By Tommy Keeler Jr.
For Monica Figueroa-Roman, riding and being around horses is simply in her blood.
Her father, grandfather and great grandfather all had a passion and love for horses, so it's no surprise that she followed suit even at an early age.
Next week Figuerora-Roman, a Mt. Jackson resident, will head back to the country that she was born in, Colombia, to represent the United States in the Youth Mundial (World Cup).
"I'm so excited," Figuerora-Roman said in a phone interview earlier this week.
Figuerora-Roman will be one of 36 representing the U.S. as selected by the Paso Fino Horse Association. The competition is an equitation one, which covers things such as how a rider rides the horse, and how they control the horse.
Figuerora-Roman said it's more about style, and the posture of a horse and the rider than other types of competitions.
"I like the process of working with younger horses and seeing them get better and better," Figuerora-Roman said. "You can see their improvement and you're improving with them. It's like you're a team, and I like that."
The World Cup consists of teams from 11 different countries in three different continents. Countries include Colombia, Dominican Republic, Panama, Puerto Rico, Germany and Switzerland. There are six different categories in the World Cup, and each team is allowed to have six participants in each category. Contestants are from ages 4-24, and the youngest U.S. team member is 6-years-old.
The team members won't meet with each other for the first time until they arrive in Colombia.
Two years ago, Figuerora-Roman tried out for the United States team in the World Cup, which is only held every two years, and was held in Miami in 2012.
The process to tryout takes place over the course of about a year and includes videos, essays, going to clinics and showcases in front of judges.
Figuerora-Roman, a Rappahannock County High School graduate, didn't make the team two years ago, but she didn't let that stop her. She instead tried out for the Panama team and she made it.
"It was tough riding for a team that wasn't the country that I lived in," Figuerora-Roman said. "But, I really wanted to ride in the World Cup. It was hard seeing members of the team that I tried out for and wearing a t-shirt that represented another country."
Figuerora-Roman said she was of only five members on the Panama team, while the U.S. team had 30 members.
The experience helped Figuerora-Roman to get even better and make her even more determined to come back and make the U.S. team this year.
"It showed me that I needed to work harder," Figuerora-Roman said. "The competition showed me what I needed to fix to get better."
After another long tryout process Figuerora-Roman made it onto this year's U.S. squad and said she was very proud to make the U.S. team.
"It shows how much I've improved from where I was two years ago to where I am now," she said.
Figuerora-Roman said it's even more special that the World Cup is in Pereira, Colombia this year. Figuerora-Roman said she was lived in Colombia for the first four-and-a-half years of her life, and still goes back there to visit family, but has never been to this part of Colombia.
She will arrive a few days early so that she can get used to the horse she will be riding. The competition runs from July 4-6.
Figuerora-Roman is still around horses all the time when she is in Mt. Jackson as her father works on a horse farm in Mt. Jackson. She is a rising senior at Christopher Newport University and is studying to be a veterinarian.
Figuerora-Roman said she knows that this will be her last chance to compete in this event, and she wants to make the most of it.
"I want to get a gold medal," she said. "Everybody wants to win a gold medal. I've trained a lot. I've trained as much as I can, and I feel like I'm ready for it.
"I love the sport, but I have to focus on my future. So, I know that this is my last chance, and I'm focused on that."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd