By Umberto Martuscelli
Photography: Starting Gate Communications and Umberto Martuscelli
Which breeder wouldn’t be delighted to see their own horses under the saddles of riders such as Rodrigo Pessoa, Eric Lamaze and Jur Vrieling. One such breeder has achieved such breeding success thanks to her over-riding passion. So, let’s talk about Franca Zanetti. Or, rather, let’s talk to Franca Zanetti.
We must start, however, with Rodrigo Pessoa. Yes, the formidable Brazilian champion and winner of.... everything! So, first, let’s refresh our memories and at the same time provide some useful information for any readers who are not so familiar with this son of the Brazilian magician, Nelson Pessoa.
Rodrigo Pessoa was born in 1972. He won the World Cup final three years in a row from 1998 to 2000, he won the World Championship in 1998, won individual gold medal at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, won the Rolex Top 10 world final in 2003 and in 2005, won the Calgary CSIO Grand Prix (twice), Rome, Aachen, Rotterdam, Falsterbo (twice)... Which only provide his most significant results. No one is unclear that we are talking about one of the greatest riders in the history of showjumping.
Then, three years ago, Rodrigo Pessoa considered throwing in the towel; completely abandoning high-level competition as a rider and devoting himself to Ireland. The Irish team had employed him as their chef d’equipe and they subsequently celebrated a great victory in becoming team European champions in Gothenburg. “I no longer have competitive and quality horses”, he said, “Also because prices are now prohibitive and really good horses are increasingly difficult to find, even youngsters, so I’d rather let it go and nail my boots to the wall.” This was March 2017.
Now let’s jump forward to July 2019, when Rodrigo Pessoa found himself seriously considering the possibility of participating at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (now 2021) as a rider. But didn’t the Brazilian champion retire? Wasn't he thinking of leaving? Yes.... Except, in the meantime something crucial happened. ‘Something’ that has a name, and also a... surname: her christian name is Quality, the surname is FZ – which stands for Franca Zanetti.
Quality FZ is a bay gelding born in 2009 by Quintender (2001/Holst Quinar x Contender) and Berlina FZ (2005/MIPAAF [Italian Saddle Horse] Berlin x Carneval). Italian born and bred, and a product of Franca Zanetti’s studfarm. Giving Quality FZ to a rider like Rodrigo Pessoa, with his past and, above all, his expectations for what will be, is like providing a starting point to redesign the future. Will there really be an Olympic Games for this fabulous horse? It’s too soon to say, but the mere fact that an exceptional champion like Rodrigo Pessoa is even thinking about is significant. Can you imagine that an athlete with his resumé would even consider such a possibility knowing he might expose himself as an imposter. Or would he rather compete with the certainty that he has the means to live up to his glittering past? Obviously, this is a superfluous question, and an absurd answer, and it’s the reason why Franca Zanetti (31) is exquisitely happy, regardless of what will actually happen... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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