Ariana Rockefeller on fashion, family and horses

Ariana Rockefeller began riding when she was just three years old.

Story highlights

  • Ariana Rockefeller is the great-great granddaughter of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller
  • Rockefeller runs her own fashion company
  • She is in Britain training with US Olympian Laura Kraut

(CNN)These are busy days for Ariana Rockefeller, American heiress, fashion designer and equestrian rider.

A fixture on the US amateur showjumping circuit, the 34-year-old great-great granddaughter of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, America's first billionaire, has stepped it up a notch by competing in Europe this summer for the first time.
Rockefeller's love for horses started at a young age.
    "I was born into it, my mother was a foxhunter," she told CNN by phone, shortly after finishing a training session that was delayed by a typical British July downpour.
    "I grew up around horses so it was quite a natural beginning. I've always loved horses and horsemanship and being around them."
    "We had this big quarterhorse named Huey growing up," she said. "We called him our gentle giant. My sister and I -- we were on him when we were three years old, getting the feel of things."
    Rockefeller first started competing when she was in high school. She took a break from riding during college before returning to the American showjumping circuit five years ago.
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    Fashion label

    This summer, Rockefeller and her two horses, Riosco and Out of Beag, are training at the British stables of US rider Laura Kraut -- 2008 Olympic team medalist.
    It's a full schedule, with seven shows between June and September including the Paris, London and Rome legs of the Longines Global Champions Tour.
    A well-known socialite in New York City who supports a vast number of philanthrophic projects, Rockefeller launched her eponymous fashion brand in 2014.
    Her first collection was inspired by a Picasso painting which adorned one of the walls in her childhood home, according to a 2016 New York Times article.
    How does she juggle her sport with running a business?
    "I'm very lucky, I have an amazing team for my business that gives me the ability to live and breathe the horses," she said.
    "Also my designs are very much equestrian-inspired so I often can combine the two passions in such a way that I can do both at the same time."
    But, Rockefeller stressed, "Of course, ultimately my horses come first."
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    Rockefeller name

    Being a fifth-generation member of one of America's most famous and wealthiest families wasn't always easy.
    "Of course people will judge regardless, and it is quite a big name to carry but I have such great friends, and the horse world and my business," she said.
    "It's mostly good. People will always judge but then you look after yourself and they can take it or leave it. That's the way I kind of deal with it."
    "I'm so proud to be part of my family, it's an amazing history to be a part of," she said. "I've really come into myself and embraced who I am. I am my last name, but I am also myself. I think I managed to stay kind of true to what that is."
    Rockefeller trains with US Olympian Laura Kraut.

    Riding in Europe

    Rockefeller has been impressed with the knowledgeable crowds at the shows in Europe.
    "The sport is much more understood in Europe for the general public who might not be equestrians," she said. "Horsemanship and the sport are a little bit more mainstream and its nice to have that energy. The horsemanship is maybe a little bit more ingrained in the culture."
    Rubbing shoulders with the world's top showjumpers who compete at the top Grand Prix level of the Longines Global Champions Tour has been "an education."
    "It's wonderful to learn from the best about horses and traveling with horses," she said. "I'm learning skills and gaining all sorts of information here which will be wonderful to take back home."
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    Goals

    Rockefeller said she had been training much harder than usual for about a year and when Kraut asked her if she wanted to do the European circuit, she didn't hesitate.
    "In terms of my goal -- I want to be the best that I can be," she said. "With horses, you have to take it a day at each time but I try and work my hardest. One day, you are on the podium and one day you're in the dirt. That's the beauty of the sport, it's very humbling."