Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

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Jérôme Guery & Quel Homme de Hus at Knokke Hippique (Photo: Sportfot) Jérôme Guery & Quel Homme de Hus at Knokke Hippique (Photo: Sportfot)

Rolex Grand Slam Riders Watch

The summer Rolex Grands Prix Season

 

As the countdown to the next Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major continues, with the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ taking place from 8-12 September 2021, there is no shortage of Rolex Grands Prix action to whet fans’ appetites in the build-up.

For three weeks from 23 June will be the Rolex-supported Knokke Hippique, featuring horses and riders at all levels, from the future stars in the Young Horse competitions, to world-class international jumping, with the CSI3* Top Series Grand Prix taking place on the Sunday of each week. The Rolex Grand Prix took place on Sunday June 27th and was brilliantly won by Jérôme Guery aboard Quel Homme de Hus.

On 1-4 July, attention will turn to CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show, taking place in the private grounds of Windsor Castle. Reigning champion of the Rolex Grand Prix, Henrik von Eckermann (SWE), will be returning to the famous Castle Arena to defend his title; however, he will face stiff competition from Rolex Testimonees, Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Kent Farrington (USA), also former winners of the prestigious competition. The Rolex Grand Prix was eventually won by Briton Ben Maher and his exceptional gelding Explosion W, with Guerdat finishing a brilliant second with his gelding Venard de Cerisy, and fellow Testimonees Martin Fuchs (SUI) aboard Clooney 51 and Harry Charles (GBR) with Borsato finishing in third and sixth places respectively.

Show jumping returns to Chantilly Racecourse from 8-11 July for the Masters of Chantilly, the highlight of which will be the Rolex Grand Prix on the final day. This ground-breaking new event – which sees Rolex join as Title Sponsor and Official Timekeeper – will take place in front of the Château de Chantilly and its Great Stables, and is set to be a spectacular four days of competition.

For four days from 30 July, the Val-Porée Equestrian Center will host Jumping International Dinard CSI5*, which culminates with the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday 2 August. Located a stone’s throw from the sea and recognised for requiring precision and technicality, Jumping International Dinard is a popular show on the international show jumping circuit and is once again set to host the world’s best horses and riders as they vie to take the Rolex Grand Prix Ville de Dinard title.

Ben Maher riding Explosion W (Photo: Rolex / Kit Houghton) Ben Maher riding Explosion W (Photo: Rolex / Kit Houghton)

Zoé Conter & Davidoff de Lassus (Photo: Aline Cerisier) Zoé Conter & Davidoff de Lassus (Photo: Aline Cerisier)

Meet the Next Gen with:

Zoé Conter

 

What have you been focusing on recently, and what are your plans and goals for 2021?

My plan for this year is to compete in five-star shows. I haven’t been able to compete at that level in over a year now. My first show is actually this week, Knokke, which includes 2*, 3* and 5* classes. So, definitely one of my first goals is to ride at a 5* level, to have a solid performance and actually be competitive at this level. I would really like to have a few Rolex Grands Prix finishes and to get placed – that is definitely a goal for this year.

For the 5* class, I will be taking my number one horse, Davidoff de Lassus – nicknamed Dave – and Dawa de Greenbay. In the 3* class, I have Univers du Vinnebus and Dolitaire Chavannaise. These are my four good horses at the moment. 

I haven’t really shown much since I got back from Wellington, where I spent the winter. I’ve done a few shows, but my main goal was to get everything ready for Knokke, to make sure we’re all geared up for the week ahead. I have high hopes for it because I have worked hard to be in top form. For the rest of the year, the aim is to be competitive. I feel a lot faster since I started working my new trainer, Eric Lamaze, who I began training with at the beginning of May, so I am excited for this new chapter and to see where it goes.

Which horses are you most excited to be competing with this year?  

I am excited to show my first horse, Davidoff. I haven’t been able to show him at all because he’s been injured since last November. He has been out for nearly six months, so it's definitely exciting to have him back, as now I’ll be able to compete in bigger classes again. He is a very special horse to me, he’s a big bay gelding and he’s super comfortable to jump big fences on and he’s also super scopey. He has the best character, just like a gentle giant. Every day he is super fresh, there’s not a single day where he’s quiet. He has all the energy in the world, so he is without a doubt one of my favourites.

I also have a few eight- and nine-year-old’s that are stepping up, who I’m excited about showing, such as Dawa. He is a nine-year-old and I’ve had him since he was seven, and he is showing some real promise. He did his first 3* show in Florida, jumping bigger classes, and he was really good, so I’m excited to see him step up this year. I think he is going to be a Grand Prix horse, as he is very confident and scopey, which makes me incredibly excited.

I then have one more nine-year-old mare called Ma Belle. She is also one of my younger ones that is really stepping up to 2* and 3* events. She is a bit greener than the others, but she is going to be a really nice mare, so I am excited for her, as well.

I am also looking forward to showing my stallion, Univers. I have had him for three years now. He is my partner to jump the bigger classes on and has jumped a few 5* Grands Prix with me. I actually have a very good squad for this year, so I am excited to start showing and really trying to be competitive with all of them. 

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?  

I think the Rolex Grand Slam is a really important series in show jumping. It is very prestigious, and it includes four big events, which is an amazing opportunity, if you can get to go as a rider. Equally, I feel that they are giving younger riders more of a chance to be able to compete at these shows. I was able to ride at Spruce Meadows in Calgary in 2019 for the ‘Masters’, and that was an incredible experience. It was really exciting, and I got to jump the Grand Prix, which was amazing. You cannot compare it to any other show. I feel the same about Aachen, which I haven’t ridden at yet, but whenever I go, it’s always astonishing, so the fact that they give younger riders the experience to ride there is really cool.

Watching Scott [Brash] win the Rolex Grand Slam must be motivating for the riders that do all four events. He received a big bonus, so there is an incentive to get good results and perform well in all four events. It has a positive impact on the sport, and those shows are really the ones that we riders work hard for, in the hope that one day we’ll be competing there.

What have you learnt over the course of the last year, about yourself and just generally, and what positives will you take?  

One thing that I have learnt about myself over the past year, is that I want more than anything to succeed in this sport. Especially this past year, when I was in Florida and the shows started again, I had a really rough few months, where it didn’t go too well, which isn’t a nice feeling. So, I feel that I have come back and I’m giving 100%, as well as working really hard to be successful for the rest of the year.

Over the last few months, it’s made me come to the realisation that I need and want to do everything to be successful in the sport. I have also learnt to appreciate the good moments more, because there are ups and downs, just like in any sport, and sometimes the good moments are taken for granted. For some riders, there are more ups than there are downs; however in my case, I experience far more downs, so it is important I learn to appreciate when I've had a good round or a good result and remember to take it all in.

Regarding the pandemic, with shows not happening and the world slowly coming to a standstill, I learnt to appreciate the smaller things, like spending more time with my horses and spending more time at home with my family – those two things are really important to me.

William Funnell at The Billy Stud (Photo: Eli Birch Boots and Hooves Photography) William Funnell at The Billy Stud (Photo: Eli Birch Boots and Hooves Photography)

Breeders Uncovered with:

William Funnell, founder & breeder at The Billy Stud

 

What’s your earliest equestrian memory? 

