Text by Heather Buchanan
While Nick Dello Joio grew up around horses, he didn’t hop in the saddle until he was in high school. Nick’s father Norman Dello Joio won just about every famous grand prix and is an Olympic medalist and his mother Jeanie is also a trainer. They stressed the importance of a well-rounded life and Nick was more likely to be in the hockey rink or on the soccer field than at the barn. Now competing at the top of the sport as a grand prix rider, he also knows how to spear a fish and cook it for dinner. He splits his time between Ridgefield, CT, Wellington, FL and a family home in Islamorada.
Once Dello Joio tapped into his equestrian roots he quickly rose the ranks, honored in 2010 as the recipient of the USET’s Maxine Beard Show Jumping Developing Rider Award. He competes now at the Grand Prix level with wins in shows around the world.
All in the Family
“It’s been great having Dad to train with and Mom to keep things simple and keep my head on straight,” says Nick. “They were so successful on their own so they had the right formula for me. I’m surrounded by it every day and it has given me a huge leg up.”
While the importance of being a skilled and disciplined rider has remained the same over time, the importance of the horse has grown. Long gone are the days when the $80 rescue horse Snowman could become a champion for Harry de Leyer (Harry & Snowman the movie just opened in theaters). “In today’s day and age you can only be as good as your horse’s potential,” comments Dello Joio, “In the past if the horse wasn’t Hickstead they could still train it and get out there and be successful because they’re good riders. You need a very special horse now but you also need someone physically and mentally to pull the job off. It’s harder because the horses are getting fewer and father between, and if you find one the prices are astronomical. Good riders however will always succeed.”
Getting attached to a great horse isn’t always possible for Nick as the Dello Joio business model focuses on taking younger horses up through the ranks to be sold. A business major at college, Nick brings his marketing skills and interest in the international marketplace. They’ve had a string of successful sales including Nick’s former mount Carlos VHP Z sold to Double H Farms who McLain Ward now rides to numerous wins. “My career has been about getting to a certain level of success with the horse, then I’ve had to sell,’ Nick explains, “I haven’t had that long term partnership.” In the commitment department however he has his eye on a special 9 year-old mare, Corlida. “I’d like to hang onto her,” says Nick, “In next couple years I think she’ll do special things.”
Developing the Next Generation of Champion Horses and Riders
In finding these new prospects Nick has feelers out all the time with contacts throughout Europe, “With a show every weekend you blink an eye and the horse is gone,” he reports, “There’s no magical barn full of superstars – it’s about being in the right place in the right time and having people scouting for you.”
For Nick it’s not only about training the young horses but the young riders. Working with various students in both equitation and jumpers, he custom tailors his approach. “I like to work one on one with a personal relationship,” he explains. “It’s important to know your student well to help them. Give them time to develop their style and ability. You want to instill confidence in them and help them feel relaxed. It could be about cracking a joke just before they go in the ring or sharing a personal experience.”
Sources of Support
Nick also stresses the importance of sponsorship at this level of the sport and talks about being a partner rider for Hermès. He had the chance to personally help develop the Hermès Cavale jumping saddle, “The saddles are light, thought for the wellbeing of the horse,” he comments, “I had the chance to go to Paris for a visit of the saddles’ Ateliers at the 24 Faubourg St. Honoré. I was amazed by the attention paid to detail, this perfection requirement and quest for performance through technical and sport-friendly products. It’s an honor for me to be part of this family.”
His own family’s sense of tradition mirrors that of the maison, even recounting a story of finding a treasured Hermès jacket in his father’s closet which had come from the Hermès family. He comments, “The blazer reminds you that you want a relationship that’s going to last. Hermès is a great brand to be associated with. You go to a horse show and you see another company with 50 riders on the banner and it’s more about quantity. With Hermès it’s more of a select few but with a lot to offer.” Interacting with fellow partner riders Daniel Bluman, Lillie Keenan and Ben Asselin has also been a real bonus for Dello Joio.
And at the end of the day, it is often inside that a rider must look for support. When asked what advice he would give himself Nick replies, “Stay the course. Stay focused on what you are trying to accomplish. Especially with the younger generation it’s easy to be distracted so keep your eye on what’s important.”