Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – The XV Pan American Games kicked off with the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro last Friday, July 13, and the first equestrian medals have already been awarded for dressage with the home team, Brazil, celebrating a well-deserved bronze. It was the first time in Pan American history that two pure-bred Lusitanos have appeared on the Brazilian team.
Ironically, for anyone who is superstitious, it could be said that Friday the 13th was an unlucky omen for the Brazilian team, who lost one horse and one rider from their first-choice line-up due to sickness. First, the handsome Brazilian-bred Lusitano stallion Nirvana Interagro (by Gatão out of Capicua) bred by Paulo Gavião Gonzaga, succumbed to illness two weeks ago and was unable to recover sufficient health and fitness to compete, much to the disappointment of his rider Pia Aragão. Then, a double blow for Chef d’Equipe Sabine Bilton when Jorge de Costa had to be sidelined, his place being taken by second reserve, Luiza Almeida Tavares – only 15 years old – riding the Portuguese-bred Lusitano stallion Samba (by Inca).
In the face of such adversity the Brazilian team’s podium position was a remarkable accomplishment even though their hopes for greater glory were likely impacted by their pre-competition losses. Quite simply, the team achieved what many considered to be impossible – especially as it was the first taste of international competition for Luiza Almeida Tavares and Roger Clementino, both riding Lusitanos!
Under the watchful eye of judges Jane Weatherwax (USA), Stephen Clarke (Great Britain), Marian Cunningham (Peru), Mariette Withages (Belgium) and Salin Nigri (Brazil), the medal-deciding class took place over the weekend in the Deodoro Stadium of the National Equestrian Centre, some 25 minutes from downtown Rio.
Naturally, as Pan American Games hosts, Brazilian expectations and emotions were running high for their dressage team, and at the end of the first day, Roger Clementino, riding the 13-year old Lusitano gelding Nilo VO on behalf of Victor Oliva’s Coudelaria Ilha Verde stud farm had put Brazil in third place out of seven competing nations with a score of 64.750 percent.
On day two, following a score of 65.400 percent from Renata Costa riding the KWPN Monty, only Luiza Almeida Tavares remained, and her score of 64.650 percent with Samba guaranteed Brazil’s team bronze medal. Wise beyond her tender years, and very aware of rewriting history for Lusitano breeding, Tavares said: “I confess that when I entered the ring I was nervous. But I took a deep breath and did what I had to do. The public also helped,” by remaining so quiet you could hear a pin drop during this final performance of the team competition. It’s the first time in 24 years that Brazil has won a Pan American medal for dressage, the last also being bronze in Caracas, Venezuela in 1983.
This result has certainly provided a wake-up call for the Brazilian equestrian industry that is witnessing an explosion of interest in dressage, undoubtedly thanks to their home-bred population of world-class Lusitanos that are being selectively produced for the specific purpose of challenging the authority of warmbloods on the international dressage stage.
Another Brazilian-bred Lusitano should also be mentioned, the stallion Oceano do TOP (by Afiancado de Flandes, bred by ‘Tonico’ Pereira) who was competing with Sandra Smith under the flag of Argentina. Although he had a slightly disappointing performance, placing 24th with a percentage of 56.600, slightly lower than his pre-Pan-Am results, only a few marks separated him from a top ten finish.
Brazil’s well-deserved result now opens the door to the possibility of their dressage team competing at next summer’s Beijing Olympic Games – with the equestrian events taking place in Hong Kong. Roger Clementino said, “We arrived here and gave everything. Now we need to keep working hard in search of a medal in China.”
As a global shop window for promoting sport horses, it would be a marvellous achievement to see every member of the national team in the saddles of Brazilian-bred Lusitanos and would certainly validate the many years of commitment and passion of Lusitano breeders to producing the finest dressage horses.
Contact: Jean Llewellyn
Tel: (250) 247 9109