Spruce Meadows – with the support of its Corporate Partners- has made the difficult decision to cancel the ‘Masters’ show jumping tournament September 9-13, 2020
This decision is made with heavy hearts and an acute awareness of the significant ripple effects. The flagship ‘Masters’ Tournament was scheduled to be a “best ever” edition in 2020. Highlights were to include the world’s best horses and riders competing at the biggest tournament in show jumping, wonderful shopping, exhibits and entertainment programs. These included the RCMP Musical Ride, Fire Fit, the World Blacksmith Championships, Friday’s ‘Evening of the Horse’, military colour and the wonderful voices of the Tenors, just to touch the surface.
Amidst all this, we have some positive news. You don’t have to miss out on Spruce Meadows entirely. Spruce Meadows is marking its 45th Anniversary in 2020 with a wonderful selection of memorable stories on many of our media and social platforms. TELUS Name the Foal will continue virtually, and the Spruce Meadows team is working on providing you a virtual Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ on the website and through social media. More details on these initiatives will be available in the coming weeks.
Full press release here
World Equestrian Festival only to be staged virtually
The World Equestrian Festival, CHIO Aachen, cannot take place as planned this year. The organisers have decided to cancel the event due to the corona crisis. “People’s health takes top priority,” said Frank Kemperman, Chairman of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein (ALRV). He went on to say that against the background of the national and international developments as well as the measures adopted by the Federal Government, it was decided to cancel the CHIO Aachen 2020.
“This was a very emotional and very difficult decision for us,” stated Michael Mronz, General Manager of the Aachener Reitturnier GmbH (ART). According to Mronz, in spite of the fact that the CHIO Aachen is well-aligned thanks to its strong, reliable partners and the great support of its loyal spectators, the situation still presents a huge challenge. However, the fans and friends of the CHIO Aachen won’t have to completely miss out. “We will organise a virtual CHIO Aachen 2020,” reported Michael Mronz. It will at least be possible to experience the legendary CHIO Aachen atmosphere in digital form. The organisers will present more details about the project over the next few days.
The corona cancellation is the first time that the CHIO Aachen has ever been cancelled. The history of the meanwhile largest equestrian event in the world began in 1898. The Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein was founded, initially horse races, subsequently smaller horse shows were organised. International equestrian events have been staged in Aachen since the 1920s, the only time the event didn’t take place was during the Second World War, from 1940 to 1945. However, competitions were held at the showgrounds at the Aachen Soers in 1946 already again, from 1947 onwards on an international basis. In the meantime, each year around 350,000 guests from all over the globe visit the traditional competition grounds before the gates of Aachen in the course of the ten days of the event.
And they evidently identify themselves strongly with the CHIO Aachen: Because the organisers are currently experiencing an extraordinary phenomenon: “The solidarity of the people with their CHIO Aachen is immense during these difficult times,” reported Carl Meulenbergh, the ALRV President. Many of the ticket holders have already explained that they have decided to forego having their ticket price reimbursed. “We are sincerely grateful to them for this generous gesture,” stated Meulenbergh, because: “As a non-profit making organisation, the ALRV is reliant on this support.” Donors will of course receive a donation receipt.
Tickets that have already been purchased can be converted into tickets for the CHIO Aachen 2021 (June 25th to July 4th). All information and further options can be found at chioaachen.com/tickets. The CHIO Aachen team will now go about contacting all registered ticket customers and kindly asks everyone to currently refrain from placing telephone enquiries, because it will take some time to set up the technical requirements needed for the purpose. The offices of the CHIO Aachen remain closed to the public until further notice.
For all information see: www.chioaachen.com
“For quite some time now, we have already been in intense communication with the International Equestrian Federation FEI, the German Equestrian Association, the authorities and our partners,” said Frank Kemperman, Chairman of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein e.V. (ALRV), organisers of the CHIO Aachen, and Michael Mronz, General Manager of the CHIO marketing company, the Aachener Reitturnier GmbH (ART). "Taking the current Coronavirus crisis into account, the aim behind these discussions is to weigh the options of what is the best solution for the CHIO Aachen and for all of the visitors, athletes with their horses, partners and staff of the show."
The original venue date at the beginning of June cannot be adhered to: “It makes no sense to stick to the planned date, the current and future health and safety of all persons involved in the show has absolute priority for us,” reported Frank Kemperman. The primary goal is thus now to organise the CHIO Aachen at a later date in the year.
As soon as the new date for the CHIO Aachen 2020 has been finalised, it will be announced immediately. The CHIO Aachen organisers will then also inform the ticket customers about all further necessary details. Due to the current circumstances, the offices of the CHIO Aachen will remain closed until further notice.
As a result of COVID-19, the organising committee of The Dutch Masters 2020 this afternoon announced that it has cancelled the event with immediate effect. National government guidelines state that events in the Netherlands involving over 100 people must be cancelled.
Event Director of The Dutch Masters, Marcel Hunze, commented: “The national government just announced that all events in The Netherlands where there are more than 100 people need to be cancelled. Although we only have 60 riders here at The Dutch Masters, together with the grooms and the organisers, we are far in excess of 100 people, so we had no other option than to cancel the event immediately. We’ve managed to speak to all of the event’s stakeholders in the last few minutes, and they totally understand and agree that there is no other alternative.”
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping family stands together in solidarity, with the organisers of CHIO Aachen, Spruce Meadows and CHI Geneva offering their unwavering support to The Dutch Masters and everyone associated with the Show.
Who to Look Out For At The 2020 Dutch Masters
This year’s Dutch Masters, held from 12 – 15 March 2020, will see over 65,000 spectators descend on the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch to watch some of the world’s best riders go head to head. Audiences can expect an all-encompassing programme of equestrian competitions, where some of the world’s most distinguished show jumping and dressage riders will be competing. The Rolex Grand Prix, the pinnacle of this year’s event, will culminate on the Sunday afternoon, where a variety of equestrian’s elite riders will do battle to become the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender.
Rolex Grand Slam of Show jumping Rider Watch
The Brabanthallen ‘s-Hertogenbosch 14,500 capacity will welcome a number of the world’s best horse and rider partnerships. The 2020 Dutch Master’s will feature multiple contenders who will be vying for victory in the first Major of the calendar year.
Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat (SUI), is no stranger to achieving excellence at the Majors. Three-time winner of CHI Geneva, the current World No.1 will be hoping to emulate this success at The Dutch Masters this year. He brings with him a formidable number of horses, putting him in good stead for the upcoming competition, in his bid to become the new live contender.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, Martin Fuchs (SUI), is also in contention. Having already achieved so much at a young age, his career highlights include an individual silver medal at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games and most recently, an individual gold medal at the 2019 FEI European Championships. Fuchs has also shown a run of recent good form, securing a first-place victory with Stalando 2 in the Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup CSI 5* and he will be hoping to add this year’s Dutch Master’s trophy to his impressive list of accomplishments. The Swiss Rolex Testimonee will be partnered with a strong string of horses, including his top mount Clooney 51, who led him to victory at CHI Geneva last December.
Henrik Von Eckermann (SWE), a previous live contender, is one to follow at this year’s Dutch Masters. Following a stellar 2019, including victories in the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters and at CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show, Eckermann will be hoping to defend his title and re-take the reigns as the live contender. The strong partnership with the talented Toveks Mary Lou, has allowed the Swedish rider to rise up the world rankings and the mare’s ability to produce quick jump-off times in small arenas, means there is no doubt he will be feeling confident heading to The Netherlands next week.
Legendary equestrian, and former World No.1, Scott Brash (GBR) is a name synonymous with success in the Majors. In 2015, the Scotsman made history by becoming the first rider to win the three consecutive Majors of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Brash has already attained some enviable recent results, including a stunning victory in the Turkish Airlines Olympia Grand Prix and second place in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva last December. As the British rider creeps up the world rankings, all eyes will be on him at this first Major of the year.
Daniel Deusser (GER); World No.3, is also a rider to watch at this year’s Dutch Masters. The German has consistently posted top finishes across numerous 5* competitions and has been in touching distance of a Major victory on more than one occasion. Fellow German teammate, Marcus Ehning, brings a wealth of experience to this year’s Dutch Masters. After riding Prêt a Tout to victory in the Rolex Grands Prix at CHI Geneva and CHIO Aachen in 2018, the former live contender will be hoping to put himself in contention for this year’s competition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
From across the pond, USA’s Kent Farrington is known for his speedy displays in jump-offs, highlighted in the 2019 Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final where Farrington produced a lightning fast round to lift the coveted trophy. Aboard his new bay mare, Austria 2, the fast duo knocked an incredible 2.22 seconds off the time set by Ireland's Darragh Kenny in a breathtaking display of skill and speed. Fans can expect more exceptional horsemanship from Farrington, that of which also lead him to be victorious at the 2019 Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen.
The home crowd can look forward to seeing a strong contingency of contenders including former World No.1 Harrie Smolders and European gold medalist Jeroen Dubbeldam who will both be pushing for big results. It will be also be an emotional occasion for Dutch rider, Maikel van der Vleuten who will be retiring his legendary horse Verdi TN at the Show following an incredible 15-year partnership.
Following the success of the 2018 two year campaign ‘Surpass yourself and become a legend’, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has launched an innovative new advertising campaign ahead of The Dutch Masters, the opening Major of the year, where the world’s best will go head-to-head in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, from the 12th to 15th March 2020.
With this new theme, ‘The Quest for Excellence’, the campaign features a powerful and poignant 60-second film which tells the story of the passion and dedication needed to achieve one of the hardest feats in the sport, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The concept comprises carefully selected footage from each of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, mixed with pioneering graphics that highlight the key attributes.
The new ad, being more graphically advanced than previous years, aims to transcend the traditional boundaries of equestrianism, by breaking new ground and being more inclusive. ‘The Quest for Excellence’ enables the targeting of a variety of groups, from die-hard equestrian fans, to sports lovers, to those who relish the challenge of an almost impossible quest.
There will be a global digital activation across numerous platforms, such as TV and social media in order to further promote the theme of ‘The Quest for Excellence’ to a wider audience. A shorter 30-second film will also be released ahead of the Dutch Masters, which will feature predominantly on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping social media channels and will also be released on TV.
Michael Mronz; President of the RGS Steering Committee commented “This new campaign clearly shows the evolution and innovation of Show Jumping, coupled with what it takes to reach the very top. The sport is steeped in history and tradition, so we wanted to showcase this but with a modern twist.”
Mronz continues; “We wanted to create something that was truly emotive while highlighting the intricacies of the sport and bringing them to life.”
Swiss rider, Martin Fuchs, started his ‘quest for excellence’ in December last year, following a stellar performance in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. As the Rolex Grand Slam live contender, the words from this new ad will resonate with him significantly as he continues his journey towards one of the most coveted prizes in show jumping.
