Horse fair in Verona: many highlights and a very special atmosphere
-Published in German in WESTERN HORSE Magazin- January 2020 Author : the criollo breeder and specialist in criollosand sports: Andreas Werderman -CP Criollos
From the 7th to the 10th of November 2019, the Fieracavalli took place for the 121st time in Verona (Italy).
160,000 visitors, 2,400 horses from 60 breeds and 35 breeding associations are expected this year, so advertised the "Fieracavalli" - translated "Horse Fair" - in advance.
The program featured in particular the world-class "Jumping Verona" jumping tournament and the premiere of the ELEMENTA MASTERS, the highely endowed Reining event of the year in Europe, with USD 300,000 to date. For the first time, the Criollo world awaited the FRENO DE EUROPA, a riding competition modeled on the South American FRENO DE ORO, in addition to the European Conformation evaluation, which took place first time in 2011 at the Fieracavalli. Sufficient reasons for me as Reining and Criollofan to make my way to Verona, which lies just south of the Alps in the picturesque Veneto, between Milan and Venice.
Celebrate A Fair!
On the Brenner there were already the first snowfalls, south of the Alps, however, I expected at times even T-shirt weather, a pleasant contrast to the dreary November gray at home - what a surprise! The next pleasant surprise awaited me on entering the fairgrounds "Veronafiere": The modern congress center, where the main entrance to the fair is located, is followed by a spacious outdoor area with a large gastronomic area, where early at 9:00 clock -it smelled aromatic of grilled specialties! The food court offered in addition to the local pizza and regional specialties also grilled up to the 500-gram T-bone steak!
Between the twelve halls and the large outdoor arena are wide corridors through which sometimes a herd of free-range horses or stately Maremma cattle was driven, flanked by the "Butteri" called Italian cowboys. Of the twelve halls on the exhibition grounds, ten were used to showcase the 60 horse breeds and the equestrian sports events. In addition to the Show Jumping Warmup area, a hall housed a B2B exhibition area, and only one hall remained for the merchandising that is so widespread at German fairs. Nevertheless, it did not feel as if you were underserved by with offers for riding equipment. In the evenings, the outdoor area turned into a party mile with a huge saloon and country live music, as well as an equally large marquee with live mood songs. In fact, it felt as if you pay the entry fee for being able to learn more about horses, seeing interesting equestrian events, getting a rich show program, and gaining access to the party mile. The proverbial Italian warmth and hospitality in addition to the appealing gastronomy made sure that you felt completely at home on the Fieracavalli. Summarized: "celebrate a fair" receives a refreshing new definition on the Fieracavalli.
Two of the twelve halls were reserved for Western riding. In one there were speed disciplines like Polebending and Barrel-Race with national and international competitors - and in the other hall there was the NRHA ELEMENTA MASTERS, from Thursday to Sunday Reining at a high level. The audience interest was very high in both halls, you almost always thought that the riders were performing in front of a full house - until on Saturday evening during the Open & Intermediate- and Limited Open as well as the Freestyle Reining, it felt like it was when the bleachers are filled to capacity, the mood was terrific, and Boris Kook at his best fought to keep viewers going during the frequent drag-times with the onlookers' cameras. The $ 300,000 added prize money of the ELEMENTA MASTERS in Europe was topped in 2019 only by the IRHA Futurity in Cremona (Italy, 22.-30.11.2019), where there was 527,000 euros in prize money.
The $ 101,000 highest-grossing competition was the NRHA Open on Saturday night: Canadian Morey Fisk scored highest with 226.5 and won on 11-year-old Chicks Smokingun (Gunner) owned by Sabine Schmid. Ann Fonck on Gunners Specialolena (Gunners Special Nite) and Cira Baeck on Phantom Face (Pale Face Dunnit), scored a 225.5. The Reining-enthusiastic spectators were already in celebratory mood after the exciting decision in the NRHA Open, this was further increased by the following Freestyle Reining: Cira Baeck won as a "Wonder Woman" on Phantom Face with an amazing 231.
