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Megan McDermott’s roundabout road to the top: How film, horse sense and Bluman Equestrian have created one to watch

Tuesday, 01 September 2020
Interview

Photo © Giana Terranova Photography Though she may not have followed a traditional path towards the top of the sport thus far, Megan McDermott has propelled up the ranks in swift fashion and is now striving to be one of the sport’s next up-and-comers. Photo © Giana Terranova Photography.

 

Written by Elaine Wessel, © Phelps Media Group 

 


 

Thanks to a fruitful intersection of film and equestrian sports, her two great passions, 24-year-old Megan McDermott is well on her way to becoming one of the next rising stars in show jumping. An avid equestrian for most of her life, McDermott has positioned horses as one of her paramount priorities since childhood, but sought career opportunities elsewhere in the film industry, where she founded and continues to operate a thriving business. For a number of years, McDermott balanced her two roles as a businesswoman and horsewoman, but her new partnership with Daniel Bluman and Bluman Equestrian has proven to be the exact push she needed to swing the pendulum in the equestrian direction. Though she may not have followed a traditional path towards the top of the sport thus far, and up until recent years had not predicted a professional status in her future, McDermott has propelled up the ranks in swift fashion and is now striving to be one of the sport’s next up-and-comers. 

“Horses were always my number one love, but as a kid I recognized that people who are not very well-rounded can get a little trapped in the sport. I always wanted to keep it as a passion, and not something I could ever resent, so I knew it was really important to have other interests,” noted McDermott. “I figured I needed to focus my efforts on making money somewhere else. I knew that the film world is mostly project-based freelance work, so I could have a very flexible work schedule within that industry. It was all crafted to find a career outside of horses that would allow horses to still be the main thing.”

Following her studies at the Savannah College of Art & Design, where she completed a four-year curriculum in only two-and-a-half years, and a stint as a working student for the Land family’s Pinetree Stables outside of Atlanta, Georgia, McDermott was headquartered in New York City in order to build her newly-founded Darondo Productions, which grew to have two full-time employees in addition to herself. Though McDermott’s projects spanned various subjects, she commonly found herself aiming to overlap her two passions. A lucky meeting eventually materialized and, through combining her two loves of film work with equestrian subjects, McDermott came to know Daniel Bluman and the rest of the Bluman Equestrian team, which includes Steven, Ilan and Mark.

“The first time I met Daniel, I had been hired as a freelancer to do a video shoot for a magazine. I was supposed to video interview him for some social media content and it should have been a 20-minute interview, but we ended up talking for 90 minutes,” remembered McDermott. “I had just gotten a new horse, Tizimin LS, who happened to be the brother of Daniel’s main mount at the time, Sancha LS. Daniel had actually found Tizimin when he was four and had facilitated his previous owner’s purchase, so I got to hear all about that!”

Photo © Winslow Photography "They are my best friends. I feel so lucky to have them in my life at all, and to have them truly be my life is incredible,” Megan McDermott says about her passion for horses - here with Entano. Photo © Winslow Photography.

That was close to four years ago. Fast forward to early 2020, after Daniel had been keeping tabs on the horse and had hired McDermott to shoot and produce video content for Bluman Equestrian. After a conversation about the young rider’s goals and current situation, Bluman offered her some assistance as well as stabling at his team’s facility in North Salem, New York, during the summer months.

“I saw incredible potential in Megan. She is extremely dedicated, passionate, competitive and, most importantly, truly cares for her horses. It’s not often one comes across someone like her,” commented Bluman. “I’ve had the good fortune of working with legends like Lamaze, Pessoa, Dubbeldam and Horn, who mentored me and have a very strong influence in the way I practice the sport and the business. I will always be very grateful for the opportunities they gave me. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with horsemen like Megan that are willing to put in the hours and share the passion I have for our sport.”

Since their uniting at the onset of the year just months ago, McDermott and the Bluman team have proven to be a valuable pairing as the rider has added her work ethic and commitment to the farm and, in return, received personalized training that has resulted in more consistent results in the show ring. Returning to competition after a hiatus due to COVID-19, McDermott turned in a series of promising performances on her own HH Callas, including a double-clear effort in June in the $75,000 Grand Prix CSI2* in Kentucky, followed one week later by another double-clear ride in the $72,900 Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel Grand Prix CSI2* in Traverse City that earned her second place, just milliseconds quicker than her mentor, Bluman on Gemma W in third position. In the final major contest of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in August, the $137,000 CaptiveOne Advisors Grand Prix CSI3*, McDermott fended off the majority of the class’ 50 international contenders to earn fifth place with a double-clear on HH Callas.

Photo © Sportfot “I saw incredible potential in Megan. She is extremely dedicated, passionate, competitive and, most importantly, truly cares for her horses," Daniel Bluman says about Megan McDermott. Photo © Sportfot.

