Rodrigo Pessoa: Team Olympic qualification – It’s now or never

  • 1 May 2019, 14:15

Team Ireland’s 2019 Nations Cup Campaign starts next month in La Baule

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.

The Nations Cup Campaign of 2019 starts for Team Ireland in La Baule, France (May 16th-19th). This is one of equestrian sport’s most prestigious team challenges and while we [Team Ireland] want to perform well in this competition and make points to maintain our place in this Super League, for me the priority is that the Irish team secure Olympic qualification, that is my number one priority.

Many of the Irish riders have not yet been to an Olympics, and Ireland has not been to the Olympics as a team since 2004. It’s now or never to get qualified, this is our chance to go. We missed our first opportunity to qualify in Tryon, at last year’s World Equestrian Games, but thankfully we have another opportunity to qualify at the European Championships in Rotterdam this August.

The only competition that we really missed in 2018 was Tryon, we didn’t do well and it unfortunately cost us a ticket to the Olympics, but we are not going to dwell on it. The analysis has been done and we know what we need to correct. Now we are fully switched on for 2019, where the most important event for us will be the European Championships in Rotterdam.


The riders are aware that securing Olympic qualification in Rotterdam will be a big task, if they want to go to the Olympics they have to give it their all this year and they know that – the Irish riders are top professionals that know the impact a good performance will have and they know how to be ready and perform well.

A lot of Irish horses and riders have already met the minimum criteria necessary to be eligible to represent Ireland at the Olympics, the level our riders are operating at means that meeting the minimum requirements won’t be difficult for them – this is not a concern. We know who we have and who we need to have, it would just be some of the newer horses that maybe have not met the minimum requirements yet so they will need to do some Nations Cup or 5* classes somewhere.


Cian O’Connor and his new horse Irenice Horta, who was ridden to seventh place by Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca at last year’s World Equestrian Games in Tryon

We have a couple of new horses this year, new horsepower for the team which we are going to test out during the Nations Cup campaign to see what horses could potentially go to the Europeans in Rotterdam. Bearing in mind we are also wanting to protect the best we have for Rotterdam and we want to bring them there fresh and follow our plan that will bring them there in good condition in order to have a good performance.

Cian O’Connor has two new horses, Irenice Horta and PSG Final. The mare [Irenice Horta] was ridden to seventh place by Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca at last year’s World Equestrian Games, she has a lot of mileage and a lot of experience. The gelding [PSG Final ] has a little less, but he has already done some really big tournaments such as the 2018 Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. Cian is getting to know these horses and we hope to test the mare out early in the season, maybe at La Baule.

I hope to have Bertram Allen and Harley VD Bisschop out early in the season also and Shane Sweetnam has a new horse, Alejandro, that we are going to test out early on too. We are going to mix some of the more experienced combinations that jumped for us last year too, we don’t have to test them so much we just need to bring them out when it counts.


It’s an interesting group of horse/rider combinations, we have a good squad and we want to protect the horses as much as we can because things can happen and suddenly if you loose two or three horses that can make things very tough. It is our responsibility to test and know what we have to work with but it’s also our responsibility to protect the horses we have.

A horse capable of jumping at 5* championship level is one of the most difficult things to find. There is a shortage of horses but there’s no shortage of customers! A lot of people are looking for the same thing and you have to be lucky and be in the right place at the right time to acquire these horses. The market has really gone up so it’s difficult to get your hands on one, but our riders are always looking and paying attention to see if they can get one that they can ride, that suits them and that they can afford.

We start our 2019 campaign next week in La Baule  and I am confident that we will have a good team and that we will perform well there.


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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