“Training with my idol Laura Kraut has been game changing for me”
This afternoon, the top CSI2* riders competed for the Grand Prix title. Out of 57 competitors, 9 made it to the jump-off. But Maria Costa, riding her gelding Valentino V Z (Verdi TN x Converter | Zang), was the fastest of all.
Maria said, « I have a very special bond with Valentino and I think that really paid off today. I’ve had him since he was 7. He is 14 now and we’ve been through a lot together. He underwent surgery at the end of last year and although we were very hopeful he would come back, there’s always uncertainties. That makes this win so special to me.
For the past three years, Maria has trained with Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton. They compete in Wellington during winter and in Europe over the summer. « I’ve always admired Laura, » Maria said. « For us American girls, she’s an icon. So I reached out to her hoping that maybe she would be willing to train me a bit. And she was! Laura is so sweet and gracious and just a really great coach. As I started training with Laura, her partner Nick started helping me out a bit too which makes me a very lucky rider. It’s been game changing training with them.”
At the Brussels Stephex Masters, Maria also competed Cbi McGregor (Douglas x Karandash | ISH). « We’ve had a flawless week, » she said. « About a year ago, I bought him as a sales horse from Harry and Bridget Skelton, Nick’s son and daughter in law. But he’s become so special to me, so I haven’t hurried to sell him. »
Maria aims to excel as a rider but is also keen on building an equestrian business. « I dream of reaching Laura’s level, » she said. « But I’m also interested in developing young horses. It’s been an amazing process growing along with Valentino. Now I want to produce young horses for other people to enjoy.”
She believes Europe offers the right environment for her aspirations. « Both the American and European equestrian scenes are top-tier. But they are very different and both have their own strengths. Europeans are actively involved in all facets of the sport, from horse shoeing to the gear. Their hands-on approach is truly inspiring. »
Earlier in the day, the Grand Prix of the CSI1* competition, presented by Gemeente Merchtem, also took place. Therese Soehol Henriksen from Norway and her horse Kannto (Kannan x Dobel’s Cento | NWB) secured the victory. The second-place position was claimed by Stephanie De Corte, who was also recognized as the best CSI1* rider of the event. Additionally, she received an STX tack box.