Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Diplomacy at a horse trot

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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions.

By Alexandra Paucescu.

I’ve always loved horses. I admire their beauty and pure elegance. I remember, as a young girl, I was watching horse-jumping championships on TV, together with my grandma, and imagined myself making that perfect team with the animal, competing for world’s glory and admiration. Well… it never happened to me, except for a few months of horse riding lessons,  it remained a dream… but recently I had the pleasure to meet someone who lived my childhood fantasy, at high levels.

She is Jaizel Selleslaghs, born in the Netherlands, married to a Belgian diplomat and now living in Peru, on diplomatic mission.

She says she has loved horses all her life and first rode one when she was only 4! Although she admits that it is quite an exclusive and expensive sport, she was lucky enough to have her own horse at 7. And that’s how her life passion for horses took off.

‘Netherlands had always a great tradition in horse riding’, she says. So, she had the opportunity, the passion and also the perfect environment to achieve high standards in this elegant sport.

‘Horses were everything to me. I would spend every day with them, taking care of them, riding, and I was competing in jumping and dressage competitions almost every weekend. Meanwhile I was also studying ‘Horses management’ and with my certificate as horse instructor I was also giving lessons to adults and children.’

Jaizel Selleslaghs. Photography by Joren Selleslaghs.

She confesses to me that one of her proudest moments was when she became champion of Utrecht, in the ‘1 meter class’ and also when she reached ‘Level Z’ in horse dressage. But, although she had all these great results, she looked for a slightly different career later. Leaving horse riding just as a hobby, she studied ‘Logistics and Economics’ and started her career in the retail industry.

But life, especially when it comes to diplomats, is rarely predictable and soon showed its surprising twists. She knew that, by embracing a diplomatic career, her husband will take her to a life long journey around the Globe…first stop: Peru.

Although on the other side of the world, she quickly became comfortable with her new ‘home’, learned the local language (Spanish) in record time and started riding and teaching classes again.

Of course, such a talent and love for horses never fades… I see her pictures full of love, I watch her riding in videos and almost feel the extraordinary connection she has with her beloved horse, Ginger, which in fact she brought to Peru. ‘Although terribly expensive, I could never leave her behind! And it was definitely all worth it’, she tells me, with her eyes shining with joy. ‘I get to ride daily, make friends and meet new people every day. I was also recently interviewed by the prestigious Dutch horse magazine “Hoefslag”on this topic.’

Jaizel Selleslaghs. Photography by Joren Selleslaghs.

Peru is a country with an incredibly rich history, which she is eager to discover. In fact, that’s one of the things she likes most about diplomatic life.

‘While living this experience, you get to know the world, see how other people live and also appreciate more what you have at home. As a diplomat, you learn to adapt easily to new situations, adapt to each person you talk to, you become more open and willing to meet new people, find out their stories, you learn how to make connections and “break the ice” in a conversation.’

It’s also sometimes hard… leaving your family and friends behind, passions and habits, embracing the novelty of each new diplomatic destination. She had to make changes too, and, with this new life, she started her own portable business. She helps now riders from all over the world to train their horses. By designing personalized training plans, she helps dressage competition riders to train in an effective and structured way and grow towards the next level. ‘Although I have only recently started my portable business, I already have clients from Peru, The Netherlands and Dubai and the results are very promising.’

There are always differences between horse management in different countries, sometimes you have to learn new ways of doing things. ‘While back home in the Netherlands you have to do everything for and with the horses, in Peru you have certain people taking care of your horse. I had to adapt to new rules but kept my horse close and tried to keep my old routines, as much as possible.’

As I write down these lines, I hear again her passionate words in my ears and then I look again at her photos. Such joy, such grace and elegance, such an admirable and united team: a young, beautiful and ambitious lady and her black horse, riding around the world on their diplomatic journey!


Jaizel Selleslaghs. Photography by Joren Selleslaghs.

About the author:

Alexandra Paucescu

Alexandra Paucescu- Romanian, Management graduate with a Master in Business,  studied Cultural Diplomacy and International Relations.

She speaks Romanian,  English,  French,  German and Italian. Turned diplomatic spouse by the age of 30, she published a book about diplomatic life, writes articles and also gives lectures on intercultural communication.

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