Yvonne Losos de Muniz – Her Road To The Pan Ams And The Olympics
A 35-year-old native Nigerian representing the Dominican Republic and bearing a lyrical yet challenging-to-remember name, as well as a tongue-twister moniker for her mount, has made the words ‘Yvonne Losos de Muniz on Inatana Las Marismas’ not only pronounceable but also memorable. The names were heard over and over at the Zada Enterprises LLC WEF Dressage Classic CDI in Wellington, Florida, March 13-16, when the duo won the Prix St. Georges, Intermediaire I, and I-I Freestyle – all three qualifiers for the Pan Am Games.
Yvonne had already become the rider to watch in the Pan Am Selection Trial qualifiers from her previous wins and placings on the 2003 Florida dressage circuit – a far cry from a year ago when she was competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival as virtually an unknown rider. Now dressage aficionados throng the ring when she rides in order to watch this ‘overnight sensation’ who has spent a lifetime working to achieve her current status as one of the top contenders bound for the August Pan American Games. Yvonne, whose hometown is Santo Domingo, the host city for the Pan Ams, smiles now about the ‘sudden’ limelight, “Everybody knows me.”
For Yvonne, the three big wins at the Zada/WEF CDI felt, “Great, because we had been working up to it.” She had competed in the two previous shows at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club, but had to scratch the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI in Loxahatchee at the last minute when she learned that Lissette Purcell, an ‘I’ judge from the Dominican Republic, was presiding, which precluded her from competing because she uses the CDIs as Pan Am qualifiers. “So I built up for this,” said Yvonne about her triple victory. Her calculations of how much to peak the mare for the show proved accurate, and the duo scored 68.55% in the Prix St. Georges, 70.250% in the I-I, and 72.875% in the I-I Freestyle.
Yvonne Losos de Muniz – Freestyle Challenge
USA ‘O’ Judge Axel Steiner agreed that the judges seemed to fall in love with Yvonne. “Yes, she was very successful at this show,” he said, but added, “She was OK in the St. Georges. She took the advice that some of the judges wrote in the comments that the horse was a little bit too tight through the neck and the topline in the St. Georges, and she rode the horse much better in the I-I.” Judge Steiner has observed Yvonne ride earlier in her career in the Dominican Republic and stated, “She’s much better now. She’s improved greatly from what I’ve seen, so her coming here to the States and training and competing certainly must have paid off. She’s done a good job. And she’s also attacking the tests a little bit. She rode it with more energy, which was a nice change.” But he did not have her placed first in the kur. “Strangely enough, in my opinion, the freestyle was qualitatively not as good as the Intermediaire was, which is a little bit unusual. But I-I freestyles are a little bit difficult to pull off. You really have to go for it to really shine because there’s not that many difficult things that you can do, so you really have to put your soul into it and ride with extreme confidence to really pull off a good I-I freestyle. She has to get a little better.”
Yvonne also assessed her freestyle as being in need of work. “I’m not happy with it,” she said, pointing out that since the time when the freestyle was created for Inatana Las Marismas, the mare’s gaits have changed. “They’re more through, more powerful, so I’m missing the music. We just have to match the music up a little bit. I’ll just change the tempo of the music.” Terry Ciotto Gallo of KlassicKur created the tracks for Yvonne, who enthused, “She’s fabulous. She does all our music.”
Now that dressage fans in Florida know her and come to watch her ride, Yvonne said that the attention is, “Fabulous. We’ve put so much into this, my husband and our whole group here. Everybody works so hard. It’s been a real long struggle to get here but it goes to show – hard work pays off because we’re getting the results now.”
Yvonne’s husband Eduardo was at the Zada/WEF CDI to see her three wins. “I’m very happy,” he said. “It’s been such a long road for us. It’s so hard. We live in the Dominican Republic and we have our son back home with me, the daughter is up here with her. Everybody is back home. It’s really difficult.” The couple’s son Toshi is 11 and daughter Sylvia is three. “I fly up every weekend and then Toshi has to stay with his grandparents. She’s away from home for months – since January – and she’s going to stay until June.” But the proud husband also noted, “The main thing is – we’re happy. We’re happy to see that hard work, the old cliché, does pay off.”
