Rodrigo & Nelson Pessoa




of a kind



The father of modern riding and co-founder of the Masters Series, reflects on the sport together with his son. 



By Camilla Alfthan



With eight CSI 5* classes and the finals of the IJRC Rolex Top Ten, fashion mixed with horses in the third edition of the Gucci Masters in Paris.  While Gucci celebrated their 90th anniversary with a pop-up store and a total of €300,000 in prize money, the Belgian tailor Scabal had collaborated with Kevin Staut to launch a new line of made-to-measure riding clothes. Meanwhile, the 40th Salon du Cheval in the adjoining building had drawn some 150,000 people which added a constant buzz to the place.

Two of the main forces behind the Masters event are the showjumping legends, Nelson and Rodrigo Pessoa.

We had a chat with the duo in between some of the classes.


Esthetics are an important part of showjumping and here people are really expanding on it with fashion  stores and chic bars..


Nelson: They are trying to do it like entertainment. Competition is now changing in step with the times, so when it begins at eight or nine in the morning and goes on until midnight you need other activities so people don’t get bored. Four years ago you had two international competitions with the top riders and then it was finished. Now it’s different; you have the amateurs, the two stars and then the one stars, so all this entertainment becomes a necessary part of events.


In the 1960s when you left your native Brazil for Paris, you could not have imagined this evolution?


N: At that time showjumping was really for amateurs at the riding clubs and only during the weekends, but never in a public place.


“Four years ago you had two international competitions with the top riders and then it was finished. Now it’s different.”


Rodrigo: Nowadays, there are more people involved, not just professionals but also amateurs, owners, children… It’s an opportunity to bring everybody together and have a good weekend. For us it’s less comfortable as timing is more difficult. You don’t want to ride at eight in the morning or at midnight but that’s the way the market is today and you have to please a lot of different people. It’s up to the show organizers to decide how they want to do it.


Why do you think it changed so much?


R: The sport has changed a lot because of the media. In the old days it was not so intense but now the media are strongly present. There’s a big demand, but that inturn implies promotion of the sport. The sport is better now, but it is less well attended than in the older days. Now there are events every weekend, and so many more sports to follow that it has dispersed the public a little bit. Before there was far less to chose from. Now there are three or four events every weekend so people will choose the one they prefer or that is closer to their home.


Neco, you stopped before it all changed..


N: I began competing internationally in the 1960s and came here when I was young in my twenties in 1961. I stopped about ten years ago. I competed on a big level in 1998 in the World Championships in Rome and then a little bit more. It was a little bit difficult to maintain two stables at a high level for both me and Rodrigo.


You left your career to focus on your son. How was it for you, Rodrigo, to live up to that?


R: The expectations were always there, that’s something I’ve always had to deal with. We were lucky to

compete together at a high level for eight-nine years, so that was a really nice opportunity to spend a lot of time together.


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