NEW YORK — Like father, like son. In the Sixties, the horseman Nelson Pessoa rode with a Steinkraus saddle, made especially for him by Hermès and named after the American champion Bill Steinkraus. Recently, his son, Rodrigo, asked the luxury goods company to update the model. They created the Brasilia, which uses three kinds of leather — buffalo for the seat; smooth grain cow for the flaps, and calf for the panels — and will sell for approximately $4,100.
“I think this is going to please a lot of riders,” the younger Pessoa said recently during an in-store appearance at the Hermès boutique on Madison Avenue here, showing off the new saddle. Pessoa, 31, is not so well known in the States, but his expert horse jumping, not to mention his position on the Brazilian Olympic team, have made him a star in his country. “It’s the best saddle possible that there is. It helps you feel the rhythm of the horse.”
As if riding and racing horses wasn’t enough, Pessoa also has an affinity for soccer (“There’s not a Brazilian that doesn’t like soccer,” he conceded) and Formula 1 racing. “There are a lot of similarities between the turning of the horse and the turning of the car,” he explained. “The computers of the car talk back to you and you have to hear what the horse is telling you. And it’s a similar exhilaration whenever you win.”
Lately, Pessoa’s favorite horse happens to be called Hermès St. Louis. “Our horse is very special,” he added. “It’s not a machine. It’s like a human being.”
And not only is he expecting to compete in this summer’s Olympics in Greece — “You always go with a positive mind and I think my horse is in good shape” — but Pessoa and his American wife of three years, Keri Potter, are expecting a daughter. The athlete won’t force her, however, to mount a horse. “We’ll support whatever she wants to play, whether she decides on tennis or to be a ballet dancer,” he said. “But it will be a big responsibility if she decides to follow her dad and her grandfather.”
— Marshall Heyman