Silvia Rizzo's trademark platinum blonde hair and blue sunglasses are a familiar sight on the winter dressage circuit in South Florida this season. Add Rizzo's special brand of bling to the flashy bay-black Oldenburg stallion she's brought toWellington, Donnerbube 2, and you'll understand why the pair has amassed a fan club.
Her bubbly personality paired with her style in the show ring while riding the licensed breeding stallion she affectionately calls "Bubi" has created a loyal following in South Florida.
Rizzo, a native of Italy who lives and trains in Germany at her own Hof Marabunta, will ride Donnerbube 2 in the Wellington Classic Spring Challenge CDI3* at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, Feb. 8-10. They will compete in Friday's Grand Prix and Sunday's Grand Prix Freestyle.
Fans have enjoyed watching Rizzo and Bubi in their Grand Prix Freestyle with its upbeat music showcasing Bubi's penchant for passage. She enjoys a close relationship with her horse. "It's something really special," she said with a smile. "We grew up together. We really know each other−we understand each other since the beginning. When I am walking with him, I understand if he is in a good mood or a bad mood−I can feel this. I can feel that he is so happy when we are going to the prize giving ceremony. He is happy that I am happy, and that he was able to bring me there."
She and Bubi are aiming for the 2013 ECCO FEI European Dressage Championships in Denmark in August by preparing with performances at mainstays around the globe, including the exclusive CDI4* invitation-only in Doha, Qatar, and the CDI 5* Falsterbo in Sweden. "I want to keep going and show him on this level, in big shows with these good results, to bring me to the Europeans in top form and ready," she explained.
This is Rizzo's first time competing in the United States, and she's already making plans to return. She intends to spend several months in Florida next winter,
arriving in December and staying through the end of March, planning a full competition schedule and hoping to schedule some clinics. Her partner Michele Betti, an internationally acclaimed eventing and show jumping trainer and the former Italian Olympic team eventing coach, will be at her side and available for lessons as well. In addition, with a large, established network of clients across three disciplines, both Rizzo and Betti can help riders find the ideal horse in Europe.
"This experience is amazing for me and I already look forward to returning next year," she said. "I really like the atmosphere, the public and all the riders." She enjoys the friendliness of the Florida crowd, noting the support that riders and spectators have given her. "Everything is fantastic, and the people are really supporting you," she said. "And it's amazing. I was shocked, but I was so happy to feel that they are really all together and next to you."
Her love of the area extends beyond the results she's had at the shows and the fan club she and Bubi have collected. Although she has been putting most of her energy into working with her horse, Rizzo has been enjoying the Florida scenery and attractions, visiting the beach and Disney World, where she proudly had her photograph taken with Mickey Mouse.
Rizzo said she has many to thank for their support while in South Florida including sponsors Accademia Italiana, a brand of upscale equestrian clothing, Selleria Pariani, an Italian producer of leather goods, Craig Bernstein with Triple Crown Feed, and Katharina Stumpf, a friend who has helped with logistics while in the U.S.