive Stateside.

At Saint-Lo - designed as a warm-up before the indoor season in North America - horse and rider completed a perfect run a day after dropping five penalty points.

"Vindicat W will stay in North America while Wish and my Grand Prix mount Vornado van de Hoendrink will compete at the CSI meetings at Stuttgart and Paris," said Springsteen.

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