In James Jones’ “From Here To Eternity,” Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt sums up what makes him tick and sets the maverick apart from the sheep: “A man don’t go his own way, he’s nothin’.”
It’s a philosophy shared by equestrian Georgina Bloomberg. Though many know her as the younger daughter of Susan Brown Bloomberg and the man they call Mayor Mike, Georgina has not sought the safe, obvious, easy path.
“I’d like to think I go my own way in life,” she says.
That has meant in part riding tall in the saddle and not just on the show circuit. Georgina founded The Rider’s Closet, an equine clothing charity; and serves as equine welfare ambassador for the ASPCA; chair of The Horse Council for the Humane Society; and a member of Friends of Finn of the Humane Society, dedicated to eliminating puppy mills.
Her love of horses has led her to pen the new “My Favorite Mistake” (Bloomsbury USA), the second in a series of young adult novels set in the world of teen riders.
In an age when many of the offspring of the rich and famous fail to clear the pitfalls of celebrity, Georgina is flourishing. Credit the lovely head firmly attached to the graceful shoulders. Georgina locates the wellspring elsewhere – in the work ethic instilled in her and her sister, Emma, by their father.
“That’s one of the things I really admire about my dad, is that he’s able to go after what he wants in life no matter what people say or how much people doubt him,” adds Georgina, who sits on the boards of the Bloomberg Family Foundation and the Bloomberg Sisters Foundation. “I would love to say that I’m like that, but I’m still working on it.”
Back on the horse
She’s well on her way, spurred by her passion for animals and competition.
“I love riding and the idea of being able to work real hard at something with a goal in mind and then go on and accomplish that,” she says.
In 2008, Georgina (now 29) was one of the youngest riders in the world training for the Olympics. (The average age is mid-30s.) Her plans, however, were derailed when her horse Cim Christo was injured.
She, too, has sustained numerous injuries, including a broken back twice in the last eight years. This past July, she underwent back surgery – unrelated to her equestrian injuries – to repair a condition she was born with that left her back vulnerable. This month she will compete in her first show since the surgery, at Old Salem Farm, site of the May 11 Grand Prix luncheon benefit she is co-hosting with Pegasus Therapeutic Riding. The event is sponsored by WAG and Ariat, the equestrian footwear and apparel company.
Georgina still has her sights on competing in the Olympics, but that goal will have to wait another four years.
“If I finish my career and I never make it to the Olympics, I’m not going to look back that I was a failure. But at the same time, I think it’s always fun to have a goal.”
That eye-on-the-prize mindset is something she shares with ballplayer-boyfriend Justin Dalles, who’s in the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league system.
“We’ve been together for 1 ½ years so far, so yeah, I would say it’s serious. I wouldn’t want to date someone who didn’t have a huge passion in life that they want to devote themselves to and work really hard at. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it has to be something that they’re very strongly passionate about in life.”
Riding the talk
Perhaps the reason horses are such a passion with this industrious billionaire’s daughter lies in the idea that “it doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have, a horse is going to treat you all the same. They make you work for the relationship you form with them. They make you work for the blue ribbon. Anything you can get out of them, you have to put the work in.”
But Georgina also acknowledges that you have to love the horse and its character to form that relationship. She credits her mother for teaching her to respect animals. “We always had dogs and cats when we were kids,” she says. “I’m very close to my mother and I really respect her, and I think that she definitely has had just as much influence in my life as my father.”
Georgina – who divides her time among New York City, her handsome farm in North Salem and an even more magnificent spread in Wellington, Fla., site of the Winter Equestrian Festival – has five rescue dogs, six working horses, four retired horses and two mini horses she just adopted. The love of animals has made her an activist.
This past March, she and childhood friend Amanda Hearst raided a puppy mill in North Carolina where the two got to see firsthand the harsh treatment these defenseless creatures endure.
“I worked with the Humane Society, Friends of Finn in particular, for about two years,” Georgina says. “We’ve done a lot on the legislative side of puppy mills in trying to come up with stricter laws to improve the situation with puppies and trying to punish people who don’t treat the animals correctly.”
