A rider who is willing to lend his top horse to a teammate for no less than a Nations Cup competition is rare, if not impossible to find.
But Paulo Santana looks at the sport from a big picture perspective. And for him, that means building depth among the ranks of the country he represents.
Santana, who switched flags from his native Brazil four years ago to represent El Salvador in international competition, has worked to build depth in horses and riders for the nation. He’s been a part of El Salvador’s first CSIO4* Nations Cup teams in 2016 and 2017, at Ocala and Wellington.
And so has his best horse Taloubet—albeit with a different rider—this year. Santana gave his teammate Diego José Muyshondt the opportunity to be on the 2017 CSIO4* Nations Cup teams for Ocala and Wellington by loaning him the 17-year-old KWPN gelding (Baloubet du Rouet x Quidam Du Revel). With the veteran show jumper in top shape and feeling better than ever, Santana trusted him to give a good performance with Muyshondt, who is also a friend.
“I think this is the spirit of the sport, we talk about Olympic committees and Olympic Games, but we have to think about the sport and the nation and the flag more than the money,” Santana explained. “I think people are a little bit losing the difference between the Olympic sport and the professional sport. Sometimes they go together, and in this case, we need to help each other, otherwise we will never exist.”
Building depth for El Salvador is an ongoing process, and Santana hopes that in the furture, the team will be able to keep adding riders and horses. This year, the rides on Taloubet gave Muyshondt valuable Nations Cup experiences that the team can continue on with.
“On of the points of our change of nationality was that we would give our best sport for the country, to be in more team competition, and try to have representation in the big international classes,” Santana says. He also rode in both Nations Cup classes, with his second mount Chacco Blue.
Santana was back in Taloubet’s saddle on Thursday, March 23, 2017, when he rode to a meaningful victory in the $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup CSI5*, Round 11. Santana and Taloubet have notched consistent finishes around the world during their partnership, but Thursday’s finish was their first CSI5* win.
For Santana, who has owned and ridden his chestnut partner with the distinctive white face markings for nearly a decade, keeping his partner fit and sound is a top priority. The gelding follows a strict, high cardio program that includes “everything!” Santana describes. “He is a rock, he could probably jump with three legs. We just try to keep his stamina high with lots of flatwork, treadmill, water treadmill, everything. Not so many jumps, just a few gymnastics. I basically try to copy my own workout for him.”
That fitness program is working; Taloubet and Santana were coming off a double clear, 4th place performance in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping CSI3*-W Ocala at Live Oak Plantation just two weeks ago, and with this WEF victory in their pocket, they now look forward to Saturday’s Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* at WEF with extra confidence. No matter the rider, Taloubet is a standout horse, but with Santana, the pair have something special between them.