By Vera Koo, Women’s Outdoor News, Published October 21, 2019

He wanted to find a perfect athlete who demonstrated focus. One who maintained their body and avoided injury. One who had the mental makeup to not only handle thousands of hours of practice, but also the stress of competition. One who would thrive under pressure.

Carlos went to Denmark in search of a dressage horse, but as he considered the qualities he sought for a top dressage horse, he realized those characteristics mirrored those of a top Bianchi Cup shooter.

“It’s like they’re training Bianchi shooters out there,” Carlos said after he returned home from Blue Hors farm in Denmark.

The comparison goes beyond Bianchi Cup shooters. The qualities Carlos sought in a horse are present in top athletes in any sport.

Carlos began riding a horse around age 12 while he lived with his mom in Brazil. They had a horse, and he rode daily. During the summer, he spent almost entire days on the horse. We both took equestrian electives while we were living in an apartment on the Stanford campus, where he was pursuing his graduate degrees. However, Carlos’ equestrian course was at a much more advanced level.

I never caught up to Carlos’ level. After I was thrown from a horse while riding in Singapore’s Rotary Club and fractured my spine, Carlos asked, “Why didn’t you do an acrobatic dismount?” Easy for him to say. Like I would know how to do that!

As Carlos advanced into his 70s, he recommitted to horseback riding. While I was off training for competitions, Carlos would busy himself with riding. Carlos’ background was in English style riding and jumping, but he decided to take up dressage just recently and has worked with a coach to learn the ropes of the sport.

Dressage is a form of horseback riding in which the rider and horse perform a series of predetermined movements. It is an elegant form of horseback riding that is almost like art.

When Carlos’ dressage coach said she was traveling to her native Denmark to buy a horse for another client, I suggested that Carlos travel with her and see if he could find a horse that he would be interested in purchasing. If nothing else, I considered it a fantastic learning opportunity.

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