Jumping Through Hoops: Jamie Barge

Jamie Barge 

A young Malibu woman is making a name for herself as an equestrian show jumper. Jamie Barge has just won the Hermes Sellier Trophy at the Longines Masters’ Competition at the Long Beach Convention Center. This prestigious prize, along with being selected for the U.S. Equestrian Team, has boosted her career to the next level — despite a condition that would have limited many other competitors.

Barge is winning top prize money in the exclusive sport that has her jumping more than five feet atop her horse, Luebbo. While soaring over obstacles such as fences and posts, Barge’s other obstacle is nearly complete hearing loss. Born hearing impaired, her hearing completely dropped in her left ear after bumping her head during a pony show as a child. She has a cochlear implant in her left ear and wears a hearing aid in her right. The now 30-year-old equestrian still cannot hear the buzzer and bells in the ring while competing. Without her hearing aid, she said, “I hear nothing, not even a fire alarm. I travel with my service dog that will wake me at night if necessary.”

This summer, Barge was selected and rode for the U.S. Equestrian team in Europe and competed against six other countries. “The sport is made up of a team of two athletes: The rider and the horse,” Barge said. “The horse is every much an athlete as the rider is — it’s not all completely under the rider’s control. The rider is controlling a thousand-pound animal. The horse is looking and hearing different things than the rider.”

Barge continued: “It’s also a sport about what happens in split seconds. The horse must do as commanded. If he hesitates, they can crash through a fence. It’s all about working together to try to complete the course clear. Obviously, the rider can’t do it without the horse and the horse can’t do it without the rider, so we train and work together to make this team that can jump a course clear and hopefully win. There is a high level of trust on both sides. There’s a bond. We work together as one unit.”

Although a rider can pre-walk a course before an event, courses are designed to be a challenge for the animals. 

“They set it so that either the horse has to speed up and leave out a stride or slow down and fit in an extra step in order to jump. It’s not as straightforward as it looks and that’s why there’s so much training involved. Whoever completes the course leaving all the rails up and, ideally in the end, going the fastest, wins,” Barge explained.

Barge is straightforward talking about her challenges while riding competitively and training others.

“I’ve been hearing impaired my entire life so I don’t really know how to live my life any differently. I don’t hear the buzzer in the ring, but there’s always a screen and it will have the countdown so I look at that to start,” Barge explained. “While I can’t hear the crowd’s applause, I can definitely see their excitement and that is very rewarding.”

Barge has always had a passion for horses. 

“I had to beg my parents for riding lessons and for my first pony,” she told The Malibu Times. “My dad told me I had to buy it myself and I started crying because I only had $200 saved in babysitting money. I was seven or eight. He said I would have to train the pony and pay him back when I sold the pony and that’s how I got started in buying, training and selling.” Barge started jumping ponies at nine years old. She moved to Malibu in 2007 after transferring to Pepperdine University and decided to stay after graduating. She’s been focusing her career on show jumping and training others.

When asked about the Olympics, Barge said she would like to try for it, with the right horse and support. That support — to keep a horse at grand prix level — includes an entire team including a groom, a farrier (a horse shoer), a dentist, vet and even a chiropractor for the animal. 

“Horses that can jump at the grand prix level, higher that most horses jump, are high performance athletes,” Barge explained. “They are valuable and well cared for.” 

When asked about her Olympic goals, she said it all comes down to the horse.

“It could possibly be a dream if I have the right horse,” she said. “At Olympic trials, you and your horse have to be at peak performance.” 


You can follow Jamie Barge on Instagram @jamiebargekylieco