My earliest equestrian memory is riding a tiny little black Shetland pony when I was very young, probably about four or five. I was lucky enough to be brought up on a farm in a place called Challock just above Ashford in Kent. As a farmer’s son, we were always around animals, so I was brought up around ponies and horses. Generally, I had a very charming upbringing being in the countryside with animals. 

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far? 

I think representing your country at team events have been great. Team gold at the European Championships in Herning [in 2013] was a big moment, as well as the Hickstead Derby. As a child, I used to watch the Hickstead Derby, so when I won it, it was a big deal for me. I've been lucky enough to have been in many Nations Cup teams, which will be amongst my top proudest moments.

The partnership between horse and rider is clearly very important – is that something you're looking for when you sell to new owners? 

As a stud, it's very important to see the horses that we breed go on, which is always difficult, because sometimes the best riders don’t have the most money. It’s important that we try to find a balance. There's no point in selling the top Grands Prix horses to an amateur; it's vital to try and match the whole thing, as we are trying to get the most exposure we can out of a good horse, and to be able to do that, they need to compete with good riders.

Can you share some behind the scenes insights into what it's like at The Billy Stud in terms of your setup? 

I think we are in an ideal scenario. My business partner, Donal Barnwell, does all the foaling and everything up until the horses are three year olds. Then they come to me and we break them. We assess performance, we assess their jumping and their potential, and we try to market and produce them to the best of their ability. We also work out the best time to market specific horses.

On average, over the last few years we’ve had 100 pregnancies per year, with a lot of them done through embryo transfers where you have about a 10-15 per cent absorption rate. We will have 80-85 foals and end up with 70-80 three year olds that come to us in the spring. We have seven or eight riders, including Pippa and me. We have four arenas including an indoor school and a couple of grass arenas, so we can do quite a lot at home before we have to spend money to take them to shows. We’ve got a couple of different courses and jumps, so we can educate the horses well at home.

What is your main ambition with your career and breeding horses? 

Riding wise, I’m coming towards the end of my career. It would have been lovely to have got to the Olympics this year with a horse that we bred. I only jump home-bred horses, but to get in the top 30 in the rankings on home-bred horses is probably something that no one else has achieved. I would say that I’m the sole rider that exclusively rides their own home-bred horses, so that’s an achievement I’m very proud of. It would have been lovely to ride a home-bred in the Olympics, but you never know, hopefully I’ll have one more opportunity. I get as much pleasure watching somebody else ride, so hopefully, we can breed good enough horses to place them with the right riders, to see them competing for medals at the Olympics and at other championships in the future.

Are there any of your home-bred horses at the moment that are with other top riders that are really excelling?  

Yes, there are several in Europe and America. Pippa, my wife, rode a home-bred in the eventing at the Rio Olympics. We’ve had horses that we’ve bred compete in all sorts of championships, but I don’t think we’ve got anything with us to throw at the Olympics this year.

Which home-bred horses are you most proud of? 

I think Billy Congo, who won team gold at Herning. I think he was the leading stallion in the GCT for money winnings – one year he won £300,000 on the tour and I won a 5* Grand Prix with him. I also won the Hickstead Derby with his son, Billy Buckingham.

William Funnel and Billy Congo William Funnel and Billy Congo

Aside from breeding, what are your other ambitions and aspirations? 

I believe that what we’re currently doing, we can always do it better. I don’t want to get any bigger, but we can definitely do things better and constantly improve. We’re learning all the time and I wish we could have had the horses and the knowledge that we have now 20 years ago.

Are you mentoring anyone? 

Yes, both Pippa and I are mentoring Joe Stockdale, the son of the late Tim Stockdale. I give a hand to Joe, and he’s had some great moments this year, jumping double clears in the Nations Cup. It gives me a lot of pleasure watching him compete.

Great Britain has some very talented young riders coming through, including Jack Whitaker. There was a time where I jumped championships with Nick Skelton, John and Michael Whitaker, and I was the young one out of the team. I felt young then, but now with Nick [Skelton] retiring, I am starting to feel old when I go to shows. But it's really nice to see those kids with their parents. Teamwork is a big part of show jumping and definitely something I've enjoyed over the years.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?  

Scott Brash won the Grand Slam, which was fantastic. To be able to win it is a great achievement, particularly when riders are able to manage their horses so well. There are so many different scenarios that make it difficult, so for it all to come together is an incredible feat, particularly to win those top competitions against the best riders and horses in the world. To pull that off in those selected events is incredibly impressive. The horse and the rider have to be at the very top of their game, so to be able to peak right at that moment is a massive accomplishment.

The Rolex Grand Slam has incentivised a lot of riders, but it's very individual. It brings attention to those top competitions. I think the Rolex Grand Slam is very good for show jumping, and it’s great that those four fantastic venues are part of it. Those shows have always been the most difficult places to win at, and the fact that there's such a big prize pot at the end of it obviously makes it something that everybody wants to achieve.

Have you got a favourite out of those four Majors? 

I think Aachen and Calgary are very special. I've always been more of an outdoor arena kind of person, and I do think the balance of the Rolex Grand Slam – with Geneva and The Dutch Masters being indoor – makes it a whole lot more enjoyable. Personally, I've always had more success outdoors, and enjoyed it more, so those would be the two for me. 

Who's been your biggest inspiration throughout your life and your career? 

I think John Whitaker has always been someone I've looked up to. Seeing John riding and the way he is with his horses has always impressed me, he’s always been a great horseman.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?  

John [Whitaker] once told me that if the basics are right, then the rest comes together. A lot of the time we overlook the simple things. 

Max Kühner (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) Max Kühner (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

Max Kühner wins the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters

 

Three days of spectacular CSI5* international show jumping at The Dutch Masters culminated with the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix, the first Rolex Grand Slam Major of 2021. The equestrian world’s eyes were on 28-year-old Swiss Rolex Testimonee, Martin Fuchs, who travelled to ‘s-Hertogenbosch as Live Contender, following his Rolex Grand Prix win at the CHI Geneva in December 2019.

Partnered by his talented grey gelding, Clooney, Fuchs faced formidable opposition from a string of experienced riders, including fellow Rolex Testimonees, Scott Brash from Great Britain, American Kent Farrington, current world number one-ranked rider, Steve Guerdat from Switzerland, and Frenchman Kevin Staut. Other established names, such as German trio, Marcus Ehning, Christian Ahlmann and Daniel Deusser, US rider, Laura Kraut and Peder Fredricson from Sweden, helped to make up a truly impressive list of 42 starters from 15 nations, many of whom were more than capable of becoming the new Live Contender.

With Brash and his 12-year-old gelding, Hello Jefferson, and Farrington and his 13-year-old mare, Austria 2 both retiring, Fuchs and Staut each picking up eight penalty points, and many others failing to navigate the Louis Konickx-designed course fault-free, just eight combinations progressed to the jump-off – a seven-obstacle, 330m final test of ultimate skill, determination and precision.

