It is a pleasure for me as Mayor of A Coruña to be able to write these lines after almost two years without high-level competitions at the Casas Novas Equestrian Centre, a world-class equestrian centre that represents a great opportunity for our city and its surroundings, both for giving citizens the opportunity to attend top-level equestrian events, and for being able to show the beauty and potential of A Coruña and Galicia to the hundreds of people who visit us. The return of the riders to Casas Novas will be especially exciting, because this will also be the 40th edition of the International Equestrian Competition of A Coruña.
Since 2000, we have had the privilege of hosting a competition that brings together the best riders in the world. After the break forced by the pandemic, I am confident that this event will offer the same splendour and magnificent organisation as its predecessors.
The link between A Coruña and Casas Novas is not limited to these international competitions. It goes much further, with great work promoted by the centre during the rest of the year, encouraging the practice of horse riding and making it accessible to all ages and levels. There are many benefits that Casas Novas brings to the city and its surroundings which cover different areas.
Therefore, as Mayor of A Coruña, I must not forget to thank you for promoting an initiative that over the last two decades has made our city and its metropolitan belt an international benchmark for horse riding enthusiasts, and which has also served to raise awareness and disseminate the practice of horse riding among thousands of citizens. I would also like to thank all the workers at Casas Novas who make this possible.
The celebration of the 40th edition of the Casas Novas International Show Jumping Competition is very good news not only for people from all over the world who are fond and enthusiastic about riding, but also for Galicia and the world of sport, since it means recovering a relevant and prestigious event, after the cancellations to which this and other sporting events were unfortunately forced by the pandemic.
This return reflects the great effort of the organization to make this edition possible, while Galicia’s ability to overcome each of the obstacles of the different levels of the pandemic. In this unprecedented health and socioeconomic crisis, the Galician Government has given itself with the same security, efficiency and conviction as any rider in an extremely vital competition, in which it knows that it cannot fail and that it must give its best. We have done so and now it is time to resume the path of normality with prudent but sure steps, in sport and at the highest level.
Behind the achievement that Galicia once again hosts the World Cup of Equestrian Jumping there is an enormous will and commitment of Galician professionals, companies and entities that have been carrying out this equestrian event of international reference for 21 years.
I thank you and congratulate you for not giving up on your efforts, despite the difficulties and uncertainty that the outbreak of the coronavirus meant, and for allowing us to enjoy again, during these three days of December, the authentic spectacle of seeing in Galicia the skill of elite riders, such as those who compete in Larín.
As president of the community that receives you as host, guarantee you, whether you attend as participants or as an audience, the safe destination that you will find these days in A Coruña, in particular, and throughout Galicia, in general. And not exclusively for sporting events of this magnitude, but for any activity, also cultural and leisure, taking into account the special Xacobeo that we are commemorating, and that does not come to an end with 2021. Its exceptional biennial character will allow the celebrations to be extended throughout 2022.
I encourage you to enjoy Galicia in Xacobeo, a unique celebration that will allow you to know in a unique and unrepeatable way the rich cultural, artistic, landscape and gastronomic heritage of our land, identitarily welcoming.
Welcome back to the Casas Novas International Jumping Competition. Welcome back to our, and your Galicia.
On behalf of the Fédération Equestre Internationale, I am pleased to welcome you to A Coruña for another exciting leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World CupTM Western European League 2021/2022. Over the next few days we will once again have the privilege of watching grace and power come together at this great venue, as some of the world’s best partnerships come together to chase precious FEI World CupTM points.
We have all gotten used to the changes over the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is great to see that this important event - which had to be cancelled in 2020 - can now unfold. It is thanks to the collective efforts of passionate organisers such as the Oxer team, as well as all the experts that have contributed to the FEI Calendar Task Forces and our Return to Play resources, and tools such as the FEI Policy for Enhanced Competition Safety during the COVID-19 pandemic that our athletes are able to compete safely.
The FEI Jumping World CupTM is a series with tremendous history and prestige created in 1978, and then extended to the disciplines of Dressage (since 1984) and Driving (since 2001). The concept is simple: a global series where athletes compete at multiple events in order to earn their place at the final, alongside the world’s best, and a shot at the ultimate indoor trophy in each of the disciplines. This year in FEI Jumping, 11 qualifiers will provide athletes the possibility to obtain their ticket for the prestigious final, which will be held in Leipzig (GER) 6-10 April 2022.
The format of the FEI World CupTM series guarantees edge of your seat competitions whilst showcasing the fantastic bond between horse and human; and the trust, communication, hard work and patience involved. It is this bond which enables impressive feats of athleticism to be achieved and the core around which the whole FEI community revolves.
