Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping


Athlete Representative: Rodrigo Pessoa

(Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof)

You have had great 2022 – what have you enjoyed the most and what are you most proud of?

2022 has been a great year. It has been the first year that things have gone back to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic and it was so great to be back at shows with the spectators there as well. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic we did lose some shows but all in all it has been a positive year.

I have also had a couple of new horses come into my yard that I am very excited about. I have a nine-year-old, Major Tom, who this year has stepped-up to jump in some bigger classes. I am very pleased with how he has handled this, and he will now have some downtime before next year. I have big hopes for him next year.

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2023?

Next year is incredibly important for the Brazilian team as we are looking to gain our qualification for the Olympic Games – so this will be my main goal. We will work towards the FEI Nations Cup™ Final in September and the Pan American Games held in Chile in October. So, 2023 will be a busy year to make sure that we perform well at these events to ensure our place in Paris.

Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses which ones are you most excited about?

Major Tom, a nine-year-old Belgian-bred is my main horse. We have had him for two years, since he was a seven-year-old, and he is owned by Artemis Equestrian Farm. He has a huge amount of ability and quality so we have been trying to produce him as best we can so that he can tackle the big events.

I also have some other very nice horses that are owned by Artemis Equestrian Farm including Chili, Quality FZ and Venice Beach who are all 5* horses that have a lot of experience and are competitive at top level. I am really excited about the horses that I currently have, and I have a lot of hope for 2023.

This year marks the 21st Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final – what is the role of the IJRC role and in your opinion how important is the club for show jumping?

The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final is organised by the IJRC. We founded the class after I came back from the Tennis Masters in Portugal and I thought that was something that needed to be added in our sport. It is something that is so exclusive, has great prize money and now the riders really fight to get into the Top 10. The riders always bring their best horses to try and win this prestigious class. I am really proud to be part of it and the IJRC make sure that the class is so well run.

I think that the club is so important. We are trying to improve the sport and make sure that we introduce new innovative ideas to the sport to ensure that it evolves in the right way. The IJRC does a tremendous amount of work to ensure that the committee represents all the riders and additional stakeholders such as owners and breeders – it is an important piece of the puzzle of our sport.

In your opinion what do the decision makers and the rights holders need to focus on to keep evolving and progressing the sport?

I think that we really need to focus on promoting the sport across the world to get more mainstream media attention. Sports such as tennis or football take up much of the media attention and sponsorship – so you really have to battle to be in the media much as possible so that we can keep sponsors, ensure the sport develops and keep the prize money improving.

You have recently been elected as the FEI athlete for jumping riders – what will your role be, and what will you be aiming to achieve over the next four years?

I am the voice of the riders, my voice is what comes out of the IJRC board – I try to defend our interest as much as possible as well as guiding and suggesting changes that I think are positive for the sport. So, my job is to promote the views of all riders across the world, and to speak with riders that have problems, especially ones that are not really known or under the radar. I bring them up with the FEI and help them solve their problems so that the sport can continue to grow.

You have had an incredible career as both a rider and a high-performance manager – what else would you love to accomplish?

My focus right now is on competing, especially with the nice stables of horses that I have, so to compete at a high level is my number one objective. Through my role in the IJRC I am focused on moving forward to keep developing the sport – it benefits me, but also everyone.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think is very important to have a brand that is as big globally as Rolex to get behind the sport. We are incredibly lucky to have such a great brand behind our sport – they invest a lot of money, not only in the events, but also in media and press to try and put the word out about equestrian sport. Rolex are so famous and prestigious that our sport being linked to them is a huge benefit for us – I would say it is more a plus for us then it is for them, so we are very lucky to have their support.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has been incredible for the sport. The Majors are something that riders and owners look forward to and aim towards. All of the Majors, both indoors and outdoors, are phenomenal, and something very special in the calendar.  The Rolex Grand Slam is something that is very difficult to achieve, with only Scott Brash achieving it in 2015 and I do not know if it is something that will be achieved again – but I hope that someone else will do. I think that if someone was going to be able to do it again it would be Daniel Deusser in the next 12 months – he knows how to perform on these big occasions.  

Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its very own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting ‘Majors’ do you love watching, and which is your favourite and why?

I am a sports fan in general – I like high quality sport. I love watching Formula One, football, golf and tennis. I think Formula One is my favourite sport to follow but I have been lucky enough to attend some of the Golf and Tennis Majors through my partnership with Rolex, which have been amazing.

What is the best advice someone has given you?

I think it is that patience with horses is the most important thing that you must have. Also, I think that even if things are not going your way, you must keep on pushing and trying and eventually your time will come.

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