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Marlon Modolo Zanotelli: “The last weeks have made me take a step back, stop and think about what is really important in life”

Monday, 13 April 2020

Photo © private collection “This situation has forced us – and especially me – to slow down. I have more time for my family, and I really enjoy that," Marlon Modolo Zanotelli tells. All photos © private collection.


Text © World of Showjumping



As professional showjumpers that run their own business and stable, as well as having two small children to care for, Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli and Marlon Modolo Zanotelli are used to a hectic lifestyle. However, a normal routine of international shows every single weekend – as well as travels all over the world – has now been swapped to farm life at home at the Swedish-Brazilian couple’s stable in Eksel, Belgium. While both Angelica and Marlon initially found the sudden change a bit difficult to adapt to, they have over the last weeks embraced the situation and are making the most of the time they finally get to spend together. 

“At the beginning of the lockdown we had a bit of a weird feeling,” Angelica tells. “It all felt very unfamiliar, and we lost our motivation a bit. However, after accepting that this will be the situation for an uncertain period of time we decided to make the best out of it. By now, we have adapted, found good routines and actually really enjoy it!”

“The older horses have an easier time, and work less,” Marlon tells. “We don’t know when they will be starting up again. As it looks now, it will still be at least a couple of months with no shows so we don’t want to do too much with them. So, we use more time on our younger horses and really try to get them going.”

“I don’t think our older horses will suffer much from this break, but it of course depends on how long it will stretch out,” Marlon says. “At the moment, we hear a lot of different things as to when the shows might start up again. For the young horses, it would be great to have the opportunity to just go training again – even if it’s just down the road – for them to see something else. It does not even necessarily have to be a show. As to the 8 and 9-year-old horses I guess the break will have bigger consequences, they are at a stage where they really need to gather the experience and step up. However, it’s the same for all of them.”

“I don’t think the horses themselves mind this break at all,” Angelica laughs. “They are the happiest, going on gallops in the woods and on the racetrack and spending time in the field with fantastic weather!”

“We have around 35 horses in the stables, divided between ourselves and our three clients. We have seven staff members at the moment, and in addition our clients have their own grooms. Then it’s Angelica and myself, our children, my parents and my brother,” Marlon tells about the set-up at the young family’s base in Belgium. “We have not let any of our staff go, but two employees left home for holiday after we came back from Oliva in the beginning of March and have been unable to return due to the travel restrictions.”

“We take precautions,” Marlon tells about the new routines they all have been forced to adapt to. “All our staff live by themselves, and we have kept it clear as to what they can do and cannot do outside working hours. Everyone takes this seriously and accepts that we have to be careful – especially seeing that we live with my parents here at the farm. Although they are not in the risk group, I prefer to not take any chances,” Marlon says. “Luckily, there is plenty of space for everyone here. We don’t ride in a crowd, and we keep our distance if we are in the stable at the same time. There is a lot of disinfecting going on too. Meals are taken outside, and separately – unlike our usual lunchbreak that we normally enjoy together.”

“For many, this situation might bring with it financial difficulties. Several riders have more or less no income at the moment, seeing that there is nothing coming in from prize money or trade – however, the costs are still the same. We are in a lucky situation; my father has been responsible for our company’s finances and he has built up a good reserve for us which I can really see the importance of now,” Marlon tells.

“As to the trade, clients are still interested in our horses – even without shows – but with all the travel restrictions no one can come to try them so nothing gets sold,” Marlon explains. “I’m optimistic though, and I don’t think this will affect the horse market too much. If you work with quality horses, they will keep their value. What we perhaps will see is an immediate drop in the prices on the more average horses, as well as some trying to make a scoop if others really are in need of money and having to sell. I believe the business will stay strong though, as it’s very peculiar.”

“I actually see a lot of positives coming out of this situation. As a top-level rider it’s easy to just keep on going, weekend in and weekend out,” Marlon says. “This situation has forced us – and especially me – to slow down. I have more time for my family, and I really enjoy that. I told myself that when the sport resumes, I will be much better at giving myself a break between all the shows – although I know that’s easy to say now. Once we’re back showing, we’re caught up in it again.”

“It feels like we are much more relaxed than before,” Angelica adds. “We take more time with the horses and also have more time for each other in between. There is no rush. We bought the farm here 1 ½ years ago, and honestly did not have much time for it. Now that Marlon rides a bit less, we have lots of time for different projects here and we really enjoy it!”

“This situation has really made me stop and think,” Marlon says. “Our sport is so fast and so rushed. Looking back, I realise that a lot of the time I have just been chasing my career doing as much as possible. The last weeks have made me take a step back, stop and think about what is really important in life.”


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