On the track in Budapest, Hungary, cyclist Gon Schulte will embark on Thursday with the mare Bona Kiki, in order to make history and lead the Israeli team to a historic performance at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in the dressage competition, or by its better known name - artistic riding.
Born in Kibbutz Hanita, 23-year-old Schulte, who is currently living in Germany to develop her career, began her love of horses when she was 5 years old, after her parents separated and her mother brought her on a therapeutic ride to help her overcome the family event.
Of course, she fell in love with riding, and at the age of 10 she began sports riding, after age and physical size already allowed it. At the age of 14, she switched to dressage riding at a riding school in Kibbutz Kabri. After riding a pony for a while, she decided it was time to move on to the next level.
Gon Shalit. Important competition in Hungary,
The big break began, when Schulte began training under the guidance of Sivan Set, the current Israeli dressage champion in Ramat Yohanan, and the successes were not long in coming, when she won two Israeli championships and also achieved the status of an outstanding athlete in the army.
During her military service as an education NCO, she worked on a horse farm in the morning, while at the base in the afternoon, and instructed young riders in the evening. During her military service, she flew abroad several times to explore optional places to live after the army in order to pursue an international career.
And so, after the army, she flew to live in Germany, in a small town called Dolmen, with Patrick Kittel – a Swedish rider who was then ranked third in the world and married to Linda – an Olympic rider herself. During the two years she trained and worked (as a rider and horse handler) for Patrick, she purchased two mares.
Patrick is considered a coach at the highest international level, but for this reason his demands are very high and Gon felt that no matter what she did, she would never live up to his demands. Also, he did not allow her to compete, for which reason she left Patrick and moved to another farm.
Gon has participated in four international competitions so far. She passed her first career Grand Prix (the highest level of riding in dressage) alone, without a coach. Today, Gon's coach is Antonia Ramel, a Swedish Olympic cyclist who participated in the Tokyo 2020 Games.
So after all the difficulties she went through along the way, another one arrived. One night, her young mare wallowed in her cell, tried to get up and kicked the cell wall. Although the walls in the horse compartments are lined with special rubber to prevent injuries, the mare's kick was very strong, she was injured and had to undergo surgery. The sad story continued when it turned out that the mare was allergic to the anesthetic and died.
"Special bond with the mare",
Now she has reached the moment of truth, when she will try to get her ticket to the Olympics. "I'm proud to represent Israel," Gon said. "I will try to represent Israel with dignity."
Is there pressure now?
"I try to remind myself that I'm doing what I love, when I've come a long way to get to where I am today. My way there were more losses than wins and I learned a lot from them. At the end of the day, I feel fortunate and happy for the opportunities I'm getting."
How did you overcome the difficulties?
"Personally, it motivates me to keep trying. It makes me appreciate success more, when I don't succeed at a certain bar I say I won't give up and keep trying. Failures are the path to success, and in my view the road is important, and thanks to it, successes and victories are sweeter."
"Even though she doesn't speak, we dance together," Gunn describes the strong bond with her mare, "I'm with an animal that weighs more than 600 kilograms. I have to be 100 percent attentive to her." If she doesn't want to, she has no problem taking me to a corner and starting to moisten grass instead of dancing. So you have to nurture the relationship.
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"She sees me early in the morning, I bring her food, I brush her. Riding, I have to show her that I'm in her favor. When she does something good, I have to reward her with kind words, caresses, and when it's not good, I can't get mad at her because it won't help. On the contrary, it will only make her tense."
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