Philipp Weishaupt was the only one of the eight jump-off riders to have triumphed in a Rolex Grand Slam Major before (CHIO Aachen 2013, and CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2017), giving the German a slight edge in terms of experience. Weishaupt’s opposition included fellow countryman Christian Kukuk, Belgian duo, Jerome Guery and Gudrun Patteet, Luciana Diniz from Portugal, Brazilian Marlon Modolo Zanotelli, Max Kühner from Austria, and home favourite Willem Greve.

First to go, Weishaupt set the early pace, jumping clear in a time of 33.71 seconds; however, his lead was short-lived, as Christian Kukuk and his 11-year-old grey gelding, Checker 47 went next, stopping the clock 0.14 seconds under Weishaupt’s time. With none of the following four riders able to better Kukuk’s performance, the Grand Prix’s fate lay with Modolo Zanotelli and Kühner. The penultimate partnership to go, Kühner and his 10-year-old gelding, Elektric Blue P set off at blistering pace, crossing the finish line over a second ahead of Kukuk, etching his name at the top of the leaderboard, where he was to remain after the 32-year-old Brazilian couldn’t quite find enough speed at the last fence, slotting into a very respectable second place.

Delighted with his performance, the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Max Kühner, commented: “The Rolex Grand Slam has always been a big aim for me, so I’m very happy that it worked out today.

“I bought Elektric Blue [Elektric Blue P] when he was a two year old. I saw him do one free jump on a video, and I said I like him, and the auction was already running, so we bought him. He’s always done everything very well, he was always a very good horse, and he never disappointed me. He has unbelievable possibilities, as jumping is quite easy for him. He has a good character, and likes to do the sport. At home he gets bored quite easily, so we have a special programme for him. We hack him, and drive him to where he can climb a little bit in the mountains.

“Spruce Meadows and Aachen in September was already on my schedule. It’s still far away, but we will try to make a plan as early as possible. We will aim to take Chardonnay [Chardonnay 79] to Calgary, as he finished third in the last Spruce Meadows Grand Prix in 2019, where he jumped very nicely. And maybe we’ll take Elektric Blue to Aachen.”

Sean Lynch & Sean Vard (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink) Sean Lynch & Sean Vard (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink)

Behind the stable door with:

Sean Lynch & Sean Vard

 

Sean Lynch, head groom to current world number two-ranked rider from Germany, Daniel Deusser, and Swiss world number three-ranked rider, Martin Fuchs’ head groom, Sean Vard reveal what they love most about their jobs; an insight into the horses they look after; their favourite Rolex Grand Slam Majors; and what they missed the most about not attending elite-level show jumping competitions.

 

How happy are you to be here at The Dutch Masters and back at an elite-level competition in Europe?

Sean Lynch (SL): I’m very happy to be back. We actually spent the winter in Florida, so it was a bit more of a normal life over there. It’s lovely to be back competing in Europe, back with European friends, and attending European show. Hopefully things can get back to normal this year. I’ve really missed the atmosphere and my group of friends, but the same can’t be said about the travelling!

Sean Vard (SV): Delighted to be back. It’s great seeing all of my European friends again, and back on home turf. We spent the winter in America, but it wasn’t quite the same as being here, especially at a Rolex Grand Slam Major. I’ve really missed the atmosphere and the buzz of the stables, but it’s great to be back, and the big classes are very much the main goals.

What do you love most about your job?

SL: I think it has to be the travelling to different countries to compete at some incredible show, doing something I absolutely love. Being able to enjoy that every single day alongside some great results is pretty special.  

SV: The long nights, the early mornings, driving for hours in the pitch black! No, I’m just joking. I love the results, the adrenaline from competing, seeing the horses progress, and the good moments that come with success are amazing.

Tell us a little bit about the horses that you look after…

SL: I absolutely love Tobago [Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z]! He’s a very big character, very easy to look after, with a very big heart. But we have a very talented group of horses at the stable, who I treat exactly the same way as I do with Tobago. Our most exciting young prospect would have to be Mr Jones [Scuderia 1918 Mr Jones] – his jumping is extraordinary and I think he’s going to be a really special horse.

SV: We have a really nice group of horses, with Clooney being the standout – he’s amazing, funny, a bit of a comedian, and great to be around. We’ve got The Sinner, who is also really entertaining, and Leone [Leone Jei], who’s a new young horse from Stal Hendrix – he’s also fantastic with a great character.

What are you goals for this year, and what would you love to achieve?

SL: Just like everyone else, my main goal this year is Tokyo. It would be incredible to go there and win a medal – it’s a huge opportunity.

SV: I’d love to win a Rolex Grand Slam and also a medal at the Tokyo Games – that’s a big goal of mine!

Which out of the four Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors is your favourite, and why?

SL: CHIO Aachen! The atmosphere is unlike any other show in the world, it’s just incredible, and I don’t think you’ll find one like it anywhere else. Plus, I work for a German rider, so it makes it a little bit extra special when we compete there.

SV: I have to say CHI Geneva, for obvious reasons. But I’m also a huge fan of CHIO Aachen and The Dutch Masters. In fact, I love all of them, including Spruce Meadows. Can I choose all four?! Ok, I choose all four!

Kent Farrington (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink) Kent Farrington (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink)

 

American Rolex Testimonee, former Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, and the current world number seven-ranked rider, Kent Farrington explains his goals for 2021; his plan for the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters; and the positives he’s taken over the course of the last year.

 

What are your plans for 2021 and what would you like to achieve?

We’re coming out the other side of a crazy year, so I’m extremely happy to be back at work, so to speak, and back showing. My goals always remain the same: try to focus on the Rolex Grand Slam Majors. We also have the Olympic Games this year, so hopefully that goes to plan, so those are very much my main focuses.

How have you spent the last six months, and which horses have you been competing with?

I’ve been working hard! I’ve been trying to condition my most experienced horses so they’re ready to go, as the show season opens up, and I’m also focused on trying to build-up and develop a group of younger horses. I’ve been at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, so luckily that season has been able to keep running. I have a stable there and it’s where I live, so I’ve been able to get a lot done over the last few months.

Which horses have you brought with you to compete at The Dutch Masters?

I’ve brought Creedance and Austria, who are two seasoned horses, and they have a good amount of mileage indoors. It’s a bit difficult coming from America, where the horses haven’t competed indoors for a long time, but they both have plenty of experience so I think they’ll be able to pull it off.

How excited are you to be at this Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major?

I’m really excited, and I’m glad it’s running. I was disappointed after 2020’s show was cancelled, as I was eager to come and compete, but I’m here now, so let’s hope it’s worth it. The Rolex Grand Slam Majors are always the events that I and all of the other riders want to win, so they absolutely provide extra motivation. Having said that, I always want to win!

What have you learnt over the course of the last year (about yourself and generally), and what positives will you take?

The last year has reinforced to me that I truly love what I do, that I’m incredibly passionate about the sport of show jumping, and about my horses. I’ve got an incredible team of people around me, and during the highs and lows, those elements never changed, so that’s reassured me that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.

