Tag Archives: FEI

When You Get an Opportunity, Then Grab It with Both Hands: David O’Connor

David O’Connor (USA) with the brilliant Custom Made who claimed individual gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. (Photo credit: FEI)

It’s probably not that surprising that David O’Connor’s career thrived throughout the era of long-format Eventing, because if you’ve crossed the vast expanse of North America on horseback when you’re just 11 years old then going the distance is unlikely to be daunting at any stage of your life.

The 2000 Olympic Eventing champion retired from international competition in 2004, served as President of the United Stated Equestrian Federation (USEF) for the next eight years, and was inducted into the United States Eventing Association’s Hall of Fame in 2009. He now trains young horses, coaches riders, and designs courses, and he sees it all as a natural progression. “I’m in this game 45 years, and as time goes on you move on to the next level. For me that’s the training side of the sport, and I really enjoy it a lot,” says the man who became Chair of the FEI Eventing Committee three years ago.

He’s travelling to a show the day I call him up to ask him about his life and times. So how did he get started with horses? Did his family have a generational connection with them?

“No, my mum was brought up in suburban London (GBR) and she rode a bit, but it was only when she came to the US that she really got into it. My father wasn’t horsey at all; he worked in the Navy, but my brother Brian and I went to the local Pony Club when we were kids and that’s how it all began,” he explains. Mum, Sally O’Connor, would go on to become a Dressage rider, judge, and author while Brian’s voice is one of the most recognisable on the US equestrian commentary circuit. David, meanwhile, became a superstar Eventing athlete, greatly admired for the long and successful partnerships he established with a superb string of horses.

Ambitions

He says he didn’t have big ambitions as a child. “We weren’t wealthy so I never thought horses would be my life,” he explains. But when he was 17 years old, fate intervened. Spotted by legendary coach Jack Le Goff, he joined training sessions for development riders staged at the USEF Training Centre in Massachusetts (USA) and was invited to stay on.

“It was an amazing opportunity, a door that opened for me and I kinda ran through it as fast as I could! I was there for four-and-a-half years, and without that opportunity I’m really not sure where my life would have gone.”

His teenage heroes included Jimmy Wofford, Mike Plumb, “and Bruce (Davidson), who was dominating the sport across the world at the time.” David has maintained a lifetime connection with Jimmy, who he describes as a mentor and great friend. Like Jimmy, David’s career almost completely embraced the long-format era of Eventing which was very different to the scaled-back test horses and riders face today.

The old three-day formula consisted of Dressage on day 1 followed by Roads and Tracks, Steeplechase, more Roads and Tracks, and then Cross-Country on day 2, with showjumping on the third and final day.

“I was the last long-format winner at the Olympic Games (Sydney 2000) and World Championships (Jerez 2002), and I experienced the change to the modern-day sport,” he points out. “It’s certainly different doing a 13-minute course back then and an 11-minute course now. Today the intensity is higher, so horses can get out of breath quite quickly if you don’t manage your speed. Back then we managed galloping all the time, the horses were very fit, more thoroughbred types. There are horses that are not as thoroughbred that can do quite well in a 4-Star today, but they can’t manage a 5-Star. Now it’s all about turning and accuracy and having horses jump narrow fences… the rideability is more important than the athletic ability, whereas the athletic ability was more important back then. And there’s a huge difference between showjumping after cross-country and showjumping before,” he adds.

Brilliant horses

David had many brilliant horses, the best-remembered possibly his Olympic rides Giltedge and Custom Made. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, he rode Giltedge to team silver and Custom Made to individual fifth place, and four years later Custom Made claimed individual gold in Sydney (AUS) while Giltedge was on the bronze-medal-winning US side.

So how would these two special Irish-bred horses cope with the challenges of the modern sport?

“Giltedge would be just as successful now as he was back then because he was extremely rideable and a very good showjumper, in fact he would have an even better career now because he would have been totally in the game! Custom Made would still be a big 5-Star horse; he would revel in it just like he did because his big wins were all over galloping courses like Badminton, Kentucky, the Sydney Olympics, but probably not so much at Olympic Games and World Championships because the courses are getting shorter and more twisting and turning and that wouldn’t play to his strengths.

“One of the great things about these two, and many of our other horses like Biko and Prince Panache, was that they stayed sound and played the game for so long. They were Irish-bred and we can’t afford to lose the genetic advantages that the Irish bloodlines bring, like longevity and athleticism, which maybe some of the other countries don’t have,” he says.

When it comes to longevity, Custom Made was a perfect example, only passing away last year at the ripe old age of 34.

Prepare

So how did he prepare horses like these two all-time greats? “With a lot of long, slow work three or four months away from the event to put a base on them, and faster work closer to the competition,” he explains. The long, slow work was exactly that. “Sometimes you’d spend two hours on them riding up and down hills, trotting, slow cantering, and walking. Some of the kids coming up now don’t want to put that work in,” he points out.

And did the horses have similar personalities? “No, Custom Made (a.k.a. Tailor) had tremendous strength and scope and the most unbelievable gallop. He never got tired in his life and was an incredible athlete, but he was quite sensitive about a lot of things and when he got nervous he got very strong.

“But I never had a horse try as hard as Giltedge; he always rose to the occasion. There was this super-power thing that happened at a competition; he would turn into a horse that fought for you more than any other horse I’ve had in my life. That’s why he became such a great team horse for the US. I only ever had one rail down in showjumping with him and he was always going to be in the top 10 – he was one of those troopers you could always rely on,” David says proudly.

He relishes the relationships he had with both horses. “At the beginning of their careers I felt they were part of my career but towards the end of their competitive cycle it was me who was part of theirs! I just had to do my job and let them get on with theirs. When they retired, we gave demonstrations and they became even more famous. They had a huge fan-club; people just loved them, and not many horses get that because there are not a lot of really famous horses around anymore – I think their longevity had a lot to do with that,” he comments.

