Friday, May. 24, 2024

Amateur Showcase: Finding Success In The Show Ring And On The Trading Floor

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When she was 17, Lindsay Ramar-Costigan achieved her A rating in Pony Club. The only one in her cohort of 10 to pass, she remembers not wanting to gloat or celebrate in front of her friends. Instead, she called her mother, Sue Ramar, to share the news from a Port-A-John, whispering into her phone, “I passed!” before going back out to care for the three horses she brought for the testing weekend.

This do-it-yourself background is not standard in the world of high-level show jumping, but it’s something Ramar-Costigan says has been invaluable for a riding career that started at 5. At the facilities where she took lessons as a kid—first at Scherf’s Pony Farm in Saratoga, New York, then later at Garrod Farms, also in Saratoga—caring for your own horse was the norm, and it’s something her mom also encouraged.

“My mother had worked in the hunter/jumper industry and decided to introduce me and my sister while we were young,” she said. “We did all of the care back then, from mucking stalls to blanketing to cooling out after a ride.”

While the emphasis in Pony Club was on eventing, Ramar-Costigan decided shortly after reaching the A-rating milestone that galloping cross-country was not her thing. She honed in on the show jumping ring thanks to a 22-year-old Quarter Horse named Jason.

“An older couple, Jim and Ann Morgan, gave me the ride on him, and I just fell in love with show jumping,” she said. “I loved the ability to go in and fix a mistake you had in a prior course, getting multiple tries to perfect something; whereas in eventing it’s rare to have more than one horse, and events take much more time to prepare for. If you make a mistake while eventing, you have to wait much longer to be able to go back and get another chance.”

While Ramar-Costigan considered turning professional and following in her mother’s footsteps, her parents insisted she had to go to college first. She went to Occidental University in Los Angeles and took her horses to ride while in school. As she saw her friends turn pro, she decided that lifestyle wasn’t for her after all.

“As a young professional, your life is very hard,” said Ramar-Costigan. “The hours are brutal, and you have to ride a lot of young, dangerous or problem horses to make a name for yourself. I decided that was ultimately not where I wanted my life to go, so I opted instead to make a career for myself that would allow me to support my horse habit.”

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Grand Prix Photography

Lindsay Ramar-Costigan balances competing horses like Mr. Harrison in grand prix classes with working as a hedge fund manager. Grand Pix Photo

After graduation, she went to business school at Pepperdine University (California) but continued riding. That’s how Ramar-Costigan found herself on the path towards hedge fund management, a field that employs very few women. Her first job out of business school was at U.S. Trust in San Francisco, and since then she’s moved up the ladder to her current position as a hedge fund manager for BNP Paribas, a global investment firm based out of Paris.

“Most of the team is based in Europe or New York,” said Ramar-Costigan, 40. “As one of the few West Coast-based employees, my day usually starts around 4 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. This gives me ample time to go to the barn after trading closes and ride without worrying about work, which is a huge work-life balance benefit.”

When asked why she decided to go into hedge fund management, the answer comes easily.

“I love the high stakes, high adrenaline world,” she said. “I’m normally down on the trading floor, and the extremely fast pace reminds me a lot of the show jumping ring. You have to be fully present, or else you can make a costly mistake, and in this case, that means literally. I love that I can go to work and just be fearless and do the job without thinking about the gender or age divide. It’s a very cut-and-dry place, the trading floor. None of that matters there.”

Ramar-Costigan brings this same laser focus to the show jumping ring, where she competes at the 1.40-meter and 1.45-meter level with her partner of seven years, Mr. Harrison. The pair won the $40,000 Oak Tree Classic Grand Prix (California) in 2021, and they topped a $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at the Sonoma Horse Park (California) in 2017 and 2019. The gelding is rehabbing from a check ligament injury, but Ramar-Costigan hopes to have one more season with him before stepping him down.

“We bought him as a 1.20-meter horse, and he has the best worth ethic of any horse I’ve ever owned,” she said of the 16-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Darco—Maureen Van’t Merelsnest, Lys De Darmen).

“He doesn’t owe me anything, but he just loves horse showing and competing so much that I want to bring him back for one more year of the big stuff,” she continued. “We’ve won about a dozen grand prix classes together at the 1.40-/1.45-meter height.”

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Her other mount is 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood Gentle Z (Gemini CL—Sunrise), a mare she recently purchased from Alan Waldman and is developing with her trainer Stephanie Simmonds at StillWater Equestrian LLC.

“She’s only about 16 hands, but she has a great track record from Europe,” said Ramar-Costigan, Los Gatos, California. “Her jump is so powerful. In fact, I did my first grand prix on her about a month ago, and she jumped me clear out of the tack! It was so embarrassing but also hilarious. The fence height was 1.30-meter and she made a solid 1.60-meter effort that I was not ready for. But we can’t wait to take that talent and see where we can go together.”

Ramar-Costigan said she loves developing horses into the next phases of their careers, but that it can also be frustrating, comparing it to a puzzle—noting that even when you feel like you have all the pieces in place, sometimes it just doesn’t work.

“You can see the videos from Europe and have their pedigree in hand and look at their track record, but you have to be ready for the partnership to just not work,” she said. “Horses are all individuals, and not every relationship is meant to be, but that does make you value the ones that do work all the more.”

But if there’s one aspect of riding she’s always loved, it’s the fact that when she’s at the barn, it’s her sole focus. Even though her job has high stakes, she leaves her cell phone in the car, and she stays present with her surroundings. That connection is what’s always driven her to keep horses in her life, and what kept her going even when things were difficult.

“I may have passed my A Pony Club [rating] on the first try, but it took me three tries to pass my D-3 test,” she said with a laugh. “I had a Paint who loved to sleep in his poop, and sure enough, the night before every test, no matter what I did, he would have a huge manure stain somewhere on a white part that I just couldn’t get out 100% before testing started. I was only 12 years old, and I’m glad I kept trying!”

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