An Inside Look at the Winningest Rider in the Grand Prix Ring at Balmoral Park

Photo: Lisa Goldman rides Centurion B in the $50,000 Adequan Grand Prix during Showplace Spring Spectacular II.


Susan Kayne, the director of media and content of HITS Horse Shows, sat down with rider Lisa Goldman to talk about her immense success at Balmoral Park the past few months. Goldman has earned a total of $163,500 so far in the little time that Balmoral Park has been open in the small town of Crete, Illinois. Kayne and Goldman talked about the horses, facility, and staff that surround Goldman and help lead her to victory.

SK: Lisa, congratulations on another incredible HITS Chicago horse show!


LG: Thank you, thank you.


SK: Lisa, you are the winningest rider in the Grand Prix Stadium at Balmoral Park. What do you attribute to your incredible success?


LG: You know, I have had such good results with my two up and coming Grand Prix horses, Sovereign and Hindsight. My other two, Centurion B and Morocco, are getting a little older. They are still jumping well, and have been right there in the top placings. With Hindsight and Sovereign really starting to step up and come into their own, I have four really great horses. And, it helps when the facility, and the footing, and the course designers are all so good.


SK: What are some of the things that you liked the most about the facility, and some of the things that you would like to see improve as it grows?


LG: The footing is great. I have spent the majority of my time in the Grand Prix Ring and Jumper 1, and I have also been in the Main Hunter Ring. I really have to compliment HITS on getting the footing right on the first try. It seems to be very difficult to get footing done correctly so early on at a facility, and even in any ring over its lifetime. Even when the days go really late, or when I go out really early before the sun comes up, I see so many people, even Tom and Pat, on a tractor working on the grounds. They work tirelessly to make the facility into what it’s becoming, and it’s pretty amazing to see.

When we were there in May, we were at the Half Mile Farm. The stalls were incredible but it was a bit of a hike when we had so many horses. Now we are in the Homestretch Barn near the FEI stalls and by the Main Hunter Ring so it’s a significantly shorter walk. They sectioned off horse paths and lay down matting so no horse has to step on concrete. It is very nice.


SK: As a Rider, can you put into words how you feel the footing through your horse? How do you know it will be good for three weeks, or it will be tough?


LG: The horses don’t get stuck. The jumps don’t feel like they are gigantic, when they are not, because the horses are not being sucked into the ground. They aren’t slipping in the turns, and it’s not so hard that you hear them pounding across the ground. I consistently showed six, almost seven, weeks in a row. We did three weeks on, one week off, three weeks on. My horses never took a bad step. Generally speaking, if the footing is too soft or too hard horses tend to get a little footsore. My horses have all stayed wonderfully sound, fresh, and happy to show.  


SK: Tell us a little bit about your horses, Sovereign and Hindsight?


LG: Sovereign is an 11-year-old Stallion that we acquired through Taylor Flury. He is owned by Barbara Disko. Barbara has been one of my biggest supporters. She owned my Equitation horse, my very first Grand Prix horse, and several horses throughout my career who have helped me become the rider that I am today. She is actually officiating my wedding next year which is going to be at Balmoral in May.


SK: OK, so we will come back to the horses, but first, everybody in the HITS office would like to know how you decided on Balmoral Park for your wedding?


LG: When I walked inside the facility, and went upstairs in the Grand Stand, it just took my breath away. It is so big, and so beautiful. I thought to myself that they had probably hosted weddings at one point. So I talked to Tom [Struzzieri], and we sat down and made it work. This is probably one of the busiest months of Tom’s year, but he still managed to make time for me.  


SK: Did you decide to have your wedding at Balmoral Park before you had shown at the Venue, or after all of your victories?


LG: Well, we got engaged on May 5th , so it was definitely before. When I arrived at Balmoral, all I was doing was researching wedding venues.


SK: How is it that Barbara Disko is officiating?  


LG: She is a retired Judge, and she actually officiated my sister’s wedding.


SK: Have you set a date for the wedding?


LG: It will be May 5, 2018.


SK: Is your future husband a horseman?


LG: He is not involved with horses. He is a digital marketer.


SK: What does he think of the horse show scene?


