Sports are inherently mental; the mind controls every movement and reaction of even the most well-prepared body. Horse sports are unique in many ways, but particularly when it comes to the power of the mind. It’s a game of skill as much as power, of calculated risk as much as athleticism.

It’s also nerve-wracking as all hell. And not just for the riders.

Riders who are working on their mental game can often be found visualizing their tests and courses, meditating, and working with sports psychologists. But what about their four-legged counterparts? Although the elite horses of international competition may seem invincible, some are surprisingly sensitive - including Laura Graves’ indomitable Verdades.

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During a show as prestigious as the Longines FEI World Cup™ Final in Paris, much fuss is made over the horses and riders, their performance statistics, and the daily results. But what about the individual responsible for creating the challenge so gamely accepted by entrants?

For the World Cup Final and many other show jumping competitions around the world, including the Tokyo Olympics just two years hence, that person is Spanish show jumping course designer Santiago Varela, who has been designing since before he was legally old enough to drive a car.

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