Jack Whitaker (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) Jack Whitaker (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

Jack Whitaker victorious at the Audi Prize

 

Forty one horse and rider combinations from 15 nations made up the start list for the feature class on Day 2 of The Dutch Masters 2021 – the 1m55 Audi Prize. The star-studded line-up – which included former Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender, Philipp Weishaupt, 19-year-old rising British star and the next generation of show jumping talent, Jack Whitaker, and the on-form American, Laura Kraut – promised global equestrian fans watching online and on television a masterclass in show jumping skill and horsemanship.

After 10 starters, Rolex Testimonee, Kevin Staut and his 12-year-old bay mare, Visconti Du Telman were the only pair to go clear, proof that course designer, Louis Konickx had set a tough 13-obstacle, 16-effort test for both horse and rider. The Frenchman was soon to be joined in the jump-off by fellow Rolex Testimonee, and the only rider to have ever won the prestigious Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping title, Scott Brash, who steered his talented 12-year-old stallion, Hello Vincent, effortlessly around the Brabanthallen’s stunning arena. Current world number one-ranked Swiss rider and Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat also went clear, setting up a scintillating and fascinating 11-horse jump-off.

Second to go in the jump-off – a demanding seven-obstacle challenge – Brash was the first of the 11 riders to go double clear, setting off at blistering pace, navigating the course with typical precision, and stopping the clock on 36.16 seconds, a target that looked tough to beat. With just two additional riders managing to go double clear – Marlon Modolo Zanotelli from Brazil and German Christian Kukuk – it appeared as though the Scotsman had proceedings sewn up. However, Jack Whitaker had other things on his mind, and full of confidence, the Yorkshireman and his black mare, Scenletha, shaved a decisive 0.37 seconds off Brash’s time. Whitaker will have watched last to go Kent Farrington with his heart in his mouth, but the American was unable to topple him, eventually slotting into second place.

Thrilled with his win, Whitaker, commented “The feeling is fantastic! It’s what everyone comes here to do, and it’s what I came here to do; but amongst some of these world-class riders it’s a bit surreal when you win, so I’m a bit stuck for words, to be honest – it’s fantastic!

“It’s my first 5* win, and it hasn’t sunk in. But as I say, it’s what you come here to do, and I knew it was just a case of when it was going to eventually happen, and it finally has.

“Scenletha is unbelievable, she’s such a nice horse. She’s so consistent and she’s got a lovely character, but she’s also feisty. Tonight she fought for me a bit, and I can’t thank her enough. She’ll get plenty of polos and pats later!

“I’d just like to say thank you very much to the young Riders Academy for putting me in this position, and for everything they’ve done so far. I just hope that they can continue supporting and helping young riders like me.”

Laura Kraut (Photo: Rolex Grand Slamp / Peggy Schröder) Laura Kraut (Photo: Rolex Grand Slamp / Peggy Schröder)

Rider Interview with:

Laura Kraut

 

Olympic team champion at Beijing 2008, American show jumper Laura Kraut admits how fortunate she has been to have spent the winter months competing in warmer climes; she explains her Tokyo 2020 ambitions; and gives some insights into her faithful and long-time equine partner, 14-year-old grey gelding, Confu.

What are your plans for 2021 and what would you like to achieve?

The obvious plan would be to achieve a place on the Olympic team in Tokyo for the United States. Between now and when the team is picked in July, all my focus will be on making that happen. After that, Aachen and Barcelona, and whatever comes my way will just be the icing on the cake!

How have you spent the last six months, and which horses have you been competing with?

Over the last six months, I will say that I will have been the envy of many people, as I’ve spent time at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, where the weather has been great. As well as Confu, who I’ve brought here to The Dutch Masters, I’ve also been working with some really nice horses, such as a very lovely nine-year-old gelding named Goldwin, and a new acquisition called Baloutinue, who’s an 11-year-old gelding. I’m very excited about all three of them!

Confu has the best character. He’s got all the great qualities of a good horse. He’s cocky and he believes he’s really, really good. He’s just fun to be around, and I think he’s good indoors normally, so I feel fairly optimistic.

How excited are you to be competing here that The Dutch Masters, part of the Rolex Grand Slam?

I was so excited when I found out that I had been accepted to compete. I applied when the organisers changed the date due to the postponement, and I realised I could potentially be at the show. But I didn’t think I’d be able to get in, so I was just very, very excited to make it here.

Coming to The Dutch Masters, what kind of shape are you in?

I have no nerves coming into The Dutch Masters. I feel good, and I’ve been able to compete more than a lot of the riders that are here, since we were able to go full throttle through Florida. But I know it’s going to be very difficult, and Sunday will be a big test, but I think I’m as ready as I would normally be.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for show jumping?

The Rolex Grand Slam is fantastic for show jumping. To win it is a massive accomplishment, and it’s famous all throughout the world, which is really exciting for us in the United States. Show jumping fans at home know all about the Rolex Grand Slam and wherever I go, people who follow me realise it’s a big deal to win it – it’s a major achievement.

What have you learnt over the course of the last year (about yourself and generally), and what positives will you take?

Over the last year, one of the things I’ve had to learn is that planning has gone totally out of the window. Show jumpers are very much a group of planners – we know where we’re going to be six months from now. But due to Covid-19, we had to put that on hold and take each day as it came. In learning to do that, and I believe it was a positive in that the frustration lessened, as a result of not having something come to fruition. I’ve learnt to roll with situations a little bit more that are out of my control, and if things happen, we’re of course very happy and grateful, but if they don’t then it’s not so catastrophic.

Marcel Hunze (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink) Marcel Hunze (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink)

Word from the organiser with:

Marcel Hunze

After the heartbreak of having to announce the cancellation of 2020’s edition of The Dutch Masters, as a result of Covid-19, Director Marcel Hunze expresses his relief at this year’s show going ahead; how he believes the Rolex Grand Slam is helping to positively develop show jumping; and who he thinks will triumph in Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix.

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of The Dutch Masters is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19 and then this year’s postponement due to EHV-1?

We are thrilled to be running the event right now. It was a tough year due to Covid-19, particularly after the cancellation of 2020’s edition of The Dutch Masters in March, just one hour before the show was scheduled to start. We then had a tough time in March this year due to the Equine Virus (EHV-1), which we didn’t expect. But we never gave up and we’re here hosting an indoor event at the end of April 2021, so we and the riders are very happy – it’s great to be here!

How much hard work have you and your team had to put in to make this year’s edition of The Dutch Masters happen?

It was a very different type of preparation for this year’s show. We’re usually trying to attract as many spectators as possible, but this time we’ve been actively working very hard to keep people out! With the additional Covid-19 and EHV-1 protocols, we had to change the whole set-up, and with the postponement because of EHV-1, we had to start all over again, but thanks to a very enthusiastic team, we managed it, so all is good.

What are your hopes for the sport of show jumping this year?

I really hope that The Dutch Masters marks the new beginning of the global show jumping season, and that all of the other top shows are able to operate this year. It will undoubtedly be tough, but we are especially looking forward to the other Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping events being able to follow our lead.

How beneficial is it having Rolex and the Rolex Grand Slam associated with The Dutch Masters?

