Working Equitation in Brazil
Note: The Confederation would like to congratulate our members Amy Star, Summer Star and Miguel Undabarrena for their great participation in Brazil. Thank you Amy for writing this article about your experience!
By Amy Star
I was able to check off a big item on my bucket list in April, 2018.
I was lucky enough to take a trip of a lifetime, I went to Brazil and rode in an international working equitation competition in Tatui, Sao Paulo. I was invited to compete in the International Working Equitation Challenge at the XXXVVII Exposicᾶo Internacional Do Cavalo Puro Sangue Lusitano. We were very fortunate to have a dear friend Tania Radda with us, who is from Brazil and fluent in Portuguese. She was invaluable in helping us navigate through our experience.
The event was hosted by the Brazilian Lusitano Breeders Association at the Centro Hipica in Tatui. There were 5 teams invited from 4 countries, Brazil, Mexico, Portugal and the United States. Each team consisted of two riders from each country and each rider did pay an entry fee $1000. The host provided 10 horses, and on the first day all of the competitors were assigned their horse by a lottery draw. So all of the competitors in this competition were in theory riding a horse that was new to them. However by luck of the draw two of the competitors from Brazil did get to ride a horse that they were familiar with.
My team mate was Miguel Undabarrena, Confederation Member and “r”Judge, from Peoria, AZ. Miguel drew a lovely golden bay 8 year old lusitano stallion named Doros. I drew an experienced 23 year old bay lusitano stallion named Porfirio. We were allowed to ride our assigned horses for the 3 days prior to the contest. We were told some very basic things about our horses, like their age and that they were willing and trained to the level we were competing and given the bridle that they were accustomed to using.
My first ride on Porfirio was good, he was kind and responsive even though a bit stiff and heavy on the forehand. He obviously knew the obstacles and was obedient to the leg. I was happy to draw a good steady horse even though he was tall, a good 16.1 hands and much bigger and heavier that I was accustomed to. My strategy for the competition was to ride clean and get scores in every phase. I wasn’t there “train” this horse just to figure him out enough to find his buttons and not embarrass myself.
Summer Star was also able to ride in the youth division at the competition. She was given a horse named Projecto. Projecto was a very kind and well trained lusitano gelding. He knew his stuff but he was a bit challenging to ride. Summer learned a lot from riding Projecto. Summer placed 2nd in the youth division.
After our 3rd ride on our horses, we were both feeling fairly confident for the dressage phase the next day. We drew for our order of go in dressage. I was assigned to ride at 8:16 pm and Miguel rode at 9:10 pm. Yes, the competition was scheduled for the evening performance in a lighted arena, when the temperatures were milder, about 76 degrees. My test had some very good moments and a couple big mistakes, and my score of 60.676 was an accurate representation of my performance. I was satisfied, riding a new to me horse and earning that score, well not too shabby. Miguel earned a score of 64.400 even though his horse was challenging and tense through the test.
The ease of handling was held on Friday morning starting at 9:30 am. The course walk through was at 9:00. The management did not give anyone a course map, and the course and numbers were not set up until 9:00 am at the time of the course walk. We had only 20 minutes to learn and walk the course of 12 obstacles. I was quite anxious about remembering the course, it was in a small narrow arena and very crowded for space. Not the type of course that would be easy for my big 16+ hand stallion. I made two critical mistakes, the pole bounced out of the barrel so I had to dismount and replace it, and I went off course on the double slalom, and had to restart that obstacle and fix the mistake. Even though I was penalized for the mistakes, I made the corrections and still received a score of 59. 082. Two of our competitors were disqualified for their mistakes, goes to show it pays to know the rules and even when you make an error don’t give up.
The final phase for speed was scheduled for Sunday morning. I was feeling very happy and in tune with Porfirio by this day 6 of riding him. If I had been as in sync with him on Thursday as I was on Sunday I’m sure my dressage score would have been 6-7 points higher. We were ready for speed, and I requested to ride to “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis. We rode a clean round of 138 seconds and I did get the bonus for catching the ring for a final time of 133 seconds.
My placings combined with Miguel’s placings earned our team 2nd place overall in the team competition. We were both very pleased with our team placing. It was an honor to ride for the United States at this international competition. The extra element of the team competition was a welcome new experience for me. I think that the team competition environment is very encouraging and brings a different vibe to the sport. I hope that WE in the USA, embraces the team model.
In retrospect, I find it astonishing how universal the language of horsemanship is across all countries. We met people of all backgrounds speaking different languages that were encouraging and genuine horsemen, even though we only communicated through gestures and smiles. We were able to ride horses we had never met before through a demanding competition requiring significant skills. Even though I could barely speak 3-4 words of Portuguese and was very limited in my ability to communicate to people, I was able to communicate with this lovely horse, Porfirio.
Overall the experience was extraordinary. The people were welcoming and very kind. The countryside was beautifully lush and green. And the horses were exquisitely beautiful.
Written by Amy Star, Confederation for Working Equitation Member, and “R” Judge. Pictures sent by Amy Star