Marlon Módolo Zanotelli knows he’s one of the luckiest riders out there. The 26-year-old Brazilian got the ride on Clouwni, his partner at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, thanks to a bout of unexpected patriotism, and he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity, sitting 11th after three days of competition.
Third generation horseman Zanotelli grew up learning from his father, Brazilian eventer Mario Zanotelli, who packed his four kids in the truck and drove around the country for a spell to qualify for the South American Games. Despite his father encouraging him to give the galloping lanes a try, Marlon caught the show jumping bug and went to work for Ludo Philippaerts in 2008. He did a stint at Stephex Stables and went back to Brazil before settling in Belgium.
Marlon first threw a leg over Clouwni after U.S. rider Erin Characklis Hesse campaigned him at two-star shows through the 1.45-meter level. A month later he brought the 11-year-old Holsteiner (Colman—Odessa XVII, La Zarras) to the Lisbon CSIO (Portugal) to compete in a few 1.50-meter classes. But when his main mare overreached the day before grand prix day, Marlon tacked up Clouwni on a whim. Over the bigger fences Clouwni surprised everyone by jumping better than ever, barely grazing the last fence.
All of a sudden everyone noticed the chestnut gelding, and before long offers started rolling in, and Marlon was sure their days together were numbered. At the 2013 Chantilly Global Champions Tour (France) he had an expected surprise. Brazilian stalwart Doda de Miranda offered to buy half the horse with his wife Athina Onassis de Miranda so Marlon could keep the ride for Brazil and ride him at a championship level through at least the World Games. After all, Brazilian riders were a bit short of horseflesh, and the Clouwni-Marlon combination was getting better all the time.
“What he did for me was amazing,” said Marlon. “I didn’t expect that at all. We were friends, but I didn’t expect that from him. It was like something a dad does for a son, not friends for one another. I’ll be thankful to him and Athina for my whole life. And they give me great support in the stables, too, because the horse stays with them.”
That paid off when Brazil won team silver at the debut Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final (Spain) thanks to Clouwni’s rounds, each of which earned a single time fault. More recently he jumped two clear rounds at the Nations Cup at La Baule CSIO (France) and finished second in a class in St. Tropez (France.)
And in France, where Marlon’s making his World Games debut, Clouwni’s continued his great performances. Two clear rounds helped the Brazilian team finish fifth and gave the whole team confidence heading toward the 2016 Olympic Games, which will take place at home in Rio de Janeiro.
“I’m very, very happy to qualify for the final at my first championship,” said Marlon. “It’s a big step for me.
“He’s a super horse,” he continued. “He’s really kind in the stables, and everyone loves him. There he’s always sweet, and in the ring he fights for you. He has all the scope in the world, and he’s super careful. You just need to give him time in the ring and he’ll jump a clear round for you.”
Check out all the Chronicle’s show jumping coverage here, and follow along with all the news from all the sports at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.