We are extremely proud to be part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping; it was very much our goal from the outset to become the fourth event of the series. Without Rolex, and also our other partners, it wouldn’t have been possible to organise this special edition of The Dutch Masters, so we are very grateful that they are here supporting us, in both good times and also challenging times. As a result, the field we see here in ‘s-Hertogenbosch is amazing, and we’re delighted to have attracted the top five-ranked riders in the world.

What is your favourite part of the job?

It’s a one-year preparation organising The Dutch Masters, and it happens on a multitude of different levels and subjects. At the end, everything has to come together, work well, operate smoothly, and it’s my job to try and make sure everyone involved is happy, particularly the riders, fans and sponsors, so that’s the thing that interests me and keeps me motivated.

Who do you think will win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?

Let’s go for the current world number one-ranked rider, Steve Guerdat!

Daniel Deusser (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder ) Daniel Deusser (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder )

VDL Groep Prize Report

Daniel Deusser for the win!

 

The VDL Groep Prize was the highlight of Day 1 of the 2021 edition of The Dutch Masters, and attracted 41 leading horse and rider partnerships, among them 13 of the world’s top-20-ranked show jumpers, including Swiss world number one and Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat, world number six, Pieter Devos from Belgium, and American Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington, currently ranked seventh.

Local course designer, Louis Konickx, set a fair 13-obstacle 1m55 test in the Brabanthallen’s main arena, with 10 combinations eventually progressing to compete in the jump-off. Christian Kukuk from Germany and his grey gelding, Checker 47 set the quickest first-round time of 71.29 seconds, and they were joined by riders from six different nations, including two local Dutch riders – Kim Emmen and Marc Houtzager – making it a truly international spectacle and final showdown.

Second to go, it was Emmen and her 12-year-old stallion, Jack van het Dennehof, who set the early pace; however, it was Rio 2016 team bronze medallist, Daniel “Double D” Deusser and his 12-year-old gelding, Casallvano, who ultimately proved too strong for her and the rest of the field, as they breezed around the seven-obstacle jump-off, fault-free in a time of 35.66 seconds to claim the honours.

Thrilled with his victory, the 40-year-old German commented, “Having walked the course, I was quite surprised that there were so many clear rounds. My strategy in the jump-off was to try and win the class. I have to say, all the lines and the turns worked out really well, so I’m absolutely delighted for my horse tonight.

“Casallvano is actually a really scopey horse. He’s a little bit shy when he comes into the ring, but that’s also a positive part of being very careful on the jumps. I have to say that although he’s a very fast horse, I had in the last one or two weeks a couple of turns that didn’t work out like I expected, and I finally came to that point today where everything works out, which makes me very proud.

“Considering the circumstances, it’s not normal that we can do our job at the moment. The organisation here and the sponsors did a great job to make that happen and let us ride again.

“I will ride Scuderia Tobago [Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z] in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday. He is in great shape and he had a couple of very good results in Wellington a couple of weeks ago, and I hope to continue in the same shape on Sunday.”

Jack Whitaker (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink) Jack Whitaker (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink)

Meet the Next Gen with:

Jack Whitaker

 

The latest elite talent to emerge from the Whitaker show jumping dynasty, 19-year-old Jack explains his excitement to be competing at his first Rolex Grand Slam Major in ‘s-Hertogenbosch; what he’d love to achieve in 2021; and the form he and his horses are in after spending winter in Europe.

What are your plans for 2021 and what would you like to achieve?

I’m just planning to go to as many of the big shows as I can. FEI Nations Cups will be a focus for me, and I’ll just try to do as well as possible. If I’m lucky enough to be invited to some more Rolex Grand Slam Majors then that would of course be absolutely fantastic.

You’ve spent winter in Belgium, Spain and Portugal – do you feel your horses are in good shape coming to The Dutch Masters?

Absolutely – they’re all in very good shape at the moment. I managed to keep them fairly fit during the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant they and I had a lot of time off. It’s obviously a challenge spending all winter competing outdoors in Spain and Portugal, and now having to adapt to an indoor show, but I feel like I’m in the best possible shape.

How excited are you to be competing in your first Rolex Grand Slam Major? Any nerves?

I’m very, very excited, and I was extremely happy when I got the news from the organisers of The Dutch Masters! Having competed with Haya Loma N in the show’s first class earlier on today, I’m not feeling so many nerves now, although I think that could change on Sunday ahead of the Rolex Grand Prix. I’m planning to compete with my 12-year-old stallion, Valmy De La Lande, who’s been my standout horse over the last six months, and the one I’ve been jumping all of my Grands Prix with. Fingers crossed he’s on the ball on Sunday!

Does the Rolex Grand Slam give you added incentive to be at the very top of your game?

Definitely, although I’ll try to treat it like any other Grand Prix. At the same time, though, there’s a lot more prestige attached to this one, as it’s a Rolex Grand Slam Major, so I’ll try to be at the top of my game. When I canter into the arena on Sunday knowing that it’s a Rolex Grand Prix, it will feel pretty special, and I’m sure I’ll want to win it just as much as the rest of them, if not a little bit more.

What have you learnt over the course of the last year (about yourself and generally), and what positives will you take?

I’ve learnt how important it is to just stay positive, to remain confident, and to maintain a winning mentality through all of the ups and downs. It’s ultimately all about trying to keep as level-headed as possible.

Louis Konickx (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink) Louis Konickx (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink)

Walk the Course with:

Course designer Louis Konickx

 

An assistant course designer at 15 years old, and a loyal patron of Indoor Brabant and The Dutch Masters since 2008; we spoke to Louis Konickx about his hopes and dreams for show jumping in 2021, Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, and what he most loves about his job.

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of The Dutch Masters is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19 and then this year’s postponement due to EHV-1?

It’s great to be back! But after this long period of no competitions, and the latest rescheduling, I I’ve had some fear in the back of my mind that the event could be cancelled or postponed. But there’s no chance of that now and I’m thrilled we’re here. Without fans, there is of course mixed feelings, because the atmosphere that they create really makes the sport. But after seeing the arena dressed up, it already has some atmosphere, so I hope it gives those watching on television a good sensation.

What are your hopes and dreams for the sport of show jumping this year?

Everyone is hoping that the Olympic Games will go ahead and that the riders will have a period to prepare, which is what The Dutch Masters offers both horse and rider. We have a large arena here, and the competition will be a serious challenge, and I think it presents a decent test for them. I hope that more global jumping competitions go ahead, which will help all competitors in their preparations for Tokyo 2020.

How important are The Dutch Masters’ partners and sponsors, such as Rolex, to the success of the show and the fact that it is going ahead now?

They are all hugely important, and they are totally engaged with the show. That’s the reason they decided to get involved in the first place – they are very much part of the team. They understand the current situation we find ourselves in and appreciate how much it means to the riders to be able to compete again. World-class show jumping couldn’t happen without them.

What do you love most about being a course designer?

I love the creative side of course designing. It fascinates me to think about the course that I’m responsible for creating, how it will look and ride, and how to best use the whole of the arena. I don’t like routine, and I like to challenge myself, so no two courses will ever look the same. For that reason, I always love to create something new and fresh.