But the most emotional contribution was certainly provided by Gina Schumacher with the 6-year-old Lilbellicimo Wimp BB (Wimpy's Little Step), who celebrated a homage to her father Michael in the complete Ferrari outfit including the Formula 1 helmet!
European premiere and family reunion of Criollo fans from around the world
For the first time in 2011, the Italian National Criollo Breeders Association , Associazione Nazionale Allevatori Cavallo Criollo (ANACC), held a conformation contest for Criollos at the Fieracavalli, a program favored by the Veronafiere, contributing to the diversity of the Fieracavalli. The spectators really liked the Criollos presented at the Fieracavalli, told me Giuseppe Bonacina, ANACC President since 2018.
You can read articles about Fiera Cavalli 2018 en Criollo-Horse (Spanish):
In order to make the presentation more varied, they planned the "Freno de Europa" for 2019, a riding competition not only based on the name of the most important contest of the South American Criollo world, the "Freno de Oro". Francisco Kessler Fleck, President of the Brazilian Criollo Association (ABCCC), describes the Freno de Oro (Portuguese: "Freio de Ouro") as a very complete test with maneuvers we know from the Reining, such as Sliding stops, Spins, Speedcontrol, but also cattle work and a presentation of the horses without a bridle on the hand to assess the conformation.
The status of Freno de Europa in the Criollo world is best recognized by the announcement of a 16-member delegation from the Brazilian Breeding Association - including its President Francisco Kessler Fleck - and a 12-member delegation from the Uruguayan Breeding Association, including board members Dr. Mártin Gurmendez and Alma Elorza Aznares, who is in the meantime representative of the international umbrella organization of criollo breeding called "Federación Internacional de Criadores de Caballos Criollos".
Of course, the Freno de Europa was only a slimmed-down version of the Freno de Oro - without cattle disciplines and spins. It began with the morphology evaluation, the assessment of the conformation, which made 37.5% of the total result: The horses are first ridden under the saddle in the three basic gaits all in a row on the circle, then they were unsaddled and presented individually on the hand.
¡South American and Western ridden horses in the same ranking!
Already during the warm-up, we noticed: at the Freno de Europa, South American and Western ridden horses were in the same ranking! Francisco Kessler Fleck explains: "We want to promote our horses and not our culture, so in the Freio de Ouro and the Freno de Europa, the presentation of horses in Western outfit and equipment is generally allowed."
Then came the riding disciplines, first "Andares y Mansedumbre": In the "Andares" - in English "gaits" - the horses are individually presented on the circle in walking and trotting and in both directions at a gallop, between the gallop on the left and right hand a flying gallop change takes place. The judges want to see a rideable horse in basic gaits, as they are ideal for ranch work, to be fluent and fit well, with the trot accounting for 50% of the overall morphology rating. The "Mansedumbre", in English "gentleness" or "quality of taming", is not part of the Freio de Ouro, but was implemented at the request of the ANACC: The rider stops in front of the judges, who were during the entire examination in the middle of the track, dismounts, raises each hoof one after the other, and sits up again.
This is followed by the "Figura": a course marked with "hay bales" consisting of two slalom courses, four voltes and a "figure eight" is to ride at a gallop, see photo. The course is not ridden on time, but the rideability of the horse is to be seen by the fact that it should be ridden while controlled, but as fast as possible, the voltes should be as close as possible. The total of six required flying gallop changes are to jump exactly in the middle between the "hay bales". The judges want to see on the straights between the voltes a speedcontrol with significant speed increase and slowdown before the volt. The horse opening the mouth or striking with the tail lead to point deduction, as well as cross gallop or too slow execution.The course size had to be adjusted at the Freno de Europa to the dimensions of the arena 22.5 by 55 meters, in South America significantly larger arenas are available.
The Figura was followed by "Rayadas o Esbarradas", twice Rundown and Slidingstop, as well as a back-up in front of the judges, Francisco Kessler Fleck and Frederico Araujo from Brazil. The judges award a score between 0 - not executed - and 10 - perfect - for each maneuver.
