Behind the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' at Home with Ian Allison, Senior Vice President of Sport & Media Services
What’s on the programme for the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ at Home this year?
We have dug deep into the vault to find great historic ‘Masters’ content, including full programmes, documentaries and interviews. While a lot of it is sport, we also looked at the traditions, such as the Holland flowers, British Day and special features that make the ‘Masters’ unique.
How did you come up with the ideas for content?
The Spruce Meadows team collaborated and thought about all the great memories from the ‘Masters’. We also listened to our fans, who expressed the types of content they wanted to see. After our success with the Spruce Meadows ‘National’ and ‘North American at Home’ episodes, this seemed to make perfect sense to allow us to celebrate – in some way – our 45th Anniversary season.
What have you put in the programme to attract an international audience?
The ‘Masters’ has an international audience, and you get to see winners from all over the world. We will feature not just Canadians in the programme, but great champions and teams from throughout our history. Spruce Meadows is global in its reach. Athletes from over 60 nations have competed here, and the BMO Nations’ Cup has historically featured the best teams in the world from North and South America and Europe.
What makes the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ at Home different from other virtual events?
We were fortunate to be able to execute a few 2020 initiatives like the XEROX Young Rider Award and Name the Foal, presented by TELUS – there will be recordings of the 2020 winners from both awards, and they will be revealed during the 2020 Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ at Home. Spruce Meadows also has an extensive library of not just full competitions, but great documentaries, and athlete profiles that highlight the venue and the great riders that have competed.
How has the team adapted to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic?
It certainly has been an unusual year. We have been fortunate to be able to celebrate our history and work with all of our partners to look to the future, and a return to normalcy. We have been able to celebrate our history, plan for the future and use technology to remain connected.
Do you think this experience has encouraged you to look at changing the format of events moving forward next year?
Spruce Meadows always looks to evolve and innovate, and question how we can be better. We are sure this chapter in our history will inspire some change, not only for our organisation, but also for all sports.
You also held the Spruce Meadows Summer Series, as a digital version – what was the public’s feedback?
We had a lot of positive feedback from our fans that watched our ‘National’, ‘North American’ and Canada Day at Home Series. Many had feedback on the competitions and types of features they’d like to see for the ‘Masters’. We took that into consideration while planning the ‘Masters’ at Home, and even have a vote set-up for fans to choose a couple of the competitions they’d like to see. Our archives are rich with options, memorable moments and memorable athletes and officials.
Which riders have you been working with? And which riders are set to compete?
We really focused on the historic content to bring forward Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ at Home. We’ve chosen some historic moments we hope everyone will enjoy and allowed the fans to have a say in what they’d like to see. Fortunately, in advance of our 45th Anniversary and the pandemic, we had taken the opportunity to speak with many current and former stars of the sport.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt during this experience?
We all must learn to adapt and overcome. Health and safety are paramount for our fans, staff, athletes, officials and sponsors. We will come through this era with many lessons learned and with some amazing innovation.
You also have a football team, do you mix the communication between the two sports?
Yes, the Spruce Meadows and Cavalry FC brands are well received and respected for many of the same reasons. We are able to mix our communications and attract new fans to both sports.
What have you most enjoyed about preparing for the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ at Home?
It has been amazing digging into the archives (and our memories), with many younger colleagues and re-living such memorable moments, of which there have been so many. Our next generations of leadership has a greater sense and appreciation of our history through this process.
Looking at the quest for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2021, which riders do you think will be in contention for it?
That is so tough to forecast. Any rider in the Top 50 in the world certainly has to be considered ‘in play’. I think that Steve Guerdat always has his eye on the prize. Scott Brash can also never be discounted, as he develops a new string of horses.
Had the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ taken place this year, who do you think would have won the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?
I think Steve Guerdat certainly would have been a favorite. The Tokyo Games would have been complete, with a reasonable break in between. He has the talent, focus and horse power.
Breeders uncovered with Judy Ann Melchior, Breeder at Zangersheide and international rider
What is your earliest equestrian memory?
My earliest memory was being with my father at CHIO Aachen, I think I must have been only seven or eight-years-old. It was all so big and impressive!
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
I have two: winning a bronze medal at the FEI World Equestrian Games™, and also competing in the FEI Nations Cup™ in Aachen where the atmosphere was electric.
How did you get into the breeding side of the sport?
I think it was more of a family business that I grew into. At home we always had a breeding programme – my father created a studbook, so breeding has always been a very high priority. It’s something that from a very young age I got involved in and I’ve held it with me to this day. I got even closer to it when my sport mares went into the breeding programme, giving me the chance to breed with my ex sport horses and having their foals becoming our sport horses of today.
Could you summarise what the main elements of breeding a top show jumping horse are, what is the background behind it, how do you decide which pairings to breed, etc.?
