STILL WATER – A lot of people don’t understand the sacrifice and hard work that goes into being a Division I athlete. For two Oklahoma State Equestrian athletes, there have been many obstacles they had to overcome in order to be successful. Lois op het Veld and Dalia Lehmann are the two international athletes of the team.
op het Veld is a second year student from Amstelveen, the Netherlands. She said she was the only one in her family with a passion for horses.
From a young age, she rode on the back of her father’s bicycle and the two went next to a nearby pasture with horses.
“I wanted to stroke them,” op het Veld said.
In the Netherlands, the law requires citizens to be 7 years old to attend riding lessons. For op het Veld, she didn’t wait a single day to start riding. On her seventh birthday, she took her first lesson and immediately fell in love. This experience sparked his passion for horses and sport.
op Het Veld was first presented in the United States when she traveled to New York City at the age of 13. In 2019, she competed in the Equestrian Youth World Show in Oklahoma City and ultimately landed a spot on the OSU horse roster, bringing her to Stillwater in 2020.
Hailing from Ponznan, Poland, Lehmann was also introduced to horses from an early age.
âIt was when I was 7, and I was trying to explore what I loved to do,â said Lehmann.
Her parents first introduced her to tennis and golf, but neither developed the same passion as horses.
Lehmann’s love for horses made his family follow suit. Together, they discovered horses and horseback riding, which eventually led Dalia to become a horse rider and her parents to become breeders.
Less than a year after riding, Lehmann began to compete, starting with ponies. His family initially owned a pony, which quickly turned into a seven.
âThat’s when I got really involved, and it started to get serious,â said Lehmann.
Lehmann first arrived in the United States in 2017, where she was an exchange student in Wisconsin.
âI just wanted to explore the country,â said Lehmann. “I had heard a lot from my friends that America was the country with many cultures and in fact I was curious what it looked like.”
OSU’s strong equestrian program is what brought her to school here, where she is now in her first grade.
“After the Zoom discussion with the coaches, I decided that I wanted to join the team because of the family atmosphere – this is really important for me as an exchange student, as a foreign student “said Lehmann.
The two athletes both notice many differences between the United States and their hometowns.
âWhat’s very different for sure is the size of this country,â op het Veld said, also noting that all athletics in the US is something the Netherlands doesn’t have.
âI love the diversity and the way people are different,â said Lehmann. “People are more open and people are friendlier at the start.”
Despite everything the two athletes love about the United States, it certainly comes at a cost.
Both runners said they can only return home twice a year. They said they were going home for the winter vacation along with the summer vacation. Being away from their families was what op het Veld and Lehmann both noted as the most difficult challenge of being an international student.
“Larry (Sanchez), for example, has really been almost like a father to me, he’s helped me so much since my family isn’t here, he’s always there to help me in any way he can,” op het says Veld.
op het Veld said they are constantly asked funny questions like they have pizza in Europe.
“We are not from Mars!” said Lehmann.
Even though both come from different parts of the world, they are like every other Division I athlete who wants to compete and be successful.
But being an international student is a very unique experience, with cultural differences being treated differently and being away from your family which makes this part of your life more difficult.
Being part of the OSU equestrian team made the transition much easier for these athletes. The family atmosphere and the desire to always help each other is something that both riders love about the team.
“I think our team is very close, that’s what I really liked and it really struck me from the first moment when I came here to visit,” said op het Veld. âAs I was traveling all over the world, I wanted to go somewhere where I felt welcome and where I knew I would be okay and where people would just take care of each other. I think that’s really the case. for our team. ”