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The year in review – with Rodrigo Pessoa: “2023 is going to be a year to work on the Nations Cup series”

Sunday, 01 January 2023

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Rodrigo Pessoa. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



As 2022 reached its end, WoSJ caught up with Rodrigo Pessoa – the newly elected FEI Athlete Representative for the jumping riders. From a rider’s perspective, Pessoa reflects on political achievements in the year that has passed as well as on which topics are on the agenda for 2023. 

The Olympic format 

“When it comes to the Olympic format, we lost one battle but won another – we have reached half of our mission,” Pessoa says. “In Paris, the team competition will again be jumped first – before the individual final – and this was a very important change that we as riders pushed for.” 

“This change to the format makes sense,” Pessoa continues. “In the past, we have seen that the level of participation at the Olympic Games varies greatly – mostly due to the number of flags. The first round of competition is always a bit softer, and the good ones fly by, but then you always have some riders that are in difficulties from the beginning. With the team competition as the two following rounds, the course builder is in a position to gradually increase the level of difficulty – as opposed to moving on to build for a climax already on the second and third day. Changing back to having the two rounds of team competition before the individual final, provides the course builder with the opportunity to sort out those riders that are at the level to compete in a team final and in an individual final. If you have the individual final before the teams, you can’t really have this kind of progression. I also think that showjumping is more of an individual sport – with the focus on each horse-and-rider combination – and that it is more natural to build towards the concluding climax of crowning an individual champion."

“We have also not given up on reintroducing the four per team and a drop score for the Olympic Games,” Pessoa continues. “Although we can’t change anything for the 2024 Olympics, we will start working on it already. We will make sure to reverse this, because it has to be changed – it all comes down to horse welfare, so we will prevail on this,” Pessoa says.

The International Grooms Association

“Another positive development this year was the recognition of the grooms as FEI stakeholders through the MoU with the International Grooms Association,” Pessoa points out. “The grooms are a very important part of the puzzle, and deserve this official recognition. I hope we can work closer with the IGA to give the grooms better working conditions.” 

The Nations Cup series 

“2023 is going to be a year to work on the Nations Cup series. The concept is the best we have in our sport; everyone is excited to ride for their country, we have the two rounds, the drop score – it’s always exciting and so many fantastic scenarios unfold,” Pessoa says. “However, the Nations Cups as a product needs to be revived. We – the FEI, IJRC as well as Jumping Committee – really need to work on finding ways to bring it back to its former glory, so it has a future in the sport. I can’t really reveal much, but we are already in talks about the development of the series. That being said, all the stakeholders will have to make a small step to make it happen.”

Horse welfare 

“One topic that naturally has all our attention is horse welfare,” Pessoa points out. “This is our number one priority and concern, and this is something we somehow have to make the animal protection activists and organisations understand. We have to explain and educate on what we are doing and why we are doing it. To me the most important and obvious solution is to open the doors to our stables. I would love for those who are opposed to equestrian sports to come to visit Kevin Staut, Steve Guerdat or Scott Brash’s farms to see how the horses are cared for and treated. I don’t think we will get these associations aboard with us, but they should be educated on what we actually are doing and that our biggest priority is the welfare of the horses.”


“Last but not least, we also want to try to regulate the costs a bit, and work on the conversion rates,” Pessoa says. “It’s getting very expensive, and everyone must make adjustments. We have to make our sport affordable and accessible. There is a lot to work on in this regard!”

On a personal note

“On a more personal level, 2022 was the first year where we finally were back to normal after the Covid pandemic and the EHV-1 outbreak in Europe,” Pessoa says. “I’m really excited about the string of horses that we over the last few years have put together, it’s something that requires a lot of time and resources and I am very grateful to my owners. I look forwards to 2023 where the Brazilian team hopes to qualify for the Olympics either in the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona or at the Pan Am Games.”

“My most exciting horse for 2023 is probably Major Tom, he’s turning 10 now and ready to go at the big scene,” Pessoa says. “He has been developing really well and quietly for the last two years, so hopefully we will have a good and productive 2023. This is a horse that has everything to become a super star; he has the all the ability that we as riders look for – he looks very special, definitely better than average!”


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