BY ANN JAMIESON
Like so many of us, Margie Goldstein Engle’s love for horses came from out of nowhere. Although her family is athletic and enjoys sports, no one else had ever fallen in love with horses. But Margie’s best friend, Andrea Marks, did.
Andrea rode at Gladewinds, a local barn, and Margie went with her in first or second grade and “just fell in love with everything, the horses, the whole barn atmosphere, I just loved it.”
Margie’s parents did not encourage her to ride. A bit of a tomboy, Margie always played football and baseball with her brothers and took too many chances. Her parents were concerned that she would get hurt. Undaunted, Margie convinced them to let her try. They worked out a deal; if she got hurt, she would have to stop. They would pay for one lesson a week, while Margie worked around the barn to earn additional riding time.
Part of her parents’ concern was Margie’s small stature. A petite child and only 5’1” today, they felt that horses could easily injure her. It didn’t help when Margie did get hurt. Afraid that she would no longer be able to ride, she attempted to hide the injury from her family. That didn’t work, and she was taken to a doctor. The doctor’s response was to tell her parents, “This is the most dangerous sport there is.”
Luckily the owners of Gladewinds, the Kramers, stressed to her parents how safety conscious they were, and how they were careful to develop a firm foundation on the flat before moving on to jumping, which helped allay her parents’ fears.
Since Margie’s whole family is academically oriented, schoolwork always took top priority. That suited Margie, who earned top grades while spending hours at the barn. During college, she worked at the barn while maintaining a 4.0 average. Her parents also encouraged her to keep up her schoolwork so she “would have something else to talk about besides horses.”
Due to her petite build, Margie initially worked in the dog and cat kennels instead of with the horses, in exchange for riding. When she was allowed to work with the horses instead, she felt it was a big step up!
While the Kramer’s kids rode, they were not as obsessed with it as Margie. As a result, she became very close to Mr. and Mrs. Kramer. “They were like second parents to me.” And the barn was a “second home.”
Their kids as well became family to Margie, who counts Robin as one of her closest friends. “She is very kind and loves the horses.”
Margie would do “whatever I had to do to ride! We were all barn rats. There were sleepovers at the barn, where the kids would sleep on the hay bales and in the morning Mrs. Kramer would bring us hot chocolate and breakfast.
“We just loved being at the barn, and all of us stayed friends. They were second family to all of us.
“All of the kids took care of the ponies, including the kids that owned their own. We liked taking care of them, taking them out to graze, learning horsemanship. It was just kind of a different time and different atmosphere.
We’d sneak out in the pony pastures sometimes and just sit on them with nothing on them.
“My parents didn’t understand at all, it was totally different from what they were used to. My friends would spend the night and we would canter around and jump over the furniture. My parents thought we were crazy. I would come home covered with mud and shavings. My parents would smell it but I didn’t smell the barn at all.”
Margie and other riders from her childhood continue to hold Gladewinds Farm reunions. Her barn in Wellington is named in honor of Gladewinds. “The farm was named after the winds from the Everglades near where it was located. And there are similar breezes where my farm is in Wellington.”
By 12, Margie was schooling and breaking the Kramer’s ponies. Gladewinds bred, trained, and sold top ponies providing a tremendous opportunity for her. A few of the elite ponies bred at the farm were Gladewinds Irish Coffee, Gladewinds Angel Wings, and Gladewinds March Lad. But when the ponies were sold, it was not easy for Margie who learned early that “It really hurt when they got sold.”
Margie not only had the opportunity to ride many great ponies at Gladewinds but to train with some of the best coaches in the country as well.
“When I rode at Gladewinds they had a lot of different trainers, and I catch rode for other trainers when I was a junior so they all helped me. I rode some of their large ponies in Medal and Maclay and won with them. I was small so I could go in on the large pony and compete in the 3’6.”
Margie was a working student for Karen, who was the model for George Morris’ Hunter Seat Equitation, for a little while. She also rode ponies for Christina Schulsemeyer and Jan Francis, and ended up riding horses for them when she got out of the juniors.
Karen shared some timeless advice with Margie. At a horse show, spend time “sitting on the rail watching different trainers as they warm up their students. You can learn a lot just by watching.”
All of these trainers provided Margie with a great education, and she learned equally as much from her other instructors: the horses themselves. “They tell you when you’re doing things right, when you’re doing things wrong.
“You spend a lot of time with them and just try to develop the horse sense. What they like, what they don’t like. That’s why I think it’s so important, the more you know about them, the more they get to like you and they want to do for you.”
Margie thinks it’s a shame right now that so many kids spend so much time on social media, on their phones when they could be spending time with their horses and learning more about them.
No Hurdle Too High
Luckily for Margie, her parents were “very understanding, and very supportive.
