Category Archives: Contributors/Press

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Lumière Horses Wraps Up 2022 with Success in Tyron and Aiken

Reutter and Here I Am Z.

Mill Spring, NC (November 23, 2022) – Chilean show jumper Gabriela Reutter of Lumière Horses wrapped up her stellar 2022 show season in North Carolina this fall, jumping her three-horse string to multiple top finishes. In her final competitive appearances of the year, Reutter focused on clean rounds and bolstering the horses’ FEI experience while her top Grand Prix mount, Maharees Rock, rested after the pair’s Bronze Medal win at the South American Games in September. After North Carolina, Reutter plans to move south to Wellington, Florida in preparation for the new year at the 2023 Winter Equestrian Festival.

Reutter began the end of her fall season in Tryon, North Carolina, competing in the 2022 Tryon Fall Finale I, held November 3-6. Sales horses Joselinde L.A.T, Here I Am Z, and Billy Lincoln jumped in the 1.30-1.35m divisions, with multiple in the ribbons finishes. Joselinde L.A.T, a.k.a. Jojo, took 2nd in the $2,000 1.30m Open Stake and 5th in the 1.30m Open. Here I Am Z, a.k.a. Hero, finished 6th in the $3,000 1.35m Open Stake, while Billy Lincoln finished 5th in the 1.35m Open.

The following week in Aiken, all three horses were once again finishing in the ribbons. At the Split Rock Aiken CSI2, held November 9-13, Reutter rode Billy Lincoln to a 6th place finish in the $10,000 1.40m CSI 2 and Hero to the win in the 1.30m. Hero also finished 11th overall in the $20,000 1.35m Grand Prix, while Jojo took 3rd and 12th in the 1.30m.

In addition to her competitive accolades, the hard work of Reutter’s groom Anthony Chavez was highlighted at Split Rock. Billy Lincoln was awarded the Hyaluronex Best Turned Out in the FEI Jog and Chavez received the Annie Goodwin Rising Star Fund Grooms Award.

Reutter’s passion for equestrian sport began at a young age, and has since taken her to the upper echelons of show jumping. Combining talent, horsemanship, and dedication to her dreams, she rides with the aspiration of representing Chile at the pinnacle of show jumping sport. Born in Santiago, Chile, Gaby began riding at only four years old. At 17, she moved to the United States to pursue a professional show jumping career. Since 2014, she has ridden under the guidance of Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist Chris Kappler, and completed her undergraduate degree in Economics and Business Studies at NYU.

To date, Gaby is currently the #1 female Chilean show jumper, and her most recent career highlight was a Bronze Medal finish at the 2022 South American Games in Paraguay with Maharees Rock. She also has multiple top finishes in international FEI classes, including her Nations Cup accomplishments, European tour, the U25 Grand Prix divisions, and victory in an FEI 4-star event. She currently campaigns her anchor show jumper, Maharees Rock (a.k.a. Rocky) and a string of sales horses. Her international equestrian CV also includes Spruce Meadows, The Hampton Classic, and several junior/young rider South American Games. She and Rocky were in the top 3 during this July’s Tryon Summer 5 $75,000 Grand Prix CSI2-star, out of 50 entries and top 3 in the $138,600 Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel CSI3* Grand Prix during the 2022 Great Lakes Equestrian Festival. In 2018, Reutter received her certificate of capability for the Pan American Games following a top 3 finish in the FEI 3-star 1.50m Captive One Classic, and has her sights set on representing Chile internationally this winter.

For more information on Reutter, her horses, and Lumière, visit www.LumiereHorses.com.

Media contact:
Equinium Sports Marketing, LLC
Holly Johnson
holly@equinium.com
www.equinium.com

Gótico Interagro Augments Accolades with 2022 USDF Awards

Photo: Gótico Interagro and Randi Joslyn.

Mashapaug, CT (November 7, 2022) – Gótico Interagro and owner Randi Joslyn of Quadrifoglio Dressage added a few more accolades to their list of awards earned during their 18-month partnership. In that short period of time, the pair has been named to multiple Championships and Reserve Championships for the United States Dressage Association (USDF) and their local GMO, and plan to move up to the Prix St. Georges Level in 2023, with their sights set on their first CDI.

