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Student equestrian balances school, riding and competition

First slide

Who is Gabrielle Cecil? To those who don’t know her, she is the quiet girl who sits in class at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, minding her business and paying attention to the teacher. She is a frequent presence at Paul VI Masses, helping out as part of the Campus Ministry team. She doesn’t speak much about herself, nor does she ever brag. That is just who she is — humble — and you would not know that she has a story to tell. Gabby is well known in the equestrian world, so much so that other equestrians often recognize her at hotels and get excited that she is staying at the same place.


Gabby has hundreds of ribbons for competing, most awarded for either first or second place. These ribbons hang in her room or are stuffed in a drawer for lack of wall space. She is proud of her first place finish at the Middleburg Classic and her second place finish at the Washington International Horse Show, held at the Verizon Center. Winning second at the Washington International Horse Show meant that Gabby was ranked second in the nation for her class of riding, which is jumping. (She has not competed in that class this year.)


Gabby’s love for horses and competing came at a very young age. She begged her parents for lessons around the age of 4, but it wasn’t until she was 10 or 11 that she leased her first pony. Her mount is Paisley Park.


“I am an English rider, and I’m a hunter,” she said. “Hunter is a type of riding where you jump, but are judged based on how nicely you jump and how good your equitation (posture) is while you ride. The type (of riding) does not change from pony to horse, only the height of the jump. On my pony, I jumped 2' 6", 2' 9", and 3'. On my horse, I jump 3', 3' 3", and 3' 6".”


Gabby practices every day for three hours at Somerset Farm in Great Falls, which is about five minutes from her home. To balance practicing with schoolwork, Gabby often brings her books to the barn to sneak in a little work, and she often goes to bed late.


In addition to time management, Gabby has learned many lessons through equestrian life. “Respect is the biggest thing I have learned from my trainers —  respect for my peers, respect for those I’m competing against and respect for the judges,” she said. “Having respect for all people around you is so important. I’ve also learned humility and how to be humble.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017