I think there are two sides that are really important. Of course, there is the side of the bloodline and the pedigree, and there is also the side of knowing your mare and knowing your stallion. Knowing what your mare has in terms of qualities, as well as what she needs from a stallion can help you make the decision and therefore optimise the pairing. The side of the bloodline is of course important, you ask questions, such as what other bloodlines have proved that they work well together. It’s essentially a puzzle that you’re never 100% sure will fit. Passion and feeling are also incredibly important when breeding.
Has there ever been a time when pairings have had unexpected results?
Yes, it’s happened with some of our pairings and in both ways. We’ve had combinations where we’ve thought ‘this must be the next superstar’ and then the horse turned out to be a bit average. Then we’ve had some combinations that have really surprised us. What definitely happens is that the horses evolve, so sometimes you have foals that you think are quite average, but then they develop at a later age into a great horse.
The partnership between horse and rider is clearly important – is that something you’re looking for when you sell to new owners?
Yes, it’s definitely the one thing that makes a horse afterwards, the partnership that they create later with their rider. You will never get the maximum potential out of a horse if it’s not with the right rider.
Can you share some behind the scenes insights into a typical breeding programme?
Well, we have the mares, some new and some that we used already in the breeding programme. We always look at the foals of the mares that have been in the programme before to see how they have developed and whether the combination worked as expected or not, then we try and adjust depending on the outcome of the previous foals. If we see that the mare has worked really well with a certain stallion, we will typically breed the same pairing again, or if that’s not possible, breed her with another stallion that is as close to the previous one as possible, by looking at bloodlines and the type. If a mare has worked really badly with another, we try to find out why. If it’s a new mare, or a mare that has recently come out of the sport that hasn’t yet bred, we look more in depth at the mare herself and analyse the qualities that she has, and what the stallion could contribute. From that moment, the reproduction starts.
How long do you keep the foal before it goes on to its next home or before you break it in?
Mares and foals stay together for five to six months, and after this the foal becomes more independent and is weaned from its mother. The foals then come together in a group of seven or eight. When the weather is good, they will have access to the paddock and the field, but when the weather isn’t as nice the horses will have free access to their stables and the paddock, so they can almost come and go as they choose. At around three-years-old we start free jumping them. Then sometimes the three-year-old mares might have one foal before they go into the sport, and the stallions would get prepared for the stallion approvals. Before the stallions turn four, most of them are broken in, whereas the mares are broken in slightly later.
How many horses are you breeding during the year?
We breed roughly 25 foals per year.
What is your main ambition with your career in breeding horses?
My main ambition is to breed top quality sport horses for ourselves but also for other riders. It’s also fantastic when we are able to ride our own horses at the highest level. Some of the horses we have produced have been very good, and Christian [Ahlmann] also has many of our homebred horses that are part of his top string.
Which homebred horses are you most proud of?
I would have to say As Cold as Ice Z is one of my favourites that I’ve bred, as she made many of my dreams come true, and she’s a mare that was born at our place. The second would be Take a Chance on Me Z, he was the first homebred horse from one of my old sport horses. He also developed into a Grand Prix horse, so it made me incredibly proud to have raised him and developed him into such an amazing horse. We won Grands Prix with the mother, the father, and when we won Grands Prix with the foal, that made it extra special.
Aside from breeding, what are your ambitions and aspirations in terms of your jumping career?
I haven’t been competing for about 18 months now, as I had my second child, so I had to stop, as I became too busy. With the breeding programme, the auctions and other things, it became too much. Despite all of this, I’m not retired, as I love riding, but at this point in time I don’t have time to compete in the shows. Show jumping takes up so much time and due to my schedule being so full with my family and breeding, I can’t find the time, but we’ll see what happens in the future. Other than that, I have ambitions, I love being involved in the auctions, we organised one of the first online auctions around seven years ago. Now it’s something a lot of people are doing, so it became quite a big business for us.
Out of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which of them is your favourite?
Aachen without a doubt. It’s like our home show, we live only 30 minutes away, so it feels like it’s almost more of a home show for me than the Germans. When the stadium is full, the atmosphere is incredible.
Who is your biggest inspiration? Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?
That would have to be my father.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
That’s a good question, I’ve had a lot of good advice over the years. One thing that sticks with me through everything is this quote: “If you fall and you stand up, you’re stronger than the one that never fell” – I hold this very close to me no matter what I’m doing in my life.
Horse Edition 🐎🏆
What is the average age of a Rolex Grand Slam Major winner?
The answer is: 12,3 years old to be precise!
Amongst the 12 years old that won a Major, we have some legendary horses: Niels Bruynseels' Gancia de Muze, Christian Ahlmann's Codex One, Pedro Veniss Quabri de l'Isle, Steve Guerdat's Nino des Buissonnets, Daniel Deusser's Cornet d'Amour and the winner of the Rolex Grand Slam, Scott Brash's Hello Sanctos!
