By Kathryn McMackin
Portraits by Shelby Phillips
A quick Google search of Lilli Hymowitz’ name yields a myriad of details: horse show results, rider profiles as well as a smattering of magazine headlines. In 2015, NY Mag dubbed Lilli the “Prom Queen of Instagram,” painting the then-16-year-old as the ultimate in New York cool.
But one glance at the 19-year-old equestrienne’s current Instagram account tells the true story: Lilli is all about the things that make her happy. Her 23,000 followers are privy to photos of loved ones, fashion, puppies and her horses.
“I want to surround myself with people who are real and things that I love,” Lilli stated simply. “I try to work extremely hard for the things that matter to me and forget the things that don’t. The ultimate goal, for everyone I think, is to work harder every day toward the things that make us happy within.”
And there is little that makes Lilli happier than her string of horses. With a killer lineup that boasts grand prix contender Verdi III, her longtime partner Zernike K, the relatively new mount Rio, and Reed Kessler’s former Olympic mount Cylana — a generous hand-me-down from her sister Cloe — it’s not hard to imagine why.
“The most exciting part of the industry to me is getting to work with my horses and team every single day,” Lilli said. “There’s nothing better than the bond I feel with my horses. It’s the whole ‘behind the scenes’ of it — working day in and day out to make it all come together and then having my trainer, groom and barn manager outside of the ring with smiles on their faces and treats for the ponies.”
Nothing but Net
Lilli is based in New York City full time since beginning her first year of college. She’s fresh off a performance at the Longines Masters of New York, where she racked up a number of clear rounds with each of her horses and bronze podium finish in the Masters Three The Fuel Stop 1.25m speed competition.
It’s a far cry from her rookie years riding on Long Island. “I didn’t even know a circuit like Longines existed, or even that a world as competitive as this one — filled with so much talent — was out there,” Lilli remarked on her first few years in the sport.
Nowadays, you can find Lilli riding amongst the best in the world. And she’s honored — and humbled — to be there. “The main lesson that horses constantly teach me, and that I am still trying to master, is that every moment is a new moment,” she said.
Lilli continued, “A time this really hit me was in Europe last summer. I had won a big 1.40m grand prix at the Longines Global Champions Tour and was so excited because it was one of the biggest classes I had ever won. The next day, I got on my other horse with all the confidence in the world, was jumping clear, and the second to last line my reins got stuck over my helmet because my horse jumped me loose and I fell off.
“Going from winning to falling off the next class sums up working with horses … If you’re thinking about the past moment, the past win, the past loss, you’re going to mess up the moment you’re currently in. Sometimes that works in your favor, sometimes it doesn’t. But learning how to be present for each moment on course has taught me so much — both on and off the horse.”
Lilli has been under the tutelage of Brianne Goutal-Marteau for the past four years. And Brianne’s influence on Lilli extends beyond riding; Lilli has nothing but admiration for the way the show jumper balances her family, her horses, training and competing.
But no one influences Lilli more than her father, Gregg. Chief executive of a leading hedge fund investor, he hardly ever misses a horse show. “He pushes me harder than anyone else could, but supports me in a way that makes me feel like I can achieve whatever I set my mind to,” Lilli said. “Having him around when I ride is the best. Before I go to get on, he always says to me, ‘Nothing but net.’”
Not the Flower Boxes
Lilli had her first taste of riding when she was 4 years old. Her two older sisters had already started lessons at a barn about 10 minutes from their house in the Hamptons, and young Lilli wanted in.
“I would go to the barn with them, be amazed by the horses and beg my dad to let me ride,” she remembered. “I was so little. Eventually, when I was big enough, I did. For a while, I was terrified of jumping. I only wanted to flat and never wanted to jump flower boxes.
“That passed,” Lilli added with a laugh.
While her oldest sister, Jenna, didn’t stick with riding, her other sister, Cloe, was just as excited about equestrian sports as Lilli. Like Lilli, Cloe is an accomplished rider, competing in a number of 1* and 2* competitions within the United States and Europe. “Without Cloe, these past years, I don’t know if I would still even be riding,” Lilli said. “Cloe has been my rock through all of this. We’ve been so lucky to have each other to travel with, learn with, grow with, go through all the crazy parts of this sport together. That’s one of my favorite things about riding after all of these years — having Cloe become my best friend in the world.”
When she’s not in the irons, Lilli is conquering the challenge many 19-year-olds face: striking the balance between schoolwork and her other interests.
“I had been homeschooled my whole life until this year when I decided to go to a real college,” Lilli said. “It’s actually been very refreshing to have something to do with my time when I’m not riding. I love the classes I’m taking, so I work really hard to learn and do the best I possibly can there.”
Lilli is a student at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study where she’s been taking a variety of classes, many focused around media and communications. “You can almost create your own major,” Lilli explained. “It’s great to not have to take the traditional route of college. Instead, I can create my own path.”
She listed off fashion, media and mindfulness as areas of interest. She draws inspiration from her business-savvy father, as well as artists from the creative space. “I want to work towards finding a way to merge these diverse topics and start something amazing that people want to be a part of.”
The Next Chapter
On the heels of her freshman year of college, Lilli’s goals for her 2018 show season have shifted. “I’m hoping to be working for a few weeks this summer so it’ll be my first summer having to focus on other commitments besides just riding,” Lilli said.
Between the saddle, school and the future, Lilli is ready to conquer it all.
“I’ve been extremely eager to get my foot in the door and be a part of something else that I love,” she said excitedly. “This summer, I’m finally experiencing that and my goal is to continue with that throughout the summer. I want to dive deeply into different opportunities and just absorb as much as I possibly can.”
She’s aiming toward an advertising internship to get her feet wet in the media industry before gearing up for the Hampton Classic. “Until then,” she said, “I’ll just focus on staying in the groove, riding well, showing a bit and keeping the horses happy.”
Photos by Shelby Phillips, www.shelbyphillipsphotography.com