The Heideggers at HITS: A Family Event

By Emily Stoermer
HITS Horse Shows

What do a spa, an Olympian, and the youngest rider in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix have in common?

They’re all connected to the Heidegger family, who have been integral and long-time exhibitors at the HITS Desert Circuit, and its predecessor at Indio, California.

Hannah Heidegger, 17, was the youngest rider to compete in this year’s AIG $1 Million Grand Prix. Her mother, Jami Heidegger, is the force behind the luxurious Retrouve beauty product line and the Beverly Hills Pop-up Spa at Thermal. And Will Simpson, Olympic Gold Medalist and winner of a record nine Grand Prix at HITS Desert Circuit this year, has trained Hannah and her sister, Nicoletta for years.

When speaking of his own wins, Simpson is always sure to comment with pride about the success of his student, Hannah, during this year’s Desert Circuit. When Simpson won the Desert Circuit IV $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, he was more interested in talking about how well the young rider placed in that class -- seventh on Axl Rose, owned by her parents’ Monarch International -- than his first place prize.

“Hannah’s doing real well,” Simpson said, with his signature colloquial manner of speaking. The next week, she placed second in the $50,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix CSIW-2* FEI World Cup Qualifier Class.

Hannah is the daughter of Klaus Heidegger, an Austrian former alpine skier with a resume chock full of international victories, including a second overall finish in the 1977 World Cup standings. Her older sister, 23, Nicoletta is also an equestrian but currently is focused on graduate school.

Jami Heidegger said they still talk about how they got Simpson as their daughters’ trainer. They were at a charity event when HITS was still in Indio, in the late 1990s, and there was an “auction” for a lesson by Simpson. Heidegger won the auction, and the rest is history -- Simpson stayed on with the family and continues to teach and ride for Monarch International. He, and the Heidegger sisters, also donate time for lessons and free riding clinics for charity.

(c) ESI Photography
Hannah Heidegger competing in the $50,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix CSIW-2* FEI World Cup qualifier class on February 21, 2015 at HITS Thermal.

“Will is so wonderful about that. He is always donating his time,” she said. “He puts so much into the horses, and riding.”

But how did the Spa at Thermal come to be?

Jami Heidegger insists on giving full credit for the idea and initiative to HITS President and CEO Thomas Struzzieri, and Chris Mayone, HITS Corporate Sponsorship Coordinator, even though her products are featured at the spa, and she arranged for the flagship services to be provided her personal favorite spa, Skin Style Beverly Hills.

“It was a delight,” she said. “I think everyone enjoyed it.”

Jami Heidegger’s line of skincare products feature only a few essentials, which she had formulated by a chemist whom she’d worked with previously. Prior to launching Retrouve, Heidegger was the third-generation in her family to own Kiehl’s Since 1851 cosmetics and skincare line. She sold the company in 2000 to L'Oreal.

Only recently did she launch the Retrouve line, which she said is based on products she had designed for her own use. The products were previously released in Europe and made available in the United States this January.

“I’m a horse show mom,” said Jami Heidegger, jokingly, adding that she loved inviting people to try the spa and Retrouve products at this year’s circuit.

But her main focus is clearly her daughters. She said it was nerve wracking seeing Hannah compete in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix on Sunday, but added, “I wasn’t afraid. Will wouldn’t let her go if he thought she wasn’t ready.”

Though Hannah did not finish in the ribbons at the AIG Million, her mother said she was proud of her for trying and sticking it out. “She stayed in there and handled it with grace,” she said. “She was really happy. Will was proud of her.”

Hannah Heidegger, who is a senior at a private high school in the Los Angeles area, said while she is applying for colleges, she may decide to defer acceptance for a year so she can focus on riding full-time.

“I plan to continue to ride at the level I am now, but outside of college,” she said, when asked if she was considering a school a strong equestrian program. “I definitely see lots of equestrian in my future.”

Her dream, she said, is to one day represent the United States in an international competition, like one of her favorite riders, Beezie Madden.

“Beezie is definitely one of my favorites -- her ability to conquer nerves, and her ability to just clinch it for the United States,” Hannah said, when asked what she admires about the Olympian.

Jami Heidegger said the family plan to return to HITS this fall for the second National Sunshine Series, and again for the HITS Desert Circuit.

“For us, it’s just perfect,” she said. “The shows have gotten better and better each year.”

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