Behind the CHIO Aachen Digital with Michael Mronz, General Manager, CHIO Aachen
Tell us about Digital Aachen, what are the highlights of the programme?
It is totally diversified. We have sport challenges with top riders like Patrik Kittel, Luciana Diniz, Ludger Beerbaum, Jessica von Bredow‐Werndl or Sandra Auffarth. In the virtual SAP Cup, the CHIO Aachen fans can become Eventing Managers, and on top of that there are many competitor stories on the most important competitions; for example, Luciana Diniz will tell us again what it was like being pipped at the post in the Rolex Grand Prix three times and Otto Becker and many others will report about the fascination of the Mercedes‐Benz Nations Cup. In addition to this, of course, we have highlights from the Rolex Grand Prix and other fascinating competitions and as‐live formats from the 2019 CHIO Aachen, enhanced with commentary as well as exciting background information. All of this is going to be highlighted in a daily report from August 4th‐9th, on Facebook, YouTube, chioaachen.de and via clipmyhorse.tv.
How did you come up with the ideas for the content?
Naturally, the entire CHIO Aachen team have developed the ideas and the concept jointly. Whereby a lot of the input came from the outside – from the CHIO Aachen fans and even some of the riders have provided us with ideas.
What are your objectives for the digital event?
Our aim is the same as for the “real” CHIO Aachen: Entertaining people. We want to deliver a bit of this very special and unparalleled Aachen Soers atmosphere to the living‐rooms of the CHIO Aachen fans around the world in this challenging year.
How has the team adapted to dealing with the COVID‐19 pandemic?
Very well. The majority of the employees are working from home, we engage with each other via video conferences and online communications. Everyone adapted to the situation very quickly, I think we have also learned a lot in terms of how we will work in the future too.
Do you think this experience has forced you to look at changing the format of CHIO Aachen next year?
We will no doubt also be able use many of the aspects that we have now digitally integrated into the CHIO Aachen in future. Applications like the Eventing Manager, but also the intensive online exchange with our visitors and fans.
Do you think there will be more virtual events, even after the pandemic is over?
I can well imagine that, albeit on a smaller scale. Everything that offers added value is worth being considered for the future too.
Have you observed any great initiatives in a different sport you would like to mention?
Definitely, there are many good initiatives and ideas of how to keep fantastic events alive in spite of the pandemic.
Which riders have been involved with Digital Aachen?
National riders as well as international. For example; Ludger Beerbaum and Sandra Auffarth, Jessica von Bredow‐Werndl, Ijsbrand Chardon, Patrik Kittel and Luciana Diniz will be involved.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt during these challenging times?
To never be too sure about anything.
What have you most enjoyed about putting the Digital Aachen together?
The enthusiasm within the team. Of course, we were all sad, disappointed and stunned that the CHIO Aachen 2020 had to be cancelled – but it was magnificent experiencing how new ideas were born and put into practice.
Looking at the quest for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2021, which riders do you think will be in contention for it?
The great thing about our sport is the high density of performance. There are no longer five or six riders that dominate everything like in the past. We experience outstanding sport in the most fascinating equestrian arenas in the world every year in the scope of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Scott Brash made it clear to us that it is possible to master the ultimate challenge, but who is going to be the next contender? That is impossible to predict. Of course, my fingers are crossed for our Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender Martin Fuchs. And next to them I personally would like to say: I would be delighted if it were to be a woman.
Behind the Stable door with Sean Lynch, international travelling groom for Daniel Deusser
How did your routine change during lockdown?
It wasn’t as busy with no competitions that’s for sure, it was very quiet at the start. Then, in the end, we were actually still very busy at home. We had a few people off, because obviously there weren’t any shows going on so not everyone was needed. In April, it was just me and a home rider and Daniel, although we finished at a normal time, which was the good part, it was busy enough!
Did you learn anything new about the horses, spending so much time with them at home?
I must say that, it was very nice, as I travel with different horses every week when I go to the shows, I’d take for instance Jasmine, Killer Queen and Tobago one week then I go with the young ones the week after, so it was actually quite nice to be at home and take care of the Grand Prix horses every day, as well as getting to know some of the newer horses we have in the stable slightly better.
Have you used the time to learn any new skills?
As you mention it, I’m currently making an app, for iPhone and android. Basically, it’s called GroomsGoTo, everything you need, at the touch of a button. From your show calendars, which will be linked up to World of Show Jumping, to overnight stabling, as well as clinics, I’m also going to include a few ‘how to videos’ for the younger generation that don’t travel as much. There will be a lot of ‘get-to-knows’ to keep it interesting for people to read. The last part will be the paperwork, so a packing list etc. to make everything much easier.
I also started to learn a bit of German, but I gave up on that quite quickly!
