“I would rather have a horse than a boyfriend – horses listen better,” agribusiness freshman Olivia Loiacono said.
Loiacono is a three-day event equestrian. Her goal is to one day be a part of the United States team and go to the Olympics – she is well on her way.
Loiacono has been riding horses since she was 3 and bought her first horse when she was 12, she said.
Her current horse, Subway, a chestnut thoroughbred, has belonged to her since she was 15 years old, she said. She bought the horse from her trainer, Hawley Bennett.
Three-day eventing consists of a different style of riding each day. The first day is dressage, ballet on a horse, she said.
The second day is cross-country riding. This consists of jumping over ditches banks and water, Loiacono said.
On the third day, the rider does show jumping. “This has high horizontal poles as obstacles and it really shows that your horse is in good shape because it is their third day of events,” she said.
Loiacono holds a one-star ranking in eventing, meaning she had to pass six or seven levels before reaching that placement. “There are four star levels: it goes one, two, three-star and then four-star is the Olympic level,” she said.
How likely is it that she will reach the Olympic level? Well, the people in her life say there is no doubt she will get there.
“She is the type of person that can make anything happen,” said Bennett, a Canadian Olympic 2004 eventing team member. “It really doesn’t matter how big a goal it is because she’s got the right attitude,” Bennett said.
Loiacono worked for Bennett for the last year to pay for her lessons and horse board, Bennett said.
“She is one of the hardest workers I have ever met,” Bennett said. “You never have to repeat yourself when you ask her to do something, she just does it,” she said.
“Olivia is not content with mediocrity,” said Erin Mashburn, Loiacono’s former trainer. “I worked with her when she was 10 or 11 and now we own a horse together,” she said.
Loiacono came to San Luis Obispo from the San Diego area, and left not only her home, but also her trainer and stable all because she made a promise to herself when she was young.
“When I was younger I told myself that I had to go to college,” Loiacono said. “This was my favorite place that offered ag,” she said.
She keeps her horse with her here in SLO, she said. “I bought an F-150 so I could carry a trailer and bring Subway to shows.”
“I thought coming to school would make riding much harder, but riding is my release,” Loiacono said. “When I am having a really stressful time, I just go out and ride Subway.”
One day, Loiacono wants to run her own barn. “The nice thing about riding is that the prime age is not young at all.”
“Olivia knows what she wants and she will get it,” said Shar Martin, an agribusiness freshman and Loiacono’s roommate. “She has done everything herself and she loves her family and friends even though she needs to be independent.”
“I thought coming to school would make riding much harder, but riding is my release,” Loiacono said. “When I am having a really stressful time, I just go out and ride Subway,” she said.
Loiacono said she thinks there should be much more media coverage on eventing. “It should be up there with BMX bike racing; it’s so thrilling and people don’t even know about it,” she said. “People think of it as just a casual thing to do once in a while, but it is so much more than that.”
However, she has become so used to it that it doesn’t scare her anymore, she said. “I don’t get nerves after doing it for this long, but now I get really excited before each event.”
Each day of eventing has something special about it, she said. “Dressage is the prestigious part, cross country is thrilling and there is so much adrenaline involved, and jumping forces you to have composure.”
All riders have their own styles that set them apart from each other, said Martin. “She has perfect posture and her polish and class is very eye catching,” she said. “She never gets in the horse’s way,” said Martin.
Loiacono says she chose horses because of the connection she has with them. “They are your partner, your teammate. They are just like another person.”
What is she going to do to get to the Olympics?
“I’m going to take it slow,” Loiacono said. “I’m going to go off the advice of my trainer.”
There are three things it takes to get there, Bennett said. “Money, luck and hard work.”
“You can have the worst horse and make it, as long as you first have the dream to do it,” Bennett said.
“I love it, and most people have no idea,” Loiacono said. “They just have no idea.”