Wellington, Fla. – March 4, 2019 – Twenty-two-year-old Eugenio Garza has already made quite a name for himself in the show jumping ring, with an impressive list of winning accolades both nationally and internationally. As a full-time athlete and full-time management and finance student at the University of Miami, Garza has no shortage of support systems acting behind him both inside and outside of the ring, including Team Mexico, his family, mentor and trainer Eddie Macken, and his current string of talented horses.
Beginning riding at the age of six, Garza picked up the sport thanks to his parents’, David and Monica Garza’s, notable personal show jumping careers in the grand prix ring in their home country of Mexico.
“Starting riding was really a way for me to spend time with my mom. It turned into something where we could spend time together and travel around doing something we both really love,” reflected Garza.
Over the years the sport has continued to be a family affair for the Garzas, intensifying when the family moved to Dallas, Texas, in 2012 and then went on to spend their first winter in Wellington, Florida, for the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Having parents that understand the sport through their own experiences has helped Garza celebrate not only the incredible ups of the sport, but also deal with the downs that so many athletes experience day-to-day, such as coping with a top horse’s injury.
Currently, Garza boasts a remarkable string of horses including Victer Finn DH Z, the 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding that carried him to a win in the $135,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Columbus CSI3*-W in 2018, one year after sustaining a serious suspensory injury. The gelding, who was rehabilitated back from his injury to top form, also helped Garza win two Nations Cups, in Dublin and Wellington, for Team Mexico.
Winning the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Dublin to take home the coveted Aga Khan Trophy is an impressive win for any athlete, let alone 22-year-old Garza, and remains his biggest win to date.
“It was so unexpected. Victer came out of nowhere,” said Garza. “Three weeks before Dublin he did his first 1.30m class so we really went in there with no expectations and just wanted to take in the experience of showing in Dublin. To then walk out with a huge win was surreal for us.”
Other horses in his string include Armani SL Z, Pappa Ante Portas 2, Contago, and Caracas. Contago, an 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding, is one that is special to Garza, as he was produced by the team at Garza’s family farm, El Milagro, and has worked up the ranks to become a notable partner for Garza.
Like many athletes understand, finding the right horse is half the battle. Another significant battle is finding the right team of support, including a trainer. Luckily for Garza, training with renowned jumper trainer Eddie Macken for the past four years has resulted in not only stellar results in competition, but a true mentoring relationship of which Garza speaks very highly.
“He has taught me so much inside the ring, but probably even more outside the ring. He’s a great mentor and role model for me. You will never stop learning with Eddie and he’s one of the best horsemen I’ve ever seen, so he’s a great person to have in your corner,” praised Garza.
Macken and Garza have formed a close bond thanks to their effective working relationship inside the ring as well as a close friendship outside of the ring. Garza credits this to Macken’s exceptional style of teaching, and also to shared experiences. Macken, who is known for training athletes to their highest potential as well as his own illustrious career, is familiar with the feeling of winning the prestigious Aga Khan Trophy in Dublin. Riding for Team Ireland, Macken helped the team win the title three years in a row, from 1977 to 1979.
Another major drive for Garza’s continuing success is his home country. Competing for Team Mexico, who most recently found success in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ USA CSIO5* in February 2019, has always been a goal for Garza.
“This sport is very individual and so riding with a team is something that I love,” Garza explained. “I would rather jump in a Nations Cup than any grand prix. There’s added pressure because you don’t want to let your team down and the country you’re representing, but it’s nice to have the support of your other riders. Having just won in Wellington for Mexico with my teammates was really special. We got to be a team, but we were all friends way before that.”
With ten Nations Cups starts and two back-to-back wins under his belt, Garza is a tenacious member of Team Mexico on their road to qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The team as a whole has two opportunities left to qualify for the next Olympic Games with their performances in the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, and the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona, Spain.
Garza is optimistic for the future of Team Mexico thanks to its up and coming members, veteran athletes, and strong backing of the Mexican Federation and chef d’equipe Stanny Van Paesschen.
“Our chef d’equipe, Stanny, has instilled a change in mentality in Mexico where riding for the team is huge. It’s a big deal and we’re really excited when we get to jump in a Nations Cup. I think Mexico has incredible horses and riders and the level of shows are stepping up in Mexico,” commented Garza.
While Garza is based in Wellington during the winter season, he and his team travel the rest of the year across North America, including to Canada and Mexico, and throughout Europe. On top of his busy competition schedule, Garza also attends school at the University of Miami studying finance and management. Balancing a full schedule of classes – seven this semester – is no easy task for any university student. Garza attempts to manage both, while admitting that the stress of the two can be tough.
Most recently, Garza struggled to balance walking into the ring at Deeridge Farms in Wellington with one of his top horses, Pappa Ante Portas 2, at 4:30 p.m., with an exam scheduled in Miami at 6:30 p.m. The majority of the time his competition and class schedules force him to choose which will take precedence.
“My first choice would always be to stay in the jump-off but sometimes that’s just not the best thing to do. I’ve skipped a jump-off for class and also skipped class for a jump-off,” admitted Garza.
During Week Two of WEF, Garza decided skipping the jump-off in the CSI2* grand prix qualifier was the best option. “There were a lot in the jump-off and I knew it would be fast. I thought it was better to save my horse for the grand prix and go to class because it was an important one for my major.”
With three semesters left before graduation and an extremely bright future in the sport, Garza will continue to manage being a full-time university student in addition to being one of Mexico’s most promising up-and-coming riders. Although the young athlete doesn’t know exactly what the future will hold for him, he continues to be grateful for where he and his entire team stand now in the ever-changing sport.
At just 22 years old, Garza is one to watch as he continues to represent his home country and family proudly in the ring. With many more trips to the winner’s circle probable in his future, Garza understands that a strong foundation of support is essential to any team’s success. With Team Mexico, his family, and a strong lineup of equine partners behind him, Garza’s future looks ahead toward the road to Tokyo 2020.