“My mother even wrote a book! She had written other books for school when she was a teacher and a principle. So she ended up writing a book with Steven Price called No Hurdle Too High (about Margie’s love for horses and rise to the top of the show jumping world) and learned all sorts of stuff about the horses even I didn’t know!”
One of the curious facts that Margie learned through her mother’s book was the origin of “ratcatcher.” Remember ratcatcher shirts? Margie discovered that the meaning stems from the narrow cloth piece of the shirt that is worn snugly around the neck. That piece of cloth was at one time used to catch rats in a barn!
Although her parents would come to watch her ride, Margie doesn’t think her mother actually did much watching. “She was so scared I would get hurt I think she bruised my father’s arm. She would squeeze it so hard. All she cared about was that I was safe.”
Initially, Margie sat on anything she was offered, which put her in the saddle of many rearers and stoppers. “I think that made her nervous. She was actually kind of afraid of the horses.” Once Margie started riding better horses her mother finally felt she could relax and watch.
Because of Margie’s petite stature, she was encouraged to ride racehorses, but she preferred jumping. While she galloped a bit to earn some extra money, she never pursued a track career.
That small stature unfortunately had a negative side to it, causing many to tell her she would never reach her dreams of show jumping success. In addition, the naysayers cited a lack of financial backing as another reason she could never make it big.
Luckily, Margie paid no heed. There were scores of good people encouraging her, as well as her parents who told her, “If you want to be successful at something you can do it, you just have to keep working at it.”
She did, however, sustain many serious injuries. “When you are getting started you say yes to anything,” says Margie. If someone had a tough horse, people would say, “Ask Margie, she’ll ride it.”
But in hindsight, Margie feels a lot of those injuries could have been prevented with some measure of self-preservation. “I would take chances. I was always doing things that were riskier than I should’ve done, like riding in mud or in classes that a horse wasn’t ready for.” Plus it was a challenge. “The more people said that you couldn’t do something with a particular horse, the more I wanted to see if I could get those horses to come around.”
At one point, after Margie ruptured her disc, she was told she could never ride again. But Margie did not accept that diagnosis. Working to strengthen her back, she used different exercises, additional workouts, and more physical therapy, which allowed her to get back in the tack.
Margie broke her shoulder, arm, wrist, a few fingers, bones in her foot (accompanied by nerve damage), and opened up a 12″ gash in her back, along with four broken ribs when a horse fell on her. Always, she would get patched up, and get back to riding. She never let the injuries stop her.
As Margie started out on her own, she “rode a ton of hunters. When I was down in Miami showing at Tropical Park I would ride anywhere from 50-60 rounds a day.” One day Margie rode a whopping 76 rounds!
John Deemer, who had worked for Rodney Jenkins, served as her ground man and proved an important part in Margie’s and the horses’ success.
Margie rode and showed horses that were just a couple of weeks off of the track. “I had a lot of nice horses that way. The Thoroughbreds were all pretty game, they’re very brave. We would show them in the hunters and they would get sold quickly, like within a month. I would love to have kept a couple of them!”
More people started investing, and after Vince Dugan saw Margie showing at Tropical Park he began picking out one or two Thoroughbreds during the year to send to her. Several went on to do the Grand Prix.
“He had such a good eye. One was Tashiling that DD Matz bought. Tashiling went on to the Pan Am Games. Another one won a Gold Medal in Three Day Eventing,. Touch of Class won Gold with Joe Fargis at the 1984 Olympics in both team and individual Show Jumping.”
Sweet N Low was another one of Vince’s picks. He still holds the indoor Puissance record set in 1983 at the Washington International Horse Show. Ridden by Tony D’Ambrosio, Sweet N’Low jumped 7’7 1/2″.
Margie likes working with young horses “because you’re starting with a clean slate. You really form a bond, and they will do anything for you. Everything you teach them is all they know.”
She met her husband, a large animal vet, at Tropical Park. He does chiropractic work, which allows him to attend the shows along with Margie. She says “He’s got a fantastic feel and can do his work on FEI horses, who are not allowed to be on medications. Though he rarely rides, he has a real love for horses.”
Margie’s first “big” horse was her jumper Daydream. Her father taught her how to form a syndicate (a limited partnership) to purchase him, and made sure that everything was done right. They developed a prospectus, and he took Margie to his lawyer. Although her dad didn’t know much about horses, he knew about business, and how to do it correctly.
“We did everything by the book and this way the different people that got involved could use it as a write-off.
“We put this whole big portfolio together, and I put pretty much everything I had into him, which was basically one foot…but I got to keep him and show him.”
