Hungarian para dressage rider Ildiko Fonyodi has found her dance partner in Jazmin Yom-Tov's Bojengel and travelled across Europe earning miles and experience in the Grade V division. Coached by Jazmin, Ildiko proved the non-believers wrong and is hopefully on her way to Paris.
Para Dressage in Hungary
In February 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix rider Jazmin Yom-Tov convinced her father Arie to sponsor the 44-year old Fonyodi in boosting her para dressage career by giving her the ride on Jazmin's 18-year old KWPN licensed stallion Bojengel (by Uptown ox Gribaldi). The master plan was to support an ambitious, hard-working rider and put Hungary on the map in para dressage.
"Jazmin convinced me to help and support Ildiko with Bojengel," Arie Yom Tov told Eurodressage. "No one gave it a chance but today we know that they could succeed to reach their targets. Jazmin put a lot of energy and time training them. She believed that the three of them could do it."
A Thrilling Year
Fonyodi debuted in international para sport in May 2022 aboard Zsuzsanna Kiss' Westfalian Sir Sincere (by Sunday x Florestan) and represented Hungary at the 2022 World Para Dressage Championships in Herning, where they were 11th in the individual test.
In September 2022 she first tested the waters with a new horse on Yom-Tov's 17-year old Oldenburg stallion Surprise (by Sir Donnerhall x Prince Thatch xx) at the CPEDI Waregem. However the match with Bojengel lifted her career to a new level.
The new pair debuted at the CPEDI Pilisjaszfalu in June 2023 claiming a double victory in the Grade V tests. From there they went to the CPEDI's in Ornago and Deurne before representing Hungary at the 2023 European Para Dressage Championships in Riesenbeck, where they were 12th in the Grand Prix B test. Two months later they made it another double at the CPEDI Montesice, while they concluded their whirlwind year with three top five placings at the big and competitive CPEDI in Genemuiden, The Netherlands.
"The most beautiful moment of this year was when I first rode into the competition arena with “Jango” in Pilisjászfalu, at home," said Ildiko. "Here, Hungarian fans, friends, my students, and riders from the Dutch stable of the horse’s owner, with whom we have trained a lot and prepared together, were all rooting for us. And we even managed to win."
Ildiko has been riding under the careful supervision of Jazmin, who is temporarily back in Hungary at Stable Unikornis, where Ildiko is based, after having spent years in The Netherlands where the Yom Tov family has the training and sales facility Sport Pro Horses in Uden.
"Working with her is fantastic," said Ildiko about her trainer. "Despite her young age, Jázmin has incredible knowledge, and a lot of experience. She has an incredible ability to relieve my tension with a joke or two in high-pressure situations."
For Jazmin the coaching is a new part of her job as a professional dressage rider. "It’s very exciting, it’s a new world that I did a little a bit before only to my friends," she told Eurodressage. "But I find it fun and challenging, trying to help and improve combinations is a good challenge but also so rewarding when like in this case Ildi, I see such an insane improvement of only a year and a bit."
Ildiko and Bojengel are based at Stable Unikornis in Pilisjaszfalu, where Ildiko
"Ildi is a very very hard working woman, who is not only giving lessons to her own students, but she is also a great mom," said Jazming. "Of course she is taking such good care of Bojengel it makes me happy he gets such a loving rider. Ildi is very much a perfectionist which I find very important, she is very open minded to new things, super eager to learn new things and we work together as a team very good as well, that helps a little."
The Yom-Tov family acquired the stallion in 2018 and Jazmin premiered him at the 2019 CDI Pilisjaszfalu at Young Riders level and moved him up to Under 25 Grand Prix in Exloo. Between 2019 and June 2021 she showed him in Leudelange, Pilisjaszfalu and Fot, winning two international classes. She knows the bay in and out. Her horse now fulfils his role as a schoolmaster.
"Bojengel is an extraordinary KWPN stallion with three fantastic gaits, incredible heart and diligence," said Ildiko. "He also tolerates the weakness and imperfection of my left leg incredibly well!"
When we asked her what the stallion's weakness is, Ildiko smiled and replied "mares."
Dance for Paris
While the FEI has not yet officially confirmed the individual starting places for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris, it looks like Hungary will have secured one slot, which Ildiko is aiming for.
Even though Paris looming on the horizon, Ildiko will cherish every step of the way and looks forward to some selected showing in 2024.
"This year, I would like to travel less with Jango than last year, because unfortunately, all competitions are quite far from Hungary," she explained. "Luckily, there will be a competition here in May, which is a sure thing. After that, we have planned Stadl Paura and perhaps Deurne in the Netherlands. The horse’s form will determine everything. Because at the end of the day, he is the most important!"
Jazmin added that "I remember how we started out. No one believed in her and us, a lot of people were just thinking that her dream was way too big, but she proved every single one of them wrong. And she most definitely deserves it."
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