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Yuri Mansur – Reach for your dreams, in your own ways

Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Interview

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson “My strongest quality, in everything I do, is that I am a trier. I don't give up," Yuri Mansur says. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, 39-year-old Yuri Mansur has found a new home in the Netherlands. Mansur – who has never lived in one place longer than five years (he can count 38 different houses that he has lived in during his 39 years) – has built himself a well-known name on the European showjumping circuit. Now the Brazilian rider has settled down, and World of Showjumping meets him at his beautiful home base in Venlo to learn more about his unusual path to success, the many phenomenal horses that have passed through his stables and the story behind the yellow jacket that has come to be his trademark.  

A new home in the Netherlands

Photo © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen Entering Yuri's yard in Venlo, the Netherlands. Photo © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen.

Yuri first came to Europe when he was 17-years-old and worked for Yves Villain, breaking in young horses. From there on he soon moved on to Ludo Philippaert’s yard, where he started as a groom. During his years at Philippaerts, Yuri met many people – and little did he know that those connections made back then would later on change his life. “I think everyone I met at this time have had a big importance in my life,” Yuri tells.

“My strongest quality, in everything I do, is that I am a trier. I don't give up. I remember many normal and even bad horses that I have ridden – and I never said no,” Yuri says. “I worked, and made it work. I know that if I now would do the same to others that was asked of me, they would complain instantly. I have always worked hard and kept going,” he continues when we ask what he thinks has been the secret in maintaining the good contacts he made early on in Europe. 

“I was not expecting to come to the Netherlands, I was actually looking for a place in Belgium but it was difficult to find,” Yuri tells about his move to Venlo. “The previous owner is now my dressage trainer; her name is Inge Coenen,” Yuri tells. “I do a lot of dressage, that is my base. All my horses could do a St. George. How they react to my leg is really important for me. On the jumps, what I am looking for, is good rideability, that the horses are jumping relaxed and straight with good balance. Nelson Pessoa also comes once a week. With him, it is not only technical – he is a thinker,” Yuri says. “When I have doubts, we can sit for hours and think together. This has changed a lot for me and it is something I need to learn more about – what is the right decision at which time. And only experience can give you this kind of knowledge. To have support from someone like Neco, it helps a lot,” Yuri tells about his mentor. “Since the first time we spoke, we always had a good relationship and we always talked a lot. When I was less motivated, I asked him for help. All the talent, experience and the mind he has, it is unbelievable,” Yuri continues. Nelson Pessoa’s support has obviously made a huge difference in Yuri's career path. “In the end, the hardest part is how you manage your career and life to reach the top of the sport,” he tells. 

Competing, buying and selling is now the main focus of Yuri’s business. “I have a fantastic team,” he says. However, settling into a new culture after arriving from his native Brazil was a struggle. “To come here, it was difficult to find the right people,” he tells bout his move to Europe. “Now I have my showgroom Keo, and to find someone who takes better care of the horses than she does would be a challenge. She is a fighter, a trier and a good friend. All my family is here now, my two brothers and my wife – it makes our company a family company and it is the first time I have us all together.” 

Vitiki

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson "Vitiki is so much better than any other horse," Yuri tells. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

With two of his best horses – Vitiki and Babylotte – injured during the past year, Yuri left a tough season behind him. “In my life, I had a lot of hard moments, but what happened with Vitiki in Aachen was one of the toughest,” Yuri tells about the accident last year, where the now 11-year-old gelding got severely injured. “First of all, because Vitiki is an ubelievable horse. I have ridden horses like Cornetto K, First Devision, Babylotte – and many other horses – but in my opinion, Vitiki is so much better than any other horse. Vitiki has the same scope as First Devision, the carefulness of Cornetto and same fighting spirit as Babylotte. And he is much easier to ride than all of them,” Yuri begins to explain. “I bought Vitiki in November 2017, and back then he had never jumped more than 1.30 classes. In May 2018, we won the Nations Cup in La Baule – already that was something unbelievable,” Yuri says. “Aachen was my dream, my biggest dream. What happened was a mistake, and this is part of the sport,” Yuri tells about the accident where the pair crashed during a jump-off, both sustaining injuries – Vitiki's being life threathning. 

With Yuri’s dream of riding in Aachen turning into a nightmare in a split second, and having to take difficult decisions on behalf of his horse – there was a lot of emotions to handle. “Afterwards, I lost all my motivation,” Yuri says quietly. “I had a horse like Vitiki, and from one second to the next he was out. It is a relief that there is progress now, so I really believe he will recover. My vet and I are working really hard to bring back my two chesnuts. My plans with Vitiki and Babylotte have nothing to do with this season. If we have to wait with them, I don´t care – the focus is to have them back for 2020.”

The day after the accident in Aachen, Yuri went on to win a class. “But for the first time in my life, I was scared,” he tells. “It is so hard to reach this level, to find a horse like Vitiki, to keep them so long that you get to go to a venue like Aachen. When I was riding in Brazil only a few years ago, I never dreamed about any of this. To find the motivation to do all this again, to start from scratch – it was very difficult,” Yuri says. 

The accident in Aachen left Yuri with a lot of doubts, and he considered to stop riding. For a while he felt like there was nothing left to dream about, and nothing left to reach for. “But, then I also realized that if I had gotten to Aachen and reached that dream – I could perhaps go even further,” he says. “Slowly I started to visualize more dreams, and my goal in life is to always reach for them. And, if I don't reach them then for sure I am going to learn a lot trying.”