Exclusive interview with Rolex Grand Slam live contender Martin Fuchs
What is your earliest memory of riding a horse?
One of my first riding memories was when I was seven years old, I was riding my pony Cleopatra, it was with her that I competed in my first jumping competition.
The last few years have been incredible for you, what has enabled you to step it up a gear?
I’ve been very fortunate to have an amazing support group, a great set of sponsors and wonderful horse owners. My parents have always supported me through everything, I have an incredible team at home too, they have all helped me achieve my goals and my dreams. I’ve also put in a huge amount of work, I’ve had some pretty good results before, but right now I have a string of remarkable horses that have allowed me to remain competitive almost every week at five star shows. Previously, I would have only had a couple of top-class horses, but now I have a great string of horses, I can swap them in and out and try to win events week after week.
How do you find the horses, what exactly do you look for?
No two horses are the same, we don’t look for something particular in a horse, what we want is a careful horse who is also a fighter, and gives its best, which allows the rider to get the very best out of them.
Sometimes you compete against riders who have decades more experience than you, how do you keep your composure against them?
My family has always loved horses, I have grown up around the sport and all the great riders, this has allowed me to make a smooth transition into competing at the big shows. I still watch other riders and try to learn from them, to see if there is anything they do that’s particularly good, that I could take and try to improve. Despite my age, I have quite a lot of experience competing at a high level with a few different horses. Although there are certain situations where I feel I can learn from more experienced riders on the circuit to try and improve.
The Fuchs are world renowned in show jumping. How have your parents supported you throughout your childhood and career?
My parents have both supported me a lot from a young age, they have trained me, looked for horses for me, as well as helped me find horse owners and sponsors. It’s really been a team effort from all my family, as without them I wouldn’t have been able to become world number one and win a Rolex Grand Prix.
Clooney 51 is a superstar horse: how did your journey start and how have you grown together?
We bought Clooney through one of my best friends, when he was seven years old. In the beginning, he was a bit difficult, but he’s always been a great horse to ride. When he was eight years old, I realized that he could be a special horse, as he’d often placed in big Grands Prix. As a nine-year-old he placed second in a 5* Grand Prix in Doha. To become the team we are today, we’ve worked very hard on our dressage and his confidence. I try my best to keep him happy and give him the confidence he needs to perform, then in the ring he normally doesn’t let me down.
What do you think the qualities he naturally has that make him so special?
Clooney is very careful and clever at the fences; he’s very aware of his surroundings and always knows where the poles are. He’s a very intelligent jumper, with his own style, he doesn’t over-jump and never runs through the fences.
Do you plan on taking Clooney to The Dutch Masters?
I will definitely be taking Clooney; we’ve been training hard and preparing, so we have a good chance to do well.
You have achieved so much already but what are your next dreams and ambitions, what do you want to achieve?
I was ecstatic to become world number one; it was obviously a huge success and a dream come true for me, especially considering I’m still quite young. The Rolex Grand Prix victory in Geneva was the best possible outcome for me, which makes me a live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam. My main goals for this year are the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and of course the Olympics in Tokyo, which I’m incredibly excited for.
The Rolex Grand Prix win at CHI Geneva was obviously very emotional for you, can you talk about what that win meant for you, especially in front of your home crowd?
Geneva has always been a good show for me, I’ve never been close to winning the Rolex Grand Prix there though, so when I qualified for the jump-off, I was very excited. Clooney was in great shape and I knew the jump-off would suit us both, I kept focused and tried to go as fast as I could whilst sticking to my plan. It was then hard for me to watch the others go and I was quite sure that what I’d done wasn’t enough and one of the best riders would beat me. When Darragh Kenny, who was the last rider in the ring had a pole down, I realized I’d won. It was an incredible moment; made even more special winning in front of my home crowd, my family and my friends.
Looking ahead to The Dutch Masters, which has a much smaller arena, does that change your preparations at all?
Our preparation doesn’t change at all, Clooney is very good in the smaller arenas, so in a way it’s better for him. I’m excited as this will be my first time at The Dutch Masters, we will be competing at a 2-Star event with Clooney also in Holland a few weeks prior to the Dutch masters in order to be as prepared as possible.
Looking even further ahead to CHIO Aachen, again another completely different arena. Does Clooney grow in an arena like Aachen/ how does it affect him?
Clooney can be a little spooked in the big grass arenas, which makes things a little bit more difficult. Aachen is over the course of a whole week, which gives me the chance to get Clooney in the ring a couple of times before the Grand Prix, which will help us be more prepared. Last year he jumped really well and had clear rounds, however, during the second round I didn’t ride so well, but ultimately, I’m looking forward to bringing him back to the show.
Scott Brash won Rolex Grand Slam with Hello Sanctos, do you think Clooney could be a potential horse than could emulate their success?
I have complete faith in Clooney, I know he can win in any arena in the world, in any class. This gives me a lot of confidence, but I’ve not even dreamed about winning the Rolex Grand Slam because it’s so difficult. Anyone involved in our sport knows what Scott Brash has achieved is incredible and the odds of it happening again are so low. Of course, Clooney and I will try our best but who knows what the future holds.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I don’t think I’ve had a standout piece of advice given to me. I’ve learnt a lot of important values from a variety of people, the most important things I believe are to work hard, be dedicated, try to understand your horse and do your best every day.
When you’re not riding and competing, what are you doing? Do you have any hobbies outside of showjumping?
I’m quite laid back, so when I’m not competing, I like to go for long walks on the beach by the water, but sometimes I also go into the city. I try to relax as much as possible when I’m not training or competing, I think that’s important if you want to do well.
Words from Thomas Fuchs
International Show Jumper, trainer and father of the Rolex Grand Slam live contender
When did you think that Martin had what it takes to reach the top?
When he’d finished competing in the Juniors, that’s when I realized he might have the potential to reach the top. At the beginning, it was more my wife who went to the shows with him, I did go a few times, but he fell off multiple times and so I stopped going! He always wanted to be a showjumper, at the age of 11 or 12 he competed in a few shows on an old Grand Prix horse from Renata, which 18 or 19 years-old at the time. He started to win a few competitions and that’s when I saw the potential he had.
What qualities does Martin hold that have allowed him to get to where he is now?
His connection with the horse is truly amazing, he’s very calm, he doesn’t get nervous. His fundamental skills, which he learned from dressage lessons are very good, which have helped him become the rider he is today.
When Martin won the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva, it was obviously an emotional occasion, what was going through your mind at the time?
I remember the feeling when we realized that Martin had won the European Championships, the whole team was so emotional, and we started to realize something special was happening. Geneva was also special because everyone was there to support him, and it meant a lot to Martin to win such a big class in his home country.
You won at The Dutch Masters in the 80s, do you think Martin can follow in your footsteps
Yes, I think I did win there! What I hope will happen and what will actually happen might not be the same thing, he definitely has a good chance, Clooney 51 looks really fit. He hasn’t jumped since Geneva, so he’s had a nice break, and kept fit so he’s in a good position to do well at The Dutch Masters.
The arena at The Dutch Masters is quite small compared to Geneva arena, how do you adapt your preparations?
The horses are used to competing in many different arenas, I don’t believe it will have much of an impact on Clooney, he is used to varying conditions. A little bit of luck is always needed, the horse needs to be in top form. This will only be Clooney’s second show since Geneva, so it’s difficult to predict how he will perform, considering this, he’s in great shape, but in reality, we need everything to come together.
Do you get nervous watching Martin compete?
To be honest; not really no. The horse has done so many clear rounds so far, in the jump-offs at the end of course I get a little bit nervous, but the horse is really incredible, so overall, I’m not particularly nervous. I have confidence in my son and in Clooney, I don’t believe it’s necessary to be nervous anymore.
Obviously, you’re a world-renowned horse dealer, how did you find Clooney and the other horses for you and for Martin?
Over the years, I have built up a network of good friends and great contacts, who when they see something special, they get in touch. We have also gone to see so many horses it’s not the case that you find a horse like Clooney every year, as he is such a special horse. You need a bit of luck on your side, which we’ve had.
When you first saw Clooney, did you think that he was going to be the star that he is now?
At the beginning, when we first saw him, we thought he was a very nice horse, we weren’t thinking that he was a star from the beginning. However, when he won the Swiss Championships as an eight-year-old, we realized that he was a very special horse with a unique talent.
Obviously, Martin has done so much already at such a young age, what are your hopes and dreams for him, what would you like him to achieve?
I’m really happy with what he’s done so far, his career has been exceptional, he has already won a lot more than I did, although I do think it is a little bit easier for him. The equipment nowadays is much better, he can also go away to a show without having to worry about who is taking care of the horses. We have some incredible staff at the stables, who do an amazing job of looking after the horses, his mother takes care of all the paperwork, all of this allows him to really focus on the riding and the shows.
How has the sport of showjumping changed since you started your career compared to Martin now?
There are many more top riders competing in today’s competitions, it’s incredible how much the sport has improved. When I went to shows, sometimes we just had normal horses, nowadays, you need top class horses in order to be even be in contention. When I was competing, this wasn’t the case, you could win with an average horse, however, nowadays the only classes that are interesting are the really big ones.
What was the proudest moment of your career when you were jumping?
I’d say the proudest moment of my career is probably becoming the trainer for the two best riders in the world. I won a lot of classes as a rider, but I never won any of the top classes. My brother and I, especially when were at the beginning of our careers, we had to take care of a lot more things than those who compete nowadays, we had to run the stables ourselves. We couldn’t always concentrate purely on competing, there were many other responsibilities. I think that this is one of the reasons why I retired from competing so early on in my career, because there was too much take on.
Training Steve and Martin, I don’t need to be there every day, but with the big shows and the championships I’m there and I try to calm them down a bit. Overall, we have found a great balance between being a trainer, a father and a friend.
It must be quite interesting, because Steve and Martin are such good friends, but then they’re battling for the world number one spot, is there quite a friendly rivalry between them?
The rivalry between them is great, it makes them both train and compete harder, because they both want to be World no.1. Of course, they compete against each other, but they are still good friends. Steve and Martin both want to win, but if they come second and the other wins then they are still happy because they are so close, they support each other fully. Inside the ring, they’re competitors, but in private they’re very good friends. Sometimes, there is a bit of jealousy, but that is natural, it’s a good thing to have when you’re competing to be the best.
The funny thing is, when Martin became World no.1, he called me and asked me “what’s it like to be the trainer for the number one rider in the world?” I replied saying “I’m used to this” What he should have asked was “what’s it like being the father of the world number one”.
Lastly, if you didn’t work in the showjumping or equestrian world, was there any other career path that you could see yourself doing?
