2018 Winter Equestrian Festival - January 10 - April 1, 2018 - 48


From Wellington to Gothenburg

By Sarah Madden
Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA),
newly appointed Chef
d'Equipe of the Irish
Show Jumping team, is
quick to admit that his
recent affiliation with
the team started as a
joke: "I was talking to
one of the Irish riders
at a show and we were
just joking about it," he
said. "Then ten days
later we met again
and he said, 'Have you
thought about what I told you about last week?' I said,
'Not really, how do you see it? How do you envision
this happening?'"
Six months later, Pessoa was named head of a team
whose members have experienced great success
individually, but have also missed qualifying for the
previous three Olympic Games. Pessoa knew that he
was ready to flip the conceived narrative around and
quickly. Team success followed. Irish riders swept the
2017 Nations Cup in Wellington to start their season
and had strong finishes in Europe throughout the
summer, ultimately finishing with a historic win at the
FEI European Championships at Gothenburg, Sweden
in August. The team hopes to carry this positive
momentum forward to larger achievements, including
the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 and at
the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
Despite the manner in which he came to the team,
coaching Irish riders is something Pessoa takes very
seriously, and he said that he has embraced the role
wholeheartedly. "I must say, the most important thing
has been the human aspect of it, and to try to lead a
group of riders that have had in recent years a lot of
success - Irish riders win everywhere every week -


and try to put them
together and bring
them to the next
level as a team was
the big challenge
of this job," he
The team began
their season with a
win in the $150,000
Nations Cup in
Wellington under
the lights, which
Pessoa explained
help set the tone
for the season and bring the team confidence prior to
competition in Europe.
"It really showed we were in business and that we
were serious about performing well," he said. "It was
a great start for us, but things definitely got a little bit
difficult for us once we got to Europe. We were close
to the win here and there but didn't manage to win
any [before Gothenburg]."
At Gothenburg, Pessoa led his team to a Show
Jumping European Championship for the first time
since 2001, and while he is proud of the success
they've seen already, there are larger goals still to
achieve, he commented: "This year it worked out
pretty good and we are now ready to face our next
challenge which is the big objective of this program,
and that is the qualification for the Olympic Games
that they have missed the last three times. Since 2004
they have not qualified, so obviously too WEG is also
a big goal."
Pessoa's initial strategy was to meet with individual
riders and assess all potential horse and rider
combinations: "I first made a list of the potential
combinations we had that could jump a CSI 5* and


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival - January 10 - April 1, 2018