Story By Athena Sobhan | Photos By Daniel Zuliani
Hannah Selleck’s dedication to equestrian sports fuels her career as a professional show jumping athlete and inspires her work out of the saddle.
Selleck, 32, has come to Wellington every year since 2013 to train at the highest level and compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival. As the only daughter of actors Tom Selleck and Jillie Mack, she grew up understanding that passion is one of the most important drivers in pursuing any career. She has taken that advice seriously, establishing herself as a successful show jumper and influential business owner in the equestrian community.
Blond, gorgeous and boasting an athlete’s frame, Selleck’s earliest memory of riding is at the age of four on a Shetland pony named Sheba. Although she fell off twice during her first lesson, she got back on and quickly learned to manage the pony while staying in the saddle.
“I was determined to figure out how to work with this cute little pony,” Selleck recalled during a recent interview in Wellington. “That moment taught me that persistence and perseverance are necessary to ride.”
From then on, she was hooked. Lessons continued at the Foxfield Riding School in Westlake Village, California, where Selleck also boarded her first pony, Taffy Apple.
“My family and I bonded together over riding, and some of my fondest memories are learning to ride alongside my mom,” Selleck said. “Both of my parents are incredibly supportive of my passion for horses, and they’re always there to cheer me on. They never tried to pressure me to pursue something else. To their credit, they learned about equestrian sports at the same time I did — when I started competing at 10 years old.”
Before Selleck became a decorated equestrian athlete, she had her eyes set on the rodeo. Selleck was originally transfixed by barrel racing and eager to learn the ropes and become a barrel racer herself. As fate would have it, no horses were available for Selleck to train with, so she quickly pivoted and found a similar thrill in show jumping.
“For me, it has been about the speed and that adrenaline surge when I complete a jump off with my horse,” she said. “In the ring, I’ve always been known as a fast rider, and I think part of that stems from my early fascination with the rodeo.”
Over her career, Selleck has earned a number of top accolades in international show jumping competitions. One of her biggest achievements came in the summer of 2011, when she earned second place at the Spruce Meadows North American tournament, one of her top finishes to date at the five-star level.
“Over the course of my career, I’ve grown more cautious of unnecessary risks, especially as I’ve sustained injuries,” she said. “You quickly realize that you only have one body, take care of it and ride smart, as there is very little margin for error at the top of the sport.”
In 2018, Selleck broke both her fibula and tibula when her stirrup didn’t release properly in a fall. The injury sidelined her from competition for seven months, but Selleck was back successfully competing in early 2019.
During last year’s lockdowns, she took the extra downtime to focus on training physically for the upcoming season, but she also turned to mindfulness training as a way to enhance her performance during competitions.
“Recovering from a serious injury can be physically and mentally taxing,” Selleck said. “I’ve worked closely with a sports psychologist to practice visualization techniques that have helped me get back into the competition mindset.”
She also had additional support. “I was lucky to have my partner Barla, a horse I’ve competed on for seven years, to help my comeback in 2019,” Selleck said. “The trust that we built together over the years was a motivating factor to enter the competition ring again.”
While she prepares for competitions, Selleck is also diving into her education and working toward her MBA at Pepperdine University, aiming to open doors for her career outside the ring. Alongside her athletic career, Selleck founded Descanso Farm in 2010 as a boutique breeding operation, but recently transitioned to a boutique sales business.
“Most jumping horses are bred in Europe, and I recognized an opportunity to import those horses into the U.S. to compete,” she explained. “Working with so many equine partners over the years has given me the experience and knowledge I can apply toward a training and sales operation.”
Selleck also serves as an ambassador for Brooke USA, the nonprofit organization focused on promoting the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules.
“Show jumping is a tight-knit community, and I work closely with Brooke USA because they promote equine and humanitarian welfare, which are issues close to my heart,” she said. “I hope to also one day start my own nonprofit organization to continue giving back to the community and beyond.”
For Selleck, every decision she has made throughout her career stems back to her love of horses.
“My goal right now is to enjoy each moment with my horses as I work my way back to the top level of the sport,” Selleck concluded. “It’s a blessing anytime I get to compete. It’s important to be present in the moment that you’re in because we are so, so lucky to work with these animals every single day.”
Visit www.descansofarm.com to learn more about Hannah Selleck and Descanso Farm.