Working in the equestrian industry is all we’ve ever known, we started an apprenticeship and then started dealing horses. Martin is a horse man through and through, I don’t think I’m too bad either, there isn’t another career path I could see either of us doing.
Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender following his victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. The formidable duo of Fuchs and Clooney 51 once again showed the strength of their partnership, producing a speedy clear round in the jump-off (38.60 seconds) that proved impossible to catch. Great Britain’s Scott Brash was just 0.05 seconds behind his fellow Rolex Testimonee securing second place with Hello Senator and Belgium’s Jérôme Guery finished in third.
How does it feel to win your first Major?
Wow! This is a huge win for me, it is certainly a career highlight and tops off an unbelievable year for me. I am so happy.
What does CHI Geneva mean to you now?
It is one of best shows in the world and one that every rider wants to win. I am so happy that I was able to be so competitive at this Rolex Major and to win the Rolex Grand Prix in front of my home crowd is so special.
Clooney 51 is a superstar; how did he feel today?
Clooney is a phenomenal horse and his performance was exceptional today. Everyone saw what he did in the arena, he tries so hard and is just amazing.
Super Saturday at CHI Geneva
The biggest U25 class at the CHI Geneva, the Grand Prix des Espoirs, was won by USA’s Coco Fath and her chestnut gelding, Exotik Sitte. The 19-year-old from Fairfield Connecticut produced an electric jump-off to seal the victory in the time of 34.89 seconds.
Fath commented on her win, “I am so honored and humbled to just be a part of this legendary event but to win here is a dream come true. I am lucky to have such an incredible team behind me at Amethyst Equestrian with Rodrigo, Alexa, and Fran (our groom) all here supporting me, as well as the equally incredible team at home cheering from afar! And of course the inimitable Exotik Sitte aka Scotty who is the best partner I could ask for!”
It was an emotional Saturday evening at the CHI Geneva as the show jumping world bid goodbye to Scott Brash’s legendary horse, Hello Sanctos, in a special retirement service. Brash paid tribute to the horse that helped him become the only rider to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping; “He’s made all my dreams come true and I really can’t thank him enough for what he has done. I also need to thank my owners for believing in me and believing in Sanctos. We had an incredible partnership and I hope he will be remembered as a superstar.”
A legend’s words with: Peter Charles
You have had success at CHI Geneva in the past, what does this show mean to you?
I think coming here you know you are competing at one of the best shows in the world. You have all the best riders and horses here providing top sport entertainment. The introduction of the IJRC Rolex Top 10 Final was a fantastic idea as you have all the top riders in one place. I think the introduction of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has enhanced the event even more. Linking four of the best Shows in the world makes the sport even more interesting, it gives them a different dimension and this is without a doubt one of the most important shows in the Calendar.
You have had a long and successful career, are you passing your wisdom onto your children now?
I think it is very important to evolve yourself as a trainer with the sport, see the different variations; time allowed has got a lot quicker, the distances have changed and are a lot more technical. If you jump in Spruce Meadows it’s a very different concept to here in Geneva. You wouldn’t necessarily use the same horse for both events for example. You have to be very clever how you target different events and Grands Prix with different horses.
Do you get nervous watching Harry compete?
My wife does! She gets very nervous and always feels sick when they compete! He’s still got a lot to learn but he is in the perfect place for that. He is now surrounded by the world’s best riders when he competes, so he can learn so much from them. Scott (Brash) and Ben (Maher) are very good with him, they help him out, everyone works so well together and is there for each other. I always like to see older riders giving advice to younger riders. It is very rewarding and lovely to see them give back to the sport.
How important is the Young Riders Academy and the introduction of the U25 classes for younger generation trying to climb the ladder in the sport?
Everything has to evolve. Whether you’re 16, 18 or 25 the Young Riders Academy caters for those age groups. It is vital to our sport and it’s vital that it keeps going. Rolex has been fantastic at sponsoring it and showing support for it. It gets these riders into the yards of top professionals, whether it’s vet clinics, accounting advice or how to run a business and what the real world is like. The Young Riders Academy is giving a great cushion to these up and coming athletes and allowing them to prepare for the professional world. I think we have the greatest Chairman in Eleonora she is amazing. If she got paid for all the hours she works on it, she would be a billionaire! She is instrumental and very good at what she does so a lot of the credit has to go to her.
What are your dreams and aspirations for your children?
They have all decided on their own that they would like to ride professionally. My daughters are riding at 2/3* level now. The main thing is finding a team of good horses that they can compete on but also teaching them how the business works. It’s not just about going to the shows, you have to look at sales, teaching etc. it’s all part of it and you have to have a really good team. I don’t put too much pressure on them, what will be will be. I do believe that they have the talent, so if they work hard there is no reason, they can’t all achieve great things.
It was another victory for Kent Farrington who claimed the coveted Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final title at CHI Geneva. Partnered with his new bay mare, Austria 2, the fast duo knocked 2.22 seconds off the time set by Ireland’s Darragh Kenny, in spectacular fashion.
That was an incredible performance from Austria 2, what she’s like to ride?
Yes, she’s amazing. I started riding her in May and as soon as I tried her I thought she was an exceptional horse. She’s really small in stature but she’s got a huge heart and is a tremendous jumper. This is the biggest class she has ever jumped in her life, so to go on and win is amazing, she is unbelievable.
How was the atmosphere tonight?
It was great. It’s my favourite show and maybe even the best in the world, here and CHIO Aachen are very close. The crowd was amazing tonight, everybody wants to win here, especially this class. So it really is a special night.
You have already won two classes here, do you think you can make it a hattrick and win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
I think I can win! I am going to try my best, give it my all and hope it all comes together on Sunday.
Walking the course with:
International course designer Louis Konickx
CHI Geneva is unique in having two international Course Designers, Switzerland’s Gérard Lachat and Louis Konickx from the Netherlands. We spoke to Louis Konickx ahead of Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix:
What can people expect to see from the Rolex Grand Prix course on Sunday?
We have the best riders in the world here, so myself and Gérard Lachat have been making the plans for the course. We know that the course needs to have everything in it, it must be very precise. We must consider the configuration and the distances between fences, the combinations are always a great challenge, so we need to ensure that they are put in exactly the right place, to ensure a test for the riders. It is always important to take timing into consideration, yesterday, we had 12 of the 13 riders in the jump-off who finished within one second of each other, so if you allow one second more on the clock, the course is already easier for the riders. So, if you ask me what is in the Rolex Grand Prix – everything! It is a very special arena because its bigger, so it gives something extra to the course because the riders can gallop.
What kind of horse would this course suit?
That’s a very interesting question, every horse is careful here, all the horses are very finely tuned, but there is a big difference between horses with a bigger stride and horses with a smaller stride. Generally, both types canter faster in this arena. You always have to be quick, and the riders will assess the timing given and find the right solution for each horse, so that they can do the best that they can. The smallest horses are often faster, whilst some horses jump too high, losing valuable time.
How do you and Gérard put the plans in place for the courses?
I love Gérard’s style, he creates very fluid courses, making sure to use all the space we have here. As always with course designing, if you stick to your own designs, you might miss something, but here I come and look at another’s design, and I would add some suggestions, changing something that he might not see. It is a good partnership, working together allows us to see each other’s designs with fresh eyes and point out things that might need changing.
Which riders do you think could win on Sunday?
If the prize is as big as it is here, then all the riders competing will be very good. It is the same at every championship, competitors need to stay very calm, as soon as they are too eager, mistakes happen. The ones that stay cool always have a better chance than those who are over-excited. All riders want to win but they must control their state of mind.
How many clears do you want to see?
It’s very hard to say, we are always afraid of getting the timing wrong. If we allow too much time, it is easy for everyone, but if we don’t allow enough, the riders will hurry round, and not jump the horses well. Our aim is to allow the horses to jump at their best, so we, as the audience, experience great rounds from the riders. If we have a time fault or one down, it’s a pity, but the riders like to compete when they feel the horse is at their best. If they have to go too quickly, it’s a lot of stress which is not good to watch. For me, it’s great to have around six to eight clears.
What’s your favourite part of being at CHI Geneva?
We shouldn’t forget that this is an extremely special show, the venue is beautiful, the way it is organized and decorated is wonderful. There are so many volunteers, who operate on a highly professional level. They know how to work efficiently, whilst having fun at the same time. This is what makes the show great and gives it the atmosphere. You cannot have people working who are not interested in the show. So, for me this is the best show in the world, it is a huge arena, with fantastic decoration and atmosphere – there is nothing quite like it. We also have the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, which no other show has.
A new generation with:
Can you talk about what it’s like to be here at CHI Geneva?
I’m delighted to ride here, I’ve never ridden here before. I was once here to watch my brother Bertram (Allen) but to ride here I think it’s going to be unbelievable.
The Majors are putting on more U25 competitions, can you discuss how this helps young riders at the start of their careers?
I think that it’s great for me and for a lot of people my age. We can go to these bigger shows and if we do well, it will give us more opportunities to compete at a variety of big events. Ultimately it gives us experience to compete on a bigger stage which will help us grow in our careers.
What are your aspirations as a rider?
I would love to do as well as I can in the sport and hopefully climb the ladder to the top. It would be great to win some big Grands Prix one day.
What is the atmosphere like at CHI Geneva?
I think there’s a lot of pressure, the crowds are going to be big (they already were for the class this morning) but hopefully if everything goes well, it’ll be a good atmosphere.
Do you get nervous going into the ring?
No, it doesn’t really bother me so much, I just try to focus as much as I can.
The sport has a really wide age group in terms of competitors. Is it hard to break into the top professional level?
It has its ups and downs, but it helps because I can get a lot of help from the older riders and my brother so I am lucky in that respect.
Apart from Bertram (Allen), which riders do you look up to?
I think Marcus Ehning, he’s a great rider. His style, his system, the way he does everything. He always does very well at these Rolex shows, so hopefully it can be a good show here for him.
Which horses do you have here with you this week?
I have Dancing Queen. She’s a very good mare, she won the U25 Grand Prix in Fontainebleau earlier this year and I brought her to the Europeans where I was team bronze and 5th individually.
You left school at 16, to pursue a career in show jumping. How did you make that decision?
It wasn’t really a decision to be honest, I did the juniors and went out to Germany and was doing well, so it just kind of went from there and I stayed on.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, is that something you aspire to win one day?
It would be a dream to win just one Grand Prix or even a class at one of these shows.
USA’s Kent Farrington produced a lightning fast round aboard his notoriously fast mount, Creedance, to claim the Trophée de Genève at CHI Geneva. This victory secures Farrington’s spot in Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, where he will be hoping to emulate his success of 2017 and become the next Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender.
How did you produce such a fast round?
