Portuguese Dressage Riders make History

In 2019 four riders took Portugal to the next level in International Dressage – they won a team place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It is not the first time Portugal has competed, with great riders such as Miguel Ralão, Daniel Pinto and Carlos Pinto competing as individuals (know as a composed team) in Beijing 2008, Gonçalo Carvalho as a single entry in London 2012 and in 1948 London three riders won the bronze medal. This, however is the first time a full team qualification has been achieved.  The four riders have only been competing Internationally for a short time and none have ever been to the Olympics, what’s more they are all on Portuguese Lusitano horses. All the horses were bred in the Southern Region of Portugal called the Alentejo, all are pure bred stallions.

In fact it’s only in the last 15-20 years Lusitano breeders have turned their expertise to producing horses for dressage competition. Previously they were bred for bullfighting, classical dressage and working equitation. It’s a huge step into International dressage where warmbloods have dominated for so long. Breeders have managed, even with a closed stud book to produce high quality horses that are bigger, stronger, with more sportive gaits and yet still  manage retain the overall integrity of the breed.  Admittedly, they may not have the huge extended gaits of the warmbloods, but they bring other qualities to the party. A natural ability to collect, fantastic temperament, work ethic and rideAbility.  Despite being one of the oldest breeds of horse in the world there is still a relativity low number of them registered globally most are in bred in Portugal followed by Brazil and Spain. This is a remarkable evolution of an ancient breed in a short period of time.

`Lusitanos are now ranked 7th in the WBFSH FEI stud of horse breeds for dressage competition.

Carlos Lopes (the Portugal Team Selector) told me it is not just the evolution of the Lusitano breed that has achieved this result, but also the investors in the horses and their support for the internationalisation of the riders. These investors have shown huge faith in the breed and commitment to International advancement.  With this support there is greater access to more training and therefore better performance in the horses and riders.

The qualifying riders and horses are Maria Caetano Couceiro on Coroado, Rodrigo Moura Torres on Fogoso, João Torrão on Equador and Duarte Nogueira on Beirao.

Maria Caetano riding Coroado now ranked 38th in the FEI World Dressage Ranking has for the first time in Lusitano Competition History cracked the 80% barrier by finishing 2019 with 80,940% 2nd place at CDYW MECHELEN.

In 1954 Roger Bannister smashed the 4 minute mile which led to 4 more achieving the same within a year.  How many riders inspired by Maria and Coroado´s achievements will score over 80% in the next years on their Lusitanos !! The flood gates of belief are officially open. It’s certainly an exciting future for the breed.

Quote taken from an interview with Carl Hester who has been working with João Torrão on Lusitano Equador

“I find Lusitanos are so kind and willing to work, Equador transforms from looking like a cuddly pony in the stable to a real showman in the arena. The pair have achieved so much so young and they have the potential to achieve a place in the top 10 world rankings”.

I talked with the riders to learn more about their journey and their future plans.

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