How did you get into horse riding?
I was born on a farm and my whole family rides. I grew up constantly being around horses, so for me there was no other path and I never wanted to do anything else. I think I started riding when I was three or four-years-old and could almost ride before I could even walk!
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
An amazing moment in my career so far was in 2017, when I won a silver medal in the individual class at the FEI European Championship for Young Riders, Juniors, Children. It was my first year competing at the Young Rider Championships and my horse was just eight-years-old. I don’t think anybody expected us to do so well!
What are you most looking forward to about competing at CHIO Aachen?
I competed at CHIO Aachen last year, so I know the feeling you get when riding into the arena. The atmosphere is amazing, you really can’t describe it. To be around and watch the 5* riders who attend is both inspiring and motivating. Seeing how they prepare for this show and compete is a huge learning experience for young riders like myself. For me, Aachen is the best show in the world and I think everyone involved feels like there is something special about this show. I am so excited to compete there once again!
Which horses are you taking? Can you tell us a bit about them?
I am taking Light Star, a 10-year-old stallion by Light On. I also rode him last year and he’s my best horse at the moment. I know that he is always happy to compete at Aachen and he jumped amazingly last year. He always makes me feel confident when we enter the arena.
What are your thoughts on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
To be able to compete in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is every rider’s dream, and to able you win it would make you the happiest person on earth!
What is the one competition you want to win the most?
I think it would have to be the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. Once you’ve won, no one will forget you as a rider. It’s the most special and prestigious competition.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
I don’t really have one thing or one person who is my inspiration. I think it’s the team work between the horse and rider that inspires me the most. You and the horse are never perfect, but you are continuously learning from one another. I always want to be the best I can be, and I always love learning new things from my horses, as well.
Which riders do you idolise the most?
My father (René Tebbel), because he is the best trainer and rider in my eyes. He rode at both the Olympics and at the FEI World Equestrian Games™. He is such an inspiring trainer and rider and I try to learn as much from him as I can. The end goal is to be as good a rider as he is!
How much fitness do you have to do to be in peak condition?
Recently I have had to train a lot more due to my back injury. I couldn’t do anything for six weeks but now I am back to riding and training every day. I am also working with a physio two or three times a week, which is important for my recovery.
What does your daily routine look like?
My daily routine changes and I don’t really have one thing that I do every single day. The most important thing to me is that my horse is perfectly prepared. When I’m at a show, I like to watch old videos of me riding to see what I did well and what needs improving. Watching past competitions helps me feel more confident before entering the arena.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
To never give up has been important advice for me, especially recently. When you are at the bottom, there is always something to get you back on top. You can never be perfect, but you can always learn and do better. To me, that’s the most important thing to remember.
Rolex Grand Slam & Young Riders
An integral part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is to target the fostering and development of young talent. Two young, exceptionally gifted riders from a young Riders Academy are invited to each of the four Rolex Grand Slam shows, where they gain invaluable experience at the very pinnacle of equestrian sport.
Three out of the four Majors, which make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping are staunch advocates of developing young, aspiring equestrian athletes. A national young riders class – the German U25 Trophy of the Stiftung Deutscher Spitzenpferdesport, Prize of Family Müter – features on CHIO Aachen’s competition programme each year; as part of its Summer Series, CSIO Spruce Meadows hosts the Alberta Power U25 Challenge, which consists of multiple U25 competitions; while a CSI U25 competition will be staged for the first time at this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva.
Which horses has the team entered to take part in CHIO Aachen 2019?
This year we have entered Toveks Mary Lou and Forever. Henrik will also be bringing Janika Sprunger’s youngster, Little Magic d’Asschaut. We are thrilled to be returning to Germany for CHIO Aachen!
In your eyes, what makes CHIO Aachen such a special event?
The entirety of the show is incredible. Henrik has always said that the feeling the riders get when they enter that ring is like no other. I think there is something very special about being at Aachen, and every rider and every groom wants to attend. The show is always very busy and is a lot of hard work but it’s always worth it.
Does the team feel extra pressure now that Henrik is the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender?
Yes, of course. The pressure is there but we are all very excited to see him continue his Rolex Grand Slam journey and see how this season will end. Henrik also definitely feels the extra pressure; you can really sense it around the stables now that Aachen is around the corner.
How have you been preparing the horses for the competition?
We try to keep the horses’ schedules as normal and regular as we can. We want them to be as fit as possible, so Henrik rides each of the horses every day and then in the afternoons they go hacking for a few hours. The most important thing is that we keep the horses safe and happy. They absolutely love hacking out in the forest and riding in big open spaces, it keeps them very calm and relaxed.
What is your daily routine at Henrik’s yard?
We start each day at 6.30am by cleaning the stables and riding then begins at 8.00am. Each horse is ridden twice, once in the morning and then a hack in the afternoon. The horses then go to field for the rest of the day. Right now, Henrik is riding each horse every day leading up to Aachen.
Why did you decide to become a groom?
I’ve always loved horses and I really do love the sport. I think you really need to love the sport to be in this job, it’s a huge responsibility and it’s really my whole life. Four and half years ago I started working for Henrik and I am still here. Henrik is the best to work for and he really cares about the horses – he would do anything to keep them safe and happy, which makes our job a lot easier!
Do you get nervous watching Henrik in the ring?
Oh yes, of course. Sometimes I can’t even watch him during a jump-off because I am so anxious! We were so nervous at The Dutch Masters when Henrik finished his second round. We wanted to be excited and were very happy with how Mary Lou jumped, but there were still a few people behind Henrik and we were all just praying that he wouldn’t come second once again in a Rolex Major [von Eckermann and Toveks Mary Lou finished in second place behind Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva 2017].
What is Mary Lou like in the stable?
She loves to be around people! She is always the first horse to come out of the yard in the morning and if you’re late she gets very restless and will make sure you know about it! She knows that she is one of the best horses in the stable and she’s also a bit spoilt! But she deserves special treatment, she is such an incredible horse.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Without doubt being around the horses. When you see them succeeding and progressing, it is the most rewarding feeling in the world and I just love being a part of it all.
If you could have worked with any past legendary horse which one would you choose?
I would have to say Steve Guerdat’s mare, Albführen’s Bianca – she’s so lovely and seems to be really stealing the show right now!
What’s the best advice you could give to someone wanting a career as a groom?
You really need to love the horses and the sport – it’s a huge commitment and you need to be ready to dedicate everything. It takes a lot, but it gives even more and if you are ready for that then you’ll be great!
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
From 12-21 July 2019, visitors from all over the world will once again travel to Germany to witness one of the most prestigious equestrian events of the year, CHIO Aachen. The nine-day event will play host to the second Major of the year, the Rolex Grand Prix, in which the world’s top equestrian athletes will go head-to-head, as they each contend for the highly sought-after victory.
The world’s greatest horse-and-rider combinations will be vying for one of show jumping’s most prestigious titles, the Rolex Grand Prix. With many of the world’s top 20-ranked riders set to compete, the field looks wide open; however, following strong recent performances on the outdoor circuit, there are notable partnerships that could claim the Rolex Major win:
Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and his impressive Toveks Mary Lou have demonstrated outstanding consistency, having recently won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show. The infamously quick duo flew through a faultless jump-off, defeating 15 of the world’s top 20-ranked riders. With the outdoor show jumping season well and truly underway, von Eckermann shows no sign of decelerating and has high hopes of continuing his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey.
Daniel Bluman made history at CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena, becoming Israel’s first ever rider to claim victory at this prestigious event, after winning the Rolex Grand Prix. The complicated course saw only four of the 44 combinations go clear in the first round, with Bluman and his 11-year-old gelding, Ladriano Z proving unbeatable after going clear in the jump-off. The 29-year-old rider has his sights set on his next victory and will pull out all the stops to secure his first Rolex Major title.
Rolex Testimonee and show jumping hero, Eric Lamaze has displayed remarkable determination this season. Lamaze won the PwC Cup at last month’s ‘National’ CSI5* presented by Rolex at Spruce Meadows, in which he and his mare, Fine Lady 5 won an electrifying jump-off. Just two days prior, Lamaze won the RBC Grand Prix of Canada presented by Rolex with his 13-year-old gelding, Chacco Kid. After his recent successes the unstoppable 51-year-old rider will do everything in his power to lift the coveted trophy at CHIO Aachen.
Legendary Swiss rider and Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat has also been on fine form this season having tasted recent success in Calgary, Canada. Aboard his young mare, Albfuehren's Bianca, the Swiss rider finished runner-up to Lamaze in the RBC Grand Prix of Canada presented by Rolex. The current world number one-ranked rider and his 16-year-old gelding, Venard de Ceris then went on to win the ‘Pan American’ Grand Prix. Guerdat, who was second in the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters 2019, will be hoping to go one further in Aachen to claim his first Rolex Major of the calendar year.
Following an impressive win with Balou du Reventon in the Rolex Grand Prix at Knokke Hippique in Belgium, Ireland’s Darragh Kenny is another rider to watch. It wasn’t an easy win for the Irishman, as the complicated course, designed by Uliano Vezzani, saw only six of the 47 combinations qualify for the jump-off in the 1.60 metre competition. Kenny and his 13-year-old stallion proved unbeatable and, having tasted recent victory, he will travel to CHIO Aachen with high hopes of continuing his success.
What is the average age of a Rolex Grand Slam Major winner (since its creation in 2013)?
The answer is precisely: 36.39 years old !
The youngest is Pieter Devos winning Spruce Meadows 'Masters' at the age of 27!
The oldest is Ian Millar still winning Spruce Meadows 'Masters' at the age of 67!
Statistics powered by JUMPFAX !
Did you know that Steve Guerdat is the only Rider who has participated in all the 20 Majors of the Rolex Grand Slam since its creation in 2013?
The world number one is in the best shape, and after two 2nd places in the Majors of CHI de Genève and The Dutch Masters - Indoor Brabant, he will try to get his fourth Major in CHIO Aachen .
Is he the favorite to claim the Rolex Grand Slam trophy?
Interesting statistic on which gender has won the most since the launch of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2013.
Mares are taking the lead with 8 different wins, followed by geldings (6 wins) and stallions (5 wins).
We can argue that gelding, evethough winning less than mares, are the only ones to have multiple wins (Hello Sanctos with 3, Prêt à Tout and Nino des Buissonets with 2)
Will Henrik von Eckermann and Toveks Mary Lou extend the mares winning streak?
Statistics powered by JUMPFAX
Henrik von Eckermann becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender at The Dutch Masters
It was an afternoon of electrifying sporting drama at The Dutch Masters, with the world’s best horse and rider combinations taking to the arena in the Brabanthallen for the first Major of the year. Course Designer, Louis Koninckx laid a tough course, which saw only five reach the jump-off to battle it out for the Rolex Grand Prix title.
Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat (SUI), secured the first double clear, after producing a series of thrilling turns to shave seconds off the clock. Many thought he could not be caught but it was clear from the outset that Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann only had winning on his mind. Together with his 13-year-old bay mare, Toveks Mary Lou, the pair crossed the finish just 0.63 seconds faster than Guerdat to clinch the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix title and become the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender.
It was so close between you and Steve Guerdat, how did the jump-off feel for you?
It was great! I knew that Steve was very fast, he knocked three-seconds off Daniel’s (Deusser) time, so I thought to myself, I need to hurry up! There were only five in the jump-off, and it is nice when there are so few because then you don’t have so much competition to worry about. I just tried really hard, I wanted to win it, I gave my best effort to win it and here we are!
Toveks Mary Lou performed so well today, what is she like to ride?
She always performs so well. She is so special, it’s like she knows what is going on, she thinks ‘ok it’s Sunday today, it’s the big day I need to be the best I can be’. She always tries that little bit extra for me and it makes her a fantastic horse.
You’re the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender, is CHIO Aachen in your calendar?
Yes, it is absolutely, I really would like to go there. I am just so happy with what has happened today, and we will take it from here.
How are you going to celebrate tonight?
I have to drive the lorry home with Mary Lou in the back and I am happy for that. My girlfriend, Janika, the groom and I will head home together smiling! But the feeling I have now is amazing and that is enough, I don’t think we have to do any thing special.
Lastly, is The Dutch Masters a special show for you now?
Absolutely! I have ridden here quite a few times now and it is a fantastic event. Every year it gets better and better, they always try to make it more and more special. The atmosphere is always electric, and the crowd is always behind you.
Rider interview with: Harrie Smolders
What’s it like to compete at The Dutch Masters in front of your home crowd?
This show is very special to me, it was my first experience of professional show jumping and I came here for the first time at a very young age.
Have you seen a transformation of The Dutch Masters since it become one of the Majors?
This show has always been very nice, bit since Rolex became more involved it has certainly had an upgrade. There is now one extra ring and the facilities are even better. It really is a world-class show.
What motivates you to keep striving to be the best?
I was World No.1 one last year but there a lot of things in Show Jumping that I haven’t won yet. One thing is for sure, I would really like to win Major this year!
Do you get nervous when competing?
It depends, when you feel you have a good chance to win and this is your moment and your day, you really don’t want to mess up for the horse which can put on the pressure. You always want to make sure you do the best job and don’t mess up for anyone.
Does competing at one of the Majors put extra pressure on you?
Not necessarily extra pressure. They are four very different venues and you have some horses that suite venues more than others. But, the best horses in our sport are allrounders and they can compete at any venue.
Do you prefer riding in indoor or outdoor arenas?
I don’t really have a preference. For example, CHIO Aachen and The Dutch Masters have very different atmospheres and arenas, but they are both world-class events. Tomorrow, here, you will see the best horses and riders, who are all in the best shape. Whether its Aachen, Geneva, Calgary or here, everyone is focused on the four Majors and they are the ones that the riders want to win.
Which is your favourite Major to compete at?
My favourite competition is The Dutch Masters, for sure! It’s my area, this is a show with a lot of history for me and it has a lot of character. I always want to perform well here.
Who is your biggest competition in the Rolex Grand Prix?
I watched the classes over the weekend and I do think last year’s winner, Niels Bruynseels, has a really good chance, he is in really good form. I also think Danielle Goldstein with Lizziemerry, she looks like she is ready to win a Major, the horse has the experience and the capability to win one of them.
Behind the microphone with: International Equestrian Commentator Ed Holloway
Ed, how did you get into commentating?
It was a total accident. I was grooming for my sister at a Pony Club tetrathlon and the commentator didn’t turn up. A dear old lady, Mrs. Baxter said I need you to help Ed, would you fence judge or commentate. I was going for the fence judging but my mum and Mrs. Baxter pushed me into the commentary box and I’m very glad they did.
How do you prepare for a Rolex Grand Prix?
I have a big database of riders and horses, results wise, so I will be particularly focusing on the 40 for the Rolex Grand Prix. I will be updating it, finding out any of their latest results, which will give me an idea of their form and to who I think is going to win. So, it’s some last minute work plus work that’s been going on for a few years.
Do you feel extra pressure commentating at one of the Majors?
You certainly want to give it your very, very best. You know that everyone is there for a huge sporting occasion and that puts a greater onus on you as a commentator to nail every line. You have to perform at your very highest for a Rolex Grand Prix.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
It’s simply being the generator of energy and the atmosphere. You create the atmosphere. I say the sport is the painting and we put the gloss on the painting. Try and make it sound wonderful. That is a great privilege at this kind of level.
Which riders do you think have the edge for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
Steve Guerdat is World No. 1, he’s looking very much in form. I think Daniel Deusser is also winning a lot. Marcus Ehning having won two legs last year in Geneva and in Aachen has got to be one of the favourites. It’s wide open the field but they would be my front runners.
How many shows do you go to each year?
I go to between 30 and 35 each year.
Does that take you all over the world?
Yes, it takes me to the USA a few times, I now go to China, quite a lot in Scandinavia, Germany, Holland and Polland. It’s a busy calendar.
Do you get nervous before you are about to start?
Not really, you are aware you want to make it your best work. You put a little bit of pressure on yourself, I wouldn’t describe it as nerves. It’s more excitement that you want to deliver your finest work each time.
Do you have any special warm up exercises that you do?
