Nilson Moreira da Silva’s ride of three years may be a “Muggle” but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something magical about this pair. Coming off a win at Poplar Place CIC3* last month, Nilson hopes to ride that momentum into their four-star debut at Rolex. “Definitely a win gives you more energy,” Nilson told EN. “It makes me want to do more, more, more.”
Starting his long and eclectic equestrian career at just 11 years old in Brazil, Nilson’s first assignment was as a groom to 12 polo ponies. While he was involved as a groom with Brazil’s national eventing team as a teenager, in his 20s he decided to pursue show jumping, a successful career which stuck for many years. It wasn’t until he moved to the United States in 2011 that he decided to return to eventing.
In less than four years, Nilson went from Training level to his three-star debut, and he and Muggle didn’t just complete that first CIC3* — they conquered, taking second at Chattahoochee Hills. Since then the pair has stayed consistent at the upper levels, becoming a mainstay on the circuit in the U.S.
Nilson gives much of the credit to Muggle, a tall and striking 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding who was the first ever 3-year-old Future Event Horse Champion in 2007. Owned by the Phoenix Syndicate, which includes Nilson, his partner Laura VanderVliet, Melissa Stubenburg and Kathleen Overbaugh, “Prince” as he’s known in the barn is well poised to fulfill the promise of his youth at the end of April.
“He took a little time to put everything together. He has always shown his potential, but it took a little time and it takes really hard work to make him the way he is today,” Nilson said. “We still have a hard time sometimes because of his size — he’s almost 18 hands — but we’re more together now and we’ve really started to form this partnership.”
When asked about his own feelings on Rolex, Nilson is calm and logical. “I believe in the horse’s program and I believe in the horse, so going to Rolex, honestly, it’s just another big competition. For me at the end of the day, it’s no different than going to a three-star and it’s no different than going Training level. I need to be focused and hope my horse understands all we ask for, and try to do the best we can. I can’t be too nervous or all that; it’s just another day of my work.”
Nilson has an enthusiastic crew of grooms, supporters and owners to support him at Rolex. His partner Laura will be there, along with their super groom and barn manager Jessica McCabe, and the fellow members of the Phoenix Syndicate. He’ll also have two powerhouse coaches in his corner: Bruce Davidson, with whom Nilson has been working the past year, and Mark Todd, who is chef d’equipe for the Brazilian team.
“I’ve had a great team in the past five years, and I am here because of them,” Nilson said. “I think I have really good support behind me, and I’ve got to go there and do the best I can for them.”
If he and Muggle go out and give the performance they believe they’re capable of giving, Nilson feels confident they could be in the top 20, and that’s his goal for the event. “But you know, sometimes we can be surprised … and maybe we can do even better. At the end of the day, I never compete with another rider; I compete with myself. I prefer it that way.”
Best of luck to Nilson, Muggle and their team, and thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Vai Eventing!