Lara Esslinger made an impression with her first-ever equestrian competition at the Tbird Hunter Jumper April Season Opener at Langley's Thunderbird Show Park last month. The German student, who is living in Pemberton for the school year and training at the Pemberton Valley Equestrian Centre, excelled in her debut.
Esslinger rode Rivaldi, owned by Sally Warner, to place as Grand Champion and Reserve Champion in the 0.85m Open Jumper and junior amateur jumper divisions.
"I didn't expect to win at all," she said, later adding that the early success gave her more confidence and changed her mindset as the week progressed.
The ability to get to know a horse and achieve success as part of a team is a major draw of equestrian to Esslinger, who has found that connection with Rivaldi.
"I've been riding him since September, now, so I got to know him. It was quite an experience to go with him to the show," she said. "That makes it even a better relationship because you experienced that together."
Esslinger is a seasoned rider in dressage, but had to learn some different skills to excel in equestrian.
"I put my dressage riding into show jumping," she said. "I had problems with changing my feet, because the feet in show jumping are way lighter than in dressage. Also, the way your body works with the horse is just different, so that was my biggest challenge, but I think I managed it pretty well."
Esslinger will attend one more competition at Thunderbird Show Park later this month. Though she scored well in her debut, she knows there are elements to her riding that she can clean up.
"I can work on some errors that we did last show. It wasn't perfect, so we will work on that and hopefully, it will be another good show," she said.
Esslinger said she might compete in the 0.90-metre division, but that is still to be determined.
While Esslinger will have to return home to Germany, she was glad to have come to Pemberton to learn and have the new experience of competing overseas.
"I wanted to ride horses here. That's why I came to Pemberton," she said.
She also plans to stick with equestrian when she returns to Europe.