Family ride

When I ask him about the family ride across the United States of America, I can tell that there’s a determined streak in the O’Connor gene pool. He recalls a family dinner during which his mother announced her plan. “She had this romantic image of the US as the Wild West… John Wayne and all that. We lived in Maryland on the East Coast and she came up with the idea that we should ride to California on the West Coast, and the more people said it couldn’t happen the more she was determined it would. It was an amazing decision for her to make!” David says with a laugh.

So on 13th May 1973 they set off on the 3,000 mile trip that took 14 weeks to complete. “I was 11, Brian was 13 and it was just the three of us. We ended up going to Oregon instead of California because otherwise we would have had to cross the desert, and we didn’t quite make it to the west coast because Brian and I had to go back to school at the end of August,” David says. Brian’s horse did the full distance while David and Sally both needed remounts en route, turning the original two out to rest until they were collected on the way home.

“My mother knew people across the first-half of the country, and we stayed with them about every 10 days and gave the horses a couple of days off each time. But we didn’t know anybody beyond the Mississippi River, so we just knocked on people’s doors when we got to the end of the day, explained what we were doing and everyone East of the river said, ‘You’re going WHERE?!’ and everybody West said, ‘You’re from WHERE?!’ We were doing 30-35 miles a day and local newspapers started following us.

“It was an amazing trip for an 11-year-old kid and taught me a lot about spending time with horses and appreciation of the land and how people make a living. And it gave me a sense of time, not control over time but how to enjoy being in the moment, and that has always stayed with me. It was 47 years ago, and I still think about it often,” David says, clearly enjoying the memories.

Bitless

I ask David about riding without a bit in the horse’s mouth. He’s quite an advocate for bitless riding, but he points out that it has its limitations when it comes to competition.

“We start all of our young horses in rope halters without a bit, and when we are going on a quiet hack most are in just a halter, and we practice this a lot. They learn to go, stop, turn, rein-back, and all that, so when we put a bit in their mouth there is no anxiety about it.

“But there’s a huge difference when you are out on a course for 8 to 10 minutes galloping at a speed of 570 metres a minute. You can’t compare riding in a ring or quietly hacking with the need for the horse to be able to answer cross-country questions – they are two totally different things. From a risk-management point of view there is no way I would ever go cross-country for miles without having a bit.”

Admired

I ask him about the people he most admired during his time at the top of the sport and the first person he mentions is, unsurprisingly, New Zealand’s Mark Todd – “a great horseman and a good friend.”

He describes the period when he and his wife and fellow-Olympian, Karen O’Connor, lived in England as “magical. In the 90s, we were part of a group of riders including Mary King (GBR) and Blythe Tait (NZL) who were all there at the same time competing against each other and who became the best of friends. It drove us all to be better, there were 15 players at the top of the world sport all living near each other and it was a very special time,” he recalls.

So why didn’t he and Karen stay in Great Britain? “We had the opportunity to ride for Mrs Mars who became a big supporter of ours. She bought a place in Virginia and asked us to come back and run a High Performance Programme out of there. But if that opportunity hadn’t come our way, we might have stayed – who knows?” he says.

Wisdom

Finally, I ask David to share some wisdom with the next generation of young Event athletes. “The main thing is to have a goal that’s way out in front of you and to work hard to get there. Surround yourself with the best people you can find and learn your craft to the nth degree.

“As Mark Twain wrote. ‘It’s very easy to learn the tricks of the trade and never learn the trade.’ You need to learn every aspect of the trade and that includes the people part, the horse part, the riding part, the competitive part, and the management part. You don’t become a winner because you’re talented and you deserve it; you have to be driven and you need to be hungry if you want to succeed.

“And one of the things I tell all my students is that when you get an opportunity [like David did when spotted by Jack Le Goff], then grab it with both hands!”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

FEI Awards 2020 Celebrate a Decade of Equestrian Excellence

If you had the chance to choose, who would be your favourites from the winners over the past decade of FEI Awards?

Well now you have that opportunity! In a year when our sport has been brought to a standstill by the pandemic, we are looking back through the years and giving YOU the chance to pick the best of the best from the five FEI Awards categories.

And the public vote for the special edition FEI Awards 2020 is now open!

This year the winners in each of the five categories will be chosen entirely by the public and votes can be cast on FEI.org from today until 22 November. Winners will be announced the second week of December.

There are 55 nominees representing 19 nations across the five Awards categories: Longines FEI Rising Star; Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete; Cavalor FEI Best Groom; FEI Against All Odds; and FEI Solidarity. The complete list of nominees can be found here.

“These Awards are a way to honour the heroes of our sport through their amazing stories of resilience, horsemanship, determination, and passion,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.

“Equestrian is not just a sport, but a way of life for many people, and this has been a desperately difficult year for the equestrian community, just as it has been for everyone, in every sector. Now, more than ever, we need to focus on the positives that our sport has to offer and celebrate the fantastic ambassadors that we have, both on the field of play and behind the scenes making a difference.”

Since their launch in 2009, the FEI Awards have become a key addition to the annual equestrian calendar and have grown in size and stature over the last decade. The FEI Best Athlete and FEI Rising Star Award categories have featured a high calibre of nominees from around the world with numerous Olympic, Paralympic, and FEI World Equestrian Games™ honours among them.

With nine awards in total, Germany has the greatest number of winners and also tops the leader board in the FEI Best Athlete category, with five wins in 11 years.

German athletes in different Olympic disciplines have won the FEI Best Athlete category three years in a row. 2019 winner Ingrid Klimke, one of the world’s most successful Eventing riders, was the third German female to win the FEI Best Athlete award, following in the footsteps of FEI World Equestrian Games™ Jumping champion Simone Blum in 2018 and six-time Dressage Olympic gold medallist Isabell Werth in 2017.

Germany has also been to the fore in the FEI Rising Star Award, with the Rothenberger family claiming it twice, with Sönke winning in 2016 and his sister Semmieke taking home the honours last year.

