Rodrigo & Nelson Pessoa

Wasn’t there ever any rivalry between you?


R: Not really. You always try to work together to try to solve the problems and move ahead. Today, I’m very focused to compete on a high level and to stay there. It is very difficult to get your horses to do this. My father teaches younger people who don’t have the same experience which is very valuable for them in order to bring them forward.


N: A lot of students come from abroad to ride with us and to learn from our experience and management. For some it is not enough to compete in jumping. Some prefer dealing, which is not our thing, or they want to teach or organize shows. The sport has grown a lot; it is more professional and the number of people who ride are tenfold.


You made history when you won the World Cup three times in a row, you’ve won Olympic gold, and that’s just some of it. To which extent did your meteoric start add pressure?


R: It is never less pressure. It made some things easier the counterpart is that expectations are always there and you are not really excused when you make mis- takes. But that is merely public opinion and you have to set it aside and not make a big deal of it.


Do mistakes ever keep you awake at night?


R: You can’t let it affect you that much because you compete a lot, and if you are more on the losing end than in the winning circle you have to know how to progress and not make a big thing about defeats. Correct your mistakes so as to do better next time. It’s a hectic schedule when you travel all over the world.


N: We travelled a little bit less. Now riders can do 52 shows in a year. But your ambition and the number of horses are more or less the same.


R: Now we try to give back to the sport what it has given to us. You don’t make money with horse shows. But you really want to please the people as much as possible. It’s is important to have good shows on the circuit and everybody does their shift, so we’re try- ing to make our best.


You also launched a clothing label. At which level are you involved with it?


R: I try to follow it. There’s a lot of competition in that area. Anky and Isabell Werth were among the first to have their own labels. We try to focus on a younger and broader generation with affordable products. We will see how it evolves. Anything that has your name on it has to be to exactly what you are and how you want to be represented.


Your lives revolve around the horses. You moved to Brussels with your horses, and you even have your own vet station at the farm…


N: We live in Belgium because it is a horse country and Brussels is a nice, small town which is very central with good access to other shows, which is important as we’re on the road such a lot. R: Breeding is a hobby and it’s not really our thing. But with the vet station we are really involved as the health of the horse is extremely important. There are no other secrets than to keep them healthy both physically and mentally.


“Even if there’s been a substantial evolution, a horse is a horse. What we learned 50 years ago is still the same today.”



N: The horsemanship is very important, and in this area things haven’t really changed. Even if there’s been a substantial evolution, a horse is a horse. What we learned 50 years ago is still the same today.


Who were your favorite horses?


N: I had a group of good ones in my career that Rodrigo also competed with. Baloubet, Special Envoy, Tomboy, Grand Geste, Spartaco… they are the ones we keep in our hearts for life.


Do you follow your son in all the big shows?


N: Yes, more or less. The World Championships, the European Championships and here…and then I want to be at home for the students.


You’re not itching to get on a horse, or feel that you could do it better?


N: No, I changed jobs and now I see it differently. I also come to see other people. We are not a camp.



“Baloubet, Special Envoy, Tomboy, Grand Geste, Spartaco… they are the ones we keep in our hearts for life”



Rodrigo, will you eventually follow in your father’s footsteps?


R: It depends what the opportunities are when I decide I won’t compete on a high level anymore. But I definitely do something with horses as it is our passion and our field of expertise.  





Nelson Pessoa (born 1935) : 7 victoires at Hamburg Derby, three vicories at the Hickstead Derby, European Championship winner.

Won over 150 Grand Prix classes in Europe.

He owns the equestrian school at Haras du Ligny in Fleurus, Belgium and also founded Pessoa Brands; the Pessoa lines include their famous saddles, bridles, girths, blankets and tack.


Rodrigo Pessoa (born 1972) : Olympic gold in 2004 on Baloubet du Rouet, World Championship gold in 1998 on Lianos, World Cup final victories 1998, 1999 and 2000 on Baloubet du Rouet. Olympic bronze as a team 1996 and 2000


Interview from the Gucci Masters, Paris, December 2010. 



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