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Student Spotlight: Elisa’s journey from dressage to Oxford

When it comes to students at EF Academy, their interests and passions are as diverse as the nationalities they represent. In our Student Spotlight series, we shine a light on some of our talented high schoolers and their achievements.

EF Academy Oxford student Elisa’s passion for dressage has been a constant for much of her life and taught her many lessons both on and off her horse, Weihestolz. We caught up with her after a recent competition at the Prix St. Georges level to hear more about how she balances her co-curricular passion with her school life.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hey! My name is Elisa and I am currently an IB Diploma Year 1 student at EF Academy Oxford. When I am not attending school I am usually in my home country, Germany. Regarding school, I can say that I am definitely enjoying every subject, as our teachers are truly always trying to make the most out of it. But if I had to decide on one subject, I would probably choose Chemistry or German. My free-time is filled with horse riding when I am at home and I enjoy doing different sports when I am at school and take part in the Model United Nations Club.

When did you start riding horses? How did you get into dressage?

The first time I sat on a horse was about 10 years ago and the first time I competed was exactly 7 years ago. Since then I exclusively compete in dressage tests, which was influenced by my first coach, who grew my interest in this quite complex discipline and discovered what I can now call my passion. Even though I enjoy jumping, my mum is truly afraid when it comes to high fences/obstacles, so when they bought my first horse they bought one that really didn’t like to jump!

How do you balance your school life with training for competitions? Has EF Academy helped you in any way?

When I applied to EF Academy I was honestly surprised by how I was supported. The school offered to bring my horse with me to Oxford and adjust everything regarding training, transport, etc. As thankful as I was for this, I wanted to focus on my academic studies and therefore decided that I would leave my horse in Germany, but I would be allowed to travel back home on the weekends for important competitions. In the meantime, my coaches continue to train my horse. It’s my responsibility to keep up my own fitness so both me and my horse are in good shape when it’s competition time. I am grateful for the support EF Academy offers me and my passion, and am happy that I can still participate in my sport.

Tell us about your latest competition, on the Prix St. Georges level. How did it go?

I have to say I am quite overwhelmed. Firstly, it was great luck that it was even possible to have competitions during this hard time the world is going through right now with the coronavirus. I did not expect too much regarding our results, since I had only two weeks of training beforehand. My coaches and I decided that I would compete in two tests. The first one was a dressage test on a medium level, where my horse Weihestolz and I were able to secure second place. As we normally compete on the next higher level this test was mainly for me to ‘warm-up’ because I haven’t been to a competition since August, when I arrived in beautiful Oxford.

The second day was the harder test, the S* dressage test on St. Georges level. As I was exceptionally satisfied with the second place we secured in the first test, I was more relaxed entering the dressage arena the second time and improved some things compared to the first test, which helped me gain more points and reach a score of 70,556%. I was unbelievably thankful for the engagement of my coaches and especially my mare, Weihestolz, without whom this would not have been possible; I was of course even more cheerful because this result meant victory.

Have you learned any lessons from dressage that have helped you in other aspects of your life?

The most important trait I probably gained through doing dressage as a competitive sport is discipline and perseverance, as well as how to deal with mistakes, which helps me tremendously when it comes to studying in school. Dressage is a sport which requires a lot of empathy, as my direct partner is an animal which also has its needs and wants. Also extremely important is the ability to work in a team, since I always have a team around me and my horse (my parents, coaches, grooms, etc.) who all are working together to provide the best possible base with which to succeed in competitions. This ability to work in a team, which I learned through my experience in this sport, definitely helps me with friendships in general very much. Personally, I can say that the sport undoubtedly helped me build a healthy confidence in myself and the actions I take, as I was a very shy person for a long time.

Where do you plan to take your passion after you graduate?

Regarding my plans after graduation, I am surely considering studying at a university in a foreign country, but have not decided on a particular one yet. I am certain that I would like to continue doing dressage as a competitive sport no matter where I end up studying at university. I plan on taking one of my horses with me, since I realized that it is not possible for me to live without those faithful and patient companions by my side.

Do you have any advice for students about balancing their schoolwork with their passion?

Being organized has always been the most important thing for me, otherwise I would not be able to balance schoolwork with dressage. But it is also extremely important to take a short break from both from time to time and spend some time with your friends.


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