Is the British dressage world starting to take notice of Iberian horses?

  • Gonçalo Carvalho inspired many British riders to become interested in Iberian horses after his performance at London 2012 on the Lusitano stallion Rubi. H&H's Helen Triggs meets him to find out why judges are starting to sit up and take notice

    Gonçalo Carvalho was the most successful member of the Portuguese Olympic team at London 2012, with Christine Jacoberger’s Lusitano stallion Rubi. The pair was ranked 19th on the World Dressage rankings in 2013 and they retired after the European Championships in Herning, Denmark in 2013.

    Rubi was bred by the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art where he was picked out by Gonçalo, 33, who studied as a rider at the Portuguese School.

    Rubi has Alter Real bloodlines — the only breeding line used by the Portuguese school.

    Q. Many people were impressed with Rubi at the Olympics. Were you surprised by the reaction to Rubi?

    Gonçalo Carvalho: The Olympics was a dream and the public were amazing, especially the British fans. When I arrived at the Olympics I thought “what am I doing here?”, but we focused, worked hard and got good results.

    Q. Do you think Iberians get the marks they deserve in dressage competition?

    Gonçalo Carvalho: I think step by step Rubi earned the points he deserved. Now with [my new ride] Batuta I don’t feel any prejudice. People and judges are starting to like the Iberian horses when they are good. When a horse is good, it doesn’t matter about the breed.

    Q. Are people getting more interested in Iberian horses?

    Gonçalo Carvalho: When people see how good they can be, they begin to be interested. It’s hard to find a good Lusitano. Breeders aren’t focussed on breeding for one discipline and that’s the big problem. They breed horses that can do everything. But now more and more are investing in breeding just for dressage.

    Q. What is Rubi doing now?

    Gonçalo Carvalho: He is back with his owner who is riding him and he is a breeding stallion. One of his sons is competing at PSG. His sons look to have good potential.

    Q. Do you ride and train Iberians differently to warmbloods?

    Gonçalo Carvalho: Yes. It is completely different. Most Iberian horses need to be taught to work with a short base, slowly and in a shorter outline so they can take bigger steps. They are more sensitive, but they have great elasticity and so training is becoming more similar. Iberian horses are great for competition at the higher levels.

    Read the full article about Iberians in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (30 April 2015)

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