March 8, 2014
Cruz Aizpurúa, equestrianSunday, February 9, 2014
‘I’m really self-taught’
Rider talks about her career and her remarkable win at the Republic GPDetermination, equal parts of pluck, courage and hard work, coupled with talent lead to success. That’s a good description of Cruz Aizpurúa, 41, an equestrian who won the Argentine Republic Grand Prix 2013 as underdog. She was born and raised in Tres Arroyos and is now living with her husband, Horacio Heiland, and daughters, Belén (18) and Pilar (14) in Coronel Suárez.
Cruz — a slim petite rider (53 kilos, 1.57m tall) — talked with the Herald about her career in the ring and the challenges she faces.
How long have you been riding?
Literally forever. Even before I could walk, I was on a horse. After all I grew up in the country.
How did you begin riding?
I always wanted to make horses my life work. I couldn’t wait for school to be out so I could go riding. The countryside, clean air and horses were what made me the happiest.
When my father Víctor realized I was going to concentrate on horses, he began breeding at his San Manuel farm although he had always been connected with horses.
What is the origin of the Sil prefix on your horses’ names?
My Dad, who was a visionary when it came to breeding, went to the Argentine Stud Book to register his stud farm. But every name he chose had already been taken. So he decided to use the first three letters of his children’s names: Silvina, Victor and Cruz. Although he began with thoroughbreds, Víctor later switched to Silla Argentina and now registers his horses with the Argentine Association to Promote Sport Horses (Asociación Argentina de Fomento Equino).
Who taught you?
An instructor in Mar del Plata, but I’m really self-taught. I’m a keen observer and listener. I’m used to not having a coach.
How did you begin jumping?
Even at a very early age I was always fascinated with jumping. I used to put metal pipes between two gates and pop over them. Fortunately, the pipes were joined loosely in the centre and came apart if I hit them. I would have loved to have been a jockey, but got hooked first on jumping.
Did jumping come easy to you?
At first, I had a Western saddle with a horn which made it difficult. So my Dad sawed it off, and things were a lot easier.
What happened when you began competing in the children’s category?
It was an adventure to travel to Buenos Aires and compete in the children’s (under 12) championship. I finished third with Flecha, although a lot of people made fun of me because I had a white rawhide bridle like the gauchos use.
How often do you ride?
I live in Coronel Suárez, but keep my horses in Tres Arroyos. So I go once a week to train and usually ride eight horses then.
Is living so far from Buenos Aires a disadvantage for your riding career?
Yes, without a doubt, it’s a disadvantage. The only time we jump on grass is when I come to the Club Hípico Argentino. When I compete in 1.30m classes at Bahía Blanca, generally there are only five riders, while in Buenos Aires there are over 100 at that height. Strong competition makes you much more competitive.
How long does it take to trailer the horses to Buenos Aires?
It takes around 10 hours.
What about you, do you drive up?
Usually I take the midnight bus from Coronel Suárez that arrives at Retiro bus terminal early in the morning. This way I’m not away from home too long. It’s a sacrifice, but my priorities are first being a mother, wife and then a rider.
Have you ever had any difficulties with this travel arrangement?
Once there was a traffic accident and I wasn’t going to be on time for the show at San Jorge Village in Polvorines. I called my parents and they picked me up at the bus terminal. I arrived in the nick of time for my class. Another time, I arrived at the El Capricho show in Capilla del Señor with very few minutes to spare. I dashed across the grounds as fast as I could and just made it in time to walk the course. On various occasions, I’ve had to change into my breeches and boots in the car.
Do things like that make you nervous?
Fortunately, when I’m riding I am able to concentrate only on what I’m doing and block out everything else. The horse feels my positive energy.
Do you teach other riders?
Normally, I don’t. I prefer to train horses for the challenge and satisfaction of bringing the young ones along. The important thing is they are brave and willing. However, I do coach my younger daughter Pilar who keeps her horse at home in Coronel Suárez.
What does your family think of your riding career?
My husband Horacio, a farmer who used to play pato, but now races in car rallies, supports and respects my love of horses. My daughter Belén, 18, currently studying advertising in Buenos Aires, and Pilar, 14, in middle school, always root for me even if they can’t come often to the shows. My parents, Silvia and Víctor, accompany me as much as possible.
Have you ever been hurt?
I’ve hurt my knees and spine on different occasions. Recently I couldn’t ride for almost a month because when a young mare bucked me off, the membrane between the ribs and the breastbone became swollen as a result of the fall. This meant I missed important shows at Zangersehide in Moreno, Haras El Capricho in Capilla del Señor and San Jorge Village in Polvorines.
So you really had very little preparation for the Argentine Republic Grand Prix at the Club Hípico Argentino.
Yes, that made winning even more of a satisfaction to beat all the top riders in such an important competition. In addition, my horse Sil Vasco, a nine-year-old non-registered thoroughbred, had only jumped 1.50m twice before.
Was that the most important victory in your career so far?
Yes. Previously, I had been second in the CHA’s Anniversary Grand Prix and fifth in El Haras Capricho Grand Prix with Sil Picachu, my top horse that is retired now. But yes, winning the Republic was a milestone in my career.
Any plans for the future?
I hope to develop another top horse like Sil Picachu and jump in Europe or the US in a couple of years.
But, of course without neglecting her priorities of being a mother and wife.