‘It all started when I bought a pink hat in Hawaii’ — meet flamboyant ringmaster Pedro Cebulka

  • There’s no chance of missing equestrian ringmaster Pedro Cebulka in his flamboyant costumes. He’s a familiar face on the showjumping circuit, turning chaos into order as he manages major prize-givings at venues around the world and has possibly one of the toughest jobs in the sport — manning the in-gate to ensure riders enter the ring promptly.

    But did you know he started out in the world of banking? Or that he learnt the craft of course-building from Pam Carruthers? Read on for more amazing facts about the much loved Pedro The Ringmaster…

    1. Pedro lives in Canada with wife Janet on the lake at Invermere but has a second home in Mexico and an insatiable lust for travel.

    2. He has a Spanish first name, Polish last name, German and Canadian passports, a Dutch wife who is now also Canadian and two Canadian daughters, who also have German passports. “So I’m really mixed up!” he says.

    3. He was actually born Peter Cebulka but changed it to the Spanish version after falling in love with the Latin outlook on life on his first visit to Brazil in 1976 at the age of 24.

    4. He started out at the age of 15 in the world of banking before deciding it wasn’t for him.

    5. His communication skills stem from time spent working in a pub in Germany. “I learned how to communicate with all kinds of people from all walks of life, how to make them happy and comfortable and how to deal with them if there was a problem,” he says.

    6. A trip to Brazil in 1976 proved life changing – he ended up staying for five months. “I saw Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, I learned Spanish and I met many wonderful people,” says Pedro, who embarked on a world tour the following year.

    7. A chance encounter in 1977 with a Swiss man, who was working at Spruce Meadows, opened the door to the equestrian world as he began work there, first as a carpenter. Ron Southern, founder of the Calgary equestrian centre, took the enthusiastic young German under his wing. “He treated me like a stepson,” Pedro says.

    8. Over the next five years, he acted as interpreter for visiting teams, as an announcer and course-builder, also acting as a tour guide in South and Central America, and South East Asia when not required in the ring.

    9. He learnt the craft of course-building at Spruce Meadows from legendary British designer Pam Carruthers and in 1979 he assisted at the European Championships in Rotterdam.

    10. He left Spruce Meadows in 1986. “I loved what I was doing but physically it was too much, I’d start at 7am and work until midnight and I had high blood pressure”, says Pedro, who took a job as a salesman in the Rocky Mountains instead and he went on to become a land developer.

    11. He returned to Spruce Meadows when they asked him to help at the in-gate as a starter during the shows. “They wanted someone who knew the riders, who was strong enough so they would be listened to, but not a little general yelling because now he thinks he’s a policeman! It taught me to be kind but firm.”

    12. Pedro stands 6ft 3in tall. “Yes, size matters, but what I find now after 43 years doing this job is that 43 years matter! Someone once said anyone can be a superstar for one year, but the best athletes are on top over a long period of time. Like the Whitakers, like Nick Skelton, like David Broome, like Ludger Beerbaum.”

    13. When the sport is broadcast live, it demands spot-on timing. “That’s where my German background kicks in – I give the riders the countdown and it has to be done. If someone is late going in I don’t say anything, but when they come out…”

    14. He’s been to six Olympics. “They are like nothing else. I’d rather have a rule broken then get a rider upset before they go in – the pressure they are under is incredible. But of course I have the TV director shouting at me so it’s a very fine line,” he says.

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    15. One of his stand-out moments was when Canada’s Eric Lamaze high fived him when he won the gold at the 2008 Olympics. “That evening I carried him to the media party on my shoulders and we were dancing and celebrating until four in the morning!” he remembers. “Everyone is your friend when you win, but for me a real friend is the one who is there when you are down, so Marcus Ehning at the European Championships in 2007 where Kuchengirl stopped again and again. He goes on the podium to get the team gold medal without jumping a single round and he’s crying with the medal around his neck… I’ll never forget that.”

    16. He is renowned for his flamboyant and intricate costumes. “It all started when I bought a pink hat in Hawaii and people liked it. I went on to a military hat, a Mountie uniform, I put crazy things together wherever I went. In 2010 Animo sponsored my tails and now I have a few of them designed by Franco Dragone. I rent some of them too — they make people smile!” he says

    17. He’s a great musician, he cycles, is an ambassador for the JustWorld charity and he likes to walk the family’s two rescue dogs every day.

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