As every HR team knows, training high flyers is a big challenge. But when those you’re developing have to compete in three demanding disciplines – including ‘flying’ over fences as tall as actor Daniel Radcliffe (1.65m) and the length of a small car (3m) – the challenge is far greater. We’re talking here about the very special horses that take part in equestrian eventing.
OnTrack International is proudly sponsoring a talented and charismatic Italian eventing rider and trainer named Daniele Bizzarro, whose dream is to compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. He’s been based in the UK since 2011 and lives on-site at his yard in Lechlade, Gloucestershire, where he stables 16 horses in 20 acres of glorious Cotswold countryside.
Daniele’s chosen sport is a gruelling triathlon that has its roots in cavalry competitions which tested the battle skills of officers and horses. A single horse and rider compete in three events: dressage, show-jumping and cross country.
- Dressage involves a meticulous sequence of exact movements and requires elegance, balance and harmony between the horse and rider.
- Show-jumping requires precision, courage and the technical ability to jump 12–20 fences and to quickly change direction.
- Cross country demands speed, athleticism and stamina over four miles of mixed terrain with 30-40 imposing natural or artificial obstacles such as ditches, walls, streams, hedges and ‘two-metre drops’.
“I love eventing because it’s the ultimate test of horsemanship,” said Daniele. “You have to perform consistently well across three disciplines, so you need a very different horse to one that would compete in pure dressage or pure show-jumping. You have to train an all-rounder who is brave and versatile enough to cope with the demands of each event. That’s a considerable challenge.”
Daniele was nine when he started accompanying his mother to a local riding school on Saturday mornings, near his home outside Turin. By 12, he was entering regional competitions and at 14, he was coached by an experienced trainer who introduced him to eventing. At 16, he represented Italy in his first international competition. With support from the Italian Equestrian Federation, he began to build his reputation as a gifted and dedicated competitor.
Aged 21, he gave up studying graphic design at university to turn professional. Four years later, he emigrated to the UK with a six-year old horse and his golden retriever Cartoon, who attends all of his events.
“I’d reached the highest level in Italy and it was difficult to develop further there,” he explained. “Eventing is very popular in Britain. There are more competitions here and more opportunities to improve as a rider.”
He spent a year in Dorset as a stable rider for the renowned English equestrian William Fox-Pitt, who won medals for team eventing at three Olympic Games as well as multiple horse trial titles at Badminton and Burghley.
As part of Daniele’s bid to qualify for the 2020 Olympics, he will compete in three-four events each month on the British eventing circuit, which runs from March to October. One of the highlights of the season is the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials in September.
“Every sportsperson dreams of representing their country at the Olympic Games,” he explained. “I have at least two horses which realistically could compete at that level and I’m working very hard to get there. In the meantime, the British eventing circuit is highly competitive and I’m doing my best to prepare myself and my horses to succeed.”
Eventing riders need a combination of strength, poise, courage, discipline, control, awareness and experience. They also need to be supremely fit and psychologically-focused to maintain their concentration over one, two or three days of competition.
“It’s a very demanding sport,” said Daniele. “If you’re tired, you’ll make mistakes because you’ll make the horse uncomfortable. I have to work hard to maintain my own fitness.”
When he’s not training, preparing for events, managing his three staff or planning and giving lessons, Daniele spends his time organising and running dressage, jumping and cross country clinics at riding and pony clubs across the country. He also has commitments in liaising with the owners of the horses and with his sponsors, who provide funding or equipment.
“Training horses and running the stables and yard is a lot to manage and administer, so I’m working seven days a week,” he said. “In this sport, the overheads are high so you have to be a successful business person, not just an athlete, if you’re to survive.”
As a sponsor, OnTrack will attend events as part of Daniele’s team. Horse trials are prestigious, high profile and inclusive competitions, usually set in stunning locations. They not only offer the action and excitement of the definitive equestrian challenge, they also feature live demonstrations, attractions, shopping and hospitality which makes them a fabulous day out, as well as a brand marketing platform.
OnTrack chose to sponsor Daniele because there are surprising similarities between preparing horses for elite competition and managing organisational teams to achieve high performance. You can read more about this here.
We wish Daniele every success with his eventing goals and we’ll keep you updated about his progress. More information about him is available at www.dbeventing.co.uk