Coast to Coast By Dr. Piper Klemm for ProEquest.com
When I think about enviable places, Southern California and Brazil are both at the top of the list. They are full of beaches, beautiful people, and produce amazing riders. Among this legion of athletic talent, attractiveness, and exquisite horses to match at Showpark Del Mar last weekend, it seems that it would be impossible to stand out, but Brazilian rider Eduardo Menezes does.
When I mentioned to someone that I was looking for him, I was told, “Just look for gorgeous. You can’t miss him.” But it is not his tall stature, striking looks, or orange scrim sheets with the Mercedes Benz logos that make Menezes stand out. It is that he can’t stop winning.
Eduardo Menezes, 33, is on fire in Southern California lately, winning the $60,000 Grand Prix of California during Blenheim Equisport’s Ranch & Coast last Saturday afternoon, and placing 2nd in the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar at the Del Mar National the week before, both with Calvalda. Menezes also won a grand prix class at HITS Thermal earlier this year with Caruschka.
Menezes began riding at the age of five in Brazil. “My family had places with cattle and I learned about horses like that, but they were not involved in the jumpers or hunters or things like that,” he explains.
His interest in show jumping led him to move to Europe at 19 to focus on his riding. Then, when he was 23, he left Europe for Mexico to start his business with sale horses and several clients, and finally settled in Carlsbad, California with his wife Leiticia in 2010.
These moves have honed Menezes’ skills as a linguist as well. After winning the Grand Prix at Showpark Ranch & Coast, words of congratulations came from other riders, trainers and spectators in many languages, all of which were easily and gracefully responded to. With a slight accent that adds to his appeal and a calculation and focus that comes with his words, it is easy to see how he has jumped right into success with each move to a new country.
He keeps close ties to his business in Mexico, as he still trains Mexican clients and has a Mexican partner. “It is not easy. I don’t have many customers. I have my sale horses, my horses I use to compete, and some students (the Hank Family are my main clients and I have a couple more), but my main business is my sale business and the competition,” Menezes details. “I try to have people who can follow me in the type of shows that I do, so it makes it easier.”
Growing up in a country without hunters and equitation, I asked Menezes how it impacts the sport to start right in the jumper ring. “I think it makes a big difference. For my own opinion, the best amateurs in the whole world are Americans because of this way to start [in the hunters and equitation]. It teaches the right way to ride, a good position, to ride to the rhythm before people really start to want to go fast. Before, they don’t know. Jumpers, sometimes, before people really know how to ride, they get into jump-offs and go really fast and I think in the end, that doesn’t help the sport.”
And he’s not letting up on California this summer. “Normally, the summer I always go to Spruce Meadows, but this year is a special year because my wife is pregnant and the baby is going to be born in the beginning of July, so I’m going to stay here at shows in California at Showpark and The Oaks.” This will be their first child.
What struck me is how friendly Menezes really is. When I talked to him after his grand prix win on Saturday, he was almost jogging from the awards ceremoney to train a client in the south jumper ring, and while his mind was racing, he focused on talking to me, and thanked me for talking to him. His peers describe him as ‘nice.’ Although it seems that we are constantly debating and worrying about the future of our sport, if the future is full of well regarded, good horse people and ferocious competitors like Menezes, it doesn’t feel like there is much to worry about.