Margie was interviewed by Emily Covington in September, 1999. Our questions, and her answers, are presented below.
Background: Few riders in the international world of show jumping can claim the honors that Margie Goldstein-Engle can. Five American Grand Prix Association (AGA) Rider of the Year Awards, three times National Grand Prix League Rider of the Year, AHSA/Hertz Equestrian of the Year, numerous national and international titles as well as having been a long time USET member, Goldstein-Engle keeps breaking open the record books.
Some of her records include: most AGA wins with the same horse in a single season (five with Saluut II); most Grand Prix wins in a single season (13); two Grand Prix wins in less than 24 hours. She placed first through sixth in a single Grand Prix class. In another Grand Prix class, she placed six horses in the ribbons. These accomplishments just begin the list. With her win in April’s $150,000 Budweiser American Invitational aboard Hidden Creek’s Alvaretto, Goldstein-Engle shows no signs of slowing down.
Currently based in Wellington, Florida, Goldstein-Engle’s career accomplishments and exemplary horsemanship inspire those who aim for the top levels of show jumping competition. Equerry is proud to present our interview with one of America’s foremost Grand Prix show jumping riders, Margie Goldstein-Engle.
Equerry: What are some of your recollections of your early life with horses?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: I’ve always liked animals and sports. I remember getting on ponies since kindergarten and going on pony rides. I didn’t formally start riding and taking lessons until I was nine years old at the riding school, Gladewinds Farm, in Miami.
Equerry: When did you begin competing?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: I started when we had little horse shows at the barn. We had our own riding school so I competed there when I was 9 or 10.
Equerry: Who were some of the most important people in your riding in terms of mentors or trainers?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: Many different people helped me. I used to groom and work around the barn. I worked around the cat and dog kennels, anything I could in exchange for lessons. Karen Harnden Smith, Bibby Farmer, Penny Fires were my teachers when I started out . They all were helpful.
The Kramer's were probably the most instrumental in helping me. When they saw how eager I was to ride, they gave me a riding job. This was when I was about 10 or so. I would earn extra lessons and rides by working at the stables. They paid for my lessons on their horses. They also bought my first saddle for me. I did some clinics when I was younger with George Morris and Carl Bessette. Whenever I could do a clinic, I would take one with whoever came around. I tried to do as many of those as I could.
Whenever I went to horse shows, I tried to learn from the people there. I watched and learned anything I could from the top trainers.
Equerry: With all your career highlights, is there any moment particularly special or meaningful for you?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: The American Invitational is probably, to me, one of the biggest things that I’ve won. It was something that I had watched since I was a kid. I used to watch all the riders and we knew every one of them and all of their accomplishments. I would get jobs to ride and work during the circuit just so that I could see these riders during the Invitational. When I got to be old enough, we would drive up to Tampa just so I could watch it. The Invitational was something I always hoped and aspired to do.
When I was younger, I was often told that I didn’t have the financial backing to do that. A lot of people tried to deter me from even thinking about competing in it so it seemed to be out of my grasp. So, when I finally got to be in the Invitational, it was really exciting. Winning it was very exciting for me.
Competing in Europe, winning in Rome (Italy) and Arnhem (Holland), was really exciting too. Our first tour over there was in 1997. We had a really good team. I think we won almost every Nations Cup except one in which we came second.
There are a lot of things that are meaningful, everything for different reasons. The first time I won the AGA Rider of the Year was a highlight. They gave a Cadillac Allante as part of the winning so that was very exciting.
Equerry: How has show jumping evolved since you began?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: The Grand Prixs have grown immensely in terms of prize winnings. Coverage has grown. The prices of the horses in general has really increased. I think the sport is growing in leaps and bounds. It’s doing really well and I think it’s only going to get bigger and bigger.
Equerry: How would you like to continue to see it evolve?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: I would like to see more (media) coverage and just to educate the public more about the sport. I’d love to see it be something more like Spruce Meadows (Canada). We just came back from there and it was great because there were over 50,000 spectators on the weekend. It would be great to try to get the public involvement more on the level of what it is in Europe and even up in Canada.
It’s a shame that we only have a few shows with that level of spectators. There are some but most people in our country just don’t know that much about the sport. I think we need to help educate the public and promote it. It is an exciting sport to watch and once people get interested in it, they love it. It’s just a matter of getting the word out there.
Equerry: What encourages you about riders today? Do you think they are moving towards those goals of promoting the sport?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: I think so. Some of the people in this sport are good about that. It’s a tough business because there are so many different aspects to it. Many people are involved in their own businesses and in getting more horses for themselves and so forth. They don’t realize that in the long run, the bigger businesses could help show jumping in general and that will help their own business in the long run. The more televised show jumping is, the more sponsors we get, the more the public will want to get involved.
Sometimes we live in our own small world and we don’t think about helping to promote the sport as much as we should. It’s a difficult situation because it is hard to run one’s own business, just to keep that going. Some of the riders don’t need to worry about that aspect because they have solid financial backing already.
Equerry: In your own riding, are there any key aspects of training that you feel are important towards achieving your goals?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: The biggest thing is the will to excel. You just have to have a lot of determination. In anything that you really want in life, you have be very determined and persistent. You can’t let little setbacks get you upset. You need to learn from your mistakes and go on. It takes a lot of hard work and determination. Mainly, it’s important just not to give up. You need to work through problems. Rather than seeing things as a problems, you can see them as stepping stones to learn more about the sport and your horses.