Bred by Interagro Lusitanos in Brazil, Gótico came to Joslyn in the spring of 2021. After seeing something special in the beautiful mahogany bay gelding, a week later Gótico was part of the Quadrifoglio family. The pair started out at Second Level, and in less than a year they were named the 2021 USDF US Lusitano Reserve Champion in the Third Level Open division, the 2021 Connecticut Dressage Association Third Level Open Champion, the 2022 US Lusitano Champion at Fourth Level in both the Open and Adult Amateur divisions, and the USDF Fourth Level Vintage Cup Champion. Gótico has since been successfully schooling the Prix St. Georges and FEI movements, pulling from the natural athleticism, intelligence, and rideability Interagro strives for in their breeding program.

Gótico Interagro is by Profano Interagro, a stallion known for producing exceptionally versatile and athletic offspring. Gótico, before being exported to the US, was highly awarded in Working Equitation, and was beloved in Interagro’s training barns as a young horse because of his exceptional personality. The gelding’s unique character and abilities are what drew Joslyn to him to start, and have proven to be an incredibly important aspect of their training up the levels.

“He has the most amazing personality,” said Joslyn. “I describe him as an old soul because it’s like there is a wisdom about him. He is picky about who he sees as ‘his people,’ but he is kind to everyone. He’s extremely athletic and incredibly smart. He picks up on new skills quickly and then goes out of his way to make you happy. There is also a regal side to him, so much so that he has become affectionately known as ‘his lordship’ in the barn. I’m really looking forward to moving up with him and I hope to someday compete with him at Grand Prix. He truly is the most amazing horse and I feel very honoured that he let me into his enormous heart.”

For more information on Interagro Lusitanos, Interagro’s horses for sale, or the Lusitano bloodlines, visit Interagro’s website at www.lusitano-interagro.com.

Media contact:
Equinium Sports Marketing, LLC
Holly Johnson
holly@equinium.com
www.equinium.com

Meet the Next Gen: Gilles Thomas

(Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof)

You have had a great year; what has been your highlight?

I have an such an amazing year; it is hard for me to pick just one highlight! I had my first 5* victory in the King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead in July, which was amazing, and then coming third in the CP ‘International’ at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament was a fantastic result. Most recently being on the Belgium team and winning the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final was incredible for me. I don’t think I can choose just one of those moments!

What are you hoping to achieve between now and the end of the year?

I am hoping to ride at CHI Geneva – that would be amazing. Then in Belgium we have the have a 5* show which includes a FEI Jumping World Cup™, in Mechelen, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This show is always very important to Belgian riders, and my family are involved in the organisation of it, so I really hope I can have a good result in the FEI Jumping World Cup™ there.

What are your hopes and ambitions for 2023 and beyond?

My ultimate dream is to compete at CHIO Aachen; in my opinion, it is the best show in the world and the Rolex Grand Prix there is one of the most prestigious classes in the calendar. I am also aiming to compete in a Belgium senior team at a big championship. I have competed in Junior and Young Rider teams, but to be part of the Belgium team at the FEI World Championships or the Olympic Games and win a medal would be a dream come true.

After your great performance in the CP ‘International’, how will you prepare for CHI Geneva?

I’m not totally sure whether I will be competing there yet, but I hope that I will. They are two very different shows, but I would still take Aretino 13, as even though the arena at CHI Geneva is indoors, it is still very big. If I go to CHI Geneva, it will be the only indoor show that Aretino 13 competes in because he is a big horse and needs more space, so he suits outdoor arenas better. CHI Geneva is such an amazing show and so I will plan to take my three best horses if I go.

Read more here.

© 2022 Rolex – Rolex Grand Slam

Team Bronze for Hamilcar Interagro and Malin Morén at 2022 South American Games

Malin Morén and Hamilcar Interagro (Photo by Cora Causemann)

Asunción, Paraguay (October 21, 2022) – Hamilcar Interagro and Uruguay’s Malin Morén delivered exceptional tests at the Prix St. Georges and intermediaire I level during the 2022 South American Games, held October 1-15 in Asunción, Paraguay, to help earn Team Bronze. Along with teammates Agustina Bravo, Guillermina Birenbaum, and Carolin Mallmann, Morén and Hamilcar Interagro (Bungo Interagro x Tiffany Interagro) posted a score of 126.589 to take Bronze. As a precursor to the 2023 Pan American Games set to be held next fall in Santiago, Chile, these Games once again prove the mettle of the Interagro Lusitano on the world’s stage.