Professional South American Freno de Oro riders are not allowed to participate. As the Freio de Ouro is a breeding selection test, as well as the Freno de Europa, only stallions and mares are allowed, both genders are considered separately.
The winners of the Freno de Europa
Freno de Oro de Europa - stallions ranking
In the stallions ranking "Patron Chico Engarrotao" won under his rider Aurore Descombes from France. The 17-year-old Engarrotao, called Tagua, perhaps the only horse in the world that has been successful in both the NRHA and in long distance races up to 90 kilometers, goes down in history with victory in the first Freno de Europa. Aurore scored high on the good Reining-based rideability of her Tagua, which she imported from Argentina in 2006. In the early years she promoted him successfully on long distance races. Then she came to Western riding in 2014 and began to train the then 12 -year-old Tagua Reining. Meanwhile, they scored at the NRHA France over 70, and they have already received a Plus 1.5 on the stop. Aurore has been riding since childhood, first English, dressage and jumping. She is obviously as versatile as her horse because she practiced as a lawyer before opening her own fashion label YACANA, offering South American fashion and Parisian flair in an Ecuador-Peru-France partnership (www.yacana -paris.com).
In preparation for the Freno de Europa, Aurore participated in two courses by Uruguayan professional coach Daniel Berhouet, one in Uruguay and one in Italy in June 2019. "Criollos are very special horses - strong in character, talented and very versatile. My horse Patron Chico Engarrotao is the best example of how one horse can make different careers in his life, and we have shown to the Reiners among the the Criollo riders it is possible to participate in the Freno de Europa with a Reining trained horse and even to win - so come guys (and girls), we meet for the second Freno de Europa 2020! "
Aurore told me at the end of the interview, that she incidentally received a lot of positive feedback for their victory by women from South America, because the equestrian world in South America is largely dominated by men.
Freno de Plata - stallions ranking
The second place of the Freno de Europa classification for the stallions was taken by the only 22-year-old Austrian Johanna Lahnsteiner on her criollo stallion Sin Frontera Chiripa, called Chiri. Johanna started riding lessons in classical dressage at the age of five. Even their parents are enthusiastic riders, so that they already took full-day rides at the age of seven years, together on holiday in Argentina. From childhood fascinated by the South American way of riding, meanwhile Johanna spends every winter in Argentina and works on an estancia together with the gauchos. Thus, it is not surprising that Johanna presents her Chiri in South American riding style and outfit.
"The saddle that I use, Recado, is typical of Argentina, it is more of a seat cushion than a saddle and consists of the sudadera, a canvas padding that prevents sweat from entering the saddle and several mats of sheep or Alpaca wool, matras and peleros. On top of these lies the basto, the "tree" made up of two flexible leather reels filled with straw or wool, which rest on the back muscles of the horse without straining the spine. On top of that, there is a sheepskin, the Cuero, fastened to sit softly, the Recado is made to allow the rider to spend a long time in the saddle - ten hours are no problem for me, "says Johanna.
Overall, the South American riding style is largely based on the working equitation of the Gauchos and is designed to spend the whole day in the saddle. It reminds me a lot of Western riding forty years ago, when the rider's legs were off the horse and the horse's head was still up at the stop.
However, there are also differences in the riding style among the South Americans: Specifically with the Brazilian professional rider Guto Freire, four times Freio de Ouro winner and member of the Brazilian Fieracavalli delegation, I noticed that during the warm-up, he used leg aids with much feeling more frequently than any other South American. Is this one of the reasons for his outstanding achievements in South America?
Freno de oro, plata y bronce -femele ranking
Enrico Pavese - Triple winner of the Freno de Europa
The Freno de Europa of the mares was dominated by the Italian Enrico Pavese: He took the first three places with the four-year-old mares Jalapeña, Josefina and Jacinta, who are all bred in Germany by Benjamin Philipp and all have the suffix "De Baviera". Jalapeña is owned by Giuseppe Bonacina and his wife Simona, Josefina and Jacinta are owned by Enrico Pavese and his wife Ilenia.
