Words from Olympic Gold Medallist and Show Jumping Legend Nick Skelton
What was the first Major you competed in? How did you do?
Well, I first won the Grand Prix in Geneva in 1978, before it was a Rolex class (ndlr: Skelton won 9 Majors in total).
How did it feel to win your first Major?
As anybody would, it was incredibly exciting, I was very pleased and incredibly happy to be winning them. I had some very good horses in those days, Apollo won two Grands Prix at CHIO Aachen, and then I won the Aachen Grand Prix in 1982 with a horse called Everest If Ever. Lastly, Big Star won the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen in 2013 when it was part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, so I became the Rolex live contender.
Is there a difference in feeling when you enter the arena of a Rolex Grand Prix at a Major, compared to other Shows?
CHIO Aachen was always a great place to ride, even back in the 80’s it was always packed with crowds, there was always a great atmosphere. Winning the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen is an incredible feat for any rider to win. It’s probably one of the hardest ones to win, along with Calgary.
Which was your favourite Major to compete in?
I think probably every rider would agree with me in saying that CHIO Aachen is the best Major to compete in, it is like the Wimbledon of Show Jumping or like the Masters in golf, it is the pinnacle of the sport. I think most riders would say this.
Do you think it takes a special and unique type of horse to win one of the Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
Of course, they are big courses and there’s a lot of pressure with the big crowds of spectators that they attract. Riders also put a lot of pressure on themselves, as they are the most important Grands Prix to win.
How has the sport of Show Jumping changed throughout your career?
It’s changed a huge amount, one of the main things I notice now is the time allowed. Nowadays you have to jump the courses a lot quicker than you used to. I watched the video back recently, I think from 1987 when I won a Grand Prix with Apollo, the time allowed was 102 seconds, nowadays you’re in the same field with the same amount of fences, but the time allowed now ranges from 82 and 84 seconds. So, you need to be roughly twenty seconds quicker than what you needed to be all those years ago. The fences come at you quicker nowadays. There are often more fences in a modern course, despite the rings being so small, they now fit around 13 jumps into even the smallest rings. That is added pressure on the horses as they have to jump quicker and more obstacles than they did back in those days.
Would you say that it’s now more important to have a bigger string of horses, rather than one top horse?
Absolutely, there’s a lot more shows now, with a big Grand Prix happening every week somewhere in Europe. So, you need a lot more horses and the high-quality ones are difficult to find, and that’s why they’re expensive.
How did the introduction of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhance the sport?
It’s a very good concept, it’s incredibly difficult to win. I suppose back in the day I would have done it; I think I won those Grands Prix, some of them all in the same year. Scott Brash is the only rider to have done it, it is difficult to win two of those in a season, let alone three or four, so it’s an amazing accomplishment. I think overall, it’s made the sport more competitive, with riders striving to get to the pinnacle of Show Jumping, which is the Rolex Grand Slam.
You competed for so many years, did you still get nervous ahead of big competitions towards the end?
I don’t think I got nervous; all riders get a little bit apprehensive before an important ride because you want to do well. If somebody said that they didn’t feel anything, I’d say they were lying. Riders feel emotions because they want to do well. It’s more adrenaline than nervousness I’d say. I can only speak for myself, but once you start the course, I never noticed anything going on in the ring or anything going on around me. I suppose that’s synonymous with most athletes, I imagine when playing at Wimbledon, tennis players concentrate on what they’re doing and so can’t hear the crowd, it was the same for me.
You had some tough moments in your career – what gave you the drive to keep going?
I always had some young horses that were coming through, so during my injuries, it made me look forward to producing and developing that young horse, which made me want to come back stronger. I had Arko and then Big star, so I always had a couple of good young horses coming along that I thought were going to be good enough, which gave me the drive to come back. But I knew that after Big Star, that I was never going to find any horse that was going to be as good as him again, and also I was getting on a bit in terms of my age, and considering what I’d won up to that point, I knew it was the right time to hang my boots up, especially considering my back was playing up a bit and Big Star wasn’t as sound as he once was. The time was right.
