Jes­sica Spring­steen

Jes­sica Spring­steen talks El­lie Kelly about Olympic dreams, life on the road and be­ing Bruce’s daugh­ter

Sunday Express - S - - CONTENTS -

Mak­ing a name for her­self in show jump­ing, Bruce’s daugh­ter has well and truly stepped out of her fa­ther’s shadow

Jes­sica Spring­steen is not what you would ex­pect. It might be fair to as­sume the daugh­ter of one of the world’s big­gest rock stars would be dec­o­rat­ing the pages of Van­ity Fair, hol­i­day­ing and par­ty­ing with the jet set.

Far from it. In­stead, the 27-year-old cham­pion show jumper is more likely to be found in the sta­bles and on the cover of Horse & Hound than in a lifestyle mag­a­zine. She spends most days train­ing, com­pet­ing and fo­cus­ing on her Olympic am­bi­tions.

“Rep­re­sent­ing my coun­try has been a child­hood dream,” she re­veals. “There is noth­ing like be­ing part of a team. The

Olympics is the ul­ti­mate goal but it is all about tim­ing. You need your horses to be go­ing well for you at the right time – and we have a lot of good rid­ers in the US.”

For a decade, Jes­sica has been mak­ing her mark on the global show-jump­ing stage. She is ranked 74th in the world and has been mak­ing reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances with the Amer­i­can team over the past five years. In 2018 she was se­lected for pres­ti­gious team cham­pi­onship Longines FEI Na­tions Cup Fi­nal and has again helped the US team qual­ify. She is a con­sis­tent per­former at the top 5* level, win­ning more than £1 mil­lion in prize money.

Jes­sica ar­rives for our in­ter­view in jodh­purs and her US team coat just hours be­fore she is due to com­pete in the Na­tions Cup qual­i­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion at Hick­stead, Sus­sex. This is a huge oc­ca­sion – the se­lec­tors will be as­sess­ing her per­for­mance ahead of next year’s Olympic Games. But if she was ner­vous, she hid it well, dis­play­ing a warm and gen­tle man­ner but mak­ing clear her de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed.

“You have to be as cool-headed as pos­si­ble in this sport,” she ex­plains. “Your horse feels your en­ergy, espe­cially at the big com­pe­ti­tions when there is the at­mos­phere from the arena and the crowd to add to it.”

This sounds rather like her fa­ther’s sell-out shows, al­though Jes­sica dis­agrees. “What my dad does is very dif­fer­ent. He of­ten says, ‘But it’s the same. You are per­form­ing in front of thou­sands of peo­ple.’ I don’t feel like that when I am go­ing in. Dad gets ex­cited, whereas I feel ner­vous be­fore and then com­pletely fo­cused when I am in the arena.”

Her phi­los­o­phy for man­ag­ing nerves is sim­ple. “En­joy it as much as you can be­cause that is when you per­form your best,” she says, per­haps hark­ing back to the psy­chol­ogy de­gree she achieved at North Carolina’s Duke Univer­sity. “Be­fore I go in I try to re­mem­ber that this is what I love. When I was lit­tle I used to watch some of the rid­ers I am com­pet­ing against to­day and never thought I would have this chance. I am so lucky to be able to do what I love every day.”

Jes­sica’s is a nat­u­ral, grace­ful beauty, like her mother Patti Scialfa, the singer-song­writer who fea­tures on Bruce’s Born In The USA and who in­tro­duced Jes­sica to horses as a tod­dler. She has been crazy about them ever since.

Grow­ing up on the fam­ily farm in New Jer­sey, Jes­sica de­scribes an idyl­lic ru­ral life. Ru­mour has it, her par­ents moved there to keep Jes­sica and her two broth­ers away from the pa­parazzi. There was never any pres­sure to fol­low in their foot­steps. “I took pi­ano lessons but I only wanted to ride and I def­i­nitely have more tal­ent with horses than an in­stru­ment,” she laughs. “I don’t even re­ally lis­ten to Dad’s mu­sic. Al­though I have al­ways loved go­ing to his live shows.”