Bred in Itapira, São Paulo, Brazil on the tropical breeding and training center of Interagro Lusitanos, Hamilcar Interagro was sold by Interagro as a yearling in 2012. His lineage includes Ofensor (MV), arguably the most influential and iconic modern Lusitano stallion, Novilheiro (MV), and Yacht (SA). Hamilcar sire, Bungo Interagro, competed through the international FEI level in dressage, and boasted spectacular movement and conformation. Hamilcar Interagro clearly inherited his sire’s talent for dressage, and with Morén in the irons the pair danced their way through the Prix St. Georges, Intermediaire I, and Intermediaire I Freestyle in Paraguay. Their freestyle featured upbeat music by Ed Sheeran and earned scores as high as 72% from individual judges on the panel.

“Hamilcar Interagro is the most wonderful horse to ride,” said Morén. “His gaits are fantastic, especially his extended trot and collected work. It’s been very easy for him to learn new things and to quickly advance to higher levels in dressage. He is the perfect companion on the show grounds. I think he knows how beautiful he is and loves getting applause from the audience. In Odesur 2022, he proved that he is ready for the bigger competitions. He is a very special horse with a big heart and a mind made to compete!”

For more information on Interagro Lusitanos, Interagro’s horses for sale, or the Lusitano bloodlines, visit Interagro’s website at www.lusitano-interagro.com.

Media contact:
holly@equinium.com
www.equinium.com

Micaela Mabragana Earns CDI3* Grand Prix Special Win at Dressage at Devon

Micaela Mabragana and Diamond Rosso.

Alice Tarjan Wins CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle

Devon, Pa. – Oct. 1, 2022 – Dressage at Devon’s pinnacle classes of the week, the CDI3* Grand Prix Special, presented by BioStar Whole Food Supplements, and the CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle, presented by Kingsview Partners, were highlighted in the Dixon Oval on Saturday evening. Ready for a night of musical freestyle performances in the electric atmosphere of the Dixon Oval, competitors and spectators reconvened for the evening session of FEI competition, seeing Micaela Mabragana and Alice Tarjan once again earn top placings, this time in the CDI3* Grand Prix Special and CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle.

Read more.

Shannon Dueck Takes Home CDI1* Intermediate I Win; Camille Carier Bergeron Clinches FEI U25 Grand Prix with Sound of Silence 4

Performance competition continued at Dressage at Devon 2022 on Saturday morning, with energy still high from the festivities of the night before. Featuring the Junior, Young Rider, and Intermediate I tests for CDI1*, CDI3*, and Amateur competitors prior to another exciting evening of special exhibitions, parties, and FEI Grand Prix competition, the historic show’s top competition continued over the weekend.

Read more.

Emma Miller
em@phelpsmediagroup.com

Tom Struzzieri Steps Down as CEO of HITS LLC

Saugerties, NY – September 8, 2022 – HITS LLC announced that as planned, founder Tom Struzzieri will be stepping away from his role as Chief Executive Officer at the end of the 2022 season, after more than 40 years at the helm of HITS LLC. Under Struzzieri’s leadership, HITS has become the premier brand known for producing world-class hunter/jumper competitions in the United States. HITS LLC will be led by their world class management team, while the Company actively engages in a search for a new CEO.

Struzzieri will remain a part owner and Director of HITS LLC, and will continue to provide strategic consulting to the Company as well as significant involvement in the launch of the Del Mar, California Showpark in 2023.

Struzzieri commented: “I have been extremely fortunate over the 4 decades of running HITS to have a terrific group of employees who have been by my side through some very hard climbs as we together have grown the company. I remain committed to those people and will be in constant touch as a consultant as we face the next challenges together. On a parallel course, I have also been blessed to have very loyal clients, and because of that loyalty they too can continue to count on me as a liaison to all things HITS related. The future of HITS is bright and I plan on doing what I can behind the scenes to help it shine.”