I think we know the answer to this, but which horse was your horse of a lifetime?
Big Star, no doubt. I’ve been very lucky; I’ve had some great horses. It’s very difficult to decide which of them was better, but he was the outstanding one. I’ve had some incredible ones over my time, horses like Dollar Girl, St James, Apollo, Tinka’s boy, Top Gun, Carlo. Some of the best horses in the world at that time, but Big Star was an incredibly special horse, and I’m incredibly grateful to have ridden him.
When you first started riding Big Star, did you know that he was something special?
I knew, he was different gravy. There was something about him from the first ride, I knew he was different, that he was special.
What is Big Star up to now? Do you still jump him at home?
He goes to stud breeding, then he comes home, we try to keep him as fit as we can. We do a bit of jumping and hacking. He is spoilt and enjoying his retirement.
What parts of competing do you miss the most and least?
Winning is what I miss the most! I miss travelling the least, although I am still doing a fair amount of it with our students and Laura. I do miss taking part. Sometimes I’m watching, thinking to myself “this is a big Grand Prix wouldn’t it be nice to be out there competing”. But I was and am satisfied with what I accomplished throughout my career. I’m not the kind of person that looks back and has any regrets.
With new generations starting to climb the ranks in professional Show Jumping e.g. Peter Charles’ son Harry – what is your advice to them?
The art of the game is picking the right horses, the ones that can take you to the top. You do have to be able to ride them though, but getting the best ones is the most important thing.
Which rider inspired you the most?
There are lot’s that have ridden and are still riding. I would say currently you could look at Scott Brash, Steve Guerdat, and the Philippaerts boys but there are so many good riders out there nowadays that are all inspiring.
How have you kept the horses in training during lockdown?
We’ve just been doing it at home, we’ve built courses at home for the students and once a week we’ll pick a course and practice, it’s been quite entertaining and I’ve enjoyed it because I’ve never spent this much time at home, so the lockdown hasn’t been too big of a problem for me.
Perfect combination between virtual experiences, social media, sport and entertainment
The O stands for online: As a one-off occurrence, the “Concours Hippique International Officiel” is being staged as the “Concours Hippique International Online” this year. The “CHIO Aachen digital” is taking place from August 4th-9th, 2020.
“Of course, nothing excels the real CHIO Aachen,” said Frank Kemperman, Chairman of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein e.V. (ALRV), but in the scope of the CHIO Aachen digital using cutting-edge technology one has come up with a very good solution after the actual event had to be cancelled as a result of the Corona virus.
“We have been relying on state-of-the-art technology and innovations for many years already to present our unique sport in the best light and to also make it more transparent and thus more easily comprehensible, of course,” commented Michael Mronz, General Manager of Aachener Reitturnier GmbH. In this way, together with the official technology partner, the organisers developed the judging app for the dressage competitions, a technology which is meanwhile implemented worldwide and which is also being adapted for implementation during the CHIO Aachen digital.
The idea behind the “CHIO Aachen digital” is a combination between virtual experiences, social media, sports and entertainment. There will be dressage and show jumping challenges with international top riders, as well as a virtual eventing competition, plenty of fan involvement, a mobile phone game and a German vs. Dutch national cup in four-in-hand driving. Highlights of some of the most famous competitions in the world from past years will also be shown. The Rolex Grand Prix, Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup, Deutsche Bank Prize and co. will be enriched with current comments by athletes, background information, fun facts and a lot of material that has not been published before.
“Of course, we would have all preferred a live event at our traditional showgrounds,” stated Carl Meulenbergh, President of the ALRV, “however I am convinced that we will be able to bring a great deal of the legendary CHIO Aachen atmosphere to the people’s homes in the scope of this digital event.”
Over the coming days and weeks, details about the CHIO Aachen digital will be announced on the social media platforms and on the website at chioaachen.de.
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.
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.