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Giulia Martinengo Marquet knows how to reveal tomorrow's talents

12 August 2019

She’s one of the best riders in Italy, and the World. In the shade of her estate’s olive trees in Burago di Muscoline, a stone's throw from Lake Garda, Giulia Martinengo Marquet talks to Studforlife. The sportswoman tells her story, her vision for the sport, her breeding program and her secrets to finding star mounts. Not to mention her relationship with her husband Stefano Cesaretto. A top-level rider in the 1990s, he now works in the background of this harmonious duo, whose method has enabled a good number of talented horses to emerge at the highest level, like Ludger Beerbaum's Chiara.

Giulia Martinengo Marquet is radiant and enthusiastic and can regularly be seen excelling as part of the Italian team. At 40, after two European Championships, in Madrid with Chiclana and in Mannheim with Athletica, she will now be back in Rotterdam with Elzas (Diamant de Semilly).

 

Daytona de la Caccia, a 6-year-old by Diamant de Sémilly and Caretino, who was well ranked in Rome in the Youngsters. 

How did you start horseback riding?

I was born into a family of riders. My mother was a passionate jumper, while my father, a military rider, competed at a good level. For his work, we lived in Palmanova, near Udine, in eastern Italy. We had a stable at home, so I really grew up amongst horses. I was always passionate about horses; they were the only thing that interested me. When my parents divorced, we moved closer to Venice with my mother. We no longer had any horses at home, but the stable was very close by. I started riding a pony and then, when I was old enough, I quickly switched to horses. I’d ride my brothers' horses when they moved on from them. I have two older brothers, including Riccardo Martinengo Marquet, who’s also a professional rider. He's 7 years older than me, so it made sense that when he finished with a horse, I would then ride it. My mother always supported me, accompanied me everywhere, but she didn't want to force me. She wanted me to gain experience, without going through the motions. I trained with a very traditional instructor. I’ve ridden many different horses, without the pressure of the Championships. At the time, maybe I was jealous seeing the careers of others take off, but with hindsight, I think it was a good thing. I’ve never done a European Junior Championship, but I’ve done two with the Young Riders. At the Europeans, I rode a mare that was only 8 years old, which was then sold to Michel Robert and then to Marta Ortega. 

The entrance to Giulia and Stefano's house

You were studying in parallel with your sporting career, right? 

Yes, my mother was uncompromising: there was no way I was going to attend a special school or get some academic relief. She always told me, "I'll do anything for you, but you need to do well with your studies." After high school, I studied Art at the University of Venice. That's when I told my mother that I was sure that riding would become my life and profession. She has never opposed it, as long as I’m able to be financially independent. That's when Stefano came into my life. Everything became much easier. I didn't have to go abroad or ride for a dealer. I rode directly for my husband as soon as I was done with the Young Riders. We started with young horses that we sold to help build our facilities.  

Giulia Martinengo Marquet enjoys riding horses in the morning and especially on this beautiful grassy track, surrounded by olive trees. 

Is your husband still riding? 

Yes, he still rides at home, but not in competition anymore. When we met 20 years ago, he had already competed to a high level, he participated in the World Championships in Stockholm in 1990 and the European Championships in Rotterdam in 1991. He had a lot of clients back then, and decided to put his career aside to help me.

The army is a key support in Giulia’s career.

How long have you been riding for the Italian army? 

Since 2005. Ireland and Italy have always been committed to their military traditions. In Italy, the army provides a lot of support to sportsmen and women in many disciplines. In 2005, I was the first woman to enter Piazza di Siena in uniform. It was a special feeling. It's great to be able to take advantage of this support. The army doesn’t own my horses, but it supports me closely. 

What are your career milestones?

Last year, I certainly would have answered the 2007 Mannheim Europeans with Athletica and our double clear round. It was the first time I had jumped at that level. Italy wasn't in the premiere league, so I wasn't used to competing in such tough events. To get to the Europeans, with a 9-year-old mare, and to achieve two clear rounds, including one in heavy rain, was incredible. Everyone was talking about Athletica, who was a real warrior. It was very emotional for me. I also won the Italian Championships twice, in 2015 with Istafan Sissi and in 2018 with Verdine (Verdi). After that title with Verdine, the Chef d’équipe took me to Rome for the Nations Cup where we won. And doing well in Rome is crazy. A dream. You feel like you're winning for everyone. I really am a team rider. I love to ride in the Nations Cups. At that moment, we couldn't count on our lynchpin riders, so winning with our team was really something!

Which horses have had a profound effect on your life? 

I can say that Athletica and Verdine have changed my life, but we’ve always managed to do something with our horses. My career isn’t tied to one particular horse. However, we’re still trying to get another one for the top level. Last year it was Verdine, this season it's Elzas. And now we have to think about our next move.


You work with your husband on a daily basis, but do you work with anyone else? 

Yes, we’ve always wanted to work with other coaches. It’s important to have an outside perspective; they bring a lot of experience. It's very rewarding. We’ve worked with Hans Horn, Henk Nooren and for three years with Michel Robert. For the past year, Jos Kumps has been training me. He was Baloubet's rider back when he was young and wild, and he rode Athina Onassis and Doda's horses. He also trains Jos Verlooy and Gudrun Patteet. He works in the background. He's really significant. He comes every 6 weeks and stays for two days. We ride all the horses with him here, whether it's Elzas or the young ones. My years with Michel Robert were a fabulous experience for me, although it was difficult at first: his method was very different from what I knew, very mentally demanding. He wanted me to forget everything I knew. He knew where he wanted to take me, but I didn't. I thought to myself, "Crap, I'll never make it!" He questioned me so harshly that I cried. At the end of the first lesson, even going over four poles on the ground at a walk and with long reins seemed out of reach. It was difficult, but I wanted to hold on and, in the end, it gave me something really formidable. He no longer trains us, but when I see him in competitions, I always like to ask him for advice. Training with him was really great. We still have a mare together, Courage.

 To be continued tomorrow...