Santiago Varela: We're all people who love horses

Man met meetwiel spring parcour 1

Santiago Varela is assigned as course designer for CHIO Rotterdam and the Olympics in Tokio. He is a top level (level 4) course designer but there were almost no 5* courses over the past two years. For two years he is waiting but is still very positive. We talk with him about the past year and how he is planning for what has to come.

In 2011 Santiago Varela was in Rotterdam as course designer for the first time. "I was invited by Louis Konickx to build the FEI Nations Cup in Rotterdam. That was so kind, inviting me to build in 'his' show. Louis really is a gentleman in our sport. We really became good friends. Since then we worked a lot together as course designers and technical delegates we've often worked as a team. So will we work together in Rotterdam and at the Olympics this year. This year will be my third time in Rotterdam, I was there in 2011 and 2014. I'm glad to come as this will be our final event before the Olympics."

'How is a course designer affected by the pandemic?', we asked Santiago. "Well I had my last show in Mexico early 2020 and then suddenly everything was cancelled. I came home and told my family to stay calm as nobody knew what would happen. So that's what we've done. We are a close family, started working from home, established a routine and used our time to learn a lot. And it worked well. I started this year with good new hopes and then on top we've got the Rhino virus. So another time we had to stay calm and wait what would happen. But recently I had Oliva, Prague and last week Madrid and I'm looking forward to Rotterdam in a few weeks.

Our sport is not mathematics, specially because working with horses makes it quite different. Some horses may miss the competition rhythm but I'm sure that the top riders will have managed this well. Riders such as Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash know what they need to do."

Is there anything Santiago will do different after such a long period of lock down? "Not really. Me and my fellow course designers have our ideas and we stick to these. We will follow the rules and focus on technicality. We're all people who love horses, but we're also humans. Only when the first rider is in the arena we know if we did well. The good thing about the pandemic is that we had time to pay attention to video's and results and talked with each other about this. Rotterdam will be a selection moment so it is very important for the riders. A good reason not to do things very different.

After Rotterdam and Tokio, Santiago Varela will be building the Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final in Barcelona. "I'm a positive man and looking forward to this final. You could say we had only a few qualifiers (in Europe Sankt Gallen, Sopot, La Baule and Rotterdam) as we usually have 29 around the world. I rather say we have four qualifiers and a final this year, that's 500% more than last year!"

We appreciate this positive mindset, Santiago, and are looking forward to seeing you in Rotterdam next month!

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