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Neco passes on the torch: “For each horse in the Pessoa Auction there is a story”

Saturday, 05 September 2020
Interview presented by the Pessoa Auction
Masked picture

Photo © World of Showjumping

– A WoSJ Exclusive presented by the Pessoa Auction –

Photo © World of Showjumping At the age of 84, Nelson ‘Neco’ Pessoa is launching what he says will be his “first and last auction” – with the majority of the thirteen lots being products of his own breeding.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

At the age of 84, Nelson ‘Neco’ Pessoa is launching what he says will be his “first and last auction”. The Pessoa Auction is a result of Neco’s lifelong passion for breeding, and it’s not without a certain reluctance that the Brazilian legend will let his equine legacy go under the virtual hammer in the middle of September. “At the bottom of my heart, I hope no one buys anything so I can keep them all,” Neco laughs. 

No wonder perhaps, as the majority of the thirteen lots in the Pessoa Auction are Neco’s own breeding. When it comes to the Pessoa-bred horses, Neco has seen them be born, watched them grow up and helped them develop into future stars – using all his knowledge to give them the best possible education. “Most of the horses in the Pessoa Auction I have bred myself,” Neco explains. “The horses are a part of my legacy as a breeder, and the collection a culmination of my experience. While the Pessoa Auction puts an end to my own breeding, I hope it can also be the start of new adventures for the future owners of the horses.”

Speaking of owners, Neco is adamant that his horses should only be sold to the very best homes. “When it comes to the horses, I’m a maniac. For the horse, you need to talk horse. You need to take excellent care, be a perfectionist,” Neco says. “That’s why I really hope to see most of these horses go to top, professional riders,” he says. “Throughout my career, I never liked to sell. All my best horses – Gran Geste, Espartaco, Special Envoy and Vivaldi – stayed with me until their retirements. I never initiated a sale of one of my own horses, if they were sold it was because someone special wanted to buy. In such a case, a sale can be a pleasure, because the horse will end up being treated in the same way as I would treat it.”

Photo © Pessoa Auction "The most beautiful horse I have ever seen!" Neco with his home-bred El London King, a stunning 6-year-old stallion by London out of the mare Pandora by Kannan, that has a special place in his heart.

Horses have been a part of Neco’s life since he was a small boy. When we meet Neco in his beautiful home outside Brussels, where he has lived for the past forty years, he shows us a silver framed photo of himself at the age of 5 – jumping in perfect position without stirrups. Then, another one, where he is a bit older – riding his first own horse that was called Big Boy. “It was my father who introduced me to the horses. He brought me to the equestrian club for lessons, but I did not enjoy it at all in the beginning – I was really afraid,” Neco recalls. 

Needless to mention, Neco overcame his fear. Today, he is considered one of the most successful showjumpers of all time. During his career, he won over a 150 Grand Prix competitions as well as a 100 puissance classes, he won the prestigious Hamburg Derby seven times, the Hickstead Derby three times, won team gold at the Pan-American Games twice as well as claiming individual silver, and he became Brazilian Champion four times. Neco has also coached numerous of the world’s best riders to titles – one of them his own son, the Olympic and World Champion Rodrigo Pessoa. An inexhaustible source of knowledge, Neco has earned himself a place in showjumping history like few others. 

While most know Neco as a brilliant rider and trainer, he has also been a passionate breeder. It all started in the late 1970s with his mare Stella – by the stallion Nithard – that after a successful career with Neco was put in foal to Jalisco, a pregnancy that resulted in the stallion Olisco. Later on, Stella would be matched with Galoubet A and gave birth to Quick Star – that went on to have huge success with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. Both Olisco and Quick Star went on to breed championship horses, such as the 2009 European Champion Kraque Boom Bois Margot and 2016 Olympic Champion Big Star. “I’m no expert in breeding, but I think that from the very beginning I chose good stallions for my mares – even back in the day with Stella,” Neco says. “Quick Star was so little though; I remember saying he would be a beautiful pony. However, he ended up as one of the best stallions in the world – both in breeding and sport.”

From the birth of Quick Star in 1982, Neco’s breeding continued sporadically – but successfully. In 1999, the mare Chin China gave birth to Palouchin de Ligny – a beautiful chestnut colt by Baloubet du Rouet. Palouchin went on to have great success with Neco’s son Rodrigo, winning classes all over the world.

Photo © Pessoa Auction An inexhaustible source of knowledge, Neco has earned himself a place in showjumping history like few others.

Other famous sires that Neco has a special admiration for is Canturo and Kannan – and their blood is a red thread throughout the collection of horses in the Pessoa Auction. “The ‘big mama’ of the group is my now 21-year-old breeding mare Pandora E.G.P. – by Kannan x Feinschnitt I vd Richter,” Neco tells. “Pandora herself jumped at international 1.50m level with one of my students. When he wanted to stop competing, I recommended to breed with Pandora and suggested to use Canturo on her – a stallion that I had trained in the past and really liked. Eventually, I ended up buying Pandora and her foal – that I named Ze Carioca.” 

“Carioca is a word that refers to residents of Rio de Janeiro, normally known as laid-back and relaxed types,” Neco tells about the history behind the stallion’s name. “There is also a Disney figure called José Carioca, a parrot with a funny and smart personality, that is good humoured and charming. Ze is a nickname for José, hence Ze Carioca.”