I brought Creedance here because he is so fast and he does a lot by himself so I just try to stay out of his way and let him go, which is usually the best plan. He’s actually won this class before, so he really knows what he’s doing and he showed that tonight.
You have had a lot of success at this Major, how does it feel to be back?
Yes, I think this is one of the best, if not the best show of the year. All the top riders, all the greatest horses are here and every class feels important. Each class is hard to win and, of course, it’s part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping so it’s very special. I’m just really glad I have started off so well and hopefully we can keep it up.
Looking ahead to Sunday, which horse will you be riding in the Rolex Grand Prix?
The plan is to ride Gazelle. I am going to do the normal routine, let her get some small rounds under her belt for her confidence and the go for it on Sunday.
Ben Maher riding Explosion W in the Prix des Vins de Geneve, accompanied by groom Cormac Kenny (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)
Behind the stable door with
Cormac Kenny, Ben Maher’s groom.
Can you talk about your daily routine as a show groom?
I wake up early in the morning to feed the horses, then we give them some time to rest so they are able to digest their food. We then ride them through the morning and afterwards if they need icing or any extra care, we sort this out. After lunch, we take them out for hang grass so they can relax outside and chill.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part of the job would be riding the horses at home, I love riding and working with the horses. I usually ride between three and four horses a day. Explosion and F One are actually incredible horses to ride, Explosion is very light, he is fresh and happy and F One has a little bit of an attitude so it’s never boring. He’s always that something different, you can never tell what’s coming next, so he is an exciting horse to work.
What’s your least favourite part of the job?
Travelling, I hate the lorry, I’m not good at it. I need to download some good podcasts. I usually watch Netflix and I have made a few good playlists on Spotify, I make them en route to pass the time.
How did you first get into this job?
My dad brought me to my neighbours house when I was young – they had a horse which I was able to ride, and my love of horses went from there. I used to jump a bit in the ring, but I found that I love being a groom, so this is what I’ve pursued.
What’s Ben like to work for?
He’s very focused on his job, but he is good fun. He has a very funny side to him, along with his focused side, where he knows what he wants, and what he needs to do to get there. Working for someone who has had such a phenomenal career is very special. We are lucky to be able to work with wonderful horses every day and watching Ben and the horses compete is always very exciting. Standing beside them before they go into the ring, you can see that a horse like Explosion really wants to win, and knows exactly what he’s doing. He can play around in the warmup ring, and buck a bit, but once he knows he is entering the arena he just goes for it.
Do you get nervous watching?
Yes, extremely nervous, sometimes I can’t watch. But the feeling when I realise that Ben and one of the horses has won, is a very proud moment. Not just for me, but for everyone. It takes a lot to get just one horse to a show, and its great for everyone if we get good results because it gives us all motivation to work even harder so we can achieve even more.
CHI Geneva is one of the Majors in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, do you notice a difference in atmosphere / pressure?
Yes, the atmosphere is very special here – when you walk into the show you get a feeling straight away that’s different to most other shows, it’s a little bit intense, everyone is focused. The horses can also sense the extra pressure, when I rode the horses around the warmup arena, they were sharper and fresher. It must be the atmosphere at CHI.
Looking ahead to the Rolex Grand Prix, how are you preparing Explosion and the team for that?
We have to treat it as just another show, we don’t treat it any differently, although its one of the most amazing shows on the circuit and, of course, the Rolex Grand Slam is something that everyone wants to be a part of. The horses need to be happy; we need to ensure that they are taken care of, and are as happy and relaxed as can be.
What rewards does Explosion get when he wins?
He’s spoilt everyday – there’s no hiding it! All of the horses are quite spoilt, but Explosion begs a lot more, so he ends up getting a few more treats than the others. His favourite is always lots of carrots.
Word from the organizer with:
Sophie Mottu Morel, CHI Geneva’s president
How do you keep innovating the show each year?
It’s not easy to have new ideas each year, but we listen to the partners and the sponsors, as they give us ideas. We also listen to the riders and the public, so that each year they have something new when they come to the CHI Geneva. So this year, we have the CHI TV close to the attraction arena, we have changed the lights of the show, so that it’s a bit darker in the halls, we have made the lighting and the music before a competition feel more exciting, and more like a show, to create a great atmosphere before the classes. We think about the horses in the stables, so they have something new, and are more comfortable. Next year, we will have more to reveal, as it will be the 60th edition, so we will create something completely different. This year, we have made lots of small adjustments to improve the show, so it is not that noticeable. We always keep in mind the feedback we receive at the end of the shows.
Have you found that the digital and social media aspects have changed / impacted how you promote the show?
This is extremely important for us, we have a big community and we want to communicate on social media, because this is how everybody does it now. Social media is a very quick way to reach your audience and the people you want to be in touch with immediately. This year we have a great Community manager, each year we want to improve, because we know that this is how the young generation communicates. However, we also think that the more traditional routes of communication, i.e. newspapers are very important too. We have a lot of different people in our audience, and we have to communicate to them all. Although we do put more into the social aspect each year, because it is the future.
What is your favourite thing to do at the show (if you have time)?
I love to watch the horses jump. I do not have much time throughout the show, going from meetings to meetings, talking with the partners, sponsors, the volunteers and the people. So, when I have time, I sit on a chair and watch the sport. If I have a chance to watch the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, this is fantastic for me, but the main highlight is the Rolex Grand Prix on the Sunday, because this is of course, the biggest class of the event.
What are the exciting events happening across the week? What can people expect to see?
There are a lot of exciting things people must see when coming to the show this week. Firstly, the Rolex Grand Prix, we have 40 of the best international riders competing, it is a beautiful class and the pinnacle of the show. The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final is also a highlight and a must see. For me, one of the greatest experiences is to just be in the arena, because the riders always give so much energy to the audience. We have three disciplines, so if it is possible to see all three, the best ones to go to would be the Rolex Grand Prix, the Cross Indoor and the World Cup driving.
How many people does it take to put on a prestigious event like this?
In the committee, we are 35 people, and we also have 700 volunteers, so it is a lot. For the arena, there are 150 volunteers, for the stables there are more than 100. We also have all our partners, the catering, the exhibitors, they are all part of the team because they create the show. We are very lucky to be able to have so many volunteers, as Geneva is a small city! But we have a lot of stables and farms around Geneva, so a lot of people love to ride and be around horses, as well as being a part of the show. It is incredible, but not hard to find volunteers for the show because they want to do something for the CHI. Normally, we have to refuse around 100 people, which is very unfortunate!
Exclusive interview with Rolex Grand Slam live contender
The CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is notoriously difficult to win – were you confident ahead of the class?
I have to say I was having a really good week with Darry Lou. He won the big class on Friday, so he felt like he was on good form which gave me confidence that he would be good on Sunday too. He is such a consistent horse, so although it’s always hard to win at The Masters, I thought I might have a good chance
How did this victory feel compared to your previous Grand Prix win 14-years-ago?
The first time I won the big Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows, the weather was really bad and there was controversy surrounding the Nations Cup the day before, so it was great that I ended that week on a good note. This year the weather was so good to us and I felt that the horse deserved a really big win, so it was exciting and certainly a moment I really remember for years to come.
How do you stay at the top of your game?
I think I’m very lucky that I have a great team behind me. From my husband, to the owners and the sponsors – they make my life so much easier. I’m able to work with some very good horses so it’s always exciting and inspiring for me. Obviously, a little financial backing helps as well. Some members of our staff have been with us for over 20 years, so we have an amazing team and that’s a constant support for me.
How has the sport evolved since you started competing professionally?
The breeding, the types of courses, and the universality of the sport have all changed massively. So many riders from all over the world are now riding with similar styles, the horses are lighter going than in the past, and the courses are more careful and technical. Because of the technicality of the sport, it takes longer to develop a top Grand Prix horse. Many years ago, you might see a 6-year-old in a Grand Prix, but those days are over. Also, the prize money has skyrocketed which makes the sport even more competitive and more commercial.
Could you talk about the time you needed to win prize money to fly home?
Well my husband had a sales business, so only one of the horses we had was owned by someone else. However, we were paying all the expenses on that horse and the others who we owned at least part of. So, when we took our first trip to Europe to compete, we had enough money to get there, but after that, we had to win enough money to get to the other shows and to get home-no pressure! Luckily, we were able to help our team win the Nations Cup in Rome and went on to win some classes at other shows. I think we went home with money to spare.
How has the travel of horses affected the sport?
The ability to fly horses all around the world has made it possible for many more countries to have top sport. When riders and horses were more confined to staying within their country or continent, they weren’t able to compete against each other. Now many more riders are exposed to top sport and able to raise their level of riding to compete at the top. When we are able to easily ship horses in and out of places like India and China, our sport will grow rapidly.
How has the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhanced the sport?
The Grand Slam is a great concept that certainly creates further excitement within our sport. It also has brought incredible prize money to the sport and encouraged other competitions to increase their prize money. I think the Grand Slam involves some of the best shows in the world, so every rider wants to win the Grand Prix at any single event of the series which makes it all the more special. The riders don’t just go to the shows because they have to in order to win the bonus, they go to the shows because they are special, and the possibility of a bonus is even more incentive.
Can you talk a bit about Darry Lou, his personality and what he’s like back home?
Darry Lou is a really special horse. He is very confident in himself, but at the same time, he is very sweet and always wants to please. I think he had a wonderful upbringing in Mexico, so it was an easy transition when we became partners. One thing he loves to do is roll. I don’t know if he likes the rolling or just likes to be dirty, but he is a professional roller.
How important is the role of owners in the sport?
The owners are a very important part of our sport. These days more than ever, we all need good financial backing to have the horses it takes to compete at a high level. Even buying young horses is more difficult than say 10 years ago. When we find one and develop it, then we need to be able to afford to keep it also. So even though I feel it still can be done without a huge budget on occasion, the owners who support us so loyally are essential to our success in the sport.
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I think it’s a little tough to break into this sport in some ways, but the sport is growing all the time which opens up more and more opportunities for people. I think it’s important for young people to always try to make a good impression on other people. You never know who your future employer or sponsor or partner might be. You can definitely help create your own opportunities.
What is your earliest riding memory?
When I was probably four or five years old my brother and I got ponies for Christmas and my mum had a small horse truck that was parked outside our house. So, on Christmas morning we met our new ponies and went for a ride. It was so exciting!
Is there a sportsman/woman outside riding that you admire?
It’s hard to say, but I am a Green Bay Packers football fan, so I would have to go with Aaron Rogers.
How will you be preparing for Geneva?
I have done three indoor shows in North America with my horses Coach and Garant to prepare for Geneva. Now they have a short break before they travel to Europe where they will do a 2* in Sentower Park as a warmup for Geneva. The plan is to bring both Garant and Coach to Geneva for the Rolex Top Ten Final and of course the Rolex Grand Prix.