Margie began riding Daydream when he was five years old, and they started showing in the Grand Prix when he was six. That first year they won three Grand Prix. Racking up victory after victory at elite horse shows, Margie and Daydream moved on to one of their most memorable wins. “I won the big Grand Prix at Cincinnati. I had watched it as a kid standing along the rail.” Now she was competing with all the top riders that she had watched growing up!
The first time Margie rode in the American Jumping Derby, she admits, she was totally unprepared. At the time, she was riding horses for Patty Harnois, who told her, “You should come, it would be fun.”
It was. But it was also unlike anything Margie had ever seen. Built by Pamela Carruthers, the Jumping Derby was meant to take after Hickstead. Margie called the event, “part three-day event, part jumper.”
There were double ditches, a big bank, and a Pulverman’s grob (named for a man who died in one). The grob consists of a downhill track to a jump, then a ditch then a stride, and finally another fence going up and out.
Margie came with about a dozen horses who had never seen anything like it. They were green and one of them stopped and fell in a ditch, while another left out a stride on top of the bank. In all Margie fell off five times. Yet she says, “Honestly, it was one of the most fun horse shows I ever went to! And Daydream was great! He won both his classes.” After that experience, she learned to only take “horses that are very brave, and practice on natural fences!”
Despite all the falls, Margie finished the day as “Leading Rider.” As she said, “The ones that went well, were great!”
As Margie and Daydream began tackling the bigger Grand Prix and doing well more people began asking her to ride their horses. Jacob Freidus sent her a group of potential Grand Prix horses.
“That’s when I got Saluut and Sebastian. He would send six or seven at a time and pretty much all of them ended up doing the Grand Prix.”
Margie’s first big sponsor, Cadillac, signed on when she won the AGA Rider of the Year for the first time. Next, Elizabeth Bushe-Burke helped her get Budweiser for a sponsor as well, and Margie’s string continued to improve.
Saluut proved a superstar. A stallion, Saluut “almost felt like he could think what I was thinking. He was one of the quickest, smartest horses, and he never said no. Frank (is this your groundman Frank, or Frank Chapot?) would tell me to do these crazy turns and crazy leave-outs and that horse always tried. He was fast and careful and what he lacked in scope he made up in heart. He was so careful and just put everything into it. If I thought something, he was already doing it. He went in a plain snaffle, no martingale, and I could go flat out and then halt him and he would stand totally still and pose for the camera.”
The additional financial backing she attracted enabled Margie, who had shown mainly in Florida growing up, to travel further and more often for horse shows.
Margie first competed in Europe in 1997, with McLain Ward, Anne Kursinski, and Alison Firestone. “It was probably the strongest team I’ve ever been on. And we won almost every Nations Cup. I was riding Hidden Creek’s Laurel and we won the Nations’ Cup and then won the Grand Prix of Rome I think she was only seven or eight. Back then you had to do two rounds and then a jump-off. Laurel was just an amazing horse, one of the nicest horses I’ve ever ridden.”
Margie has horses with Hidden Creek to this day, after starting with them back in the early 1990’s. Some of her clients have been with her for over 30 years.
“I think if you try to do right for them, they try to do right by you too,” says Margie. “So many people you come into contact with through horses just are very special and stay in your life.”
Margie Goldstein-Engle had numerous reasons not to succeed: parents that were really not sure they wanted her to ride, her small stature, numerous injuries, and lack of significant financial support as she began her career.
Yet she chose to overcome every obstacle in her way and has achieved one of the most astounding records in show jumping history. She is unstoppable.
This is just a partial list of Margie’s astounding list of accomplishments. A complete list would take pages!
The American Grand Prix Association’s (AGA) only ten-time Rider of the Year—1989, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996 (three times in a row!), 1999/2000, 2000/2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006.
Career earnings over $4 million dollars and the most AGA wins with the same horse in the same season(five wins on Saluut II in 1991).
Won more than 220 Grand Prix
Won most Grand Prix victories in a single season (11)
Two Grand Prix wins in two days
Won 20 Nations Cups
Won 6 World Cups
First rider to place six horses in ribbons in a single Grand Prix
First rider to place first-thru-fifth in a single Grand Prix.
2021 Show Jumping Hall of Fame
World Equestrian Games silver medal winning team (2006)
1991 AHSA Equestrian of the Year
1992 and 1993 Rolex National Grand Prix Rider of the Year
Team Gold, individual bronze medals from Pan American Games in Santo Domingo and team silver in Winnipeg
Set a high jump record of 7′ 8 3/4″ in 1987
About the Author: Ann Jamieson wanted to be a horse show judge since she was a child, and has now held her USEF “”r”” judge’s cards for over 30 years.
She writes about both horses, and travel, (and particularly loves combining the two). Ann is the author of the “”For the Love of the Horse”” series, four volumes of amazing true stories about horses, and the proud mom of her Secretariat grandson, Fred Astaire (Tucker).
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