Yvonne Losos de Muñiz & Liebling II Make Olympian Effort to Qualify for London

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Yvonne Losos de Muñiz and Liebling II. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Yvonne Losos de Muñiz and Liebling II have flown across the United States for a single horse show in a last ditch attempt to qualify as the first equestrian from the Dominican Republic in the Olympic Games.

Yvonne, a mother of two children, and the 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Lorentin I will compete in the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair World Cup event in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank.

It is the last opportunity for the pair to earn enough points to overtake Brazil’s Luíza Tavares de Almeida on Samba ahead of the Mar. 1 qualifying deadline.

The competition at Burbank will be tough. Olympians Steffen Peters on Legolas and Günter Seidel on Fandango and seasoned international riders Kathleen Raine on Breanna and Jan Ebeling with Rafalca.

And the competition for the Olympics in the group covering Central and South America is something of a David and Goliath contest.

The Dominican Republic’s 10 million people share a Central American island with Haiti and has gross national product of just $93 billion. Brazil has abundant natural resources, a population of 205 million and gross national product of almost $2.3 trillion.

Brazil did not qualify a team for London, but the leading combination for the 2016 Olympic host is Luíza and the Lusitano stallion now aged 13 that she competed at the 2008 Olymics. Luíza is leading the Olympic rankings for the regional group.

At the last minute, Brazil staged a CDI3* in São Paulo this weekend with three Brazilian judges, Salim Nigri, Claudia Moreira de Mesquita and Sabine Windisch Bilton; French-Brazilian Marietta Almasy and Cesar Lopardo Grana of Argentina.

Luiza Almeida on Samba at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Yvonne won individual bronze medals at the 2003 Pan American Games in her homeland and the 2007 Pan Ams in Rio de Janiero, and competed at the Pan Ams in Guadalajara, Mexico, last year. Those championships are at small tour.

She based herself in Wellington with easy access to the 11 CDI competitions in Palm Beach over three months of the winter circuit in an effort to win the single individual slot from Central and South America.

The judges in Burbank are Cara Whitham of Canada, Linda Zang and Jane Ayers of the United States, Jean-Michele Roudier of France and Eddy de Wolff of The Netherlands.

Liebling won team silver for Great Britain at the 2009 European Championships when ridden by Carl Hester, then was bought by John Risley to compete for Canada as a prospective World Equestrian Games mount. But after disappointing results in early 2010, the horse was returned to Carl who then rode the gelding on the British team at the WEG in Kentucky and a second silver medal.

The horse had been at Carl’s farm in England since WEG when Yvonne and her husband, Eduardo, worked out a partnership with John Risley late last year.

Liebling arrived in Wellington in mid-December and a month later Yvonne rode the horse in its first competition since the WEG.

Since that fist start and advice from Carl to trust her instincts, Liebling has improved under pressure, seeming to be fresher and is now working “brilliantly,” said the 44-year-old mother who has a son in college and a 12-year-old daughter.

“I’ve never had a horse improve so much on such a tough schedule,” she said of the decision to make the 2,340-mile (3,765km) cross country trip. “If it had started to go down I would not have pushed so hard, but he’s getting better and it seems insane not to try.

“I talked to Carl and he said, ‘He can handle the trip; he’s a pro. Go for it!’

“This has been a huge sacrifice, so hard financially, physically and emotionally.

“My family has been great. There has been no time to go home, and they have made the effort to come up to me.

“They want it as much as I do.

“That’s why I need to go to California. I won’t give up until the bitter end.”