By Tafra Donberger
Portraits by Kristie Nichols
It began some 3,600 miles away from Houston, Texas. It began, even, before Daniel Bedoya was the proverbial twinkle in his parents’ eyes.
You might say Daniel’s love of horses began with his father, Daniel Bedoya Senior, who began riding horses when he himself was 10 years old in La Paz, Bolivia. Years later, when his son arrived, the senior Daniel soon had his baby boy horseback with him, smiling in pictures and spending time at the country clubs in La Paz with his family.
“I started riding for real when I was about 10,” Daniel said. “That’s when I caught the bug!” In his home country, riding horses is a social and amateur-friendly scene. When Daniel’s family went to the country club, he and his father would ride while his sisters played soccer or went swimming, and his mother, Susanna, spent time with friends. They’d break for lunch together then spend afternoons enjoying their different pursuits.
On the weekends, Daniel and his father competed at the small show jumping events, which was easily the most popular equestrian sport in Bolivia at the time. Daniel spent hours in the saddle, and it led to several junior national championship titles for him. In fact, he was so determined to be a rider that when he was 16, after seriously injuring his ankle while playing soccer, he painted the plaster cast on his foot black so he could defend his title at the national show. “Everybody thought I was crazy, walking the course on crutches!” Daniel recalled. “The stirrup had to be longer because I couldn’t bend my ankle.”
With that kind of resolve, it wasn’t hard to see that Daniel’s future lay with horses. He knew what he wanted — and that was to be a professional rider.
Intercontinental Career Move
“I wanted to ride horses for a living, but I knew in Bolivia that was impossible,” Daniel said. “So I had to finish college.” At that time, Bolivia’s government and economy were very unstable, so Daniel and his entire family, including his sisters Alejandra and Veronica, decided to move to the States. “We moved our horses, the whole family and two dogs,” Daniel explained. They landed in Austin, Texas, where Daniel continued his college studies at St. Edward’s University.
Daniel would spend the week in classes then attend weekend horse shows with his father and the horses they brought with them, building friendships while adjusting to the differences in the competitive scene in the States. “I had three horses to do high amateur classes or the smaller grand prix,” Daniel said. “It was a good way to get started.”
He graduated with his degree in business. “And the next day, I was a professional,” Daniel laughed. His father purchased the facility where they trained, so Daniel had a home base for training and taking in horses for clients. His burgeoning career as a professional also led him to his wife, Lindsay, whom he met via Erin Davis-Heineking. “Erin was one of the first people who approached me and she said, ‘My name is Erin, welcome to the U.S. If you need anything, let me know,’” Daniel said. “You know when you move to a new country, it can be intimidating. But she introduced herself and we became friends right away. Lindsay is her cousin.”
Daniel first met Lindsay while showing in Colorado; Lindsay then attended college in Austin, became one of Daniel’s clients, and the couple was married in 2010.They made the move to the Houston area, where Lindsay’s family is, in 2012, and they currently operate Bedoya Training Stables out of Shady Side Farm in Magnolia, Texas.
Big Horses & Big Jumps
Beyond knowing he was destined for a career with horses, Daniel has found a serious love for taking on the big jumps, and he found the perfect partner in 2011. Quattro is a big Dutch Warmblood that initially Daniel had no interest in going to look at. “I was looking for a horse that could jump 1.20 meters for a client,” Daniel explained. At the time, he hadn’t been looking for himself; he had a prospect he needed to sell first. “I wasn’t even going to go look at him, but I was at Pin Oak and I decided to go look at the horse because he was there next to the show.”
He walked into the barn in time to see the big gelding walk out of his stall and into the cross ties, without any help. “So I tried the horse,” Daniel said. “He was green and out of shape, and I remember the horse was exhausted after 10 minutes. I asked to take him home for two weeks and give him a fair chance, since I couldn’t tell if he was a good prospect.”
At home, Daniel was able to sell the prospect he had, but his client said “no thanks” to Quattro. “So I went to the barn and tried the horse with different eyes,” he recalled. “I tried the horse for me. And I remember I built a bigger jump, and he jumped so big I fell off! I didn’t even finish getting up and I said, ‘I’m buying this horse!’”
The match paid off. Daniel and Quattro have gone on to compete in numerous national and international competitions, including Daniel’s first major grand prix win of the $40,000 Tractor Supply Grand Prix in 2015 — where they were the only clear round in the entire class — and the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) held in Tryon, where the pair represented Bolivia.
“He has the most scope of any horse I’ve had; he’s basically changed my career,” Daniel said fondly. “He’s brave and honest, with a great personality. He’s one cool customer, and never gets intimidated.” Quattro, however, plays favorites at home, so while he’s Daniel’s main mount, his favorite person is Lindsay — even making Daniel interrupt her in the shower to go catch the big bay horse, who will turn and run from anyone who tries to catch him in the pasture, but is meek as a lamb with Lindsay.
Also being developed in Daniel’s barn is 11-year-old Abracadabra WKT, owned by Monica Hanks. Originally a hunter, the mare began to show signs of being bored with her job. “We started putting her in jumper divisions,” Daniel said, “and one of her first shows, she ended up champion in three different divisions! We thought, I guess she wants to be a jumper!”
This year, Daniel has his eyes on the 2019 Pan American Games that begin this July in Lima, Peru, where Daniel will be representing Bolivia again; he has yet to decide if the experienced veteran Quattro will attend, or if the younger but faster Abracadabra will make the trip.
Throughout his life and professional career, Daniel has immensely benefitted from the diverse experiences found in Bolivia and the States. It was in La Paz that he developed into the organic, go-with-his-gut type of rider that he is, and his father’s work ethic and influence that made Daniel the rider and trainer he is. “My dad is very structured, very motivated, very disciplined,” Daniel said. “The basics, discipline, all that I learned from my dad.”
Here in the States is where Daniel encountered the classical, technical approach to jumping, the type of riding that Lindsay is more accustomed to, which makes the husband-and-wife team the perfect balance for the riders and horses in their program. “Lindsay is really detailed,” Daniel said. “I ride more out of what I feel and what I think the horse needs, so I teach that way. So we complement each other really well.”
Lindsay agrees. “He has a really natural ability and way with the horses,” she said. “He’s pretty intuitive with them. With the horses and when it comes to teaching, he has a lot of patience. I’ve never seen him give up on anybody.”
Just as Daniel inherited his love of horses and all the positive attributes that come with it from his father, Daniel is ready to teach his own daughter. Daniel and Lindsay are sharing their love of horses with their 8-year-old daughter Natalia, who even got to canter with her dad on Quattro. “She rides a little,” Daniel said fondly. “I’m hoping she becomes a big fan!”
For more information, visit www.bedoyatrainingstables.net
Photos by Kristie Nichols, moonfyrephotography.com