‘If I can do it, you have to try!’ Meet the 69-year-old architect and home-bred mare vying for an Olympic place

  • A 69-year-old architect and his home-bred mare will be among those vying for an Olympic ticket this weekend – with a lawyer and a medical student among his teammates.

    Juan Carlos Tafur Eisenmayer and Blue Moon are representing Colombia in the eventing at the Pan American Games in Chile, the dressage phase of which starts today (27 October).

    Juan, from Bogotá, is an architect who has worked on projects from housing to sporting venues, but his real love is horses.

    “I don’t know how I find the time to do it, but it happens!” he said.

    Juan, who turns 70 in December, runs a sport horse breeding business with his wife, with lines going back to the famous Irish jumping sire King of Diamonds, and said he might have had a chance of an Olympic place earlier in his career but family life intervened.

    “Now it’s easier for me to develop the sport more intensively,” he said.

    Juan, who is at his fourth Pan Am Games, has also represented his country at the Bolivarian Games, winning two team bronzes and one individual, and at the Central American Games, winning team silver. He is a showjumping course-designer who works in South Africa, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Venezuela and Canada.

    He said he is impressed by the professionalism at the Pan Am Games but that some nations need to do more to be competitive.

    “The standard of horsemanship is much higher but we still have too many differences between Europe and the US and what we are doing in South America,” he said. “That is because here it is difficult to travel and bring people together, it’s so difficult to move horses around and so expensive.

    “I try to encourage people by saying ‘If I can do it then you have to try!’ Be focused, try to progress, anything is possible – although I’m not sure about a medal!”

    Juan said the cross-country is his favourite phase, and that his 14-year-old mare loves it too.

    “We walked the course yesterday – it’s tough, we’ve never had these mountains and hills so she will be a little surprised but we will enjoy it!” he said, adding that riding keeps him fit, and Blue Moon is his perfect partner.

    “When you have a horse that’s light, capable, willing and careful it’s fantastic,” he said. “I work for my horses and they are everything to me!”

    Juan’s teammates are professional rider Lucero Desrochers S, Andres Felipe Gomez Sanabria, a “young man studying medicine”, and Mauricio Benmudez, a “lawyer who just bought an Irish horse!”

    There are two team places for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games on offer at the Pan Ams. The United States have booked their place, so the countries in contention are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay.

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