Behind the stable door with...
Amy Devisser, groom to Beezie Madden
How did you get into grooming as a profession?
I went to Cazenovia college which is a college right up the road from the farm here. I did an internship year and never left! I’ve now been here for 26 years and it’s the only job I’ve ever had grooming and I still love it.
What do you think has kept you there for so long?
I think the Maddens are just really easy going and great people to work for. It’s been a really good fit for me and when you love something why change it?
How has your job changed and evolved along with the sport?
When I first started, we weren’t doing quite as much and we certainly weren’t as busy, but the sport has definitely got a lot bigger and there are now so many more competitions. Keeping up with all the events requires a lot of travelling so I have definitely had to travel a lot more than when I first started.
What is your proudest moment of your career so far?
Probably the most recent one would be when Beezie won the Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows, that was really exciting. I couldn’t really watch too much of the class as I was with the horse and when it came to watching Beezie, I was very nervous! It was pretty amazing when she won, we were doing a boot check and suddenly someone came around the corner jumping up and down and told us the news. We didn’t really do too much celebrating because we had to get back to work, however, the horse got lots of carrots and treats and we gave him a couple of days off in the field to have a break.
What are Beezie’s top horses like personality wise?
They all have their little personalities and the good thing is that none of them mind the crowd when performing. Back in the barn they are all pretty even-keeled I suppose. Coach is like a big dog that craves attention and wants to be on your lap all the time, Darry Lou is actually very good for a stallion but he is very vocal and again, Garant would sit on your lap if he could. They are all puppy dogs really and thank goodness for me they’re all amazing horses, I feel very lucky.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I quite like the travelling because you get to visit a lot of different places and see so much of the world.
What’s your least favourite part of the job?
The very long days and sometimes it is six or seven days a week which makes it hard to plan stuff with your family. I guess that’s just something that comes with the job.
What’s it like working for someone like Beezie?
She’s a great person with a good sense of humour, so it’s very enjoyable. At the same time, she is very quiet and down to earth, and doesn’t ever seem to get too stressed.
As a team, do you feel like there is extra pressure going into CHI Geneva as the live contender?
I think you feel pressure before any big competition because you always want to succeed and do well.
Do you think the introduction of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has enhanced the sport?
Yes, definitely. Mainly because I think it creates a bit more publicity around the sport and gives it that extra buzz.
After 26 years of being a groom, do you think grooms are now in the spotlight more than ever before?
I think there is still quite a lot of room to increase the recognition of the groom, but I do think organisations are doing a much better job, especially in the last 10 years. Even after winning a Grand Prix, there is a lot more recognition shown towards the groom which is great.
If you could swap careers for a day what would you do?
I would probably just be a bartender on the beach somewhere.
If you could describe Coach and Garant in three words, how would you describe them?
Garant is definitely quirky, has a lot of personality and is very handsome. Coach is very loveable, always happy and very handsome too.
How do you, Beezie and the team prepare for an event like CHI Geneva?
I don’t feel like too much changes from our daily routine to be honest. I think everyone is quite relaxed and down to earth but we still prepare exactly the same. The team always has a goal at the start of the year to make sure the horses peak at a certain time so the win in Spruce Meadows was a great bonus.
In your 26 years which horse has been your favourite to work with?
I would probably say current the current horses Coach, Darry Lou and Garant because they are all extremely fun to go to work with and I care about them a lot.
Which country has the highest winning percentage in Majors since 2013 ? 🐎🏆
Germans are in the lead with 8 wins, the most recent being Marcus Ehning winning CHI Geneva last December. The British are second, mainly thanks to the great performances of Scott Brash! The third place is taken by two nations: the United States and Belgium, both with three victories.
Full list by Countries:
8x GER - 29,62%
5x GBR - 18,51%
3x BEL - 11,11%
3x USA - 11,11%
2x SUI - 7,50%
1x CAN - 3,70%
1x BRA - 3,70%
1x EGY - 3,70%
1x SWE - 3,70%
1x FRA - 3,70%
Top 3 by victories
THE DUTCH MASTERS 2013 DAVID WILL
THE DUTCH MASTERS 2015 DANIEL DEUSSER
THE DUTCH MASTERS 2016 MARCUS EHNING
SPRUCE MEADOWS 'MASTERS' 2017 PHILIPP WEISHAUPT
CHI GENEVA 2018 MARCUS EHNING
CHIO AACHEN 2014 CHRISTIAN AHLMANN
CHIO AACHEN 2016 PHILIPP WEISHAUPT
CHIO AACHEN 2018 MARCUS EHNING
CHIO AACHEN 2013 NICK SKELTON
CHI GENEVA 2014 SCOTT BRASH
CHIO AACHEN 2015 SCOTT BRASH
CALGARY 2015 SCOTT BRASH
CALGARY 2016 SCOTT BRASH
SPRUCE MEADOWS MASTERS 2013 PIETER DEVOS
CHIO AACHEN 2017 GREGORY WATHELET
THE DUTCH MASTERS 2018 NIELS BRUYNSEELS
CHI GENEVA 2017 KENT FARRINGTON
CHIO AACHEN 2019 KENT FARRINGTON
SPRUCE MEADOWS 'MASTERS' 2019 BEEZIE MADDEN
This week, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has been catching up with the new generation in professional show jumping. Almost 40 year’s younger than some of their senior competitors, we took a look at how initiatives such as the Young Riders Academy and the introduction of U25 competitions at the Majors, gives young riders the opportunity to break into the senior world.
Words from Harry Charles
Young rising star of show jumping
When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in show jumping?
When I was about 14 years-old, I won a big pony class in England, which at the time was probably the biggest class you could win at 16 years of age and younger, so I won that and got such a good buzz of it and realized this is exactly what I want to pursue a career in.
Do you think if you hadn’t have competed at CHIO Aachen your career wouldn’t have progressed the way it has?
Realistically CHIO Aachen is one of the biggest shows in the world. There’s so much that sponsors and event organizers can do now, so if I hadn’t gone to Aachen as young as I was at the time, I don’t think I would have got the opportunities that I have now been given.
What other opportunities have you had since then?
I think the main thing is that it has helped me connect with important people and sponsors within the sport. I made a lot of great contacts and friends there so there were so many benefits from doing that and lots of opportunities have opened up since last year.
What do you think are the three most important attributes for being a professional show jumper?
The first one is patience, something which I must improve a bit. I think it’s important because of the injuries associated with the sport, especially the horses. You can get a really talented rider who might have to sit back for a few years because of a horse being injured or maybe not having enough experience yet. You must let the horse develop at its own pace.
Second one I think is that you have to be mentally strong, something I work very hard on. I think I’m quite lucky that I am naturally quite mentally strong, but I have had to develop a lot in this area. I remember I always used to get really annoyed when I started doing the big shows and my head would drop a bit if I hit a fence, but now having a bit more experience, you realise it’s not the end of the world. As long as you learn from your mistakes, that’s all that really matters.
I think the third one is good work ethic. When I’m off the horses I now do a lot of gym work and specific training. My father once said you can never stop improving and I think that’s such a great mindset to have in this sport because you are working with two athletes; you and the horse.
Can you talk about the 5* horses you currently have? What do you see for them in the future?
I think we have got a good group of horses; I think ABC Quantum Cruise is the best horse I have at the moment. I still think he is maybe a year or two off hitting his peak, so I don’t think I have got the best out of him yet, but he is very good and very consistent. We work with him every day to try and improve him, so hopefully you will see the best of him soon.
Who are your idols / which riders do you look up to?
For me it has always been Scott [Brash]. As well as great rider, he’s a really nice guy too so he is definitely my idol. We talk about everything actually and he is always willing to help me out and lend a hand. Especially when I started doing the big shows, he was always the first one who would come and sit with me at breakfast in the morning when I didn’t know anyone, which I really appreciated.
Do you get nervous competing against them?
Not really, it makes me hungrier to be honest and it makes me want to win more. I am pretty confident, and I like to think I actually thrive on pressure and it makes me ride better.
You are almost 40 year’s younger than some of top riders who are still competing – what are the tools you need to have such a long career?
I think you have got to have patience; you don’t want to push it all too quickly. If you play it right, it can be a long sport. You’ve got to take care of yourself. I always see riders in the gym. The sport has changed so much and the margins are so tight now, I think gym work has become more important than it ever used to be.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Definitely competing in the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen, that has always been the dream of mine since I was small and to be able to do it was incredible. I still have to pinch myself that I have done it to be honest with you. Sometimes when I am hacking with ABC Quantum Cruise at home, I look down and say to him, ”can you believe that we jumped the Rolex Grand Prix at Aachen”!
Now that you have tried competing in a Major, is the Rolex Grand Slam a long-term goal?
I would love to win at least one of the Rolex Majors and of course the Rolex Grand Slam, but by the time I’m 25 I would love to have won one and I think in five years its possible.
The Rolex Grand Slam Majors are promoting youth by organizing more and more U25 competitions, what is your point of view on this?
I think it is great, any chance for a young rider to jump in a top-level event like any of the Rolex shows is massively important and influential. Being among the top riders with a big crowd is just amazing, not only to inspire and motivate young riders, but also for their exposure. For example, when I was in Aachen, so many people contacted me, and I think I gained about 400 followers on my social media platforms each day I was there. Taking part in these events really does give you drive, and although you may only be able to jump two classes, it makes you even more motivated at the idea of jumping more later down the line.
If you weren’t a professional show jumper, what would you be?
I would love to be a pilot. I have a very big interest in aviation and I am actually doing my private pilot’s license.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
A piece of advice I was given was that when the horse knocks a pole down, 9/10 times it’s your fault even if you think it’s not your mistake.
Words from Jos Verlooy
European Championship Bronze Medallist
When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in show jumping?
I decided early, but I also loved playing football so I wasn’t sure which sport I wanted to pursue. As soon as I started winning some show jumping events at 14-years-old, I realised that show jumping was what I wanted to do.
What do you think are the three most important attributes for being a professional show jumper?
Work ethic is number one for me and I think it is the same in all sports. You have to work hard in order to achieve your goals and you have to be willing to learn. It is also very important to have good people behind you who you trust. Finally, a good relationship with your owners is so important because the role of the owners has evolved so much.
What impact has your owner had on your career?
I have a very good owner and I am very lucky that I could keep riding Igor because a lot of people wanted to buy him. Our sport is not just about riding, it’s about finding the right horses and the right partnerships and that is where the importance of the owners comes in, it really is a team effort.
How has your father (former Olympic show jumper and renowned horse dealer, Axel Verlooy) helped with you career?
