With a Smile on Her Face, Adult Amateur Dressage Rider Charlotte Jorst Sets Her Sights High
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Charlotte Jorst doesn’t mess around. After making debuting her new Grand Prix horse, Nintendo, at the Mid-Winter Dressage CDI and open show in Burbank, California, she and the 10-year-old Dutch stallion (Negro x Rodieni R/Monaco) packed up and headed for Rancho Santa Fe, where they and Jorst’s other horses will spend three months training with Olympic medalist Guenter Seidel. Until now, the Danish-born adult amateur has been comfortable working primarily on her own at her barn in Reno, Nevada. But it was time to change things up. “I need the consistency. I love it there,” she says of working with Seidel. “I just love it! He is so nice.” When she and her husband, Henrik, sold Skagen Denmark, the watch brand they’d built from scratch, to the global giant Fossil, Inc., for more than $200 million, Jorst got down to business writing a formidable to-do list: represent the United States at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, the 2015 FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“When we sold the company, I said, ‘Okay, I’m really going to see if I can make it to the Olympics.’ If you don’t say it out loud, then it’ll never happen!”
“I’m almost 50,” she adds with a laugh. “I don’t have the luxury of time. It’s now or never.”
Spend a few minutes talking to Jorst, and pretty quickly you rethink your definition of “busy.” But 2013 was a standout, even for her. Among the highlights: making a splash with her horses in Europe and the U.S. and launching the first phase of her Kastel Denmark line of active wear.
She’s come a long way since she first arrived in the U.S., when the only job she could get was donning a green sash and making appearances for the Danish beer company as “Miss Carlsberg.” “I’d walk into bars, and people would yell, ‘Miss Carlsberg!’” she remembers. “I’ve never gotten so much attention!”
It was while modeling that she and Henrik simultaneously pounded the pavement marketing corporate-branded watches for a small Danish firm. But the couple had bigger plans. Putting Charlotte’s MBA to work, the Jorsts came up with their own line of affordable, modern timepieces, which they named for a small fishing village on Denmark’s north coast.
Though she only began seriously riding dressage 13 years ago, Jorst has become one of the leading adult amateurs in the U.S. Last August she and her Westfalen stallion, Vitalis (Vivaldi x Tolivia/Donnerschwee), represented the U.S. at the FEI World Breeding Championships for Dressage Young Horses in Verden, Germany, finishing 13th. Returning home, the pair captured the 6-year-old title at the Markel/USEF Young & Developing Dressage National Championships in Illinois, where she and her 8-year-old Dutch gelding Adventure also took the reserve spot in the Developing Prix St. Georges Championship. And with her KWPN gelding Tristan, she won the Region 7 Great American/USDF Adult Amateur Grand Prix championship.
Jorst capped her season by traveling alone to Andreas Helgstrand’s stable in Denmark to do a little horse shopping. There she found Nintendo, who made his international debut at Grand Prix last spring.
“Other people might have tried more horses,” she muses. “But I have a lot of time constraints—I don’t have two or three weeks to try a horse. Rio is two years away, and those two years are going to go by really fast!”
She says she wasn’t searching for the “perfect” dressage partner. “I’d rather find a horse that’s strong where I’m weak, and then make it work. I don’t have a lot of experience at the Grand Prix and the pirouette work and the piaffe-passage, and those are all Nintendo’s strong points. Where I’m really strong is the looseness, the fun, the extensions—I can make any horse relax because I’m so relaxed in the arena.”
Even when she forgets her test, which she did momentarily in Verden, she simply smiles and carries on. “I always ride the wrong course at some point, but I forgive myself,” she says.
“A lot of people at shows look like they’re suffering. Why do it if it isn’t fun? That’s really important. Enjoy your horse and do your best every time.”
Jorst’s schedule is testament to her ability to multi-task. Most mornings, she’s up by 7 to devote a couple of hours to her duties for Fossil. She rides from 9 until 1 or so; then it’s back to the office—this time to focus on her clothing line. “I work until 6 or 7, and then I go home and make dinner. Then I go to bed and start all over again the next day. I’m really busy, but I love busy. Otherwise, why on earth would I put myself up to something like that?”
Daughters Christine, 23, and Camilla, 19, grew up riding and showing hunter-jumpers, and Camilla has been a member of the NYU equestrian team. “I’m so happy that my daughters have found joy in the horses—and not just for the sake of competing,” says Jorst.
Though Henrik Jorst isn’t especially interested in horses, he’s content to cheer from the sidelines. “He thinks they’re all brown and look alike,” laughs Charlotte. “But he definitely understands ambition and drive.”
As she launches her training regimen with Seidel, Jorst admits that setting her sights on the Olympics is ambitious. “It’s everybody’s dream. And once you’ve said it, you’ve set yourself up to fail. But that’s okay. If you don’t put yourself out there, it’ll never happen. But if you do, it just might.”
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