Five days before The Dressage Foundation even announced she was this year’s Jane Savoie Fund for Adult Amateurs recipient, Kristi Bloom made progress on one of her goals for the grant: her United States Dressage Federation silver medal.
Bloom made her Prix St. Georges debut aboard her own Jjaguar B on June 2 at Mayflower III, held at Otter Creek Farm (Wisconsin). Much to her surprise, they earned her penultimate score (61.32%) toward her USDF silver medal.
“We’ve had a lot of health issues in our household this past year, so I haven’t been in the saddle for very long,” she said. “For the past year, I haven’t really been in riding shape where I could get on and actually deliver something. And I’m kind of old, so it takes a long time to get into riding shape.”
As a three-time breast cancer survivor, Bloom, 67, is no stranger to overcoming adversity. Nevertheless, Bloom had to contend with more than her fair share of medical challenges over the last year that kept her out of the saddle: falling and breaking her hand, hurting her back and catching COVID.
At the same time, Bloom’s husband Friedrich Rohlfing (whom she met on Match.com in 2010) was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last summer. It required a bone marrow transplant and a month-long stay in a cancer residence at the University of Minnesota. Coincidentally, multiple myeloma is the same diagnosis that ultimately led to Jane Savoie’s death.
“When I first saw this grant, and I saw who it was named for and who it was targeting, I thought, ‘That defines me,’ ” Bloom said.
Though she only learned of the grant 10 days before its due date, she credited the punctuality of her application to the lightning speed at which her coach, Heather Salden-Kurtz, and two members of Central State’s Dressage and Eventing Association wrote their letters of recommendation in favor of her candidacy.
Applicants must also own or lease a horse training at the fourth or Prix St. Georges level to be eligible for the grant; Bloom’s 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Spielberg—Apres Zelma, Uphill) fit the bill perfectly.
“He has just a super character, and he’s a perfect horse for an older rider,” Bloom said. “Very attentive, very affectionate, easy to be around, easy to handle and manage. He’s a very agreeable horse and tries very hard all the time.”
“Jaguar” had big shoes to fill following Bloom’s first partner General BC, a Hanoverian gelding with whom Bloom made her first foray into competitive dressage when she was 60. With that horse, she reached the Intermediaire I in 2017 and earned her USDF gold medal. Like her husband, Bloom found her horse online too.
“I put the parameters into the computer—I thought I was looking for a 6- or 7-year-old, but small—and this 3-year-old popped up,” she said. “I looked at that picture of him, and I had this premonition. I’m not superstitious, I don’t believe in premonitions, but my first dressage horse suddenly was breathing down my neck saying, ‘Buy him; he’s just like me.’ ”
Bloom intends to use the $4,600 TDF grant toward training with Salden-Kurtz and Kansas-based Emily Miles. Though she has competitive goals, Bloom hopes the TDF grant’s impact will transcend scores and rankings.
“My real goal is to become the best rider I can be,” she said. “I am so committed and so serious about it. Like most dressage riders, it’s an all-consuming passion for me, and the fact that I am as old as I am, with health issues, motivates me all the more.”
Thanks to her passion, Bloom was able to balance work, motherhood and horses during the height of her professional career as a middle school teacher in the Edina, Minnesota, public school system. Though she no longer spends her days at school, in her retirement Bloom has found that other challenges accompany the serious pursuit of dressage.
“My trainer tells me I need to be quicker, faster. ‘Quicker’ and ‘faster’ are not words that come with age,” Bloom said. “It’s getting harder as I get older. But I’m trying.”
In an effort to maintain her fitness, Bloom can be found working out for at least half an hour every day, and she is enrolled in Survival2Strength, a nonprofit organization that provides personal fitness training for cancer patients and cancer survivors.
Access to quality training is also an issue. From her home in Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota, Bloom frequently drives 75 miles to where she boards Jaguar and trains at Salden-Kurtz’s farm in Watertown, Minnesota.
“I drive a ridiculous length to get to the barn,” Bloom said. “But I love working with [Salden-Kurtz], and the fact that I’ve been able to advance and able to experience continued success motivates me.”
Though she is close to finishing her USDF medals, Bloom has big plans for her partnership with Jaguar.
“Sure, I’ll have my scores but I have a lot to work on,” said Bloom. “I’m very committed to improving and then moving on. I hope someday to ride the I-1 and Grand Prix on Jaguar.”