Alongside the recognition of individual sporting accomplishments, the FEI Best Groom award highlights the important work of grooms, often the unsung heroes of equestrian sport, and the British have dominated this category. There was a double celebration in 2016 when Olympic champion Nick Skelton and his long-time groom Mark Beever were crowned Best Athlete and Best Groom. Career groom Jackie Potts won in 2014 for her long collaboration with Eventing legend William Fox-Pitt while Alan Davies, head groom to Dressage superstars Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, won the title in 2017.

The FEI Solidarity Award has raised the profile of a number of equestrian development projects, individuals, and organisations that have benefitted the sport and communities in countries such as Haiti, South Africa, Singapore, Uruguay, Zambia, and Great Britain.

At the 2018 FEI Awards Gala in Manama (BRN), the FEI Solidarity Award was given to The Horsemanship Movement, founded by Chinese Eventing star Alex Hua Tian and his friend Philip Wong. The programme aims to improve the lives of migrant children through building a positive partnership with horses, as well as to reposition equestrian sports as a value-led activity, rich with character education for children.

Following his win in 2018, Alex Hua Tian became the only individual to have secured two accolades at the FEI Awards having also won FEI Rising Star at the inaugural FEI Awards Gala in 2009 in Copenhagen (DEN). The FEI Rising Star recognition came on the back of his Olympic debut at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing at the age of 18, where he became China’s first equestrian Olympian and the youngest ever Eventer in Olympic history.

Perhaps the most inspiring of all the categories is the FEI Against All Odds Award, which has brought equestrian stories of courage, hope, and faith to the forefront. The Award, given to a person who has pursued his or her equestrian ambitions despite a physical handicap or extremely difficult personal circumstances, has been won by athletes from Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Haiti, Palestine, Uruguay, and the USA.

“This year, more than ever, I invite you all to show your support for the multiple nominees in the different categories,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “The equestrian community has been pushed to the limit this year but has come out stronger and this is our chance to unite and celebrate our community’s resilience in the face of adversity.”

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director, Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

Historic Home Win for Italy, but Dutch Take 2020 Title

Arianna Schivo (ITA) and Quefira de L’Ormeau. (FEI/Massimo Argenziano)

Team Italy posted a runaway win at the third and last leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ 2020 series on home ground at Montelibretti, but the overall title goes to The Netherlands. In the lead after the first two legs at Le Pin au Haras (FRA) and Strzegom (POL) in August, the Dutch could only be threatened by Poland at this final competition.

A Polish victory would have left them on level pegging with the Dutch at the top of the leaderboard, but it wasn’t to be as they lined up third of the four competing nations who enjoyed a great weekend of sport in the autumn sunshine at the Montemaggiore Estate which is home to Italy’s Military Riding Centre.

Austria finished second while the three-member Swiss side lined up in fourth place. For the Italians this was a really special day because it marked their first-ever FEI Nations Cup™ success according to veteran team member Juan Carlos Garcia.

“We had a good lead after cross-country yesterday, so we had a good feeling going into the showjumping today. But you never know the result until the horses and riders are over the last jump. We are very happy this evening!” — Juan Carlos Garcia (ITA)

Held the lead

Poland held the lead after Dressage, buoyed up by a strong test from Mateusz Kiempa and Lassban Radovix who put 33.79 on the board. However, their team total of 106.00 left them only 1.5 points ahead of Austria in second and just over two points ahead of the Italians in third at this stage, and cross-country day would change everything.

“It wasn’t a difficult course, but the time (6 mins 49 secs) was tight,” explained Garcia who galloped through the finish with Ugo du Perron in 7 mins 11 secs to add 8.8 time penalties to his scoreline. All four Italian team members stayed clear over the fences and they had a commanding lead going into the final phase on a score of 132.20. Austria lay second on 159.60 but less one rider following cross-county elimination for Lea Siegl and Van Helsing P, while Poland sat in third on 178.30 ahead of Switzerland in overnight fourth on 189.4.

The Italians sealed it confidently when both Garcia and Arianna Schivo riding Quefira de L’Ormeau were foot-perfect and within the time, while both Pietro Majolino riding Vita Louise DH Z and Marco Cappal partnering Santal Du Halage dropped only a single pole and added a few time faults.

Debut

At 23 years of age, and making his Nations Cup debut, Majolino was the baby of the winning side but his team-mates have a world of experience behind them. Garcia is a veteran of two Olympic Games and four FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG), competing in both Jumping and Eventing at the very top level. Schivo and her 16-year-old mare were on the Italian team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the WEG in Tryon, USA in 2018 while Cappal finished individually 14th at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA in 1996.

The final Italian team total of 138.60 left them well clear of the rest of the field and celebrating a big moment. They finished second in the final classification after lining out in all three legs of the series this season, and as Chef d’Equipe Giacomo Della Chiesa said, “It’s been a very good competition for us and we finish the year in a very good way.”

Title

The Netherlands can also celebrate tonight after taking the title. Tim Lips (Eclips), Janneke Boonzaauer (ACSI Champ de Tailleur), Elaine Pen (Divali), and Laura Hoogeveen (Wicro Quibus NOP) flew the Dutch flag when runners-up behind French winners Thibaut Vallette, Thomas Carlile, Christopher Six, and Karim Florent Laghouag at the opening leg at Le Pin au Haras.

And when Germany’s Ingrid Klimke, Andreas Dibowski, Beeke Jankowski, and Heike Jahncke came out on top in Strzegom later in August, then Hoogeveen was joined by Merel Blom (Ceda NOP), Jordy Wilken (Burry Spirit), and Raf Kooremans (Dimitri NOP) to fill second spot.

Results from Montelibretti here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Westphalian Cascamara Tops 6-Year-Olds, Trakehner Sweetwaters Ziethen T Wins 7-Year-Old Title

Ingrid Klimke and Cascamara. (FEI/Solène Bailly)

There was an exciting conclusion to the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships for Young Horses 2020 at the Haras National at l’Isle de Briand in Le Lion d’Angers (FRA), where German star Ingrid Klimke steered Cascamara to claim the 6-year-old title and compatriot Sophie Leube topped the 7-year-old category with Sweetwaters Ziethen T.