“It has been a pleasure to witness the industry through Tom’s eyes. He has been, and will continue to be, a guide and advisor to us all,” said Mortimer Singer, Managing Partner of Traub Capital Partners.  “Tom has built a great business and we look forward to continuing our work together as partners.”

With six locations in New York, Florida, Vermont, Illinois, Virginia, and now California, HITS will continue its mission of providing top quality competitions for riders at every level, while improving its facilities, technology and overall customer experience. Exhibitors can expect exciting new developments at the beginning of 2023 as the HITS Ocala Winter Show Series kicks off at Post Time Farm, as well as at Del Mar Showpark, where teams are already in place to begin renovations.

As Struzzieri steps away from his role as CEO, he is fulfilling his life-long goal of cycling across the United States, and will be supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) with Team Alpha. If you would like to consider making a donation, you can do so here: https://www.alphabikeride.com/team.

For more information, visit HitsShows.com.

Markel Jockeys Jumping Set for Spectacular Return to London International Horse Show

The Markel Jockeys Jumping in aid of The Injured Jockeys Fund will be returning to The London International Horse Show for the first time since 2019, featuring some of the most prolific jockeys of Great Britain and Ireland. Back by popular demand, this competition sees jockeys attempt a show jumping course at the famous London Horse Show – often with hilarious results. The 2022 competition will be a girls versus boys format and takes place on the evening of Monday 19 December.

Heading the boys’ team will be 20-time champion National Hunt jockey Sir Anthony ‘AP’ McCoy, who will be seeking to reverse the 2019 result, in which the girls were victorious. From the world of Flat Racing will be Jim Crowley, who started his professional career over fences riding for the stable of show jumping legend Harvey Smith. Since his switch to the flat, Crowley has been crowned champion jockey and won many of the world’s most prestigious races, most recently the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes last week aboard Baaeed, currently the highest rated horse in the world.

They will be joined by 2021 champion National Hunt jockey Harry Skelton, son of Olympic double gold medallist Nick Skelton CBE. Skelton will be looking to reclaim the title he won in dramatic circumstances following a bridle malfunction in 2018. Skelton’s wife, Bridget Andrews, will be a pivotal part of the girls’ team, following a successful performance in the 2019 edition. Andrews, a Cheltenham Festival winner, will be seeking to make it a double over her husband, this time at the iconic ExCeL London.

Another husband-and-wife combination likely to go head-to-head at The London International Horse Show will be flat jockeys Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle. Doyle will head to The London International Horse Show on the back of another record-breaking season, during which she claimed her first Classic win in the French Oaks, becoming the first British female jockey to win a Classic. Doyle holds the record for victories in a single season by a female rider in the UK and will be looking to add to her list of accomplishments in London. Marquand, also a Classic winner having won the St Leger Stakes in 2020, will add to the stellar list of jockeys taking part in the class, described by Clare Balding in 2019 as “the most extraordinary sporting event I’ve ever seen,” with more top-class participants to be announced in due course.

Looking ahead to the 2022 event, McCoy, President of the Injured Jockeys Fund, said: “At one of our previous appearances in the Markel Jockeys Jumping at The London International Horse Show, Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton resorted to using a cable tie to fix the bridle on Harry’s horse, so let’s hope we are a bit more professional this time around!” He continued, “At our last appearance in 2019, we were beaten by the girls, so we’ll be putting that right this year. In all seriousness though, it’s for a great cause in the Injured Jockeys Fund – and we all love taking part.”

Juliet Redfern, Head of Equine Insurance at Markel, added: “Markel is delighted to be sponsoring this fabulous event, as a specialist equine insurer we are committed to supporting the wider equine industry through various charitable initiatives. We have supported this particular event for six years; it’s great fun, but more importantly provides crucial funds to the Injured Jockeys Fund, a wonderful charity that looks after its own so well.”

Taking place from 15 to 19 December at ExCeL London, The London International Horse Show hosts three FEI World Cup™ competitions in Dressage, Carriage Driving, and Show Jumping, attracting the world’s best equestrian athletes. Spectators can also look forward to entertainment from The Shetland Pony Grand National, Kennel Club Dog Agility, and two international displays, to be announced.

The Markel Jockeys Jumping in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund will be part of the Show’s thrilling final session, which also includes the five-star London Grand Prix, featuring the finest international show jumping horse and rider combinations.

