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Tips from an Olympic trainer

You often read stories of people dreaming up perfect goals and setting everything aside in hopes to achieve them. How often do you get to read about two girls who love the sport of horseback riding enough to set their entire vacations and free time aside in order to train with a 2004 Bronze medalist from the Olympics?

Alisa Rabovsky, 17, of Williamsville East, and Brianna Pilliod, 17, of Kenmore West, gave up their 2005 summer vacation to train with Darren Chiacchia at his Independence Farm in Springville.

"It is a hard sport," said Ali. "A lot of people go around saying 'you know all you do is just sit there' and that really bothers me because there's a lot of work involved. It takes a lot of skill and technique, strength, and balance and it's really challenging. I want people to understand it's not so easy." Brianna agreed: "I learned that getting far in horseback riding is no piece of cake. You could be the best eventer in the world, but the moment your horse takes a wrong turn and becomes lame you're out of the running for ANY type of competition. It's a certain risk you take when competing in the sport."

It really isn't easy -- the girls learned many things during their summer training. General horse care, dealing with leg injuries, management, balance, and more. Balance is important. "As soon as he fixed my balance I was able to improve riding a lot faster," recalled Ali. The girls improved on many other things in Darren's presence. "I think it was my overall position, especially my jumping position. Darren helped me put more of my weight into my heels and really drilled me to get my upper body behind the pommel of the saddle in my jumping position," said Brianna.

Ali's next goals are to become a professional competitor, show jumping in the highest level, and to "maybe one day go to the Olympics." The Olympics is the most important dream of both girls. Ali has dedicated her summer and winter breaks to it (first in Springville, then in Florida), and is basing her college decision on it as well. Brianna agreed. "In the long run, I would love to go to the Young Rider Competition, that is held annually each year and eventually the Olympics. Right now I'm working on riding, and to improve my jumping. I'm willing to give everything I have and to see how things end up turning out."
Jessie Lewis is a senior at Williamsville East.

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