LG: He is very supportive of me. He has watched a lot of the Grand Prix classes at Balmoral. Whenever he is nearby, he comes to visit me at the shows. It’s not his thing, it’s mine. He is really proud that I have something I am so passionate about.

Lisa Goldman rides Sovereign in the $50,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix during Showplace Spring Spectacular I.

SK: Ok, back to Sovereign. Would you explain you bridle and bit choice?  


LG: He is in a Pelham with a very loose curb chain. He could almost be in a snaffle. He just doesn’t need a noseband, or a martingale. He doesn’t mind his mouth tied shut, but we want to give him as much breathing room as possible. I never found that a noseband, whether it was a drop noseband, a loose noseband, tight noseband, or a figure eight ever made any difference in how he jumped. I will probably switch him into a snaffle at some point. He’s just the most fun horse to ride in the entire barn. The best canter, the best trot, so willing to do anything you ask him to do — he’s just so much fun to ride.


SK: How long have you and Sovereign been partnered?


LG: About two years. Before that, Sovereign had only competed in five 1.30m classes.


SK: What is it about Sovereign you enjoy the most when you are not in the ring?


LG: He is a very gentle Stallion. He is super talkative no matter who he is admiring — a mare, another stallion, a gelding, or a reflection of himself. He is just so lovable. He likes to give hugs, and he enjoys being curried, and handled. He is just altogether quite lovely to be around. The only problem is that sometimes he likes other horses too much!

We have paired him up with Hindsight, who is always stabled next to him, or shipped with him. What’s kind of funny is that Sovereign hasn’t realized that Hindsight doesn’t really fancy him, or really want anything to do with him.


SK: Has he sired any progeny?  


LG: I do have a yearling on the ground by him, and I just bred him to my Grand Prix mare Rocs to Riches, and I rebred him to the dam of the yearling.  


SK: Do you see similarities to Sovereign in the yearling?


LG: Yes, they look alike. He’s a bay with a tiny little dot of a star, and he too is quite lovely. I’m really excited to start working with him. He’s very friendly, he’s actually incredibly friendly! But he has already been gelded, so we are only dealing with one stallion on the property.


SK: What are your immediate plans with Sovereign and Hindsight?  


LG: They compete on the same schedule almost all of the time. We might actually go back to Balmoral next week again. We were planning on taking the time off but you know they jumped so well on the footing.  I love Hector Loyola as a course designer. I love HITS. It is too good to leave that be. After Balmoral we will do two weeks in Michigan, and then return to Balmoral for the FEI shows and the Zone Championships. I have quite a few students who are signed up for the Zone Championship and the Emerging Jumper Program.  


SK: Lisa, what are your mental tactics you employ to keep up your competitive edge? How do you not get too high on yourself, or say to yourself – I’ve won so much, I wonder when things are going to go the other way?


LG: Well, the least favorite question I get from fellow competitors, or from anyone walking by, is, “so are you going to win the Prix tomorrow?” The way I see it, every day is a new day, every stride is a new stride. I’ve been lucky, very lucky with the past four Grand Prix. But in June, even though I had double clean rounds, someone else happened to be faster. I know that if I can leave all of the jumps up I can be very competitive. But every day, in every class, you’ve got to ride to be double clear. I know that you can breathe on a jump the wrong way and it will come down, so I have no compunction to say that I’m going to win the next Grand Prix. I try never to take any class for granted. Last September, I walked in the ring and was jumping a clean round and fell off and broke my collarbone. So I know the ups, and the downs. You can walk in the ring and jump double clean and win, or you can walk in the ring and have four rails. And it could be that your horse jumped even better the day you had four rails, but he or she just happened to touch the jumps just the wrong way. I think it is the competitiveness in me that keeps each class new, and each day fresh.


SK: What advice do you have for Riders who will be showing for the first time in the Grand Prix Stadium?


LG: In the Grand Prix this past weekend, we had three students. For two, it was their first Grand Prix. So we deal with that a lot. My advice would be to trust that your trainer put you into a class you can handle, and to ride the same way that you have been riding. After all, that is how you have gotten to this point. And mostly, step into the ring with confidence, before the clock starts take a deep breath, and really enjoy your first big class. You will remember it forever.

Lisa Goldman and Hindsight in the iconic Grand Prix arena.