“Never get distracted,” she kept repeating to herself.
Distracted. A word Maria Adelaida Restrepo, Junior at TCS, has repeatedly heard throughout her life. “Don’t get distracted, don’t get distracted,” she whispered to herself as she walked towards the 500 kilogram horse waiting for her, eager to know what that day’s challenge would be.
Ironically, learning to focus was the main reason she had gotten into horseback riding. Her life as a kid was filled with energy that didn’t allow her to concentrate in school, leading her to the edge of losing the school year. Her mom gave her an idea one day, that without knowing would change her future.
“I heard that equestrian sports really help people to concentrate, because being distracted on a horse is simply not an option,” Restrepo said.
She attended her first horse back riding class at the equestrian school Equus, and knew from the moment she started riding, that was her thing. By the age of 15, she had already created a bond with her horse jerez which is her main motivation to continue practicing this sport. She started increasing her riding schedule, from riding 1 hour a week on Saturdays, to training a minimum of 5 hours a week to up to 7 hours a week.
“If it wasn’t for my horse, and my parents,I would probably never ride again. My horse and I work together as a team, and my parents encourage me to keep going,” Restrepo said.
Restrepo has only participated in two internal competitions at her equestrian school, and is not really interested in falling at the top of the ranking in a competition.
“My main focus right now is simply training. There’s a lot on my plate right now for me to compete, so my priorities are more on training and enjoying my classes,” Restrepo said.
As training time increased, free time decreased. Maria Adelaida was faced with the reality of not having time to complete her school responsibilities. She participates in the robotic team being the marketing manager while also tutoring a kid outside school hours. She started having her sleep schedule messed up because of the endless hours staying up late studying and was faced with the stress and pressure of high school tests and assignments.
“My schedule started becoming very chaotic, especially when I started my junior year. I had to find a balance between school and horseback riding, but it’s not an easy thing to do,” Restrepo said.
Maria Adelaida knew she had to do something about her schedule, and she knew for a fact she wasn’t going to give up her passion. She took action immediately and talked to TCS High School principal Juan David Lopez.
“We made an agreement so I could train in the mornings and arrive 40 min late to the first block. Being able to train in the mornings and having many more afternoons free really helped me with my time. I could also train harder in the mornings as there were less people so more time for me,” Restrepo said.
Apart from granting Adelaida permission to train in the mornings, Juan David Lopez also created a letter to make Maria Adelaida part of the list of the High Performance Athletes. Being part of this list, the school is more flexible with due dates on assignments and teachers understand the struggle it can be to balance your school life with outside sport activities. These High Performance Athletes also have P.E classes not mandatory so they can use this time to work on their school assignments.
A lot of balance is needed to handle school life with outside training, and the challenges the sport itself brings can’t be forgotten. Horseback riding requires both physical and mental efforts. You need to keep your posture when saddling, as well as keeping a good control of the horse and knowing when to give them commands.
“One of the biggest challenges is arriving at the jump at a good distance. You have to measure it very well. If you measure it wrong, everything can start deteriorating from there,” Restrepo said.
She explains how all this equestrian experience and school life at the same time has taught her organization, the importance of continuing to work hard for what you love, and how patience is the key to everything.
“For school, life, horseback riding, or anything you do in life, balance is always needed. We should all learn to master this so we can be successful,” Restrepo said.