Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Jessica Rojas on horse riding business in Europe: “I left Spain to live off this sport”

Posted on 8 May 2020 by Maitane Alaña Place

After moving from Spain to Germany nearly five years ago, Jessica Rojas has settled in Holland. “I knew that if I wanted to grow as a horsewoman I had to leave my family”, she says. 

She has travelled around Europe seeking that work contract which would give her the opportunity to compete and improve. “Where I am now, I get to look after eight or nine horses as if they were mine. This is ideal”, she admits. 

Jessica Rojas and one of her horses. Photo by: Jessica Rojas

The problem with this sport, as Rojas explains, is the small chance the owners of stables give to newcomers. In her current situation, Rojas can compete whenever she wants and is as important as the other two horsewomen of the stable. 

In terms of competitions, the score for an international position comes as a result of international events, but only a few can afford it. Rojas, in her case, competes at a Dutch level. 

Although COVID-19 has had a different impact on Holland, all sporting competitions have been cancelled in the country and Rojas’ last one was in February. “We have maintained our life and our jobs, everything runs as normal”, she says.

The horses carry the necessary discipline in their genes, but up till their fourth birthday, they live free. According to the equestrian rules, horses are not allowed to compete at a younger age, as well as the pregnant mares. 

“The process of teaching is very slow; the horses have to feel comfortable around the obstacles”. These can’t measure more than 1,70cm, except for some events.

When asked about the economic side of the sport, Rojas says “the most expensive part about horses is not the initial purchase, but the cost of care and competitions”. She managed to get sponsors from local clothes shops when she took part in international competitions – but she lost them when she left Spain.

 “I’ve had serious falls, but I’ve never been frightened of riding”, Rojas says. At 14, she broke her liver and had to stay in bed for weeks, but that didn’t stop her. However, she admits feeling wary when the horse decides to lose control.

Rojas at a competition. Photo by: Jessica Rojas

A lifetime around horses

This young Basque rider fell in love with horses at a very young age and it was after a few competitions that she decided this is what she wanted to do for a living. On her sixth birthday,  she got her first ten riding lessons – “My mum thought I was going to get bored after that!” she jokes.

Jessica Rojas representing Spain. Photo by: Jessica Rojas

Rojas competed with ponies in small competitions, but when she changed centers she started getting noticed in the sporting world. At the time, Jessica Rojas wanted to be a jockey, but when she discovered show jumping she knew that was her vocation. 

“Funnily, both my parents and my brother also started riding when I started competing! she says. 

Looking to the future, “you have to be lucky with the horses you have”. Rojas explains that in order to earn a living in the riding business, athletes have two options: to have a wealthy family in the background or be lucky enough to get sponsors. 

“I don’t have a backup plan, but I don’t plan on returning to Spain in the near future.”