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Yes, you have Hester, Werth and Minderhoud, Nip Tuck, Glock’s Flirt and Vancouver K - those athletes and horses that you’d expect to see. But they had to start somewhere.
There’s always a first time for every champion, and this year is no exception.
We wanted to turn the spotlight onto one of these first-timers who have made it all the way to the Finals - Jumper Martin Rodriguez from Uruguay.
Martin knows this is a special time, “Being part of this wonderful event and sharing the stage with the best riders in the world, this is a great privilege for us. And for Uruguay it is a wonderful achievement!” says the man who will be Uruguay’s first-ever contender in the long history of the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals.
Martin constantly refers to the team he has around him that have made it all possible.
His friend and groom, Joachin Lagos and Denis Gouvea and Vitor Alves Teizeira, “two great coaches and Brazilian riders of great experience who are fundamental to my being where I am today” are all key members of his back-up crew.
“His name is Liborius, and he is brilliant, but we nearly didn’t buy him!” Martin says of the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding he has owned for the last three years.
He was sent a video of Liborius jumping, but didn’t think much of his technique so wasn’t interested. “I was in Germany on the way to see another horse when I got a call to say that she had been sold, so we decided to go see Liborius. After all, there was nothing to lose.”
That turned out to be the understatement of the year!
“I was fascinated by him right away! What I love is that the is really strong and has a big heart, he has loads of energy and enthusiasm.
He doesn’t have the perfect jumping style but he always does his very best to be clear and you can’t ask for more that!” says the 35-year-old rider.
It’s all a long way from the boy who enjoyed galloping across Montevideo’s white-sand beaches before joining a local riding club and then learning to ride “English” style in his early teens.
Martin’s wife, Ana Paula Correa, competes in Reining and his seven-year-old daughter, Luana, is also riding. They will be there to cheer him on when he enters the arena and Martin is thrilled to be the man to make a slice of Uruguayan history.
He knows that it will be a very big test for both him and his horse.
“The main thing is for the two of us, and the rest of our team, to have an amazing experience. It’s going to be a challenge because we have nothing like this in South America.
Liborius has never competed in a big arena like the Century Link, with loud music and noisy spectators.
I know we are not at the same level as the top riders and horses but I trust Liborius and I know that, like me, he will do his very best!
We will fly the flag of Uruguay with the greatest pride!”
Text by Louise Parkes
Images from Social Media & Jesus Guiraud