Virginia Sponle - A Little Dressage Rider with a Noble Heart

Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Posted by Giulia Iannone


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Virginia is the promised young revelation of Italian dressage, after the last European pony championship, which has just been held in Poland. She reported the percentage of 73.829% in the Pony team test, finishing in ninth place in the ranking, in the pony individual she closed with 73.054% finishing in 11th position, however managing to enter the final, and obtaining in Kur the 75.620% and again the 11th position.

Photo - Virginia Sponle and Coer Noble (Courtesy Elisa Grassi)

Virginia was born in Naples on September 30, 2007. She attended the gymnasium in Geldern and has been riding since she was 7 years old. She started riding with a pony named Carlos, very small, and with him she also brought home his first successes. Last year, she participated in the first European championship with Adrette D, a mare who is now 11-years-old and who has recently been sold to a family near the Sponle home. Coer Noble, a bay pony stallion from 2013 from Caramel We x Whoopy/Noir de Luxe, arrived 4 years ago, and since then he and Virginia have been inseparable.

Below is an interview with Virginia:

Virginia Sponle and Coer Noble
Virginia Sponle and Coer Noble

Let's take stock of this European championship in Poland together: are you satisfied? Everything according to your expectations? Did you expect to enter the final?

"I'm very happy. I knew the competition was going to be incredible and I knew I had to give it my all, but I never imagined a result like this. I was hoping for a lot in the final, and when it came in eleventh place in the individual, despite a couple of big mistakes, I was really over the moon."

Which  is the best memory you take away after this Championship? (It can be a team moment, a new friendship, a combination that has fascinated you...)

"For a moment we smelled the bronze...we gave it our all and we were rewarded with a fourth place for the teams, which is a really good result. But we really would have liked to get on that podium, which is always occupied by Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. I had some great travel companions, we worked hard, but we also had fun!"

What work, not only technical, but also emotional, is behind this participation in the European Championship? What have you learned yet?

"The work has been a lot, also because Coer Noble, whom we all call “Balu”, is still very young. He is only 8-years-old and we only started FEI dressage competitions this year. The European was our fifth show, so I hope that by continuing to work together, we can achieve even better results. My trainer, Jana Freund, who is a famous rider in Germany, especially in the world of ponies, has been of great help to me, not only technically but also tactically. She  has a lot of experience in competitions and also taught me how to handle difficult situations."

Tell us about yourself. Who is Virginia Sponle, rider and horse lover? Your father is a great breeder of Arabian horses, does the passion come from him?

“I was born among Arabian horses. I've always liked them. But when I entered the world of dressage, I realized that this discipline was my true passion. My parents are both involved in the world of the Arabian horse, but I dragged them with me into the world of dressage. They are my biggest supporters."

Introduce us to your special pony, he has a little heart clipped on his right side. What type is it? He's a stallion, what character does he have, what do you like about him and what you don't like, how does it fit, when you enter the dressage arena, what do you feel with him?

“The heart on the side is not shorn. It is a stain he has had since he was born. It is a pony with a big heart, both inside and out! He is very good, but he has a nice temper! sometimes we have a little discussion, but in recent years we have found our own language and we have grown up together. I know what he likes and what he  doesn't like, and we always try to give our best. Before entering the competition , on the test field, I often speak to him, in a low voice, he calms me down, then I concentrate, take a deep breath, and we enter the competition field."

Why did you choose the discipline of dressage? What does it convey to you and what can you express on horseback, since they tell me that you are very shy?

“Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a bit shy, but then it doesn't take much to let me go. With dressage I believe a particular complicity is established between rider and horse, which I like very much."

Virginia Sponle and Coer Noble
Virginia Sponle and Coer Noble relaxing in the stable

Who trains you or who is your coach? It is said that you are prepared by Isabell Werth: is it true? When you ride in dressage arena, you perform very precise and punctual actions with your hands, and you have a very well set up attitude and you are very soft. Is it something natural or did it take a lot of work?

“As I said before, I train with Jana Freund. She has been following me and Balu for about a year and I started the FEI adventure with her. She has a long experience in the world of dressage, from young horses up to the Grand Prix, and I am very grateful for all the help she has given me and for the patience she has had, both with me and with Balu. I spend my Saturday mornings in Isabell Werth's stable. I help prepare the horses that need to be mounted and with the work that is in the stable. I really enjoy learning from highly experienced people like Isabell and her collaborators. Every now and then I tear away some advice. As for the set-up, the hands and the way I ride in general, they tell me it's a natural gift. I, on the other hand, believe that skills must always be improved. This is why I have always done a lot of work even without brackets to improve the set-up in the saddle."

You are now competing for Italy but you are of German origin. How do you feel in your heart to be divided between two ways of living and thinking? Italy is mother's country and father's Germany: what do these two different worlds and ways of being give to your dressage?

“I was born in Italy and I have most of my family there. My grandparents, uncles and aunts and my cousins. I must say that I am fine in both countries. I believe I have both typical Mediterranean and German traits. Dressage requires great discipline, but also imagination: I think the Italy-Germany mix is perfect."

Who is your Dressage rider of reference?

“Without a doubt Isabell Werth. Not only because she is an incredible rider, but also because despite being number one in the world, she remains an affable and very kind person. An unstoppable worker and a real woman of horses."

When you grow up, what do you dream of doing with dressage?

“I think every sportsman's dream is the Olympics. My dad always tells me that you have to set a goal in life. I have this, now we'll see if I can reach it."

After this European, what are Virginia and little Coer Noble doing?

"Another thing that my father Frank often says, after the shows he does with Arabian horses, is: "after the show, is before the show". We rest for a couple of days and then go back to work. We would like to do another international competition in October, and then I would like to participate in the Aachen Youngstars."

The photos in the article are kindly granted by Virginia's mother, Elisa Grassi, whom we warmly thank for granting us the interview.