Latin American Pan Am Games Hopefuls on Florida’s Winter Circuit

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Yvonne Losos de Muñiz on her Grand Prix horse, Optimus Prime. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 18–Riders from several Latin American nations have joined expatriates living in South Florida and competitors from North America on the intensely competitive winter circuit as they seek to qualify for the Pan American Games, the major international competition in the Western Hemisphere for 2011.

The Pan Am Games are scheduled for Guadalajara, Mexico, in October, the last time they will be a team qualifier for the Olympics if they remain at small tour. The U.S., with its fourth place finish at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, is, so far, the only country from the Americas to qualify for the London Olympics next year.

Riders from Brazil, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela have based themselves in Palm Beach, some at facilities operated in Wellington by Patrick Burssens, the Belgian-born Pan American Games gold medalist who rides for Mexico, and Marco Bernal who is a Pan American silver medalist and World Equestrian Games competitor who competes for Colombia.

Cesar Parra, Colombian-born but who is seeking a place on the U.S. team for the Pan Ams, trains Colombian Eduardo Munoz at Cesar’s Jupiter, Florida, facility. He is also coaching Mauricio Sanchez and Diana Rey in Colombia and is arranging for them to come to Florida to train and compete.

Large numbers of U.S. and Canadian riders with Pan Am aspirations regularly spend winters in Florida and this weekend will begin competing in CDIs–the first CDI, a World Cup qualifier will be held at the Jim Brandon Center in West Palm Beach beginning Friday.

California also has an extensive calendar of competitions with several combinations seeking to qualify for the Pan Ams that are held once every four years.

Palm Beach offers six CDIs over two months, three World Cup qualifiers, two CDI3*s and the World Dressage Masters 5*.

Among the riders in Wellington seeking to qualify for her third straight Pan Ams is Yvonne Losos de Muñiz, a Pan Am medalist in her homeland of the Dominican Republic in 2003, and again at Rio de Janeiro in 2007.

Pia Aragão, the head trainer at Interagro, the largest Lusitano export and breeding operation in the world based in Sao Paulo, is one of at least two Brazilians planning to compete at the Florida winter dressage shows seeking to represent their nation. Pia will also be preparing horses for the Lusitano Collection International Horse Auction in Wellington on Feb. 23–26.

Marco Bernal said he will compete Maybach and Farewell IV that he showed with outstanding success as young horses, and will decide after qualifying competitions which horse to take to Mexico.

Training with him is Jessica McTaggart on Ray of Light for the Cayman Islands, Lourdes de Mirando and Let Kiss of Costa Rica and Angela M. Calle and Chevignon of Colombia.

Alejandro Gomez  and Irina Muro of Venezuela are training at Patrick Burssens’ International Dressage Academy. Monica Burssens, the daughter of Patrick and Marisol and an accomplished rider in her own right, is also seeking to qualify to represent Mexico.