When Jaime Krupnick climbed back in the saddle for her first lesson in 20 years, she felt like she was starting from scratch.
She went out at the top of her game. She’d ridden in the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals, won a USEF Show Jumping Talent Search gold medal for winning 20 classes, and harbored serious dreams of riding in the Olympics. She spent a year competing in grand prix classes before hanging up her helmet to focus on college and building her career.
But all that seemed irrelevant when she mounted up again three years ago.
“I felt like Bambi on ice!” Krupnick joked. “The first couple times I rode I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so hard!’ You take it for granted when you do it every day because you don’t realize all the muscles you’re using and all the things you’re doing. It was definitely humbling!”
For a long time Krupnick, 41, didn’t think she’d start riding again. Immediately after attending the University of San Diego, where she studied event production, she hired on with Sony Pictures Studio as an event coordinator. It was a busy, demanding job that took her back and forth between Sony’s New York and Los Angeles offices, but she thrived, working her way up to coordinating Sony’s television-related launch parties and events.
In 2008, she married another Sony employee, Jason Geffen, and two years later she left the company to start her own event production group YourBASH with another coordinator, Brian Worley. With the loyalty of contacts from their previous work, Krupnick and Worley got off to a roaring start, producing launch parties for shows like “American Idol” and even organizing Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s visit to a charity polo match in Santa Barbara, California, in 2011.
“That’s one of those pinnacle moments that brought everything together for me,” Krupnick remembered. “Event production with horses involved, the opportunity to work with royalty, all the media and security measures. It was a huge event, and getting to produce it really helped jump-start my career.”
Seeing the polo ponies that day was about as close as Krupnick could get to meaningful time with horses, especially after she having a son, Cole Geffen, in 2009.
“I lived in the city; I worked in a studio, and my life was very work heavy,” Krupnick explained. “In my industry, I have a lot of jobs, and combined, it really is a 24/7 career. I didn’t really have any extra time beyond spending time with my husband and son. It was difficult enough just to balance that. I never had time to think about coming back [to riding].”
Things changed as Cole got older. Krupnick wanted more time with her family, who still lived in Westlake Village, and she wanted Cole to go to kindergarten out of the city in the neighborhood where she grew up. They arranged the move, and shortly thereafter Krupnick’s partner left their business, leaving her to start her own event planning company, Geffen Events, in 2017.
But she had more than a new business to keep her busy. No sooner had she returned to Westlake Village than she found herself back in the aisle of her childhood barn Foxfield Riding School.
“I’m a third generation rider and third generation Foxfielder,” Krupnick said. “My grandma Nedra grew up riding with Nancy [Turrill] and JoAnn [Postel], at the Onondarka Riding Club, and when they started Foxfield 50-some years ago, she went with them. My mom grew up there and was still riding there with me in the womb, and growing up I was just always at the barn with her.
“I took my first lesson with Nancy when I was 3,” she continued. “It was something my mom and I did together for as long as I can remember.”
Krupnick’s mother, Claudia Krupnick, took over Jaime’s rides when she left for college in 1998 and stayed close with the founders there. When Jaime moved back to the area in 2015, Nancy immediately got her back in the tack.
“Things really came full circle,” Jaime said with a laugh. “Nancy put me on a horse named Rembrandt, a total babysitter, and he helped me get back into it. The horses were really what I’d missed most—the relationship you have with them. So having Rembrandt to take care of me those first few months, that really got me back into it.”
After a few wobbly lessons, Jaime shook off the cobwebs and found herself progressing quickly.
“It really is like riding a bike,” Jaime explained. “I was definitely not at the top of my game, but it didn’t take as long as I thought it would to get that confidence back. After the first six months I decided I’d try out a horse show or two, and immediately I got that competitive spirit.”
Jaime describes herself as a “Foxfielder for life” and plans to always keep her horses there, but once she started competing, she sought out the guidance of Archie Cox and his assistant Karli Postel at horse shows.