Tell us a little bit about the course for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix…

We had a course designed for last year’s show, which was put into hibernation! I then got the message that this year’s arena would be larger, which meant I was able to stick with the same plan as 2020, but open it up a little and adapt it slightly. I believe we now have a really nice course.

How many clears are you expecting in Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix and which rider do you believe will win?

First and foremost, I always just hope that we have exciting sport with horses jumping to the best of their abilities. Of course, it’s nice to have six riders competing in the jump-off, but the final number on Sunday will be down to some small details about the course and its design. Whether it’s a rider misjudging a fence or if the time allowed is too long by just one second; this can spell the difference between having six in the jump-off and having 10. For me, six in the jump-off would be perfect. Any more than 10 and we start to lose a little bit of excitement.

Someone who is able to display the highest level of control and precision, who has fluent control, and a solid plan – that’s the type of rider who will win Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix. I can’t say any more than that. These days, there are many riders that fit into that category, so I think we’re very lucky to be able to witness their talent.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

The Dutch Masters 2021 'Rider Watch'

Who to look out in the Rolex Grand Prix

 

The Dutch Masters 2021, part of the Rolex Grand Salm of Show Jumping, will host the first equestrian Major of the year, and will be held from 23-25 April in the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the south of the Netherlands. After more than a year of uncertainty, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent Equine Virus (EHV-1), organisers of this year’s show are delighted to welcome many of the world’s best riders and their horses to compete at the legendary Brabanthallen over three days of world-class equestrian competition.

As with each of the four Majors that comprise the Rolex Grand Slam – The Dutch Masters; CHIO Aachen; CSIO Spruce Meadows 'Masters'; and CHI Geneva – this year’s edition of The Dutch Masters will peak on the Sunday afternoon with the Rolex Grand Prix, with elite riders – including 15 out of the current world top 20 – battling it out to become the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender.

 

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

The Dutch Masters 2021 has attracted no fewer than six Rolex Testimonees, including British show jumper, Scott Brash, who remains the first and only rider to have ever won three consecutive Majors, thereby claiming the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping title in September 2015. Brash has spent 2021 competing in the Qatari capital, Doha, and in Lier in northern Belgium, and comes to The Dutch Masters hoping to reclaim live contender status.

Joining Brash is fellow Rolex Testimonee and current world number one-ranked rider, Steve Guerdat. Guerdat has a stellar record at Rolex Majors, having triumphed in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in both 2013 and 2015, and the Swiss show jumper will be aiming to add The Dutch Masters Major crown to his enviable list of titles.

As a result of winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in December 2019, current world number three-ranked rider and Rolex Testimonee, Martin Fuchs comes to The Dutch Masters, as the live Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping contender. The Swiss rider has spent the most part of 2021 at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, USA, with his grey geldings, Clooney 51 and Leone Jei, and will do whatever it takes to ensure he remains live contender going into the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September.

2014 FEI World Equestrian Games™ Individual gold medalist and home favourite, Jeroen Dubbeldam travels to The Dutch Masters with Forever SFN, Kennedy Z, and Oak Grove’s Carlyle. While a Major win eludes Dubbeldam, the Dutch Rolex Testimonee will have his sights firmly set on a big result in Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix. Dubbeldam makes up a string of 11 entries for the Netherlands, including Bart Bles, Kim Emmen, Willem Grieve, Marc Houtzager, Kevin Jockems, Johnny Pals, former world number one-ranked rider, Harrie Smolders, Leopold van Asten and Jur Vrieling.

Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington and compatriot Laura Kraut are the sole representatives from the USA at this year’s Dutch Masters. A two-time Major winner (CHI Geneva 2017 and CHIO Aachen 2019), Farrington travels to ‘s-Hertogenbosch with his gelding Creedance and mare Austria 2, and the current world number seven-ranked rider has the necessary experience and aptitude to be confident that he will very much be in the mix in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday.

France is represented by four world-class show jumpers, including 41-year-old Rolex Testimonee, Kevin Staut. Winner of the individual title at the 2009 European Championships and currently ranked 21st in the world, Staut brings Blackonda, Viking d'la Rousserie, and Athos des Genets to The Dutch Masters, and will be hoping to add a Major title to his impressive list of career accolades.

Other riders to watch at this year’s Dutch Masters include Belgian show jumper, Niels Bruynseels and Swedish rider, Henrik Von Eckermann, who sit 11th and 17th respectively in the current jumping rankings. Von Eckermann is a previous live contender after winning the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters in 2019 with his brilliant 15-year-old mare, Toveks Mary Lou, while Bruynseels won the feature class a year earlier in a thrilling jump-off with his 15-year-old mare, Gancia de Muze.

A young rider to note is 19-year-old Briton, Jack Whitaker, another product of the Whitaker show jumping dynasty, and the next generation of show jumping talent. Whitaker comes to The Dutch Masters having spent the last few months in Vejer de la Frontera in Spain and Vilamoura in Portugal.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam)

New Web App Brings Rolex Grand Slam Fans Even Closer To The Action

Check out all the stats on 'Rolex Grand Slam Live'

A brand-new web app, designed exclusively by the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, allowing fans to follow their favourite riders using second screen technology, has been unveiled ahead of The Dutch Masters 2021, the first equestrian Major of the year.

Through the web app, known as ‘Rolex Grand Slam Live’, passionate equestrian fans from around the world will be able to see a host of real-time data, including live timing, number of faults, and order of go, significantly complementing the Rolex Grand Slam online streaming or television viewer experience.

The web app will also give fans access to additional stats, such as percentage of most knocked obstacles knocked, the number of riders out of time allowed, intermediate timing during the jump off, and promises to be the ultimate second screen for equestrian fans wanting to know all about the four Majors that comprise the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping: The Dutch Masters; CHIO Aachen; CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’; and CHI Geneva.

The ‘Rolex Grand Slam Live’ technology has been developed by a team of experts at high-tech Swiss company, Alogo, which creates analytical tools for the equine industry, including a range of cutting-edge products that quantify athletes’ performances.

The web app will be free and available from the following link: https://rolexgrandslam.alogo.io/

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam)

Rolex Grand Slam Stats

Indoor vs Outdoor Shows

 

The Rolex Grand Slam is widely regarded to be show jumping’s ultimate challenge and comprises four of the sport’s most prestigious shows – known as the ‘Majors’ – notably The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, and CHI Geneva. There is, however, one key element that sets The Dutch Masters and CHI Geneva apart from their German and Canadian counterparts, most notably the two types of arena: indoor and outdoor.

The Dutch Masters’ and CHI Geneva’s indoor arenas use a synthetic footing, while CHIO Aachen’s and CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ outdoor competitions are staged on turf. This draws parallels with the four different surfaces used by the Grand Slam tennis Majors – the Australian Open utilises a synthetic hard-court surface; the French Open is played on red clay; The Championships, Wimbledon has iconic grass courts; and the US Open is played on an acrylic hard court.

As for the penalties in show jumping, although they are counted on the same basis both indoor and outdoor, the speed which determines the time allowed for a horse and rider to complete the course is based on 350m/minute indoor versus 375-400m/minute outdoor.

