Rider of the Week…

Sergio Alvarez Moya

Sergio in Lyon, France

Sergio in Lyon, France

This young Spanish talent has been atop the Western European World Cup series since before Christmas and he has distinguished himself amongst his peers as one to be reckoned with this season. Sergio Alvarez Moya is as humble as he is charming and this young Spaniard seems to have just the right amount of perspective to ensure that he doesn’t get swept up in all the fuss of the international spotlight. He is quietly confident without coming across as arrogant and exudes a sense of awareness both in his own abilities as well as his horses’ abilities that seems to permeate through to his performances in the ring.

He’s competitive but not intense, focused but approachable and determined but quite accommodating. I was most impressed with how easy Sergio was to talk to as well as his ability to coordinate everything with a rather busy schedule. Speaking with Sergio was not hard work, which made me realize that this young jockey knows the rules of this game all too well.

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Sergio in Oslo, Norway for the first leg of the 2012/2013 FEI World Cup

Born in Avilés, Spain, Sergio has that easy charm that you imagine when you think of young Spanish gentlemen; a casual sort of charm that puts one at ease and makes Sergio rather popular amongst his peers. Now leading the Western European World Cup series by a strong margin, Sergio has followed a smooth progression to the top of our sport. That very progression has been vastly enhanced by the one-and-only Carlo 273; developed and ridden by the great-Nick Skelton (GBR). Sergio bought Carlo after the London Olympic Games in September and has been the talk of the town ever since.

The first World Cup event of the Western European series in Oslo, Norway set the tone for a whole new chapter in international show jumping for the young Spaniard. As I watched Sergio and Carlo for the first time, I could not be more impressed. Sergio and Carlo made a perfect match and they attacked the World Cup track as if they had done it hundreds of times before. After that first round it was clear, Sergio and Carlo made a wonderful pair and they would be a competitive team for the 2012/2013 season. I understood then, why there had been so much talk of the World Equestrian Games in Normandy and perhaps even the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The pair came together so easily and they definitely stand as one of my favorites combinations going into 2013.

It was 10 years ago, when Moya received his driver’s license and drove the 1,700 kms to Belgium on his own. He was determined to develop himself in the sport and he understood all too well that doing so would mean basing himself further North. Sergio lived in Belgium for 6 years before returning to Spain and basing himself with his brother in La Coruna, Spain. Quite fitting for Moya expresses how much he enjoys his horse shows in his home country.

At 28 years old, Sergio has a career behind him as well as one ahead of him. The young Spaniard, who comes from a family of equine enthusiasts, started riding at the age of 7 years old with his brothers. Sergio pursued horses through out his childhood but it was the instruction and guidance of Argentinian legend Victor Aguero, that Sergio says was most influential during his youth. Moya slowly built his career along side his brother Julio, who joined Sergio in the business and management of his international stable. The brothers seem to share both a love and dedication to the sport and Sergio certainly does not leave out credit towards his brother for his international success.

But it hasn’t been only recently that Sergio finds himself within the winners circle. In 2001, young Moya won the European Junior Championship in Gijon, Spain with a French horse named Flash de la Ramee, who he describes as difficult and not so brave but very careful. Then the young Spaniard went on to compete at the European Championships in 2002, 2004 and 2005 respectfully. If you can imagine, young Sergio was merely 21 years old when he attended his his first World Championship in Aachen. It was 2006, and he was number 18 to go with his gelding Le Reve de Nabab. When I asked him about how much that moment meant for him, he laughed and said “It was big.”

But tenacity and character is never something Sergio has been without. Confident and self-assured at a young age, Moya had no problem tackling big and intimidating tracks against the world’s very best. The young jockey took every opportunity he could get and it sometimes got him in trouble. I asked Sergio about his first international win and he laughs, recalling a rather funny incident in Vigo for a World Cup event.

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Sergio and Zipper winning the World Cup in Verona, Italy

He was too young to compete but he entered anyways. As it was an International horse show in Spain organized by a friend, he got away with it. Turns out, Sergio would end up winning the class, beating showjumping legend John Whitaker, who came in second. Sergio was faced with the rules and it looked as though the tenacious Spaniard would get in trouble. But instead the riders pooled together and unanimously decided that Sergio should get the prize money and be awarded despite his age. This very tenacity has served Sergio well! As it stands, Moya leads the Western European World Cup standings, just ahead of France’s Kevin Staut, who is 5 years his senior. That’s right, Sergio is the youngest rider in the Western European World Cup Top Ten by 5 years.

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Sergio riding his famous stallion Action-Breaker

The young Spanish jockey is somewhat of a dichotomy; on the one hand his boyish good looks and carefree mentally reveals his age. His approach to the sport and his ease at which he interacts with everyone shows that the 28 year old jockey, who swept Spanish beauty and Inditex heiress Marta Ortega off her feet, has the world at his feet and isn’t intimidated by the idea at all.

On the other hand, whilst walking the course or discussing a track, Moya almost transforms, showing the drive and focus that has guided his talents to the top of our sport this year. All of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, you see the athlete within, serious and focused, concentrating on the task at hand.

It is this very dichotomy that makes Sergio so interesting and also so appealing. He understands the world-wind nature of our sport, as he admitted to me that despite being on top at the moment, the true challenge lies in staying on top for a long time. This explains his clear and visible admiration for great riders such as Nick Skelton and John Whitaker; both of which have proven to stay on top through the years.

Sure enough, this young man has his eyes set on the long run and he intends to draw as much inspiration from those around him as he can. Sergio was the first rider to ever admit to me that he always looks for help from other riders. Known for his humble approach to training, Sergio worked very intimately with Nick Skelton when he first bought his gregarious grey gelding Carlo to insure the transition was smooth. It is this very approach to training that Skelton admired and admitted to Moya was a strong reason as to why the talented grey went to Sergio. His ability to take his ego out of the equation and address the sport from many perspectives is a sure sign that we can expect this charming Spaniard to be around for sometime, likely on the top of it all, if he has anything to say about it.

Sergio and Carlo in their FEI World Cup debut in Oslo, Norway

Sergio and Carlo in their FEI World Cup debut in Oslo, Norway

Some Questions for Sergio…

Rides for: Spain

Born: January 7th, 1985

Age: 28 years old

Born in: Avilés, Spain

Based in: La Coruña, Spain

Ranked: 17th in the World

Currently leading: the Western European World Cup series

Top Horses: Carlo 273, Action-breaker, Zipper and Abab van het Molenhof

What is Carlo like? “He is super simple with a big personality.”

Career highlight last year: Kings Cup in Madrid and Nations Cup win in Barcelona with Action Breaker

Best result this season: Winning 4th leg of the World Cup series in Verona aboard 8 year old Zipper

International debut: Vigo World Cup in Spain at the age of 14 years old

Plan for the World Cup in Gothenburg? “I’ll bring Carlo maybe Action-breaker also.”

Favorite show: Aachen International

Favorite horses: Carlina, Big Star, Nino des Buissonnets and Taloubet

Good friends in the sport: “Christian (Ahlmann) and Daniel (Deusser) are good friends”

Never leave the house without: my Phone

Motto to live by: “Ride your best and enjoy a bit”

Alternative career: Professional athlete of some kind

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