Spain's Hard Work Pays Off
By Mariano Santos
Spain has a long equestrian tradition and, over the last decade, high-performance dressage has developed spectacularly. The 2002 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Spain was the beginning of a brilliant age for us. Team bronze and individual silver medals were more than was expected by most of the Spanish equestrian family. A momentary spark of good luck? Absolutely not! These results were followed by a team silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games, which confirmed Spain as a serious dressage country. This did not happen by chance. Spanish success in recent years is the result of well-coordinated hard work. A structured plan was carefully laid out in the early 1990s with the invaluable help of the Spanish Sport Council and also the Spanish Olympic Sports Association. This gave Spanish riders the opportunity to be trained by well-known coaches, such as David Hunt, Jurgen Koschel and Jean Bemelmans, who brought the Spanish squad to a spell of glory never known before.
After the 2004 success, Spain had to face the replacement of the old team horses, and today a totally new team is on the stage. Participation with a four-rider team at WEG in Kentucky is a main objective for the Spanish Equestrian Federation. Looking at the high-score performances from last year at the European Championships, being ranked in the top five is a realistic goal. Now let's take a look at who's who in Spanish dressage:
Jordi Domingo Coll (28) rides Prestige, a 1997 black Dutch Warmblood gelding by Ferro, owned by the rider. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: Olympic Games 2008, European Championships 2007 and 2009; best score: 71.149 (CDI5* Cannes, 2009); best moves: passage and canter.
Beatriz Ferrer-Salat Serra di Migni (43) rides Fabergé, a 1996 black Hanoverian gelding by Falkland, owned by S.L. Deliber. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: Olympic Games 2008, 2004 (individual bronze medal & team silver medal), 2000 and 1996; WEG 2002 (individual silver medal & team bronze medal), 1998, 1994; European Championships in 2001, 2003 (individual bronze medal & team silver medal) and 2005; best score: 72.583 (CDI3* Sunshine Tour, 2008); best moves: extended canter, flying changes, pirouettes.
Juan Manuel Muñoz Diaz (40) rides Fuego XII, a 1998 grey PRE stallion by Utrerano VII, owned by Miguel Angel de Cardenas. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: Olympic Games 2008, European Championships 2009 and 2007; best score: 69.745 (European Championships 2009); best moves: piaffe, pirouettes.
Rafael Ortiz Alcala-Zamora (39) rides Gnidium, a 1995 grey PRE stallion by Perdiguero II, owned by Yeguada de Azores. Trainer: Rafael Soto. Experience: current Spanish dressage champion; best score: 66.292 (CDI3* Sunshine Tour, 2008); best moves: piaffe, pirouettes.
Claudio Castilla Ruiz (26) rides Jade de MV, a 1999 grey Lusitano stallion by Musico, owned by Manuel Vidrie. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: European Championship 2009; best score: 66.170 percent; best move: passage.
Carmen Naesgaard Rodriguez-Passolas (22) rides Ciowa, her 1996 bay Hanoverian gelding by Cheenok. Experience: European Championships 2008 and 2007 and Young Rider World Cup Final 2008. Trainer: Isidro Maldonado; best score: 64.680 (CDI3* Sunshine Tour, 2009); best move: flying changes.
Juan Antonio Jimenez Cobo (50) rides Piconero IV, a 1999 grey PRE stallion by Lotero II, owned by Yeguada Jesus Ovelar. Trainer: Jean Bemelmans. Experience: Olympic Games 2004 (team silver medal) and 2000; WEG 2006, 2002 (team bronze medal); European Championships 2009, 2005 (team bronze medal), 2003 (team silver medal), 2001 and 1999; best score: 63.574 (CDI3* Vierzon, 2009); best moves: passage, pirouettes.
The final composition of the team competing in Lexington depends on a pre-selection at the CDI3* Sunshine Tour in March and participation in different shows in Europe combined with training stays at Bemelmans' in Krefeld, Germany. It is notable that at the moment over half the prospects represent home breeding--the famous Iberian horses. In charge of the final decision, the selection team consists of our National Trainer Jean Bemelmans, the National Dressage Department manager and Spanish chef d'équipe Bobby Fernandez de Bobadilla and the Spanish Dressage Committee Chairman Rosa Fradera. Let's wait and see!
Mariano Santos Redondo is CEO of Alcor Segovia SA, Building Company. A successful dressage competitor, he became an FEI "I" dressage judge and has officiated at many international competitions including Young Horse classes and the FEI World Dressage Challenge program. He also is an FEI Dressage Chief Steward. Based in Seville, Spain, he breeds horses at his Yeguada El Tremedal.