Rachel De Luca vividly remembers the first time she was on a horse.
Her family was vacationing in Mexico and her parents arranged for a horse ride on the beach. Rachel’s mom, dad and older siblings – Elizabeth ’15 and Joe ’17 – each mounted their own horse. Because she was so young, Rachel had to double up with her mom. “I remember thinking that I wanted to learn how to ride a horse so I could have my own horse the next time,” she said.
Today, Rachel is a proficient rider who took first place in the $2,500 Adult/Child .95 meter Jumper Stake Classic held in Sacramento March 3-4 – quite an accomplishment considering she was riding a very green five-year-old horse, Ted. She previously championed with him at the .75 Meter and .85 Meter divisions.
“Unlike many in this sport, our family doesn’t have the financial capacity to buy a $100,000 horse that can earn the championship ribbons,” Rachel’s mom, Pam De Luca, said.” Instead, Rachel has ridden any horse made available to her by her trainers – starting with an 18-year-old mare who had just given birth to a foal – and has made the most of it.”
Rachel started riding horses in kindergarten and after a few years of lessons decided she wanted to learn how to jump. So she took classes in show jumping and also joined a pony club to learn more about horsemanship.
Today she rides out of Rose Hill Stables in Pleasanton, a competitive show barn, where she takes lessons and/or rides her horse five days a week and competes once a month on average. She’s traveled to Paso Robles, Del Mar and Oregon for shows, and this year will be going to Canada to compete.
One of the things Rachel enjoys most about competitive jumping is cultivating a relationship with her horse – an 1,100 pound animal that can have a mind of its own. “The horse won’t do what you want it to do without some level of trust,” she said. “It’s really rewarding when you start clicking with the horse and become successful.”
Still, animals can be unpredictable. “One day you can go out and have an amazing round and the next day the horse might try to buck you off or get spooked by something – like the wind,” she said. A few weeks ago my horse flipped over on me and I had to go to the hospital,” she said.
At the most recent show, Ted refused a jump and Rachel fell off. Rachel worked with her trainer to make corrections, and that perseverance and determination paid off as on her last day she was able to win first place.
Rachel is hoping to continue to ride Ted when she’s in college, and show him in summers.