It was 1 a.m. in Budapest, Hungary, before Carly Dvorkin had a chance to take a break. Since she’d posted a clear jump-off round in the show jumping individual final with Carlotta 168 to win gold at the 15th European Maccabi Games, everything had been full steam ahead. Instead of presenting awards immediately following the competition, medal ceremonies occurred later that evening.
The Maccabi Games is a multi-discipline sporting event for Jewish athletes held every two years, and every element strongly resembles the Olympic Games with elaborate opening and closing ceremonies, and full medal ceremonies complete with the winning country’s national anthem. The United States sent representatives to both the European Games and the Pan American version, which took place in Mexico, July 5-15, fielding teams for both dressage and show jumping.
In addition to her individual gold, Dvorkin, 18, Parkland, Florida, earned team bronze medal with Arly Golombek and Andrea Glazer, and Golombek also won individual silver.
Despite the late hour, Dvorkin’s enthusiasm never waivered as she spoke to the Chronicle about her experiences at the Games, which run July 28-Aug. 7.
Chronicle: Congratulations on your gold medal! Can you tell us about how the competition?
Dvorkin: It was run like a Nations Cup format, with two team event rounds and then one individual round today. It was a good feeling walking in today, knowing I had a chance [at gold] because it was me and two other double clears going into today. I was really confident in my horse, and my trainer [David Blake] gave me a lot of courage. He said, “We’re coming here to do a job,” and everyone put the pressure on me because we were all on 0 faults.
I’ve shown a lot of different places, and, knock on wood, I have been very lucky, and my horses are amazing. So I’ve gotten results over the years, but this is probably the biggest accomplishment I’ve had my entire riding career. It was a really big team effort, and it was so nice to have so much support. My whole family flew up from Florida to come and watch, and it was so cool, the whole thing. It felt really cool because being Jewish, it was a big deal and big moment.
What made you want to participate in the Maccabi Games?
Honestly, I wanted to participate in this because I’m very involved in the Jewish community. I start my freshman year at Tulane [University (Louisiana)] in two weeks, and I thought this would be a really cool experience to have and to meet new people from different countries. I love traveling, and I think it’s just a really important thing to embrace Judaism, at least for me.
It’s hard; the team competition, you have to be dependent on someone else, which is not usual, because I feel like, riding, it’s a very individual, sport. So when you have to rely on someone else to do well, it’s definitely stressful, but that’s why you support each other. We had a strong team going in, so I was lucky. I hope more people get involved over the years. It’s obviously growing.
Tell us a little bit about your horse Carlotta. What’s your partnership with her like?
Carlotta is the literally best horse ever. I’ve had Carlotta for two years now. She is the most incredible horse I could’ve found because we have such a good partnership, and she’s always there for me. She always knows what I’m going to do before I do it. She’s such a bright mare, and I was saying today, “I bring out the best in her, and she brings out the best in me.”
She’s the one horse I can always depend on, and she always has my back, and I know that she always tries her heart out. I know a lot of people say that, but this horse is just—she’s so competitive in herself. She just wants to do good, and that’s really hard to find in a horse sometimes. I’m lucky enough to have a good string at home, but Carlotta’s definitely one I can always depend on no matter what. She’s just that horse, and I found her two years ago, and she’s been so consistent ever since.
I couldn’t think of a better horse to bring to this event. I’m so confident walking in every day because I know she always outdoes herself for me and tries more than anything. It was really special to have her for this competition because I said, “Wow, Carlotta won the Maccabi Games.” It was really cool to have my own horse that’s been there for me for all of it.
Some riders rode borrowed horses. What made you decide to bring your own horse?
Seeing the different teams go, I think it was super important—it was definitely beneficial to have her there. This is my first time showing internationally, and we were debating: Are we going to bring her or not? And we figured if we want our best shot at a gold medal, then we should bring her because she’s always one you can count on, and she always outdoes herself and tries so hard.
This was a really big event for my family, and our goal this whole summer was to get ready for the Games, and I think having Carlotta there, it just made sense. Today I was confident. My trainer and my family kind of put the pressure on a little bit once I was in the jump-off, and I stayed cool. It was a big moment obviously. I know Carlotta really well, but it was a lot of pressure to go fast, and the Swiss girl was really fast. So I think having her there, I was really lucky because it was a lot of pressure, and knowing your horse is a really good thing to have in this kind of competition.
How long have you been in Budapest?
I got here with the team on Monday. The opening ceremonies were Tuesday night, and it was so cool walking in with all the different sports with Team USA. I walked in with my team, and we were all in the same clothes, so that was really cool. That was on Tuesday, and then team competition started Wednesday, and we had the two rounds. My team was great. We really did work together and helped each other. They were so supportive, so I was really lucky to have a team like that.
Then today was the individual; you could tell that everyone was on the same team even if they were out of the individual. My team member was one of the ones against me in the jump-off, so obviously I was super lucky. We definitely had a good team, and everyone was rooting for each other.
How are you feeling now that it’s all over?
It was a very cool experience; I really owe it all to my trainer David Blake and my family for sure, because they’ve supported me. When I first got asked to the team I was so ecstatic, and actually coming here and doing it was even better. And not letting my team down was a really cool experience.
David, my trainer, has always supported me in so many different ways. Seeing how happy he was today when I ended up winning was the coolest thing because he’s put so much work into me over the years, and really is the best trainer. My team at Pine Hollow, which is my family’s barn, are so supportive. I had people calling from home and messaging me, which was just really a cool thing. David has worked really hard on training with me, and he’s made it very disciplined with all my work. I’m going off to college, so this was definitely a cool way to end my summer circuit before I leave, but I’m really lucky to have such a good support system.
Do you want to compete at the Maccabi Games again?
I really hope to be able to do the next Games. It happens every two years, and every four years it’s in Israel, so in 2021 I definitely want to compete at the Games there. I was just in Israel, and I think that’s going to be a different experience. I wouldn’t have traded this experience for the world, and hopefully, it’ll help me progress my riding in different ways too.
You competed at the Zone 4 Jumper Team Championships (North Carolina) a couple of weeks ago, do you feel that experience helped you here?
It really did. I learned the format and everything, and the Tryon one went amazing. My other really good horse Fuego, he’s a bit younger than Carlotta, but he’s incredible, and I’m so lucky to have him too. He was great in that championship too, but having that knowledge helped me know a lot about being on a team and supporting your teammates, and that helped me for here in Budapest. It definitely paid off.
Does anyone else in your family ride?
I’m the only one in my family who rides, but they’re all really supportive of it. My parents never miss a competition, and my family’s always there. Definitely this is my passion and they support David Blake and I. David’s like my family, so I feel like he’s my brother. It’s like a family sport that we all take part in, and my parents are so supportive. We’re really lucky to have them behind us.
What are you planning on studying at school?
I always want to have the riding background for sure. When people ask me what I want to do, I’m not completely sure yet, but I am studying business. I’m studying finance with a minor in marketing. I’m really into marketing; I built the Pine Hollow website, and I realized I had a passion for that when I was able to see the finished product. I look up to my father in many ways, and I hope I can be as big into business as him. I’ve grown up in a family that’s very business-oriented, and the horse business has taught me a lot.