Absolutely not. I like to walk the course. I like to know the distances on the course and I like to have my research well and truly done so that I can go there well prepared. But that’s the only warm up I do.
Do you have to take special care of your voice?
I used to have whiskey but now I use herbal tea and some throat lozenges and that keeps me in good form.
What has been your career highlight so far?
The best moment for sure was the World Equestrian Games in Aachen. I got a call from Frank Kemperman before that and that was very special. That was an incredible atmosphere and definitely my career highlight.
The Audi Prize brings another win for the untouchable Dutch
It was another night of crowd-pleasing entertainment in the Brabanthallen, as Maikel van der Vleuten took the victory in the Audi Prize, the second Rolex Grand Prix qualifier. The Dutch maestro produced an uncatchable clear, in the time of 37.25 seconds, knocking over three-seconds off the time set by last year’s Rolex Grand Prix winner, Niels Bruynseels (BEL).
That was a very fast round, how did the ride feel to you?
It was a tough competition, with strong riders, so I knew I had to go for it. Dana Blue is a very strong horse, she won yesterday and is naturally very, very quick and that’s the type of horse you need these days.
The Dutch team are taking all the top spots this week, what’s it like to win in front of the home crowd?
Performing in front of my home crowd certainly gives me even more motivation. So far, it’s going very well here. Tomorrow is the Rolex Grand Prix and I hope we can continue our winning streak, but it will be a very tough competition.
How will you be preparing for the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow?
We will stick to our normal routine. I will make sure my horse (Verdi TN) is in good shape, yesterday he jumped very well in the big class, he was double clear. Today I gave him a bit of an easy day so I am hoping he will be very fresh tomorrow!
Who do you think your biggest competition is tomorrow?
There are so many riders, it’s hard to say. That’s the thing, it’s always exciting in our sport because out of the 40 riders you have at least 25 combinations who can give it a serious go!
Now that The Dutch Masters is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, has the event been enhanced?
Yes, I think it is a really good thing that this show is now one of the Majors. It is so important, being such a horse country, that we have a world-class event like this in Holland. It’s great for the Dutch people.
Walk the course with: Course Designer Louis Koninckx
How is the course looking for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
In the Rolex Grand Prix, you have the top riders in the world, and they know they are here to be tested. I started to think about the course for this year, looking back to the course of 2018, to use it as a base. I think we have a nice variation on the type of course for this year’s Rolex Grand Prix and it should be a great competition.
How many clears are you hoping for?
In terms of drama, people usually say they want between six and eight clear rounds. I have learnt through the years that when we have the heroes in the jump-off, (i.e. a famous Dutch, German, or Belgian rider, for example), the crowd is much more engaged. I would rather have more than six-eight, and have some of the sports heroes, than have fewer riders. When your favourites are riding in the jump-off, everybody is riding with them.
Which horse and rider combinations do you think might be suited to the course?
The course that I have built this year will need a lot of scope, but that’s not enough. The riders who have a very good partnership with their horses are a favourite for me. It means they will be able to react really quickly. I hope I have set a good time to test the riders and we have a mix of long and short distances. I think the winner will have to be an all-round combination.
Who do you think has a good chance of winning the Grand Prix on Sunday?
I cannot say a name, but the Dutch riders will be good because they want to win, and the crowds will be supporting them. The winner, will in any case, be able to manage the moment well and be prepared, meaning that they started getting ready for The Dutch Masters months ago.
How did you get into course designing?
I started years ago as a rider in National competitions. I was a mediocre talent of a rider, but it gave me some ideas about how a course should be. Once, I was giving the course designer a hard time and he said to me ‘well you try it for yourself’, so I did. This was over 30 years ago. Afterwards I had an opportunity to assist at Valkenswaard, which was then a Rolex competition. For me this was the perfect chance to get involved.
What are the biggest challenges that you face being a course designer at this level?
In general, it’s achieving a balance between letting the horses showcase their talent, whilst also being an exciting and dramatic competition for the audience. It’s a balance that can be tricky but always needs to be achieved.
Have you seen the effects of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has had on the sport?
Yes indeed. What’s special with the Rolex Grand Slam is that each of the Four Majors involved have an extremely strong character. A lot of shows are developing in a very good way, but the deep character of the Rolex Majors are remarkable. Everybody knows this.
I can also say that the support I have from the Rolex team is always perfect and friendly. They are always asking for what I need. I have always been very impressed by the relationship we have together.
Riders interview with: Nicola Philippaerts
Which horses are you competing on this weekend?
I’ll be competing this weekend on H&M Ikker, Cayani and Captain Jack. Cayani and Captain Jack are quite new horses so we will see what happens…
Do you need different horses for different arenas? Obviously, The Dutch Masters has quite a tight arena, compared to something like CHIO Aachen that has a big wide arena?
I think every horse suits a different ring, but I think the best horses in the world can jump well in any ring. The Dutch Masters is completely different to Aachen so maybe you need a horse with a bigger stride in Aachen, but I think a really good horse can compete in both arenas.
Do any of the horses you have here this weekend have any interesting characteristics in the stables?
Ikker I haven’t had very long yet, my brother always rode him before but he’s quite cool at home and then when he gets in the ring he can look a little bit more, spook a little bit more, but is a very nice horse.
Why is The Dutch Masters such a special show to compete at?
I have been coming to The Dutch Masters for a few years but I think the last two years that it has become part of the Rolex Grand Slam, it has become one of the best shows in the world. The Rolex Grand Slam Majors are some of the best shows in the world, I am very happy to be here and be competing this weekend.
What’s a typical day in the life for you?
Well we travel a lot. From Wednesday to Sunday we are always at a different show in a different country but Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday we try to get the horses ready for the upcoming shows at the weekend. We have quite big stables with many horses so actually its 24/7 with the horses.
Is there a sibling rivalry between you and your brother?
I think in the ring we have a rivalry but at home we are one big team and we try to help each other out wherever we can. It’s very nice to go to the shows together.
If you weren’t doing equestrian sport as your profession, what would you like to do?
Well, that’s a very difficult question. We’ve grown up our whole lives around horses. Our father rode a lot of shows before and competed at the top level for many years, so I guess we’d be doing something to do with horses also.
It's a home win for Leopold van Asten in the first Rolex Grand Prix qualifier
The first qualifier for the Rolex Grand Prix kicked off in style with Dutch rider Leopold van Asten clinching a home win aboard VDL Groep Beauty, much to the delight of his on-looking sponsor, in the VDL Groep Prize. Last year’s Rolex Grand Prix winner, Niels Bruynseels (BEL), set the bar high with a time of 28.18 secs but it was not fast enough as Leopold van Asten and his super speedy mare secured the win by a fraction, stopping the clock at 27.82 secs.
What were your thoughts heading into the jump-off?
I saw Niels ride before me, he was very fast and had a very good round, so I knew that I really had to go for it. I knew that Beauty is naturally a fast horse, so I tried to get a smooth round and it went well. I didn’t have to pull anywhere, I didn’t have to wait anywhere and luckily in the end it was enough.
Are you riding VDL Groep Beauty on Sunday?
No, I am not riding her on Sunday for the Rolex Grand Prix. I made a plan to jump her today and tomorrow, and will jump Miss Untouchable on Sunday.
The audience are very close to the action at The Dutch Masters, do you notice that when in the ring?
I think the audience is always close to the action, it doesn’t change anything for me. It didn’t ride any different this year. The atmosphere was very good for a Friday evening, the audience were cheering lots, seemed very happy and were really loud which is nice to hear. I think it’s going to be an exciting two days ahead.
How does it feel to win, not only in front of your home crowd, but also your sponsor?
It is always nice, he can only come to five or so shows a year, so you want to be good when he is here but that is easier said than done! It is nice that on an evening like this everything came together and we have a win.
How will you celebrate this evening?
I will walk to the box to meet my owner and I think we are going to have a drink, and then tomorrow is a new day!
Words from the Organiser with: show president Anky Van Grunsven
You have been a competitor at the event and now you are the Show President, how does the experience differ?
It’s completely different! When I was competing, I was just worried about my own conditions, my horse, the warm-up and the main arena. I was so focused on my competition, I didn’t realize how much was going on in the background to put on an event like this. This is a completely different experience, there are so many dimensions I never knew about but it’s very interesting and I am learning so much, I love it.
What are the main challenges of putting on an event like The Dutch Masters?
We are always working hard to make sure we are one of the best indoor shows in the world, so we are always looking at how we can improve and making sure that everything we do is of the best quality. For me, in some ways, it is the same feeling I had when I was riding – I was always looking at what was good, but also how I could make it better. I think that’s why this is one of the biggest competitions in the world now, as we are always working to improve the experience for the riders and the spectators.
The Dutch Masters is regarded as one of the best equestrian events in the world, how do you keep innovating it to improve it each year?
Last year we added a new hall and a new entrance which increased the size of the area significantly. We increased the dimensions of the arena and enhanced the competition facilities which all make a huge difference to The Dutch Masters. This is our second year as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which gives a whole new dimension to the event and makes it even more exciting for spectators.
The Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters is now one of the Majors, how has becoming part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhanced it?
Being part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has certainly enhanced the event. There is now bigger prize money and we know for sure that the best jumping horse and rider combinations will be here, so we certainly feel that we have grown positively since becoming one of the Majors.
Why did you decide to become such a big part of The Dutch Masters?
I actually didn’t want to become a big part of The Dutch Masters originally, but I was asked by Gerrit-Jan Swinkels and at first, I said no, as I am a rider and I want to be active and I am not so good at the socializing and other elements that the role involves. But he really pushed me into it, and I am so happy he did. I actually really enjoy it, it is a different way of looking and going to a competition and I always love a new challenge, so it fits me well.
Has life changed since you stopped competing?
I am still riding, and my kids are competing, so my life hasn’t really changed too much except that I am not competing myself. I still have some stress, especially making sure I am organized for this event, but it only lasts for a few weeks, so I certainly feel more relaxed.
Where do you keep your Olympic gold medals?
I hide my gold medals as I am always scared someone is going to steel them! Every once in a while, I grab them, and I look at them and I am really proud. For me one of the most important things is that feeling of achievement and when I am holding my gold medals, I go right back to that moment I won them and just feel so proud.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
I am not sure if someone gave this advice to me, but it is the advice that I give to people… The reason I think that I was so good is that I really enjoy what I am doing, so the major thing in life is that you do something that you really love and work hard, then you will achieve great things.
Who do you think will win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
I could probably tell you who is going to win the Dressage but Show Jumping, I don’t have a clue! For sure I know it is going to be a really exciting competition because all the riders here really want to win. But, a fence down changes results fast and Louis Koninckx, our course designer, is already really thinking about the course so it is going to be a great competition. I am sorry, but I do have to say, I hope a Dutch rider wins!
Behind the stable door with: Denise Moriarty, talking about flying horses!
Can you explain how flying with horses works?
It depends on if you are flying from Europe to America, or America to Europe. With America to Europe the horses must go through quarantine in Miami beforehand. They are in quarantine for a couple of hours before they start the process, then we take them to the loading centre from the quarantine facility, and they are then loaded onto the pallets. For us, we like to put a well-travelled horse with a not so well travelled horse to keep the other one company. They have hay and water in their pallets and there’s not much room for the grooms to move around, but if the horses have what they need, that’s what matters.
The pallets are then loaded onto the plane in the order of stallions, mares and geldings. The stallions must be upfront. We watch the process to make sure the drapes are hung up so they have air, and so we can figure out where each horse is. We then make sure the horses are settled, and depending on the plane, you either go and sit upstairs or you sit right in front of the pallets, or if it’s a commercial plane you go through a small door and sit with everyone else. You do get some funny looks because you smell of horses. We sit at the back of the plane and then once you take off and are at the right altitude you go back to check on the horses and give them water. If they are happy, we leave them to sleep and eat for a couple of hours. We check on them two or three times during the flight and do a final check before we descend. It can be shocking for the people who don’t realise they are flying with horses.
Have you had passengers asking where you keep going?
Yes, all the time people get confused as to where you are going, because we keep disappearing and then come back smelling of horses through a small door at the back, covered in hay, water and carrots. So, the public wonder where we come from and ask questions. They do see the plane get unloaded though, so they do see the horses at the end.
How long does it take for the horses to recover from flying?
Every horse is different, the more well-travelled sleep, they know what’s going on, so they are quite relaxed. The younger, more inexperienced ones take longer to recover because they spend a lot of the flight feeling tense. So, on the other side they sleep for a lot longer. The main thing is to monitor the water intake that they have, if you know that they aren’t going to drink much water we give them extra fluids before or after. If you pay attention to this the recovery time can be quite quick.
Are horses like humans, where some are nervous flyers, and some are not?
Yes, some get tense and the box is small, so if the horse is slightly claustrophobic, the box can feel quite small for them. That’s why we like to put a relaxed, experienced horse next to a nervous one, so they don’t work each other up. The only parts where they have to steady themselves is the take off and the landing, the rest is quite smooth, so they can sleep. It’s easier than a truck, they don’t have to balance themselves all the time so they can sleep standing.
Do horses ever get jet-lagged?
They can be tired on the other side but as long as you keep their feeding routine normal, telling them when it’s breakfast and dinner and putting them to bed and waking them up at the right times then they get into the rhythm. It’s easier for them to swap around because they are told what to do, whereas it’s harder for humans as they can stay up and watch TV.
What’s your favourite competition to be at?
Definitely CHI Geneva. It’s one of my favourite venues, it’s a great show with an amazing atmosphere. It’s the end of the year, so it’s our final goal and it’s always been quite a successful show for us.
Who are your favourite horses to work with?
Honestly, I love them all equally, they all have great characters. Creedance is slightly crazy and naughty, but he’s only a little guy, so he’s allowed to do whatever he wants. Gazelle will try her heart out for you every single time, she’s a bit of a princess but she’ll give you what she has. Voyeur and Uceko are both amazing horses, they have done a lot for Kent’s career and are a pleasure to take care of.
Are they all good in the stables? Do they have funny characteristics?
They are all good, Voyeur likes to talk to the other horses, he makes cat noises and gets really jealous when you spend too much time with the other horses. Creedance likes attention, he likes to play with the other horses, but they don’t really like to play with him. Gazelle hates the other horses, Creedance is the only one that Gazelle will let anywhere near.
What’s your secret grooming tip for keeping the horses in such good condition?
The horse comes first, they are athletes so you have to take care of them and treat them with respect. They are not machines, they are all individuals, so it's about getting to know each horse and making sure they have what they need.
From 14-17 March 2019, the town of 's-Hertogenbosch is set to welcome 65,000 spectators for the 52nd edition of The Dutch Masters, the Netherlands’ leading equestrian show. Visitors can expect an extensive programme of equestrian competitions featuring elite national and international show jumping and dressage riders. The event will reach its climax on the Sunday afternoon with the Rolex Grand Prix, in which the best show jumpers in the world will compete to become the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender.
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
Many of the world’s top horse and rider combinations will compete at the 14,500 capacity Brabanthallen 's-Hertogenbosch, the impressive indoor arena in the Dutch town. This year there are a number of contenders who are among the favourites to claim a victory in the first Major of the calendar year.
Hotly tipped to take the prestigious title will be Marcus Ehning, after he won the most recent Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in December 2018. The German enjoyed a thoroughly successful year, riding Prêt à Tout to victory not only in Geneva, but also at CHIO Aachen. Ehning will be riding a different horse in the Netherlands later this month, which will make for fascinating viewing to see how he performs as a different combination.
Current world number one-ranked show jumper and Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat, will be looking to claim the first Major of the year and brings with him a strong contingent of horses. After finishing fifth and then second at CHIO Aachen and CHI Geneva respectively in 2018, Guerdat will attempt to go one better and secure his fourth Major and become the new live contender.
Another rider looking to continue his fine form is Niels Bruynseels. The Belgian won The Dutch Masters last year, meaning he will be looking to replicate his strong showing in the 2019 edition of the Major. Currently sitting at number 15 in the global rankings, the 36-year-old will be aiming to break into the top 10 with another win in the Netherlands this month.
