The Apogee of Daniel Bedoya, Sr.
By Ingrid Edisen

What do you do after you’ve been named National Champion of your country seven times in jumping? What do you do after you’ve won a team silver medal in a competition open to an entire continent? After you’ve faced down and conquered 6-1/2 foot tall jumps and cleared four-bar jumps six feet across and just as wide making it necessary for you and your horse to be airborne for at least 25 feet?
Do you fold up the tent and go home? Do you boast about this to others and live on your past laurels? Or do you roll up your shirtsleeves and start the more difficult job of teaching and inspiring students–both human and equine?

Fortunately for Austin, Texas, Daniel Bedoya chose the latter. He and his wife, Susana, operate 37-acre Manor Equestrian Center in the northeastern quadrant of the city. His son, Daniel Bedoya, Jr. actively trains there for his own Grand Prix jumping career. The barn also serves as a boarding barn and at times has been known to stable over sixty horses.

If one were to encounter Bedoya on the street, away from horses, one might think he was a former ballet dancer–he moves with that sort of quiet grace and deftness. His demeanor is almost Zen-like in its intensity. He speaks frankly, directly, and efficiently–wasting very little energy. During the past six years I’ve met him at various horse events but at no time had I ever had any idea of his accomplishments. All I’d heard was the buzz that he was from Bolivia (La Paz, he explains) and had a lot of nice, big horses (also true). It was not until I asked him to talk with me for our interview that I was shown photos depicting a life with horses few of us will ever know. It is rare to advance to the level of Grand Prix jumping where the unique qualities of talent, training, the right horses and attitude must all come together to hone an elite-level athlete. It is even rarer to find such a skilled person who enjoys teaching young riders from the beginning and who likes to train young horses over fences.

Bedoya explained his favorite training projects are just that–horses that are started under saddle and humans waiting to be molded into confident, balanced jumpers. “If this were a perfect world...,” he said, that would be what he’d prefer to work with. “I like teaching kids,” he admitted. This I found notable because sometimes I’ve heard advanced trainers profess such a task to be uninteresting. Bedoya is less thrilled at the prospect of re-training a horse that has already been messed up–but it is a job he undertakes because it is what is presented to him by clients from time to time.

As a child, riding surrounded Bedoya. Several members of his extended family rode–his father, uncles, brothers, nephews, and nieces. It was in the air. So, as an eight-year-old, he mounted up and within three years had won his first national title. Later, as an adult, he won six more such titles. He went on to represent his country in several international competitions and to compete in the Argentinean Derby–an annual show known as probably the toughest in South America. In that he placed fifth after completing a course of 26 jumps, each a minimum of 4’9". His personal best is jumping 2 meters, which is 6-1/2 feet. This was done in one of the Puissance competitions.

“You don’t train for that at home,” he explained. “You save the horse. You have to have a very good horse for it, of course.” Many of his extraordinary rides were done on an Argentinean sport horse and he admitted that indeed as he and his horse completed so many demanding courses, his adrenaline level was up.

“The world record is held by a Chilean rider,” Bedoya noted. “It was established in the 1940’s and still stands today for 2.47 meters.” I calculated that out later to be a little over 8 feet because one meter equals 39.37 inches.
From 1965-1969, Bedoya attended the University of Texas at Austin and received a degree in economics. He kept riding in Bolivia after that, still competing as an amateur. Eventually, he married and his wife and he had three children–two daughters and a son. “One of my daughters rode but does so no longer,” he explained. Bedoya served as President of the National Federation of Equine Sports in Bolivia (the equivalent to the USA Equestrian organization here) and on the Olympic Committee in Bolivia. His scrapbook even has one photo of him being given a huge trophy from the then-Bolivian president after a big win.

And then there’s his son–almost a carbon copy of the father; tactfully gutting it out over 5’3" jumps in Grand Prix competitions in Texas and upper-level jumping on the Florida circuit, the Colorado Summer Circuit, in shows in Mexico and South America. Most of the Grand Prix classes offer 11 to 15 jumps each, Bedoya noted, “sometimes more, sometimes less.”

“My son can go wherever he wants to,” Bedoya said. For the time being, the Austin operation serves as a base of support for his son–allowing him a place to practice the craft of making 17 hh, 1500 lb. horses airlift.
After working for various companies and then running his own company, Bedoya decided in the mid-90’s to follow a younger brother back to Austin and turn professional in the horse world. He and his wife bought Manor Equestrian Center and imported nine horses. The original nine were horses Bedoya had purchased either in Europe or South America. He still goes on buying trips and trains and sells horses for clients, but is also the first to admit that there are many fine horses being bred here as well. However, Bedoya noted that in Europe, there is already an established licensing system for horse professionals, which makes it sometimes more efficient for him to know what he’s getting when making a purchase.

I asked him what he thought could be changed in the shows he’s encountered in the States and he explained, “sometimes the course design could be better. There should be a natural flow in the sequence of jumps, to be more fair to the horse, give the horse a chance.” He was happy to see a trend in the lower level schooling shows of granting any clear round with a blue ribbon rather than sheparding the finalists into a time-tight jump off.

“Sure, in upper level competition there will be some tough jumps. It will depend on the experience, training and ability of the horse. Training is so important,” Bedoya continued. “Buying a good horse is not the only answer.” You can have a horse that is less capable than another one but with training can bring it to a level that surpasses the more gifted horse.
“I am a very patient person. I don’t push riders. Only when I’m 99 percent positive they are ready for something will we progress. That’s why we’ve had no serious accidents here and a very low rate of falls. I don’t understand it when I’ve had parents tell me that their child has fallen so many times at another barn. That makes no sense to me. I stick to a system of training and teaching. I don’t advance a rider until he or she is ready. Safety is everything. I insist on this. I look for a rider to have an understanding of the basics and fundamentals first as well as correct posture. It should look nice and easy and then all other details will fall naturally.”

You can contact David Bedoya at Manor Equestrian Center, 512-272-4663.

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