More information about The London International Horse Show, including how to buy tickets, can be found here.

The London International Horse Show
www.londonhorseshow.com
Niki McEwen / nmcewen@revolutionworld.com

Podium Finish for Gabriela Reutter and Maharees Rock in Tyron Summer 5 FEI CSI2*

Gabriela Reutter and Maharees Rock (Photo by Nicole Schultz)

Mill Spring, NC (July 21, 2022) – Gabriela Reutter of Lumière Horses found herself on the podium this week at Tryon International Equestrian Center. She and her Grand Prix mount, Maharees Rock (OBOS Quality x Ballysimon), put in their second top 3 FEI CSI finish of the summer during Tryon Summer 5’s $75,000 Grand Prix CSI2-star out of 50 entries. The pair has been proving their mettle at the top of the sport, once again delivering a top finish after doing the same in Traverse City’s CSI3-star in June. The 2010 Irish Sport Horse mare also known as Rocky has been with Reutter for three years, making her FEI debut and subsequent top placings under Reutter’s guidance.

Reutter’s success at Tryon also marks her first podium finish in a nighttime Grand Prix, cheered on by a stadium full of spectators. Their double clear effort and jump off time of 40.21 secured their spot on the podium for Chile, finishing third behind USA’s Caitlyn Connors (37.86) and Colombia’s Roberto Teran Tafur (38.76). Reutter and Rocky also jumped to 4th out of 44 entries in the $6,000 1.40m earlier in the week.

“It was incredibly special to finish 3rd in a CSI2-star class, and to stand on the podium under the stadium lights,” said Reutter. “The evening classes have an amazing atmosphere, and I was so pleased with Rocky’s performance. She has amazing athleticism and scope, and when we are working together and on our game, she really delivers for me.”

Reutter also campaigned three top jumper prospects during Tryon Summer 5. Lumière Horses’ Here I Am Z, who was imported by Reutter from South America in 2020 placed 2nd and 3rd in the Open 1.30m Jumpers. Known as Hero around the barn, this sporty bay gelding has been placing consistently in the 1.30m divisions with Reutter and would make an exceptional Junior mount. Reutter also jumped the gray mare Joselind L.A.T., a.k.a. Jojo, to a 3rd, 5th, and 13th finish in the 1.15m & 1.20m divisions, and took Billy Lincoln, a new import, to a double clear finish in the $2,000 1.30m Open Jumper to finish 10th in their first show together.

Jojo and Hero are offered for sale and available for trial this week at Tryon International Equestrian Center.

Reutter’s passion for equestrian sport began at a young age, and has since taken her to the upper echelons of show jumping. Combining talent, horsemanship, and dedication to her dreams, she rides with the aspiration of representing Chile at the pinnacle of show jumping sport. Born in Santiago, Chile, Gaby began riding at only four years old. At 17, she moved to the United States to pursue a professional show jumping career. Since 2014, she has ridden under the guidance of Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist Chris Kappler, and completed her undergraduate degree in Economics and Business Studies at NYU.

To date, Gaby is currently the #1 female Chilean show jumper, and has multiple top finishes in international FEI classes, including her Nations Cup accomplishments, European tour, the U25 Grand Prix divisions, and victory in an FEI 4-star event. She currently campaigns her anchor show jumper, Maharees Rock (a.k.a. Rocky), and a string of sales horses. Her international equestrian CV also includes Spruce Meadows, The Hampton Classic, and several junior/young rider South American Games. She and Rocky were in the top 3 in the $30,000 Pilates Rock Grand Prix during WEF 1, and in 2018, Reutter received her certificate of capability for the Pan American Games following a top 3 finish in the FEI 3-star 1.50m Captive One Classic.

For more information on Reutter, her horses, and Lumière, visit www.LumiereHorses.com.

Media contact:
Equinium Sports Marketing, LLC
Holly Johnson
holly@equinium.com
www.equinium.com

Winning Never Gets Old

Week I of the Aiken Summer Classic wrapped up after a well-attended week at Bruce’s Field.

Aiken’s own Daniel Geitner had a heck of a week at the office, winning the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, the $5,000 Marshall & Sterling Classic Hunter Derby, and the $35,000 Nutrena Grand Prix.

