• Her passion for horses was ignited at the tender age of seven when she first encountered her pony and established a bond that fueled her love for the sport.
•At just 19 years old, Muthoni has already anchored her name in history by becoming the youngest female from Africa and the sole recipient from Kenya to receive the prestigious 2022 FEI ‘Against All Odds’ Award.
In the world of equestrian sports, 20-year-old Kenyan show jumper Muthoni Kimani has an inspiring story to tell.
Her passion for horses was ignited at the tender age of seven when she first encountered her pony and established a bond that fueled her love for the sport.
“Her passion for horses ignited at the age of seven when she first encountered her pony. The bond with these majestic animals fueled her love for the sport,” her mother Ann Karigaca's mother attests.
Karigaca, who also serves as Muthoni's manager, found encouragement from her daughter's schoolmates and their moms, fostering support for her daughter's equestrian pursuits.
Muthoni's dream surpasses representing Kenya in the Olympics as she aspires to reach global heights in show jumping in prestigious events like the Rolex Grand Slam and the Longines Global Champions Tour.
At just 19 years old, Muthoni has already anchored her name in history by becoming the youngest female from Africa and the sole recipient from Kenya to receive the prestigious 2022 FEI ‘Against All Odds’ Award.
These awards recognize athletes who persistently pursue equestrian aspirations even when faced with physical disabilities or challenging personal circumstances.
The competition featured tough contenders like former jockey Trevor Harrison, vaulter Estiven Palacio Hernandez, and US Para Dressage competitor Mia Rodier-Dawallo.
Despite a busy training schedule, Muthoni showcases diverse skills she has acquired during the off-season, including crocheting and cooking.
“During her free time, she enjoys crocheting, which she also does with passion. I enjoy her cooking too, she can cook!” Karigaca said.
Muthoni revealed that her lifelong dream has consistently been to participate in the Olympics.
“Even if I am afraid, this is my passion. I have had this Olympic dream since I was young. I have always wanted to represent Kenya. It is not the final as there is this Rolex Grand Slam in which I want to compete,” she said.
In the pursuit of her Olympic dream, Muthoni said she remains focused on continuous improvement and hard work.
Her journey to success is intertwined with the significant sacrifices made by her parents. Selling property to fund education and racing endeavours, Karigaca made the tough decision to give up her job to provide Muthoni with unwavering support.
Facing the challenges of having only one horse, Muthoni found herself at a disadvantage compared to competitors with multiple horses. Despite government assurances of support, the challenges persisted even with the promise of assistance from Youth Affairs, Sports & The Arts Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba.
Muthoni's foray into international racing began after overcoming various obstacles, including unfortunate accidents during training.
Her determination led her to approach a horse training institution, opening doors to international racing opportunities. Breaking new ground, Muthoni earned admission to the prestigious Cavalleria Toscana Academy, an exclusive jumping school in Italy.
This marked a significant milestone in her career and made her the first African woman to join the institution. Venturing into the European equestrian scene demanded more than riding skills; it required a complete lifestyle shift.
Muthoni confronted challenges like language barriers and adapting to different cultures, but with perseverance, she embraced the changes and found her footing as an international rider.
Transitioning into international competitions presented challenges. Muthoni faced obstacles such as a stringent quarantine process for moving horses internationally and addressing diseases like horse ticks and African horse sickness.
The verification process before the competition proved rigorous. “Changes in culture that require one to learn and unlearn a set of lifestyle habits to accommodate the new direction life has to offer,” she said.
The equestrian world introduced challenges like colic in horses, underlining the need for constant care and attention. Muthoni's training routine involves working with various horses, each with its unique personality and characteristics.
Interacting with over 70 horses since the beginning of her journey, she compares the process to solving a puzzle which underscores the importance of finding a show jumper that enhances performance.
“Horses are sensitive animals. They pick up emotions from you as a controller,” she notes.
“It takes quite a while to get the full trust of a horse,” she added. Acknowledging the influence of sports legends like Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams, Muthoni admires rider Kent Hamilton for his unshakable self-belief.
Her admiration for fellow athletes fuels her determination to be the best, motivating her even when far from home. Muthoni's achievements include receiving the FEI Longiness award titled 'Against All Odds' and securing second and third positions in different categories at San Giovanni in Italy.
Last year, she achieved clear rounds, marking a significant milestone in her burgeoning career.