In a world so full of uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play havoc with all things including the sporting calendar, there was both relief and delight that the annual event went ahead. Speaking during the prizegiving for the 6-year-olds, in which she finished third, Dutch athlete Merel Blom praised the tremendous effort of the organisers who ensured the much-anticipated fixture took place with careful consideration for health protocols, while also offering a strong test for the latest crop of talented young horses.

Riders from 19 countries, and horses representing 22 international Studbooks, competed for the prestigious titles.

6-Year-Olds

Mares claimed the top five places in the 6-year-old division in which there was 38 starters, but it was the Irish Sport Horse gelding MHS Brown Jack who was out in front going into the final day with Great Britain’s Tom McEwen onboard. The pair posted a Dressage score of 26.6 and added nothing on cross-country day, but two mistakes in the final Jumping phase dropped them to sixth in the final analysis.

Klimke and Cascamara (Cascadello ll and Taramanga x Templer GL XX) lay second on their Dressage mark of 27.4, and when they added nothing to that scoreline had victory in the bag. There were just four eliminations on cross-country day when 20 combinations jumped clear across the beautifully-designed 20-fence track, and amongst those eliminated were the fourth-placed Australian partnership of Kevin McNab and Cute Girl.

The leaderboard was shaken up again on the final day when clear rounds proved hard to get. A total of 31 made it through to the final test and 25 of them collected penalties. Zero scores saw Ireland’s Cathal Daniels and the Irish Sport Horse LEB Empress rocket up from 15th to eventual fifth place, while America’s Tiana Coudray make a spectacular improvement from 12th to fourth with the Holsteiner Cabaret.

Lying in overnight fifth, The Netherlands’ Merel Blom and the Holsteiner mare Corminta Vom Gwick finished third despite the addition of 1.2 time penalties, while a pole down and 0.4 for time saw Germany’s Sophie Leube and Isselhook’s First Sight drop from fourth to eighth.

All the pressure

Great Britain’s Oliver Townend was lying third with the Irish Sport Horse Cooley Rosalent and added nothing to his scoreline, and when Klimke and Cascamara followed suit then all the pressure was on leader McEwen and MHS Brown Jack. A single error would have dropped them to third, but two down saw them having to settle for sixth. Klimke’s smile was as a wide as an ocean when she stood top-of-the-line with her lovely mare at the end of the day.

“I bought her last year directly from the breeder, Helmut Bergendahl – one of the only breeders I know who still breeds for Eventing by crossing Thoroughbred mares with Jumping stallions. She competed at her first show on the last weekend in July and did a good job so I thought she could be ready for a 2-star quite quickly. She did three 2-stars and won the third, and when I brought her to Le Lion she was already more confident in the dressage,” Klimke said.

“She was a bit green in the cross-country, especially at the water and the house, but when I asked her to give it a try, she was right there – so bold and smart and clever. I thought nine minutes might be too long for her, but she galloped around easily.

“In the showjumping she right away said, ‘I know my job’, and she was never close to touching a fence; she was so easy to ride and I feel I have a new superstar coming along!”

7-Year-Olds

Leube was all smiles too when enjoying a runaway victory with Sweetwaters Ziethen T (Abendtanz and Zaria AA x Campetot AA) in the 7-year-old category. The German pair was on familiar territory having finished fifth in the 6-year-old division last year, and the stallion never put a foot wrong after posting the best Dressage score of 27.6.

There were 42 starters and 27 completions in this class in which there was an optimum time of 9 minutes 19 seconds on the 22-fence cross-country track. Leube and her handsome horse did it to perfection when crossing the finish line in 9 minutes 14 seconds, and when they kept a clean sheet, they were simply untouchable.

On his fifteenth visit to these Young Horse Championships, French star Nicolas Touzaint slotted the Selle Francais gelding Diabolo Menthe into second after Dressage on a mark of 29.1, ahead of The Netherlands’ Blom in third with the Holsteiner Crossborder Radar Love (30.3) and New Zealand’s Caroline Powell with the Irish Sport Horse Greenacres Special Cavalier in fourth place (30.6).

Powell collected 20 penalties at the middle element of fence 15 to drop out of contention, and it was Leube and Touzaint, followed by compatriot Donatien Schauly in third with the Selle Francais gelding Dgin du Pestel Mili and Britain’s Laura Collett with the Irish Sport Horse Moonlight Charmer who topped the leaderboard.

Regrouped

But Collett’s mare didn’t pass the second horse inspection so when the field regrouped, it was Italy’s Filippo Gregoroni who was lying fifth with another Irish-bred, disarmingly called Unnamed, and despite a fence down, this pair only dropped a single place in the final standings.

Two mistakes dropped Blom to eighth while French rider Camille Lejeune, 26th after Dressage and 10th after cross-country, shot up to fifth when the Selle Francais mare Dame Decoeur Tardonn picked up just 1.2 showjumping time penalties. Meanwhile Great Britain’s Alexander Bragg and the Irish-bred Ardeo Premier moved up from seventh to fourth when clear.

In the battle between the top three, Touzaint dropped a place when his fabulous big grey gelding left one on the floor allowing Schauly into runner-up spot when foot-perfect. And then Leube held her nerve to clinch the win in fine style.

As Klimke remarked, these Championships are held in high regard by the world’s top riders. “It’s one of my favourites for young horses because they learn so much here; there’s no other course with such a variety of fences and terrain. My inexperienced mare was spooky at the first water, but by the time she got to the second water she had already learned a lot and was in a nice easy rhythm. Thanks to everyone at Le Lion for giving us riders and horses a great opportunity in these difficult times!”