My father has many years of experience in the sport, that was one of my advantages as an emerging rider. With Harry [Smolders] and my father next to me, they will always give me good advice and will tell me the good things and the bad things. They always give me direction, which is so important to be a successful rider. Although the sport is about falling and getting back up, it certainly helps when you have that support network.
You are almost 40 year’s younger than some of top riders who are still competing – what are the tools you need to have such a long career?
It’s hard to say, but definitely the most important thing is to have the right horse. Even if you’re 50 you can always learn and keep improving and I think if you have a good horse you can perform at the highest level whatever your age. I have a lot of respect for Ludger Beerbaum who has had an incredible year and always kept the right people behind him. It’s only until you’re in the sport that you realise how difficult it is to have the right horse, the right management and the right team, you need all pieces in the puzzle really.
What’s your point of view on sponsors trying to help youth riders?
I think our sport is doing a very good job now to give new opportunities to the younger generation and help them compete at the highest levels. I have never been in it, but I think the Rolex Young Riders Academy has done and, continues to do, a very good job of educating the riders. I know riders who did it and they learnt a lot about how to talk to owners as well as the management side of the sport. These concepts and innovations are very important and you can see already there are so many younger riders now which is a result of sponsors like Rolex helping to promote more under 25’s competitions, which also allows us to see younger riders in big competitions.
Can you talk about the FEI European Championships and winning a gold medal there?
I had a really good build up to the European Championships and I felt very confident and fresh. The first goal was of course to qualify in the team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which I achieved, and I guess the gold medal was just a bonus. Before the final I felt good and my horse still seemed to be very fresh and it all worked out well for us! It is great to win two medals at my age and it has definitely given me more confidence and increased my drive for the next championships.
Do you have any show jumping idols?
I look up to many riders and every rider is different. I think first of all Harrie Smolders, because he has always helped me since I started riding and I have a lot of respect for him. He is such a great guy who is always there to help me with anything. Most of the people that are now jumping with me are the people who I looked up to as a small kid on the sofa watching TV.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
I think the highlight of my career is definitely Rotterdam, to win two medals at such a young age is beyond what I dreamed of doing.
Words from Karen Polle
How did the Young Riders Academy help you achieve your goals and further your career?
I think it did a lot for my career. First of all, during the year that I lived in the Academy we had sessions where we would do a mixture of lectures and practical sessions. I found them so informative and you learn so much about the sport. The topics ranged from veterinary care to FEI ranking point systems, types of footing, horse management and the economic side of the sport. So, from an educational standpoint, it had a huge impact on me as a rider. It is especially important for me as I actually manage my own horses in conjunction with my owner. Beyond that, the people you meet throughout the academy are very important and helpful. Everyone is always willing to give help and guidance and it is such a great community to be in. The Academy really helps you to get into shows, especially when you are trying to break into that top-level of the sport.
What are the reasons for your early success?
I think probably the most important thing is not giving up. This sport is very difficult, you lose more than you win, and the horses have a mind of their own which you can’t control. So, it is all about perseverance. I take it very hard when it doesn’t go well and I really blame myself, but I have learned a real lesson to put my mistakes behind me and to focus on the next task at hand. I am still working on this, but it is so important to be able to do this if you want to make it to the top.
The Majors are investing in more U25 competitions, how important are these events?
I think they are great classes. They give young riders an opportunity to jump at nearly the highest level, but jumping against their peers rather than jumping against the top riders almost allows you to get your feet wet a bit. I think it is really good to get mileage and gain confidence at that top level, so it is a great thing for the sport.
Do you feel a responsibility to help grow the sport of show jumping in Asia?
I am really glad to see that the sport is growing in Asia. As a Japanese and Asian rider, I definitely feel a responsibility and want to play whatever part I can in expanding the sport. I think at least in Japan there is a big interest in horse racing, but not so much show jumping. I think the reason it’s not as popular yet is because it’s not quite as well-known, but I think once people learn how great show jumping is and how great the horses are, I do think it will become very popular. It is all about building awareness around the sport and I think with the Olympic Games coming up this is starting to happen which is great. The Japanese eventing team is very strong, both individually and as a team. Also, they are hosting an Asian Championship in Thailand in December for the first time and that involves a lot of investment and infrastructure so there definitely is a growing interest in the sport.
When did you decide you wanted to be a show jumper?
Probably when I was a junior. I competed in the US national jumper championships, and I went into it being a real under-dog. I had an amazing week and my horse was incredible and we ended up winning which was very special. After that I understood what it felt like to win and that’s when I knew I wanted to do show jumping. I thought to myself, if I work really hard, I could maybe achieve more. After that moment I just absolutely loved show jumping and it catapulted from there.
What are the three attributes that make a 5-star horse?
I think the biggest one is heart. Horses that have a big heart, who dig in and fight for you are always going to be the most successful. Secondly and quite obviously, the horse also has to have scope to be able to jump the jumps that we are faced with. Finally, I think the third is mentality and it’s a little bit broad but something that encompasses both the understanding element and the enjoyment factor. Horses must enjoy competing and be willing to learn which I think all comes under mentality.
How important is the role of the owners in show jumping?
It is so important. I have an owner from Japan who owns two of my top horses and I can’t thank him enough for his generosity because he has given me the opportunity to ride two world class 5-star horses and what that’s done for my career is incredible. I am very grateful.
If you weren’t a show jumper what would you be?
I would probably be doing something in business. I studied economics at school so definitely along that track.
What is the average age of the horses that won a #RolexGrandSlam Major (since its creation in 2013)?
The answer is precisely: 12.29 years old !
The youngest is LB Convall winning CHIO Aachen with Philipp Weishaupt at the age of 9!
The oldest are Silvana*HDC (with Kevin Staut, winner of The Dutch Masters in 2014), Ursula XII (winner of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2015) and more recently Prêt à Tout (winner of CHIO Aachen and CHI Geneva in 2018) winning at 15 years-old!
Statistics powered by JUMPFAX !
Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof; Kit Houghton
Beezie Madden becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender !
In contrast to Saturday’s BMO Nations’ Cup, which was bathed in warm early autumn sunshine, the International Ring was overcast and chilly for the final day of the 2019 CSIO Spruce Meadows 'Masters'. An unprecedented 48 horse and rider combinations contended the week’s showcase class, the CP 'International', presented by Rolex, for the enviable title of becoming a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major winner and securing a place in equestrian history.
Spruce Meadows’ veteran Venezuelan course designer, Leopoldo Palacios and his assistant, Peter Grant set the riders from 22 nations a typically tough set of challenges, with the first round consisting of 17 obstacles and the second round 14. Of the 48 starters, 12 riders progressed to the second round, including eight, who were faultless after round one.
But it was the current world number six-ranked rider, American Beezie Madden and her 11-year-old chestnut stallion, Darry Lou, who triumphed, adding just one time fault to her clear first round in a time of 66.94 seconds, and claimed her first Major as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Also clear in round one was Australian Rowan Willis and his 13-year-old chestnut mare, Blue Movie, who put one fence down in round two to finished in second place in a time of 65.93 seconds, while Austria’s Max Kühner and his 12-year-old grey stallion, Chardonnay 79 slotted into third with a total of five faults in a time of 66.78 seconds.
A delighted Beezie Madden, commented: “It feels amazing. This is such an amazing place, it’s just an honour to be here. Any win is fantastic, but I have to say, this one is pretty special.
“I kind of have a feeling that Darry Lou is the fans’ favourite because he’s so cute. The fans here are great. Obviously, they’re very loyal to their Canadian riders, but they appreciate great sport.
“Today, he [Darry Lou] was just about right. I thought I left him a little too fresh when I was warming up the other day, but I got away with it and he was great anyway. It’s nice when you have a plan and it actually works out that way. If anything goes wrong, it’s my fault because he does absolutely everything I ask him to do. He has a beautiful gallop and a beautiful jump, and his temperament is amazing. He’s careful and scopey, and he’s really a pleasure.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to go there [CHI Geneva] or not, but I guess this might seal the fact that I do want to go there. Winning this is amazing, and trying to win the Rolex Grand Slam, or even a portion of it would be amazing.”
Behind the microphone with:
What do you enjoy most about equestrian commentating, and what do you find is most rewarding?
Equestrian commentating is something I’ve been doing for quite a few years now. It’s got many highlights and sometimes it can be hard work, but you get to travel the world, and you get to socialise and meet a lot of very interesting people. You’re also lucky enough to experience places like Spruce Meadows, where you see the world’s best riders and horses compete at the very top level.
What are the highlights of your equestrian commentating career?
There have been so many highlights of my career so far. Spruce Meadows itself and this ‘Masters’ tournament is always a highlight – it hosts the biggest Grand Prix in the world and there’s CAD$3 million in the prize fund. Other highlights include the 2017 World Cup Jumping Final, which I commentated at in Omaha, Nebraska – for such a small town the atmosphere was electric.
Are there any sports commentators that you take inspiration from? Do you idolise anyone?
As far as commentators go, I’m a bit of a strange one, as I don’t really look towards other commentators for inspiration. I started my career at a very young age at stage school where I did some theatrical stuff. I then trained in radio and television, as well as riding all my life, so I very much combined the two. When I’m looking for inspiration or for people to get tips from, I’d look to television programmes like The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. In a way that gives me a little bit of a different edge, because I’m able to take elements from non-sporting events and weave that into my show jumping personality.
What makes an exceptional commentator?
Doing lots of preparation is key, as you need to know a lot about the riders, the horses and the sport. As well as being a commentator, I think you also need to be more of an entertainer that wants to inform those watching. There are a few commentators on the circuit who sound very much the same, even a little uninspiring. Although our sport is a minority sport, which is growing all the time, it’s incredibly exciting, and it’s my job to make it sound like it’s The X Factor.
What advice would you give to someone contemplating a career in sports commentating?
For someone considering a career in commentating, I’d say prepare, prepare, prepare. If you’re doing a one-hour broadcast, you should be doing approximately three hours of preparation. I’d also recommend trying to get as much different experience as you can. Starting off in radio, it taught me so much, as I used to sit in a studio for four hours a day, six days a week, and literally talk to myself! If something happens in the ring and I need to fill time, it’s not daunting to me, as I know how to talk. It’s also a good idea to watch as many different shows and other sports as possible, decide what you like and what you’re good at, and then form your own character.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever been given?
I think it goes back to preparation. If you don’t prepare, it’s so easy to sound bored or stale. You’ve also got to try and make sure you’re fresh all the time.
Which equestrian shows do you most enjoy commentating at, and why?
I’m extremely lucky, as I get to travel to a lot of the world’s best shows. There aren’t any shows I do these days just for the sake of it, or because they pay lots of money; every show I work at is ultimately because I enjoy it. Spruce Meadows is where I started my commentating career in North America. They advertised on Facebook, and I sent them a showreel of everything that I had done. This is my seventh year coming here, so it’s one of my most enjoyable shows.
