A Legendary Legacy
Elaine Pen was born in 1990 as the daughter of Wolter Pen and Hélène Aubert. Both her parents have always trained horses and competed the sports at a high level, so it’s not surprising that this has been instilled in Elaine from an early age.
Her father, Wolter, was selected as a reserve for the Olympics in Munich, Germany, back in 1972 in Eventing (a combination of dressage, show jumping and cross country). Elaine’s mom, Hélène, was very fanatic in the dressage sport and won silver at the World Championship in Toronto, Canada. Nowadays her mom is still coaching and supporting Elaine throughout every competition, just like her brothers, Wouter and Mark.
In 2003 Elaine rode her first European Championship in Ireland with her self-trained horse Rondeel’s Monsoon. Many Championships followed with the best result of a 10th place in Czech Republic in 2010 that put her on the map as an Eventing Equestrian. This was one of the last results her father was able to experience before he passed away in 2011 due to cancer.
Elaine was selected for the Olympics in London. Unfortunately she was disqualified due to landing in the water jump. Not long after that, she fell off her horse and injured badly which forced her to take rest for recovering, but not for too long, because the World Championship was already around the corner. Elaine was awarded in 2014 with a bronzen medal and an individual 13th place during the World Equestrian Games in Caen, Normandy. Eventually all those successes resulted in an 18th place in the world rankings, and her horse Vira on the 6th place in the world ranking of eventing horses. Unfortunately all these successes came to an end when she fell off her horse again.
The same injury as in 2012, but with more damage because her injury didn’t heal properly the first time around. Again Elaine fought for a “quick fix” but her body stopped functioning and everything was put on hold. She was not allowed to ride for at least half a year and her life existed of doctors appointments, physiotherapy and sleep. Also the grieve from losing her father hit hard, she describes it as one of the most difficult times in her live. To top it off she had to miss the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, because of her injuries.
Mindset Of A Winner
Nowadays Elaine still trains her horses and is competing in Eventing. She has a bad knee injury which makes that she’s riding with a high level of pain and not being able to train her horses like she used to a few years ago. Yet she was selected as a reserve for the Olympics in Tokyo last year, but was unfortunately drawn out.
We had the honor to meet with Elaine personally and talk about her drive, which she has proven to possess. She explained that the love for her horses and the sport, is her daily motivation to get out of bed, deal with the pain and work towards her goal - which we come to in a minute.
Elaine: “The feeling of winning a big competition is hardly to describe. In that moment, you feel invincible, proud and overwhelmed by many emotions. All the hard work that you, your team and your horse put into it, finally pay off. There’s no greater feeling than that all coming together.”
She also explains how it’s addictive to regain that feeling, which is one of the biggest motivations to keep practicing the sport and deal with the pain in her knees. It’s more than inspirational to listen to her talking about her job with so much passion and love, not only for her horses or the sport, but also for her father, which is still one of her biggest inspirations these days.
“My father taught me everything I know nowadays. Even cleaning the hooves and checking the legs after every training are small details that are in my daily routine because of him. Even though it’s been 11 years since he passed away, his mannerisms are forever in my system and I still want to make him proud.”
With Love (Hopefully From Paris)
Elaine’s biggest focus is training for the Olympics in 2024 in Paris, France. She has been competing this year and perhaps it’s unnecessarily to say that she achieved one success after another in different categories with her horses Kiss Me Kato (video), Kiteman, Divali, Molly Bloom and Noah De Foja.
She’s determined to achieve more great successes, with of course Paris as her biggest goal. We asked her if this would be her last Olympics because of her knee injury, but she couldn't give a definite answer to that.
“My drive to do what I do everyday is because I am doing what I love most in life, working with horses. I will continue doing this until I’m no longer able to, or advised otherwise by my doctors. The bond between me and my horses is one build out of many years of hard work, but also out of trust. They trust that I guide them through the arena and I trust that they jump. It’s a collaboration between rider and horse which evolves in a bond that can never be broken. Not many people understand that.”
Of course we couldn’t leave without asking Elaine what she would advice to everyone that is searching for their drive.
“If you become competitive, in any sport, most people forget why they do what they’re doing. You have to remind yourself of why you started in the first place, which is most likely the love for the sport, or in my case the love for horses.”
We would like to thank Elaine for sharing her inspirational and vulnerable personal story with us and our readers. She really showed that she has the drive of a top athlete. Please check out the video and let us know how her story inspired you.
- Written by Roxanne van Herk, published on November 15th, 2022.