Wellington, Fla. – March 23, 2017 – The second-to-last $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup of the 2017 season was no match for El Salvador’s Paulo Santana and his longtime partner, Taloubet, a 2000 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Baloubet Du Rouet, who raced to victory in the jump-off in 37.47 seconds. Thursday’s feature class of the CSI5* week-long competition attracted a total of 55 horse-and-rider pairs, yet only 16 were able to execute clear rounds over the technical track designed by Brazil’s Guilherme Jorge.
A last-minute decision proved worthwhile for Santana, as he was only able to show in the feature event due to a scratch by Roberto Teran of Colombia.
“We got here at the last second,” said Santana. “This victory I will dedicate to [Roberto] and Colombia. We were calling in 15 minutes before the show office closed.”
In the initial phase with a time-allowed of 77 seconds, Santana navigated the course smoothly and put 74.81 seconds on the clock, despite having a slight issue midway through his ride.
“I had an ugly situation at the oxer before the wall, where he did not pick up his legs,” said Santana. “Luckily [Taloubet] is so fit and so strong behind, he can pick up his legs more in the air. We had to recover and then he came back with his eyes open a little bit more for the final two jumps.”
Although Santana’s partner is 17 years old this year, he says that his rigorous fitness program, consisting of flatwork, cardio and physical resistance, is key to keeping his mount in peak physical condition and able to perform at the 5* level.
“[Taloubet] is the kind of horse that is not going to learn anything else. We have a protocol of jumps that he has on his final career. We keep him sound, safe and comfortable. When I come to the show, I jump as little as I can in the warm-up,” Santana said. “He goes in there and he performs. He feels better than ever. We keep him in a very, very high-intensity program.”
The Brazilian-born rider, who recently switched to competing under the El Salvador flag, said of Taloubet, “He does everything. He’s a rock — he could jump with two legs if he needed to. It’s the only way. We really try to keep his stamina high. He’s a hot horse, so he works himself up on his own just by going to the wash rack.”
Recently, Santana generously allowed his teammate, Diego Muyshondt of El Salvador, to compete his own Taloubet in the $100,000 FEI Nations Cup™ CSIO4* in Ocala.
“We always try to give our best support for the country and team,” said Santana. “We were trying to get representation in some big international classes and we only had a few horses that were available. It was like a catch-ride because [Diego Muyshondt], who rode on the team with me [in Ocala], had to adapt [to a new horse] in two weeks so I decided to give him the most experienced horse to stay away from trouble. Then I used my second or third horse to put a whole team together.”
For El Salvador, the first week of March marked the third time the country has been represented in Nations Cup competition in the $150,000 FEI Nations Cup™ CSIO4* at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
Giving back and supporting his teammates and country is Santana’s philosophy for success.
“This is the spirit of the sport,” said Santana. “When we talk about the Olympic committee or Olympic Games, we have to think of the sport — the nation and the flag — not about the money or anything else. I think people are losing the difference between the Olympic sport and the professional sports. Sometimes they go together, but in this case we really need to help each other otherwise we would never exist.”
After concluding their clear first round performance, Santana had a feeling that their result in the jump-off was going to be a positive one.
“You know when it’s his day. He chases the jumps in the jump-off. You don’t even need to do anything — you just have to stay out of his way. I feel like every time he leaves the ring trotting or walking, we get a good jump-off,” Santana said of Taloubet whom he has been riding for nine years.
Just as Santana suspected, Taloubet was in top-form and edged out the competition in the jump-off, which saw only ten of 16 contenders return for the second round.
“In the jump-off there are fewer jumps in front of him so he chases them,” said Santana. “The quieter he gets, the rounder he goes. So I just need to show him where he’s going and he gets it, like a dog. It’s way easier to run with him than to keep him calm.”
With the $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup CSI5* win under their belt on Thursday afternoon, Saturday night’s feature class is on the horizon for Santana and Taloubet. Santana will aim for a repeat victory in the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* under the lights of the International Ring.
Securing the second place spot was young talent, Lucy Deslauriers, and Lisa Deslaurier’s Hester, with whom she has also had a successful partnership with for some time. The 18-year-old rider just missed the victory, instead galloping through the timers in 37.604 seconds in the jump-off to earn reserve honors behind Santana.
Rounding out the top three placings of the class was Jose Roberto Reynoso and his own Azrael W. The duo executed double-clear performances and finished the short course in 38.393 seconds.
Jumper competition will continue at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center on Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. with the weekend’s highlight event, the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5*, and spectators will watch as Santana and Taloubet try once more to claim the win.