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A lifetime in showjumping: The Dello Joio family legacy

Monday, 25 May 2020

Photos © Dello Joio-family's private collection Norman Dello Joio, or “Stormin’ Norman” as some may refer to him jokingly, has a seemingly endless list of accomplishments and achievements in the sport. Photos © Dello Joio-family's private collection.


Text by Callie Clement / © Four Oaks Creative



There are many things in the sport of showjumping that can be cataloged to give you that coveted competitive edge – using a specific pair of boots, getting the right spot in the order of go, or getting the perfect final school fence. However, one factor that some may argue gives you the most competitive advantage above all else, is the backing of family. 

The Dello Joio family is one example of a family that not only has a long history in the sport, but a long history at the top of the sport. Norman Dello Joio, or “Stormin’ Norman” as some may refer to him jokingly, has a seemingly endless list of accomplishments and achievements in the sport. From his 1992 Olympic individual bronze medal in Barcelona to his 2018 induction into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, Norman has dedicated his life to the sport and won just about every major grand prix along the way.

However, on that path to legendary status, Norman is keen to note the undeniable support, involvement and influence of his family: his wife of 35 years, Jeanie, his son, showjumper Nicholas, and his daughter, Daniela, who has a spearheading career in fashion in addition to helping the family business, Wembley Farm. 

“Working alongside my family is an advantage. I tend to naturally look at things from my own experience as well as from an artistic perspective and am naturally somewhat idealistic. Jeanie looks at issues and problems in a very black and white way with often very simple solutions. Nick is somewhere in the middle but is great about informing us of things that are current and new in the sport and how it constantly evolves. Daniela works in fashion and reminds us of the structure and manner in which ideas and goals are communicated. Although all of that sounds complicated, it works well and we always come up with a path forward we all can agree on,” Norman commented thoughtfully. 

Photo © Callie Clement for Four Oaks Creative “I am very lucky to have both parents who are educated in the sport and able to learn from them," Nick says. Photo © Callie Clement for Four Oaks Creative.

Thirty-year-old Nick has spent his life in the sport alongside his family and while some who are born into the sport often consider a different path from their family, Nick experienced the opportunity to try other things, but always knew he wanted to pursue the family business. 

“I have never felt the pressure of family success. I actually like it. Growing up it was always what I remember my dad doing, but both my parents made sure that I had a ‘normal’ childhood. I played all my school sports and was rarely ever at the horse show or barn. Weekends would be mostly spent with friends at the beach or playing sports. It wasn’t until my later teens that I really started to get more interested in the sport and since then I have not looked back,” said Nick.

Like his father, Nick grew quickly through the ranks in the sport, winning his first grand prix at age 20 at the Atlanta Fall Classic, followed by a repeat grand prix victory just a week later. Nick has spent recent years not only advancing his career as a showjumping athlete, but also helping to train and grow Wembley as a business. 

These days, Norman, Nick, and Wembley Farm's barn manager, Mariano Posada, focus on training students at all levels - from the grand prix ring to the amateur divisions.

“Dad’s focus being only on training these days opens up an enormous opportunity for those people who truly want to get the most out of a decorated rider who has been there and done it himself,” commented Nick. “I am very lucky to have both parents who are educated in the sport and able to learn from them.”

Training with a long respected and successful athlete such as Norman comes with benefits, as he naturally channels his past successes to his training methods. The now 63 year-old reflects on his career and what now influences how he trains, noting that he has experienced each end of the spectrum.

“Each success I had as a rider holds different meanings for me. Being a favorite and riding a great horse like I Love You was a challenge in that I expected top results from myself. That success was measured by my learning to cope with pressure. Being an underdog at the Barcelona Olympics was a different feeling in that I felt I could prove something and win a medal,” said Norman. 

Photo © Callie Clement for Four Oaks Creative Nick has spent recent years not only advancing his career as a showjumping athlete, but also helping to train and grow Wembley Farm as a business. Photo © Callie Clement for Four Oaks Creative.

While Norman is no longer competing, he can still be found riding every day at home, noting how important visuals are these days, both in having his students watch him ride and having the ability to show on video certain training aids and results. With training at Wembley as his main focus these days, no victory is too small.

“I don’t really have a proudest moment as a trainer because each person, horse or team that I help makes a change – those changes hopefully have a direct correlation to success, consistency, riding well or winning more. For example, getting an amateur to win a grand prix is just as valuable as moving a junior into professional levels. Getting the Mexican or American team to come together and train and win a Nations Cup is a higher profile than producing a horse at home and connecting the dots from flatwork to jumping to competing. But to me it’s all fun, interesting and motivating,” commented Norman. 

In addition to teaching the various students at Wembley, Norman and his wife Jeanie have played a large part in shaping Nick’s career, something that he was quick to note on.

“From my dad I’ve learned so much about being patient and waiting for the horse to come to you, the importance of flatwork, and making sure when using your aids that all are done with equal amounts of pressure. My mom has an amazing ability to help coach the mental side of riding. She has a way to simplify riding, where so many people can make it very complicated,” Nick said.  

In a sport that praises tradition, while continually pushing new technologies, the Dello Joio family have proven their unique ability to fully grasp both concepts. With Norman’s long history in the sport and Nick’s ability to look at the sport from fresh eyes, they continue to adapt with the ever developing sport of showjumping, while always holding on to its simplistic and traditional ideals.

“The sport will keep changing and evolving so we must keep an eye on that, but always most importantly it's all about the horse,” concluded Norman. 


No reproduction without permission, copyright © Four Oaks Creative


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