Performing in front of their home crowd are riders Harrie Smolders and Jeroen Dubbeldam. Smolders rode well in 2018 and at one point claimed the top spot in the world show jumping rankings. Although he has now dropped to third, he will be targeting The Dutch Masters as an opportunity to propel himself back to the summit. Dubbeldam is a rider who has already accomplished so much within show jumping and is recognised as a true legend within the sport. Although it’s uncertain who will win the Major, what can be assured is that they will be supported by a strong patriotic crowd at the Brabanthallen 's-Hertogenbosch, which will benefit them in their pursuit to claim this prestigious Major.
Someone who can never be overlooked when considering potential Rolex Grand Prix winners is legendary equestrian Scott Brash. What sets the Scotsman apart from other riders is that he is the only ever winner of the distinguished Rolex Grand Slam title, having won three Majors consecutively in 2015. This unprecedented feat has still not been replicated, and as a result Brash is a name that is synonymous with success in the Majors.
Young, up-and-coming rider Bertram Allen is a name to pay attention to during this year’s event. The 23-year-old is the youngest member of the Rolex Testimonee family and currently sits at the top of the FEI Jumping U25 Rankings and will be aspiring to achieve a similar position within the main rankings. The Irishman will unquestionably be hungry to claim his first Major.
Through the key hole with: Prêt à Tout’s owner Ruth Krech
What is your background?
I grew up with horses and they have always been a big part of my life. Even though I loved riding, competing, and being with horses, I stopped at quite an early age and focused on other opportunities. I became a business woman, working with my husband, but I was, and still am a horse owner and a breeder as well.
Why did you decide to become an owner?
I never decided to ‘become an owner’. I have always had my own horses and I would usually ride them myself. I’ve had Prêt à Tout since he was six-years-old, and although I started riding him, I really bought him for my daughter. I never had the intention of giving him away, however, my daughter decided to dedicate herself to her studies, so I was lucky to find a girl who was growing up at the same time as my horse. Kaya Lüthi and Pret à Tout achieved two successful Young Riders European Championships together before Pret à Tout moved to Marcus in 2015.
What did you first see in Prêt à Tout?
I met him in France at a friend’s place. He looked at me and I immediately fell in love with him. He had these wonderful eyes and I just knew that he was special. However, obviously at that time I didn’t know what an extraordinary horse I had found.
What is Prêt à Tout’s personality like?
He has the most incredible personality. Toutou, as we call him, always gives his best and loves having a close relationship with his rider. Marcus can really trust him, and his intelligence makes their partnership so easy. He loves the rider, the groom, and in fact, everyone that he meets. He is very kind and has a huge personality, sometimes you almost think he’s human! He’s a horse that you can’t forget, and he won’t forget you – he really is a once-in-a-lifetime horse! We are so lucky to have him.
How often do you see Prêt à Tout?
I don’t see him enough given that we live in Switzerland and he lives at Marcus’s stables, so I mainly see him at the Shows. When he retires though, he will come back home to our farm in Switzerland, where he can live in our field and will be treated in any way he wants, just like a normal horse!
Do you get nervous watching Marcus and Prêt à Tout compete?
Yes, of course! I get really nervous, it’s my part of the game and part of the fun
What is the best part of being an owner?
It’s a fantastic experience and so nice to meet people and just to generally be involved in such a wonderful sport.
How many horses do you have?
Too many! There are two foals on their way next month, one from Comme il faut, and the other from Kannan, so hopefully everything will go well. There are two more young horses who I hope will grow into ‘big horses’ one day. One is a Kannan, and the other one is a Diamant de Semilly. Currently they’re residing at Susanne Behring’s stable so that they can get a good education before hopefully being adopted by an elite rider. Who this rider will be depends on the horse, because in my opinion it’s extremely important that the horse and rider make a good combination. We’ll see what time brings, but the show must go on!
Do you compete yourself?
No, I don’t ride that much anymore due to an injury I picked up. I did compete in higher classes many years ago, but I’m still very much involved in horses. I’ve learnt so much over the many years of working with them and I’m still learning every day.
What makes show jumping an interesting / exciting sport?
Show jumping is very exciting to watch, especially given that the result can change so quickly with just one touch of a pole. For me, it’s not just the sport of show jumping that is exciting, but also equestrian sport and equestrianism in general. In my opinion, the most exciting aspect is that an animal and rider can come together and form a special partnership which enables them to achieve things that they never could dream of. The horse learns from the rider every day and in the same way the rider learns from the horse!
How will you celebrate if Marcus and Pret à Tout win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
There will be a lot of celebrations from both parties, but first things first we would have a glass of champagne or a beer!
How long has Marcus ridden for you and what makes him different from other leading riders?
Marcus started riding Prêt à tout at the end of 2015, and since then they have formed an incredible partnership. Marcus is obviously a very talented rider, but what I admire most about him is his ability to grasp the horse’s feelings. He never pushes the horse to a level where it is not yet ready, and he is able to adjust his riding depending on how the horse is feeling on any given day. Sometimes horses can be pushed too hard, which can affect their confidence, but Marcus knows their limits and is able to get the most out of them. He is kind and polite towards all horses and they share a mutual respect. Marcus really is a true horseman
Exclusive interview with Kim Emmen, rising star of show jumping
What is your background, how did you get into show jumping?
I was born on 21 March 1995 in Raamsdonk, The Netherlands where I also grew up. My Mum has always been involved in dressage, whereas my dad has nothing to do with horses. I got into show jumping because my mum was always better than me at dressage, so I took up show jumping to make sure that she couldn’t tell me what to do anymore! Having grown up around horses, I rode from a very young age and had my own pony by the age of four.
What are the biggest challenges?
Competing is always difficult because you obviously want to do your best and unfortunately that can’t always be the case. So sometimes it can be hard, but I believe if you want to go far you must always strive to do your best and keep on going. You must consistently try to improve.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career and why?
In my career I am influenced by my own character because I never give up no matter how hard it can sometimes get. I started working at a stable when I was 17-years-old and was only going to school one day a week and riding the other six days. I spent three years there just riding horses and training. Then I went to Niels Bruynseels’ stables, who I learnt a lot from, but unfortunately, I couldn’t do many shows over there, so my stay lost its purpose a little bit.
Eventually, I got the opportunity to work at The Margaretha Hoeve, where I’ve been for the last three and a half years. My mum influenced my career, as she was only interested in dressage, which made me interested in show jumping! I must also say a huge thank you to Eric Berkhof, who has given me incredible opportunities and wonderful support.
Has there ever been a moment in your career when you were scared? How did you overcome this?
Not really, I’m a determined rider, which I believe helps me to compete at my best level. I am never nervous when I ride, I’m more nervous about conversation and speaking in interviews than I am in the ring! The ring is where I feel at home and at my most natural.
What drives you to keep going?
My drive to keep going is that I always want to get better, and when you get a good result it gives you encouragement to push on and keep improving.
Which horses are you planning to bring to The Dutch Masters?
I’m planning to bring a few horses: Delvaux, who’s an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion and then probably Teavanta II C Z, a 14-year-old Zangersheide mare, who was previously ridden by Ruben Romp and David Will. I’ll also bring a younger horse that’s only 10-years-old, who doesn’t have much experience.
What are you most looking forward to at The Dutch Masters?
The Dutch Masters is very close to the place where I was born, so it is a special show for me and I’m hoping that I can put in some good performances and get some even better results.
Who do you think your biggest competition is for the Rolex Grand Prix, and who are the riders that you think could win?
I see everybody as big competition in that class, because honestly anybody could win, so I think it’s going to be difficult. Of course, there are some riders who are favourites. I’ve just seen the list of the riders and of course Niels Bruynseels, Harrie Smolders, and Marcus Ehning stand out as favourites to win, Marcus because he won the most recent Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva.
What are your thoughts on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
This is going to be my first time competing in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Last year I rode at the show but didn’t compete in the Rolex Grand Prix, so I’m really looking forward to taking part this year. I think it’s a fantastic competition, which includes four of the biggest and most beautiful shows on the circuit: The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, Spruce Meadows and CHI Geneva. They’re really exciting to watch, particularly as the Rolex Grand Prix is always that little bit bigger than the other 5* shows, but also because it’s always extremely competitive and pushed riders to their limits.
What are you hopes and dreams for the future?
I had my first show last week, and although the results weren’t so great, it was a really good experience. So, I hope I can have a good season all round this year and ride in some of the Nations Cups – that’s something I’m hoping for.
The pinnacle of international show jumping, the Rolex Grand Slam, released a ground-breaking new multi-channel media campaign in March 2018, which has demonstrated some phenomenal results since its inception
The multi-platform campaign, which uses the strapline ‘Surpass yourself and become a legend’, was first revealed in the form of a 60-second-long commercial and is designed to promote the dedication and passion required to win the revered Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping comprises the most highly regarded international show jumping events in the world, notably the four Majors, including The Dutch Masters, the CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva. The evocative and innovative film tells the story of a rider’s journey to achieve success, through emotive footage accompanied by a compelling narrative, relatable not only to the equestrian audience, but to anyone wanting to achieve greatness and striving to accomplish a lifetime goal.
A 30-second version of the film featured across the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping’s social media channels conquering the digital world to report impressively high figures, including a reach of 12 million on Facebook. Not only was the reach high, the 30-second film generated over 3.5 million views on YouTube, outshining comparable equestrian-focused films.
The 30-second film also featured on international lifestyle online publications, including GQ, The New York Times, and Bloomberg, as part of a strategy to target a wider global audience. The strategic placements of the film achieved an enviable reach across lifestyle and economic media titles, educating new audiences on what the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is.
On the success of the campaign the new president of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping’s Steering Committee, Marcel Hunze, commented: “This campaign is the first step towards raising awareness of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and growing audience reach globally. Like tennis and golf, show jumping has its own Grand Slam and we want to demonstrate to the broader sporting enthusiast the parallels these three Grand Slams share, with each creating an environment for athletes to strive for excellence and pursue their dreams of becoming a legend.”
The first Major of the year takes place at The Dutch Masters in 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, where the world’s best riders will compete for victory in the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday 17 March 2019. Among the stellar line-up is the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, Germany’s Marcus Ehning, who will be hoping to emulate his success at CHI Geneva in December 2018 and move one step closer to lifting show jumping’s most coveted trophy.
To view the 30-second Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping YouTube film click here
The Dutch Masters is starting in less than a month and Jeroen Dubbeldam cannot wait to compete at the first Major of the year!
Jumping legend Marcus Ehning wins the Rolex Grand Prix and becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender
Germany’s Marcus Ehning road a masterclass in the jump-off aboard Pret A Tout to win the Rolex Grand Prix and his second Major of the year. Fifth-to-go, Ehning shaved over three seconds off the time set by World No.1 Harrie Smolders and produced a time that was impossible to beat. Much to the delight of the home crowd, Steve Guerdat and Albfuehren's Bianca were clear but had to settle for second place, finishing just .45 seconds behind the eventual winners.
How did your ride feel tonight?
I am really happy with my performance and with my horse. I thought it was an amazing course with the right winner! Last time I was in this position was for the World Cup™ Final, so quite a few years ago, and I am very happy to be back here again. The victory feels like an early Christmas present.
Pret A Tout has performed so well this year, can you talk about your relationship with him?
This horse is so clever and has such good experience. He is very powerful and a very good jump-off horse. It is easy for him to leave strides out and he always manages the turns.
Did you feel the jump-off course suited you?
I thought the course was really good, it wasn’t too crazy, it was quite technical and asked a lot of questions, which I like. It felt like a very full course and I thought that if I did everything to the best of my ability I would be in with a good chance.
All the riders say they don’t know what your secret is, can you tell us what it is? How do you go so fast?
I am only as good as my horses, I have been around a long time so have a lot of experience which helps. Steve (Guerdat) is very fast, he still has a few years to catch up with me. I thought his jump-off in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final was incredible. I don’t think I have a secret, I just ride the way I do and make sure I have the best horses.
Looking ahead to the next Major, The Dutch Masters, will you be focusing on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping now?
I have been competing for a long time, and I know that you can’t get too ahead of yourself. We will take each day as it comes and see what position we are in early next year.
Rolex Grand Slam winner Scott Brash retires Ursula
Rolex Testimonee Scott Brash, the only rider to have ever won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, announced, today, the retirement of his 17-year-old mare Ursula XII. In a heartfelt interview Scott pays tribute to the Scottish Sport Horse as he reflects on the incredible journey they have had together.
Did you feel emotional knowing this would be Ursula’s final performance?
It felt amazing out there, but yes, I have mixed emotions, in one way I am feeling very sad that it’s her last event, but on the other hand I am delighted with her and how she performed tonight. She has been an amazing horse and to jump big courses like that at her age and feel as good as she does is a credit to my team and to the owners. I get a lot of reward in stopping her at the top end of the sport, in such good health and condition, which for me is the main thing.
There were a lot of world-class combinations in the jump-off, were you happy with how it went?
I was slightly disappointed with the jump-off, being first to go is really difficult especially with so many fast riders behind me. The course rode slightly differently to how I walked it and if I had been slightly later and seen some of the others go, I might have changed my tactics slightly. But Ursula jumped amazingly, I can’t complain, and I am very happy.
What’s next for Ursula?
Ursula will stay with us at my stables. We are hoping she will go in foal next year, she will make a really good mother as she has the best temperament and I think she really wants to be a mother, when she sees other foals, she always looks at them and is interested in them, so fingers crossed for that. We will make sure she enjoys a very happy retirement and she will certainly be very pampered.
What’s been your best moment with Ursula?
I think winning the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2016 has to by my favourite moment with her. I don’t think I will ever ride a horse again that can jump around such a big course as easily as Ursula can. She gave me an unbelievable feeling around that course and I am really going to miss that.
Behind the stable door with: Rodrigo Pessoa
You hold the equal record number of wins for the IJRC Rolex Top 10 Final and Rolex Grand Prix combined, why do you think you always performed so well here?
Geneva is a show that I have always liked very much and being part of the Rolex family meant I always wanted to come here and do my best. I think Geneva was also just a really lucky place for me, I was very fortunate to have such incredible horses and everything always used to come together on the day.
In your mind what makes the perfect student? What are you looking for when you’re coaching?
I’m looking for receptive students, students who are open to changes and trust what you are saying from your experience and from what you are picking up on that they can improve. I am looking for students who are not blind to what I am saying, because as a coach I have been through a lot of experiences in my life and seen a lot, so I can use this to help the students.
Who do you think will win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
That’s a difficult question because the best riders and horses in the world are here, it is very hard to pick one. We have Kent Farrington, McLain Ward, Pedro Veniss, Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash, we have so many, so it is difficult to say. What I can say is that it will be an outstanding class with the best riders and horses in the world competing, which guarantees an unbelievable spectacle.
When you are looking at younger horses what qualities are you looking for to make the next 5* jumping horse?
You look at the raw qualities of the horse, how intelligent it is, how much scope it has, and how it corrects its mistakes. When a horse is young you don’t know for sure, a lot of things will happen before the horse becomes a 5* horse, there’s a lot of questions that only time can answer and so it is really difficult to always predict correctly.
If you could compete on any horse in the world that has ever lived, which would it be?
Probably Jappeloup, Pierre Durand’s horse, the Olympic champion of ’88, he would be the horse of my dreams
Swiss Hero, Steve Guerdat, steals the show in the Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final
The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final always promises to bring top class sport, with the world’s best riders competing for the coveted trophy, and this year did not disappoint. It was a home win for Swiss hero, Steve Guerdat aboard Alamo, who thrilled the crowd with a gasp provoking round in the time of 39.75 seconds. Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann was close behind but could not shave the milliseconds needed off the former Olympic champion’s time. Team World Champion, USA’s McLain Ward and his stunning mare Clinta, produced a textbook round to claim the third podium spot.
Did you find it hard waiting for the final result?
Steve Guerdat: Yes, it is sometimes very hard to wait, especially when you have such a good line-up of riders still to go behind you. Each time a new person started their round I was getting more nervous and was hoping we could keep the lead. I was very happy with my ride tonight, it feels amazing.
When did you decide to enter Alamo for this competition?