“Winning never gets old,” Geitner laughed.

Geitner wrapped up his successful week with the win in the $35,000 Nutrena Grand Prix over a course designed by world renown course designer and Olympian, Michel Vaillancourt.

Of the sixteen horse and rider teams entered, only five would advance to the jump off round where the time allowed was set at 48 seconds. Geitner had five horses entered in the class and three qualified for the jump off round.

Geitner and his first ride, November Hill’s Cilia M, turned in a four fault jump off round with a time of 38.347 seconds. Sarah Hubbard of Wellington, Florida in the irons of Hubbard Horses, LLC’s Latino Van De Looise Heide followed in the order and their one jump fault in a time of 34.793 seconds took the lead.

The lead was short lived when James Billington, also of Wellington, rode Samantha Mackenzie’s Halifax Des Rosiers WB, posting the first clear round in the jump off with a time of 39.733 seconds and took the lead.

Geitner followed, this time in the irons of November Hill’s Lotus Van Het Hagehof. The pair turned in a fault free jump off round in a time of 37.00 seconds and set the new time to beat.

Geitner and GFZ Sport Horses, LLC’s Igo Van De Heibos sat in the last to go spot. The pair turned in a fault free round in a time of 37.699 seconds, securing the second-place ribbon and his victory with Lotus Van Het Hagehof.

Geitner commented, “It was plenty, of course. Michel [Vaillancourt] designed it in his usual fashion which made it look and walk like it was a pretty easy course,” commented Geitner. “The most challenging part of the course was the triple combination line and an oxer in the corner. It felt a little downhill to the oxer, even though it wasn’t and then basically standing still to the skinny was the most difficult part,” he said.

“It walked nice but rode difficult. Michel is an absolute master and somehow, he always gets it right. He had a great number with 5 clean and I had 3 of them. I had some young horses to show, and it was great mileage for all of them,” Geitner added.

“Lotus is a 10-year-old and just stepped up this past year to the Grand Prix level. He tries hard, he’s fast, loves to show and the heat, and he is a really game horse. I was lucky that I rode Celia earlier and then was able to watch a couple of other rides and I knew what I had to do with the last two horses,” said Geitner.

Billington and Halifax Des Rosiers placed third overall and Hubbard and Latino Van De Looise Heide earned a fourth place ribbon. Geitner and Cilia Hill earned a fifth-place finish, and he also won a sixth place ribbon with Oak Ledge Farm’s Fazous as the fastest four fault first round in a time of 70.139 seconds.

Quinn Larimer of Mableton, Georgia rode Nestledown Equine Services, LLC’s Olympia Van Het Eikenhof to a seventh-place finish with their four fault first round in a time of 70.299 seconds.

Megan Rosenthal of Charlotte, North Carolina in the irons of Fairy Tale Farms, LLC’s Caliente earned an eighth-place finish for their four fault first round in a time of 70.995 seconds, and ninth was awarded to Hakini, owned by Ellen Walker and ridden by Adam Sklansky of Birmingham, Alabama.

Larimer returned for a tenth-place ribbon with Nestledown Equine Services, LLC’s Bronson CR for their four fault first round in a time of 74.603 seconds.

Hubbard also placed eleventh with Hubbard Horses International’s Japardie for their four fault first round in a time of 74.269 seconds. Samantha Mackenzie and her own Inajottie WB wrapped up the class with a twelfth-place finish for their four fault first round in a time of 75.541 seconds.

For more information, please visit horseshowsonline.com.

ClassicCompany.com
GulfCoastClassicCompany.com
Phone/Fax: (843) 768-5503
Post Office Box 1311, Johns Island, SC 29457

Training Tougher Than Competition for Ukraine’s Equestrian Vaulting Girls

Ukrainian Vaulting team in training in Bernolákovo (SVK) (Copyright: FEI/Richard Juilliart)

Bratislava (SVK), 30 May 2022 – There is no easy way to prepare for an international competition. But five young equestrian Vaulters have needed to dig extra deep for grit and determination as they trained for their first ever international competition.

Polina Shovkova (14), sisters Katya (14) and Jenya (11) Panasenko, Sonia Shulga (14), and Marta Lopaienko (15) became the first team to ever represent Ukraine in international Vaulting when they participated in the one star competition in Kaposvár (HUN) from 20 to 22 May.

