Using instinct to compensate, she won the second Grandprix she entered in 1991, setting the stage for what she now calls her best year as a pro. Going into the National last month, she had won eight 1991 Grandprix events, more than anyone else had ever won in a single season. She had become a full-fledged member of the U.S. Equestrian Team and a favorite to compete for the U.S. next year in the Olympics. She was leading the AGA point standings by a wide margin and needed no more than a respectable showing at the Meadowlands to win her second Rider of the Year award.
This time she caught no one by surprise. Her peers expected no less. "Margie is the bravest rider on the tour," says Sally Ike, who was a coordinator for the U.S. team at the National show. "She's ridden through a lot of pain. But she never, ever gives up. Ever."
Says Goldstein's teammate and two-time Olympian Joe Fargis: "Her mental disposition has a lot to do with her success. She's very positive, all the time. She's been an underdog, no question about it. But she came up scrapping, she did it the hard way. She works harder than other people."
She has had to. When she was nine, little Margie started coveting her neighbor's horse. She decided riding was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Problem was, her parents—Irvin, a certified public accountant, and Mona, a schoolteacher—were busy putting money away to send Margie and her two brothers to college. "They would have loved to have had the money to get me a horse, but that was really a luxury and we couldn't afford it," she says. Undeterred, she started spending her spare time at Gladewinds Farm in Miami, near her house. She had to pay for all her rides.
Her parents told her they would kick in the money for one riding lesson a week. Not good enough. So Margie went to Robert and Dorothy Kramer, who owned the farm, and begged to do odd jobs to earn more rides. "My mother said, 'We knew you were serious when you came home and told us they let you clean the stalls,' " Goldstein says. "But I thought it was great. Anything. I didn't care, just anything to be around the horses."
The Kramers became her mentors, her inspiration and, ultimately, her sponsors. After Dorothy Kramer died of bone cancer in 1975, Robert gave 16-year-old Margie a credit card, a beat-up Chevy and a horse trailer so she could travel to shows around Florida with his 12-year-old daughter, Terri.
Margie won a blue ribbon in the first event of the first show she entered, and she kept on winning. She expected to win. She also learned to expect a cold shoulder from the rich kids with the right clothes and the right horses. "What was that like?" she says, repeating a question. The helmet is off now, and light brown hair spills down to her shoulders. Normally a fast talker, she falls silent for a moment. There's a distant look in her eyes.
"What was it like?" she says again. "You're maybe not dressed like the other riders. You don't have the custom things, you don't have the top clothing, and a lot of my stuff was hand-me-downs. They really don't tease you. It was more cliquish than anything. They'd more snub you than tease you. They never actually said much."
Goldstein claims her high tolerance for pain stems from her taking her lumps (and broken limbs) in football games with her two older brothers and their friends. "You couldn't show any pain," she says. "If you did, you were a baby and couldn't play. So I learned to control it. I had to try and be tough, even if I wasn't."
Oh, but she was. At 11, she fell off a horse and suffered a fractured left shoulder. She didn't tell anyone for a week. She has broken her nose, her collarbone (twice), her arm, her wrist and a couple of fingers.