Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Miami International Riding Club: An Interview with Celia Bunge

Miami International Riding Club: An Interview with Celia Bunge
by Gina McKnight
Archived from the August 2021 Issue of (c) Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission.

“I became more successful just because I never gave up,
 and I put in all the work that was needed and more.” Celia Bunge

At the tip of Florida is a beautiful place to learn about horses. In the heart of Miami resides Celia Bunge, the co-proprietor of the Miami International Riding Club (MIRC). Celia is a life-long equestrian, bringing wisdom and inspiration to new and seasoned riders from around the world. MIRC offers English riding instruction, specializing in hunters and jumpers, but also offers equitation and dressage. Celia welcomes riders from all over the world, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Congo, Columbia, China, France, Mexico. Celia and her daughter, Daniela, are certified English riding instructors with a lot of enthusiasm for horses! 

Welcome, Celia!

GM: Celia, it’s so great to meet you and talk about horses! When was your first encounter with a horse?
CB:  My first encounter with a horse came at a very young age. I was a toddler when I started riding my grandfather’s top quality Quarter Horses at his vacation estate in Cuernavaca, Morelos in Mexico.  My grandfather did not ride, he just enjoyed having beautiful show horses, and having his riders work and show them.  I will not however claim to be a natural at riding, not even  a talented rider.  I became a really good rider, and even a better all-around horse person through hard work, hours and hours of training, and through my love of horses. As a rider there was always someone better than  me, but in the end, I became more successful just because I never gave up, and I put in all the work that was needed and more.

GM: A great story of courage and talent, you inspire many people to live their dream of being with horses. In 2019 you received the (AYHC) American Youth Horse Council's Youth Equine Industry Innovation Award! That is a great accomplishment. Congratulations! The award was for "unique and creative ways of introducing young people, particularly pre-teens and teenagers, to the different aspects of the horse world." What are some of the unique and creative ways you introduce people to horses?
CB: Our barn, Miami International Riding Club (MIRC) has found its niche precisely in the youth component of our programs. We focus on teaching young people different and creative ways to get involved in the horse world. We always try to find each kids talents and match them with the right program or activity. Some MIRC riders enjoy taking care of injured horses, others love working with people, others have amazing teaching and mentoring skills, others have a true calling to help people with disabilities find the joys that horses bring, others are talented riders that love working with green horses or teaching ex-racehorses a new career, and finally others are top-level competitors that thrive at horse shows.

GM: Take us around your award-winning facility. What will we find?
CB: Well, there is always a lot going on at MIRC! From our large and extremely busy lesson program to boarding, leasing, sales and training. We also offer a program for riders with disabilities, host clinics, and offer outreach programs.  We have a fun summer camp, and host events for Girl Scouts to earn their horsemanship and riding badges. We are the largest barn in the Miami area and we have an impressive show team. Our facility has become a dream come true! We have two massive outdoor arenas with specialized fiber footing and stadium lights, round pens, a field for riding on grass, A/C tack rooms and restrooms, covered wash racks, ample turn out paddocks, security cameras, and beautiful, lush trees. On average we have 55 horses on site .

GM: Your facility stables many beautiful horses and talented riders. What are your methods for selecting horses for your students?  
CB: I truly believe we are great matchmakers. At MIRC we have very clear guidelines with respect to how we handle our board and training program, which has made us a very successful boarding show barn.  All our clients work very closely with us in every aspect of their equestrian endeavor. This includes the selection, welfare, management, training, competition goals, veterinary care, and feed program of their horses. We always get to know our clients and our horses extremely well, that way we can offer the best advise when pairing people and horses.

GM: Describe a day in your life...
CB: I am a very routine driven person. I am dedicated, passionate, and very disciplined.  My days start early, around 7 am. I answer messages, emails, and texts, print things, and organize stuff that needs to be taken to the barn.  Every morning, I also take my dogs and my cat out, give them their supplements, and feed them before leaving my house. My dogs and cat, despite having a doggie door which they use all day and night, will not go out to the bathroom in the mornings unless I take them out. It is a fun fact, but makes for a morning routine that I really enjoy.

