A young Aiken equestrian recently turned in an impressive riding performance at the world level.
Nico Gamboa, 13, finished second in his age category in the International Children’s Jumping Competition in Bogota, Colombia, earlier this month.
“It was a very good experience; I learned a lot,” said Gamboa, who is in the eighth grade at Mead Hall Episcopal School.
Gamboa’s trainer is Gonzalo Garcia, who operates Garcia Riding Stables at Wild Rose Performance Horses in Trenton. Garcia said that Gamboa worked hard to get ready for the Colombia trip, riding five or six horses a day for five or six days each week in the month leading up to his departure.
“It was a big deal because he represented the United States,” Garcia said.
Gamboa left for Colombia on Aug. 11. The competition took place Aug. 13 to 17 at Club Campestre Guaymaral.
None of Gamboa’s regular mounts traveled with him. Instead, he had to participate in a drawing after arriving in Bogota that determined which horse he would ride from the group that was provided.
Gamboa ended up getting a Warmblood gelding named Zipadam.
“I, personally, thought he was a very good horse, but he wasn’t the one that everybody thought was the best horse,” Gamboa said. “He was different from all the others. His owner was there, and she helped me a little bit by telling me how he was. You had to be soft with him. You couldn’t yank him. He was very sensitive.”
Gamboa and his fellow competitors rode for several days. On the final day, Gamboa and Zipadam started with a clean round. Then they had to participate in a jump-off to break a tie. They didn’t knock down any jumps, but they were beaten by less than a second based on time.
“I thought going in that it was going to be very close, and it was,” Gamboa said. “The person who won was on the horse that everybody was talking about and saying was the best.”
Gamboa, who left Colombia on Aug. 18 to return to Aiken, has been riding since he was about 4 years old. During the school year, he trains three or four days a week and competes once or twice a month.
“Riding is different from most sports,” he said. “You’re paired with an animal that is much bigger than you. It’s exciting, and it’s unpredictable.”
One day, Gamboa wants to be a competitor on the prestigious Grand Prix jumping circuit. Making the United States Olympic team also is a possible goal, but “that is a long way away, he said.
Gamboa is the son of Juan and Jennifer Gamboa. Juan Gamboa is a veterinarian who specializes in treating show horses.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard.
SUBMITTED PHOTO Nico Gamboa is shown here competing in an international jumping competition in Bogota, Colombia, earlier this month.×