Ilenia and Enrico also run a riding center in addition to the Criollo breed "El Tradicional". Enrico started riding Classical English 14 years ago at the age of 11, then Western and Californian Vaquero Style. A few years ago he came into contact with Criollos and the South American riding style through Giuseppe Bonacina and his wife Simona. Enrico attended a number of clinics where Uruguayan trainers demonstrated how to ride young horses and he was impressed with the way they gained access to the horse and the great learning they achieved in no time. Especially Daniel Berhouet from Uruguay, modern horse trainer of the "Doma Racional", was formative for Enrico. With him he already organized two courses in his riding center. The transition to South American riding was initially difficult for them: "But when we started to understand the new balance and smooth sensibility in controlling the horses, we discovered a completely new world," said Enrico. In addition to Daniel Berhouet, his fellow student Felipe Pesce Duran taught several times at the Equestrian Center of the Paveses. Enrico's preparation was completed, last but not least, by two South American stays in 2019, during which time he was also able to learn from Guto Freire in Brazil. Enrico crowned his intense preparation with his triple triumph at the first Freno de Europa of the mares!
El Freno de oro, de Plata y Bronce categoria hembras
On Sunday, the last day of the fair, everyone was looking forward to a special highlight: The Freno de Europa winners competed with the South American professional riders in the"Desafio de las Estrellas", the "Competition of the Stars". The pattern was the same as the Freno de Europa but without morphology rating.
Guto Freire won in this competition with the Brazilian stallion Loco de Bueno Mapoche, owned by Vittorio Rabboni, who breeds Criollos under the brand name "Cabaña La Matilda" in addition to the "Rabboni Performance Horses" riding center which is well-known in Reining circles- Loco de Bueno Mapoche was placed in Level 2 in 2013 with Uruguayan professional rider Gabriel Diano in the USA NRHA Derby Open Top-10-. By the way, Aurore Descombes finished second with her stallion on Sunday in the "Competition der Stars" behind Guto Freire, ahead of Enrico Pavese with his Josefina de Baviera. In fourth place came Juan Pablo González on Fogo De Chao Do Capao Redondo, a second South American professional rider on a Reining-trained Criollo owned by Vittorio Rabboni. Incidentally, Vittorio bought these two stallions from João Marcos de Arruda Pires, who also bred Criollos alongside Quarter Horses at his Cardinal Ranch in Texas until 2015. João Marcos de Arruda Pires is still connected to the Criollos - I met him in Verona at an international meeting of Criollo breeders - even though the main reason for his visit to the Fieracavalli was the ELEMENTA Reining.
This was also the conclusion of Francisco Kessler Fleck, because especially the very well-prepared Enrico Pavese with the three horses presented by him handled with the limited space in the 55-meter arena as well as Aurore Descombes with her rode Patron Chico Engarrotao and the South American professional riders.
The audience interest was great - the whole event took place in front of full ranks. Breeders from Italy, Brazil, Uruguay, France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany met, closed and intensified friendships - a meeting of Criollo breeders from seven nations as on the Fieracavalli has not even existed in South America!
I think they will come back and bring others with them, when ANACC and its chairman Giuseppe Bonacina will invite to the Freno de Europa on the Fieracavalli in 2020. Next time, they plan to supplement the Freno de Europa with a Freno de Oro cattle discipline, Giuseppe Bonacina told me. For him, the Fieracavalli is a place of friendship between peoples and an international meeting place of the Criollo scene. This and much more is the Fieracavalli. And that's why I will also travel to Verona in November 2020 and celebrate a fair.
Poster Uruguayan Criollo breed "The Criollo reduces distances, it breaks language barriers, the passion for these horses connects us," said Gilvane Marca dos Santos in the summer of 2019 ("Reining-Criollos" Part 1 WESTERN HORSE June 2019). The same opinion: The Uruguayan Criollo breed association SCCCU on the poster at the ANACC booth: "Our language is the Criollos".
Pictures from: * Professional photofrapher: FAGNER ALMEIDA * The Author Andreas Werderman * Benoît Bordonado