When The Equine Athletics Mission (T.E.A.M.) Israel announced the Blaze of Glory contest for Israeli fashion designers and design students to create a new competition jacket concept for the Israeli equestrian team, people probably thought the nonprofit group was just horsing around.

“Israel” and “equestrian team” aren’t normally seen in the same sentence.

But the American-based sponsor of the newly formed show-jumping squad wants Israeli riders to gallop toward the 2016 Rio Olympic Games wearing a fresh, patriotic version of the traditional equestrian blazer.

“Israel is known for its ingenuity and innovative design, and we see this competition as a way to get creative and passionate people involved in our larger mission, including the development of equestrian sports as an educational tool and therapeutic outlet,” said Deb Schultz, a San Francisco- and New York-based Internet entrepreneur and the cofounder of T.E.A.M. Israel.

A longtime horse aficionada and early blogger, Schultz saw ISRAEL21c’s article last year about Danielle Goldstein, a Grand Prix show-jumper and dual American-Israeli citizen determined to raise the profile of equestrian sports in Israel. Goldstein, she read, dreamed of establishing an Israeli Olympic squad. She contacted Goldstein, and their joint effort led to the creation of the nonprofit T.E.A.M. Israel that has made Goldstein’s vision a reality.

Inbal Hayun’s winning design.
Inbal Hayun’s winning design.

Schultz and Goldstein were among four judges who winnowed the design submissions to five finalists. The others were Dror Ben Shaul, a member of the Israel Equestrian Federation’s board of directors and the national trainer for the Israeli Paralympic Equestrian team; and Israeli menswear designer Adam Gefen.

The Blaze of Glory finalists’ sketches were posted on the official T.E.A.M. Israel Facebook page, and followers cast votes via “Likes” and “Shares.”

The majority of the 9,474 votes went to Inbal Hayun, a senior at the Neri Bloomfield School of Design and Education in Haifa. She edged out finalist Ksenia Pereverzev by 424 votes.

“The Israeli riders will wear that jacket in international competitions by next summer,” says T.E.A.M. Israel Executive Director Kate Levy, who will work on making sure the design meets all international and Olympic guidelines. She also serves as the equestrian team’s chef d’equipe, or captain.

Israel equestrian teammates Elad Yaniv, Danielle Goldstein and Joshua Tabor at the T.E.A.M. Israel kickoff event.
Israel equestrian teammates Elad Yaniv, Danielle Goldstein and Joshua Tabor at the T.E.A.M. Israel kickoff event.

Meanwhile, Israel’s three-person team — Goldstein, Elad Yaniv, and Joshua Tabor — just took part in its first competition, the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida. Levy says it is “the very first Israeli Nations Cup ever, in any discipline in the history of equestrian sports.” A Mexican competition will follow in April.

“We believe horses can do amazing things for people, and we’d like to share our passion with the Israeli people,” Levy tells ISRAEL21c. “We want to offer clinics and improve the existing equine facilities and infrastructure and create more jobs — such as organic feed-making, shoeing, grooming and veterinary. We also want to replace some of the negative headlines that Israel gets with some positive international sporting ones, and garner national pride through successful equestrian teams.”

In the short term, her eyes are on the prize: qualifying for the 2016 Olympics dressage and show-jumping events.