Jessica Springsteen, an equestrian, will compete in her first Olympic Games next week in Tokyo. The American rider is presently rated 14th in the world, and she will compete in both the individual and team jumping events (with her horse Don Juan van de Donkhoeve).
“This has been a dream of mine since I began riding, and it all feels surreal,” Springsteen tells Vogue. The 29-year-old is the youngest of Team USA’s four riders, joining McLain Ward, Laura Kraut, and Kent Farrington in the games. “My teammates are riders I’ve admired throughout my career, as well as previous Olympians, and I’m excited to share this experience with them,” she adds. “It’s always an honor to represent my nation, and to do it in the Olympics fills me with pride.”
While this will be Springsteen’s first Olympic appearance, she is far from inexperienced. Springsteen grew up riding at her family’s New Jersey farm and has also participated for the United States’ jumping team in many Nations Cup team competitions. (She was also a member of the victorious United States Jumping Team in the 2014 FEI Jumping Nations Cup in Dublin and the 2020 FEI Jumping Nations Cup USA.) However, she and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve will be assessed on a larger global scale next week, when they race at a top speed of 15 miles per hour through a course that features 12 to 14 obstacles (some of which are more than five feet tall!).
The athlete’s preparation for such a Herculean task has not been easy. Along with several tough workouts—Springsteen emphasizes leg and core strength, which are critical for riding—the athlete says the lead-up to the Olympics has been all about consistency and practice. “The greatest method to maintain your sharpness and fitness level for show jumping is to ride constantly,” Springsteen explains. “Normally, when we travel to a competition, we bring numerous horses to maintain a consistent routine. We only carry one horse to the Games, so I tried to ride as much as possible before I left to ensure that I felt strong when I arrived in Tokyo.”
As a result, even her horse required considerable pre-competition preparation. “Don is an exceptional horse, and we have developed a strong connection over the last two years,” Springsteen adds. “If I believe we have a weak area, we will practice it at home, but I’m mostly training him to get him in top shape. He’s a high-energy guy, so I strive to get him as calm as possible so he’s focused and we’re on the same page when we compete.”
In comparison to other sports that need a more uniformed appearance—for example, the white suits worn by tae kwon do competitors—riding clothes can achieve a better balance between performance and elegance. Next week, Springsteen’s riding outfit will reflect this (which brands she will wear is still under wraps). Equestrian Jessica Springsteen describes her appearance as “white breeches, collared shirts, towering boots, and our USA show coat.” “It’s a pretty traditional uniform—but, of course, the textiles have been modified to make them more athletic throughout the years.”
While it appears to be streamlined — and, dare I say, elegant and fitted — Springsteen says her outfit incorporates technical components that enable her to perform at her best. Springsteen emphasizes the importance of technological and sweat-wicking textiles. “You want to be able to move freely and not feel restricted in your jacket.” She makes a suggestion that her preferred breeches are produced by Cavalleria Toscana. “There are a number of companies that do an excellent job of making clothing athletic and comfortable to move in while yet maintaining a classic look,” she adds.
When Equestrian Jessica Springsteen is not competing, she does not dress in equestrian-inspired ensembles replete with jackets and towering boots. “I’m so used to wearing breeches and jackets that I’m never in the mood to wear white pants or blazers outside the arena,” Springsteen explains. She’s looking forward to some well-deserved time away from riding in general—both in terms of fashion and training—after she participates next week, regardless of the outcome. “I’m most thrilled to return home and see my friends and family,” Springsteen adds. “I wish I could enjoy this experience with them, but I am aware of their encouragement from home.”