For more information and full results, visit www.mondialdulion.com.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Another Dream Double for Dufour at First Leg in Denmark

Cathrine Dufour and Bohemian. (FEI/Ridehesten.com/Annette Boe Østergaard)

Germany’s Werth and von Bredow-Werndl finish second and third

There’s nothing like a home victory to please the crowd, and although numbers were limited as pandemic protocols were strictly in place, Cathrine Dufour’s winning ride with Bohemian at the first leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2020/2021 Western European League in Aarhus (DEN) brought spectators to their feet.

Last season, when the opening round of the series was staged at the Boxen arena in Herning, the Danish pair claimed top honours in both the Grand Prix and Freestyle. And they did it all over again in the considerably more modest confines of the Danish National Equestrian Centre in Vilhelmsborg, but with even more confidence and flair.

Fifth-last to go in the field of 15 starters, they posted a big score of 88.200 to take the lead. And although defending five-time series champion Isabell Werth came dangerously close when last to go with Emilio, her score of 87.845 wasn’t enough to prevent another Dufour double.

Werth filled runner-up spot ahead of German compatriot Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Zaire-E in third, and the Danes had even more to cheer about when Carina Cassøe Krüth and Heiline’s Danciera put in a brilliant performance to line up in fourth.

Same top three

It was the same top-three in the Grand Prix in which Dufour’s winning margin was much wider, her mark of 88.435 leaving her more than five percentage points ahead of the two Germans who both posted 77 percent scores.

“Bohemian was really good in the Grand Prix; he was just playing with all the moves. Today I had to push him a bit more, but he’s getting more and more brave and he loves being in the ring!” — Cathrine Dufour (DEN)

She had the leading score of 82.105, set by Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and the 18-year-old Damsey FRH, in her sights as she set sail. Bohemian seemed to be listening as she spoke quietly and patted him before their music began, and the harmony between the partnership oozed through every movement, with crisp, clean piaffe and passage a particular highlight throughout a lovely test.

When they came to a halt, the horse dropped his head in complete relaxation knowing that was a job well done. And when over 88 percent went up on the board it was obvious it was not going to be an easy score to beat.

Consummate ease

Von Bredow-Werndl’s mare, Zaire-E, produced a lovely test for 85.335 while Sweden’s Patrik Kittel and Delaunay Old, who presented no less than 18 one-tempi changes with consummate ease, earned a score of 82.575.

Second-last into the ring, Cassøe Krüth, whose nine-year-old mare Heiline’s Danciera gave notice of her great promise when finishing fourth at the FEI WBFSH Young Horse Championships at Ermelo (NED) two years ago, provided another Danish treat for a mark of 84.455 to slot temporarily into third place.

However, Werth was still to come, and although Emilio had not given his rider his full cooperation in the Grand Prix, few doubted the German legend’s capacity for pulling off a big result this time out. But it didn’t happen, and it was Dufour who was the one waving at the masked crowd during the prizegiving ceremony.

Achieved so much

The 28-year-old Danish athlete achieved so much with her little chestnut gelding Atterupgaards Cassidy who took her all the way from Junior level to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and on to three bronze medals at the FEI European Championships in Gothenburg (SWE) in 2017 and Grand Prix Special bronze at last year’s Europeans in Rotterdam (NED). Bohemian is now stepping into the spotlight, and Dufour believes he has a lot more to show.

“He hasn’t reached anything like his limits; he’s still developing mentally and there’s definitely more room for improvement from him – I’m delighted with him!” she said happily.

Results here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Equine Governing Bodies Seek to Secure Industry Future in EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement

Proposed solutions that would secure the future of the European equine industry through safe and expedited horse movement between EU Member States and Britain following the UK’s departure from the EU have been sent to Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom (UKTF), and to Lord Frost, the British Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser and Chief Negotiator of Task Force Europe.

The proposals, which cover equilibrium in equine health status between the EU and Britain, digital passports to facilitate seamless international transport of guaranteed high-health status horses, and zero tariffs for cross-border movement, are outlined in a comprehensive 14-page dossier produced by the International Horse Sports Confederation (IHSC) Task Force for Brexit and EU Animal Health Law, a collaboration of the key European Sport Horse and Thoroughbred horse racing and breeding industries.

The six-member task force was formed earlier this year by the IHSC, constituted jointly by the global governing bodies for equestrian sport and racing, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) in 2013.

The IHSC, together with the International Thoroughbred Breeders’ Federation, European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders Associations, and the European Equestrian Federation, has proposed simple and workable solutions that will ensure horse welfare and safeguard both European and British interests.

High health horses in Britain have the same health status as those in EU Member States and the task force is requesting that a trade agreement between the EU and Britain should reflect this fact.

Zero tariffs are already in place, and the task force is requesting that they be maintained, with the scheme being extended to geldings. Currently only stallions and mares are eligible for tariff-free cross-border transport.

Digital passports would provide EU Competent Authorities with full traceability and sanitary guarantees, offering immediate, 24/7 access to secure fail-safe identification and ownership information, as well as real-time monitoring of a horse’s movements.

The high health status of each horse can be instantly validated through access to up-to-date vaccination and medical records, allowing for a higher level of monitoring and prevention of potential disease outbreaks in line with the biosecurity requirements of the EU Animal Health Law, thus facilitating speedy transit for these horses. The digital equine passports can also be adopted for use between EU Member States and A-listed 3rd countries.

If approved, the e-Passport would have no financial implications for the EU as costs around final development, implementation and running of the system will be met by the equine industry.

Using a two-pronged approach, the task force is seeking to have its proposals captured in the text of both the Trade Agreement and in the EU Animal Health Law, which comes into force on 21 April 2021.

Should a trade agreement with Britain not be reached, the task force is asking the EU to declare an equilibrium of health status for A-listed 3rd countries. The proposals also include regional agreements on the bio-secure traceable movement of high health horses signed between neighbouring EU Member States. A Tripartite Agreement previously existed between France, Britain, and Ireland, and there is currently an agreement between France and the Benelux countries.

“The equine industry is of crucial importance to the economic, social, sporting, and cultural fabric of both the European Union and the United Kingdom, and as representatives from all sectors of that industry, we believe that there are simple solutions that can guarantee a secure future for the European equine industry,” IHSC President Ingmar De Vos said.