Out of the ordinary

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson From riding in the streets in Brazil as a little kid, to the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Yuri Mansur made it the whole way to the top. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

The beginning of Yuri's journey is anything but ordinary. “I always loved horses and started to ride when I was really small, at a farm,” Yuri tells us about his upbringing in Brazil. “There riding only means walking around on the streets, not equitation like here in Europe. Every time we went on holidays, I would always ride where ever I could. When I was around 13-years-old, l saw an ad in the newspaper saying ‘Horses for sale’. I called them to ask how much a horse costs, and they told me a hundred dollars for a 3-year-old. I went to my mother and she said ’ok for that price, I can buy a horse for you’. We bought it, but it was a special Brazilian breed – a breed that has nothing to do with the sport of showjumping. Not that we realized all this at the time! Afterwards we understood how difficult it all was; I could not ride it, and we had no stables,” Yuri laughs. 

With about 15 horses in work and a stable of his own, Yuri is now far from where he started. The Danish Stuteri Ask has provided Yuri with the ride on two of their horses, Ibelle Ask and Unita Ask. “Stutteri Ask gave me the great opportunity to ride Ibelle, she is a fantastic mare. Now, after seven months of riding her, we are starting to see the results. She has always been good, and now I feel like she is getting used to my system, which is very different to what she had before,” Yuri says. “I only have three horses for the bigger classes at the moment, so I don't have many options,” Yuri tells when we move onto to talk about his goals for the season ahead. “My biggest goal is to do every show as a championship; I want to do well when I go. It is maybe a bit different kind of view, and something I am really trying to learn: To do less but better. I want to try to do less shows, but with better results. To do my best, and not to go when I feel like I have no chance. To be placed somewhere between 12 to 15 is not interesting, I want to be competitive. At the moment I don’t think about the Pan American Games, I don’t think about Aachen – I just want to do show by show, the best I can.” 

The yellow jacket

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson "When I first came to compete in Europe, I had lost everything in Brazil, and wanted to show to some people what was mine and what was theirs. So I started to wear a yellow jacket,” Yuri tells. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

This season Yuri is again a part of the Global Champions League team Paris Panthers. “I feel honoured to be invited to be a part of the team. It is incredible to fight together with such a professional group of riders,” Yuri tells. But when not on the GCL circuit, you can always recognize Yuri by his trademark yellow jacket. “When I was young, I loved watching Luiz Felipe Azevedo (Sr.) “He was an unbelievable rider, and very charismatic,” Yuri tells us about the origin of the idea to wear something different. ”And I remember him qualified to jump in the World Cup Final and thinking, ’he should use the yellow jacket, like the Brazilian footballers do’. When the Dutch started to use their orange jacket, I thought about it again. And when I first came to compete in Europe, I had lost everything in Brazil, and wanted to show to some people what was mine and what was theirs. So I started to wear a yellow jacket,” he recalls. ”Sometimes, when I was calling the organizers to try and get into a show they would not remember me but they always remembered the yellow jacket.” 

Extraordinary strokes of luck

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson “I think that is what makes our sport so special; there is no limit for improving," Yuri says. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

Speaking about motivation, Yuri mentions the many challenges involved in the sport – many of them outside the ninety-some-seconds in the competition ring. “I remember when I came back from Verona last year and the following morning, at seven, I was in Opglabbeek to try horses. And I thought I was working hard,” Yuri smiles. ”But when I got there, Marlon (Modolo Zanotelli) was there, Olivier (Philippaerts) was there – everybody is looking for horses. The challenge is not only in the ring.” 

To find a phenomal horse is something everyone is after, and as a rider you can probably count yourself lucky if one crosses your path once in a lifetime. But more than one have passed through Yuri's – a stroke of luck he can't quite explain. “The horses just came to me,” he says humbly. “Cornetto is the only one I was really looking for, but First Devision I found while looking for some horses to bring to Brazil. Harrie Smolders had him at the time. The canter was terrible, but the jump – I never had a feeling like that. I took him to Brazil when he was seven and it was a slow process because he was so difficult to ride,” Yuri tells about the gelding that finished 6th individually at the Rio Olympics with Qatar’s Sheik Ali Al Thani. “Cornetto was different, he was already a good horse when I bought him from Dominique Hendrickx,” Yuri continues. “With Vitiki, it was the same as with First Devision; after two jumps I was sure that the horse was phenomenal.” 

But what exactly is he looking for in a horse, we wonder. “Mentality,” Yuri says without hesitation. “In the end, that is what counts. Then carefulness, then blood. When you have these three, for sure you have a really good horse. The first thing is, in the stable you can already see how the good ones are, they are awake, they have life in their eyes. Then when you ride, they are not against you, they are trying to understand what you want. And when you jump, they are trying to read the fence. Even if they have a special technic, if you can see that they are trying to do something different after they make a mistake, these kinds of things are important. When you feel that they are not against you, but with you – it makes the job a lot easier,” Yuri concludes. 

What Yuri enjoys the most in his daily work with horses is the feeling of improving. “I enjoy everything I do, I love animals. But the best feeling is when you feel like you are ready to win,” he explains. “When you win, this moment in itself is actually easy –  by then you have reached the victory and that point is not difficult. The feeling when you know you are ready to win, that your horse has learned, and you have learned everything necessary, that is what I enjoy the most. I enjoy the build up and the feeling of improving. I think that is what makes our sport so special; there is no limit for improving.”

“I want to jump at the Olympic Games,” Yuri says about his longterm goals. “It is the only thing I have not done yet. I also have a dream to be inside the top ten in the world. These two are my biggest dreams. And to have my kids involved in the sport. I would never force them to do it, but I would love it if they would – because I know how hard it is to start from nothing in life, and now I could help them and maybe open some doors for them,” he explains. 

And an advice to anyone trying to build a career in the sport of showjumping? “Don’t give up,” Yuri says. “Don’t look too much to others, this is your life and your story. Do your dreams in your ways.” 

 

 


Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

Photos © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson and Nanna Nieminen

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

Photo © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen Photos © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

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