En Route to Paris

Jamie Barge and Luebbo

A Malibu woman is about to compete in the most prestigious competition for horse jumping this year—the World Cup—and it is taking place in one of the world’s most exciting cities—Paris, France. Jamie Barge has made the U.S. equestrian team that is sending only 11 of the top riders in the country to compete in the yearly event.  She and her horse Luebbo will be among only 40 of the best riders in the world invited to the finals beginning April 11.

The is the second year in a row 31-year-old Barge has qualified for what’s known as the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final. Barge and her partner, Luebbo, a 13-year-old German-bred Oldenburg sport horse, are currently in Europe acclimating to the time change and training indoors before the elite competition.

The pair has been competing for the past 10 months in a circuit of qualifying classes that have taken them to competitions as far away as Vancouver, Canada, and Guadalajara, Mexico. The pair did so well that they decided to head to Europe after a qualifier in Ocala, Fla., to minimize the huge undertaking of transporting the horse—which flew on a private freight plane from Miami to Amsterdam.

The world class event in Paris is a four-day competition of horse jumping at its finest. In a non-Olympic year, the World Cup is the pinnacle show-jumping event. Equestrian jumping is an impressive discipline requiring horse and rider to work together as a team as they maneuver an obstacle course for speed and precision. The horse and rider must jump a course as quickly as possible without hitting rails. Some are as high as 1.60 meters in height—or nearly 5-feet, 3-inches high. To complete a round it takes precision, dynamism and strength from both horse and rider to make clean and fast jumps. 

“The first day of competition, Wednesday, is a warm-up day where the horses get to go into the arena for the first time. Thursday is what’s called a speed class where the pairs race against the clock,” Barge’s mother Susan explained. “Whoever jumps the course clear without touching rails in the fastest time wins.  Then, Friday starts competition to jump clear with no rails and then there’s a jump off.  That’s no rails—fastest time wins. The top 30 finishers ride in the final on Sunday.” Susan will join her daughter later in Paris for the excitement.   

Even though this is her second World Cup, Barge, in an email to The Malibu Times, expressed her excitement about participating in a lifelong goal of becoming and competing against world-class riders: “I’m still in shock that this dream has come true! It’s unreal that I get to compete along side some of the best USA riders and top world riders. I am excited. My goal for the competition is to ride Luebbo well and to make it a positive experience for both the horse and me.”

Barge may be the only contender at the World Cup who competes despite a profound hearing loss. The Malibu equestrian wears a hearing aid in one ear and has a cochlear implant in the other. She cannot hear the buzzer or bells in the ring while competing and relies on visual cues and her close relationship with her horse.

While Luebbo and Barge are practicing indoors in Europe this week—because there’s not a lot of indoor jumping in California—the team has one other World Cup under its belt and that can also be helpful. Experience is good for the horses, too, Susan Barge explained. Crowds of spectators can be stressful for the horses. 

“The arena is filled with people,” Susan described. “There’s banners. There’s lights and a big screen.”

Last year, Barge finished 28 out of 40 riders. She previously said her first World Cup was about gaining experience.  April 11, she’ll be putting that experience to use, hoping to become a top-30 finisher in the Sunday final.