Mettawa, IL- In June, Freddie Vazquez received a request from the Puerto Rico Equestrian Federation. That request was the fulfillment of what the disciplined athlete has been working toward since he was a child - to represent his country at the Pan American Games in Toronto. Along with his equine partner, the beautiful bay Zangersheide stallion Zippo Z, the pair qualified and were ready to compete. But with just four weeks to go, Zippo Z sustained a minor bone bruise, an injury from which he will make a complete recovery but would put him out of the mix for the Games.
"Zippo would do anything for me," Vazquez said. "He has a long future ahead of him and of course, we will do everything and anything that is in his best interest. This is a horse that would leave his heart in the ring if I asked." Vazquez accepted that his dream had to be put aside for the sake of his horse. He contacted the Puerto Rico Equestrian Federation to give them the news that he and Zippo were out. "My federation asked me if I could find another horse," Vazquez said. "The FEI also agreed to the change, but the new horse had to meet their requirements."
The odds were slim that Vazquez could find such a horse in just three and a half weeks. The horse had to have the right competition resume to satisfy the FEI and Vazquez had to feel confident about quickly creating a partnership going into a major championship event. He turned to Desiree Johnson, his source for European horses he has worked with over the years. "Desiree knows me well but I gave her an almost impossible task," he said. "She understands my style and what kind of horse I like. She quickly came up with three solid choices." From Tryon, North Carolina where his Messenger Hill Farm was competing, Vazquez traveled to Europe to try three horses in three countries - Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.
All three were promising candidates but Vazquez saw a certain "X-factor" the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, Esprit De Vie, formerly competed by Oliver Lazarus and Jonas Vervoort. Vazquez describes her as very fast and very careful. Due to the quarantine requirements for mares from Europe, Vazquez could not bring Esprit De Vie into the country ahead of time, so the Pan Am bound pair continued to get to know each other in Germany and she will arrive in Toronto July 16. "I could never have done this without my wife Jodi," Vazquez said. She is an incredible person. I left her in Tryon to manage 26 horses and our whole operation and she sent me off across the world to follow my dream. We are not independently wealthy. This was a major life decision and she is behind me all the way. I feel so fortunate."
Vazquez plans to put Esprit De Vie through the full quarantine process after the Pan Am Games and she will become a member of the Messenger Hill Farm team. He will have depth in his team of Zippo Z, Esprit De Vie and Bachelor 4. Vazquez said that his friend and mentor, Olympic Gold Medalist Chris Kappler also helped him through the last few whirlwind weeks. Kappler and Jodi Vazquez and will be there in Toronto to help him and cheer him on. "I am a self disciplined athlete but the bridge way between goals and reality could not happen without the support I get from Jodi, Chris, our incredible Messenger Hill team, our vets, farriers, our clients and our sponsors. I am so grateful."
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