Nov. 8, 2011
by: Michael Stagno, Auburn media relations
Lindsay Portela comes from a big family. Her father is one of five siblings and the only one to be born in the United States, her grandmother is one of nine siblings. With such a big family there can be a lot of confusion at the holidays and on family get-togethers, but one thing they can all agree on is that equestrian is a tradition and thanks to her grandfather the sport is a staple in their family.
“My grandfather’s work ethic is incredible,” Portela said. “He built his company from the ground up. He opened up all the doors and made equestrian available to me. He is the reason that equestrian runs in the family. It starts with my mother and works its way down. He tells us every day that we can do whatever we want to do and he is a true testament to that statement.”
Portela has many childhood memories with equestrian being the constant theme. It is more than a sport when it brings a family together and becomes more about spending time with her parents who are also equine athletes.
“Both my parents rode and my sister does as well,” Portela said. “I can go all the way back to when I was seven or 8-years-old, I was a circuit champion in the same tournament that my mother was a circuit champion. We got to go on the field and as we were honored it was cool being there with her at the same time. I look up to her, she’s well-known in the horse industry and to be compared to her in my career is something I strive for.”
The decision to come to Auburn was an easy one for Portela. Her uncle, Jorge Portela, was a kicker for the Auburn football team from 1976-79. He was an AP First Team All-SEC placekicker. He set an SEC record for most field goals in one game (five against Florida) and he also tallied 15 field goals in one season, which also was an SEC record.
I have family ties to Auburn so in my mind it was a no-brainer,” Portela said. “I actually have the same metallic license plate on my car that my uncle had on his car when he was at Auburn.”
What makes both the Auburn University and the equestrian team so special to Portela is the support she gets from her coaches and teammates. Assistant coaches Lisa Helfer, Jessica Braswell and head coach Greg Williams all give the confidence the girls need without overwhelming them while remaining available to them whenever the girls have a concern.
“The coaching staff is incredible,” Portela said. “They’re good at not changing the way you ride. They recruited us for a reason and they’re not going to try and make you someone that you’re not. The way you came in is the way they want you to stay and that is very important to a rider. They are so approachable and always willing to listen.”
Last season, other than racking up multiple MVP honors throughout the season, Portela was also recognized as a First Team All-America in Equitation on the Flat.
“It was a great honor,” Portela said. “What was really special about it was to be able to share it with all my other teammates who were recognized as well. To be on the field and hear your name called as an All-American was an unbelievable feeling, but the ultimate goal last season was to win a national championship and thankfully we did that.”
So far this season, it is more of the same. Portela is 3-1 with an MVP in Equitation on the Flat. She earned the honor in South Dakota last weekend on Nov. 5, helping Auburn claim all eight MVP awards by defeating both South Dakota State and Delaware State.
“Our ultimate goal in approaching every meet is to win it for Auburn,” Portela said. “The individual stuff is just a side note. The work we put into practice every day is really paying off. To sweep MVPs last weekend is really a testament to both the coaching staff and all the girls on the team because it shows that we’re putting in the work.”