Mornings  at the barn mean errands, barn management,  and supervising riders and instructors. I also always ride my mare “Mina”, and frequently help with other horses that may benefit from my patient, delicate, and precise riding. I often help with young horses that need to learn through good riding, and proper horsemanship.  After a quick  break for lunch, busy afternoons usually include teaching lessons, and talking to clients. I am always around to make sure everyone at MIRC feels included and welcome. I usually don’t leave until all lessons are done, and horses have been taken care off.  Usually around 9 pm.  

GM: That’s a full day (I love hearing about your dogs and cat!). Tell us about your own awards and accolades and the secret to your success.
CB: Our hard work and dedication has been rewarded with several amazing awards.  We have a passion for re training ex race horses, and we have worked extensively with off-the-track-thoroughbreds (OTTB’s). I have been the spokesperson for our re-training program and have been guest speaker at Gulf Stream Park. We are the proud recipients of the National Award for Equine Welfare Work by The Right Horse Initiative. We are also the proud recipients of the American Youth Horse Council Award for our work and dedication to connecting kids and teens and horses.

In 2019 I was awarded the CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association) Instructor of the Year Award. I am extremely proud of this recognition!! As I truly love to teach! 

I would also like to mention that my daughter , and business partner, Daniela Bunge, was the 2016 International Junior Coach of the year by the International Society of Rider Biomechanics.

GM: Congratulations on all of your success. Hard work does pay off! Do you have a favorite horse anecdote to share?
CB: I always share with my students when they are feeling down or defeated, especially after a fall, that I probably hold the record of most falls during one single session and while attempting the same exercise.  I fell six times while practicing some bounces. I did however end up on a good note, and well although this happened many years ago, I am still riding at almost 57 years.

GM: Throughout your lifetime there may have been that once-in-a-lifetime favorite horse. What are the qualities of your favorite horse?   
CB:  If you ask anyone that knows me, they will all undoubtedly say that I love warmbloods, but most of all I love warmblood chestnut mares!!  I will always prefer for myself a mature and well trained horse, 12 years or older. I like strong, talented and spunky girls.  My current riding partner, my gorgeous mare “Mina” is a fabulous 17’3 Canadian warmblood with excellent Dutch warmblood bloodlines.  She is an amazing jumper, but she also excels at dressage and equitation.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself with such a huge horse, but Mina has stolen my heart.

Despite my love for warmblood mares, I do have to mention my other great love. Napoleon.  Napoleon  - who passed away last year - was a gray warmblood stallion.  Napoleon came to our lives as a horse for my daughter who was rapidly moving up in the show jumping world.  Napoleon was an extremely talented horse but he was not blessed with a great conformation, and he also had to battle since young age, malignant melanomas.  So he gave my daughter a couple of great seasons at the top levels, and then he became my horse.  Napoleon gave me the wings to enter and win classes in the jumper ring that I never thought I could do. Napoleon died at the still young age of 21. He had the best work ethic ever!  Until his last days, we had to find ways to trick him and convince him that he was still working.  He was retired, but we had to make him believe he wasn’t.  Not working made him depressed and sad.

GM: What advice do you have for novice riders and those seeking to purchase their first horse?
CB:  I always tell young riders, and new riders of any age, that they need to understand that riding is a lifelong sport.  Riding requires patience, endurance, perseverance, discipline, commitment, and passion. You need to understand that you will always be learning new things, and that you will always need to improve. Aspiring riders and new horse owners need to understand that in this sport you  need to love the horse first and the sport second.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
CB: Although we are aware of the time constraints of many riders, at MIRC we feel that horsemanship is an essential component to riding. People need to know how to do things. People need to know their horses. Too many people are just riders and do not understand anything about basic care, horse handling, horse health, horse behavior, horse handling, and management. Becoming a competent horse person and rider is a time-consuming affair. It is like many wisely say, a way of life.

Connect with Celia:

1 comment:

faani said...

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.
Visit for more amazing information about horse: Race Horse Club

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