Her par­ents were sup­port­ive and in­flu­en­tial but never pushy, she says. “They are not com­pet­i­tive and have qui­etly mo­ti­vated me with­out any pres­sure. They love to see me do well but are just as happy when I don’t.”

Bruce is 70 this month, still per­form­ing and loves sup­port­ing his daugh­ter. “This has be­come such a big pas­sion for my par­ents and they love to come to shows to watch. For Dad, he finds it re­ally re­lax­ing. If Mum can’t make it, she watches every round on live stream­ing. She is al­ways the first one to text or call me straight after.”

The global na­ture of the sport, which is see­ing huge growth, means rid­ers are un­der pres­sure to com­pete at shows around the world every week. An in­creas­ingly pro­fes­sional sport, the ne­ces­sity to chase qual­i­fi­ca­tions, gain FEI rank­ing points and im­press se­lec­tors is al­ways ris­ing. Then there are colos­sal ex­penses to pay for th­ese ex­pen­sive equine ath­letes, which means win­ning enough prize money to keep the wheels turn­ing.

Jes­sica now spends most of the year in Europe, with her horses. “The be­gin­ning of this year was crazy,” she says. “We went to 15 shows in a row, with­out a break. I was liv­ing out of a suit­case.

“This is an all-con­sum­ing sport so you never men­tally check out. There is never any off time be­cause even when you take a day off rid­ing you are think­ing about your horses at home and what you can do to im­prove your per­for­mance. But then that is also what makes this sport so spe­cial when it goes well be­cause you put so much thought and time into it. All for this 90 sec­onds spent in the ring. Just you and your horse, com­pletely fo­cused, and that is my favourite part.

“You def­i­nitely have more lows than highs and as rid­ers we just ap­pre­ci­ate that is part of it. You can be at the top of the sport and maybe a cou­ple of your horses get in­jured and it writes off the whole year and all sorts of chances.”

when the go­ing gets tough, though, her mum and dad are the first peo­ple she turns to. “They are great. They un­der­stand what it’s like to travel so much and how ex­haust­ing that can be. They al­ways re­mind me that when you find a pas­sion like this in your life, it’s re­ally rare. They en­cour­age me to push through the hard times and to recog­nise that when you are work­ing with an­i­mals there are al­ways go­ing to be ups and downs.”

Europe, where many lead­ing rid­ers are based, is the epi­cen­tre of show jump­ing. But it of­fers more than horse heaven for Jes­sica.

She smiles as she dis­cusses her boyfriend of 18 months. Lorenzo de Luca is also a show jumper and ranked 18th in the world. while in Europe, she and her horses stay at his Bel­gium sta­bles.

The dash­ing Ital­ian is re­garded as one of the sport’s nice guys. He makes reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances on her In­sta­gram page, which con­veys the jour­ney of a per­fect match trav­el­ling the world to pur­sue their sport­ing dreams.

They work, train and com­pete along­side each other yet still get on fa­mously. Their per­fect date in­volves go­ing for a dame blanche – the Bel­gian equiv­a­lent of an ice-cream sun­dae. “we spend a lot of time to­gether and it is fun. He helps me and I can al­ways ask him for ad­vice and tips. I miss home and my fam­ily and friends but the show cir­cuit is the best in Europe, so it makes sense.”

Above all, though, it is Jes­sica’s pas­sion for horses that gets her out of bed, of­ten at unso­cia­ble hours. She de­scribes her horses with a glow­ing al­most girl­ish ex­cite­ment. “what I love most about show jump­ing is the re­la­tion­ship you build with your horses,” she says. “You have to earn their trust and then they will try their hard­est for you.”

To Jes­sica, show jump­ing has been about more than sport­ing prow­ess and Olympic dreams.

It has been about form­ing an iden­tity and mak­ing her own mark on the world. “Grow­ing up as the daugh­ter of Bruce Spring­steen, it was nice for me to have some­thing I could suc­ceed in and fo­cus on.”●s

Jes­sica with mum Patti, dad Bruce and broth­ers Evan (left) and Sam

Com­pet­ing in the Na­tions Cup

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