Longines has been a valuable partner for us over the years, and we are proud to have extended this partnership to the Longines FEI Jumping World CupTM Western European League, along with their continued commitment to the North American and China leagues and the pinnacle event, the Longines FEI Jumping World CupTM Final. Their support has, and continues to be significant in securing the continued growth and success of Equestrianism.
I would like to thank the organisers, officials, supporters and volunteers for their hard work and dedication. Without your enthusiasm and expertise, our sports would not be able to thrive; I’d also like to pay tribute to the many horse-owners, and to the skills of the breeders of the amazingly talented horses who have lifted the profile of FEI Jumping so that it has a massive following around the world.
To the athletes and their invaluable support teams, I wish the very best of luck!
Lastly, to all the fans, I hope you enjoy every minute our sport has to offer.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear equestrian sports enthusiasts,
As the Official Partner, Official Timekeeper and Official Watch of the C SI 5* - W A Coruña, Longines is proud to be associated with two highlights of the event: the Longines Grand Prix and the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Western European League.
As the Title Partner, Official Timekeeper and Official Watch of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Western European League, we will continue to be a dedicated supporter of showjumping and reinforce Longines’ longstanding ties with the equestrian world that date back to 1869. To further embrace the rich heritage of this revered discipline, we are pleased to cement the event’s world-class status with our unwavering commitment to precision and excellence, the same values shared by many leading athletes in equestrian sports. We look very much forward to supporting the foremost riders vying for success in the leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Western European League in A Coruña.
On this special occasion, we would like to highlight the Official Watch of the event, a new model of The Longines Master Collection. Distinguished by its elegance, character and purity, this refined creation for women, featuring a moon phase indicator, perfectly combines Longines’ watchmaking sophistication and tradition to delight those wishing to pursue both fine watchmaking and timeless style.
I wish you many wonderful and exciting sports moments at CSI 5* - W A Coruña.
40 pages of an unfinished book, written with enormous passion and with many lead authors, as many as people have worked or contributed to enrich and brighten the story. For this special moment we have spoken with some of them, not only to get a first hand account of their experiences, but also to share our happiness and thank them for their invaluable contribution.
Thanks to them, and many others, we have been able to be where we are now. And thanks to them, and many others, we will keep moving forward.
I initially saw the birth of Casas Novas on the back of a horse. Now, feet on the ground, twenty years later, having stopped ridding at a professional level, I witness how, with the same enthusiasm, we try to maintain it among one of the world-renowned destinations for horse riding.
It is eagerly, after two years of being forced to stop due to this world pandemic which has not allowed us to receive the wonderful public and riders who normally come to our venue, that we welcome you all, with open arms, to this 40th edition of the competition.
This is tremendously thrilling and only possible thanks to the enormous effort made by all the team at Casas Novas, by Oxer, to the great support of the town of A Coruña and, of course, to all those riders and the people who belong to this wonderful horse world. This one is the only Olympic discipline where men and women compete with no distinction, where the respect, love for and understanding of the horse is the base of everything. These special characteristics make the equestrian world a unique sport.
We start a new era wishing you enjoy this new World Cup venue and all the marvelous things this town has to offer. Let the show begin!
"Each year, all of us who work at the show are driven by our passion and the unrelenting desire to achieve excellence. Our aim is, and will be, to reach the highest quality."
"I remember visiting Casas Novas' construction site in 1999 and I find amazing the huge, titanic effort that has been done, starting from scratch, to achieve the state-of-the-art venue we find today. Being the course designer is a pleasure, thanks to the quality of the arenas, the undying wish to do things well and the warm relationships."
"We aim for perfection, and for both riders and horses to feel completely at home. In spite of our usual cold weather, we try to make them feel a warm welcome."
"I have a professional relationship with Casas Novas, but I also have a personal and caring bond with it. The venue is amongst the best you can find, and they make me feel at home in them."
"Winning the World Cup at Casas Novas with a horse owned by Marta Ortega was a very special gift for her and for myself. It was the best proof that the trust she had in us had borne its fruits. It is a unique competition for what it offers to riders and horses."
"I was lucky enough to win both the winter and summer’s grand prix. It was one of the first achievements of VDL Groep Zidane and the first year Longines became a sponsor with a huge prize money. Without doubt it was one of my greatest victories."
"Every time I go there, I am struck by the amount of people gathered, when you step into the main arena it is very special, you feel the spectators’ interest and how focused they are on the competition. Being second in the World Cup was a beautiful thing."
