International Dressage competitor and trainer Cesar Parra got a special holiday gift a few days early – U.S. citizenship. He took his citizenship oath on Dec. 19 and thus fulfilled a dream he's had for years. "I'm so proud to be an American. This really is a dream come true," said Cesar.
The road to citizenship has been a long one for Cesar, with numerous bureaucratic obstacles thrown up along the way, even at the last moment. Earlier this year, he made a trip to the Immigration Agency and completed all the requirements for citizenship but one – his oath. "I went in and finished all the final paperwork. The only thing left was for them to administer the oath, but it was just before five and they came in and said they were going home," Cesar said. "I couldn't believe it. All I needed was a few minutes. But, you know, what could I say? I didn't want to get angry or that could have made it worse."
PhelpsPhoto: Cesar Parra and Emmy Adwer's Robinson at the 2002 Jerez World Equestrian Games
When Cesar asked the bureaucrats about rescheduling a time for him to take the oath, "they said, 'we'll let you know.' And that was it. I had to leave." Well, it took a few months for the bureaucracy to reschedule but it came in time for Christmas. And, Cesar is now officially an American and he couldn't be happier. "This is a wonderful country that has opened itself to me and offered me so many opportunities to compete and build a business in the sport that I love," he said. "I have been in many countries around the world and still believe that America is the best place to live for myself and my family."
Cesar said achieving U.S. citizenship was no easy task, but he has many friends and supporters to thank for helping him get there. "I succeeded because of the efforts and support of so many people." For every obstacle that emerged, a friend came along and helped him surpass it. "People have been wonderful in helping me. It can be a frustrating process," Cesar said.
Cesar grew up in Bogotá, Colombia. He earned his Doctor of Science of Dentistry degree with a specialty in Pediatric Dentistry and he first came to the U.S. in 1983 to attend continuing education classes at Harvard. The following year he attended Boston University and taught pediatric dentistry there from 1985 to 1987. He returned to Colombia in 1987 to continue his practice as a dentist, but his riding soon intervened. In the 1990s, Cesar's life was far more focused on dressage than dentistry and in no time at all, he was a rising star on the international dressage scene.
By 1999, Cesar was well established in the U.S. and from his base at Performance Farms, which now has locations in both New Jersey and Florida, he began making a name for himself as a leading international competitor. He led the Colombian team to a team silver medal and was individually fifth at the 1999 Pan American Games. In 2002, he rode PF Robinson for Colombia at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain. In 2003, he rode Horses Unlimited's Pik L to an individual 4th place at the Pan American Games.
With Cesar, Pik L, a Hanoverian stallion by Pik Bube II, was also the 2003 USDF Horse of the Year at both Intermediare I and Intermediare I Freestyle. In 2004, Cesar competed with Galant du Serein at the 2004 CDIO Aachen and then at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. In 2005, he was the South American representative at the 2005 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas.
To make an international team now Cesar will have to compete against the best riders and horses American has to offer, but he is not deterred. "I have been blessed to represent Colombia at the highest level and that has given me invaluable international experience. But I was basically there as an individual. I have lived in America for nine years and I consider it my home. And now, it is my dream to represent the United States of America, my new country," Cesar said. "I am aware that this is not an easy task, but I believe I have the education and work ethic to achieve it."
With the support of his wife, Marcela, and his children, Nicole and Federico, Cesar has built Performance Farms into a leading center for dressage training. With the farm's top-notch team of staff members behind him, Cesar has faith that he'll be just as successful riding for the U.S. as he has been riding for Colombia. "We have the facility to develop horses that will have the quality needed to bring medals to the U.S. Our team also has the connections to find the best horses," he said. "And while I work toward my goal of representing the U.S., I'll continue to enjoy my work with all riders who want to learn and compete, especially those who have high goals."
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