Meet the veteran stallion winning a medal for his final dance – ‘He gives his heart for me’

  • Rodolpho Riskalla always puts his heart and soul into his performances, but today’s grade IV freestyle at the Orifarm Healthcare FEI World Para Dressage Championships was even more emotional than usual.

    Tears filled the Brazilian rider’s eyes as he rounded the corner onto his last centre line, because this was the conclusion to his beloved horse Don Henrico’s last ever dressage test. The Don Frederico stallion, who is out of a Lauries Crusador mare, is 19 now, and will be retiring after the World Para Dressage Championships – not that he looked as though he needs to stop competing. But Rodolpho is keen to let the horse bow out on a high, and that he certainly did as he claimed his second individual bronze medal of the week.

    It was a captivating test set to Latino music, their routine filled with complex sequences and featuring flowing half-passes plus flying changes every five strides.

    “It’s been a roller coaster week between the preparation and coming here, but he was so good to ride today,” said an emotional Rodolpho, who said that, after quite bit of build up over the week, this was the last ride he had dreamed of for this horse.

    “I’m really pleased and overwhelmed. I’m emotional that is was his last championship test, but also so happy that he gave me so much. What more could I want? It’s been amazing.”

    World Para Dressage Championships Rodolpho Riskalla and Don Henrico

    Rodolpho Riskalla and Don Henrico celebrate their final test at the World Para Dressage Championships

    Over the past five years, Don Henrico has lifted Rodolpho’s career into another dimension, winning him double world silver in 2018 and individual Paralympic silver in 2021. The stallion belongs to Gestut Schlafhof, a training and competition centre in Germany, where Rodolpho first tried him after a tip-off from Schlafhof’s owner Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff.

    “When he came to me, he was difficult in the beginning, and we have had tough times because he’s very sensitive. But he’s always been there for me and he knows when he’s here for a big thing and he gives his heart for me. We’ve built an amazing bond.”

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