It’s not often that a preteen and a septuagenarian compete against each other in athletics.
However, Malibuites and equestrians Farida Fotouhi, 74, and London Runyan, 11, have saddled up and competed against each other in several show jumping events. In fact, London, who rides a pony named Grand Canyon, was named champion in the .80- and .90-meter classes at late April horse show at the Hanson Dam Horse Park in Lake View Terrance. Fotouhi, the president and founder of Reality2, a marketing, branding and advertising company, finished second to him in both horse leaping events while riding her horse, Renato.
Both look forward to seeing each other at competitions.
London, who rides out of LKH Equestrian, likes talking with Fotouhi as they walk the course before competitions and watch her as she rides Renato through the course and bounds over fences about three feet high.
“She is a really good rider,” he said. “It’s really fun competing against her. It’s really cool that we are always super close.”
The barn Fotouhi trains at, Cadwallader Equestrian, is next door to LKH Equestrian. Fotouhi enjoys seeing her younger, friendly foe. “He is just wonderful,” Fotouhi said of London. “I like to make jokes like, ‘Oh no! London is riding in the same class as I am. I’m dead meat now. London, why do you have to ride in the same class as me?’”
London and Fotouhi fist-bumped in front of the camera with their ribbon-adorned horses standing nearby after competing at Hanson Dam last month.
Fotouhi first rode a horse when she was a teenager living in Kaduna, Nigeria. Her father, diplomat Abolfazl Fotouhi, moved her family the African nation for three years in the 1960s. Buying a horse and paying for its upkeep wasn’t nearly as expensive then, so when Fotouhi expressed interest in horseback riding her parents purchased a horse for her. She then joined a trail riding group, and soon after, foreshadowing an activity to come, began jumping over peanut sacks with her horse.
Eventually, Fotouhi didn’t ride a horse for weeks, then months, then years, then decades until a she went on a trail ride in Santa Fe with a business group. That led to business acquaintance inviting her ride at the Malibu Riding & Tennis Club. Soon after, Fotouhi, then 44, began training with Beth Cadwallader.
“Riding was always in the back of my mind,” Fotouhi said. “I got on the horse for the trail ride and I realized I really wanted to do this.”
Eventually, Fotouhi began show jumping. She started slowly but began leaping higher. “I moved up pretty quickly,” she said.
Fotouhi lowered the height of her jumps a few years ago because a vision issue that affected her depth perception. “I took couple of steps back, but boy do I still have fun,” she noted. “I’m just having a great time.”
London’s mom Jenni said her son began riding horses when he was just four. She’s not sure what sparked his interest in the sport, but he is committed to it.
“He has been obsessed with it since he started,” she said.
London began show jumping around three years ago. He enjoys going to competitions to ride and to cheer on other riders from LKH Equestrian in competitions. London surfs two or three days a week and plays soccer, but his fascination is with riding horses.
“I really like it,” London said.
Jenni said her son is committed to show jumping and recently began jumping a meter.
“He’s very competitive,” she said.
London has ridden two other horses in show jumping events. He said Grand Canyon is his best pony so far.
“She is fun to ride with at shows,” he said. “Her trot isn’t that bouncy.”
London and Fotouhi have a passion for riding horses.
“Riding is real relaxing,” London said. “You can hang out at the ranch with a bunch of friends. That is really fun.”
Fotouhi described horseback riding as a “wonderful alternative life.”
“I feel like I have two lives,” she said. “I have my business life and my wonderful home life with my husband, and then a whole other life. Here I am riding, training, jumping jumps and having a great relationship with my horse. It’s a passion.”
London hopes to one day participate in Grand Prix show jumping, the top level the sport. Fotouhi said London might reach that goal.
“This is one very, very talented young man,” she said. “He is going to go very far.”
London’s mother said the kinship London and Fotouhi have is fun to watch.
“Their times are so close every single time they compete against each other,” Jenni said. “They make it so much fun.”
Fotouhi said show jumping is the only sport that could bring together participants who are decades apart in age.
“What sport is there in the world where a 74-year-old and an 11-year-old can compete head-to-head? It’s so much fun,” she said.