Ride On, Schaefer!
June 8th 2012 · 0 Comments
When people think of world class athletes they generally think of a 200 pound football, baseball, or basketball player. And at 5’3” tall and 110 pounds, Clinton’s 18- year-old Schaefer Raposa, could pass as your average, pretty hometown high school Senior.
But a closer examination will reveal a level of grit, determination, and strength few possess, as well as an expertise in equestrian skills at world class competition level.
Schaefer’s uncanny ability to sit astride a 1,200 pound animal and direct said beast to jump over series of obstacles placed at various lengths, heights and distances, exhibiting perfect posture, while making it all look easy, is certainly a masterful demonstration of athletic ability.
Schaefer is so good, in fact, that her proficiency in riding recently won her a NCAA Division I, 4-year scholarship at Southern Methodist University in Texas on their Equestrian Team.
It is little wonder that Schaefer exhibits such prowess. She is a third generation rider. Both of her parents David Raposa and Kara Hanly Raposa, owners of David Raposa Sales operate farms in Clinton, NY and Wellington Florida, have impressive records and are well known in the world of horses.
Father David is a winner of more than 30 Grand Prix’s and is a past member of the USET and Nation’s Cup teams. Over the years he has compiled notable wins at the Michelob American Invitational, the Penn National and won three times at the Rolex United States Equestrian Team Talent Derby.
Schaefer’s mom, Kara has won Hunter Championships at virtually every major venue in the country.
You might say she is a natural, but neither one of her brothers has any interest in riding. Kara says, “I hear David trying to bribe the boys to ride from time to time. But Schaefer was always interested in horses. She was always serious about it. She would come out like a grown up with a quiet kind of seriousness about her.
“When she first started showing, people would say I was making her ride. I never made her ride. She just came out that way. She would pout when things didn’t go the way she wanted them to go. They would ask if she was mad. That’s just how she is. She was always kind of serious about it. She carried her little saddle and made sure her ponies looked just right before going out, even just to ride around the ring.”
Schaefer’s grandmother, Jean Raposa, owner operator of White Fox Farm on Craig Road in Clinton, has been a riding instructor for 50 years. Jean instructs the Hamilton College Equestrian Team. According to Jean, it was clear from the very start that Schaefer was special.
“I’ll never forget thinking, the first time I knew, ‘this kids got it. She’s gonna do it.’
“We had this little mini-horse, ‘Snooky.’ Schaefer was only 4 years old. We were out in the round pen. And she said she was going to break the pony.
“I had taught Snooky to drive, but Schaefer wanted to ride him; to break him to ride. I’ll never forget seeing that look on her face.
“I had longed the pony, (exercising the pony in circles on a long line to calm him down) then I put her on. He bucked her off. She wanted to get right back on. I put her back on. He must have bucked her off 4 or 5 times.
“But, the last time she said, ‘I’m going to break him today. We’re breaking him today.’ She was determined. I said, ‘okay we’re going to do this today.’ And she did.
“After she got him broke, I said to myself, ‘Wow, this kids got determination. She’s going to be just like her father. I just knew.”
And was the grandmother right? Well, yes, she was. Schaefer began winning Pony Championships and Grand Championships at the age of 10, at prestigious shows like Devon, the Penn National and the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida.
Once she hit her teens, Schaefer was winning events like the US Equestrian Federation Medal, ASPCA Maclay Classes and qualified for the national finals of both classes in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.
Schaefer also had a third place finish in the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search. She has also won many Junior Hunter Championships. She started showing Junior Jumpers in 2009 and recently had double clear rounds in three $10,000 WEF Junior Jumper classes, including her first win!
In October of last year, Schaefer rode to her best finish by winning the Pessoa USEF National Hunt Seat Medal Finals in Harrisburg, PA. This prestigious show requires riders from across the country to qualify for entry. Out of a field of more than 250 riders, the top 25 riders from the first round compete for four slots for additional ‘testing.’
In this all jumping competition, the final four are allowed to walk the ring, then given specific instructions on the course, but not allowed to watch each other compete.