Pandora’s first-born is now nine and has already been successful with Rodrigo [Pessoa], who has developed and trained the stallion all the way up to CSI5* 1.45m level. “I always believed in giving the horses a good hunter-education, so when Ze Carioca was three I sent him to America,” Neco tells. “Gustavo Prato trained and rode him, but when Ze Carioca was five Gustavo called me and said ‘Listen, he jumps too good for a hunter’,” Neco smiles. “So, he came back to Europe, and Rodrigo showed him here as a 6, 7 and 8-year-old. As a young horse, Ze Carioca has been extremely consistent. Rodrigo has produced him carefully, and Ze Carioca is now a ready Grand Prix horse.”

Both Ze Carioca and his mother Pandora are included in the Pessoa Auction, the latter with an embryo by Untouchable. “I used to train Untouchable from he was four to six – I always liked him and he produced very well. Both Pandora – that is fantastically fit for her age – and the embryo will be part of the Pessoa Auction collection,” Neco tells.

Photo © Pessoa Auction While most know Neco as a brilliant rider and trainer, he has also been a passionate breeder. Here pictured with Divine Sensation, a daughter of his foundation mare Pandora and by Diamant de Semilly. Divine Sensation is in her turn the mother of Cornetina Z, a 3-year-old mare by Cornet Obolensky.

Pandora also has three more offspring in the Pessoa Auction – Divine Sensation, El London King and Cornetino Z, as well as two grandchildren. “In 2013, Pandora had a foal by Diamant de Semilly – a filly that was given the name Divine Sensation. I knew Diamant well from when he competed and thought he would be a good match for Pandora. Divine Sensation is in her turn the mother of Cornetina Z – a mare by Cornet Obolensky born in 2017 – that also is included in the auction. A fun-fact is that Divine Sensation got her name because she was born on a farm with trotters, and they had never seen a horse move like her before. They thought she was divine,” Neco laughs. “That same year, Pandora had a foal by Cornet Obolensky too. Making it simple I named him Cornetino Z. Cornetina, Cornetino, then that was sorted!” Neco smiles. 

“I continued breeding with Pandora, and at that time London [ex. Carembar de Muze] had caught my eye,” he tells. “The result is one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen: El London King, that was born in 2014. El London King looks like his father, jumps like his father… There are so many similarities. El London King could have been the most stunning confirmation hunter, he has the beauty of a thoroughbred, is very elegant and light. In my opinion, he is one of the best 6-year-olds out there and could easily be jumping 1.45m classes already. Like all my young horses, El London King has been competed very sparingly though – I do not like young horses to jump more than six to eight shows a year. Baloubet for example did not compete until he was six. I also don’t allow the riders to go fast with my young horses, if you come home with a ribbon you are sacked – that’s my theory!” Neco says firmly. “Now, I hope for one of the best riders in the world to buy this horse – my dream would of course be to see him continue his career with Gerco Schröder, just like his father!”

Pandora is also the great-grandmother of one of the youngest horses in the auction: The yearling Ze Carioca Jr du Petithallet Z – by Ze Carioca and out of the mare Eleonore. “I found Eleonore in Normandy, and immediately liked her breeding – she was by Kannan x Quick Star, which of course brought me a lot of good memories. I bought her, and when she was four, I put her in foal to Ze Carioca. Both Eleonore, now 6, and Ze Carioca Jr du Petithallet Z are part of the collection,” Neco tells. “Eleonore is now competing at youngster level.”

There are even more horses in the Pessoa Auction, and they also have a strong family connection. One of them is Tinkabell, by Casco x Ekstein, that competed at CSI5* Grand Prix level with Rodrigo before she retired. “Tinkabell will be sold with her foal Oreo, that is by Ze Carioca. Oreo was born this summer,” Neco says. “Bruce de Muze – another of the auction horses – is also family member, he is a four-year-old gelding by Bamako de Muze out of my daughter-in-law Alexa’s former Grand Prix horse Madison.”

Photo © World of Showjumping "It’s time to close my chapter as a breeder,” Neco tells to World of Showjumping.

“Of course, there can’t be a Pessoa Auction without a Baloubet du Rouet-offspring, so we have Bella Baloubette – a mare born in 2014 out of a Chellano Z-mare that jumped at international 1.50m level – too,” Neco tells. “Jigaro C, a gelding by Figaro de la Vie x Heartbreaker, born 2009 and Ginseng de la Bonnette, a gelding by Malito de Reve x Totoche du Banney, born in 2012, complete the collection.”

“As you understand the Pessoa Auction has something for everyone: My own foundation mare as well as her embryo, a foal, a yearling, two three-year-olds, five-, six and seven-year-olds, a horse ready to jump the international Grand Prix classes as well as nice amateur horses. When it comes to Pandora and her family, I can guarantee one thing and that is that her offspring have an unbelievable character – they are all real family-horses,” Neco smiles. 

“It’s with a heavy heart that I sell the horses I have bred myself, but it’s what we set out to do four years ago when creating syndicates to own each of them. The agreement was to develop them and then sell, with the contracts expiring in 2020. I sold Haras de Ligny years ago, Rodrigo spends most of his time in the States while I am here in Belgium and this year and the next, most of my focus will be on coaching the Australian eventing team as well as my other students – it’s time to close my chapter as a breeder,” Neco says. “With the syndicates, we never planned to do an auction though – this is simply a result of the times we live in. Perhaps the story would have gotten a very different ending if we still lived a normal way of life, without the virus – but under the current circumstances this is the best option to reach the clients.”

“Due to the pandemic, there has been an explosion of auctions this year. However, I guess the Pessoa Auction is a bit different and stands out,” Neco says. “Most of the horses in it are like family to me, they are my legacy. It will be hard to say goodbye.”

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

 



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