Vaulter Jasmyn Rodriguez is creating a little history at CHIO Aachen as she chases her dream of winning medals on the world stage.

She is the first individual vaulter to compete at the prestigious international event and the 19-year-old says it is a real honour to compete alongside so many incredible vaulters. It’s also quite extraordinary for a New Zealand vaulter to be invited to compete there.

And she has her eyes firmly on the future having qualified to compete at the FEI Vaulting World Championship for young vaulters and juniors in Sweden next month.

Late last year she moved to the United States to train with former world champ Christoph Lensing for six months and is now in Europe in her final preparation for the worlds. During the past six months she has competed in all sorts of events, placing fourth in a very competitive field in Austria recently, and a win in a 2* in Tryon, in the United States.

While in the US Jasmyn trained on a variety of horses three times a week, and up to twice a day on the moving barrel. “I really appreciated Christoph’s eye when it came to evaluating and adjusting technic,” says Jasmyn. “His honesty and talent for coaching made it a fun and beneficial experience that continued to motivate me to learn more.”

In The Netherlands, Jasmyn is training with a Dutch vaulter Elle van Dijk whose base is set up with everything she needs. Twice a week she travels to Germany to train on Christina Enders horses, one of which will be her horse for the worlds. It will be the same horse and lunger combination at both Aachen and the worlds, so a great opportunity to run through their competition plans.

Just the thought of vaulting at Aachen gives her butterflies. “I am most looking forward to vaulting in such an amazing environment. It is definitely a dream for a lot of vaulters and I am so grateful to be a part of it,” she says. “Originally Aachen was more of a distant goal on the road to this year’s championships.”

But it hasn’t all gone to plan. Jasmyn had a fall in training and it has limited her time on the horses. During her travels and competitions offshore, she is always on a borrow horse, which brings massive challenges. “It is tough adapting to new horses. Before leaving New Zealand I was able to train on a horse at home that I felt really confident with and trusted, which is what we look for in borrowed horses.”

It’s all about a canter you feel you can work well with. For Jasmyn vaulting combines her love of dancing and gymnastics with the added challenge of doing it all atop a horse. Her original plan was to go to circus school but when that closed, she landed on plan B . . . vaulting. She doesn’t regret it for a minute.

“Funding is always the biggest challenge,” she says. “I am so lucky to have so much support from my community in New Zealand as it is definitely not a cheap endeavour.” There have been fundraisers towards her championship mission and a givealittle page – Click here for that page – otherwise she has been emptying into her savings account. Her strong connection with the New Zealand vaulting community has been helpful. “Since we get quite a few vaulters travelling through New Zealand we have been able to make connections which helps a lot when finding horses to compete on. I have been really lucky to have been offered a few different horses from various clubs.” She spent two weeks in Mühlacker, Germany, training and competing aboard one of their horses which will now be her reserve for the worlds.

Fitness is important and while in New Zealand Jasmyn mixed up her training with crossfit up to five times a week. “I can’t do that as regularly while I am away so running is my best alternative,” she says. “In Europe and the States there are a lot more opportunities to use the movie (moving barrels) and rundlauf (similar to the movie but goes round in a circle like a horse), which is as similar to the horse as it gets.”

She thinks the most misunderstood thing about vaulting is how difficult it can be to get horse time. “If you are training in a team you might be getting only a couple of minutes on the horse per training which is why having a movie makes such a huge difference.”

All her hard work is paying off as she sees plenty of improvement in her vaulting in recent months. “I am able to complete more difficult moves with consistency as well as feeling more confident about my freestyles,” says Jasmyn.

But that is no surprise to one of her long time coach Catarina Strom who she lived with when moving from Auckland to Kapiti to further her sport. “Jasmyn is very talented,” says Catarina, who accompanied the New Zealand vaulting team to the World Championships in 2014. “She has an eight year plan – seven left – to get a medal for New Zealand at a pinnacle event like World Champs. She definitely has the talent and determination and I am very excited about her future in vaulting.”

Next on Jasmyn’s radar is the 2024 World Champs as a senior. New Zealand has been represented by individual vaulters at the World Championships in 1994 at The Hague and 2006 at Aachen, and by a team in 2014 at Caen in France.

By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos Supplied