Equestrian Giavanna Rinaldi

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A champion equestrian who has been riding pretty much her entire life, Giavanna Rinaldi has achieved success by getting to know her horses on the ground as well as in the saddle.

From her first pony ride as a toddler, equestrian show jumper Giavanna Rinaldi always knew there was nowhere else she’d rather be than on a horse.

Born and raised in Wayne, Illinois, Rinaldi’s passion ignited when she became enchanted by pony rides at a nearby stable. “I thought I was on top of the world sitting on the ponies, walking around in circles,” the 24-year-old recalls. “I couldn’t get enough of it.”

Since age 4, the minimum age for lessons, she has been on a determined path that has led her to represent the United States in numerous Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Nations Cup competitions as well as win a 5-star Grand Prix.

“This was the only thing I wanted to do,” she says of show jumping. “All day, every day.”

After getting her own pony, at age 14 she transferred to an area stable renowned for producing talented riders and horses. Eventually, she decided to leave traditional high school for online schooling to dedicate more time to training.

A major turning point came at age 18, when Rinaldi packed her bags and moved to Germany to work with Helena Stormanns, a former show jumper who has become a top coach and breeder. “The system is so different out there,” Rinaldi explains. “I knew to become a better rider, I needed to go and learn new ways.”

Rinaldi gained invaluable experience showing world-class horses and developing young horses. She also racked up successes at shows including the Longines Global Champions Tour Monaco, Paris and Rome. She was on the U.S. young rider jumping team that took gold in the FEI Jumping Nations Cup Youth Final CSIOY in 2019 in Belgium. Her team also won the Grand Prix at that event.

After four years in Europe, Rinaldi came back to the United States in 2021 and quickly moved up the ranks in the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, placing in numerous 3-star and 4-star classes on owners’ horses.

She earned her first start with Team USA’s senior team in March 2022 at the FEI Jumping Nations Cup Mexico CSIO5, and in July 2022, she won the Pan American Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows. That was her first time competing in a 5-star grand prix and the accomplishment she’s most proud of.

She rode Cosmona, a horse not many believed in, she explains. “I worked every day to get myself and the horse to that point. I had to believe in the system that I had put together. It was so rewarding to feel that all my hard work was worth it.”

Each horse is different, and it’s important to get to know them on the ground as much as during rides, she says.

“Once you can figure out those personalities and what they like and don’t like, it can turn into something really special,” she says.

“Horses also have so many emotions,” she adds. “They get nervous when you’re nervous. They get excited when you’re excited. When you have a really good round, you can tell the horse knows it, as well. I think that’s what makes this sport so much different than others.”

Last winter, Rinaldi faced uncertainty about her future as she pondered her next move. She finally chose to return to Europe, a difficult decision given the reputation she had built in the United States, she says. She’s now working for the prestigious Ashford Farm in Belgium and has “loved every minute of it.”

As for her goals, Rinaldi hopes to one day represent her country on all the big stages. “I want to go to all the big finals — World Cup finals, World Equestrian Games, Pan American Games, the Olympics — and compete in all of the most prestigious classes there are.”

The above appears in the December 2023 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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