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...but for Paula Cardozo, this dream became a reality when she represented her home country of Columbia with the vaulting team at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. Not only is Cardozo a successful vaulter, she also spends time on the jump course and qualified for the FEI Jumping Challenge Final.
We had the chance to speak with Paula for a few moments about her future plans, her favorite horses, and the harmonic relationship that she's discovered between the different disciplines.
How old were you when you started riding?
I started riding when I was 5 years old, but my parents say that I was attracted to horses before I started speaking! They say they couldn’t get me off of carousels when they took me to theme parks, and that I asked my grandparents to take me to the stables of the country club instead of the playground.
I’m the first in my family to get into horses, so it was something new for my parents and I. They have always supported my love for horses, and they have learned to love them as much as I do.
You compete in both Jumping and Vaulting. Very different sports!
Although they are quite different, harmony with the horse is obviously one great part of both disciplines. You have to know the horse’s movements by heart. You have to create a strong bond based on mutual respect that allows you to work as a team, where there is complete confidence between the horse and the rider.
What's your favorite?
hen I vault I get to interact with other people, since I am very often practicing the squat (team) modality. It requires an artistic commitment where you need to connect with the music and the story you are communicating. I like teamwork very much, specially because my teammates are also my best friends, and I know they will always back me up. They are my family, and when we get on a horse together we forget about the world around us and get to enjoy the moment. Although training can be physically demanding and may require more time, it is totally worth it!
On the other hand, jumping only depends on yourself and the horse, and no words are needed to make the horse know what you want. In addition, every course means a new experience where you get to know more about yourself and your horse.
I usually visualize what I am about to do, whether it is a jumping course or a vaulting freestyle. I imagine myself doing every right move, and getting the outcome I want. If I get nervous and feel something can go wrong, I go through the part I am struggling with several times, until I can picture it with a perfect result. I like to be in contact with the horse when I do so, because this way I feel I am telling him what we are going to do together, and how he has nothing to worry about.
You competed for the Columbian vaulting team at the WEG in Normandy. Tell us a bit about your experience--were there any moments that surprised you?
It was an amazing experience. Just to be training for a whole month in France with my team, with some of the best horses and trainers we could ever ask for was one of the best experiences of my life. It was not easy, though. We had to train about 5 to 8 hours a day. The mental conditioning was very challenging too, I believe that what goes on in our heads may influence a 90% of what we can preform.
Do you have a favorite horse that you’ve had the opportunity to ride?
I currently have two mares The first is 4 years old and starting her first competition year. She is very special to me because her mother was my junior horse, who taught me a lot of what I know today. The second one is an Argentinian mare I started riding about 5 years ago. She was the one who allowed me to qualify to the FEI Jumping Challenge finale and who hopefully will allow me to compete on higher categories. Without doubt the horse I got on the draw at Rabat was one of the best horses I have ever ridden. I believe Rubis de Berni has a huge potential and I am looking forward to watch him in some big championships soon.
Are there any equestrians or celebrities that you look up to?
Within the jumping discipline there are many riders I admire. Simon Delestre is definitely somebody I look up to. Working hard to gain the skills he has and have the opportunity to ride amazing horses in the highest competitive levels is something I would desire as a rider.
I would definitely target to be able to compete in other FEI Jumping Challenge finals. I believe FEI is facilitating riders to compete at a world wide level without the hassle of travelling with your own horse. For some riders this is very difficult to do on a regular basis. However I would like at some point to participate in an important world competition series with my horse. Pan American or even Olympic games would be fantastic!
For any other young riders, is there any advice you can offer?
I would say that no matter how many times you fall, how may times you get it wrong, don’t give up. Your mistakes will always help you learn for a next time. And I would have to say that discipline is one of the most important things for this sport. Also, you have to remember that this is a partnership sport; we all have bad days, and sometimes horses have them too. Allow them to have some bad days every once in a while.
Besides training and competing, how do you like to spend your free-time?
I am currently studying biology, so I love being in contact with nature. Going on field trips with my friends is one of my favorite things to do, and biodiversity in Colombia will always amaze you. I love birdwatching! I also enjoy watching movies a lot, and hanging out with friends wherever we’re at.
What’s the last song you listened to?
Sunday Morning, from Maroon 5 ☺
Do you have a favorite tv-show or movie?
There are so many! Inception and Hidalgo could be two of my favorites.
Text by Kat Nice
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