Technically, it was the feel good story of last week. But someone didn’t get to the press release in time. [Points finger at self.]
That’s okay, though, because the glory that was Yvonne Losos de Muñiz (DOM) and Foco Loco’s stunning turnaround at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL is of the lasting variety—mainly because it was such a long time in the making.
It all started back in 2014 with an accidental match…
The Dominican dressage rider was scheduled to try another horse on the same property when she fell for (and bought) the Belgian Warmblood gelding.
She soon discovered, however, that her talented new mount was something of a problem child.
“When I got him I had all the faith in the world in him,” explained the 2016 Olympian. “He was super difficult and I wasn’t able to manage him. He was an orphan foal, and some of his problems could stem from that.”
For the next two years, the horse whose name is Spanish for “crazy focus” demonstrated everything but in the show ring. Spooking issues plagued their international career. Losos de Muñiz and Foco Loco were eliminated in the grand prix at the 2015 Pan American Games and in their first grand prix test at the 2016 AGDF.
Their scores rarely broke out of the low 60s.
After the Rio Olympics, in which they earned an underwhelming 61.300% in the grand prix, Losos de Muñiz decided it was time to throw in the towel and sent Foco Loco to Danish Olympian Andreas Helgstrand’s barn to sell.
But their parting was short-lived.
A few weeks later she visited and rode the horse, and with Helgstrand’s encouragement, decided to persevere. (Finding a more talented replacement horse would be a next to impossible task, said Helgstrand.)
Losos de Muñiz handed the reins to Borja Carrascosa. Between November 2016 and March 2017, the Spanish rider campaigned Foco Loco at CDI W events throughout Europe, proving the 13-year-old gelding was capable of consistently scoring in the 70%. (Their best result was a 74.955% in the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Freestyle at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, NED.)
When Losos de Muñiz took over the ride again, she didn’t return to competition immediately. Instead, the 50 year old Dominican spent five months in Spain rebuilding her relationship with the horse before returning to Florida for the winter circuit in January 2018.
And a glorious return it was.
At AGDF, their first international appearance together since the 2016 Olympics, the pair has scored over 70% in all four of the horse’s grand prix tests. Last week, they were the only combination out of 15 to score over 70% in the FEI Grand Prix CDI3* (they posted 71.087%), earning the horse’s first ever international victory.
“This win was better than making the Olympics,” said Losos de Muñiz at the time.
“When I landed that last halt from the sky high passage, I knew we’d nailed it. We’ve had so many problems over the last few years, but he stayed with me in there. I was stubborn to stick with him, but there’s no better feeling than knowing that I was right to keep going. He has so much power it’s hard to describe and, when you can control it, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.”
Two days later, they repeated their success to win the three-star freestyle to music with a 74.350%.
Losos de Muñiz plans to campaign Foco Loco at the next CDI in Wellington in two weeks.
“I really want to confirm that this wasn’t just a fluke,” she said.