“It is one of the most important animal breeding and production sectors in Europe, larger and with greater economic impact and employment than a number of other European agricultural sectors, with a net worth of over €52 billion per annum, providing 210,000 direct and more than 500,000 indirect jobs.

“Our goal is to reach an agreement that will allow for a continuation of the historical expedited movement of horses for breeding, sale, and competition between EU Member States and Britain. While there are some sectors currently under discussion that seem to remain difficult in the negotiations, we believe that there are simple solutions within the equine industry that can be readily included in a Free Trade Agreement. Indeed, they are also workable even in a no deal scenario.

“We are asking the negotiators on both sides of the table to take our proposals on board and incorporate them into the texts of the Trade Agreement, if there is one, and the EU to include them in the incoming EU Animal Health Law, which comes into effect next April.

“Without agreement on this, we estimate that the industry in Europe could shrink by as much as a third, with a potential €17 billion reduction in economic contribution, and the potential loss of 250,000 jobs in a marketplace already threatened with critical unemployment levels and a significant reduction in foreign direct investment in the European Union as the economic focus shifts to North America and Asia. So failure is not an option!”

European Task Force for Brexit and EU Animal Health Law

Chaired by FEI Veterinary Director, Dr Göran Akerström, the European Task Force for Brexit and EU Animal Health Law also includes Simon Cooper, Vice Chairman International Stud Book Committee and Director of the General Stud Book (Weatherbys); Paul-Marie Gadot, Veterinary Advisor to France Galop and the IFHA; Des Leadon, European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders’ Associations Veterinary Committee Chairman; Brian Kavanagh, Horse Racing Ireland Chief Executive, IFHA Vice Chairman and European and Mediterranean Horseracing Federation Chairman; and Ronan Murphy, European Equestrian Federation EU Committee member.

International Horse Sports Confederation

The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), world governing body for horse sport, and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), joined forces in 2013 to create the International Horse Sports Confederation (IHSC), the first formal vehicle for co-operation between the world’s leading governing bodies for equestrian sport. The key mission of the IHSC is to encourage cooperation and the exchange of information on all matters of mutual interest between the IFHA and the FEI, as well as representing the collective interests of the horse industry with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and other international bodies.

Media contact:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

FEI Driving World Championships Cancelled due to Covid-19 Pandemic

Lausanne (SUI), 2 October 2020 — The FEI Driving World Championships, due to be held behind closed doors in Valkenswaard (NED) from 7-11 October, have been cancelled due to increased case numbers of Covid-19 in the Netherlands. The decision to cancel the Championships, which were for four-in-hand horse teams, was made by the City of Valkenswaard.

“It is devastating that the FEI Driving World Championships at Valkenswaard have had to be cancelled at the last minute, as everyone involved has put in so much effort to try and make them happen,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said, “but sadly the new Government restrictions in the Netherlands make it impossible for the Championships to go ahead next week.

“The start list for the Championships was looking very strong in such a challenging year for our sport, with 13 nations lined up to take part, including eight with full teams, but it is clear that health considerations have to take priority.

“We have done everything possible to hold these Championships, including looking at a possible alternative venue in Germany, and we are very grateful for the proposal we received, but regrettably it is simply not feasible given the short timeframe, ongoing concerns around Covid-19, and restrictions imposed by the authorities.”

The United States of America, which won gold on home ground at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon (USA), was not going to be defending its team title as they had just one driver heading for Valkenswaard, but Australia’s Boyd Exell, who took the individual title on the final day in North Carolina two years ago, was aiming to defend his crown.

Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, and Poland were all due to send teams to the Championships, while Austria, Romania, Switzerland, Uruguay, and the USA were the five nations sending individuals.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Competition Schedule for 2021 Confirmed

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) has confirmed the Paralympic Games Competition Schedule for 2021. For Para Dressage, the competition dates have been moved forward by one day so as to mirror the 2020 daily schedule. The Para Dressage events which were due to start on Thursday 27 August 2020 and finish on Saturday 29 August 2020 will now run from Thursday 26 August 2021 to Monday 30 August 2021. There are also some minor modifications to the starting times.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic equestrian timetable for 2021 can be viewed here on the FEI’s Paralympic hub.

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

The Best Is Yet to Come: Federico Fernandez

Federico Fernandez and Landpeter de Feroleto on their way to helping seal victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ at the Royal Dublin Society showgrounds in Dublin (IRL) in 2018. (FEI/Jon Stroud)

Mexican showjumper, Federico Fernandez, had just arrived in Madrid (ESP) by train when I spoke with him last week. He was en route to a business meeting and had intended travelling by air from Valencia (ESP), but the flight was cancelled at the last moment.

Considering his story, I asked him if he has any fear of flying. Federico was one of just three people who survived an horrific air-crash back in 1987, but he has more than come to terms with the tragedy that claimed the life of his friend and team-mate Ruben Rodrigues and at least 50 others. The horse transporter carrying the Mexican contingent to a Young Riders Championship in Chicago (USA) fell out of the sky and ploughed into rush-hour traffic on the eight-lane Mexico-Toluca highway before slamming into a restaurant on a drizzly Friday afternoon 33 years ago.

“To be honest, I never think that something bad can happen to me – the place I sleep the best is on a plane!” he says.

My first close encounter with this remarkable man, who has competed at three Olympic Games and six FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG), was in the aftermath of his team’s historic victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ in Dublin in 2018, when Mexico claimed the coveted Aga Khan Trophy for the very first time. I moderated the post-competition press conference that evening, and in all my years in the sport I have never experienced so much immense joy and such wild celebrations.

And Federico’s words that day embedded themselves into my memory. “After what happened to me, I feel an obligation to be happy, and today was one of the happiest days of my life!” he said.

