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Noora von Bulow recaps competitive horse riding journey

Photo courtesy of Noora von Bulow
Noora von Bulow (’27) competes in the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour in Spain in March. Von Bulow had the highest speed but knocked the last fence down, resulting in a 14th place finish.

Noora von Bulow (’27) started horse riding at the age of 4, trained competitively at the age of 8, was on the national team at 12, and now represents the U18 Great Britain team internationally. 

Von Bulow said her interest in horse riding stemmed from her mother, who also rode. 

“When I visited my mom’s horse one time, I discovered there was two ponies available for my sister and I,” she said. “From there on, I’ve always enjoyed horse riding.”

Despite having played a variety of sports, von Bulow said horse riding is what stuck with her the most.

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When she was little, von Bulow participated in competitive swimming and all the school sports, as well as tennis, dance and gymnastics. She said up until COVID-19, she was still participating in competitive swimming. However, after COVID-19, she had to decide between swimming or horse riding. 

In addition to the time commitment, von Bulow said bonding with her horse is another vital aspect of the sport.

“It’s so fascinating how you can create a bond with an animal,” von Bulow said. “It’s kind of cool that you [can] work with something that you can speak to, but also just being around the animals daily.”

According to British Showjumping U.K., the primary goal of a showjumper is to jump over all fences on the course in a test of the rider’s skill, but also the horse’s power and athleticism. Penalties include when a horse refuses to do an obstacle or the competitor exceeds the assigned time. Von Bulow said she trains individually with personal trainers but consistently represents the U18 Great Britain team.  

Von Bulow said the team never trains together even though they compete for the representation of the same piece at competition shows such as Nation Cups and The Europeans. For most of her events, von Bulow said she rides for herself.

In practice, von Bulow said horse riding takes a lot of precision, strength and training. For instance, athletes need to have quick responses to the horse’s movement and use many leg muscles to adjust the horse’s strides. 

“It’s actually a lot harder than much more dangerous than many other sports because most professional riders have broken many bones and had many accidents,” von Bulow said.

Within the wider sport of horse riding, there are many different types of events, and von Bulow competes in show jumping. This equestrian discipline involves riding a horse over a course of jumps and obstacles within a designated area. 

It’s so fascinating how you can create a bond with an animal.

— Noora von Bulow (’27)

Moreover, von Bulow said when she only competed nationally, it was easier to partake in competitions as they were only on the weekends. 

Back when von Bulow only competed nationally, she would usually leave Friday after school for a competition and come back Sunday. However, since the age of 12, von Bulow has competed internationally and must regularly leave school early on Thursdays instead. 

“I don’t find it too hard at the moment as I can catch up,” von Bulow said. “It’s just hard to make sure I’m not missing too many school days.”

Furthermore, von Bulow said she has improved in handling stress during competitions. 

“I’ve always been pretty good at [managing stress], which makes me quite a good person to have on the team,” von Bulow said. “I think that I enjoy it more than I’m worried. I’m more worried when I’m preparing for a competition.” 

Looking into the future, von Bulow said she is excited to continue training with her horse for upcoming competitions.

“It’s cool that I can work with an animal that I can speak and communicate with, and also just being able to be around animals on a daily basis,” von Bulow said. “It’s something really positive in my life.”

This story was originally published on The Standard on April 25, 2024.