ON A VASTLY DIFFERENT STAGE THAN HER FAMOUS PARENTS, JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN IS RIDING HIGH TOWARD AN OLYMPIC FUTURE
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI
Jessica Rae Springsteen’s future was solidified before she was five, when her famous parents (she’s the daughter of rock legend Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa), seeking a more grounded life for their three young children, relocated from California to Colts Neck. Despite being in the most densely populated state in country, this central New Jersey area is known for its rural landscape and abundant farms. It proved the ideal spot for the family’s own large farm.
Patti Scialfa had long wanted to ride horses, so she began lessons as soon as the family moved to the Garden State. When little Jessica saw her mom in action, she wanted to do the same thing, and she’s been a show jumper and equestrian ever since. More than two decades later, she’s an international competitor ranked as high as seventh in the world after a recent competition in Rome. In 2012, she was an alternate for the U.S. Olympic Team at the London Olympics. Now she’s avidly working toward making the 2020 team for the Tokyo games.
“The Olympics has always been a goal for me; it would be a dream come true,” she told us in an interview from Europe during fall competitions, where she racked up more wins. “The nice thing about this sport is that you can continue do to it for years. You must have the right horse at the right moment a horse able to jump with ability who is a competitor. Representing my country is my main focus.”
Toward that end, she’s preparing by being consistent, a word she injects frequently into conversation, declaring it “key.” She should know if she’s made the cut about a month before the games. In the meantime, she continues to prepare, train, and try to get on as many pre Olympic championship teams as possible, both at her home equestrian facility in Colts Neck and in Wellington, Florida, which is known as the “Equestrian Capital of the United States.”
Springsteen, who graduated from Duke University with a degree in psychology, went to the private Ranney School in Tinton Falls for high school. When she struggled to balance riding, traveling, and schoolwork, she said, “the teachers were so helpful and worked with me, which some of my riding peers did not experience. I loved Ranney.” At college, she took a psych course with a friend, then another and another, until she chose it as her major. “I really gravitated to it,” she said. No doubt the knowledge she gained in those courses contributes to dealing with competitors. Life on the farm included interacting with a menagerie of cows, chickens, goats, and pigs while training at the noted Beacon Hill Show Stables near her home.
ASPCA and works with the Equus Foundation, a national charity dedicated to ensuring the welfare of horses. “It’s nice to be able to give back whenever they need me regarding issues or legislation.” A few years ago, working with state legislators, she was instrumental in getting two bills passed one banning horse slaughter and the other banning puppy mills.
“We always had rescue dogs; I have two now,” she said. “During horse shows, I love to see rescues getting led around the ring so people can see the dogs up for adoption.” Bruce and Patti Springsteen’s middle child and only daughter has also done some modeling as a brand ambassador for Gucci, and now Ralph Lauren the latter a particularly good fit for her lifestyle.
“Ralph Lauren clothes have equestrian roots,” she noted. “Our families became friends. It’s nice to know who you’re working with. We have a good relationship.” Her older brother, Evan, works at Sirius radio, while sibling Sam is a volunteer fireman and emergency medical technician, as well as a farmer.
Springsteen’s first big win was the 2007 Christy Conard Perpetual Trophy for Equestrian Excellence, followed by the 2008 National Championship and the 2009 Excellence in Equitation Championship. (Equitation is the art of horsemanship.) She has competed successfully across Europe as part of the Longines Global Champions Tour and is a member of the Miami Celtics, an equestrian show jumping team that competes in the Global Champions League. In 2016, Springsteen earned the Hermès Talented Young Rider Award as the rider who earned the most points in all rated jumper competitions.
Her participation in the annual Winter Equestrian Festival has resulted in numerous wins. Her rock icon parents aren’t the only celebrities in the stands. Among fellow competitors are the offspring of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and Steven Spielberg.
To stay in top form, the athlete does Pilates when she can and runs wherever she is. “I’m traveling every week now,” she said in November. “I love to run. It gives me the ability to sightsee in the places I travel as long as I don’t get lost! I feel lucky to visit great destinations like Rome, Paris, and London. It’s an amazing way to see the world. I feel so lucky that I get to do what I love in these amazing cities,” adding, however, that constant travel can be both difficult and stressful. And it’s during those trying times that her parents’ influence is especially appreciated.
“They have always been so supportive,” she said with emotion. “Whatever path you choose in life, you need the support of your parents and others. They gave me good advice. Because they traveled so much, they related in a lot of ways. When I was growing up, I was torn between my responsibilities and wanting to be with my friends. I’m so grateful to have been able to balance both and get the experiences of going to college. My parents helped me stay focused.
“I loved being at Duke [University] so much,” she continued. “I wanted to spend more time there instead of going to competitions. My dad reminded me how lucky I was to have found something so early in my life that I am so passionate about.” At the time of our interview, Springsteen was eagerly anticipating spending year end holidays back on the family farm.
“It’s my favorite time to be home,” she said. “My mom does amazing decorations, and it’s so festive. I have so many fond memories of growing up in Colts Neck on a farm with animals and so much open space. New Jersey really is so beautiful; most people I meet don’t realize that.”