Since January 1st Marco Porro will be the selector of the Italian show jumping team with Stefano Nogara appointed as supporting coach.
For the past four years Marco Porro has worked closely with Duccio Bartalucci (coach and selector) devoting his time to training new emerging horse-and-rider combinations. Led by Marco Porro, Italy won the EEF Longines Nations Cup Series Final in Warsaw. Just a couple of months after his appointment, we asked Marco Porro to talk to us about his plans and, above all, to tell us about himself as a horseman and the motivation behind all his projects.
Planning depends on the horses
«We have three main goals – explained Marco – the first are the World Championships next August in Herning so as to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. We have always competed individually but find it difficult as a team and have not qualified for two decades. This time we would like to succeed.
Our second objective is to return to the Nations Cup First Division and the third is the Mediterranean Games».
«My vision – added Porro – is to train new horse and rider combinations, something we have already been working on for three years, with young riders and promising horses. In this training programme I am relying greatly on the 2023 European Championships in Milan San Siro for which we are already working on a number of riders concentrating above all on fitness, hacking out, easy practice courses. We work on the horses’ physical and mental fitness, spreading the training over time so as to develop their potential without rushing them.
I believe this is the basis for our sport because it is the horse that is the real athlete, the leading player, the true athlete, the champion. It is to the horses that we need to pay the greatest attention so that when ridden by a good rider they can give everything they have. We need to take into account every aspect of the athlete/horse.
So we should avoid pointless efforts involving continuous stressful travel, but implement planning studied to ensure constant growth while respecting the horses’ minds and bodies. I want to remain close to the athletes and that is why I am directly in touch with the riders and their vets.
I try and learn everything about these horses, every detail, because I must reiterate that it is the horses who are the athletes and they must be protected in their sporting progress».
So as to achieve our objectives it is necessary to start with specific and real plans: «At the moment together with the Italian Equestrian Sports Federation we have planned to buy a number of Wild Cards (invitations), so as to take young emerging talents to jump at the big shows so as to gain ranking points, in which we are lagging, and pave the way to the higher levels of our sport – emphasises Porro – We must be committed and all together regain our position on the international stage. On this subject I greatly appreciate the fact that Emanuele Anchisi with Scuderia 1918 has embraced this project together with myself and the Federation, supporting our riders with excellent horses. It is our aim to take Italy back to the position it deserves. I hope that Scuderia 1918 will set a good example for others. We must remain united and enhance Italian show jumping together».
Focusing on the athlete-horse
«We are Italian, we are good at this sport and need to believe in ourselves – emphasises Marco – With a good plan that starts from our young horses, and we have many as one can see in the global rankings in which there are often Italian horses; we need to attract investors, plan the horses’ progress well and ensure they develop in a manner that is correct for each of them. In these first months of this year a number of riders have started the season in Italy, others in Florida and some in Spain. They will all be back by the end of March. Our first show will be La Baule, which will be a test for us at which a number of horse and rider combinations will be jumping in their first 5* show. Then come the Italian Championships and the selection of the team for the Rome CSIO of course. We will try and have more ‘new’ combinations capable of jumping at the great shows so as to save some of the better known that did a great deal for the team last year and perhaps ended the season a little tired.
In short, I would like to change the vision and focus on the athlete-horse. There is always a lot of talk about the riders but it is the horse who is the main athlete and therefore deserves the greatest respect and scrupulous planning. So as to do things well we need to remain united. Should luck then change a little in our favour, well that never hurts either…».
Focusing on the athlete-horse
Porro’s life has been devoted to horses, his experience come from the arena and from producing young horses, all of which has become a source of inspiration for today’s appointment. «I have been a normal rider, but I do believe I have helped riders a little to produce young horses allowing them to grow up and emerge, for example Enrico Frana‘s Dohitzun Guernica or Emilio Bicocchi’s Ares – says Marco Porro – I like young horses a lot and always advise people to buy young horses. We also need to support Italian horses, make them known by taking them to shows to jump courses specifically built to assist their development. I would like to send a message to our breeders who have made so many sacrifices.
sacrifices. I would like to thank them for the efforts they make. We need their horses because Italian-bred horses are just as good as those in other great European nations. So let us therefore try and exploit them. It is not the week-end results that matter, but calmly planning the horses’ careers together with the riders, allowing them to develop, respecting their individual needs. We need to change our perspective, become farsighted and know how to stop when a horse asks us to, allowing us to understand its needs. Last year results proved we were right winning the second division Longines EEF Series Final in which we alternated developing combinations with long- established ones. It was the result of planning done with the horses and for the horses».
«We need to respect the horses a lot because without them we are on foot! – says Marco Porro – So I am always in touch with the riders and the veterinarians so as to be informed about the horses’ fitness and decide with them what steps should be taken, always based on the greatest respect, never forcing the horses or rushing them.
Let’s take for example really strong countries such as Sweden, which has an Italian vet on their team who is an osteopath, physiotherapist and massage therapist. There must be a good reason for having three out of four horses barefoot at the Olympic Games. We need to learn from the best teams. We have been left behind in many ways and need to improve, we need to change our mentality. We need to question everything and learn from those who are well aware of how things need to be done. We now have an osteopath working with us, who works with the horses both at home and at shows.
I like to learn, watch, understand and try and be there for our horses and our riders. I certainly don’t try and teach anything technical to our riders who have jumped in shows far bigger than any I have, but perhaps I can help them in a different way». We must always clearly understand that the value lies in the horses: «It is essential that our horses should learn to love us and we should love them. Their minds must be on the same wavelength as ours and this is only possible if we totally respect them. We must try and understand what they need and therefore prevent accidents to the extent, this is possible by paying attention and caring for them. That way, at the end of their careers we can put them out to grass as many top riders do when retiring their horses at the end of their careers. That means having managed them in the best possible way» says Marco Porro as our chat draws to an end.
With these words we wish Marco Porro that he will manage to succeed based on his plans and achieve his goals together with the horses and their riders, so that Italy can, not only return to win, but also become an example to be followed one day. It all starts here, with the HORSES.