Rodrigo Pessoa: It’s been a productive winter for Ireland’s show jumping stars

  • 1 May 2019, 11:05

Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu recently won the the $225,000 Kentucky Invitational Grand Prix (Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile)

In this new series, As part of Horse Sport Ireland’s new blog, STABLE TALK, Horse Sport Ireland Senior Show Jumping High Performance Director, Rodrigo Pessoa gives readers an insight into the sport of show jumping and his role and responsibilities as Director.

Looking back on 2018, in general it was very good. We managed to win one leg of the Division 1 Nations Cup series, in Hickstead. We had three second-place finishes including Aachen where we just missed out by two faults to finish second to the Germans, one of the best teams in the world. It’s always hard to beat the Germans in Aachen. We were second at the Dublin leg of the series as well, although that was a little bit disappointing for us – we always want to try and get our hands on that [Aga Khan] trophy.

Heading into the Nations Cup final in Barcelona, Team Ireland were standing second on 415 points in the Europe Division 1 Overall Standings list, just five points off Belgium who were first. We then finished the season on a high with a third-place finish on the podium at the Nations Cup World Final in Barcelona. In Division 2 of the Nations Cup Team Ireland won two legs, at Langley and Lisbon. Ireland have a lot of good riders that are in Division 2, they are in development and they are ones for the future.

So in general the Nations Cup series went very well for us, for both groups.


Peter Moloney has a new mount this year in the Team Harmony-owned mare Ornellaia. They had a superb win in the four-star Grand Prix at the Sunshine Tour in Vejer De La Frontera earlier this year.

We have Irish riders spread all over the world and during the first few month of they year many compete on the Sunshine Tour at Vejer de la Frontera in Spain or at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, Florida.

The Sunshine Tour and WEF give the Irish riders an opportunity to devlop their partenership with new horses, to solve any problems they encounter while they are out competing and to give those young horses experience without the pressure of representing Ireland as part of a team.

The Irish did very well this year, some of the highlights included filling all of the top three places in the CSI4* Longines Grand Prix in Vejer de la Frontera to conclude the 25th edition of the Sunshine Tour. The Irish also had good perfromaces at five-star level at WEF, plus the Irish Show Jumping team claimed the runner-up position in the FEI Nations Cup CSIO4*, which is encouraging. It’s been a productive winter.

Up until now everyone has been doing their own thing and I have just been keeping in touch regularly to see how everything is going. I have been competing my own horses and I think it’s good that I am still actively competing, as I am on the ground and know what the riders are facing.

But of course, for me the priority is the Irish team and the Olympic qualification, that is my number one priority. Riding is secondary, I ride on the weeks off from the team and it’s a good balance. It’s good for my horses too, when I am with the team they are resting. To do both is a blessing, to still ride and be able to go to the shows with Team Ireland Equestrian.


Horse Sport Ireland Senior Show Jumping High Performance Director

About Rodrigo Pessoa:

A former Olympic, World Cup and World Champion, Rodrigo Pessoa is one of the most successful show jumping riders in modern history. He holds three olympic medals, one gold and two bronze, and he won the show jumping World Cup Final three years in a row from 1998 to 2000. His glittering career also includes more than 70 top-level Grand Prix victories, two gold and two silver medals in the Pan American Games and multiple Nations Cup appearances for Brazil.

Rodrigo is the son of legendary Brazilian show jumper Nelson Pessoa and both have had strong connections with Irish show jumping throghout their illustrious careers. Nelson Pessoa achieved worldwide success riding a number of Irish Sport Horses, including the gelding Special Envoy (ISH), with whom Nelson finished as runner-up in the 1991 World Cup final at Gothenburg in Sweden. Rodrigo Pessoa later took over the ride of Special Envoy from his father and together they went on to record a top 10 finish in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

In 2014, Rodrigo Pessoa, who speaks English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, was elected by his fellow riders as Athlete representative on the FEI (World Governing Body for Equestrian Sport) Jumping Committee. Rodrigo is a former President of the International Jumping Riders Club and is a coach and trainer to many top riders around the world.


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