Ahead of the 2021 edition of The Dutch Masters, we spoke to two of the sport’s most acclaimed course designers – The Dutch Masters’ Louis Konickx and CHIO Aachen’s Frank Rothenberger. Konickx has been setting challenges for the world’s most accomplished horse and rider combinations in the indoor, synthetic surface arena at The Brabanthallen in 's-Hertogenbosch since 2008, while Rothenberger has been responsible for creating some formidable tests within CHIO Aachen’s vast outdoor turf arena for many of the same world class partnerships since he joined the World Equestrian Festival’s team in 2003.

 

Aside from the footing, what are the fundamental differences when designing indoor and outdoor courses?

Louis Konickx (LK): The space in an indoor arena is limited, therefore the line of the course often crosses itself and runs over the combinations and lines; it is always a puzzle to think of an interesting and challenging design. An outdoor arena offers more possibilities for variation and there is space for more cantering.

Frank Rothenberger (FR): The surface in outdoor arenas is sometimes not level, which can give a false impression of the distance between obstacles, whether the course is going uphill or downhill. The light can also cause significant problems, for example, the sun can affect a rider’s and a horse’s sight, while floodlights can create some awkward shadows, so I have to be aware of these elements when I design my courses. One of the obvious and fundamental differences is the size of the arenas – in big outdoor arenas, such as at CHIO Aachen and at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, a course designer can be much more creative with the tracks, and generally speaking, speed is higher in these types of arena.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton)

What are some of the challenges you experience when designing courses?

LK: Indoor arenas are all quite equal in terms of shape and layout. Unique fences and the (green) decoration in the arena give the show its own distinctive signature. When I prepare for the show, I pay a lot of attention to this in addition to the challenging lines. Designing courses for the fantastic horses and riders these days is a challenge, and this applies to both indoor and outdoor. I do experience indoor more as a ‘pressure cooker’, though, because you have to work really fast due to the tight programming. In addition, the tension with the enthusiastic public in a packed hall offers an unforgettable atmosphere.

FR: For me, it’s very challenging to create different courses outdoor compared to the ones I’ve designed indoors – it really tests my imagination. In outdoor arenas, slopes can be used to create technical lines, whether the course is going uphill or downhill, so this is a challenge, but it really adds to the course’s character.

 

What factors, which are out of your control, do you have to consider and be aware of when designing courses?

LK: A course designer always hopes for a nice build-up of tension in a competition with clear rounds in the second half of the competitor field. However, sometimes there are one or two clear rounds within the first 10 riders and the public already knows the course is not too difficult. It can happen and unfortunately it breaks some of the tension.

FR: The weather always has a major influence on the type of courses that I’m designing in outdoor arenas. Under wet conditions, we will try our best to not ask the competitors to perform tight turns so as to avoid the horses slipping. The weather also determines that it’s extremely important to think about distances between the combinations, in that they must be measured even more correctly than in indoor arenas.

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof

Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender interview with:

CHI Geneva 2019 winner and Rolex Testimonee Martin Fuchs

 

Having triumphed in the Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva in December 2019, current world number three-ranked rider, Martin Fuchs is the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, and the Swiss show jumper now has his sights firmly set on the first Major of 2021, The Dutch Masters in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands on 23-25 April. Martin spoke to the Rolex Grand Slam about his plans for 2021, which horses he’s excited to be competing with in 2021, and his thoughts going into The Dutch Masters.

 

What are your plans for 2021 and what would you like to achieve?

Well, obviously the biggest goal for 2021 is the Olympic Games in Tokyo. That is my number one target, I dream about getting a medal at the Olympic Games. Another main focus for me is the Rolex Grand Slam, especially for me, as I’m currently the Live Contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. In any normal year, the four Majors are the most important shows, but being the Live Contender gives an extra edge to it.

 

Which horses are you most excited to be competing with this year?

I’m really looking forward to competing with my number one horse, Clooney, he’s still my main horse, but I also have some other really nice horses. I brought up my nine-year-old Leone Jei to 5* level in Wellington, which is very exciting, meaning he will be jumping some FEI Nations Cups this year. My stallion Chaplin is still breeding at the moment, and for the first time in his career, we’ve sent him to breed at Team Nijhof, but he will be back in Switzerland soon, so I can bring him to some competitions. Then I have Sinner with whom I won the World Cup in London, who will definitely do some 5* events. I also have two or three younger horses, who I’m excited to ride in 2* events, when I’m not competing at 5* events.

 

What have you learnt over the course of the last year (about yourself and generally), and what positives will you take?

I’ve learnt that I can be happy and enjoy other things, rather than just horses, that I don’t have to be at horse shows every week. I’ve liked spending time with friends and family, of course I’ve done that before, but it’s usually been done on the road. I’ve appreciated having some down time and not constantly traveling.

 

You won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in 2019, which makes you the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender. Does this give you extra motivation to win the Rolex Grand Prix at this year’s The Dutch Masters?

Being the Live Contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is very exciting. I do try to look at it like any other show, as every time I bring Clooney to the big classes, I try to win, and at any Major that I go to, I’m always trying to be at the top of my game. So, I’m trying to approach it like any other competition, although it does cross my mind every now and then that this could be a really big achievement to win two in a row.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think the Rolex Grand Slam has been very important for the sport of show jumping, you can really see that all of the top riders plan their top horse around those competitions. We obviously have the four Majors spread throughout the season, which allows riders to really bring their best horses. For anyone that has competed at any of the Majors, you can really tell that the level of sport that a Major brings is unparalleled. 

Willy Wijnen and Ben Maher Willy Wijnen and Ben Maher

Breeders Uncovered with:

Willy Wijnen

 

In this edition of Breeders Uncovered, we speak to KWPN Breeder of the Year 2019, Willy Wijnen, who is responsible for producing British show jumper, Ben Maher’s exceptional gelding, Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet).

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

When I was young, I remember my grandfather, who was in the military, he started spending more time around horses, but not show jumping or dressage horses, these were work horses. I can’t remember a specific memory, but I remember when horses became part of my life, and that was thanks to my grandfather, when I was around eight years old. For as long as I can remember, horses have been my life.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

My proudest moment of my equestrian career was when Barina (grandmother of Explosion W) was four years old, when she competed in the national championship in Utrecht. She ended up coming third, but I was incredibly proud. It was an amazing moment, especially considering I was a very small breeder at the time. Marianne Van Rixtel was the rider, and it was a wonderful performance, from both of them, as in this time, Barina was both a jump horse and a dressage horse.

How did you get into the breeding side of the sport?

I was looking to breed Barina, as she was a magnificent mare. I invested a lot of money and time into the best stallions, I would travel around Holland, Germany and France, going to all these stallion shows. I was looking for a horse that would be a really good combination with Barina.

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.?

The first question I would ask, is whether the stallion would fit well with the bloodline of Barina, as well as what the history of the stallion’s mother line looked like. The stallion is obviously very important, but I believe that the mother line is even more important.

Has there ever been a time when pairings have had unexpected results?