Every day I learn more and more from each horse. The horses teach me. Each horse has his own personality and his own way of going. They are great teachers and we can learn a lot from them.
Instead of trying to convert horses to go our way, a lot of times you have to see which way they are the most comfortable going. If you try to go the way that they like, I think sometimes you can get more out of them. If you are a child in school, and you like your teacher, you are going to learn a lot more from that teacher. It’s the same with the horses. If they like their rider, they’re going to give a lot more. You are going to get lot more from them in the long run.
Equerry: On the topic of determination, have there been any particular challenges that you have had to overcome in order to achieve your goals?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: There are always challenges. Every day there are different horses with different problems. It’s a challenge just keeping horses at the upper levels, keeping the nice Grand Prix horses. Without having enough financial backing myself to own Grand Prix horses, most owners in the past have sold them when offered the big prices. You are only as good as the horse you have underneath you. A lot of times when you get nice horses and they reach a certain level, they get sold. Also, you need to have enough horses so that you can rest some and so they don’t get hurt, that they stay healthy, fit and happy. There are a lot of different challenges in the sport all the time.
Equerry: Is there a horse that is or was a favorite of yours?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: Saluut II was one of my favorites. He was a great horse for me. He still holds the record I think for most AGA wins in one year and most money won in one year. He was just an exceptional horse. He was very fast and he was really smart. For a stallion, he gave you a lot. Anything I asked of him, he would try. The whole time I rode him he never stopped at a jump. I sometimes asked him to do some crazy things and he would try it. He just gave 200% every time out. I just felt like there was a special bond and he always gave an extra effort.
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of other good horses. Hidden Creek’s Laurel is a great horse. She’s a very classic horse that has a beautiful way of going. Hidden Creek’s Alvaretto is another one who has been really good. I have had a lot of other good ones who have since been sold. I just haven’t had the fortune to have them quite as long.
Daydream was my first really competitive Grand Prix horse. He was great. He was doing it at an early age and went for years. I still have both he and Saluut in the barn.
Equerry: You have had success with mares, geldings and stallions. Do you have a preference of one over another?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: I get asked this or if I have a breed preference a lot. A good horse is a good horse to me. If they have a good attitude and they have the desire to want to leave the jumps up and they have the ability to jump large jumps, I don’t really care which breed it is.
I have a lot of mares and I’ve been successful with them. I’ve had quite a lot of stallions. For some reason, many people send them to me. Most of the stallions have been great horses, although there are some individuals that may have been better horses if they were gelded. Most of them have been very good.
A lot of people dislike mares. They won’t have mares. Some of my best horses have been mares. I just feel like you can’t stereotype them. I have some mares that act more like geldings than some geldings. Temperament is something very individual to each horse. A good horse is a good horse.
Equerry: Would you describe what a typical day is like for you?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: I get up early and start working the horses. I get as much done as I can. I am at the barn pretty much all day. I teach some lessons in between, sometimes people ship horses in. I have different students that ride with me and I do the lessons in between working the horses.
Mainly I keep the horses worked on the flat and keep them fit that way in between shows. They do enough jumping at the shows. I sometimes do a little gymnastics with them once a week. For the most part, I don’t jump very big at home. I concentrate on keeping them fit, mainly with flat work, working on their rideability.
Equerry: Do you believe in working your horses in dressage?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: Very much so. Horses need every advantage when they get to the upper levels. They need to be rideable and you have to have the horse listening very well. I think almost every one of our horses knows up to Third Level dressage as far as our Grand Prix level horses. We teach even the younger ones dressage. They don’t know the fancy moves but they know most of the basic movements.
Dressage helps us with turning, with rideability, with balance. They need this for jumping, for lengthening and shortening the stride. The horses have to be very responsive. Years ago, the rideability wasn’t as important because the fences were just big fences and there really wasn’t anything as technical as we see today. Now that the courses have become highly technical, if you don’t have a horse that is very rideable, then you’re kind of shot.
Equerry: Do you have a fitness program outside of riding?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: I do a little bit, but for the most part I ride close to ten hours a day. I ride all day long. During the Florida season I usually get on my first horse around 7:30 a.m. and I ride straight through until dark. I do work out on the Nordic Track a bit when I can.
Equerry: With that kind of schedule, do you have other interests that you are able to pursue?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: I usually try to take at least one day off a week, generally Mondays. My husband and I try to do things outside of horses. We like outdoor sports and water sports. He dives and I mainly snorkel. We go hiking, parasailing. We’ve gone on cattle drives. We do like racquetball. Since we are so close to the (Florida) Keys, we do go down there for a day or two every so often, just to kind of get away. I think it makes you more eager to get back to the horses when you get away from it a little bit.
Equerry: After all the successes that you have had, what keeps you inspired and motivated with the horses?
Margie Goldstein-Engle: I think it’s just that there are always new challenges. You are always learning new things from horses and there are always young horses to bring along. Being a little competitive by nature is part of it. I just really love the horses and love working with them. It’s a great challenge and it’s very interesting.
Equerry: Thank you very much, Margie Goldstein-Engle.
Emily Covington was employed at Hilltop Farm, Inc. in Colora, MD from 1992 through 1997. Starting as a working student, she later served as assistant stable manager, and rode young horses, including her own. She has produced a variety of photography and artwork for the farms publications. She now lives in Redlands, CA where she continues to ride and does various freelance work for Hilltop.
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