Joćo Oliveira, the legendary Portuguese classical dressage master, lost his battle with lung cancer and passed away in his sleep on Monday, May 7, 2007, at age 57 in Los Angeles, where he had been undergoing treatment. Born June 30, 1949 in Lisbon, Portugal, Joćo was the heir to the classical legacy of his father Nuno Oliveira, whom many consider the link between the great European riders of centuries past and the rise of modern dressage.
Just two weeks before his death, the final four Lusitano horses trained by Joćo performed two exhibitions at the World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas with his cousin Ana Luisa Valenēa and three friends from Portugal aboard. "Joćo got to hear how the audience reacted," said his wife Rebecca Oliveira, who put a phone next to his ear when a friend called from Las Vegas during the performance. "Joćo started crying. He was so emotional and he was so touched. He said, `The world has seen the beauty of the Lusitano.'" She continued, "I would like for him to be remembered not only for his masterful skills, but as a human being who had so much kindness in him. He had such a good heart. Joćo was of the old school. He had this powerful gruff voice, but inside there was a beautiful soul. Joćo's father was a very public person, but Joćo was a very private personexcept for his art. He was really an introvert, but he loved good parties, good food, and good wine. He was a wonderful husband and father."
USDF gold medalist Linda Alexander Walton, who owns Brookside Lusitanos with her husband Keith, commented, "We had the privilege to work with Joćo for the last three years and we mourn the loss of our dear friend and partner. To all those who love horses, the loss of Joćo is immeasurable. His talent and his innate understanding made the average horse good and the good horse outstanding. To ride a horse that Joćo trained was an amazing experience, never to be forgotten. Joćo Oliveira was a true equine artist and we will miss him tremendously."
During his career, Joćo trained horses and clients around the globe, including competitors for the Pan American Games. He performed classical dressage exhibitions at major international events including the 2005 World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas with his cousin Ana Luisa Valenēa. They also performed together at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Dressage Selection Trials in San Juan Capistrano, California. In 1998, Joćo performed at the Lisbon World Expo. At the historic Manila Polo Club in the Philippines, he opened the celebrity polo game featuring the Prince of Brunei and Malaysian royalty. Numerous other exhibitionsfrom Asia to Peru to the United Statesshowcased his gift for teaching the piaffe and passage to any breed of horse.
Following a private ceremony in Los Angeles for the Oliveira's immediate family on Thursday, May 10, Joćo will be cremated. A memorial service for Joćo will take place at Brookside Equestrian in Walnut, California on Sunday, May 20 for friends and colleagues to attend (details will be posted on www.brooksideequestrian.com). Joćo's remains will then be taken to his beloved homeland Portugal, where a special tribute is being organized to honor him in June.
Joćo is survived by his wife Rebecca and their son Nuno Oliveira, who was born on June 23, 1996, the same day as his namesake. Two adult sons by Joćo's first marriage live in Europe, Hugo and Gonēalo Oliveira. He also leaves behind his sister, Pureza Oliveira, a noted painter in Portugal, and his brother Miguel Oliveira (whose wife Sue Oliveira is a professional equestrian), who lives in Belgium. Joćo's aunt Ana Maria Oliveira (the only living sibling of his father Nuno) and her husband Rolf Larsen of Denmark have been devoted supporters of the legacy he continued with Oliveira Dressage.
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