Family passion

His uncle, Fernando Senderos, won individual gold and team silver at the Pan-American Games in Mexico City in 1975, and Federico inherited the family passion for horses. He was nine years old when he first climbed into the saddle, and when I ask him about his childhood heroes he tells me that the legacy of individual champion Humberto Mariles and his gold-medal-winning military team-mates was still very much in place when he was growing up. They swept all before them at the London Olympic Games in 1948.

“Captain Mariles rode a small, one-eyed horse (Arete) and was a fantastic rider. It was the Mexican golden era of showjumping when they were the team to beat for about 10 or 12 years, we’ve never had anything like that since,” he says.

However, US riders were the big stars on his own horizon when he was child. “We heard a lot about Nelson Pessoa and the d’Inzeo brothers, but they were faraway legends because we didn’t get to see them. The guys we had around the corner were Americans like Rodney Jenkins and Michael Matz, great horsemen. And at home, Gerardo Tazzer was my trainer and I was lucky enough to jump on many Nations Cup teams and at the Olympics in Athens (GRE, 2004) with him,” Federico explains.

Business

Riding hasn’t been the only thing in his life, however. Federico is one of those exceptional people who successfully manage to combine careers in both business and sport. He was something of an entrepreneur in his teens. “I sold hot-dogs outside my school, and then got more and more hot-dog cars as I went along!” he says.

“Mexico is an incredible country that gives you amazing opportunities,” he points out. He began his career by creating companies that functioned as service-providers to big corporations. “Then a few big international companies came to start businesses and I partnered with them and ended up selling the business to them. After doing that a few times I have a business with two arms – one providing small/medium businesses with a high level of services in terms of payroll, administration and human resources, and the other providing small businesses with loans to help them grow.

“In Mexico we really need to support young entrepreneurs. I’m proud of what we do, and it makes me really happy when we can help people source a loan and build a secure business,” he explains.

However, while researching his competition profile I was staggered by the number of horse shows Federico attends. How does he manage to combine his business commitments with his sporting endeavours?

“I’m an incredibly lucky man, I have an amazing team and with today’s technology you can stay on top of your business even if you are on the other side of the world. It works well because sometimes when you are doing horses it’s good to take the focus off them for a while, because we can forget that they are animals and need some time alone. When you dedicate too much time to thinking about new things to do with them then sometimes it goes backwards! And the same thing happens in business. Sometimes you need to step away so you can see the wood for the trees,” he points out.

Federico talks a lot about having balance in his life. “I try to understand the things I need to get that balance, like family, horses, entrepreneurship. I love to eat and I love to travel, so I put everything in the mix and every few years check that the mix I have is the right one. Because that’s very dynamic, it changes, so you have to adjust from time to time,” he says wisely.

He is married to Spanish-born Paola Amilibia, ‘the love of my life,’ who also competes for Team Mexico, and Federico has three children from a previous marriage – Juan Pablo, Eduardo, and Federica.

Mature young man

He was already a mature young man in his early 20s because he had been through a lot. He had only just returned to competition after back-packing across Europe for a year when the air-crash happened. The cargo plane was an all-but-obsolete 4-engine propeller-driven Boeing 377 that dated back to the 1940s, and it came down just seven minutes after take-off.

I ask him if it’s difficult to talk about the crash, and he insists it is not. “Incredible things came from it. At this point in my life it’s easy to say that, but if I could re-live my life I wouldn’t change it,” he insists.

His clothes were ablaze, and he suffered severe burns but survived along with two other people and just one of the horses on the flight. Hard as it is to believe, that surviving horse, Pepito, went on to compete with Mexico’s Everardo Hegewisch at the Seoul Olympic Games the following year.

Federico doesn’t dwell on the horror of it all. “Everything happens for a reason,” he says.

“It’s your will, your spirit, your determination, your power that turns a thing like this into something good instead of something that goes against you.

“Since that day I learned to not be worried about things that don’t matter, to really focus on the things you can change and not on the things you can’t, and to live every day like it’s your last. To create a life so that you go to bed hoping the night goes fast, because you really want the next day to start again. If you can make this your every day then you are a very happy person!”

He had surgery on his face at least 50 times. In the end he decided he’d just had enough of it. “The difficult part was I was just 19 years old, and when you get your face destroyed at that point in your life you have to really spend some time re-organising your feelings. It made me completely change my scale of importance, and I started looking more into the inside of things and less into the superficiality of life. And I found a lot of comfort and happiness in that.

“It made me grow up very fast and made me a person I like better today. All kids are superficial; I loved riding and everything to do with it which in many ways is very superficial. Success – or not – with the girls was important to me, and my work was all about making money. But those things changed in a positive way,” he insists.

Back in the ring

He spent six months in a hospital burns unit in Galveston, Texas, and the doctors told him it would be a long, slow path to recovery. But he was back in the ring and winning his next Grand Prix in Mexico City a year later, and in 1989 he qualified for the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Tampa, Florida (USA). That would be his first, and his last Final….

“In Mexico we don’t have an indoor circuit because of our fantastic weather, so I qualified at outdoor shows and when I went into the indoor I realised for the first time that my eyes had some issues after they were burned. When I was looking at the light that came from lamps I couldn’t see where I was, and I’ve never competed in an indoor again. Daylight is OK and in stadium lighting (under floodlights) I see even better, but the problem is lamps. My pupils are in only one position and can’t adjust, so when I go from bright to not-so-bright then it’s like looking into a cloud,” he explains.

I ask him what sporting successes he treasures most, and he tells me that every Grand Prix win is special. “I’m good at enjoying the moment when it happens. I try to enjoy it deeply because this sport is cruel in many ways, the next competition you have a fence down and the magic is gone very quickly! The good thing about Grand Prix classes is that they are on Sundays, so you’ve a whole week to feel proud knowing that maybe the next one won’t be so lucky for you!”

That Nations Cup win in Dublin two years ago and the team silver medal he earned alongside Gerardo Tazzer at the Pan-American Games in the Dominican Republic in 2004 are stand-out moments, along with finishing 13th at the WEG in Jerez (ESP) in 2002.

