She’s back in the CDI ring! Riding, on the Colombian team, in the CDIO Nations Cup at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival last week. I had a chance to speak with Carmen after her ride in the Prix St. George test.
Carmen let’s start at the beginning. How old were you when you started riding ?
I started when I was seven years old. As a kid in Colombia we usually went with my Father to see his family in Italy but that year he had to stay in Colombia so we went to camps. I went to the riding camp and I was so nervous I just cried all the time. But then….I got the Virus!
You mean the ‘I love horses’ virus?
Tell me what you did in the riding lessons.
I focused on dressage because I was such a chicken. I was too nervous to do anything else.
And how did you make the journey from a nervous chicken to becoming a professional rider?
When I graduated from school I went on to study architecture and became an architect. But all the time I continued to ride. Then Colombian dressage rider Marco Bernal returned from time in Germany where he told me they showed him the art of being a professional dressage rider. I said well, maybe I should try this. I love architecture but I do not love being an architect. Marco found a place for me in Germany and I went and got my Bereiter qualification.This is like going to horse university. Medals of various levels as well as degrees are necessary. It is a horse way of living in Germany.
Was this a culture shock arriving in Germany having spent your life in Colombia?
It was hard because in Colombia, where I was born and grew up, we have grooms who did a lot of the work.In Germany I learned to be the worker myself. I was lucky that I got a family that treated me like one of their family. They taught me everything from sweeping the barn to fixing fences. I learned a lot and I rode a lot.
Did you go back to Colombia when you had your Bereiter qualification ?
Yes I went back and started riding horses and it became my life. Then 15 years ago I came to the United States. I had lots of work in Colombia but I felt there would be better opportunities in the US. I had to start from zero and get to be known. I was rebuilding everything.
And today you are riding on the Colombian team in the CDIO Nations Cup at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington Florida!
Yes! The Nations Cup. I have not been in the CDI arena for 5 years. My work has involved younger horses that I have trained up and then their owners sell them or move them on elsewhere. I have a student, Sophie, who has a very nice mare that we bought as a schoolmaster. She rode the mare in 3rd and 4th level tests but the mare started to get strong in the ring. So I showed her in February. Then at the end of February the Colombian federation contacted me. They were officially naming the team and there was a 4th slot still available. Our national coach Shannon Dueck said: “Carmen should go!” It was really a happy day for me. Sophie was very happy as well.The Colombian Federation know my level of riding and they knew I could deliver something decent It was very emotional for me as it has been a long road to get back into the CDI ring. It is super important for me. And …being on a team is fun!
How did you feel about your ride today in the Prix St. George?
Today’s ride was awesome. I got a 65.6 and in National shows I have been scoring around 66 so to get into the CDI arena with 5 judges and get this score makes me happy. The mare felt so much harmony within her. She was saying. ” We are here. We will deliver.” She was all business today. She can be strong but today she said: “I’m not letting you down. OK!”
What is ahead for you now?
I have a nice steady horse to bring up . He is a project and will be a fun horse to show when he is strong enough. He is a black Lusitano whose owner is no longer riding him. He is a super horse but needs strength. I am working with Ali Brock to help with this. Maybe in the 2nd semester of the year I will start showing him .He should be strong enough by then.
Do you have any family here in the USA?
No I have no family here. My friends are my family.
Thank you Carmen for taking the time to speak with me. I wish you all the best going forward and I look forward to seeing you in the show ring again in the future.