One of the most welcome sights to come out of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida before the event was halted at the weekend was the return to top-level competition for Yuri Mansur and the much-loved chestnut gelding Vitiki.
During a jump-off at Aachen in 2018, the Brazilian rider and his superstar showjumper Vitiki suffered a horrendous fall. The gelding was taken away in a horse ambulance and X-rays revealed a broken off-fore pastern, which was quickly operated on and put in a cast.
Yuri, 40, told H&H about this miraculous road to recovery , which was led by two renowned vets — Jack Snyder, who performed the surgery after the accident, and Marcello Servos.
It took a year of careful recuperation — with several setbacks along the way — but in June last year the pair were able to start popping over small fences at home.
“That was unbelievable,” Yuri told H&H.
The pair returned to competition in September last year, starting at 1.20m level classes.
“It was an emotional day,” he said at the time. “To have this moment once again is an amazing feeling and the way Vitiki is jumping is unbelievable.
“I said to my vets that to start jumping him over 1.20m again was a really small step, but when you look back to where we were just one year ago, it’s a giant step.”
The pair ended the year with a couple more CSI2* shows in Europe before Yuri and his whole team headed to Florida to compete in the 12-week WEF. He and the 12-year-old German-bred gelding jumped their first five-star class at the start of February and last week the pair produced a clear round with just a time-fault when stepping up to 1.50m.
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‘Not for one second did we — me, my wife, my family — stop believing that he would fully recover’
“He’s feeling perfect – just the same as before, maybe even better,” Yuri told H&H after the class.
“The Olympics isn’t the main plan right now, but even the chef d’equipe is starting to believe that there is a little chance because he is improving so much and he’s doing so well every time — so for sure, if he keeps going like this, there is a chance.”
According to Yuri, if the Games are postponed due to coronavirus, it would actually be an advantage.
“The later it is, the better our chances of going,” said Yuri. “But the main thing is he looks like he’s going to have a normal life again — I’m never going to use him every weekend but he can have normal training and go to regular shows.
“He’s feeling good and he’s really enjoying what he’s doing.”
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