Yvonne Losos de Muñiz Back in Competition Arena Two Years After Quitting Sport Over FEI Tactics in Olympic Qualification

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Yvonne Losos de Muñiz competing on Foco Loco.
Yvonne Losos de Muñiz competing on Foco Loco.

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Oct. 20, 2014–Yvonne Losos de Muñiz is back in the show ring and will ride for the Dominican Republic in next month’s Central American Games two years after quitting dressage competition following a bruising and costly transcontinental legal battle with the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) over qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Yvonne, who became coach of the Chilean team though she did not stop riding after the 2012 controversy, changed her mind about competing after finding a nine-year-old gelding named Foco Loco in Belgium while on a horse-hunting trip for clients.

After training with Carl Hester, her longtime coach, she brought the Belgian Warmblood to the United States to qualify for the Central Americans with the the Pan American Games in Toronto next summer as the main goal in 2015.

“When I rode him in Belgium I thought he was the most unattractive thing I’d ever seen,” she told dressage-news.com. “There were no mirrors so I didn’t know what he looked like. He felt really good and very special because he’s hot but so sensible. He’s so big, I couldn’t trot for the first two months. I felt like a real novice.”

Foco Loco in Spanish means “Crazy Flashlght,” but Yvonne said the horse is not loco and her daughter has nicknamed him “Dobby” after the elf in the Harry Potter series.

But his gaits are so big, she has to go to the gym to get fit enough to ride him.

Returning to the competition arena to get qualifying scores on Foco Loco also wasn’t easy coming more than two years after her failed Olympic effort on Liebling II, the horse that Carl rode on Great Britain’s silver medal team at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 and the 2009 European Championships at Windsor, England.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” she laughed. “I was really uptight. I rode like the worst novice ever. I was really rusty.

“It’s amazing how sharp you need to be for the competition ring. It’s one thing to be training, it’s another to be in the ring.”

The 47-year-old mother of two talked it over with her husband, Eduardo, who supported her decision as he has throughout her career in which she won individual bronze medals at the Pan Ams in Santo Domingo in 2003 and at Rio de Janeiro in 2007.

Yvonne based herself and Liebling in the United States competing in CDIs with the required minimum of three foreign judges to seek to claim the sole individual South American place at the 2012 London Games.

Yvonne Losos de Muñiz and Liebling II in their quest to qualify for the London Olympics in 2012. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Yvonne Losos de Muñiz and Liebling II in their quest to qualify for the London Olympics in 2012. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

However. Brazil staged a number of CDIs with a majority of local judges–as they had been allowed to do so in the lead up to the 2010 WEG but the exception was not extended to the 2012 Olympics. Brazilian rider Luíza Tavares de Almeida rode in her home competitions and she finished ahead of the Dominican Republic rider in the Olympic standings.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport found the FEI “oversight” created “more than a little unfortunate”problem but that Brazil should get the Olympic slot because it would be “unfair” to deprive Luíza because she had ridden in qualifying events in the expectation they were conducted properly. After the Olympics, the FEI formally annuled the rule.

In the past two months, Yvonne has attained scores to qualify for the Central American and Caribbean Games in Vera Cruz, Mexico in November.

She is working with former U.S. team coach Anne Gribbons in Florida to put finishing touches on the Prix St. Georges and Intermediate 1 that is the championship that she is loooking to qualify for the Pan Ams. Lisa Tota of Wellington, Florida will go with her to Vera Cruz to be her eyes on the ground as she has been recently.

On her return from Mexico, Yvonne will move Foco Loco to Grand Prix for the Pan Ams that previously had been at small tour but in Toronto will have teams of mixed Big Tour and Small Tour for the first time. Only teams that include Grand Prix combinations and individuals at Grand Prix can qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The pair will compete at the winter-long Global Dressage Festival in Wellington with seven CDIs–four World Cup events, one CDI4*, one CDI5* and a CDIO3* Nations Cup–as well as national shows to prepare for the Pan Ams. She will also compete Urban, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding she has shown at small tour and is a backup to Foco Loco.

Carl Hester is a regular visitor to Wellington in winter to coach several riders, including Katherina Bateson-Chanlder of the United States.