JN Exclusive: Building a Show Jumping Empire, Meet Dr. Ozana Moraru

We have narrowed down our applicant pool for the first ever JN Blogger contest to three very deserving writers. For the semi-final, each candidate was prompted to seek out and interview a rider whose story inspires them. Continue reading to see what today’s featured finalist brought to the table!

When Dr. Ozana Moraru decided to take her hobby to the next level, she knew it was a matter of “go big or go home.” She began building her show jumping empire, Equestria Riding Club, near the capital city of Bucharest, Romania. It was to be the first of its kind in Romania, a country in Eastern Europe best known for “Dracula.” Equestria—to quote John Hammond from Jurassic Park— “Spared no expense,” costing millions of euros to complete.
Although many show jumpers don’t think of “Romania” when they think of top jumping facilities, those who set hoof on Equestria’s pristine arena footing, will undoubtedly be in awe.

A Late Start to Horses

Dr. Ozana didn’t have the chance of riding horses as a child. Her grandparents lived in the countryside and had some domestic animals, but she was never around horses. “My first riding experience was when I was 30,” she smiled, reminiscing the incident that would soon change her life.

“I am an ophthalmologist, more specific, an eye surgeon, working in my own private clinic. My husband and I were, in 1992, the first doctors in Romania who had private ophthalmic clinic performing ambulatory eye surgeries, in a private system. We developed our clinic quite well and fast, although we had to work enormously, at least in the first years. After our business developed enough and we could have more employees, I began to have two afternoons free from a typical ten hour working day.”

And that’s when it happened.

A patient came to her office for a consultation. He was uniquely dressed, wearing what seemed to be a military jacket with a horse head on the pin. “I asked him what did it [the horse head] mean, and he told me that he used to be an officer in the Royal Cavalry, in the National Army, although at that time he was retired.”

Curiosity sparked, she began asking him questions about his riding and horses and he later became a friend whom she came to for advice about horses. She immediately found a stable nearby, and on his recommendations, booked her first riding lesson after his visit. “I remember the place and moment when I first touched a horse and I can say that I was afraid of them at that time…” but her love and passion was stronger than her fear and she stuck with her riding lessons.

Photo by Dragos Barbulescu

It wasn’t long until she began jumping and finally, she realized she had outgrown the riding facility where she had started and needed to seek new grounds to improve. “I changed the riding club, hoping for a better teacher and a better school horse, but no improvement… My old patient advised me to buy my own horse. This was exactly what I did. I bought my own horse, with whom I started to make progress in learning. At a certain point, I met a professional rider, who became my trainer, for me and for my horse, and this is the point where it all started… I began to think about jumping competitions, for amateur level, and I started to win my first rosettes [with] my beloved horse, Platon. He is now 26 years old.”

Taking Matters into Her Own Hands

Dr. Ozana became more and more involved with the jumping community and eventually bought two expensive show jumping horses for her trainer to ride in more professional competitions and shortly after, another two competition horses followed suit.
“In the beginning, my equestrian goals were to spend some relaxing time in nature, to ride for good fitness and to be close to my new friend, Platon.” She continued, “When I had other more expensive and better competition horses, my goals were to have them at higher competing events.”

In Romania, there wasn’t any existing high level and high-quality show jumping facilities for her recently purchased competitive show jumpers, and taking matters into her own hands led her to the development of “the most modern jumping facilities in Romania.”

She knew if she was going to build a better facility for her competitive horses, she might as well make it a place that could benefit everyone. She found a top contractor for equestrian facilities from Germany and purchased the best property she could find, close to the city of Bucharest and near enough to a major road to allow everyone easy access. It took a year to complete and in 2010, “Clubul De Echitatie Equestria,” was finished.

Equestria was more than just a fancy riding arena. Wanting to set an example for fellow Romanian investors, Dr. Ozana ensured that Equestria be equipped with state-of-the-art everything. Arenas with self-watering footing, a large covered stable to house customers’ horses as well as horses visiting for competitions, a restaurant and café overlooking the arenas, a B&B hotel and a tack shop. “We also wanted to have modern infrastructures,” she explains, “in terms of security and safety for horses and humans working or spending time there. All these things could not be found in any other equestrian facility in the Bucharest area and in Romania.”

Photo by Dragos Barbulescu

Open for Business

With Equestria now open for business she set straight to work, “We offered riding lessons and we started organizing competitions, national and some international, both for jumping and for dressage.”

Now, eight years on, Equestria is booming and hosts 5-8 National competitions a year and even managed to organize two international competitions for CSI** and CSI***, the first international competitions in Romania in over 7 years. Equestria also hosts the Equestria Cup which is now in its 7th edition and the Jockey Club Trophy—5th edition.

Photo by Dragos Barbulescu

Thinking back to the first time she told others her idea to build Equestria she replies, “People around me were a bit skeptical, since it was the first riding club attempting such a wide range of activities, but soon they started to believe that it is possible, even in Romania, which doesn’t have a strong tradition in equestrianism.”

As for her competition horses, they are all at different levels and ages. Some are starting their first shows come spring, others are competing—and winning—at the 1.30-meter classes with the aim to compete next spring in the 1.40m division.

“My highest moments with my horses are always when they win when competing abroad,” she glows while she speaks, “and it happened several times! Listening to the National Anthem of your country, sung in another country, is quite impressive indeed…”

Krystal Kelly is an Equestrian Adventuress from California on a quest to see the world from the back of a horse. She has worked internationally in over a dozen countries since leaving the USA in 2010 and is currently the only FEI II Certified Show Jumping Coach from the USA! She has worked in countries such as Egypt, India, Romania, Bhutan, Italy, Belgium and more and loves to empower women to follow their dreams. Read more about Kelly’s adventures HERE.