The couple obviously has mutual goals and a fun partnership, which shows in their rapport. Yvonne was born in Nigeria, but moved to the Dominican Republic when her parents built a hotel there and she met Eduardo. “My husband owns a hardware store so I got good deals,” she joked.
Eduardo interjected, “Deal of a lifetime!”
And Yvonne concurred, “Wasn’t it, dear!”
Jumping And Dressage Do Mix!
Because Yvonne is also an active jumper competitor, she will finish her Florida tour and head for Kentucky to compete – in jumping and dressage. Her horses from both disciplines accompany her everywhere. “I can’t stay and do the jumping and send the dressage horses home because I have to keep training, so my jumpers come with me to dressage shows and my dressage horses go to the jumping shows.” Yvonne travels with 18 horses, but personally rides only six. “The jumping is a lot harder to get results because you’re going by faults and it’s a lot tougher. I’m not as high in the jumping as I am in the dressage.”
After her hat trick at the Zada/WEF CDI, Yvonne does have a preference for disciplines. “Right now, dressage!” she laughed. “I love both in their own way, I really do, but obviously, my strong point, my definite discipline, is the dressage. I do the jumping to entertain myself.”
As precious as one might think the mare is, Yvonne said that if she hadn’t gotten the 12-year-old Inatana Las Marismas as an older mare (she bought her as an 11-year-old) she would have jumped her. “I jump all my dressage horses. It’s fun for them. I’ve had horses that are phenomenal dressage horses but a little nuts in the head and you jump them for a year and it kind of lets all the steam out,” explained Yvonne. “I think they should all do it. I don’t believe in over-pampering. My mare, I do pamper now, because she is ‘pamperable’ – she’s that type of horse.”
The Mare Mirrors Yvonne
Inatana Las Marismas is a 17.2 hand, Dutch-bred by Latano out of a Carnivale dam, Madya van ten Bosch, which is a Holsteiner jumping line, according to Eduardo. The mare was previously owned and trained by Janette Haazen from Holland. “I know a lot of people tried her,” recalled Yvonne, explaining that the mare looks quiet but is actually difficult and “really neurotic,” however Yvonne gets along with her very well. “It sounds stupid, but it’s total body language with me when I ride her. If you read what dressage is, that’s what you’re supposed to see. We get along really well – she’s lanky, I’m lanky. I’ve been told by the judges that it’s a pretty picture. We go together.”
Eduardo concurs, “It’s nice. The mare is very difficult. Hot like you wouldn’t believe. She can react in the wrong way if she’s not ridden the way she thinks she should be. When she starts getting upset, she starts getting shorter in the neck and running backwards instead of forward, and she’s such a big horse it’s obvious right away.”
Still, Yvonne has hopes of taking the mare all the way to the Olympics, even though at this point, she has not competed at the Grand Prix level. “I would love to. She’s only missing the confirmation in the ones. But the problem is I don’t want to train it because I don’t want to risk something going wrong before the Pan Ams because she’s so hot.”
Hanne Valentin, an ‘O’ judge from Denmark scored Yvonne in each of her classes at the Zada/WEF CDI and sees a bright international future for the mare “That’s a beautiful horse – a top horse. A horse with potential in my opinion – potential for high levels also.”
Inatana will remain in Yvonne’s line-up for Athens, but she is also looking for another horse that could be an Olympic contender and recently vetted a new mount. “I would like to do the Pan Ams for the country,” explained Yvonne. “I think right now the Olympics are a personal goal of my husband and I, and Las Marismas (their sport horse business), but for the country, it’s the Pan Am Games.”
Leader Of The Dominican Republic’s Team
Yvonne has represented the Dominican Republic on several occasions, most recently at the 2002 Central American Games in dressage as well as at the Championship of the Americas in Blaineville, Canada, plus as a jumper she has also participated in international competitions for her country. She pointed out that there’s not many times that riders can compete in their home country let alone be in the top group. Usually in the third world countries, the host country is scrambling just to get a team together. But from the day Yvonne learned that the Pan Ams were coming to the Dominican Republic, she and a group of top riders decided that they would not only put together a team, but it would be a very competitive team.
