High School Student (12th grade)
How long have you been part of the horse world?
I am 18 now and have been riding since I was 4 years old and competing since I was 6. My uncle does rodeo team roping, and when I was younger, he would take me to the farm with him. I quickly fell in love with horses, and I wanted to be at the barn every day. However, his farm was about an hour away, so my mom posted on Facebook trying to find a farm closer to Miami. Heavenly Acres, now known as Elysian Stables, was recommended to us, and I pivoted to show jumping. Since then, I have fallen in love with the sport more and hope to be a part of the horse world forever!
Do your parents like horses or ride?
My mother grew up with a buckskin trail horse named Cinnamon. Although she would have loved to compete, her parents couldn’t afford it. However, she has always loved horses and enjoys accompanying me on trail rides. My favorite part of the quarantine months of the pandemic were our daily trail rides together. I have tried to convince her to show in the Adult Jumpers, and hopefully one day, her dream of show jumping will come true! My dad, on the other hand, never knew about this sport until I started. As much as he claims he hates it, I often find him handing out treats throughout the barn aisle to his “grandkids.”
What are your riding goals?
I plan to compete in the U25 and two-star level this year. My goal is to qualify for NAYC to compete in the Juniors again, and perform well there to make the Junior Team for the FEI Jumping Nations Cup Youth Final at Peelbergen. I also hope to compete at Prix Des States again and show at the National Horse Show for the first time. I won’t be able to ride daily like I do now, as I will be out of Florida, but I hope to remain competing at a high level and riding consistently by returning on the weekends and during my breaks to train and compete. Looking toward the future, I hope to show at the three-star, four-star and five-star levels and represent the United States on the international stage by making Nations Cup teams.
Who do you train with and where is the farm?
I recently began training with Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run. Their farm is located in Grand Prix Village in Wellington, Florida.
What horses do you ride?
My main horse at the moment is MHS Carndenta, otherwise known as Cardi. We have been partnered for just under a year, and together, we have accomplished so much. We showed at NAYC last summer in the Juniors and finished with team gold. We also competed at Prix Des States and finished fourth in the team final. She has taken me around my first National Grand Prix, and we have earned several top finishes in the High Junior Jumpers. She is only 9 years old, turning 10 this year, yet she is the best teacher and partner. Although she is just as competitive and feisty as I am, she is also extremely patient and forgiving as I tackle higher fences for the first time, and I’m so grateful to have her. I would say we have very similar personalities and that’s what makes us get along so well. We are also both very short! She is usually the smallest horse in the barn, but that doesn’t stop her from jumping the big jumps, as she has a huge heart. She reminds me so much of my heart horse, Cassandra Dreams, who is also a small, fearless and fiery gray mare.
What’s your biggest achievement in the horse world?
My biggest achievement was team and individual gold at NAYC 2021. I competed in the inaugural Pre-Junior division with my horse Cocominka EST. At that point, I had been partnered with Coco for six months, and it all came together at our biggest show of the year. Standing on the top of the podium while hearing your national anthem is always such a surreal experience, especially knowing how much my grandparents sacrificed to be in this country. I could not be more thankful for the entire team, including Coco, my parents, and my trainer at the time, Margie Engle, whom I had been with since the age of 11, and who made dreams of mine come true.
What’s your favorite show you have competed in?
My favorite show is the Longines Global Champions Tour of Miami Beach. I have lived in Miami my entire life, and the majority of my family lives there, too. I am so grateful to have shown there four times, and I am looking forward to showing there this year for the fifth time. My most memorable show experience was LGCT Miami Beach of 2019, right before the pandemic canceled the show for the following two years. It was the last day of competition and I competed in the 1.15m. That year I competed with my longtime partner, Cassandra Dreams. After winning the competition the first day, we hoped to close our weekend with another win. And that is exactly what she did. I remember landing from the last jump and hearing the roar from the stands as the announcer said I had entered the top spot. He even jokingly stated that I was the “fan-favorite.” I felt so loved by the many family and friends that came to watch me that day, from my grandparents and distant cousins to my school friends and principal. I will always cherish doing what I love in front of the people that I love.
Your grandparents came to the U.S. from Cuba. Have you had the chance to visit Cuba?
My grandparents immigrated from Cuba in the 1960s, sacrificing everything and leaving all that they knew and loved behind in search of freedom. My parents and I were born in the United States. We are very lucky to have none of our family left in Cuba, and that everyone was able to escape Castro’s dictatorship. I visited Cuba for the first and only time in the summer of 2018. My family had to keep the trip a secret until we returned, since we knew that if our grandparents discovered we were going to visit, they would be furious. However, I am glad that I visited. I got to see my grandparents’ childhood home, and see all their idyllic childhood stories come to life when I drove down El Malecon. On the other hand, I witnessed the bravery of the Cuban people who are stripped of their freedom, yet refuse to be silenced and protest for their human rights on the street.
Your mom is an entrepreneur. What does she do?
My mom is a real estate developer specializing in multifamily commercial real estate. She is the CEO and founder of the largest female-led and -founded real estate development company in Florida, NeologyLife, which is headquartered in Miami, but you can find her on the weekends ringside cheering me on. I aspire to become a real estate developer like her.
What was it like interning for the mayor of Miami?
This past summer, I worked for City of Miami Mayor Suarez as the only high school intern. I saw firsthand the economic hardships families faced. I focused on providing constituents in minority neighborhoods information and resources, like the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Through my help, families facing homelessness received education and training relevant to apply for and obtain government support. Helping families maneuver these overwhelming administrative programs and the gratitude they conveyed was a life-changing experience and opened my eyes to the reality that these housing hardships are often felt most harshly by women.
What are your goals for your life?
I hope to pursue both my passions professionally—riding and real estate development. I want to represent the United States on the global stage wearing the Team USA jacket, while working my way up through NeologyLife to become the next CEO. As CEO, I want to grow the company beyond Florida and become a national leader in the industry.
I aspire to be like Lucy Davis and Lillie Keenan, who competed at high levels of our sport while attending prestigious schools and working towards their academic goals.
What is the best thing about your life?
I love the dichotomy of my life. I’ve balanced my school life with my equestrian pursuits. I’ve been able to get an incredible traditional education at Ransom Everglades School in Miami. I’ve landed from equestrian competitions across the country to go directly to my school’s homecoming and football games with school friends. I look forward to going to college next year and delving into my new academic community, while continuing to be a part of my equestrian community. I love being multifaceted and embracing my different passions, interests and aspirations.
Best-kept secret about what you do?
I love barrel racing. When I first started riding, I rode Western with my uncle. I have barrel raced at rodeos and still do occasionally, and I think part of why I love the jumpers is because of my start as a barrel racer.
Photos by Melissa Fuller, msfullerphotography.com