With six horses currently competing at the Grand Prix level in show jumping, Daniel Bluman has slowly and steadily worked his way to the top through great horsemanship and care.
Already in 2018, Bluman, 28, accomplished two huge CSI Grand Prix triumphs and one national Grand Prix in Wellington on three different horses all within two weeks.
In February, Bluman first captured the $205,000 NetJets CSI4* Grand Prix aboard his Olympic partner Sancha LS, and a week later, he won the $384,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix riding Landriano Z, owned by Over the Top Stables LLC. That same week, he also topped a national show.
The two-time Olympian for his native Colombia holds dual citizenship with Israel and recently switched flags in his efforts to qualify an Israeli show jumping team for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But first, he hopes to represent Israel aboard Landriano Z at the FEI World Equestrian Games this September in Tryon, N.C.
Thrilled to be standing at the top of the winner’s podium, Bluman’s hard work and dedication are paying off this winter. “When I’ve won a Grand Prix, there’s always a cool story behind getting there. My first Grand Prix was followed by two more weeks of wins,” he said. “I can tell you that this is the first time in my life that has happened.”
Born in Medellin, Colombia, Bluman showed a passion for horses early on. His parents were not riders, although his cousins, Ilan and Marky Bluman, introduced him to riding and fueled his passion for the sport. His family later moved to South Florida, within an hour’s drive of Wellington.
“I started working with horses at a young age because my older cousins were riding and showing,” he recalled. “I realized I was good at it, and competitive. Because of that, it pushed me to continue to do it.”
Bluman’s grandfather was a Holocaust survivor who moved to Colombia after the war. His father became an entrepreneur and his mother, a psychologist and social worker. His parents set high standards for Daniel and his brother Steven. As a young man, Bluman was mentored by them, and many others along the way. “I have been fortunate to have met a lot of great people who helped my career,” he said.
He rode with some of the sport’s greats, such as Canadian Eric Lamaze and later Brazilian Nelson Pessoa, whom he trained with in Belgium. The opportunity gave him a chance to compete at some of the world’s most prestigious competitions. He competed at his first Olympics at the age of 22, representing Colombia in London in 2012, and then again at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“When I was 20, I met Eric Lamaze, and that was a turning point in my career,” Bluman recalled. “Sancha and Eric Lamaze came at the same time.”
The two riders, one up-and-coming, one an established champion, hit it off.
“He offered to guide me and took my career to a whole different level,” Bluman said of Lamaze. “Then Nelson Pessoa closed the circle. He taught me everything that anyone can know about horses, and I share a passion for the horse and its care. That is something that really changed me. Nelson and I come from similar realities. He came from a family that didn’t come from horses. He is in love with horses, every aspect of them.”
In 2015, Daniel and Ilan Bluman created Bluman Equestrian, with farms in Brewster, N.Y., and Wellington, in collaboration with the owners of Over the Top Stables.
Working with his wife Ariel and cousin Ilan, Bluman hopes to compete in Tokyo on what would be Israel’s first Olympic show jumping team with Mexican Alberto Michán, who has also changed his nationality to Israeli, and Wellington-based Israeli Danielle Goldstein.
One of the great things Bluman has emulated is excellent horse care, building a great relationship with each horse and not over jumping his horses.
“Every horse that we have here has its own personality, its own way and its own program,” Bluman said during a tour of his barn. “I am a believer in giving each horse the time to develop a good relationship with the rider and to give the rider enough time to develop a relationship with the horse, and the same with the team. Once all of those things happen, and the puzzle comes together, then the results start happening.”
Bluman is careful picking when competition opportunities during Wellington’s 12-week winter series. “I try to keep the horses I have going here in Wellington fresh,” he said. “There are a lot of competitions. You have to be careful to not over-jump your horses. You don’t want your horse tired at the end of the season.”
He is thrilled by his current successes and the chance to train so many horses to the top level in one season.
“I think we have a group of horses at the moment that we have been working hard to improve,” Bluman said. “I have been trying to learn as much as I can in order to get better every day for many years already. Things are falling into place. When that happens, you have great moments because of the timing.”
But don’t expect Bluman to be out partying after a big win.
“My celebration when winning the Grand Prix has been to come to the barn the next day and work with my horses,” he said. “That is what I do. I do it because I love it.”
Changing his nationality with the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) to ride permanently for Israel was not an easy decision.
“I am very proud to be Colombian, and I am proud to be Jewish and from an Israeli family,” Bluman said. “I just felt it was the right time. I grew up most of my life in Florida and Colombia in a Jewish family. I have also lived in Belgium. I’ve lived in many places. My culture, and the way I do things, are due to that Israeli sentiment from my family. It is something I carry very dear to my heart.”
After riding for Columbia in Rio, he felt it was time for a new chapter. “I got married to a woman who represents Israel. It’s time. It’s the right decision, and only amazing things have happened since,” he said.
With all the success, Bluman keeps a tight ship.
“I use the Wellington season in a different way now. I keep my young horses in Europe. I have a program there running year-round with a very good friend of mine, almost like family. His name is Camilo Robayo. We grew up together in Colombia, and we’ve been together a very long time,” he explained. “I only bring the A team to Wellington to prepare for the big competitions.”
Once WEF ends, Bluman will be off to Europe to prepare for the World Equestrian Games.
“I am a big believer that in order to be at the top of your game, you have to compete in Europe,” he said. “I will be in Europe in May, and then I will go to Calgary because I love Calgary to prepare my horses for the championships there. Then I’ll make my way back to Europe for July and August. That should be the proper preparation for WEG in September.”
The FEI requires that the top teams qualify from this year’s WEG for the 2020 Olympics.
“Every athlete in the sport looks forward to WEG and the Olympics,” Bluman said. “I have a good group of horses, and I will try to be as prepared as I can. This year we have Landriano Z aimed for WEG. I think he’s as good a horse as you can have for a championship like this one. We aim to qualify a team for 2020. Team is what we are aiming for, and we are hoping we are going to get there.”
It’s the horses and the daily interaction with them that drive Bluman.
“It means everything. It’s the only thing that is important,” he explained. “My philosophy and strategy is only added over that interaction and relationship I have with each horse. I absolutely love my horses, and I love what we do.”
To keep up with show jumper Daniel Bluman, visit www.blumanequestrian.com.