When Severo Jurado López passaged, one handed, down the centerline in Rio, his horse Lorenzo’s hooves stepping beat for beat to Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life,” the crowd, polite yet unenthused for previous rides, exploded into uproarious applause. A chorus of boos ensued when the judges scored the Spaniard and his chestnut gelding just off the podium. In the court of public opinion, they won the day and a new dressage star was born.
Dressage fans should thank Severo’s grandfather for starting him in the sport. As a child growing up in southern Spain, there was rarely a time when Severo wasn’t on horseback. “I have been in the saddle almost before I could walk,” Severo says, “My grandfather has a farm and taught me the horsemanship basics.” Severo’s grandfather focused on classical Spanish riding, and also bred his grandson’s first great horse, an Andalusian called Primero.
Severo’s love of horses continued to grow as a youth, meaning school and other hobbies took a back seat to his number one passion. “I was not really good at school,” says the Spaniard, “when I was there, I just thought about riding. By 16 it became clear that my future must be with horses – I could never see myself in another job.”
More than just a rider, Severo is the embodiment of a true horseman. After deciding his career path involved horses, Severo sought education in numerous facets of horse care. “It was always important for me to learn about horses from every side, not only riding,” he says. Severo spent a summer learning about breeding operations, and trained with a veterinarian and farrier, solidifying his knowledge in these areas.
At the age of 18, Severo was accepted to the Real Maestranza de Cabellería (Royal School of Cavalry) in Ronda where he would study for 3 years. The school, which was originally founded by Philip II in 1573, is a prestigious institution focusing on classical dressage. “I feel lucky that they accepted me. That was a big change in my life since that’s where I started riding dressage,” says Severo of his time at RMCR.
While still in Ronda, Severo competed at the European Championships as a young rider. Shortly thereafter he relocated to Germany, which Severo calls “the center of Dressage,” where he trained with Jan Nivelle and eventually to the Netherlands to ride with Anne van Olst. It was with van Olst’s Numberto that Severo received a perfect 10 on the one-tempis in his first trip to Aachen. “I will never forget that! I learned a lot from him [Numberto]. What made him special was his extraordinary character.”
Severo valued his time with these trainers, learning their different systems and styles and he continues to keep an open mind. When asked if there is a particular rider or instructor he particularly reveres, Severo says, “I respect every rider. Everybody has his own way and system, but everybody has my respect. I always try to get the best parts from each rider and learn from that.”
In the fall of 2013 Severo moved to Helgstrand Stables in Denmark. “I was curious about a new challenge and the opportunity to ride so many amazing horses.” He notes the rapid strides Denmark is making in breeding and development of young horses, catching up to the programs of Germany and the Netherlands.
One of those special horses is Severo’s Rio partner, Lorenzo. The 10-year-old German-bred Warmblood has personality in spades, matching the flare of his Spanish rider. Incredibly, Lorenzo’s first international Grand Prix was in February of 2016, just months before his Olympic debut. “What makes him so special in my eyes is definitely his character,” says Severo of Lorenzo. “He always tries to do his best and he knows when we’re in the show ring – he loves the attention and I’m sure he knows that he’s a star.”
The other star in Severo’s stable is Fiontini, a Danish Warmblood mare with whom he’s won the World Championships for Young Horses twice. “She can be a bit of a mare, but when we go in the show ring she puts her ears forward and knows what she has to do.”
Severo admits the life of a professional rider isn’t always easy, having to leave family and friends behind as he hits the road for a rigorous competition schedule. “Luckily I have a girlfriend who also likes horses and dressage. She comes with me to almost every competition and understands my lifestyle,” Severo says of girlfriend and right hand, Annika, who is also instrumental in handling media and business inquiries while Severo is on horseback.
The young phenom is still somewhat awestruck from his trip to Rio, and continues to ride the wave of success, having won the season opening World Cup qualifier in Odense. “The experience of the last year, especially the Olympics was amazing. I’ve received a lot of positive support,” says Severo.
Despite a recent set back in Amsterdam, where Lorenzo had to be withdrawn from competition due to a minor skin irritation, Severo still has ambitious goals for the year. “I would like to qualify for Omaha. I also have many new projects, so it’s going to be another exciting year. Later in the summer we have the European Championships, where I’m hoping to be a part. But we’ll take it step by step.”
Follow Severo on Facebook @JuradoDressage
By Ashley Fairfield-Remeza