• Blue-Ribbon Mom

    Equestrian and animal welfare advocate Georgina Bloomberg on forging her own kind of family

    By Lauren Vespoli
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    Georgina Bloomberg and Crown, one of her 11 competition horses, at home in North Salem, NY. Photos by Lindsay May for Classic Kids Photography. Hair and makeup by Megan Lanoux. Styled by Laura Neroulias. On Georgina: Vince sweater and her own pieces.

    Georgina Bloomberg likes setting goals. Whether she’s eyeing her next title in her career as a professional equestrian, fighting puppy mills with the Humane Society, or raising her nearly 2-year-old son, Jasper, as a single parent, she’s clearly the kind of person who believes that a passion can only be fully realized by hard work, focus, and love.

    “I think it’s always nice to wake up every morning and know exactly what you’re aiming to do with your day and what you’re trying to accomplish,” Bloomberg, 32, says on the sunny end-of-summer morning we meet at Gotham North, her nearly 50-acre estate and horse farm in North Salem, NY.

    The goal for this particular morning, in addition to our interview, is to have a photo shoot for this month’s issue that will capture the key elements of her family unit: Mother, son, and animal (represented here by Crown, one of her 11 competition horses). For the magazine, it’s the first time we’ve tried this with a horse, but Bloomberg knows exactly what Crown is capable of. And from the way that Jasper eagerly reaches out to pet Crown’s face during the shoot, it’s easy to see that he’s already developed his own affinity for horses, though Bloomberg says she won’t encourage him to ride.

    “I don’t ever want him to feel as though he has to follow in my footsteps,” she says.

    Though Bloomberg doesn’t have nearly the public profile of her famous dad—former three-term New York City mayor, billionaire businessman, and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg—in her own circles she’s very accomplished, as one of the best show jumpers in the country and as an outspoken supporter for the causes she loves.

    Currently among the top 10 nationwide in the Rolex/United States Equestrian Federation Show Jumping Rankings, this past July Bloomberg took home a bronze with the US Show Jumping Team at the Pan American Games in Toronto. She’s hoping to secure a spot on the US team for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next summer—official selections will be made in the spring, from a short list of 10 of the top riders in the country—and, at press time, she was getting ready to return to Trump Wollman Rink in Central Park on September 25 to defend her title as the Rolex Central Park Horse Show Grand Prix winner.

    [Editor’s note: For more info on the the Rolex Central Park Horse Show, which starts on September 23, click HERE.]

    “The whole experience of competing there was very surreal,” she says of last year’s Central Park Horse Show. “To have it not only in New York City, but to have it outside, with the skyline as your background and to be in the middle of Central Park…that was just an amazing experience.”

    But the win was personally meaningful to Bloomberg, too. She recalls driving out of the 2014 Hampton Classic at the end of last summer, disappointed in her performance, and turning to Jasper in the back seat to make a prediction.
    “I was saying to him: ‘You know buddy, I wasn’t really happy with the way I rode, but that’s okay. I’m going to go home and put it behind me; I’m going to learn from my mistakes…’ And I paused for a second and I was like: ‘You know what? I’m going to go home and work hard and I’m going to win the Central Park Grand Prix.’”

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    Bloomberg looks on as her son Jasper takes the reins.

    Bloomberg first got on a horse at age 4, and started competing at age 6. She didn’t love the sport initially, she admits, only taking lessons because her older sister, Emma Bloomberg, had begun riding.

    “It was definitely the competition side that kept me in it, and kept me wanting to take it more seriously,” she explains.

    She’s also faced her share of setbacks on the road to becoming one of the sport’s top athletes. She’s broken her back twice (along with many other bones), the result of falls in 2002 and 2010, and had spinal surgery in 2011 for spondylolisthesis—a spine deformity similar to scoliosis. Eight months after the surgery, she’d returned to riding.

    Bloomberg attributes much of her learned resilience to her experiences in riding: “In our sport, you’re going to have many more bad days than you are good days,” she says.

    “I think that I’ve always said that with Jasper, especially, I want him to learn how to lose because that’s something that you’re just going to face in life.”

    Raising Jasper as a single mom after splitting from his father, the Argentine equestrian Ramiro Quintana, has also taught her a lot about her own inner strength.

    “People are always sort of surprised that I’m a single mom,” she says. “People are like: ‘Oh, you should have everything handed to you on a silver platter,’ and it’s not necessarily always that way.”

    And while it hasn’t been easy, she’s very conscious of the ways that single parenthood has pushed her to grow.

    “I’m actually very grateful now that I am a single mom, and it’s something that I’ve learned so much about myself and about life from,” she says. “Emotionally…you don’t necessarily have that partner to share the experience with, and to share life with, and I think that that can be a bit of a challenge; you have to sort of be strong and be okay because you have to for your child. You don’t get to sit around and feel sorry for yourself… I’ve just had to form this new strength in myself that I didn’t even know was there, because [I had] no other choice.”