What sparked this idea?
I talked to my mum and my best friend, and we concluded that it would be so much easier if everything you needed was in one place. Instead of having 20 different sites, it was all in one app, that gives you notifications and enables your life to be somewhat easier. If it picks up the way I hope it does, I hope to add a jobs section to it, for people to advertise that they need for example a show groom for a month or so, where people can apply to the job.
What did you miss most about competing?
The buzz! Especially because the weeks leading up to lockdown, we won two 5* Grands Prix back-to-back. I was so pumped, the horses were in good form, we were getting organised for FEI World Cup™ Finals and I was actually on the way to S-Hertogensboch when I got a phone call saying that I had to turn around because it was cancelled. So, I must admit, I miss the buzz, the adrenaline, but also my show family, that’s a big part for me, since we spend so much time together.
What did you miss the least?
The Driving… I got into that truck to go to St Tropez and I joked with myself “No, I can’t do this anymore”
How do you keep the horses fit and ready to jump a Major? Or did you give them a break?
I think you have to play it by ear, it’s not like we’re going to get a phone call saying that CHI Geneva is happening in three days, it will happen gradually, and we’ll be given a few weeks in advance to prepare things. We’ve given the horses a few easy days, when we knew in April and May that lockdown was still going, we gave the horses a few days off. Killer Queen went to the woods every day, on the racetrack and spent some more time as a ‘normal’ horse. But then when we heard that St Tropez might happen in a couple of weeks, we got them straight back into the program. We kept them ticking over so that they remained fit and would be ready to go to a show with a short amount of notice.
How has it changed Daniel’s game plan?
I guess for me it’s less stressful. We had to see how this year was going, to see what horses were ready to go, he had a couple of options, as we are privileged enough to have a fair few Grand Prix horses. At the moment we have around six Grand Prix horses in the stable, three that could do a championship. We are in a great position right now, we have some great horses, an amazing team, but I don’t exactly know the planning behind it all, I know Jasmine was going to go to S-Hertogensboch, to do the last Major there before the FEI World Cup™ Finals. I don’t know how it would have worked for the rest of the year, I know he spoke about the CSIO Spruce Meadows Masters and about Killer Queen doing the Olympics, there was a lot of speculation, but ultimately, we had to see how the year went. Daniel always has a very good plan with the horses, he’s very professional and very clever, never over-using the horses, but it really depended on how the year was going to play out.
Which horses will you be aiming for CHI Geneva in the hope of winning the Rolex Grand Prix in December?
My dream is: it will be Killer Queen, Tobago and Jasmine, then we can win everything! Killer Queen jumped there last year as a nine-year-old, she jumped her first top Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, it wasn’t the plan, but Tobago was injured, and she ended up coming fourth which is amazing. She’s now a lot more experienced, especially in that ring, it could be a good show for her.
Daniel has been so close to winning a Major on more than one occasion, is this a big aim for the team?
I know that he was gutted in Aachen last year when he was so close. From a groom’s point of view, you always want your riders and horses to do well, it makes everyone happy. So, it would be very special to win something like CHIO Aachen, it’s one of the biggest events on the circuit and the crowd would go wild. We’re ready for IT next year!
What would you do if you weren’t a groom?
I don’t know, I’ve always been in the industry, when I was younger, I was riding and grooming, now I’m a Travelling Groom for one of the best riders in the world. I think I landed on my feet pretty well, but of course I don’t want to do the shows for the rest of my life, because I do want a family and things like that. I’d quite like to manage a stable, so that I can stay at home a bit. It’s not something I want right now, but something that I’d quite like in the future.
Best piece of advice you have been given?
You never stop learning. In this job, you never ever stop learning, there are old school grooms that could tell you how they did it back in the day. With the new style grooms, because we have new machines, new methods etc. it makes things very different. But one thing that I will always remember and take with me is “never stop learning”
Worst piece of advice you have been given?
It’s not really advice, but separation of the grooms, we all do the same job, we are all equal. I hate this controversy where 2-star grooms and 5-star grooms are made out to be completely different – we are the same and everyone should be treated equally.
Best moment of your career so far?
There have been so many, I’ll have to give you top three. Rio is definitely up there, Europeans too. It will sound weird but also the Mechlen FEI World Cup™ last year, just because we were having such a tough period where Tobago was off, which made it all the sweeter. I could list so many but those three will always be special to me.
What other sports do you follow? / get inspiration from? Are there any teams you support?
No not really, the horse world is like a drug, it almost takes over your life. I must say, when the Olympic Games are on and I’m not there, because I did Rio, I like to watch the Athletics with Usain Bolt and others. I really enjoy that, it’s not something that I would take time out of my day to watch, but when it’s on I would watch it. I’m equestrian through and through, and currently I’m really enjoying dressage.
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.