Uliano Vezzani, international course designer, is first and foremost a man of horses and has a great passion for his work. His slogan is: respect for horses.
"If horses always tackled the courses created by Uliano Vezzani, they could jump all weekend" said Kevin Staut. And yet, after the World Cup Final in Gothenburg 2013, the then Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat said of the courses designed by Vezzani: "The course used in the Final was challenging and with large jumps but it was appropriate to the level of the competition. If we riders had ridden better than we did, there would definitely have been more clear rounds...". We are referring to the Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani, creator of courses on the most prestigious competition fields in the world and one of the most appreciated by the horse riders on the mainstream international circuit.
There are very many variables that characterise a competition and that determine the prestige and level within the sporting calendar and the work of the course designer is undoubtedly one of the most important ones. The stables, the competition fields, the geographical position and the prize money are all aspects that lead riders to participate in one program rather than another but all of these aspects together must have a common denominator that decides the final choice: who creates the courses? Which one that makes a difference? How is a course created? What are the aspects we need to pay special attention to? "The first rule to follow absolutely is to always create a course that is advantageous for the horses not one that works against them - explains Uliano Vezzani - and this means not subjecting them to unnecessary effort or creating insidious difficulties. When you arrive at the site of the competition, many days before the event, you take the time necessary to carry out all the assessments and to get a general idea of the structure. The first considerations are made according to the geographical location of the site, the dimensions, the type of terrain and the setting of the competition field, the characteristics of the trial field, the climatic conditions and the material that you have available, starting with the obstacles park. Then you evaluate the list of pairings entered into the competition in general after which you look at it in more detail, considering the initial list of the individual competitions and of the sporting formula. On the first day you observe all the pairings in the field and you immediately get an idea of the state of form of the horses which therefore allows you to make any changes to the path. Every jump on the course has its difficulties and as such these all need to be arranged on the path in order to create competition but always in full respect of the horses, both physically and psychologically. In recent years, creating the courses of the Nations Cups, of the Grand Prix, the stages of the Global Tour and World Cup on competition fields of all types and sizes, I have gained a great deal of experience but the more I do, the more I realise that there is always something to learn and every opportunity is beneficial in terms of improving yourself and your work". Uliano Vezzani, in fact, enjoys the respect of all the riders and it is not unusual to see him on the sideline chatting with them and exchanging opinions on the courses: "Every time I look at all the riders in the field, I ask them for their impressions on the course. I get them to advise me and to explain what the problems and difficulties are that they most frequently encounter. I always ask for their opinion at the end of the course and, especially when a fault occurs, I value their reflections. I watch the horses in the arena to see how they jump and then see if they also continue jumping in the same way on the course. Horses shouldn't have to work too hard and the faults should never scare them. For this reason, I never focus the challenges at one particular point on the course but distribute them so that the horses reach the end, the final hurdle, still wanting to jump. Respect for horses is absolutely the first thing a field director should consider. A field director must first and foremost be a horse man and must always be honest when dealing with these animals".
The person that creates the courses has an important duty because not only are they responsible for the smooth running of the competition but more than anything for the physical and psychological integrity of the horses. Ensuring a good level of sport, entertainment for the audience, competitiveness and protection of the horses are no simple matters. Beyond the experience and the technical knowledge that are absolutely essential, a great passion and a thorough knowledge of horses is also required. Whenever Uliano Vezzani is present at the participation in his courses, he always manages to get excited, especially at the competition fields he is most fond of: "Of all the most exciting competitions I would put Piazza di Siena at the top of the list. That's where I was born and where learned the skill from the great Marcello Mastronardi who created courses at Villa Borghese for three decades. He was my teacher: in the days when I was starting out, I used to bring him the barriers. I owe him a great deal. Today there are lots of wonderful courses with excellent competition fields and top class facilities, both for the horses and for the public, such as the various stages of the World Cup and of the Global Champions Tour, the most prestigious CSI and CSIO with the circuit of the Nations Cup. The latter is the competition that involves me more because the technical level of the teams is very diverse and as a result you have to create courses that are balanced while respecting the high competitive level. Each competition has its own characteristics, the Global Champions Tour, for example, takes place in the city centre in all countries of the world, in Europe, in the Arab countries, in China and Brazil, thereby bringing people into contact with equestrianism. The goal is to create a show and to attract a large audience and for this reason the field director not only has the role of creating the courses but of organising around it an actual show while ensuring the sponsors are in the spotlight. The sponsors’ obstacles must be arranged so that they are visible from every perspective and are captured by the cameras; the media aspect is very important for sponsors and in turn sponsors are important for the wide scale publicising and dissemination of the sport of riding. The role of the field director is therefore to create the show around the competition and as such the course must be constructed so that it can be fully watched by the public dispersed around the arena, whether it is a confined indoor area or a large outdoor field".
It is a constantly changing world that involves intertwined professions and overlapping roles yet, despite all this, the true meaning of the sport is never obscured, namely the love of horses: "I consider myself very lucky for the work I do because I am in contact with a wonderful animal that I love very much and that always stirs new emotions in me. I also have a great relationship with the riders, most of whom have become true friends. From each course, observing every horse, I learn something new. I hope to continue learning how to improve the quality of my work to achieve a high sporting level where the focal point is always a respect for horses.... ". Thus concludes Uliano Vezzani as he walks into the field with a stick in his hand surrounded by his assistants.