"I won a grand prix of the CSI 2* when I was only 16 years old, and this is something I will never forget. Whenever I have the chance, I go to Casas Novas because everything there is thought through for the comfort of the horses and riders."
"Both my horses and me are privileged to be able to work in these facilities every day. Thanks to Casas Novas Galician horse riding got a new boost and I was able to pursue my passion."
"I won two consecutive years the World Cup there and it was memorable, especially the second time, since my parents had just arrived from Australia and we were able to celebrate together. Of Casas Novas I admire the thoroughness on the stables, arenas, and the whole logistics, and the warm treatment they have with everyone, irrespective of your country of origin."
"One can feel the influence of the backer, the tidiness, the cleanness, the good organization, the excellent treatment and the quality of both the venue and the competition. In this indoor arena many horses jump better than in any other shows and that also makes it special. I hope to win a grand prix there someday."
"The first time we were asked to compete there I knew nothing about the place except that it had a good indoor arena, but when I arrived, I was totally impressed. The location and facilities make it a unique place, there’s nothing like it."
"A top venue, closeness, the family ambience, all this makes horses and riders feel great. One of the best competitions of the tour."
"It is a world class competition and I would be thrilled to win a World Cup grand prix there. I really like how they do things at Casas Novas."
Sports events aim their spotlights towards the competition arena and those who do their best to achieve success. In the case of horse riding, horses and riders grab the headlines, draw all the glances and receive the ovations of the crowd that value highly the complicity and harmony between the two lead-players of the sport. But for that relationship to work it is also needed, and many times it is essential, to have the support behind the scenes of other actors that will never attract the limelight nor the headlines.
Among these "supporting roles" that more than once are the key to the success of a good movie, perhaps the most relevant is the groom. Their job, hidden and unnoticed to many, is both essential to the success of both horse and rider or to their failure. What follows is an attempt to shed light on what is in the shadows, to get to know what not many see and to pay homage to a group that has passion as its banner.
The life as an international level competition groom varies between the relative quiet of day-to-day life in the home stables and the frenzy of travelling and competing. Daily routine starts early but follows pre-established patterns that usually change little. During competitions everything goes faster, everything is more unpredictable; there is stress and anxiety but also more excitement; more work and fewer hours to sleep but sometimes there are rewards that warrant and make up for so much effort: “Day-to-day life in the stable is much easier, you know your starting and finishing time. While during competitions it is not like that, but I prefer the adrenaline shot; we ultimately work every day for the show. There is no other feeling as when one of your horses qualifies for a jump-off and wins it.”
According to Álex Azorín, who works for Darragh Kenny and Teddy Vlock, to see your horse at a prize giving ceremony is the climax of the job and what gives meaning to a vocation that is not always rewarding or stimulating. International competition means travelling around the world, getting to know many countries and being part of a thrilling show, but it also comes with a lot of gruelling trips at the wheel of a truck, lots of hours at the stable and the arena, of a draining effort to ensure everything goes well and being far from your home and loved ones. It is the other side, the hidden one, of a vocational pursuit that demands exceptional personal sacrifice and that, in many cases, ends up turning horses into your main family.
Every job is a balance between pros and cons and they can fall to one side or the other, and on this job the good part not always ends up weighing more. For Juan Carlos Pose, who has been 30 years in this trade, “without passion for horses, you won ́t last two weeks because you won ́t have any personal life. If I have lasted as long in this it’s because of that passion, I always had it and still have, it is something you are born with.” Passion is a key word in this job, but Adriano de Freitas, who has been to many competitions with Luciana Diniz, points out another: “Engagement. You may have many good qualities but if you keep checking your watch you will never be a good groom. Small details make the difference.”
Some think that a groom’s job is to prepare the bedding, feeding, grooming and helping the rider at the warm-up arena, but there is much more than this. Most of them drive the trucks from show to show, exercise the horses, some of them ride, most of them know how to urgently fit an untimely fallen horseshoe and apply a treatment prescribed by the vets. All told, they know how to deal and solve the multiple different situations that crop up daily at a stable, some of them of critical importance for the health and performance of the animals.
According to rider Sergio Álvarez Moya: “The groom is vital for us; his job knows no hours and they are constantly devoted to the animals. Most of the time, they are the ones to raise the red flag when something is wrong, when the horse has some small issue that they are able to uncover early. In my case, when I´m not there, they exercise the horses and take them for a walk and to pasture to make them feel good. That is why our success is theirs too and that’s why you must have a special regard for them.” If something is valued by top riders, it is the expertise and proficiency of those who take care of their sports partner with whom they ride.