“I’m so fortunate that I have the opportunity to really train with the best of the best,” Jaime said. “The whole program is fantastic. The care they take of the horses, of the riders, even the way they walk all the courses together—not just the jumps and the line—but how to ride each turn and how to create the whole picture. That’s been incredibly helpful for me. [Archie] has given me the ability to do so much more than I could ever have imagined.”
In her first year back in the arena in 2015, Jaime was competitive in the adult amateur equitation division. Soon, she had “outgrown” Rembrandt and started riding horses from the herd kept by Georgy Maskrey-Segesman, with whom she’d competed as a young rider. Maskrey-Segesman imports hunters and jumpers for sale and lease, so Jaime never kept the same ride for long.
In June 2016 she saddled up a horse she’d never even sat on, a big bay Holsteiner with bold markings called Conux, and they finished fourth in the North American Amateur Equitation Championships (Maryland).
“From the very first time I rode him I fell in love with him,” Jaime admitted. “He’s actually a very difficult horse to ride. He has a tough personality because he doesn’t like to be bothered; he just likes to do his job. I happen to understand that and actually have a very similar personality, which I think he understands about me. So we mesh really well.”
After finals, Jaime rode Conux whenever she could, and last fall she began the process of purchasing him, which she hopes to complete by the summer.
“I call him my spirit animal,” Jaime joked. “At home, he’s like a big pet. I go to the barn two or three times a day. I ride him. I groom him. He’d live in my backyard if I had that opportunity! But he goes to the show, and he puts on his game face.”
Last year Jaime won the 2018 CPHA Foundation Equitation Finals Championship for 22 & over, making her the first rider to win the award after claiming the title as a junior.
But Jaime isn’t just picking up where she left off before. Last year she found a new passion: hunter derbies.
“Hunter derbies weren’t really around when I was a junior; we had hunter classics, but they weren’t the same,” she said. “I think they’re really fun and different. It’s nice to have the first round as a nice, flowing hunter round, then the second handy round which is more of a combination between hunters and equitation. I love that, because it gives us an opportunity to show off our handy turns and trot jumps. We always get our best scores in the handy.”
Jamie and Conux won their first national hunter derby at the Del Mar National Horse Show (California) in May, and Jaime hopes to debut at their first international hunter derby this summer.
Her mother helps with Cole, who at 9 years old has outgrown any interest in riding and has his own busy schedule filled with baseball and golf. And as the sole owner/operator of Geffen Events, Jaime has plenty on her plate too.
“I run a tricky schedule for sure,” Jaime said. “I’m a mom, a business owner and a rider. But I find that horseback riding makes me better at all those things. It’s my release, my me-time, and having that ability to either go early in the morning or late in the afternoon/evening and ride and take care of Conux, I feel like it balances me out and keeps me running.”
Riding has also encouraged Jaime to find balance in other ways. Last year, she committed to a fitness program designed by friend and fellow rider Teddi Mellencamp and shed 50 pounds in just 14 weeks.
“It was 100 percent life-changing,” Jaime said. “Looking back, I was so tired! I somehow managed to cram everything into each day, but I didn’t feel myself. [The program] wasn’t easy. I wasn’t used to working out at all, and all of a sudden I was expected to work out an hour a day and keep this really strict diet. I was like, ‘How am I supposed to fit all this in?!’ But I did. And I’ve stuck with the program and been able to maintain it, so that it’s just a part of my life now.”
Jaime’s life today doesn’t look much different than it might have if she’d never stopped riding, but she’s glad she took a break. It’s provided perspective, to always remember at the end of the day that riding is about having fun.
“Most of the people I’m riding around and against, they’re all in the same boat,” Jaime said. “They rode a lot as kids; they’ve taken a break, and they’ve come back. I think that’s the biggest difference between the amateur world and the junior. Yes, there’s pressure, and yes, there’s competition, but I also think everyone’s really supporting each other. We cheer each other on, and it’s just really, really fun. I don’t know that if I had stayed in all those years in between I’d have the same affinity for it now. Because I took a break, now I can’t get enough.
“And my mom, God bless her,” Jaime concluded with a laugh. “She’s back to being a horse show mom, probably for good!”