Lisa Wilcox Returns to Europe for Competition, Training

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Lisa Wilcox on Pikko del Cerro HU preparing to compete in Europe. © 2013 Ken Braddick/
Lisa Wilcox on Pikko del Cerro HU preparing for European competition. © 2013 Ken Braddick/


Lisa Wilcox returned to Europe Wednesday with two horses she is preparing to seek a place on the United States team at the 2014 World Equestrian Games, not at all intimidated by the inflation in dressage scores that has occurred since she was the second ranked rider in the world a decade ago.

Lisa, who 10 years ago was one of the most successful riders of breeding stallions in Germany, will compete the American-bred stallion Pikko del Cerro HU and Denzello, untested at international Grand Prix.

“I think there are phenomenal horses but the scoring, the pumping up the scores, is a bit of a trend,” she said of results where the winning Grand Prix score was 77 per cent at the 2002 World Equestrian Games where Lisa rode Relevant on the U.S. team that won silver behind Germany. At the Olympics 10 years later three horses scored above 80 per cent in the Grand Prix.

“I see a lot of the same mistakes,” said the 47-year-old. “I see horses that have quality.

“I’m not intimidated. I feel if we bring quality, accuracy and harmony the judges will reward that. If the quality is there, which I think these horses have, and the presentation is good I’m not anticipating the judges won’t recognize that.”

In addition to the WEG performance, she and Relevant were on the U.S. team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Between the WEG and the Olympics, the pair won silver at the European Championships at Hckstead, England in 2003 when it was an open competition. She competed the mare Naomi in Europe in 2007.

Lisa will compete at Odense, Denmark, the opening competition for the highly competitive World Cup Western European League, the CDI4* at Lyon, France and the prestigious German Masters at Stuttgart, Germany, another World Cup qualifier, before returning to the United States at the end of November. As she has since first moving to Europe 16 years ago she will be coached by the German trainer Ernst Hoyos.

Lisa Wilcox with Ernst Hoyos preparing to go into the competition arena. ©2013 Ken Braddick/
Ernst Hoyos giving last-minute advice to Lisa Wilcox on Denzello preparing to go into the competition arena. ©2013 Ken Braddick/

Pikko del Cerro, the 10-year-old Hanoverian stallion (Pik L x Rohdiamant) bred and owned by Horses Unlimited of Albuquerque, New Mexico will be making the first appearance outside the United States for one of the top graduates of the Born in the USA program created by Dressage at Devon 10 years ago.

Cerro, as he’s called, has been with Lisa since 2010 after taking over the ride from her friend Mikala Gundersen, a Danish rider based in Florida. Mikala rode the horse to the U.S. six-year-old championship title in 2009 then Lisa claimed the U.S. Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Championship in 2011 and the the Developing Grand Prix title last year.

Since their first CDI Grand Prix last winter, the pair has posted three victories in six starts in the three CDIs they have competed in since starting their international Grand Prix career at this year’s Florida winter circuit.

Denzello, is also a 10-year-old Hanoverian (De Niro x Rhodiamant) though a gelding and owned by Canadian Betty Wells that Lisa has been training and competing through national small tour to national Grand Prix. She will compete Denzello in a national show at Ankum,  Germany so she can enter CDIs.

“I feel the quality of these two horses have the potential to reach a level that I did not with Naomi,” she told “They have the quality and they’re still developing. They’re both 10 years old. The potential is just enormous.”

As part of the American invasion of Europe by dressage horses and riders this year, Lisa said, “I think is very positive. I know it’s necessary having had Relevant. The judges need to see it, to judge us more accurately by not being surprised if we show up just before a championships and they don’t know who we are. With five judges it’s going to be subjective so it’s important for them to see us, to get comfortable with us.

Lisa Wilcox on Relevant.
Lisa Wilcox on Relevant.

“I don’t think we have to be there for a half year–going for two or three months is fine, hitting the kind of shows that get the judges we need to be seen by.”

A frequent visitor to Europe since leaving there, the horses in her estimation are getting better

“They breeding has improved immensely. They’re still the same horses, though. Riders still make the same mistakes.

“I feel more confident.”

Why more confident?

“I’m older!

“It’s comforting for me to know your horses are well going into these types of competition.

“I feel older and wiser.

“If I knew then when I had Relevant what I know now, could I have been better? I’m more confident, calmer. I have nerves. But I know everyone. It will be fun for me to go back and see Isabell (Werth), Nathalie (zu Sayn-Wittgenstein), Carl (Hester) and Edward (Gal).”

Although Lisa was at the top of the sport when she was based in Germany, she’s glad she moved back to the United States where she is now based in of Wellington, Florida.

“My connection has never been stronger,” she said. “I go back twice a year.

“I didn’t have much balance in my life in Europe. It was just the horses, which was fine because that’s why I was there. I couldn’t do it forever and stay mentally sound. It was a lot ot of intensity working with the stallions for a breeding farm.

“I came back in 2006 to build my business and that is going well. Through technology, I stay in touch with everyone.

“I have a wonderful life here. I have my cake and eat it, too.”