    She’s also quick to reveal how grateful she is for the support she’s had along the way. “I was always raised in a way where I felt like I had a lot of family around me, and they weren’t always necessarily the people who were related to me by blood,” she says. “And I think that’s a very valuable lesson to learn—that sometimes you have to create your own family. I have amazing friends, I have an amazing support system, [and] I’m very lucky that I can afford amazing help.”

    Among her own blood relatives, she has good company in motherhood—this past spring, her sister Emma gave birth to a baby girl, Zelda.

    “It’s amazing: I used to be one of those people who were like: ‘Just because people have babies…you feel like they always want to talk about just baby stuff,” she says of being an aunt. “It’s something that’s all of a sudden a whole new bonding thing… It’s definitely something that we share now and I think has brought us closer for sure.”

    And how’s former Mayor Bloomberg taking to the grandfather role? “He’s a very good grandfather…[But] I think that when Jasper can play golf and have a conversation about current events, my father will be a lot more interested in him,” she quips with a smile.

    Until Jasper’s ready to hit the links, he and his mom love spending time outside together at Gotham North, “playing with balls and running around and getting dirty in the grass,” Bloomberg says, though the pair can also be found at Bloomberg’s home in Wellington, FL, and enjoying their Manhattan apartment on Central Park West. During our photo shoot, it quickly becomes clear that Jasper’s already very comfortable around horses: He gamely feeds Crown carrots in between shots, asking the trainers for more.

    But despite Jasper’s evident ease around horses, Bloomberg is committed to letting him find his own path.

    “I didn’t really get serious about [riding] until my 20s,” she recalls. “I was able to sort of grow up in New York City, and do other things, and travel, and go to college, and play other sports…I would love for him to have that experience of being able to do other things as well, and not feel that he has to jump into this sport at an early age because I’m in it, or because he has this facility.”

    As a parent, Bloomberg thinks of herself as “more on the relaxed end of the spectrum,” though still protective. As Jasper enters toddlerhood and approaches his second birthday this December, she’s in awe of how quickly he’s learning and changing.

    “It’s just amazing to see the person he’s becoming and the way that he sort of embraces the world and discovers new things about himself,” she says. “He’s becoming very good, at this stage, at expressing his likes and his dislikes, which I think is probably one of the great things but also probably one of the challenges [right now].” And like all working parents, Bloomberg is very conscious of the additional difficulties of balancing parenting with her travel-heavy competition schedule. “To be a very good, hands-on mom, but also to be able to follow my dream—I think that’s probably my biggest challenge, and always sort of feeling like you’re not doing enough on either end,” she says.

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    Bloomberg rides to victory at last year’s Rolex Central Park Horse Show. Photo by David Handschuh.

    In addition to raising Jasper, Bloomberg is the proud mom of a bevy of animals. In addition to her 11 competition horses, she has three retired horses, five rescue dogs, two rescue mules, two rescue mini horses, and a rescue pig named Wilbur. She’s also a strong advocate for animal welfare, serving on the board of the ASPCA, where she focuses on equine issues, and fighting the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills as a founding member of the Humane Society’s Friends of Finn committee, in addition to being involved with many other individual shelters.

    “I sort of have always believed that I was put on this planet to make a difference in animals’ lives, and I think that’s my duty in life,” she says. Bloomberg adopted her first dog, Hugo, from a pound, and says that the experience of walking into a kill shelter was an awakening to the harsh reality of animal care and control facilities. “I don’t think just being passionate about animals is enough,” she says. “I think that if you are passionate about them, you have to go out and fight for them and try to make a difference.”

    Animal welfare isn’t the only cause that has spurred Bloomberg’s passion into action. While a student at New York University, she had a friend who loved horses and riding, but couldn’t join the equestrian team because she wasn’t able to afford riding clothing. Bloomberg, who as the youngest in her family, had an abundance of hand-me-down riding gear in near-mint condition, realized that if she could connect riders like her friend with people who had extra gear, she could knock down one of the sport’s barriers to entry. So in 2006, she founded the Rider’s Closet, an organization that collects extra clothing from riders and donates it to collegiate teams, therapeutic riding programs, pony clubs, and individual riders in need. After starting the group out of her garage at Gotham North, the organization is now based out of the nearby Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Center in Brewster, NY.

    “It’s grown much more than I ever thought it possibly could,” she says. “We’ve been able to send a lot of riding clothing to a lot of people, and hopefully make it easier for them to be in the sport.”

    After a day at her home in the country with Jasper and Crown, it’s clear that family is the accomplishment Bloomberg cares most deeply about.

    “One of the best things, I think, about especially being a New York family, is that it’s not like your typical idea of mother [and] father,” she says. “I’m not only proud to come from a family that’s very different, and odd, I would say, but also now to be creating my own… I consider my family [to be] not only my son, but my friends and my dogs and my pig and my horses, and for me that’s very unique and something that I’m incredibly proud of.”

    Lauren Vespoli is the senior editor of New York Family.

     


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