“A true champion is someone
who gets back up when he can't."
– Jack Dempsey
Claire Schwapp's first memory of getting on a horse was of how terrifying it was to be on such a large animal, so far from the ground that she felt as if she was in another world. “Little did I know that the new world up there would soon become my own." That was when Claire was just five years old. Now, at fifteen, she feels that some of that fear never goes away.
Claire began riding since her older sister had been involved in the sport, but she did not become serious about competing until the age of nine. She competes in both Dressage and Showjumping, and in 2013 was the Dressage champion for the Caribbean. For 2014, she is the current champion of Adult Preliminary class for Jamaica.
For Claire, the most challenging part of the sport is overcoming her nerves before a competition. Since the horse senses the emotion of its rider, dwelling on her nervousness allows room for mistakes from both her and the horse. However, her role model and coach, Susan Wates has taught her one of the most valuable lessons that Claire feels not only helps her in riding, but in life – “how to learn from her mistakes, how to get back up after falling, how to win, but most importantly, how to lose."
The most exciting part of riding for Claire is also one of its downfalls. She loves to travel for competitions and to get to see other parts of the world, but at these times it is very difficult to keep on top of schoolwork and to remain on the Honor Roll. She has had to learn to make academics just as important as riding, and sometimes, even has to make the decision to turn down competitions in order to keep her grades up.
Claire hopes to one day represent Jamaica in the Olympic Dressage event. She feels that win or lose, the honor of representing Jamaica will be the gift of a lifetime. After all, she says, “A trophy carries dust, memories last forever" – Mary-Lou Retton.