Steve Guerdat: I planned Alamo for this final a while ago, I took him to Paris last week mainly to prepare him for this competition. He is a bit of a nervous horse, so I wanted to give him more time in the ring to help calm his nerves. I had a really good feeling with him in the warm-up ring, he was really listening to me, so I decided I had to give it everything in the jump-off. Alamo responded to me so well in the ring and road beautifully, I am just so proud of him.
Can you talk us through what you were thinking during the jump-off?
Steve Guerdat: I knew that Alamo is very good jumper and is quick on the ground. He has a huge drive and jumps forward, so this jump-off course really suited me. My turn to the wall was not perfect, so after the double I thought, I have to give this a real go! I saw an even bigger stride to the second last fence and my horse really helped me here. I then decided to speed up further and left one stride out on the last, Alamo was just amazing, but I was relieved there were no more fences as I don’t think I would have been able to hold him anymore!
How does it feel to equal Rodrigo Pessoa’s record of the greatest number of wins at the CHI Geneva?
Steve Guerdat: Rodrigo was an idol of mine when I was younger, so to know, today, that we share the same number of victories in Geneva feels incredible and is very pleasing to hear!
Behind the stable door with: Joanne Sloan-Allen, owner of Suma's Zorro
What was going through you mind when Sameh won in Spruce?
It was really funny actually because I didn’t know he had won, it looked like Sameh was second and I couldn’t see the gate because I’m really small. So, I was asking everyone ‘did he win?’. I eventually found out he did and just couldn’t contain my excitement and emotion. The second round was unbelievable, I was in tears because it was everything we had worked for. It was everything Zorro had worked for. All her life people had said she has no scope, but now competing in this 1:70 class, surely people cannot say she has no scope. I’m so happy for Sameh, we have been on a long journey and I felt this was his year.
How did you celebrate afterwards?
We had soup and got on a plane! We were on such a high but then we had to get on a plane to go straight to Tryon. Then Sameh lost his medal, so that was a drama. We got home, and his suitcase hadn’t arrived at Dublin airport. So, I said, ‘good job I put the medal in your hand luggage’ and he went very quiet. Sameh told me he had put the medal in the case because it was too heavy to carry. Two days later, still no suitcase and we were leaving for Tryon. Sameh said, ‘what are we going to do?’ So, I put it on Facebook and everybody clubbed together to share it, and eventually someone found the suitcase. It was only the week after that we had a yard party for everybody, but we are planning a Christmas celebration after this show.
What is Zorro’s personality like?
Zorro is the perfect pony. If you only ever had one horse, it would be Zorro. She rides like an angel, she’s sweet, she’s kind. She has a couple of quirks – she hates vets and she hates being clipped but she is the kindest, sweetest horse. She just wants to win, she believes she can jump anything. I got her as a foal at three-months-old and she came into the yard at six months, she got off the trailer when she arrived, trotted up to a five-bar gate and popped it. She has been amazing since.
What did you see in Zorro at such a young age?
There was a dsale, selling mares around 14-15 years ago, when we were just starting our green programme in Sycamore. I saw this little mare and she kept popping and popping. I said to my parents that we needed to buy her. The jumping technique she has now is the same she had when she was three months old. She just looks like a little star and she always has been.
Can you talk about your premonition before Spruce?
Sameh and I usually don’t differ in opinion, we work so well together. But he really wanted to go to the WEG, which was after Spruce. We initially agreed we wouldn’t be able to do both but one day I had this dream that Sameh had gone to Spruce and won, so I woke up and told him he was going to Spruce. Sameh disagreed, but I believed we could do both, there were enough days in between and the mare was really fit, I thought this was her year and so she had to go. I told Sameh he would be so disappointed if he had a fence down in Tryon and he hadn’t gone to Spruce. At the end of the day it’s part of the Rolex Grand Slam, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, which you must take. Even the morning of the class, I said to Sameh, ‘this is your course.’ It was meant to be.
What’s it like to work with Sameh?
He is amazing, we work so well together. Its hard to find someone with the same ideas and ethos. I wanted to try and get to the top level but do it with the horse in mind, they always come first. It’s difficult when you are a competitor like Sam, to have an owner in the background saying not today. But he believes the horses should come first as much as me. Sameh is a true competitor, I believe in him so much. I believe that if the day is right and the course is right, Sameh will win.
Tell me about your background?
I think horses are in your blood. My mother’s grandparents were in racing, that was in their blood. When we were small my mother took my sister and I riding, my sister gave up early, but I stuck at it. I did a business degree in French at university, then I set up my own stable yard. I was lucky enough to train in England with some fantastic people including David Broom. Then I set my own yard up, I enjoy bringing horses up.
Do you sell your horses on? How do you make a call on which horses to keep?
Sadly, we can’t keep them all, it is very important for us to see our horses go in the right direction and I am very picky about who they go to, we have been very lucky so far, all of our horses have gone to some very good places. We have eight five-year-olds at the moment and we can’t keep them all. Sometimes we keep them based on the gender or the bloodline, we also look at the horses that will suit our system.
Do you get nervous watching your horses compete?
It is harder to watch than to do. When I’m jumping its just me and the horse, but when I’m outside there is nothing you can do, and I have such a feeling of frustration. I jump every fence with Sam and click at each jump, he always tells me to stop! Every fence I am with the two of them, I sometimes think I’ll have a heart attack. Being part of something this special is so amazing.
Do you prefer watching or competing?
Watching is torturous and Sam says the same. When you care so much about what you do and the horses its impossible not to get that adrenaline rush.
How do you think the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has enhanced the sport of show jumping?
The sense that you get here in Geneva is pride, history and tradition. This is also what hits you in Spruce Meadows, it is a huge high-quality event. They take such pride in their arena and everything else. For me, the fit with Rolex is perfect. When you think about the Rolex brand, it is quality, precision, it is about pride in what they do. For me, the sport of show jumping is an interaction between the two. To have a sponsor like Rolex come into the sport and do the Grand Slam is life changing for people like Sameh and the likes of our yard. We have been pushing and climbing for eight years and getting into these shows is very difficult. To win a Rolex Major has been incredible for Sameh. We were a tiny yard in Northern Ireland, and for us to attend a show like this and be in with a chance, it is such a dream. So, for Rolex to be a part of this dream, is amazing.
Have you competed at Geneva before?
What are your aims and dreams for the future?
Our future is to win the next Rolex Grand Prix with Zorro. We have the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday and Prague next week, Sameh is in the play offs because he won in Paris. The next couple of months will then be lower key, we will go back to working on our other horses and pushing them, as they have been on the back burner for a little while. In January we want to be in the yard and try to sell some horses then we will go on tour in February and then it all starts again. We are on the road, changing horses all the time and we are enjoying every minute of it, it’s been incredible. If you don’t appreciate it and enjoy it then why would you do it. Sometimes you must stand back and remember how amazing it all is.
Walk the course with: Rolex Grand Prix Course Designer, Gérard Lachat
How long does it take to plan a Rolex Grand Prix course?
I started the planning two weeks ago, we brainstorm a few ideas and map out what we think we want. Then last week I finalised the plan and this week we fine-tune all the technical details and final touches before the build on Sunday.
How many clears do you expect to see on Sunday?
Ideally, we would like between eight – 12 competitors to go clear, however it is sometimes hard to predict how the horses will react to the track.
How did you first get into Course Designing?
I started a long time ago, first assisting at Swiss National competitions and then I progressed to international level seven years-ago. I have been at the CHI Geneva for five years and really enjoy being part of such a prestigious event. The atmosphere is always amazing, and the world’s best horses and riders compete here, so it is a fantastic show to be involved in.
What is your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part of the job is seeing the competitors on the course and hopefully enjoying it. I am always intrigued by the results too, so I look forward to finding out who does well and who doesn’t!
Do you feel extra pressure when building a course for a Rolex Major?
Yes, there is certainly extra pressure when building a Rolex Grand Prix course. The Majors are the biggest competitions in the world and the peak of the season, so you need to get it right and achieve the best results.
Has the art of course designing developed since you first started?
Yes, a lot has changed. The poles have become much lighter, which you have to take into consideration when planning. The riders and the horses’ skill sets have developed and improved, so you have to make the courses more technical to challenge them further and you have to focus on the lines and distances more than ever before.
Which riders do you think have a good chance of winning on Sunday?
It is very difficult the predict who will do well on Sunday. We have the world’s best horse and rider combinations taking part and it is almost impossible to choose between them. From a Swiss point of view, I would love to see Steve Guerdat win, but who knows!
Germany’s Daniel Deusser wins the Trophee de Geneve, the first Rolex Grand Prix qualifier of the CHI Geneva
The first qualifier for the Rolex Grand Prix saw nine horse and rider combinations compete in a hotly contested jump-off. Setting the bar high, Daniel Deusser riding Calisto Blue, was the first to produce a clear round with a thrilling time of 37.31 seconds.
Last to go, Pieter Devos, looked on par to emulate Deusser’s clear round but was a fraction too slow and had to settle for second place, with Simon Delestre finishing in third, both excellent contenders for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday.
How did the course feel tonight?
Daniel Deusser: The time was really tight in the first round so everybody was forced to ride forwards, and in the end the horses got quite long which accumulated a lot of faults. There were 10 combinations clear and a couple more with time faults, which is a good amount for a jump-off, but it was certainly not an easy class.
Going into the jump-off did you think you were in with a good chance?
Daniel Deusser: To be honest, I was not sure. There were a lot of fast combinations to compete against and I thought that one or two might be a little bit quicker, but I think my clear round put the pressure on and some of the horses were forced to go quicker which made them go a bit flat. I had a good round and was really pleased with my horse.
Looking ahead to the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, who do you think your biggest competition is?
Daniel Deusser: There are quite a few really good competitors here this weekend, so it is hard to say. I think McLain Ward and Clinta will go well, Steve Guerdat and Bianca are hard to beat when they are on form as well, it will be a good competition for sure.
Behind the stable door with: Emma Uusi-Simola, groom to Steve Guerdat
What is your favourite part of the job?
One of my favourite parts of the job is the travelling. I really enjoy seeing different parts of world and spending time with the horses away from the yard. I also love the atmosphere that the shows bring, each one is so different but the feeling of excitement you get from the crowd is the same and really special.
Do any of Steve’s horses have any funny characteristics?
Yes, Bianca has such a big character and is a typical mare! At home she is the calmest horse on the yard, she is so easy and laid back, but once she gets to the show, she becomes really nervous and a lot less calm! I think she get’s nervous about competing, but she always manages to channel her nerves in the ring. She is also very picky about what treats she likes and if you give her the wrong ones, she turns her nose up at them.
Albfuehren's Bianca has had an incredible year of results so far, why do you think she is performing better than ever before?
Steve has worked with Bianca for a while now and wanted to make sure he gave her time to grow and develop before pushing her too much. I think this is the key to her success, as it is important to make sure the horse is both mentally and physically ready to compete at this level. She has grown up now and is an amazing horse with so much talent and scope, so we are really pleased that she is doing so well.
Do you have any grooming / travel tips?
I think the most important part of this job and the best tip I can give, is to always make sure the horses are happy. For me, I like them to have freedom and for them to feel like horses not just competitors, so we make sure we give them lots of time in the field to relax and eat the grass. It’s not a secret, but a happy horse will mean a happy rider and that makes my job easier!
What routine do the horses have when they finish competing?
After they have jumped, we use some ice on their legs, give them a very thorough brush to get the blood circulation moving well and with some of the horses we use massage blankets too.
What advice would you give for someone wanting to start a career in this industry?
You have to be sure that you want to work really hard, the days are long and require a lot of commitment. My advice would be that you can always keep learning, so always ask people questions and seek advice from others, as it will mean that you keep improving.
What is the best moment of your career so far?
That’s a hard one as there have been lots of high points working for Steve. I would have to say the two moments that stand out for me are; the first time we won the World Cup Final, I can still remember the buzzing feeling and celebrations, it was so exciting. The second has to be when Steve won the Rolex Grand Prix here with Nino, the crowd’s reaction was incredible, and it was so emotional.
Word from the organisers: Interview with Sports Director, Alban Poudret and Show Director, Sophie Mottu Morel
CHI Geneva has been voted the ‘World’s Best Show’ nine times, how do you keep the show fresh each year?
Sophie: Each year we take time to speak to people involved in different aspects of the show and ask them what worked well and what can be improved. It is really important for us to gather information, listen to the comments, and use this to progress each year. We are never complacent and no matter how small the detail or adjustment, we want to make sure there is no stone left unturned. It is also important to keep the spirit of the volunteers high and treat them well, as without them we simply wouldn’t be able to produce such a great event.
Alban: I would just add, we give all our heart to the task as we want the people to feel our love of the sport and our ambition is to welcome the riders, grooms, spectators and volunteers – everybody that makes this show so special. I use the analogy: ‘when you invite friends to your home, you want them to feel welcome and have a good time’ and that’s what we try to do at CHI Geneva every year.
You have two show jumping course designers, what were your thoughts behind this decision?
Alban: We think it is very important to have two course designers for the show jumping as we have so many classes throughout the week – including many special classes like the speed class with the natural fences and the combination class – which is a lot for one person to manage on their own. I think it is also vital to have a partnership where you can work together, bounce ideas off each other and I truly believe you will always get better results when you work as part of a team. Our system is to have one Swiss course designer, which is now Gérard Lachat, and an international course designer.
How did the show change when it became part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
Sophie: We were in the World Cup circuit for a long time, from 1979 – 2012, so it was not an easy decision to change, but I really feel it re-energised the show and gave us a great boost. We, as a team, are so proud to be a part of the Rolex Grand Slam together with CHIO Aachen, The CSIO Spruce Meadows 'Masters' and The Dutch Masters. Before we became part of the Rolex Grand Slam, some of the members of the team who had been here a long time were starting to think about stepping down, however the injection of the Rolex Grand Slam gave them a whole new lease of life and it has certainly allowed us to enter a new and exciting chapter.
Sophie could you talk about your background and how you progressed to become the Show Director?
Sophie: I started off working with the former President for two years and at the end of 2001 he said that he wanted to step down and would I join the team? At first, I thought he was crazy, I was so young (28 years-old) and I did not know if I was ready for such a big responsibility. I took some time to think about it and I decided to accept the offer, then in 2004 I became the Show Director. As a little girl, I would not have dreamed that I would be in this position one day! Even just to work at the show was a dream come true for me, an event with so much history that welcomes such beautiful horses and talented riders. It was certainly a big challenge, but the team were so welcoming and really believed in me which I am so grateful for. Alban was actually good friends with my parents, and I had always admired his work, so to actually be working with him seemed so surreal to begin with, but his support is something I will never forget and now we are very good friends too.
Alban: We had every confidence in Sophie and we can only say thank you to her. She is such a good Director and brings so much spirit to the team. She has brought 15 years of happiness to the committee and our friendship has grown from strength to strength. I think this organising committee is very special as we are all here for the sport, no one is here for just themselves. We all share a passion to improve the sport and all had a childhood dream to be a part of this special world and we stay faithful to our roots and to our dream.
It is such a historic show, how has it changed since it first started?
Alban: The show started in 1926 but has only been running annually since 1991. Originally, we only had show jumping until we introduced dressage in 1997, then we added driving in 2002, then two years ago we were completely mad and decided to have four disciplines! We wanted to create a mini-indoor Aachen by having show jumping, dressage, driving and cross country. We know that we have reached our limits now due to space, but we love the challenge this brings and are proud at how far we have come. We don’t know what the future will bring, we make sure we listen to our spectators and absorb their feedback, so we can bring them what they want to see in the next editions.
Alban, what are your three best stats about the show?
- We are very proud to have won the prize for the ‘World’s Best Show’ nine times
- Rodrigo Pessoa holds the record for the most amount of victories in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix combined. Pessoa has won 10 times. Steve Guerdat is very close behind with nine victories and then Kent Farrington sits behind with six titles
- Our spectator number record is 50,000 which was for the FEI World Cup™ Final, and our attendance record for a normal edition is 43,000
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a Show Director one day?
Sophie: I would say you need to believe in yourself, sometimes it feels like there is a big mountain to climb, but you have to tell yourself you will reach the top. You also need to be open to the other people you are working with and not to think that you have all the solutions. Lastly it would be to show respect to the volunteers because without them we can’t do anything.