The current Dominican Republic dressage team includes three of the riders from the Central American Games – Yvonne, George Fernandez, and Diana Ramos de Tejeda. All three competed at the Zada/WEF CDI, but only Yvonne was in the qualifiers. She is obviously the leader of the group and directed the competition for the other two riders –George’s horse was recently operated on, so Yvonne mounted him on her second horse so that he could compete in the Open Prix St. Georges; Diana purchased a mare only a week before the show, so Yvonne made the decision to put her in a Fourth Level class to get to know her new horse.
Diederik Wigmans of Holland has been Yvonne’s trainer for the past 18 months. He arrives three to four days before each show and preps her for the competition. In between his visits, Yvonne helps the other Dominican Republic riders. Diederik will come to Santo Domingo to coach her for the Pan Am Games.
Wellington Wins Pave The Way To European Exposure
Though Yvonne has competed in Europe in jumping events, she has not yet shown Inatana Las Marismas across the Atlantic, but she feels that the international judges know her well enough now from her participation on the Florida circuit, and that the lack of European exposure will not make a difference to the international panel at the Pan Ams. “They’ve seen me here. They know the horse too.” She does plan to compete in Europe next year and will depart in January 2004. “I know it’s going to be tough going to Europe. I’m sure it’s going to be a real eye-opener. I’m sure I’m not going to get the marks.”
The European tour will mean even longer separations from her family because Eduardo will not be able to join her on weekends. “That’s hard,” admits Eduardo. “This is a six-hour flight. That’s an eight-hour flight at least. I’ll go once a month.”
Wellington is important for all the Latin American and Central American riders, not only because it’s a short distance to travel and they can experience many shows in a short period, but also because the circuit “let’s you know where you stand and how you’re doing,” said Yvonne. “Especially before the Pan Ams. We want to come up here and see how the Americans are doing. We looked for the qualifiers, to give us an idea of where everybody is.”
Getting Ready To Medal
Yvonne is not taking her team's 2002 Central American Games victory, nor her successful 2003 Dressage in Florida season for granted. In order to medal in the Pan Ams, Yvonne feels that her team needs, “More practice. Lots more.” Her own weak point with Inatana is conditioning, “having her climaxing at the right moment. I can’t keep her up there because she burns out and I have to know when and how long to bring her down, and then bring her up again. I would say she’s about 85% right now. For the Central American Games, I had her at as ‘max’ as I could and she was so ‘on’ – she was more on than here. She was better than here. She’s good at the movements, but they’re not fluid. There’s that fluidness that’s missing there for me. To me, it’s still very choppy with her because she’s not in shape, she can’t stay up and she drops down.” Yvonne stopped to reflect a moment and laughed, “Actually I’m complaining I have to work too hard!”
To get the mare in condition, Yvonne has one basic solution: hills. She plans to find them in Kentucky. “It’s been actually hard conditioning her here because at home we have a cross country. I do very little of what we call ‘trick riding’ – like the pirouettes; she just goes out on cross country, galloping up and down, up and down, up and down.”
The crowds at the Zada/WEF CDI got a taste of Yvonne’s love for the gallop when she put on the power for the solo victory laps after her wins – against the somewhat horrified admonitions of her trainer. “I just did it yesterday,” grinned Yvonne, who ended her finale weekend with another roar around the ring with blue ribbon streaming. “I said ‘I’m going to go galloping off’ and when my trainer tells me not to do something, my response is, ‘Oh, yeah?’”
But this happy couple of course agreed on Yvonne’s now somewhat trademark victory dash. Eduardo pointed out, “The mare enjoys it.”
And Yvonne concurred, “She needs it, all horses need to let loose.”
To which Eduardo nodded, “Dressage is too stressful for everybody.”
Letting Yvonne have the last word, “They’ve got to let loose!”
Mary Hilton for DressageDaily.com