They are often the doctor that identifies the first symptoms of any ailment or anomaly, and it is on them, up to a certain extent, that the planning is carried out so that performance on the competition arena is the ideal. Lianne Nieuw has been in the trade for years and knows “during the shows it is really important to know how to manage timing, to ensure that the horse reaches the arena competition in optimal conditions. Some of them are eager to compete, others are more nervous and insecure and need human company before entering the arena to be more self-confident, to make them feel calm and relaxed.”
Thoroughly knowing each horse is key when it comes to achieving results but in the relationship with the animals there is also an affective component that can have a huge impact. As Tokyo Olympic medallist Maikel van der Vleuten says, “A horse will give everything it has if they feel cared for from day to day and that, in large part, is thanks to the grooms who knows how to do their jobs, loved them and make them feel loved.”
To achieve this complete bond, understanding and affection, time is needed and, depending on each case, a lot of patience and analytical skills. Each horse, as each person, is a world of its own but they all have certain things in common. For Antony Gy, who has worked for riders such as the French rider Julien Epaillard, “It is not that horses are smart, its more that I believe they have a sixth sense, they cannot be fooled. All throughout history they have been bound to people and have work with them because they are noble and cooperative.”
That as a rule, horses are grateful and noble creatures does not preclude that each of them has their own personality, that you have to respect and adapt to in most cases. Most grooms think that the animals must know who has the final word, but they are also aware that without a mutual understanding, an agreement would never be possible. In Lianne Nieuw opinion, “It is us humans who have to accommodate to them and not the other way around. I think they work for us because we have made the effort to understand how they want to be worked. That’s how the union is achieved.” And only through that union come lasting success, those moments of glory that make up for all the hours of work and dedication.
The spectators at horse shows are used to those effusive celebrations shared between rider, groom and horse, and seen from the side-lines anyone would think that it must be the happiest moment possible in a job that has the ultimate aim of achieve a sport triumph.
But it is not always so, privacy can be much more exciting: “I love competing,” says Álex Azorín, “but, even if it sounds a bit silly, my favourite moment at work is when I listen to my horses feeding. The other day I went to the stable at 10 at night to check that everything was alright, I gave them hay and stayed there for a few minutes just watching and hearing them eat. Everything was quiet and I enjoyed it hugely.”
Liam Nieuw also enjoys those private moments but enjoys even more when she feels a connection with the horse: “I love it when they see me, recognizing me and are happy to see me. I enjoy it a lot when they are on the track, they have done well and, when they are going out, they look at you as if saying: 'Have you seen me?' That special bond you forge with the horse is what I like best of my job: get to really know them, know how to handle them, which are the conditions under which they jump best, what makes them happier.”
Life as a groom is dotted with short moments of happiness but there are also times of great grief, normally when there are loses, injuries or sales.
According to Juan Carlos Pose, “Horses, you love them all but there is always a special one. I remember Wisconsin, it was noble not particularly calm or affectionate, the opposite really, it had a lot of character. That’s why I liked it; I have always been attracted to horses with strong personalities. When it was sold, I had a terrible time, I cried, it was one of my worst moments since I started working.”
The connection between the horse and the groom is the starting point of many sports’ success but, ultimately, it is the rider who has to make the big decisions in a stable, the one who plans and implements the animal's training and the sole person responsible to see that the collective work bears fruit on the competition.
His is the biggest responsibility and his is the glory usually but: “Without a good groom, it is impossible for horses to perform and success to arrive,” says Spanish Olympian Manuel Fernández Saro. “I have had the same groom for 12 years, which goes to show how much I value that work.”
After so many years sharing the stable, competition and a life bond is created with the rider that is difficult to break, words are often not needed: “On the training arena,” says Adriano de Freitas, “most of the time a glance is enough to know what he needs. Over the years, the level of trust you can reach with a rider is even greater than with your wife or son.”
“We,” adds Antona Gy, “spend more time with the horse and so we have to convey to the rider all relevant information, so he knows how to behave. Reciprocal communication is essential but, in the end, he is the orchestra conductor on whom the orchestra's final triumph depends.”
Just like the conductor of an orchestra, who is required to coordinate a range of instruments, the groom must be well versed in various tasks: clean, put on, take off, bandage, braid, shoe, mount, lead, grease, walk, cure, plan, guess, detect, board, medicate, feed, inspire, relax, cut, wash, load, unload, fix. Being a groom is a vocation. It requires strong dedication to a lifestyle and daily challenges that can only be faced with the strength, passion and love horses provide. Seen from outside they may seem as "supporting actors," but no one inside will doubt their leading role.