Schaefer explained that, “It was kind of nerve racking. Hearing all of the applause for the other riders and not really knowing how they did. It is stressful remembering the course in the right order, because if you go over a jump out of order you’re disqualified. To end up on top, you have to just keep it together and not to make any big mistakes.”
Juggling school, friends, and family life for a teenager isn’t easy under any circumstance. Adding in riding at the level that Schaefer does and the family’s travels to and from Florida for the Winter circuit is certainly a feat.
Mother Kara says, “She was always a good kid. She never got caught up in that fast-paced world. She prefers hanging out with her family on the farm. She was always balanced her school life and friends. She has friends on the circuit and friends here in Clinton.”
Schaefer recently attended her Senior Ball with Dan, her boyfriend of two years, but missed out on the big Awards Day and ceremony at school that day to attend a big competition at Devon. Where she happened to win and win big!
Schaefer triumphed by winning the Washington Equitation Class at Devon in addition to winning the Junior Jumper competition where she won by two seconds.
“Everything just aligned,” said Kara. “She didn’t want to go. Didn’t want to miss the big day at school. But I reminded her how hard she has worked and this would be her final ride as a Junior before she ages out of the division.
“It was so exciting. The Jumper division is newer for her. The fences are higher than Hunters, the courses faster and it does come down to speed at the end. Her father was standing screaming at the fence to do the inside turn. She did two of them and won by 2 seconds!
“She was born with this talent. It is a gift. She realizes she has to make sacrifices. This one had a sensational result.
“I am excited about her going off to college and being able to do things she’s never done because she never had the time.
“We didn’t even know about these scholarships. She’s had 13 different offers for NCAA Equestrian teams.She has always been a great kid. She really deserves all of this. She’s worked really hard all of her life and has always been very consistent. She could always deal with the pressure.
“People would ask me, ‘How did she come out like that?’ What could I say? She’s just always been this way!”
“We knew when she won at Devon at 10 years old that she had something special. We pretty much knew.
“Her teacher, Andre Dignelli, gave her good horses to ride. It makes it much harder if you don’t have the horses. You have to be lucky and be at right place at the right time. This was her time!”
Schaefer remembers sharing her first pony, Peanut with her cousin. She says, “He used to lie down in his stall and let us climb all over him.”
Admittedly, from the age of three Schaefer has been a serious rider. “I used to polish my pony’s hooves and cleaning tack like I was going into a famous horse show even just to practice in the ring. They say I was like a little groom.
“I really love horses, all animals actually. I like to think of them as partners. I respect them as animals and ride each one according to the way they are feeling. Then you can develop a relationship and build trust.
“I’ve never really owned a horse. With my dad’s business I get to ride a lot of horses. Some have issues from prior riders. I spend some time with them. Get to know them. Ride them and they improve…a lot.”
Schaefer says she loves Lake Placid the best of all venues and really looks forward to showing there. The big I Love NY show lasts for two weeks and this will be the last one she will ride in as a Junior.
Then shortly thereafter, she’ll be off to college where she says, “I think on breaks I will continue to ride. But I want to see what’s out there. I am excited to study something interesting. I guess I’m a good writer.
I’ve been doing this for so long. I think it is important to study something I’ll be interested in. Maybe it will be English or writing. I don’t really know yet. But, it will be a chore if there is no interest.
“Of course, I’ll be riding on the team. I’ve never ridden on a team before. That will be interesting. Who knows where riding will take me? It’s taken me this far.
“It takes a lot of backing to go all the way. It’s not just money or the rider. It’s the horse, too. The horse has to be just as good. And then everybody has to stay healthy.
“I am sure there are a lot of people who would jump on the opportunity to ride like this or if they had the money. But it takes so many things. You can’t always be in the same position. There are all kinds of the ups and downs, but you’re better in the long run to stick with it.”
With Schaefer’s continued training as a first time team rider on the Division I college circuit, where she is sure to stand out, perhaps some other scout from some other high level venue will look to have her on another team. Maybe the one with the interlocking circles that meets every four years?!
Ride on, Schaefer Raposa!
By Mark Ziobro