Alban: You need to make sure you have good stamina as the days are long and after the work is finished, you must have energy left to dance! I would also say, never forget your childhood dreams and always stay faithful to your passion.
How did you start your equestrian career?
My parents have a riding school with over 50 horses, so it has always been in my blood! I started riding at a really young age and did my first jump at six-years-old. My Father was a successful show jumper and he has passed on his wisdom to my brother and I, we used to go to ever single show with him and I always dreamed I would follow in his footsteps one day.
What motivates you the most?
I just love being able to work with the horses every day, they are such incredible and loyal animals and when you grow a successful partnership with them, there is no feeling like it.
I have tried lots of other sports in my life, I used to play football, basketball and compete in athletics, but none of them compare to show jumping. I still sometimes play those sports, just as a hobby, but the thrill of competing each week in different places with your horses is so special.
The continuous competition also really motivates me. I like to win, and I want to be the best! I am constantly working towards the next step and wanting to be better – so there is never a dull moment!
What has been a career highlight for you so far?
My career highlight so far must be winning a gold medal at the European Championships for Young Riders with Clouzot de Lassus. It was a really tough competition and to be crowned champion was the most incredible feeling. It has also made me hungry for more!
What are you most looking forward to about competing at CHI Geneva?
I am so excited to be competing at CHI Geneva this year, especially as I have already qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix. The event is so historic but also patriotic and to have the chance to compete in front of such an enthusiastic home crowd is a dream come true for me.
I have had a good season, so I am hoping if everything goes well on the day, I could be in with a chance at finishing in the top 10.
Which horse will you be riding in the Rolex Grand Prix?
I am taking Clouzot de Lassus, my 10-year-old gelding. I have been riding him for three years now and he is just amazing, I get the most incredible feeling from him every time we jump together, like nothing I have experienced before. We are growing in confidence together and I feel very lucky to have this wonderful partnership with him.
What would it mean to you to lift the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping trophy one day?
To lift the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping trophy would be a dream come true for me, especially if I did it at CHI Geneva in front of my home crowd! It’s the ‘almost un-touchable trophy’ that every rider really wants to win and for me it is a big objective in my career. Hopefully one day I can take it home with me.
What are your main aims to achieve in your career?
Right now, my main aim is to win the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. To win any of the Majors would be amazing, but to win in front of my home crowd is unbeatable. I would also love to win at CHIO Aachen, that is a goal for next year!
Who is your inspiration?
Marcus Ehning and Steve Guardat are my two main idols. Marcus rides with such perfection and has an incredible work ethic. His long and successful career is something that I hope to emulate and achieve myself. Steve Guerdat is a Swiss hero, he is so cool under pressure, competes so well and has such close relationships with his horses.
If you weren’t a show jumper, what would be your day job?
That is a tough question as every day I feel so lucky to already have my dream job! But if I couldn’t be a show jumper, I would be an engineer. That would be a back-up career, but one I hope I don’t need to re-visit.
Best advice you could have given to your 10-year-old self?
I would tell myself to work hard, find a good horse, a good team and listen to those who are working with me. That way, the only way is up.
Do you feel extra pressure to be successful given that your father was also a show jumper?
My father has been my trainer since I first started to ride. He has always been behind me and supported me through everything. As a family, we live and breathe horses and it is such a nice feeling knowing that we have such a strong support network. My brother also competes and is progressing each year and we always ride together.
What is a normal day like for you?
I am really lucky to have so many amazing horses to ride, I start the day at my owners yard and spend the morning schooling and exercising the horses there. I then drive to my family stables and ride more horses, often the younger horses and help my father with riding school clients. It is a real family business and I have to pinch myself every day, as I know I am so lucky to have such amazing opportunities, I wouldn’t swap it for anything.
CHI Geneva: The biggest contenders
From 6 – 9 December 2018, more than 41,000 spectators are set to flock to the Swiss city for the 58th edition of the CHI Geneva, the final Major of the year. Taking place in the Palexpo, which at 5,200 m2, is the largest indoor arena in world, visitors can expect to be thoroughly entertained at an event that has won the Best Equestrian Sports Show Worldwide award no less than nine times.
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
With several prolific horse and rider combinations set to compete in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva, there are a whole host of contenders who will undoubtedly be among the discussion as to who will be crowned champion in this historic Rolex Major.
A hot favourite to claim the title this year is the current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, Sameh El Dahan. The Egyptian rider clinched victory at the CSIO Spruce Meadows 'Masters' in Calgary riding Suma’s Zorro, and will be tipped by many to continue his fine form in Switzerland. With a potential €500,000 bonus for winning two Majors successfully, Sameh will be doing his utmost to repeat his performance in Canada.
Never far from success is Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat, who currently sits at second in the Official Jumping World Rankings. Being a Swiss rider competing in Geneva, Guerdat is likely to be well supported, and when combined with his unquestioned ability, it would be a surprise if he is not one of the top performers in the competition, especially given that he has already won the Rolex Grand Prix on three occasions.
Last year’s winner, American rider and Rolex Testimonee Kent Farrington, unfortunately suffered a broken leg in a fall at the Winter Equestrian Festival shortly after his Rolex Grand Slam journey had started. Despite this setback, only a few months later, the rider from Chicago was back competing and has swiftly reinstated himself into the top 20 on the Rankings list. A well-known and talented equestrian, Farrington is certainly one of the top contenders to take home the highly coveted Rolex Grand Prix title.
Scott Brash MBE is a rider who needs no introduction. The first and only rider to have won the ultimate prize in Show Jumping, the Rolex Grand Slam, Brash is a name that is synonymous with success in the Majors. An undisputed legend of the sport, whose last win came in 2016, perhaps now in 2018, the Scott is due a win.
Up-and-coming young rider Martin Fuchs is a name to look out for during the final Major of the year. Performing in his native Switzerland, the 26-year-old already has plenty of successes to his name, including, taking the silver medal in the Individual Jumping at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ earlier in the year. Results this year have led to Fuchs firmly establishing himself in the world’s top 10 and is in good form to potentially finish the year with his first Rolex Grand Prix title.
Exclusive interview with 'CP International', presented by Rolex winner and Rolex Grand Slam contender Sameh El Dahan
How did it feel to win your first Rolex Major?
It was the most fantastic feeling, I have been working towards this my whole life, since I was a little kid. This Grand Prix (CP ‘International’ presented by Rolex) is one of the biggest on the circuit and it’s one that all riders want to win. To have my name on the board alongside the world’s most legendary riders like Eric Lamaze, Nick Skelton and the Whitakers is just a dream come true.
What were your expectations heading to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
This is a funny story. We had actually decided we were not going to compete at Spruce Meadows this year as we wanted to focus on the World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) in Tryon, USA. One morning, about two months before Spruce, Zorro’s owner, Joanne Sloan Allen, said to me over some coffee: “I woke up this morning with this strange feeling that you need to compete at Spruce and that you are going to win…”.
My first reaction was that it would be very difficult logistically to make this happen and that it wouldn’t be possible. However, Joanne was adamant that Zorro and I were going to win in Spruce and that she would support me all the way, so of course I couldn’t say no!
I am always positive and hope that I will get a good result when competing, but it did feel a little far fetched at the time that we would win one of the biggest Rolex Majors, but I thought to myself we will go and we will give it our best shot. My horse is incredible, my support team is amazing, so I knew that if everything went perfectly on the day I would be in with a chance and luckily for us everything went according to plan.
I always feel that everything happens for a reason, and for whatever reason Joanne had this strange feeling, she was quite right!
What has life been like since your Major win at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
It has been busy! I am so grateful for all the support I have received. People from all over the world have messaged me to say congratulations. The response from people in Egypt was overwhelming, I have also had friends from various different countries sending me magazines because I have been on the front page! My phone just didn’t stop buzzing! It’s been such a rollercoaster and we have loved it.
It’s funny because we have always been underdogs, but simply winning one Major has propelled us into the spotlight and now when people see my name they are expecting me to do well, so there is a little bit more pressure, but I love it.
Take us back to the start; how did you get into equestrian sport?
I was five-years-old when my parents took me to our cousin’s farm and I started riding. My brother is four years older than me and he was the keen rider, much more than me. He used to wake me up at 05.00am before school and drag me down to the stables and at that point I never dreamed that it would be my career. I actually studied medicine at University, my family are all doctors, so it seemed the right path for me at the time. By the third year I knew that I wanted to pursue my career in equestrian sport. I was so lucky to have lots of owners giving me horses to ride and when I had 10 horses in my stables I realised that I could really make something of myself. I never give up on anything, so despite knowing I would not become a doctor, I finished my degree and qualified. I don’t have any plans to return to medicine, because horses are my life now and I couldn’t be happier with that decision.
Suma’s Zorro is an amazing horse, how did this partnership come about?
I used to work with Cian O’Connor and I had planned to start again with him in 2011 for the beginning of the Sunshine Tour. However, Joanne rang Cian as her rider broke his arm and she needed someone to compete her horses. He suggested me, and that’s where our wonderful partnership began.
Joanne was coming back from a broken leg, so I rode all the horses for the first five weeks. When she came back I just rode the young ones and Joanne road the older ones and that was when I started riding Zorro. I started competing her and we just gelled really well. Joanne could see that our partnership was forming, and she allowed me to keep competing the mare. I am so lucky to have Joanne, from day one she has been in my corner and is my rock. I really believe everything happens for a reason and without Zorro and the opportunity that Joanne gave me, I wouldn’t be here today.
What is Zorro like at home? Does she have any funny characteristics?
Zorro is the most laid-back horse until she sees a vet with a needle or the clippers! She hates them. She also doesn’t really like noise that much, if there is lots going on in the yard and it’s loud, she stands facing the corner of her stable looking grumpy with her ears back! She loves food and enjoys being in the field. She also really likes treats and if she can hear Joanne, me or her groom, she will always pop her head out of the stable and give you an expectant face.
Ireland is very different to Egypt, did it take a while to adapt to your new home?
To be honest, it didn’t really take me very long to adapt. I did a lot of travelling with my family throughout my childhood, so I am very used to different places and cultures. The only thing I struggled with was the rain! We don’t have very much rain in the Egypt, and the first week at my new home it rained every day. At first, I quite enjoyed experiencing a bit of rain; however, I grew tired of it quite quickly! Jokes aside, Joanne made the transition so easy, she is so welcoming and I have a great network of people around me. I like company and don’t like to be alone, so it feels amazing to have so many people that support me and love me. I am so lucky to have incredible sponsors and owners in Dr. Joe and Pat Sloan, without their continuous backing, through their company WKD, none of this would be possible I just can’t explain how grateful I am.
What’s Sycamore Stables like?
There are three farms at Sycamore Stables; the main yard has 18 stables, housing the competition horses which are five-years-old and above. Then there are two further farms that are home to the brood mares and yearlings. All three farms have amazing facilities and lots of grazing fields for the horses. It is quite a big operation, which Joanne and I manage, but we are growing and have recently hired a new team member to manage the young horses.
Are there any more horses based at Sycamore Stables that you think could win a Rolex Major?
I believe in all my horses, but I currently have three eight-year-old mares that I think are going to make incredible 5* horses. They are all completely different and have a variety of styles and techniques, and I am really looking forward to the future with them. There is also a six-year-old that I am so excited about, but I am keeping her under the radar, as she is still so young.
Do you work with any grass roots programmes in Egypt, to help encourage young riders?
I have been involved with an academy in Egypt previously, but due to my busy work schedule that has since died out. I am currently in touch with some of my friends at home and we are in talks to set up a stable in Egypt that will focus on supporting young up-and-coming riders. I am working with Joanne on this, too; our goal is to create the same thing in Europe so that Egyptian riders have a base here over the summer and a support network.
What are your expectations for the CHI Geneva? Are you hoping to continue the Rolex Grand Slam journey?
I have a fantastic horse, so if we do everything right and all goes to plan on the day, I think we have a very good chance in Geneva. Zorro is currently enjoying a holiday, but we have made a plan to make sure she is in top form for the CHI Geneva. She has two 5* shows before Geneva, as interestingly she always performs better at her third show, so hopefully that works. I will be making sure I am on top of my game, too.
What’s the best piece advice you have been given?
Be humble, stay on your feet.
Regardless of the result at the CHI Geneva, are you planning to compete at the other two Majors: The Dutch Masters and the CHIO Aachen?
For sure, I plan to go to both of these shows. It is a dream come true for any rider to compete in the ring at Aachen, the atmosphere and facilities are the best in the world and I would really love riding there. I haven’t competed at The Dutch Masters for a while, but I heard really positive things from people who competed there last year, so I am excited to be a part of it.
And the winner is…
A first Major victory for Sameh El Dahan, winner of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex
After some light mid-morning rain, the Calgary skies cleared and 38 of the world’s most talented horse and rider partnerships accepted Venezuelan course designer, Leopoldo Palacios’s challenge to jump his huge 1.70m course in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex.
Third in the first round’s starting order, Germany’s Andre Thieme and his 10-year-old bay gelding, Aretino 13 produced a faultless display in a time of 88.84s. However, not one of the next 30 riders to follow were able to produce a clear round, which was testament to the immensity of the contest the field was up against. It was Egypt’s Sameh El Dahan who broke the drought, piloting Suma’s Zorro, his 14-year-old mare to the second clear round of the competition. Palacios’s course continued to be ruthless, claiming the scalps of some big-name horse and rider pairings, and just five further clear rounds were recorded.
The second round proved too tough for 10 of the 12 combinations that progressed from round one, and in the end, it was just The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and Egypt’s Sameh El Dahan, who produced double clears, and in doing so set-up a nail-biting jump-off. Van der Vleuten was first to go, going clear and setting a quick time of 42.98s. El Dahan confidently entered the tense International Ring and breezed the course, going clear and triumphing over the Dutchman in a time of 42.21s, thereby being crowned the new live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
So Sameh, what does winning a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors mean to you?
“I’m delighted and absolutely over the moon. When I looked up at the big screen, because I wasn’t sure of the time, and I saw first place, it was a very difficult feeling to explain. To be a winner of one of the four prestigious Grands Prix, as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is something I think every rider in the world dreams of.”
Tell us a little bit about Suma’s Zorro…
“Suma’s Zorro was bought as a foal by Joanne Sloan Allen and Sycamore Stables. When she was brought to the yard she jumped a five-bar gate when she was just six months old, so they knew they had a jumper on their hands. Joanne did an amazing job building her up until she was about seven-years-old, and then I also started riding her. Today Joanne does most of the riding, and I only jump her, so she’s done a great job.”
Behind the stable door with Sameh El Dahan’s main travelling groom, Marketa Churovà
What is Suma’s Zorro’s character like?
She’s a stubborn mare, but she’s also such a sweetheart and a fighter. For sure, she loves Sameh so much and Sameh loves her, and he tells me that she’s very easy to ride and just does everything automatically. She’s just so calm and everything that you could want in a Grand Prix horse.
How long have you been looking after Suma’s Zorro for?
I’ve only been with her for the last three months and we’re based in Northern Ireland, although I haven’t been there yet!
What’s Suma’s Zorro been up to for the last few weeks, and what’s next for her?
Before she came her she was in a field on her own having a big holiday, relaxing and just enjoying her life. So, she came to Spruce Meadows incredibly happy and relaxed, and I can tell she likes it here. We’re going to the World Equestrian Games next and after that I’m not sure, but definitely a rest for the whole team.
Did you ever expect to win one of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors?
No, not in my wildest dreams. I was a little bit scared coming to this show! The win is obviously amazing, but all I really wanted was for my horse to come back safe and sound. This is my first time to Spruce Meadows and I hope it won’t be the last!
Walk the course with Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ course designer, Leopoldo Palacios
Can you tell us a bit about the course you’ve designed for the CP International, presented by Rolex?
The first round will be do-able, and I hope to have about 12 clears, but I don’t care if I have a few more or a few less. The second round will be very heavy, and the last line of the course will be difficult. In the first round I’ll use the double liverpool combination so the riders will be asked lots of questions, and Rolex’s fences will of course be involved. For the moment that is all I can say.
