By Erin Gilmore for NoelleFloyd.
WELLINGTON — In a somber, moving ceremony before the Grand Prix on Saturday evening at the Winter Equestrian Festival, World No. 41 rider Andres Rodriguez was remembered by his Venezuelan teammates, family and friends, overlooking the arena where he rode to some of his most memorable victories.
The loss of Rodriguez, who passed away following a January 4th car crash that also took the life of fellow equestrian Sophie Walker, shook the international show jumping community to its core. As all those who knew the two riders try to cope with their tragic passing, the community has continued to pay homage to their respective memories.
Before a heartfelt video was played on the big screen at WEF, former Venezuelan chef d’equipe Cesar Hirsch spoke to honor Rodriguez’ memory:
“When Andres Rodriguez was taken from us, friends and family used phrases like “a radiant spirit, a big kid, charismatic, the brightest star, a joy” to describe him. Those words from the people who knew him best, paint a picture of the passionate and kind person that “Chepito” was,” said Venezuelan Cesar Hirsch
“Always with a contagious smile on his face, Andres lived a life that was full and exhilarating. In the last year alone, he galloped to victory in this very ring, won a Pan-American silver medal and married the love of his life.
Tonight, as his Venezuelan teammates gather center-ring and his fellow riders carry on his passion, we ask that you remember all the good that Andres brought to our sport, our lives and our world.
Chepito, may you live on forever through the many people you touched, the horses you rode and the legacy you left behind.”