Wellington, FL (April 12, 2013) – Martin Sosnoff recently beat the odds at the 2013 Adequan Global Dressage Festival Wellington 5* National show by riding his gelding, Scirocco to a 60%, but defeating the odds is nothing new to the adult amateur dressage rider. “When I spoke to friends in the orthopedic field, they said I had a 1 in 100 shot to ever ride again, much less compete. But they’re not riders, it’s not in their blood,” said Sosnoff, referring to his determination to get back in the saddle. In 2012, the avid rider and founder of the private investment management firm Atalanta Sosnoff Capital, endured three back surgeries in the span of five weeks, enough to significantly sideline even the fittest equestrian. However with the help of Dr. Cesar Parra and the Piaffe Performance team, Sosnoff is now not only competing, but getting respectable scores in the Prix St. Georges.
Sosnoff will celebrate his 82nd birthday in August, and his Prix St. George horse, a Dutch Warmblood gelding named Scirocco, will turn 19. “I’ve done The Century Club. What’s left to prove?” he chuckled. The Dressage Foundation ‘Century Club’ recognizes riders and horses whose combined age totals 100 or more. While Sosnoff and Scirocco’s numbers also add up, the Rhinebeck, New York horseman checked the Centurion test off his bucket list while a youthful 76, riding his then 24-year-old Fourth Level horse, Big Red.
Sosnoff faced a greater test returning from the operating table to the saddle. “I don’t think about winning or losing, I’m just happy to compete again,” he said of his journey, which began last November, literally, at the walk. “I wasn’t strong enough to post. As weeks passed, I could post the trot, then canter, then sit the trot and finally, progress with the intensity that we could train to compete.”
“We” represents a team composed of his favorite horse, Scirocco, his upstate New York trainer, Wes Dunham and when in Florida, Piaffe-Performance owner and trainer, Dr. Cesar Parra. Sosnoff calls meeting Dr. Parra, “Pure serendipity.” He and Dunham were in Florida horse shopping when a friend called, recommending a 30-minute trip to Piaffe-Performance and assuring they would be pleased with what they found. Sosnoff not only found a horse. He found a friend and mentor whose expertise he continues to seek out as often as possible.
He bought his current PSG horse, Scirocco, five years ago as a First Level prospect: “We have a great relationship. A friend described our first meeting as ‘love at first sight’ and we do love one another. He’s very congenial, affectionate, and intelligent.”
And as a riding partner? “He was very forward, and I like forward, but we had to spend the first two years getting him collected and packaged. He’s been a fast learner and started PSG last year. He has some very nice changes, half-passes at the canter easily, and is good at the one- and two-tempis.
“Scirocco can easily do Intermediare-1,” said Sosnoff, who did not begin riding until his 40’s. “I’m the one who needs consistent PSG scores in the 60’s first. We did okay but can always do better. We could have been more forward and rode the first test fairly conservatively.” For a man who should have been given 100-1 odds of ever riding again, much less at an FEI Prix St George level, getting a 60.789% is a resounding, if conservative, success.
“I try to see Cesar as often as I can. And I try to ride at least three times a week. I’d like to ride four or five, but three I think is the minimum you can get away with without losing a competitive training edge.”
“Martin shows all of us at Piaffe-Performance how it’s done,” said Parra, who has also been in Wellington to ride for one of two U.S. Dressage squads competing in its CDIO Nations Cup. “For Martin, dressage is his fountain of youth, which is wonderful. I think every dressage rider hopes to be going strong after eight decades.”
Thanks to the horse as the great equalizer, dressage is one of the few Olympian sports where men and women, young and old, compete as equals. While his ageless friend seeks out more Prix St. Georges classes for Scirocco this season, Parra has several Piaffe-Performance stars on the rise, including two five year-old Oldenburg prospects that may lead him down the road to the 2014 World Equestrian Games. Photo: Martin Sosnoff and Scirocco at the 2013 Adequan Global Dressage Festival.
Photo courtesy of SusanJStickle.com