As well as commentating at the top-level events, I also enjoy being part of the smaller shows at home in the UK, because it means so much to the riders, as they don’t get to hear that standard of commentary very often. I suppose it would mean more to them than it would to Kent Farrington or Steve Guerdat, for example.
What makes Spruce Meadows so special?
Spruce Meadows is incredibly special, and if you haven’t been here you should come and experience it. There are so many elements that make it magical. The rings are spectacular, the crowds Spruce Meadows attracts are electric, and everything is pristine. The thing I first noticed when I first came to Spruce Meadows was the attention to detail. Because it’s a family run venue and it’s so international, it attracts people from all over the world, not only to compete but also to watch.
You then have highlight classes such as the CAD$3 million CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, which is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Other highlights include the ATCO Electric Six Bar, and an evening’s entertainment with an orchestra and fireworks. You just wouldn’t see that at any other shows in the world.
What do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has done for the sport?
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping just keep growing. It attracts so many of the world’s top riders, who are all focussed winning one of the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors and going down in history. I was here when Scott Brash became the only rider to ever win the Rolex Grand Slam, and he still talks about it to this day. I don’t think it’s the financial incentive that drives riders, I think it’s that trophy and that title. So many other sports have got their own Grand Slams, and for show jumping to have its very own Grand Slam, it’s just transformed the sport.
Behind the stable door with:
Eric Lamaze's groom Kaytlyn Brown
Which horses has Eric brought to Spruce Meadows this year? Can you tell me a little bit about each of them?
Eric has brought Coco Bongo, Chacco Kid and Fine Lady 5. All three horses have very different personalities.
Coco Bongo is very easy going and nothing seems to really bother him. He’s very simple to take care of and has very low stress levels – I’d say he’s pretty cool. You can literally do anything with him – he’s so easy to have around all the time.
Chacco Kid is the sweetest thing I’ve ever met – I’ve never met a horse that understands humans like he does. He always wants someone’s attention and he always has something in his mouth – he will literally try to eat anything. When Eric is around his stress levels go up and he gets quite anxious because he always wants to please, and he knows that Eric expects a lot of him.
Fine Lady 5 is without doubt the most complicated out of the three. She’s the only mare that we have. She’s very sensitive and is bothered by everything, particularly music and anything loud – it drives her crazy. If it’s loud and she’s in the horse box, she’ll dig and roll around and generally cause a huge scene. She’s my absolute favourite, though and we’ll never have another one like her – she’s so willing to please all the time. When I look at her, I know I’ll never have another relationship with a horse quite like this one – she’s unbelievable.
How has your last year been? Any highlights?
After the 2018 CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, Eric had a long break, so things were a little slow. My absolute highlight was to see him back in the ring – it’s unbelievable what he can do. It wasn’t just a highlight for me, it was the highlight for all of the team. It was very difficult for all of us when he stopped showing. After everything that happened, to come here for the Summer Series and win two 5* classes back to back, we couldn’t have asked for any more than that.
Have any new horses joined Torrey Pines stable since the 2018 Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
We have a bit of a dealing stable and we always have a lot of horses coming and going. We have a few promising prospects at home, who we believe could do something, and Eric is hoping that they’ll be able to step up soon.
How much time do you spend travelling?
We’re only in Canada for five weeks of the year during the Summer Series. We’re then in Florida, USA from December through April, and the rest of the time we’re in Europe. It’s more exciting to be in Europe, as you’re at a new place every week, and in my opinion every European location is always beautiful.
Canada has qualified for Tokyo 2020; how are you and the team preparing for the Games next year?
We’re still a while away from Tokyo 2020 and it’s a long process, but we’re starting to discuss which of the horses we believe have the potential perform at the Games, and which types of classes we need them to jump to ensure they’re ready. We need to consider what time of the day we need to jump them, and if they need to jump more night classes, and we also must factor in the weather, as Tokyo could be very hot.
Eric and Fine Lady 5 finished seventh at last year’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex; can they improve on that this year?
I would like to think so, as Fine Lady 5 is in a good place right now. We all have high hopes for her, but I personally think she’s going to perform well. Not that last year was a bad result, but I think she and Eric can improve.
As a groom, do you feel added pressure coming to a Rolex Grand Slam Major?
Always. The week before the show starts, the stress levels at home are high. We’re doing absolutely everything we can to prepare to come here, as we know it’s a long hard week for Eric and the horses. The horses came from Europe, so they had to endure a long flight, and our aim is for them to be the best that they can be and on top form, as soon as they arrive here. For sure, it’s stressful – coming here for the ‘Masters’ isn’t the same as coming here for the Summer Series, as there’s a clear end goal at the end of this week.
Friday evening’s 1.60m TOURMALINE OIL Cup was contested by 28 horse and rider combinations in Spruce Meadows’ iconic International Ring, with a large majority struggling to master Venezuelan course designer, Leopoldo Palacios’s technical 16-fence challenge. Just six riders eventually went clear and progressed to the eight-obstacle jump-off, including Beezie Madden, Martin Fuchs, Mario Deslauriers, Max Kuhner, Daniel Bluman, and Kevin Staut.
Current world number six-ranked rider and two-time Olympic team jumping gold medalist, Beezie Madden and her extremely talented 11-year-old chestnut stallion, Darry Lou produced a magical performance in the jump-off going double clear in an unassailable time of 42.81s. The pair – a firm favourite with the animated Calgarian crowd – finished over two seconds ahead of second placed Austrian rider, Max Kühner and his 11-year-old stallion, Alfa Jordan, while the Swiss and current world number two-ranked rider, Martin Fuchs and his 10-year-old grey gelding, Silver Shine claimed third spot.
The educated Spruce Meadows crowd now look forward to Saturday’s BMO Nations’ Cup, which will be contested by 10 nations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden, and USA). Then, on Sunday, the highlight of the 2019 CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ will host some of the world’s best riders and horses, as they compete for the third Major, as part of this year’s Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex.
Walk the course with:
Are there any tricky parts to the course on Sunday?
The reality is I try to make most of the fences the same level of difficulty. The start will be big but not too tough. In the first round there will be a triple combination with the dry ditch, which I believe will be challenging for the competitors. I also have included a double vertical after the water jump, which will also be difficult. Then in the second round the double Liverpool could prove to be tricky.
I have heard there could be some rain on Sunday, but in my experience, during my 25 years of course building in Calgary, the forecast can change in five minutes. I know this ring perfectly, so if there is bad weather, I know where the good and the bad spots of the course are, so I can change it to make sure the fences are in the best places.
How many clears are you expecting?
No more than three and no less than one!
Which horse/rider combinations do you think the course will suit?
I think the course will suit the smaller athletic horses, and the bigger horses with lots of power. I’ve tried to give those two different types of horses an equal chance.
Who do you think will win the CP 'International', presented by Rolex?
This is very difficult. We have five of the world’s current top-10 ranked show jumpers competing in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday. It’s nearly impossible to predict which rider will win. Last year’s winner, Sameh El Dahan always performs well at Spruce Meadows, so maybe he has a chance. But this showground intimidates the horses and the riders, especially when the stands are full of people and the flags are flying. The horses really need experience, so those that have been here before and have performed well will stand a better chance.
How did you first get into course designing?
Originally, I was a national rider in Venezuela. I come from a riding family – my older and younger brothers rode and so did my father. It was, in fact, only my older brother, who was professional, and the rest of us were amateurs. But now, nobody in my family rides! However, the situation in Venezuela deteriorated, and because show jumping is an expensive sport, I decided to pursue a career in construction. I always loved design and creating things, so I guess you could say I’m a frustrated architect. I ended up building courses all over the world for free; however, I started doing too much and was losing money, so I knew I had to start charging for my expertise to make a living.
Then I started making a living out of course designing. I remember there was a year when I worked at 42 shows across the world, with only 10 weeks resting – I was living out of my bag. These days I’m still working at a lot of shows, but a large part of my job is also overseeing the designing and advising organising committees.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
A constant challenge for course designers is having enough material to work with. However, the material I and my assistants have at our disposal at Spruce Meadows is exceptional – plenty of fences and a wide variety of obstacles. Spruce Meadows has one of the most complete and diverse collections of jumping obstacles out of any show I’ve designed at, including fences from the Olympic Games, European Championships, and Pan American Games.
My challenge here at Spruce Meadows is to ensure that the course for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday is big and wide, and that it is the signature of the whole year. The challenges I face are made easier by the fantastic team of assistants I have around me. They have a lot of experience working with me and they know what I like, and the support the offer me is invaluable.
Rider interview with:
You grew up in Calgary. Presumably it’s a dream come true to be competing at Spruce Meadows?
To be part of the ‘Masters’ and to be one of the five representing Canada this week is a real honour. Calgary is my hometown and Spruce Meadows is my home show, so I’m grateful to be part of such a big week.
Have you ever contemplated a career away from equestrianism?
I think I’ve always thought about going into the family business, and that’s something I wouldn’t rule out in the future. I’ve worked there in the past doing terms in between the horse shows. But I think right now, my career with the horses is going so well that it’s hard to see outside of the next show and the next season, particularly with some of the goals I’m focussed on with the horses right now.
The atmosphere here is one of the best in the world; how does it feel to compete here in front of your home crowd?
It’s incredibly special. First off, there are many people in the crowd I know, including friends and family. But also, in Calgary, we have a very educated show jumping crowd. There are some people who have been coming to Spruce Meadows for decades and they really understand and appreciate the sport, so to have a great round in front of such a passionate crowd, it’s so much more special than competing in front of some empty stands.
Which horses are you competing with this week? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
I have two FEI (CSI 5*) horses with me this week, who are both 10-year-olds – my mare, Catinka, and a gelding called Valentino. I’ve had both horses for a little while now, Catinka since she was seven, and Valentino since the very start of his ninth year. They’re wonderful, very athletic horses, with incredibly big hearts.
Catinka is a real diva. You could fall out with her, if you were having a fight on the flat, but when you walk into the ring, she’s a lion. She’s not a big horse, but she jumps pure heart, and she’s got great technique. She’s an overachiever when you look at her stature, as she’s not very tall, but the feeling is like you’re riding a giant.
Valentino is so sweet. He has actually got quite a cheeky personality, but when you go into the ring he’s very loyal and talented, and has been an incredible second horse to have here this week.
What is your advice for someone who wants to become a professional rider?
If you’re looking at a career in equestrian sport, you really have to focus on how much you love the horses. This isn’t something for you, if you’re only attracted to the lifestyle or to the glitz and the glamour of being an athlete, as that’s not what it’s like. At the end of the day, you have to be passionate about horses, riding them and their wellbeing; that has to be the heart and soul of why you want to be a part of the sport because everything else eventually wears thin.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Keep your leg on!