“Daniel started helping me here while we were still in Florida, and now I’m with them on location full-time and they are helping me so much. In a way, the virus has actually been a blessing for my riding because normally Daniel spends so much time in Europe focusing on his showing, but this year there is so much time to spend at home training. To be able to watch him and have him see what I’m doing has been an incredible amount of face time and progress,” remarked McDermott.

Reaching such encouraging results has been years in the making for McDermott, whose journey in the saddle began many years ago at the age of seven when her parents bribed her and her sister to move to a new town with the promise of horseback riding lessons. Little did they know that one decision would shape the future of their daughter, who started on ponies and eventually advanced to the equitation and jumpers.

“My sister is a year older and she was always a bit braver and stronger than me. I always loved the animals but I was a bit afraid as a kid of riding, like cantering or jumping by myself. From pushing through to keep up with my sister in the sport, I gained a lot of confidence. We progressed a lot from there and started sharing a pony. My sister would do the jumping while I would do the jog and the hack. I took it really seriously and I was committed to doing my very best even then,” reflected McDermott.

In her teenage years, McDermott quickly transitioned through equitation and into beginning jumpers. During her time at a sales barn, horses would filter through the stable and McDermott was one of the riders on the docket to keep the horses in work and improving.

“We got to ride a bunch of different horses. Sometimes we would ride five or six a day, and we rode all different types of horses. It was a great experience as a junior to have so much time in the saddle. It was around the age of 14 or 15 I realized that horses could be a lifestyle or a job,” said McDermott.

Photo © Sportfot “Riding and placing in grand prix classes has been amazing. I’ve always had big goals and aspirations, but they have always felt far away," Megan McDermott says - here with HH Callas. Photo © Sportfot.

Now in the thick of FEI classes and upper-level competition, McDermott has had to restructure her lifestyle and reevaluate her goals, both personally and professionally. Over the last few months, she has steeply transitioned into more time riding and less time working at her agency, relying more on her business partner to handle daily duties while McDermott contributes with strategy and branding oversight. Luckily for her, both McDermott and Bluman agree that her multifaceted life has added to the qualities that help her to succeed in the horse world.

“Megan’s work ethic is as good as it comes. I’ve come to meet her family and I can see where she got it from. Being more well-rounded than many equestrians, she is balanced and has a good perspective on things. Additionally, she is an excellent horsewoman, which I believe is an art that is disappearing,” praised Bluman.

With seven horses in her care, including the horse she acquired from Double H Farm in 2018 and her most recent ribbon-earner, HH Callas, McDermott has a full plate at the farm, not to mention the work she does for her full-service film and branding company. Even still, the U25 athlete has managed to climb the ladder towards bigger and bigger classes while meshing with the Bluman squad and adding a new component to their already-successful riding and training business.

“I’ve learned a lot from Megan. I love to be surrounded by high-level horse people because it makes me better and challenges me to explore new things. Megan has a strong personality and knows what she wants. She wants the information and she wants to learn, but at the same time she is very independent. We understand each other and work very well together, ” commended Bluman.

In addition to Bluman benefiting from McDermott’s unique qualities and skill set, the student has clearly been soaking up knowledge from the trainer, as well. Prior to joining the Bluman team, the young rider had been training her sister, working on sales horses and taking herself to competitions, but the addition of the Bluman Equestrian ingredient has given her the extra nudge she needed to cross the threshold into the next level of show jumping. Now, McDermott is finding that her lofty dreams are much closer to reality, and soon she may need to set the bar higher as she crosses each one off the list. 

Photo © Winslow Photography "She is an excellent horsewoman, which I believe is an art that is disappearing,” Daniel Bluman says about Megan McDermott. Photo © Winslow Photography.

“Riding and placing in grand prix classes has been amazing. I’ve always had big goals and aspirations, but they have always felt far away. To actually be in the classes you want to be in has been really awesome,” noted McDermott. “Short-term, my goals are to try to stay consistent at the CSI3* level and hold my own as best as I can with my two top horses. In the next few years, I would love to move up the ranks and jump some of the higher-level shows and travel more. I want to go to all the big shows! Aachen, Dublin, Geneva, Paris… everywhere!”

A testament to her talent, Bluman’s sights are set even higher for McDermott, who foresees her status as an American representative on an international stage.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Megan will be part of the United States team in the near future and she will have a very successful career. She has everything it takes to achieve her goals, and it’s just a matter of time before the world knows of her!” predicted Bluman. “Megan is already as good of a professional today as most in our industry, and she still has so much time ahead of her. I’m looking forward to seeing where she ends up, and I’m happy to be a part of that journey.”

With big dreams aided by a world-class team in her corner, McDermott may have found her own recipe to reaching and succeeding in the big leagues of the sport. Underneath it all, behind the structured training regimens and commitment to excellence, McDermott is still just a horse girl at heart: “I can’t stress enough how much I love the horses. They are my best friends. I feel so lucky to have them in my life at all, and to have them truly be my life is incredible.” 

 

No reproduction without permission, © Phelps Media Group 

 



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