Ocala, Fla.—March 25
When Geronimo Marcello Viana Ciavaglia arrived at the WEC Grand Arena at 6:30 p.m. to walk the course for the $250,000 Mars Equestrian Grand Prix, the Brazilian rider discovered he’d made an error in timing. The course designed by Kevin Holowack, Bernardo Costa Cabral, Bobby Murphy and Chris Bernard had already closed, and the leadline competition had begun.
So instead, he had to rely on info gathered from other riders and watching.
“I see Sharn [Wordley, who jumped the first clear round] with a big horse do six strides for the wall [at Fence 3], and I say, well, my horse, he has a very big stride. I’m going to do six strides also.”
His plan paid off, and he and HST Cartouche had one of five clear rounds to advance to the jump-off. Viana Ciavaglia sat in the middle of the jump-off order, and as the pathfinder Wordley had put in a careful clear round with Bull Run’s Risen, while Cian O’Connor (Eve D’Ouilly) had one down.
He put in a nail biting performance, galloping up to a vertical-oxer combination where HST Cartouche cast magic to keep the rails in the cups. And when the pair turned towards the final fence on course, Viana Ciavaglia kept his foot on the gas.
“I think, ‘Jump the oxer and go very very forward for the double and do like nine strides,’ ” he said of his plan, to which his fellow podium finishers Wordley (second) and European gold medalist Andre Thieme (third) expressed shock that he’d done that few strides.
“But I think maybe it’s better in the entry with the vertical, maybe it’s better put a close distance to the vertical, not a long distance, and I start to try closing, but he say, ‘no don’t worry, I go,’ and now I say now trouble. And he jumped clean!” he said, disbelief evident in his voice. “The vertical, when we jumped clean, [I thought] OK [kick on], and he jumped the oxer, and now I’m going to do the best. He do all the job. The truth is my horse, he do all the job. For the last one I see a very far distance. I go, go I say maybe one more … and he jump clean; he’s an amazing horse. He’s incredible. Very good mind, very good heart. I love him.”
Watch their winning jump-off, courtesy of WEC Ocala:
Viana Ciavaglia, who resides in Brazil, has had the ride on the 12-year-old stallion since HST Cartouche was 6 years old. He took his time bringing the stallion along and described him as an incredible partner—to the point where both Wordley and Thieme said they were ready to buy him.
“I don’t know how he’s so elastic, but he’s very very elastic,” he said. “When you start to trot him, you say, eh, maybe he not going to jump. He trot and all the time he doing ehh, ehh, ehh, and when you start in the gallop and the canter he grow like one meter. He have a gallop, a canter, he go so high and forward. He’s an amazing horse. [He goes] without a martingale or spurs, nothing. He just jump. You ask; he do it. It’s incredible. It’s a dream. I think everybody try to have a horse like this.”
This was Viana Ciavaglia’s second time coming to the United States to compete. He came to Wellington three years ago, but the 45-year-old has been dreaming of coming to Ocala since he was 17 after a friend told him about the area.
“For me it’s a dream. It’s unbelievable. I never see something like this,” he said. “It’s perfect for the horses. If someone love horses, come to Ocala because everything’s so good for the horse, also for the riders. The prize money, the course, the arenas, everything’s perfect. I come back to Brazil a better rider.”
Wordley was a little shocked to find himself on the podium at all this weekend. He had just purchased his mount, Bull Run’s Risen, on March 16, and they had two classes to get to know one another before the evening’s grand prix.
“I think it was beginner’s luck, because he’s 17 years old that horse,” he said. “I just bought him from Kristen VanderVeen. He’s been very successful with her. But he’s renowned, everybody, all the riders know when they watch that horse what a massive stride he has. He’s done some exceptional things in his career, so I’ve never had a horse like that. I’ve never had one that scopey. I’ve never had one with a stride like that. So I was a little bit unsure what I was going to do, and I just had a go, and we were second. I’m just as shocked as you are!”
Thieme’s mount, Paule S, is also on the newer side for him, and he couldn’t have been more thrilled with the way the night ended.
“I can’t even say how happy I am about that horse,” he said. “I would never ever—I brought him six weeks ago from Europe, and I thought if I get lucky I can do one grand prix towards the end. He now did three grand prixs, and he’s brought a smile on my face every time he’s gone and jumped so big.”
Click here for full results.
2023 WEC Ocala - $250,000 Mars Equestrian Grand Prix
Kimberly Loushin / March 26, 2023 3:20 am