We talked earlier about Rolex partnering with quality shows over quantity; do you feel honoured to be part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
I feel very proud to be working and building for the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and the Rolex Grand Slam. The various championships around the world are of course important, but the Rolex Grand Slam is the highlight of the sport today. Many sports have Grand Slams, such as tennis, which has Roland Garros, US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon; in my mind the CHIO Aachen and the CSIO Spruce Meadows are the Roland Garros and Wimbledon of the show jumping world. And Rolex partners these Majors, along with CHI Geneva and The Dutch Masters – the cream of this sport. Rolex is something different; its product is exclusive and it’s the number one watch brand, and it needs to be with the number one shows, and this is what they’re doing.
You’ve been designing courses at Spruce Meadows for 25 years; how did you start your career?
I worked in construction before I was designing show jumping courses. I was an amateur rider competing in big classes and part of the Venezuelan team, which was made up of a bunch of amateurs competing at home and internationally. I started course designing by accident and at the beginning I was the one paying to do it! But when they started paying me I couldn’t believe it! So, to get paid for doing something I absolutely loved was just perfect. I’m 71-years-old now and I love this sport, which I want to be involved in until I die. I’m not sure what I’ll do after course designing, maybe write a book about the sport, or some teaching, which is something I’m passionate about.
For you, what makes Spruce Meadows such a special place, and what are your earliest memories?
For me, Spruce Meadows is not just about one person, it’s always been a real team effort. We’ve worked together for many years – it’s always been the same faces and we never really change. Without the course designing team that I’ve got here I wouldn’t have had the same success. I remember when I first arrived here over 20 years ago, I was building the Queen’s Cup and I looked up into the International Ring stands and I saw the huge number of spectators, which made me scared and want to run home. But the Spruce Meadows community made me feel so welcome so quickly that I wasn’t scared for long, and I’m still here 25 years later to tell the story.
Rolex Rider Watch: CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’: SUNCOR Winning Round 1.50m
29 horse and rider combinations navigated the Leopoldo Palacios-designed course in Spruce Meadows’ iconic International Ring, each hoping to take home the spoils in the SUNCOR Winning Round at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’.
Local favourites Eric Lamaze and his 22-year-old prodigy, Kara Chad wowed the excited spectators in the arena’s packed stands, both going clear and posting impressive times of 71.10s with Chacco Kid and 71.45s with Viva respectively, well within Palacios’s 74-second limit. Also progressing to the second round was Calgarian, Jim Ifko and his 10-year-old bay stallion, Un Diamant des Forets, who went clear in a time of 71.80s. Seven further riders from six nations successfully negotiated the Venezuelan course designer’s tough challenge to set-up a 10-pairing showdown in the Winning Round, with notable top-class riders including The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt.
First to go was Ireland’s Connor Swail, setting the early pace after going clear in a time of 54.38s. Five-time Major winner, Eric Lamaze and Chacco Kid demonstrated the strength of their bond by going double clear, while Lamaze’s mentee, Kara Chad piloted Viva superbly before clipping the final rail. France’s Edward Levy, Ireland’s Daniel Coyle, and Australia’s Rowan Willis all put rails down to finish below Chad in the final standings. Jim Ifko notched up a double clear, fractionally beating Lamaze’s time. Philipp Weishaupt and Solitaer 41 entered the Ring looking sharp and impressively knocked Swail off top spot in a time of 53.25s. Last to go was Maikel van der Vleuten, but his best wasn’t good enough to deny Weishaupt of a well-deserved victory.
Weishaupt – who has had a memorable week after securing victory aboard Sansibar 89 in Thursday’s CANA Cup – etched his and his 10-year-old grey gelding, Solitaer 41’s names on to the SUNCOR Winning Round trophy after a jumping display of the highest order.
Having won the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex in 2017 aboard LB Convall, the duo head into Sunday’s $3million blue ribbon class full of confidence and are sure to push the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender and Weishaupt’s fellow countryman, Marcus Ehning all the way.
Interview with Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington
Tell us a little bit about your horses…
I’ve had Sherkan D’amaury since he was seven-years-old and he’s 11-years-old now. He won back to back Grands Prix in 2016 and 2017 at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, UK, of which Rolex is a sponsor – It’s amazing how much Rolex does for equestrian sport. They’ve really stepped it up over the last five years, particularly partnering with the Rolex Grand Slam and the four Majors. Windsor is a lovely show and I was lucky enough to meet Her Majesty The Queen twice, and she even recognised me the second time. We’re about the same height so maybe that’s why she recognised me! Since then he’s developed into a really strong Grand Prix horse. I competed with Creedance at Spruce Meadows in July and he’s had a lot of experience here and he knows the ground well, so that’s why I brought him back now. He’s never competed in this class before and it will be the biggest class he’s ever jumped. I’m just hoping for a little bit of luck and hope he’ll be on form on Sunday. I have another Grand Prix horse called Gazelle, who I didn’t bring here with me, as I didn’t think the Grand Prix would suit her.
Take us back to February when you sustained a serious injury to your leg and how you’ve managed your comeback…
I had a pretty nasty injury when I was in a small 1.30m at the Winter Equestrian Festival training round. The horse stopped and spun back in a way that it flipped over its head and landed on my feet. I suffered a compound fracture to the tibia and fibula in my right leg. I had surgery the same night and was then walking around on crutches within 48 hours. My routine after that was simply to eat, sleep and train in the gym every single day in my quest to get back riding. It was a tough time because I went from being world number one to not being about to walk let alone ride or even compete. When I first tried to ride it was super uncomfortable and I had a hard time trying to imagine competing and jumping in Grands Prix. A big part of the recovery was controlling my mind, knowing that I was going to get through it, which was a real battle. I’ve had great trainers and a doctor, and it now feels pretty much back to normal, although it bothers me every now and then if it’s cold outside or if I’m not warmed up.
Compared to normal 5* shows, do you prepare yourself and your horses any differently when it comes to the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors?
I try not to change too much and keep my preparations the same. It’s much more important to firstly choose the correct horse for the event, and then try and ensure whichever it peaks at exactly the right moment. For the Major at ‘s-Hertogenbosch I’d maybe choose a different horse than what I’d take to the Major at the CHIO Aachen. Unfortunately, because of my injury I couldn’t compete at either of those Majors this year so I’m a little bit behind, but hopefully next year I’ll be able to make it to all four of Rolex Grand Slam Majors. Other than that, the routine is to give the horses a bit of a break so as they have a bit of extra energy before they come to a big show like this. It’s going to be big jumping on Sunday, so I’ll give Creedance a little more rest than he usually gets.
Behind the stable doors with Eric Lamaze’s head groom, Kaytlyn Brown
Eric will compete with Fine Lady in the CP International, presented by Rolex on Sunday; tell us a bit about her…
She’s got a lot of character and she’s a very special horse. She either likes you or she doesn’t, and if she doesn’t like you she’s very hard to take care of. Although she’s now an older mare she certainly doesn’t act like it – she’s 15-years-old and she acts like a six-year-old. Taking her to the ring is always difficult, as she’s very noise sensitive. We stand no chance of using plugs, as she won’t let us touch her ears. Her face is also a big deal and she won’t even let us brush it. But overall, she’s super nice to take care of but she can be challenging!
You know Spruce Meadows like the back of your hand; what do you love about it?
I love how it’s old school and it’s so much about the general equestrian-loving public. When you walk up to the International Ring you see so many spectators there rooting for the sport, which is incredible to see – they know exactly what’s going on and what the goal is, and they have their favourite riders that they want to see. It’s just a very cool place to be.
For you, how does a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major differ to a normal 5* show?
The intensity level is much higher, and the Majors attract the best horses and riders in the world – they’re just on a different level. I get nervous a lot before any type of show but leading up to Majors like the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ – particularly as a Canadian – there’s a lot of pressure, so we’ve got to cope with that on top of everything else. I’ve been to the Majors at the CHIO Aachen and The Dutch Masters, which were amazing, but for me Spruce Meadows is the most special.
Tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are now…
I’m still young so I haven’t done that much in my career. I started riding when I was five-years-old, and I absolutely fell in love with it. But, funnily enough, I don’t enjoy riding that much now, I just want to be around the horses. I worked at a sales barn locally to where I was from followed by a saddle company because I wanted to remain working in the equestrian world, but I found that unless I was going to be working directly with horses I wouldn’t be happy. I then decided I wanted to go to school and studied chemistry and some business classes but my heart wasn’t into it so I decided to work at Torrey Pines with Eric, which is super cool and three years on I absolutely love it.
As a top-level groom what’s your show jumping dream?
That’s a tough question. Of course, I’d love to go to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. But aside from that I just feel so fortunate and lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I love doing my job and I feel like what I’m doing every day is what makes me happy and I don’t expect much more. So, I guess you could say I’m living the dream already.
Spruce Meadows 'Masters': Rolex Rider Watch Philipp Weishaupt wins the CANA Cup
We caught up with German rider, Philipp Weishaupt after he and his 12-year-old bay Sansibar mare jumped double clear to win the 1.60m Cana Cup at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’
What were your tactics going into the jump-off?
I knew that my horse has a big step so I left out strides when I could, and I was aware that I’m not that good at turning her. In the end the turns weren’t as bad as I was expecting, and I think she turned better because she got used to it from the first round when the time was tight. I knew I had to gallop and set a fast time, but not crazy fast, just enough to put pressure on the other riders, and luckily it stayed like that.
How did the course feel today?
The course was tough and challenging especially with the time allowed, which was super tight. It’s always tight here, but that time allowed was short, and that’s why it caused a lot of rails in the first round for so many riders. There was a tough combination at the end, and overall, I’m happy she jumped so well.
How did Sansibar feel going into the jump-off?
She gave me a good feeling in the first round and she loves those big grass arenas.
How will you prepare for the CP International, presented by Rolex on Sunday?
I realise that there’s a slim chance of winning the CP International, presented by Rolex two years in a row, but if I don’t try the chance is zero. L. B. Convall is fit and he loves jumping here, and I feel he’s growing and comfortable.
I jumped L. B. Convall yesterday in a 1.50m smaller round to school him with some time faults. I did the same today to give him a nice gymnastic work-out and although he got time faults again, he felt good. I’ll now give him two days off before the CP International, presented by Rolex, but just a little bit of dressage so he’s fresh for Sunday.
Words from the organiser with Ian Allison
How much do you think the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is helping to give the sport of show jumping the global recognition it deserves?
When the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping was launched in April 2013 the partners had a collective vision, which they wanted to make a reality. A huge amount of work and commitment has gone into the Rolex Grand Slam over the last five and a half years to build it to where it is today. Through the initiative, equestrian and general sporting fans have been treated to extraordinary levels of competition. We’re thrilled at how the athletes have embraced the Rolex Grand Slam and how the media now recognises the four Majors and what they mean to the sport. We were also very lucky that Scott Brash won the title so early on, which demonstrated that it was possible to win the Rolex Grand Slam. Since then it’s been very interesting how athletes have prioritised the four Majors and how their horses are ultimately planned around them. With all of this said, the Rolex Grand Slam has captured the attention of general sports fans, who I believe now place it alongside its tennis and golf Grand Slam counterparts. It’s become a significant global sporting event, and none of this would have been possible without Rolex aligning with the vision so exquisitely.
What makes Spruce Meadows such a special event for you?
Our founder describes Spruce Meadows as being a very simple recipe: good friendship, good commerce and good sport. Those principles can apply to all stakeholders, whether they be media, athletes, corporate partners, our fans and our volunteers. This venue dates to its opening in 1975 with a lot of the heavy carrying done by the volunteers – the Pegasus Club. There’s a photo of a small band of volunteers from that opening, many of whom are still with us today. Some are in higher profile positions, while others are back of house in transportation, hospitality, parking and tournament operations roles. We have a full-time staff of close to 100 people, which swells to over 1,500 when Spruce Meadows is at full sale for the ‘Masters’. Without our dedicated volunteers this show simply wouldn’t be possible, and that’s what makes Spruce Meadows so special for me.
How exciting is it for Spruce Meadows that a Live Contender of Marcus Ehning’s stature has chosen to come to compete at the ‘Masters’?
Marcus Ehning is among the all-time greats of this sport and I can say that having seen virtually all the greats compete at Spruce Meadows. His World Cup and World Equestrian Games titles, his recent victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen – he’s achieved all of this with different horses through different eras, which is a phenomenal achievement. So, to have Marcus here and the resume that he carries with him, and for him to prioritise this show so close to the WEG is really testament to how far the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has come. It won’t be easy for him, as his fellow countryman and reigning champion of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Philipp Weishaupt will push him all the way. As well as Marcus and Philipp, other world-class riders have chosen to compete in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, such as Beezie Madden and Luciana Diniz, which is incredibly flattering for the management team and those behind the Rolex Grand Slam.
The CHIO Aachen has been compared to The Championships, Wimbledon. Which global sporting event would you compare the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ to?
In many ways I’d say it would be accurate to compare the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ to the Masters Tournament in golf. I’ve had many conversations with our Co-chairman and Co-founder, Ron Southern over the decades about the operating model of the Masters Tournament in that it’s a little bit independent from the PGA Tour, just like Spruce is far removed from the Euro-centrism of international show jumping. As such, Spruce Meadows has done a lot of things away from the standard operating procedures of many tournaments around the world, as a necessity to survive. Having said that, The Championships, Wimbledon would be an interesting comparison, too. The British aren’t the best tennis nation in the world, but they put on the greatest Grand Slam tournament, in a similar vein to Canada not being the best show jumping nation, but we certainly put on one of the greatest Rolex Grand Slam tournaments!
Behind the Stable Door With: Denise Moriarty, Kent Farrington’s head groom
Creedance will compete in the CP International, presented by Rolex on Sunday; what’s his character like going into the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors?
He’s a small horse but he doesn’t really realise it, as he thinks he’s a big guy. He’s a fighter and he tries his best every time he competes. He’s brave and I’d say he’s a bit like Conor McGregor – always fighting! I think one of his biggest quirks is he’s never tired; it’s as though he’s been drinking Red Bull. He sleeps at night and he’ll take naps during the day, but when it comes to doing his business he’s always on the ball, excited and extremely happy.
What do you love most about Spruce Meadows?
I love the atmosphere and the crowds are amazing. The staff, everyone in the office, the stabling, the stewards – they’re all incredible and it’s like one big family. We come here every year for the Summer Series and it’s like a second home – you know exactly what you’re going to get. If you ever need a hand there’s someone there, it’s just really well run.
How do the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors differ to other 5* shows?
The calibre of jumping expected here is like nothing you see anywhere else in the world. Then you add in the height of the jumps and the quality of the horses that are competing – it’s just totally unique. When it comes to a Rolex Grand Slam like this, we just put a little bit more focus into it, as it means an awful lot to do well.
As a top-level groom what’s your show jumping dream?
Honestly, to win a Rolex Grand Slam. Or to win an Olympic medal. I just love to watch the horses do well and develop. We’ve had Creedance since he was seven-years-old – he’s 11-years-old now – and to see him at this level compared to where he was is really satisfying. To see horses like him win at the top level is a real sense of achievement.
Tell me a bit about your career…
I started training as a veterinary technician in Ireland. I then moved to the United States six years ago and met Kent – he rode a horse where I used to work. Kent’s team of horses has grown and we’ve grown with it. We started with maybe five horses, and we now have a string of horses and some young horses coming through. The whole set-up has just evolved and it’s now doing brilliantly well.
If you weren’t a top-level groom what would you be doing?
I’d be working with animals. When I was living and working in Ireland I spent a lot of time with Riding for the Disabled, which I enjoyed – it was a really rewarding experience.
How did you start your career in equestrian sport?
Both my parents ride – my father competes for the Canadian team and my mum used to compete for the U.S. Show Jumping Team – so you could say I was very much brought up around horses! I rode from a young age but started competing more seriously when I was eight or nine, and my passion for the sport has grown since then.
Who inspires you?
For sure, both my parents have been a huge inspiration during my career. McLain Ward has also been very influential – he’s been training me for the past few months alongside my father. McLain has taught me both inside and outside of the ring. He’s taught me about the ring tactics and how to measure distances. But he’s also helped me with my mentality, particularly when I was returning from my shoulder and hand injuries, and that helped grow my confidence a lot.