She has also done a lot of fundraising, which she says is really important for puppy mill raids, because “it’s expensive to find these places, and you have go with vets and volunteers and get the warrant. Everything costs money.”
She wanted to experience an actual raid to speak about the issue from the heart. This young woman doesn’t just talk the talk. She rides it, too.
As a professional rider, Georgina buys, trains and sells horses for a living. She also earns money from show winnings, sponsorships and most recently, her writing.
“My Favorite Mistake” is Georgina’s second young adult novel co-written with Catherine Hapka. The book takes readers into the elite equestrian world, as seen through the eyes of three teenage riders – Zara, the wild child of a rock star; Kate, a serious working student; and Tommi, an heiress.
Not surprisingly, people are quick to point out the similarities between the character Tommi and Georgina. “Maybe it was very naïve but in the very beginning, I never saw myself as Tommi. It’s funny, if you take the fact that Tommi is an inspiring horse rider, her father’s a billionaire, she lives in New York City, that could be about 100 people that I could list right now.”
The young author does acknowledge having a little piece of herself in each character.
“In the beginning, I was so adamant about the character not being me, and then when I was writing the second book, I started thinking this is a character who is hardworking, a good friend, loyal, smart. She’s probably the most likeable character in the book, so if people think that’s me, then I’m very flattered,” she says.
She’s already working on the third book and plans to keep going as long as they continue selling.
The books are doing so well, in fact, that she’s been approached about doing a TV show based on the series, which she thinks would be a great fit.
“I was never interested in writing, and actually, I hated writing,” she freely admits.
So when she was approached to write a book about equestrian life, she was very skeptical about the idea of doing it and about her writing skills. But what the budding writer discovered was that she really didn’t like writing about something that didn’t interest her. Writing about something she genuinely loved came a lot easier. And with the encouragement of Hapka, who was an established young adult writer, she began to enjoy it.
“Catherine brought a lot of young adult experience, and I brought a lot of horse-show experience,” Georgina says of the 50/50 collaboration.
Why write for the young adult market?
“I think if I made something for adults, it would probably be very racy,” she says, laughing.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” racy?
“Yeah, it would cause a bit of a stir.”
In 2006, Georgina started The Rider’s Closet charity, which collects and redistributes clothing and equipment to intercollegiate riding teams, therapeutic riding programs and riders who cannot afford what they need.
“Because I’m the youngest in my family, I got passed down riding clothes. A lot of the stuff, especially as a kid, you grow out of so quickly before it’s really ever worn out.”
With riding clothes to sell and nowhere to sell them, Georgina came up with The Rider’s Closet, which she ran out of her mother’s garage in North Salem.
“Georgina was basically running the program out of her garage and was struggling, because she would leave for the show season in Florida or she would travel internationally to forward or advance her riding career and she would receive these donations and they would pile up in her garage until she got home,” says Todd Gibbs, executive director of Pegasus Therapeutic Riding. (See related stories.)
“When Pegasus approached me, it was a perfect fit, because I still wanted to have the program close to me and to my farm so I could still be active in it,” Georgina says.
“We thought, We can take her vision and expand upon it,” Todd says. Plus, it was a way to shed light on Pegasus, giving it national exposure.
“Georgina has an incredibly warm spirit, and she’s fully embraced the relationship between The Rider’s Closet program and Pegasus,” he adds. “And as we’ve been able to grow this program together, she’s also stayed very close to it. So what’s unique to programs like this is that every donor to The Rider’s Closet program receives a personal handwritten thank-you note with Georgina’s real signature. I can’t tell you the positive impact that’s had on Pegasus.”
Just another example of Georgina Bloomberg going her own way.[youtube]http://youtu.be/G0YSXHD7Vg8[/youtube]
On Friday, May 11, Georgina Bloomberg and Pegasus Therapeutic Riding co-hosted their Grand Prix Luncheon in the tent overlooking Old Salem Farm’s $25,000 New York Welcome Stake. Sponsored in part by Ariat and WAG magazine, the luncheon included Georgina Bloomberg’s Rider’s Closet showcase and a prime view of the Grand Prix.