Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2024

One To Watch: Mexico’s Daniela Moguel Is Making Her Dreams Come True

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Growing up in Mexico City, eventing wasn’t ever on Daniela Moguel’s radar. A horse-crazy kid, she was a member of her local Pony Club and started her riding career show jumping, until one day she saw a poster that changed her life.

“I went to a show, and outside the bathroom was a picture of a girl, Karen O’Connor, jumping into the water, and as soon as I saw the picture, I said, ‘I want to do that,’” she said.

After years spent learning the sport in Mexico, Moguel’s life changed again when she found a special partner, Cecelia, in 2014, and decided to stay in the U.S. to aim for the Pan American Games.

And it came full circle when she began training with the girl on the poster last year, who’s since become coach of the Mexican eventing team.

Now Moguel and Cecelia are heading to the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, but first they’ll have their final run this weekend at The Fork in the advanced, test B division.

Daniela Moguel and Cecelia at the 2015 Pan American Games. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

“I just can’t believe it. I don’t think I’m going to believe it until I’m there,” said Moguel. “That’s a big dream.”

The daughter of two psychologists, Moguel is the only horse-crazy person in her family, but her parents were supportive. She got her first horse when she was 15 and once she was inspired to start eventing, found a local horse trial to enter and never looked back.

She spent a year in the U.S. as a working student for Joy Pharr before heading to college in Mexico City to study art history.

But, “I was watching the clock to see when I could go ride!”

Moguel started teaching lessons to young riders and adult amateurs and eventually started her own riding school with a couple of her own horses.

She’s worked out of Aurelio Quinzaños’ and his wife Maribel Alonso’s El Mirador in Mexico City for 10 years, and was joined six years ago by her boyfriend, Zully Martinez.

Quinzaños is an eventer himself, while Alonso is a dressage rider and judge who will serve as president of the ground jury at the Olympic Games in Rio this summer for dressage.

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“They’ve been supportive of everything; with the horses, the sponsorship, letting us use the farm,” said Moguel.

Starting A New Journey

In 2014, Moguel began considering finding a new partner for the Pan American Games in Toronto.

She’s competed to the two-star level in Mexico on Agave, a horse owned by Quinzaños, and a handful of others, including two appearances at the Central American and Caribbean Games, but had never thought about going advanced.

Martinez was searching online for horses and found Cecelia listed by her owner, Leslie Chelstrom, who competed her through the CCI*** level.

“[He said,] ‘This is your horse! You have to have her.’” Moguel remembered. “I said, ‘Yes, of course, but we have no money.’ He just pushed and pushed for two or three days until I said, ‘OK! What do you want?’ [He said,] ‘Ask Aurelio, show him the horse, I know this is the horse for you.’”

Moguel and Cecelia at the 2015 Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI***. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

Quinzaños and Alonso traveled with Moguel to Virginia to see Cecelia, and it was a match made in heaven.

“In the trip to see Cecelia, we went to see a couple of other horses to make it worth the trip, so I sat on another four or five other horses. I liked them, and it was OK, but the second I sat on her I said, ‘This is the one.’” she said. “I sat on her and said, ‘This is my horse.’ Being able to be her partner has been so easy. She’s such an easy horse and just wants to please you.”

Moguel decided to stay in the U.S. after purchasing Cecelia in December to train for the Pan Ams, and she and the mare meshed quickly. They began training with O’Connor in March.

“She’s an amazing trainer. I improved so much since I started riding with her, it’s unbelievable,” she said. “She can catch whatever you need in two seconds. It’s really good.”

They finished ninth in the Ocala CCI** (Fla.) last year and 12th at the Pan Ams before moving up to advanced at the Poplar Place CIC*** (Ga.) in September.

“I was scared! I didn’t know what to expect,” she admitted. “It was scary, but it was what I always wanted. I always wanted to go to that level. It was a nice feeling to see that I could do it, and that I had the partner that could take me there. It was amazing to see so many dreams achieved in such a small period of time.

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“She’s all business,” Moguel said of the mare. “She knows she’s here to show, and as soon as I get on, she’ll try to give the best of [herself,] every single time. When I’m out there on cross-country, she’ll look for the flags. She is really trying to make it happen.”

Moguel lives in Ocala, Fla., near O’Connor’s barn now, but she’s itching to get home soon after living away for a year and a half while Martinez has been holding down the business at home.

“I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I have to make decisions, because I love where I work, I love the people I work with, but I love this also,” she said. “There’s no competition in Mexico like here. The level and the shows are really good. I love it. It’s impossible to earn Mexican money and spend in dollars, so I need to think what’s next after Rolex.”

Moguel, 33, does all of the 13-year-old Thoroughbred’s care and has two beginner novice horses in Ocala.

“It’s nice because I think that’s why we can actually get the partnership so quickly,” she said. “I fix her feed, I put her blankets on, I clean her stall, I do everything. That really gets you to know the horse better.”

Moguel and Cecelia at the Red Hills CIC***. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

While Moguel is proud to ride for Mexico, she knows competing in the U.S. will help her achieve her goals.

With only a small group of riders in Mexico experienced at prelim or above, it’s tough to learn and grow the sport.

Moguel explained that two-stars aren’t held often, usually only when they’re needed for international championship qualification.

She’s the only female among a handful of military riders and a few male civilians to compete in the sport, and she receives no monetary support from the Mexican Equestrian Federation.

“I would love if that could happen, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” she said. “I’ve been getting texts from other eventing riders saying they support me and they are proud, and of course that makes me feel really good, but I don’t think the federation or the people in the top, politically, care. But that’s why I’m here! I had to do it if I wanted to be at the level.”

Even so, she’s proud to bring attention to the sport in Mexico and to represent the country in international competition.

“I feel very proud of achieving everything I’ve done until today, but the most important thing, the thing that really moves me, is that I’ve felt so much support from my people,” she said. “That’s unbelievable. That keeps me moving. The support I get from my team, even the grooms back home. They are cheering for me, and that’s what I like.”

We’re on site at The Fork all weekend! Check out more stories here.

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