By Vicky Moon
Portrait by James Parker
For South Miami native Jimmy Torano, it all began on a pony. Taking riding lessons at 6 and competing in shows by 10, Torano naturally fell in love with horses and eventually parlayed his passion into one of the more storied careers in the history of this elegant sport.
During his last year as a junior competitor (under age 18) before graduating from South Miami High School, he moved on to train with one of the top coaches in the country, Don Stewart from Ocala, Florida.
“He was a great student, totally entertaining and a great rider,” Stewart says. “One of South Florida’s finest.”
After high school, Torano went straight to work riding and training riders and their horses in Wellington, one of the nation’s premier equestrian communities. Torano, now 51, has been competing since 1989 in Grand Prix jumping events, the highest and by far most challenging level of horse show competitions, both in the United States and around the world, compiling an impressive record of consistent success.
He represented his country at a number of international horse shows, including the World Cup Finals in 1999 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and, in 2000, he was a member of the U.S. Nations Cup team in Aachen, Germany. This past fall, still jumping at a world-class level, he captured the U.S. Open Grand Prix in New York City’s Rolex Central Park Horse Show, one of the marquee events on the show riding circuit with a total prize of $216,000.
Torano regularly jets to Europe to search for horses worth thousands for his clients. With quite a few young riders under the age of 18, he usually focuses on finding hunters (horses judged on performance) and equitation horses (where riders are judged on performance, style and form).
He usually has somewhere between 25 and 35 horses at each show. He travels the circuit after the winter in Florida, to Pennsylvania, on to Saugerties and Lake Placid, New York, and finishes up indoors at the Washington International Horse Show in the nation’s capital.
Like many other top equestrians, Torano is also recruiting top Grand Prix jumpers for the type of Olympic events in which the score of the horses determines the winner. The outsized (some more than 5 feet high) colorful jumps and water obstacles are the backdrop of this electrifying competition. Prize money goes up to $1 million.
Torano began his horse business, JET Show Stables, in Davie in 1992, and now maintains stables nearby in Wellington, as well as in Mohrsville, Pennsylvania. His wife, Danielle, is a top hunter and amateur jumper equestrian. Their daughter, Natalia, 9, and son, Jimmy, 5, are continuing in the tradition of their parents and are currently riding in the pony classes.
Although busy with his horses and family, Torano joined the board of directors of Give a Buck for Special Equestrians, a nonprofit supporting children and veterans facing physical and emotional life challenges.
“Any time I can be of help, I’m there,” Torano says. “Through my involvement, we’ll be doing a dinner fundraiser this winter at the Wellington Masters Horse Show. I hope to help raise as much money as possible.”
Sissy DeMaria, a high school friend and fellow horse lover, got in touch after launching the charity four years ago with two other co-founders. “We believe in horsepower that heals,” she says. “Jimmy’s involvement has been a game changer for us. He’s considered the prince of the horse world, a true ambassador to the sport who’s admired by some of the biggest names in the industry.”
In addition to his Give a Buck charity work, riding and training, Torano does some internet broadcasting, as well as serving as a judge at many top shows. As for the future, he says, “I’ll always be involved in riding and horse sports.”
Torano’s Triumphs: Give a Buck for Special Equestrians, based in Wellington, is a nonprofit 501(3)c that has aligned successfully with several other charities: Georgina Bloomberg and The Rider’s Closet; the Longines Global Champions Grand Prix in Miami Beach; and multiple therapeutic riding centers, including GallopNYC and SPUR (Special People Uplifting Riders).
Originally appeared in the Winter 2016 Issue.