Which riders do you look up to?
McLain. My father. My mother! For my whole life my dad has taught me all I know about the sport – I owe him everything. And I can’t forget my mum, as she had a very similar track to mine when she was my age. She had a horse named Adam who reminds her a lot of Hester. She also went to school full-time when she was competing, just like I am now, so she gives me advice about how to juggle them both.
Can you tell us about your favourite horses? Do they have any interesting characteristics?
My horses are Hester and Kaspara. Hester is a super special horse – I got him when he was eight-years-old, and I’ve had him for five years now. I started competing with him at 1.20m level and he’s brought me up to international 5* Nations Cup shows so it’s been an incredible journey and we’ve really grown together. His biggest classes have been mine and vice versa. My father started riding him when we first got him, as he was originally meant for dad to compete. It’s special that my dad and I have shared the horse that’s been at the centre of my career. Hester’s got a huge heart and he’s incredibly brave, but he’s also very spoiled – you could say that his way is the only way! He totally knows he’s talented and wants everyone to know how amazing he is.
Kaspara is also very special, and I got her at the end of last year, although I didn’t start competing with her until this spring. She’s nine-years-old and I don’t know her full potential yet, and I guess we’re still bonding and figuring each other out. I can’t wait to keep getting to know her. Characteristically, she’s very careful and kind, but also very spunky (sassy)!
What are your expectations for the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
I’m just incredibly excited to be chosen for the U.S. Team and representing my country at one of the most prestigious shows out there. I saw my dad compete for the Canadian Team at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ last year and was just blown away by the magnitude of the events. They really step it up a level or two for the ‘Masters’. It’s certainly as special as it gets.
What are your main aims for 2018?
Making the U.S. Team for the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ was one of my aims for 2018. Earlier this summer I also competed on the Team in Dublin, which was a very surreal experience. I started university last week, so I’ve be spending more time at studying than competing in the last few months. I’m not sure what’s on the radar for the rest of 2018, but nothing too much more in the way of competitions.
What are you most looking forward to at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
I’m really looking forward to Nations Cup day. I’m fortunate enough to have competed in two senior Nations Cups this year, which is cool. Hester and I have experience in the International Ring so I’m hoping we can keep it up!
What is your biggest dream in Equestrian Sport?
This might be a little ambitious, but my ultimate dream is to win an Olympic gold medal. On home soil would be even better!
When you are not riding, what are you doing?
School and homework and sitting in a classroom. In the summer I play a lot of tennis.
What is your advice for young riders hoping to start their career in show jumping?
You must be prepared for more bad days than good ones. Savour the good days, keep working hard, and never let the bad days make you give up. You’ve also got to appreciate your horses – never forget we’re in it for them.
Which horses are you taking to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
I’m only taking Hester. Kaspara is younger, and I’m hoping she’ll be ready for it next year.
What’s your favourite equestrian memory?
This past year has been incredible, especially the Spruce Meadows Summer Series. The highlight must be when dad and I were first and second (he was first!) in the 1.60m Pan American Cup, presented by Rolex in July. I’m so grateful that he and I can share this sport together.
What would you be doing professionally if you weren’t a show jumper?
I’d be a professional tennis player! If I couldn’t do that I’d do something that would help others, either through the education system, the prison system or the environment. I think it’s important to give something back to society.
On 9 September 2018 the international equestrian community will focus its attention on the world’s top show jumpers, as they compete at the third Major of the year, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO 5* Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. More than 87,000 spectators are expected to descend on the show and organisers are promising five days of spectacular competition.
Leopoldo Palacios, the experienced Venezuelan course designer, will set the course for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, and is expected to lay down a demanding but fair challenge. Show jumping’s finest horse and rider combinations will take centre stage, all hoping to add one of the year’s most prestigious competitions to their record of top-level achievements.
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
With the sport’s most revered horse and rider pairings due to compete in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, there are several strong contenders on target to take this Rolex Major title win.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, Marcus Ehning (GER) – who started his Rolex Grand Slam journey at the CHIO Aachen in July riding Pret A Tout to victory in the Rolex Grand Prix – comes to Spruce Meadows in scintillating form. He won the Rolex Grand Prix at the Stephex Masters on another one of his talented horses, Comme Il Faut 5. The former world number one ranked rider will be vying for victory in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex in the hope that his Rolex Grand Slam journey continues, setting him up for a shot at the Rolex Grand Slam title at the CHI Geneva in December.
Having impressively competed in all 17 Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors since the initiative’s inception in 2013, Rolex Testimonee Steve Guedat (SUI) undoubtedly has the skill and firepower to ride his way to the top of the leaderboard in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. The Swiss maestro jumped clear in the first two rounds of the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen 2018, finishing in a respectable fifth place.
Shortly after winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in 2017, Kent Farrington (USA) had a fall at the Winter Equestrian Festival that resulted in a broken leg. Back in action three months later and on top form, Farrington is fresh from his victory in the Winning Round class at the Spruce Meadows CSI 5* in July and is looking to add a Rolex Major to his tally of wins in 2018. The internationally renowned athlete is consistently ranked in the top 10 in the world making him a formidable contender for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex title.
Rolex Testimonee and local hero, Eric Lamaze (CAN), has notched up multiple wins this year. In July he won the ATCO Queen Elizabeth II Cup at CSI 5* Spruce Meadows riding Fine Lady 5, who jumped an immaculate two rounds, recording the only double clear. Lamaze will be aiming to replicate this in the iconic International Ring where the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex is held. With home advantage on his side and an impeccable knowledge of the arena, Lamaze is a firm favourite.
A consistently solid competitor at Spruce Meadows over the past few years is Lorenzo de Luca (ITA). De Luca and his chestnut gelding, Halifax van het Kluizebos are looking an impressive partnership after picking up multiple victories this year, including the Rolex Grand Prix of Rome at the CSIO 5* Rome Piazza Di Siena in May.
After jumping well in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen in July 2018 – a title that he brilliantly won in 2017 – Gregory Wathelet (BEL) will be aiming to secure his second Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of his career in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. With a large selection of top horses to choose from and a wealth of experience of what it takes to win events at the very pinnacle of the sport, Wathelet will be in a strong position to take this Major.
Interview with Marcus Ehning, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender
To win the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen in front of your home crowd must have been amazing, what was going through your mind?
This was my second Rolex Grand Prix victory at the CHIO Aachen, so I knew already what an amazing reception I would receive if I won; however when it actually happened, the feeling was indescribable and even louder than what I remembered. Each year the crowd gets better and the noise is incredible. I actually think winning the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen is one of the nicest victories in my career and certainly a moment I will never forget.
How did this year’s Rolex Grand Prix victory compare to when you won in 2006?
The first time you win a Major like this is always so special. When I competed at the CHIO Aachen 12 years ago in 2006 I really didn’t expect to win, I was younger and less experienced, so it was a bit of surprise for me! This year I felt like I had a horse who could go the distance, he was feeling good and I knew I had a very strong chance if everything went to plan. They were very different situations and many years apart, but I think both feel equally special.
Can you tell us about Pret A Tout?
Pret A Tout is 15-years-old now, so he has lots of experience as well as such enormous talent. We have won some big competitions together and he is a horse I really believe in. He is very intelligent, very consistent and always knows his job. You put him in the right spot, point in him in the right direction and he will do his best for you every single time. We really put our trust in each other and it often pays off.
At the CHIO Aachen, when we entered the arena for prize-giving, I could just let go of the reins and wave to the crowd, as Pret A Tout is so relaxed, he knows he has done his job and can just enjoy the atmosphere – I think he enjoys the crowd and receiving the prizes more than me! You can see in his body language he really loves it.
How do you produce a talented horse like Pret A Tout?
You need to have a big support network behind you, producing a top Grand Prix horse does not come down to one person. It starts with the groom, the riders at home and the programme you put together with your team. The horse needs to be focused but also needs to be happy at home in order to learn and develop. I do my best to form a strong bond with all the horses, it is so important to build their trust and develop the partnership.
You have had a long and very successful career, how has the sport changed with the introduction of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
I think Rolex have chosen four of the best shows in the world to form the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. All four Majors have the best atmosphere, footing, stabling conditions – all the assets that create the best environment for the riders and horses.
The introduction of the Grand Slam created a big step-up for our sport, it has helped it to grow and develop and also creates a whole new element for spectators, it certainly makes it more exciting!
You weren’t sure whether you would be able to compete at CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, how did you make your final decision?
With the FEI World Equestrian Games™ being so close to Spruce Meadows, I didn’t want to make any decisions without consulting my team, but now we have had discussions and have decided we have the horses to make it work. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping bonus system was a big pull for us, as if we don’t attend Spruce Meadows our Grand Slam journey would be over and there would be no opportunity to compete for the bonuses at CHI Geneva and The Dutch Masters. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is an exciting journey to be a part of, so I felt we needed to try and make it work. I am lucky to have an amazing selection of horses at home, so we will see what happens.
Which horses are you taking to CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
I am hoping to take Cornado NRW and Funky Fred.
Which horse are your hoping to ride in the CP ‘International’ presented by Rolex?
I don’t know which horse I will ride in this class. I haven’t competed at Spruce Meadows for such a long time, so I want to arrive and familiarise myself with the place before making any decisions. I will also see what the weather is like and how the horses are feeling as all these elements can affect which horse I choose.
What has been your career highlight so far?
The biggest highlight of my career so far has to be winning a gold medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney with the German team. It was such a special moment and one I will never forget.
What motivates you each day?
For me, my biggest motivation is not the big shows, it’s not the winning; my biggest motivation is the relationship with the horses. I love working with them, competing with them and growing with them. To build a partnership with a horse, see how it evolves and develops and be on a journey with them is such an incredible feeling.
If you weren’t a professional show jumper, what would you be?
I honestly can’t answer that question. I am so lucky to combine my hobby and my passion with my work.
What advice would you give to a young up-and-coming rider?
I have learnt so much in my career, but I think the best advice I can give is to remember this: ‘most of the faults you accumulate in the ring are due to rider error and not a horse’s mistake. So, when it does not go to plan, you must not blame the horse, you must look at what you as a rider could have done better and that’s the only way you will improve.’
And the winner is...
Marcus Ehning wins the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen
Germany’s Marcus Ehning gave the 40,000 patriotic spectators a reason to celebrate at CHIO Aachen, as he clinched the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix title aboard his 15-year-old chestnut gelding, Pret A Tout. Although this is the fourth Major Ehning has won, his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has only just begun, as he becomes the new live contender. We spoke to him following his incredible performance, which left him two seconds clear of his closest rival, Portugal’s Luciana Diniz:
What were your thoughts when you walked the course?
I thought it was a really good course, I thought there would be about 10 clears and, in the end, there were 11. There wasn’t anywhere specifically that I thought would be too challenging or that my horse couldn’t jump, but my horse has performed amazingly in past years here, and he gave me a confidence that I could really trust him and believe that we could go all the way. He is a very flexible horse and I am very lucky to be riding him.
Which round was more difficult, the first or second?
For me the first round was more difficult, a few times I didn’t have the perfect rhythm that I wanted but I was very happy to be clear. The second round was amazing from the first jump to the last we were fast but there was a lot of control and I really enjoyed it.
Where you nervous watching Luciana’s round?
I was nervous watching Luciana, she is a good rider and has come close to winning her a few times.
You are now the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, will you be competing at the CSI Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September?
Before this win today I was only focusing on the World Equestrian Games, but obviously now this is a very different situation. I need to speak to my team and my owners to work out a strategy and think about what we do.
Behind the Stable Door With:
Marcus Ehning’s groom, Mel Obst
Can you tell us about Pret A Tout?
Pret A Tout is the easiest horse we have, he has a super character and is so brave. He is very calm, you can give him to anyone to hold and he will behave, he is just lovely and easy. When he is jumping he is like ‘I am doing my job and focused’ after he has finished he is like ‘I am chilled, I just want to eat’ when he is eating he is very happy, I think he even had a bit of grass in the prize giving! In the stable he is so relaxed and such a wonderful horse to be around, I am so lucky to work with him.
How will you reward him tonight?
We will reward him with a lot of food, he loves food. He loves carrots, apples, everything, so he will be getting all of those tonight for sure.
Do you get nervous watching Marcus compete?
No, I am usually ok actually. When I watch I usually stay very calm, I think whatever happens it will be ok! When he is inside the arena I start to get a little bit nervous, but I always try to hide it!
How did you feel when you realised Marcus had won?
I felt unbelievable, it is so exciting for us! We have had an amazing week here at CHIO Aachen and to win the Rolex Grand Prix tops off an incredible Show for us, to win this and the Mercedes-Benz Nation's Cup, it feels like a dream. It took some time to sink-in that we had actually won, I suddenly realised Luciana’s time was slower and worked out we had actually won, it was unreal.
Now you are on the Rolex Grand Slam journey, do you think you will go to Spruce Meadows?
We have some amazing horses that could certainly compete well at Spruce Meadows. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is something I every rider wants to win, and I would really love for us to go to Spruce but we will have to see!
Walk the Course With:
Frank Rothenberger, CHIO Aachen Course Designer
Could you talk a bit about the Rolex Grand Prix course?
It’s the biggest class I build every year, it’s scheduled up to 1.70. We have thirteen jumps with a big water jump and a triple combination. It’s a very tough course in a big arena, and there is always such an exciting atmosphere. There will be two rounds with a tricky jump-off too, we have built a course almost to the maximum we can build so it should be very interesting.
What do you think the biggest challenges are going to be?
I think today the double ditches and the double oxer. You never know how spooked the horses will get and how they will react when they see the water beside the lake. The last line is also very difficult, with three big jumps from the entrance. It requires seven long and five short strides. These will probably be the most challenging aspects of the course, but we will have to see.
Do you feel extra pressure when having to design a course that is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
I’m starting to sweat at the moment. I’m already getting nervous and my hands are already getting wet. Of course, it is a very nerve racking experience. The closer we get to the Rolex Grand Prix the more nervous I feel. But I am looking forward to seeing how the riders do on the course.
What is your favourite part about your job?
My favourite part is to design the courses, to start designing big classes like the Rolex Grand Prix and the Nations Cups. I love to start from the beginning and see how the courses grow and develop. There is so much pressure because you never know what the results will be, sometimes you want ten riders in the jump-off but you end up with fifteen, or you want ten and you only get two or three. Then you have to question why this has happened and why we have ended up with so many people in the jump off. We have to consider what was wrong and how we can change the course next time. Every course is different, I’ve been doing this job for 40 years and no course has been the same.
How big is your team?
In Aachen, we have 60-70 people. It is such a big show with so many different classes, including the Nations Cup and the Rolex Grand Prix so we need a big team to manage everything well.
How many clears are you expecting?
It would be nice to get 10-12 clears and end up with around 3 or 4 riders in the jump-off.
How long does it take you to build / design the course? What goes into that?
Sometimes, twenty minutes to half an hour and sometimes we need three or four hours. It depends how the course is flowing. I also prepare other courses for Aachen in March and April, so then I come back here and have the chance to consider what else I can do with the course.
CHIO Aachen: Rolex Rider Watch
USA's McLain Ward wins the Prize of North Rhine-Westfalia
The second Rolex Grand Prix qualifier of the week, the Prize of North Rhine-Westfalia, was won by USA’s McLain Ward in speedy fashion, finishing at the top of the leaderboard in 46.95 secs, shaving nearly two seconds off his closest rival, Kevin Staut, who took second place. McLain paid tribute to his stunning 11-year-old mare, Clinta, following his victory:
Can you tell us about Clinta?
I purchased her in February this year, I actually tried her for the first time right after Aachen last year. She performed really well here, and we were very impressed by her. We started competing together in Florida, in March, and felt fantastic right from the beginning, she won the first 5* Grand Prix in New York and the 4* in Devon, so we have certainly had a great start together. We are so excited for her career, she is a really spectacular jumper, she is as careful as any horse ever been and I think we are going to have a bright future.
Who will you be riding in the Rolex Grand Prix?
