Eugenio Garza Perez has a lot to smile about. Last weekend, the 21-year-old  Mexican rider came in 6th place in the $135,600 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Langley Qualifier at Thunderbird on a 9-year-old stallion that’s showing plenty of promise. With his bright white coat and multi-colored eyes (one blue, one brown), Armani SI Z isn’t just striking to look at—he also jumps with an ease and form that’s worthy of appreciation.

Armani is just one of the talented Zangersheides Garza is bringing along with the help of his coach, Eddie Macken. His second, the gelding Victer Finn DH Z, recently earned his own three-star win at Thunderbird as well as in the Under-25 Grand Prix division at Wellington this Winter. In other words, with two proven up-and-comers in his ranks, Garza is well poised to break into the big leagues in a big way in the coming year. We caught up with him to learn more.

Noelle Floyd Style: You came to compete in Thunderbird in May and now you’re back for the Summer Fort Festival—why do you like this venue? 

Eugenio Garza: I think we had many reasons to come. One, the Nations Cup; we’re leading up to the World Equestrian Games [WEG] and we’re trying to do everything right. Stan Van Paesschen is chef d’equipe and May was his first Nations Cup, [so] we wanted to support the team and Mexico. This is also Eddie [Macken’s] backyard show—he lives five minutes from here—and he’s always said so many good things about it. It was a long way, but it was very worth it.

I absolutely love the show. I’ve never jumped on better grass footing than this. In May, it rained, and we had an 80-horse class and it held up perfectly. The horses love it and they ended the week jumping better than they started. The people here are amazing—Jane [Tidball] and Chris [Pack], they’ve done an absolutely unbelievable job. Everyone is happy, everyone is kind…it’s just a really nice atmosphere.

Looking ahead to the rest of your season, will you be concentrating on qualifying for the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final? 

Yes, I think World Cup points, for sure, are important, but with next year, with the WEG coming up, I wouldn’t say we’re going to hurry our horses to get them ready for World Cup. Because [Armani SL Z and Victer Finn DH Z] are both 9, and they’re both lovely horses, and I think we’re going to take it slow. Of course, you never know; maybe we’ll do [Longines FEI World Cup Jumping New York] at the American Gold Cup, and then we also have Ocala and Wellington and the Palm Beach Masters. So, for sure, it’s a possibility, but I won’t say it’s something that we’re pursuing. We’re focusing more on next September.

You’ve been competing in Europe since June—what were your goals for that portion of your season?

We did eight weeks in Europe. It was definitely a learning experience, especially for me and the horses. I felt like both horses came back much more mature—they learned a lot. Europe is just different. It’s very tough, and competition is everywhere you go, no matter if it’s a warm-up class or the grand prix, everyone is trying to win and everyone is competitive.

Those were some of the biggest tracks we’ve jumped and we didn’t even do the big CSI5* shows, we stayed around the CSI3*-level and they were huge. We did Arnhem—that was an incredible show, I loved it—but again, it was tough. Everyone told me when you go to Arnhem [Outdoor Gelderland in the Netherlands], it’s big and tough, and that’s what they built. It was a good experience for me. Knokke was amazing. We went to Slovakia in Šamorín, and that place is [also] unbelievable.

How did you decide on these shows in particular? 

We tried to mix it up. We went from small sand rings to big grass fields. The main goal for this year and for going to Europe was to give these two horses experience in everything: sand footing, grass footing, big shows. There’s no better place to build a horse than Europe, where they can gain experience. That was the main goal, and I think it was very productive.

The thing that’s most important for us is the footing. That has to be the top concern. I care a lot about the jumps and the atmosphere, and if the horse can learn something from it. Other than that, we kind of plan our schedule to what would suit the horse best.

What kind of insight does Eddie provide during this process? 

It’s really amazing to see Eddie work and see how he can plan something, and stick to the plan. All of Eddie’s clients and their horses are jumping really well at the moment—Eve [Jobs] just won a big grand prix last week. When we were in Florida, [Eddie] said, ‘Well, I don’t want these horses doing grand prix until we get to Europe, and then we’ll step them up, and we’ll finish the summer off in Thunderbird where we’ll see if what we did worked.’ Victer is jumping great, Armani is jumping great, so I’d say it worked and we’re on the right path.

Is there anywhere that’s on your own wish list for the coming year? 

I’ve never been to Spruce [Meadows], but I’m dying to go. It won’t be on the schedule for next year because we’re going back to Europe. But it’s one of those shows that you have to show at as a rider. It’s the most popular summer tour for the Mexicans—I was looking at the results and there are as many Mexicans as there are Canadians and Americans. We haven’t been to Mexico in a long time and when they come to shows like Wellington, it’s always nice to be with countrymen. I miss being in Mexico.

The Global [Champions Tour] in Mexico was an amazing [event and that’s] another show I’d love to do. Everyone that I talked to had great things to say. It just looked like a lot of fun and I’ll always aspire to get there.

How would you describe the horse show scene in Mexico? 

I spend most of my time in the U.S. since I left, but Mexico is really competitive. There are a lot of good riders and a lot of good horses. They’ve tripled the amount of international events in Mexico in the last three years; there’s a CSI5* in the GCT, a Nations Cup, and another CSI4*. Mexico has really been building up the international events, and I think it’s great [for] exposing Mexico and the riders and horses that are there to an international level. By doing that, I think we’re going to see a lot more riders and horses that can jump Nations Cups and support the team, which would be great for us. The [Mexican Equestrian] Federation and the people putting on these shows are doing an absolutely amazing job.

Photo credit: Tori Repole.