Carolina Villanueva: Riding Towards Olympic Dreams

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Carolina Villanueva Suarez, a promising young talent in the equestrian world, is setting her sights on the Olympic stage with determination and passion. At the age of twenty-two, she has already carved a name for herself through her remarkable achievements and unwavering commitment to the sport. In this exclusive interview, Carolina shares insights into her journey, her horses, and her aspirations for the future.

– Can you tell us about how your passion for horses began and when you knew you wanted to pursue it as a career?

Funny enough, no one in my family is into horses. But when I lived in Holland, I started riding at a stable near our home. I spent hours there, and it became clear that riding was something I wanted to do every day. From then on, we moved to many countries, and I rode wherever we went. My passion for horses became more professional when I moved to the United States and started competing.”

Carolina’s journey into the world of horses started unexpectedly, but her dedication and love for the sport blossomed quickly as she explored different countries and cultures. Moving from Holland to the United States marked a significant turning point in her equestrian career, as she transitioned from casual riding to competitive pursuits.

– You’ve lived in multiple countries. How did you realize that the sport differs across various regions?

Moving to different countries opened my eyes to the diversity in equestrian sport. In the US, I participated in junior rider programs and experienced the structure of competitions. But in Europe, especially Spain, the level of competition is consistently high. Competing here means facing the best riders and horses, pushing me to improve constantly.”

Carolina’s exposure to different equestrian cultures highlighted the nuances and challenges present in each region. While the US offered structured programs and opportunities for junior riders, Europe presented a higher level of competition that fueled Carolina’s drive for excellence.

– What motivated your decision to move back to Europe, particularly Spain, and represent your home country?

“It was unexpected. I had already signed with a college in the US, but I realized achieving my goals in both academics and riding would be challenging. Then, I connected with Marco Fuster, who suggested I come to Spain and give it a shot. That phone call changed everything. I decided to pursue my riding career in Spain, which was a surprise even to my family.”

Carolina’s decision to move back to Europe and represent Spain was a pivotal moment in her career. Despite initial plans to pursue academics in the US, the opportunity to compete at a high level in her home country resonated deeply with her aspirations and ambitions.

– Balancing studies and riding at a high level is impressive. How do you manage both aspects of your life?

It’s a juggling act, but my determination and love for both pursuits keep me going. I spend hours studying, often in the truck on the way to shows. My parents instilled a high standard of achievement in me, which drives me to excel in both academics and riding. Additionally, my university has been supportive, allowing me to pursue my passion while completing my degrees.”

Carolina’s commitment to excellence extends beyond the arena, as she diligently balances her academic pursuits with her riding career. Her ability to manage both aspects of her life reflects her resilience and dedication to achieving her goals.

– Your horses play a crucial role in your career. Can you tell us about your relationship with them and their significance?

My horses are my best friends and partners in the ring. Each one has a unique personality and contributes to my success in different ways. Levisto, for example, is a once-in-a-lifetime horse who gives me confidence in the biggest classes. Voice is a winner, pushing me to be my best. Buros, my newest addition, brings fresh challenges and opportunities for growth.”

Carolina’s bond with her horses goes beyond competition—they are her companions and confidants. Through their individual personalities and strengths, they complement her riding style and support her journey towards achieving her goals.

– Would you say Levisto is a once-in-a-lifetime horse, and how has he impacted your career?

Absolutely, Levisto is a once-in-a-lifetime horse. He has the confidence and ability to take me into the biggest classes with unwavering trust. He’s not just a horse; he’s my partner in achieving my goals and reaching new heights in the sport.”

– You also give clinics and lessons. Do you see yourself becoming a trainer in the future?

I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experiences with others through clinics and lessons. It’s rewarding to see riders improve and develop their skills. While my focus now is on reaching the highest level of competition, becoming a trainer is a possibility I’m open to in the future.”

Carolina’s passion for teaching and mentoring others reflects her desire to give back to the equestrian community. As she continues to excel in her riding career, she remains open to the possibility of becoming a trainer and inspiring the next generation of riders. 

– What are your ultimate goals in your equestrian career, and what message do you want to convey to aspiring riders?

My ultimate goal is to compete in the Olympics and make my country proud. I want to inspire younger generations to pursue their passions relentlessly, knowing that nothing worth achieving comes easy. Riding is about the love for the horse and the journey of self-improvement. I hope to show others that with dedication and perseverance, dreams can become reality.

– You’ve achieved remarkable success at such a young age. What role does belief play in your journey, and how do you stay motivated despite setbacks?

Belief is everything to me. It’s the foundation upon which I build my dreams. Despite setbacks and challenges, I always hold onto the belief that I can overcome any obstacle. My  faith in myself, my team, and my horses keeps me motivated even in the toughest times. I’ve learned that setbacks are just temporary roadblocks on the path to success. Each setback only fuels my determination to achieve even greater heights.”

– You’ve had some incredible achievements in your career. How do you balance your focus between the pursuit of results and the love for the sport itself?

Achieving results is important, but it’s not the sole focus of my journey. For me, the love for the sport always comes first. I compete because I love riding, because I love the connection I share with my horses, and because I love the thrill of pushing myself to be the best I can be. While results are a tangible measure of progress, they are not the ultimate goal. I strive to find joy in every ride, regardless of the outcome, and to appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

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Carolina Villanueva Suarez’s story is a testament to the power of passion and perseverance. As she rides towards her Olympic dreams, she not only inspires aspiring riders but also reminds us all that with dedication and a love for what you do, the impossible becomes possible. Her journey is a shining example of courage, resilience, and the unbreakable bond between rider and horse. Carolina’s message is clear: chase your dreams relentlessly, for in the pursuit lies the true essence of victory.

V. Sozzi

Photos provided by Carolina Villanueva Suarez – ph. Equus Media

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