I will be riding HH Azur in the Rolex Grand Prix, Clinta will ride the big class tomorrow and that will be her last for the week.
I am so lucky to have two such amazing horses here, they are both brilliant. They are slightly different in character – Azur has an ease and a blood, an athleticism about her, you can see it in the way she stands, Clinta is a bit quicker, moves a bit faster and her jump is a little more dynamic. The similarity between the two, is they have that wonderful quality of giving everything they have to you.
Do you feel extra pressure competing at one of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
I have extra pressure on myself as it’s the last big Grand Prix of the world I haven’t won, and I would like to get my name on that wall before I retire. So that’s my drive, I want to win here for sure, so we will do our best, hopefully have some good fortune and we will be in for a chance on Sunday evening.
Exclusive Interview With:
Israel's Daniel Bluman, ahead of the Rolex Grand Prix
How’s your experience of Aachen so far this weekend?
It’s been really good, it’s an unbelievable place to be at. Already from the get go, with the Turkish Airlines Prize of Europe on Wednesday which is a qualifier for the Rolex Grand Prix, (Ladriano Z) jumped really well, she finished in the rankings, so it gives me a nice chance to qualify for the Grand Prix on Sunday, so the week has been fantastic so far.
Which horses do you have here this weekend? And in particular for the Rolex Grand Prix?
This week, Bacara and Ladriano for the Grand Prix, Ladriano is a horse made for this kind of event, I normally ride him in the Grand Prix, that is usually how his schedule works. He started in Florida and won a 5* at the beginning of the year, recently I’ve been letting him lay low, he jumped in Calgary in preparation for this and he has been jumping here this week in preparation for the Grand Prix this weekend and then we will go to the Rolex Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows and hopefully the World Equestrian Games and then at the end of the year we will go to CHI Geneva.
So you have your eyes on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping then?
Yes, it means a lot to me, I really love the concept and I have always been a big fan of Rolex and what they do for our sport and I really try to aim for the big competitions. It’s really good that Rolex are coming into big shows, I was supposed to be at Windsor with another horse but unfortunately there was a minor injury so I couldn’t make the flight but there is Windsor, Rome, Spruce Meadows, Wellington which are all Rolex. It is a prestigious brand, with prestigious events, I want to be part of this, they are shows that are always in my calendar and that I really aim for.
Who do you think your biggest competition on Sunday is?
That’s pretty much an impossible question right now as the level of riders in the world is incredible, you have Eric Lamaze, who is first of all one of my mentors and an idol, he is strong, he has been really good in the last few months. But then again, you have Steve Guerdat who is fantastic, you have Philip Weishaupt and the rest of the German crew who are doing great, Marcus Ehning etc. the list goes on. There are so many people with unbelievable talent, it will be a tough competition and I think anyone can take it.
It’s quite a family affair for you, could you tell us a bit about having that family support network?
Yes, it means a lot. It is our first-generation equestrian family, our parents didn’t ride but with my cousins Elan and Marky and my brother Stephen, we have established an equestrian business, in America with clients and in Europe with all the operations of the young horses, breeding and everything else. It is really a great thing to be able to have because it allows me to be able to do the sport the way I dream of doing it and at the same time to be able to spend it with my wife, my brother and my cousins. It really makes the whole experience so much better.
You’re going to become a father in October, have you got hopes for the new arrival to follow in your footsteps?
I think about that a lot, we are very excited for our little son to be born in October! Most importantly I will try to teach him the love and passion for the horses as animals, if he catches that from his mother or from me, there is a big chance he will end up being a rider. The best approach will be to communicate to him what the horses mean to us and the life around the horses, perhaps then he will get into it and be here one day jumping with us.
Behind the Stable Door With:
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum’s groom, Anu Harrila
You’ve worked with Meredith for a very long time, what are your favourite parts of the job?
My favourite part of the job is working with the horses. I have worked with a lot of horses over the last 20 years and there are always a few that stick with you and have a special place in your heart. I am so lucky to work with such amazing horses, so that’s definitely the best part. Meredith is lovely work for, I know her inside out now, so it works seamlessly, and I think we are a great team.
Meredith has won here in the past; do you think she can win this weekend?
Well that would be the dream come true, we have a really nice nine-year-old, he’s still a little green, but he is going well so we are going to give it our best shot!
Which horses do you have competing here this year?
We have a nine-year-old called Calle, he is a really good young horse, I hope he will do great this week. He’s a special guy, he doesn’t like to be alone, he always has to have a friend. He is sensitive to loud noises, so you always have to make sure he knows that it’s ok. We also have an eight-year-old mare, that she has only had for 8-10 weeks, so we don’t know her that well, but she is very promising and seems like a very sweet horse.
As a team, do you feel extra pressure when competing at one of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors?
There is always pressure when it is a Rolex Grand Slam Major because obviously you want to do well. Here now in Aachen, it’s Germany, it’s home crowd and a lot of prize money at stake.
What’s the routine for the horses once they have finished competing?
Normally, they have a shower then they have ice boots on to cool down the legs and keep them fresh. Most of them have either a massage blanket or a magnetic blanket. They have a good brush and maybe a walk to keep them moving. Maybe some bandages if they like those.
If you weren’t a groom, what would you be?
I honestly don’t know. I can’t imagine doing anything else, I guess I have my dream job.
What makes CHIO Aachen such a special show for you?
There is a super atmosphere, everything is very well organised. The crowd is unbelievable, when somebody goes clear they cheers are so loud, it gives you goosebumps! I think it is one of the best shows in the world.
Rolex Rider Watch
After a highly competitive jump-off, Sweden’s Henrik Von Eckermann clinched the Turkish Airlines-Preis von Europa title with grey gelding, Castello 194. He spoke after his victory:
How did the course feel today?
The course was very long, it had three combinations, one triple, one double and of course the double plank which caused a few problems. The time was hard to keep inside of and with it being such a long course the horses were tiring at the end. I was happy with my horse’s performance and was excited to reach the jump-off.
What were your tactics going into the jump-off?
My tactics were to watch McLain’s round and work out were I could shave time off, as he is normally the one to beat in a jump-off like this. I saw a little hole where I could take him, it was the second last, he was little bit out to the oxer and I have a very scopey horse, so I thought if I stayed a little tighter to the jump, I could catch him, which we did.
How will you prepare for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
The horse will need to stay fresh and happy in the mind ahead of Sunday. It is a big wish to win the Rolex Grand Prix, but we all know how difficult the competition is. Of course, I want to chase the Rolex Grand Slam, I was second in the Geneva Grand Prix, so hopefully I can go one better on this weekend.
Word from the organisers with Frank Kemperman and Michael Mronz
Chairman of the Managing Board, Frank Kemperman, and General Manager, Michael Mronz, took some time out their busy schedules to talk about what makes CHIO Aachen such a unique show:
CHIO Aachen is such a historical Show, how do you keep evolving and improving it?
Frank: Aachen has a rich history, if you look at the list of winners it includes only the best riders in the world. It is regarded by the riders as one of the best shows to compete at and is the place they want to win. We do everything possible to be one of the best events in the world, we look at what’s happening in other sports and do what we can to produce the best facilities, competitions and sport for our riders and our spectators.
Michael: Social media is very important for the future of this event. Our audiences want to be able to receive information instantly from wherever they are, so it is key for us to focus on delivering this. We are investing a lot of time and money into the development of the app, it was started here in Aachen and we have seen other shows follow suit and develop apps of their own. I even learnt yesterday that a top fashion show is using a similar system as the judging app, so it is good to know we are one step ahead of them here at Aachen! Over the last few years we have grown the digital team and have five people dedicated to social media now. We want to make sure we are really focusing on our audience attending the Show, but also those who want to be a part of it from their homes.
This Show has been described as the Wimbledon of Equestrian, how does a Major in tennis compare to a Major in Equestrian?
Michael: Tennis is more well known of course, but the introduction of the Rolex Grand Slam in equestrian enables the sport to become more accessible to people who do not follow it already. Like in tennis, the Rolex Grand Slam is made up of four Majors and spectators know that these are the four best competitions and the ones that the riders aspire to win. They bring the best sport and the best competitors which attract the wider audiences. It is a major step towards the development of show jumping and the strive to reach wider audiences and give people outside the equestrian world an understanding of the sport. Of course, it’s nice to be compared to Wimbledon, I would say we are quite different in terms of size and reach, but it means we need to be more creative and innovative to try and get to that standard.
Who do you think will win the Rolex Grand Prix?
Frank: That is hard question! We have the world’s best riders compete here each year, so it could be anyone. Each year we try to predict who will win, but the talent is so good it’s just impossible to guess. Every rider wants to win the Rolex Grand Prix, it is always their main focus when coming to compete at Aachen. I have just received a message that Philipp Weishaupt is not taking part in the jump-off of this class, because he has now qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix and wants to focus on that. It is such an important competition for all the riders and with such great horse and rider combinations this year, it will be a highly competitive class.
Behind the stable door : Interview with Dale Hailstone, groom to Laura Kraut
Dale Hailstone, 26 years-old, was born in Glasgow and started working for one of USA’s top riders, Laura Kraut, four years ago. He has moved up the ranks and is now Kraut’s head groom, travelling around the world with her to the most prestigious events on the Show Jumping calendar. We spoke with Hailstone as he prepares Kraut’s team of horses ahead of the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday:
What makes CHIO Aachen such a special event?
For me it’s without a doubt the best show in the world. It’s amazing for the grooms, the riders and the horses. We go to so many shows across the globe but a lot of them aren’t very horse friendly. Aachen is so good for the horses, we have so much space to graze and exercise them, you can plan your day easily as the facilities are so accessible. The atmosphere is incredible, and the ground is super for the horses, so it is the perfect place to compete.
Which horses are competing this week?
This week, we have Confu, Deauville S., Zeremonie, and SFS Vincomte for the younger class. All the horses have great characters. Deauville is very special in the ring, he loves it in there! He always canters sideways to the jumps, I actually don’t know how Laura get’s over them, she is so good! As soon as he is out of the ring he becomes quiet and is very happy just to stand still and talk to people who come and say hello to him! Confu loves to whinny as he enters the ring, it’s almost like he wants to let people know he has arrived!
We think Zeremonie will be competing in the Rolex Grand Prix, Laura won Leading Rider of the Show last year and Zeremonie won Best Horse, so they are a great combination and we hope to do even better this year and win the Rolex Grand Prix. We are so lucky that we have a good selection of Grand Prix horses to choose from, but the plan right now is that Zeremonie will jump in the Grand Prix.
Do you have any secret grooming tips?
Actually, I do have quite a good tip; it sounds very basic but one thing I never go without is baby powder – especially with grey horses. It helps to cover up marks and does all sorts of wonders to their coats, I also put it inside their tendon boots, so they don’t rub which keeps them comfortable. It’s cheap and cheerful but something I never leave home without.
As part of a new advertising campaign, a 60 second promotional film will be showcased at CHIO Aachen for the first time. The campaign focuses on the dedication and passion required to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, a task so tough that only one rider has managed to complete the challenge. The 60 seconds edit was produced using filmed sequences from each of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam; The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva, showcasing the skill and talent each of the Majors demand from the world’s best horse and rider partnerships.
How did you start your career in equestrian sport?
I got my first pony before I could even walk, a Shetland called Uno! My Grandparents kept Uno at their home and when I went to visit them I would always ride him, even though I hadn’t started to walk yet – I just loved it so much.
I started doing shows with Uno and soon became more ambitious and wanted to jump higher, so I moved onto a bigger pony called Luki. He was amazing at jumping 50cm, we used to win everything, however anything above that was a bit of struggle so I ended up doing quite a lot of dressage with him. But I always knew my heart was with jumping, so I then moved onto my first proper jumping pony, Toby.
When I was 10-years-old I got my super pony, Jerome, and went to five European Championships with him, I owe him so much. When I was 12-years-old I rode in my first European Championships with him and won a silver medal with the team which was incredible. He passed away two months ago aged 28, it was very sad, but he had an amazing life and I will never forget what he has done for me. After he retired he had seven years eating in the field with his friends and growing his round tummy! We all miss him greatly now.
What was it like competing in your first European Championships?
I was only 12-years-old, and I was really small, so my parents were super nervous especially as I didn’t really have any experience, but I wasn’t nervous at all as I didn’t really have any expectations and at that age I was totally fearless! I still remember my parents’ reaction when we learnt we had won the team silver medal – my mother was crying, and my father was so emotional! It’s so strange, I can still remember the course in my head and I don’t think I will ever forget it!
Who inspires you?
My parents really inspire me, without them I would never be where I am now. They train me and my mum rides for me, with my studies taking up so much time I can’t ride as much as I need to, so my mother always steps in to help! They support me at every event and have made so many sacrifices for me, I am so lucky to have them.
Which riders do you look up to?
There are a lot of riders who I really admire but I think my top two would be; Marcus Ehning and McLain Ward. For me, when I see them riding it looks effortless, they are so smooth, and you never see them fighting with the horse. They always work as a team with the horses and you can see they really understand them.
Can you tell us about your favourite horses?
Catch Me If You Can is my best horse at the moment, she is amazing. I am really lucky, all the horses I have are really good. I have quite a new one, called, Bantou Balou, he is not that experienced in the bigger classes but last week he came third in Rotterdam, so I think he is one-to-watch.
Catch Me is very funny, when I arrive onto the yard, she stretches her neck as long as she can and is always looking for sweets and doesn’t stop leaning forward until I give her treats.
What are your expectations for CHIO Aachen?
Last year at Aachen, it felt like a dream come true, the atmosphere and facilities are incredible. I am so excited to experience the thrill of the home crowd and ride in the main arena again. Although it’s always great to win, for me the main thing is that my horse is happy and jumping well. I would like to do as many clear rounds as possible and see where we end – obviously to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix would be the icing on the cake.
What are your main aims for this year?
It would love to compete at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Although this is a main focus of mine, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I will talk with the Chef d'Equipe, make a plan for the horses and see how Aachen goes. Fingers crossed I make the shortlist!
What are you most looking forward to in the Rolex Grand Prix (if you qualify)?
It would be an honour to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix, what Rolex are doing for the sport is amazing and every rider wants to win a Rolex Major. It is one of the toughest courses in the world and really challenges your partnership as horse and rider. It really tests you but also gives you the opportunity to show your skills and prove how good you are. The atmosphere is electric, and you get goose bumps when you enter the arena. It’s magical.
How does it feel to have one of the Rolex Majors in your home country?
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is what every rider wants to win, and for my home country to host one of the Majors is so special. Aachen is one of the best events in the world, as are the three other Majors that make up the Grand Slam, I hope I can win the Rolex Grand Slam one day!
Having grown up with the Young Riders Academy, what opportunities has this given you to progress in the sport?
The Young Riders academy is a great programme and really supports the young talent within our sport. Show Jumping is expensive, and many people struggle with the funding to progress their careers. The Young Riders Academy, supported by Rolex, has given me the opportunity to combine my training sessions with my educational demands. This programme supports educational needs and training in the sport, which not many do. I think it is great for our sport and for nurturing young talent, so they can reach the peak of their careers.
What is your biggest dream in Equestrian Sport?
Along with winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, I would love to win a medal at the Olympics one day.
When you are not riding, what are you doing?
When I am not riding I am very busy with my studies as I am currently doing my Masters. But I also love to go out with friends, I especially love BBQs! I actually used to play hand-ball for 15-years but a couple of years ago I had to stop as it was too much, and I did not have the time.
How did you find the step up into seniors?
It is really different, for the juniors you have the big competitions but nothing like the seniors. I remember watching the big events on television and admiring riders like Scott Brash and McLain Ward, thinking about how much I would love to ride at these shows one day. It is an incredible feeling to know my hard work is paying off and now I am competing against my heroes.
What is your advice for young riders hoping to start their career in Show Jumping?
When you are a rider you work with horses, not machines, so you really have to understand the horse. Every horse is different, and you should be a partnership, a team. You should never try to fight the horse; the horse might not understand you and it is your job to teach it and nurture it so that it does. Horses love you and you love the horses.
I would also say that is important to remember you will have ups and downs but when you have the downs you should never give up and as the highs are worth so much more than the lows.