Favourites

When I ask about his favourite horses, he doesn’t hesitate. “My darling Bohemio! He’s Irish-bred and the most amazing horse. He has been Mexican National champion and took me to the Pan-Ams, the Olympic Games and the WEG. In the Masters at Spruce Meadows (CAN) the Cana Cup is the big class on Friday, and there were only two clears and we went into a jump-off against Jos Lansink and Cumano who had just won the World Championships (in 2006) and we beat them; it was amazing! In 2008 he was the top horse in the summer series (at Spruce Meadows) but he was injured after winning a class. That injury ended his career, but he finished the best possible way with a win! He’s 28 years old now and enjoying his retirement out in my fields.”

And then there is Gitano, “a great Grand Prix winner in Mexico, not scopey enough to do the same in big Grand Prix competitions in Europe but a fantastic character and a winner. In Mexico he gave me so many successes that I really love him, for that and for his character. These two horses were not just very special in the ring, they also had so much personality; they gave you their best every time you rode them. When you feel that your horse is completely with you and willing to do anything for you, that creates a kind of magic!”

I ask Federico if there are any famous horses he would have liked to sit on, but he replies that he prefers watching them with their own riders, “because I truly believe some couples are made in heaven!”  He lists Hugo Simon and ET, Jos Lansink and Cumano, and John Whitaker ‘in my opinion the best rider in the history of the world’ with Milton as some of his favourites, along with Eddie Macken and Boomerang and Rodrigo Pessoa with Baloubet.

And then he moves on to Rio 2016 individual Olympic champion Nick Skelton from Great Britain with Big Star. “Since London (Olympics 2012) Nick didn’t ride another horse; he was just determined to win that gold medal and he spent those four years helping the stallion to recover from a bad injury and getting him back into the sport only to show up at the Games and win that gold – just brilliant!” he says.

Tokyo

I ask him if Landpeter de Feroleto, the horse that carried him to that historic Nations Cup victory in Dublin two years ago, had been aimed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games before the world was brought to a halt by the pandemic. The horse is 18 years old now, however, so hardly surprising that the answer was in the negative….

”I had planned with our Chef d’Equipe to give Peter his retirement tour this year, he’s been an amazing horse for many riders, he gave me the win at Dublin and also in the Nations Cup in Mexico and was very generous with me. Unfortunately, with the Covid situation there have been no Nations Cups so it would be very unfair to stretch his retirement one more year. He isn’t on my list of favourite horses because he came to me when he was 15. If I’d had him since he was eight who knows what we might have done together. But he is a special horse with a huge heart who would do anything for you,” he points out.

Feredico is placing his hopes for Tokyo elsewhere, and the hiatus caused by the virus may just work to his advantage. “Coming into this year I was not in the best situation because I had a horse that was coming along but not ready. However, one year more really benefits me in terms of my possibility; I have a horse that needed the extra time and now he will have it. His name is Grand Slam and I got him three years ago, but he had a bad injury and was out for one year. Now he is strong and healthy and jumping great, so I think he’ll be in super shape.”

Thoughts

Finally, I ask for his thoughts about the pandemic and its effect. “I don’t want to sound like a preacher,” he says with a laugh, “but we’ve had the opportunity to slow down in a world that normally goes so fast. At some stage we have all felt annoyed and anxious, and in many cases – including my own – it was financially disruptive and took away our peace of mind. But we’ve been given a chance to take a really good dive inside ourselves, to understand who we are and to regain the understanding of how incredibly beautiful life is, and liberty, and the right to walk in the streets and breathe the air and smell the flowers, all of that.

“And I honestly think that you always have to believe that the best is yet to come. We’ve been given a fresh start, so now is the time to re-prioritise things in your life, to put some dreams on the table, and to try to make them real. It’s in everyone’s hands to make that happen….”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

FEI and ClipMyHorse.TV Join Forces on Equestrian Live Streaming

The FEI and ClipMyHorse.TV (CMH.TV) have entered into an agreement that is set to change the future landscape of the global governing body’s live streaming services to millions of equestrian fans worldwide. CMH.TV is one of the world’s leading providers of live streams for equestrian sports.

“We are very excited with this new venture which is the result of open and productive conversations with the founder of ClipMyHorse.TV, Mr Klaus Plönzke,” President Ingmar De Vos said.

“This is the first time the FEI will have an equity stake in a company which will allow us to actively contribute to shaping the narrative around the coverage of equestrian events.

“By bringing together our collective strengths, we can work towards the development of one combined live streaming service that provides high quality event coverage and a broader range of content to fans.”

FEI.TV has traditionally live-streamed all major FEI Series and Championships, with an extensive range of replays, special features, and historic events coverage available live and on-demand. Subscribers can now view coverage of international, national, and local equestrian events, with commentary provided in English as well as local languages. They will also have access to the largest archive of equestrian video content and an extensive database of information on athletes and horses.

“ClipMyHorse.TV’s comprehensive platform and their extensive experience with production and streaming services within this sector will allow for an improved viewing experience for FEI.TV customers, while the look and feel of FEI.TV will, at least for the moment, stay the same,” FEI Commercial Director Ralph Straus said.

“The depth of the combined offering is unique and will provide equestrian fans access to a wide range of events all under one roof, from top international events to local competitions, together with online equestrian magazines, documentaries, and other relevant programming.”

Currently the FEI.TV online television platform is providing coverage of past events and special equestrian features free of charge to everyone while live sport is on hold.

“The market for OTT and streaming services has grown substantially and we have seen an exponential rise in online viewing,” CEO of CMH.TV Markus Detering explained.

“We created the CMH.TV platform in 2007 with the express aim of making horse sport events across the world accessible to fans and followers everywhere and at any time.

“By pooling our resources with the FEI, we will be able to offer equestrian fans a more in-depth and enriching experience that will make the sport even more attractive and to a wider global audience.”

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

CMH.TV Media contact:

Patricia Rademacher
International Content Management, Partner Management FEI.TV
p.rademacher@clipmyhorse.tv