Dressage dream for teenage riders

THE talented Stern siblings, Jackson and Lilly, are attempting to become the first dressage riders to represent Australia at an international Jewish sporting event as they gear up for the European Maccabi Games in July.

Held in Berlin and featuring athletes from 30 countries competing in more than 20 sports, the European Maccabi Games is a chance for the Sterns to make their competitive debut outside of Australia. And according to 19-year-old Jackson, it would be a “great experience”.

There is a third rider, Ilona Hudson from New South Wales, who is also keen to join the team.

But Jackson tells the AJN that there is a major obstacle standing in the way of him and in his 16-year-old sister Lilly’s dream.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money to get to Berlin and to cover training costs and flights,” said Jackson.

“We’re looking for the Australian Jewish community to get behind the team to help us to get there — even a corporate sponsorship or a large business that might look to support us.”

Besides seeking private donors, the Sterns have also set up a crowd-funding platform and pledge that public money will be put to good use.

Lily Stern

Lily Stern

While dressage is an unusual sport for most Jewish children, both siblings followed in the footsteps of their mother and took an early interest in riding.

Jackson says he loves working with animals and the unique challenges the sport presents.

“People that play tennis work with their racquet, whereas we work with an animal that has its own brain,” he said.

“It’s a difficult sport, but also very rewarding.”

The family moved to Macedon Ranges five years ago to help Jackson and Lily pursue their dream of becoming elite riders and allow them to train seven days a week.

Jackson said, “I’ve got two six-year-old horses that I’ve trained since they were broken in three years ago. They’re just at medium, which is the fourth level out of seven. It takes eight to 10 years to train a horse [for Olympic level] so it’s a long process.”

Even if the Jewish community helps the Sterns reach Berlin, Jackson admits the huge equine travel costs mean the siblings are unable to transport their own horses.

He says using ‘pool’ horses poses some inconvenience, but he is “absolutely confident” of success.

“It is difficult because you don’t know the horse and the horse doesn’t know you -– that’s why I ride all the time, from friend’s horses, to training horses for people, so I’m used to getting on different horses and having different training experiences.”

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Pictured: Jackson Stern in action. Photo: Derek O’Leary