The team’s participation in Kaposvár came just a few short months after fleeing their hometown of Poltova to escape the war that has upturned the lives of millions of Ukrainians. They are currently living and training in Bernolákovo, a suburb of Bratislava (SVK), where they have been welcomed by members of the local Vaulting community and supported financially by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Solidarity Fund.

“We didn’t have competitions in Ukraine because we are the first Vaulting team,” Marta explained.

“We didn’t feel too comfortable with the horses here in Slovakia at first because they are bigger and have a different rhythm to our horses at home. But now we know the character of each horse.

“We were a bit worried about taking part in our first international competition and it was important for us. But as Katya, our trainer from Ukraine, always says: ‘You have to do this performance just for you.’”

Joining the Vaulters on their sporting journey is 29-year-old Anthony Bro-Petit, himself a former international competitor for France, who has played a key role in developing the sporting infrastructure for Vaulting in Ukraine prior to the war.

“Preparing young athletes for a competition or a Championship is always tough because even when they are motivated, the mental focus is very hard to maintain. The war has added an extra layer of mental difficulty for these girls. It’s not easy to fully concentrate on your training when you know your family is not safe.

“The girls are still very young, and it is hard to know how much I can push them during their training session. But this is a good learning experience for me. I’m still learning as a coach and I have to develop my skills.

“We would have been able to prepare more if there was no war. But the team did really well in their first international competition and now we know which aspects we need to focus on more during our training.”

With their competition experience in Kaposvár under their belt, the team now have their sights set on the international Vaulting competition that will be held in Samorin (SVK) next month. The road ahead will be easier to navigate than the one they took in March this year.

“We knew that we would have to leave Poltava about a week before we had to go,” said Marta. “We first thought that we were going to France, but two days before we left, we were told that we’re going to Slovakia.

“We were on the road for three days. It was a very long journey, because of the traffic jams everywhere. It usually takes us one day to drive to the Slovak border.

“The first night we didn’t stop and we kept going. But the second night we stopped near the Carpathian Mountains, and we stayed in a flat with just two rooms. There were 15 of us, and the girls and I slept on one sofa, and the others slept on the floor. Then the third day we crossed the border very quickly. We thought it would be slow with all the traffic, but we crossed over very fast.

“We were not frightened, but we were really sad and tired. And when we crossed the border, we all started to cry.”

The girls’ trainer Kateryna (Katya) Andreiva and her 18-month son David, as well as three mothers, have accompanied the Vaulters to Slovakia, while other members of their families have all stayed back in Ukraine.

It is a situation that has caused Katya’s and Jenya’s mother Ekateryna a great deal of anguish. “When you first come from war, you think that it would have been better to stay at home because your mind cannot feel safe,” Ekateryna said.

“It’s harder to be in a safe country because you feel at fault for leaving your family. My mother is in the Kharkiv region and I know that she’s sitting in a bomb shelter while I’m here in Slovakia. But we are mums and everything we do we do for our children. You don’t think about yourself. You just think about your children.”

The Vaulters have settled into a routine at the local school, which is currently housing the group from Poltava, as well as 40 refugees from other parts of Ukraine. The girls begin each weekday morning by joining online lessons with their school in Poltova, which leaves them the rest of the day to train at the local riding school, and at the school gym that has a mechanical horse and barrels.

“It is good to see that the girls are training really hard,” said the Secretary General of the Slovak Equestrian Federation Zuzana Bačiak Masaryková.

“The community here in the Bratislava area have been extremely generous to the team. The owner of the shop that sells Vaulting shoes has given the girls free pairs, and other people have provided us with everything they require.

“My aim is to give these girls all that they need to train, so that they can forget about the war, at least for a few hours each day.”

The Vaulters and their mothers still hope that they can return home to Poltava after the competition in Samorin (SVK) that will take place from 9 to 12 June.

Until then the girls are determined to continue their training. “We are not sure if Vaulting is our sport in the long term,” Marta explained. “But in 2023, our aim is to take part in the Vaulting World Championship and we’re going to train hard for this.”

FEI Solidarity Relief Fund for Ukraine

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
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