Who is your biggest inspiration? Do you have a show jumping idol?
There are a couple of riders I’m incredibly in awe of. One is Beezie Madden, while another is Laura Kraut. I think they’re not only two of the best female riders in the world, but also two of the best riders in the world, hands down. They really demonstrate that you can be at the very top in this sport regardless of whatever background you come from. And I really appreciate the fact that we’re a sport, in which men and women compete equally. They are two of my role models, who really show women that you can be at the top.
What’s your goal for this year?
My goal for this year is to continue to put in really great results in the Grands Prix. I’d like to be representing Canada at the start of next year. If I can put in some big results in the 1.60m classes this week then I think that really demonstrates that I’ve got what it takes to be part of the team going forward in advance of an Olympic year.
How has the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhanced the sport?
To have the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping makes the sport even more of a showcase that gathers the attention of the crowd and the public.
What is your show jumping dream?
My show jumping dream is to be in the top 12 of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex here at Spruce Meadows.
Eric Lamaze wins the CANA Cup at the Spruce Meadows 'Masters'
Fifty horse and rider combinations took on Venezuelan course designer, Leopoldo Palacios’ 1.60m challenge in Thursday afternoon’s CANA Cup. Of those 50 partnerships, 14 eventually went clear and progressed to the jump-off, which consisted of eight obstacles. But it was Canadian favourite, Multiple Major winner and Olympic individual gold medallist Eric Lamaze and his 13-year-old gelding, Chacco Kid, who proved to be a class above the rest of the field, with the pair seemingly thrilled to claim the 2019 title. Australia’s Rowan Willis and Diablo VII finished in second place, while Frenchman Kevin Staut and Urhelia Lutterbach slotted into third.
On his winning performance, Lamaze commented: “You rarely win those classes going first in the jump-off. Chacco Kid today was quite fast. He doesn’t have the biggest stride, so when I ride forward to a distance he gets going and he jumped very carefully, so that was my advantage today.
“Chacco Kid is very careful. I sometimes have to worry about the back rail of the oxers because he is so careful that he’ll stand away from the front rail and can make an oxer be a little wider, but in general you can flat out run to a fence and feel that he’s got his eye right on it, and he’s taking care of you.
“This has been a special venue since I was much younger than I am now. I’ve had the greatest memory here at Spruce Meadows. One cannot get tired of hearing that noise going through that clock tower, and I think it brings the best in me, and it brings the best in everyone, because the last thing you want to do is disappoint the people cheering.”
Word from the organizer
Linda Southern-Heathcott, Spruce Meadow’s president and CEO
CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is regarded as one of the best equestrian events in the world, how do you keep innovating it to improve it each year?
Firstly, we pray for good weather! What has guarded us over the years are Spruce Meadows’ four stakeholders: our sponsors, our fans, our media and our athletes. While every year we consider all four stakeholders and their respective experiences, we would specifically focus on one or two stakeholders and try to improve their individual experience. This could be the fan experience, which would look at what other activities aside from the world class jumping we can introduce, or the athletes’ experience, which would mainly look at the prize money on offer but would also consider the footing and the stabling. This strategy has held us in very good stead over the years.
Since CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ has been part of the Rolex Grand Slam; in what ways have you seen the show develop?
Since we’ve been part of the Rolex Grand Slam, I see we’ve improved and honed our skills. We learn from the best venues around the world and improve our procedures. As an example, if a horse gets injured or an athlete gets hurt, we must determine the best procedures and protocols, and I believe those are really important details for us to contemplate and get right. You see that at the Kentucky Derby and at other big global sporting events. Being part of the Rolex Grand Slam has raised the bar for all of us.
The indoor tournaments have the luxury of not having to worry about the weather, and they have a grand entrance. At Spruce Meadows, our property is 500 acres, so we must ask ourselves how we make a grand entrance for our fanbase. We tweak it and try to come up with different ideas to make the experience better. But I think it’s been a wonderful learning curve for us, and it’s made us appreciate that we must never rest on our laurels.
We don’t just learn from horse sports, we also learn from the front-page sports, whether that’s NFL, CFL, tennis, golf or Formula 1. We ask ourselves how they are doing what they do, and what makes them the best, and what inspiration can we take from their events to improve our event.
What are the main challenges of putting on an event like CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
I look at show jumping, and, in some ways, I equate it to golf. Golf has the R&A, the foundation of the sport, which is based in the UK. However, much of the sport is, in fact, played out by the PGA in North America. Show jumping is largely centred in continental Europe, and in that regard Spruce Meadows is very much seen as a satellite venue. Geographically, we have a challenge because we need to charter a plane to transport the horses from Europe. Calgary has never been an easy place to get to, and you must travel long distances to get here.
The support of our sponsors and their prize money is integral to the success of Spruce Meadows. There must be a compelling reason for the athletes to want to come and compete here. When they do come, compared to other shows around the world, it’s very different for them because it’s a family-owned operation. It has a very cosy feeling, as the family welcomes everyone, and the family is extremely hands-on and involved. The logistics and the changes in travel has been one of our biggest challenges, particularly since 9/11, as homeland security is very difficult. The grooms are transient people, and you need 10 years’ history on them in order for them to get into Canada. Overall, the way the world is evolving, and various global changes are always throwing up new challenges for us.
What are you most proud of during your career working at Spruce Meadows?
The proudest moment of my career was to represent Canada at the Atlanta Games in 1996. For me, as an athlete, my biggest success was mentally overcoming the challenges at Spruce Meadows, and to be able to compete on home turf. That brought about a certain toughness for me, so internally that’s my biggest success.
The best advice I ever received was from my mother and my father. My father would say that you have successes and you have failures; you have one night to bleed about your failures, and one night to enjoy your success, and when the sun comes up you start all over again. The moral of that advice is to always soldier on. My mother always instilled in me that whatever I do I should always do it with grace.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love meeting the people. Towards the end of my father’s life, he didn’t take the time to just enjoy Spruce Meadows. I really think Spruce Meadows is a beautiful and tranquil place, and I walk around the grounds pretty much every day, and I just really enjoy this place. I’m amazed at what my team has created, and you can tell that they really enjoy their jobs, and that makes my role special.
CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is one of the four Majors – does that add to the pressure of putting on a world class event?
It always adds pressure because we want to excel at what we do, and we want to go further than the point that everyone thought we would reach and do a better job than what people expected. It means we must pay attention to the smallest detail and have precision in everything we do. But pressure is a good thing because it’s a motivator, and for that reason I don’t see it as a cross to bear, rather a challenge. The reality is, if we have full stands on Sunday then we’ve been successful.
Rider Interview with:
Sameh El Dahan
You won last year’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. Does that give you more pressure going into the Major on Sunday?
There’s always pressure in each Grand Prix you jump in, but the higher the stakes the higher the pressure. I personally like the pressure, especially when you have a horse like Suma's Zorro underneath you, as you know she’ll give her best every time, so that takes a bit of the pressure off. I’m very grateful for her that I can go into such big Grands Prix and not really have that pressure on, knowing I just have to do my job.
What are your expectations going into Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?
My expectations are always high, but in show jumping nothing is ever guaranteed. I love my job and I love my horse, so one thing is sure – we’re going to give our best shot in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday.
How has Suma's Zorro been since last year’s epic win in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?
We’ve had a bit of an up and down sort of year. Suma's Zorro didn’t really winter too well; she’s a mare that likes a bit of sun and a little bit of heat, so the winter was not so good for her. About a month ago she started hitting form again. She jumped well in the CHIO Aachen Grand Prix, and I’m really looking forward to Sunday, as I believe she’s hitting form at just the right time. I don’t want to jinx it, but I have a good feeling about Sunday!
Can you tell us a little bit about Suma's Zorro’s character?
She’s a stubborn mare and I refer to her as a stubborn red head – very fiery, and you always have to get on her good side, otherwise you have no chance. But I’ve now known her for eight years, so you could say she’s now like my best friend in that I know everything about her, and she knows everything about me. I know one thing for sure: I cannot go against her and I need to get her on my side. But she’s a fighter and she always demonstrates that fighting spirit for me, and I feel very fortunate for that.
Other than Suma's Zorro, which horses have you brought to Spruce Meadows?
I’ve brought a 10-year-old gelding called WKD Exotic, a stunning looking horse. I haven’t had him a long time, maybe just under a year, and I’m just trying to figure him out. He’s done some great things and I’m looking forward to working with him for the rest of the week.
What drives you and keeps you going?
I really love what I do, and I call myself lucky every day, because for me, horses give me an incentive to wake up every morning. Horses are like human beings and you need to treat them like individuals, which means that your mind is always working, and I like that. Figuring out what’s best for each individual horse is a real challenge. I have a fantastic relationship with my teammate, Joanne Sloan Allen. We bounce ideas off one another, and that keeps me motivated. I have a very competitive nature, so every class I compete in I try to win, but in show jumping you lose a lot more than you win, so when you do win you really appreciate it. A moment like Spruce Meadows last year is something I’ll never forget, and when I do go through dull moments, I think back to that win, which gets my spirits back up. Show jumping is a very interesting sport and very much a lifestyle, and that’s why I love it.
What do you love most about Spruce Meadows?
All the people who work here do everything with a lot of pride. From the organisers to the showground to the atmosphere and the crowds; when I come here, I feel as though I need to fight a little bit more to get a good result because everybody does everything with so much passion. I just love the place; I call it Disney for horses. Everything is there, including incredible stabling and so many grass fields. And the organisers have held on to their traditions through the generations, which nowadays is a hard thing to do, particularly with the modernisation of the sport. The organisers of Spruce Meadows have a vision, which they’ve stayed true to, so I have to say hats off to them.
If you weren’t a professional in equestrianism, what would you be doing?
I studied medicine so I guess I’d be a doctor!
For you, how has the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhanced the sport?
It’s enhanced the sport in every way. I just look at the start list at this show and I see the world’s best riders and horses. So much money has been injected into these Majors and their individual profiles have been amplified hugely; but for me, it’s not about the money or the material side, it’s much more about being part of the four biggest Majors in the world – Geneva, Aachen, Spruce Meadows and the Dutch Masters – which are all supported by Rolex. When you go to a Rolex Grand Prix, regardless of whether you’re jumping for €3 million, €1 million, or €500,000, you want to win it, even if there was no prize money at stake. If you win it, your name goes down in history, and sits alongside some of the biggest names in the sport, such as Nick Skelton, Eric Lamaze and Eddie Macken, and other riders of that world class standard. It’s a dream for every rider, and I feel so lucky that I, a young rider from Egypt, can stand here today and say that.