It has happened, but there is not a lot of rhyme or reason. I often get calls from people, asking for good information about breeding for their mares, which I cannot do, as I don’t know the intricacies of that specific mare, as every horse is different, so it’s very difficult for me to comment on whether it would be a good combination, without knowing the bloodline of the horse. On a more personal note, of Barina’s 17 progeny, nine of them are top horses, competing at national and international top level dressage and show jumping, and nine of them have gone on to be very good mares for breeding. She also has very good offspring including five approved stallions.

The partnership between horse and rider is clearly important; is that something you’re looking for when you sell to new owners?

I have some quite complex feelings and thoughts about the horses, I look in their eyes and then I look at their frame and their base. This helps me determine whether it would be a good rider and horse match-up.

How long do you keep the foal before it goes on to its next home?

In the beginning, when I had my company, a lot of the foals would go straight away to another owner, as I had no time for them. I had time for the breeding side of things, but not for nurturing the foals, breaking them in and their future. Nowadays, things are different, I have a lot more time to take care of all aspects of the process, but I’m not at a point where I’m interested in selling many of my foals. Explosion W was sold when he was seven years old, I knew he was a very good horse but he needed some time, so he could develop. So my rider, Mareille de Veer, spent a couple of years in training with him and know he is now one of the best jumping horses in the world.

How many horses are you breeding during the year?

I usually breed around six or seven each year.

Which homebred horses are you most proud of?

I am very proud of Explosion W, but he is not the only horse I’m proud of. I also have a half-sister of Explosion W called Zarina III, she is the offspring of Heartbreaker x Baloubet du Rouet. She is a breeding mare and her offspring is amazing. Every rider in the world would love her offspring!

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think it has been very important for the riders and the sport. The Rolex Grand Slam really is an incredible programme, with some beautiful shows.

Out of the four Majors that make up the of Show Jumping, which of them is your favourite, and why?

Aachen. It’s difficult to put it into words, it’s just the most amazing show. Everything about the show is brilliant, the people, the facilities, the show itself.

What is your main ambition with your career in breeding horses?

My biggest ambition in breeding is to breed a horse that competes at sport at the top level. For every breeder, having a horse they bred competing in the Olympics, is the ultimate dream.

Who has inspired you the throughout your career?

I’ve been heavily inspired by the VDL stud in the north of Holland – I’ve always admired the way they do things up there. I have horses with them, such as approved stallion Liamant W (Diamand de Semmily x Heartbreaker x Baloubet du Rouet), and a young stallion called Power Blue W (Chacco Blue x  Heartbreaker x Baloubet du Rouet).

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The best piece of advice I’ve been given, and that I could give too, is when you start with breeding, start with a good bloodline, that is willing to work and is in good health including good x-rays. The bloodline should have a lot of sporting history and quality in it, as having this will allow a breeder to lay the groundwork for their whole operation. The mother line is the most important aspect, I think it’s worth around 60 or 70 per cent of the focus, with the other 30 to 40 per cent going to the stallion.

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof

Rider interview with

Irish rider and Rolex Testimonee Bertram Allen

 

What have you been focusing on recently, and what are your plans and goals for 2021?

As a result of COVID-19, and due to very few competitions being held in Europe, we made the decision to go to Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival [WEF], which was incredibly busy. I was there for nearly three months, and I’ve only recently returned, so I’ll take it easy now for the next few weeks.

The plan is to then build myself and my horses up for a few FEI Jumping Nations Cup events. I will also aim for the Tokyo Games in July, and then the Rolex Grand Slam Majors at the end of the summer.

Which horses are you most excited to be competing with this year?

My two main horses are Pacino Amiro and Harley van den Bisschop. Harley is the more established horse – he lost a bit of time last year through injury, but he’s back now and he feels really strong, and hopefully he can get into a good rhythm this year.

Pacino Amiro stepped up to the highest level in Wellington at the WEF, and jumped a 5* Grand Prix, which he won, so he’s a very exciting prospect. Fingers crossed that they’ll both be on form, as if they are, then they’ll be able to jump anywhere.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?

It’s a fantastic series of four of the world’s very best events, which gives me and the other riders something to aim for. These shows are already the best on their own, but when you combine them, it makes them even more important and prestigious. If you talk to any rider, these are the Grands Prix we want to win every year. They’re an extra level up again from a normal 5* Grand Prix. There’s no point in aiming for these Majors and turning up unless you and your horses are in pristine shape. Winning one of them feels so special because they really do represent the top end of the sport.

In terms of my plans for the Rolex Grand Slam this year, we’ll just take things step by step, as Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and Aachen are still a long way off. Thankfully, if Harley van den Bisschop and Pacino Amiro are in good shape, they could both easily do either show. After that, we’ll start planning for Geneva.

What have you learnt over the course of the last year – about yourself and just generally – and what positives will you take?

As riders, we’re used to competing literally every weekend of the year, but in 2020 we were really restricted by what we could do. I’ve learnt a lot, but the main thing is that I’ll probably cut back on the sheer number of shows I attend. Before the pandemic, I really felt I needed to compete week in, week out. But when I was forced to take a few steps back, I had time to contemplate and study everything, and it became apparent that I really didn’t need to be pushing myself and my horses that much.

Now, I think I’ll really concentrate on the biggest 5* shows, which will also allow me to spend a few more weeks at home to keep everything in order. This will give me valuable time to focus on the sales side of the business, and also on the younger horses, who in the past I probably didn’t spend enough time with. As with everything life, it’s just a case of finding that balance and happy medium.

Photo: The Dutch Masters/DigiShots Photo: The Dutch Masters/DigiShots

Top 5 world ranking competing

 

The FEI officially announced on 30 March that international equestrian events could resume as from 12 April. This is good news for the organisation of The Dutch Masters and now there is definite green light to organise the event from 23 to 25 April.

 

Measures

The planned Covid-19 measures remain in place and this special edition of The Dutch Masters will also take place behind closed doors. The FEI has published a list of measures because of the Rhino virus. Of course the organisation, together with the veterinary team, will closely follow up these measures. Immediately upon arrival the health of the horses will be checked and the temperature will be measured. Especially in the stables everything will be done to avoid contact between the horses and there will be several additional hygiene measures. Safety for man and horse comes first.

The Dutch Masters/DigiShots The Dutch Masters/DigiShots

 

Top Jumping Competitors

The organisation can again count on the international jumping top. The numbers 1 and 2 from Switzerland, Steve Guerdat and Martin Fuchs, are present. The number 3, Daniel Deusser is currently in top form. Last weekend the German rider won the prestigious $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix in Wellington, USA, with the 13-year-old stallion Scuderia Tobago Z, who he also wants to start in ´s-Hertogenbosch. The Swede Henrik von Eckermann, who won the Rolex Grand Prix in the Brabanthallen in 2019, will also travel to 's-Hertogenbosch. Peder Fredricson (SWE) and the Belgian Pieter Devos ensure that the entire top 5 of the world rankings will be at the start. Of course all the top Dutch riders like Harrie Smolders and Jeroen Dubbeldam will also be there. The complete list of participants will be announced shortly.

 

Dressage

The top dressage riders are already preparing for the outdoor season in view of the Olympic Games in Tokyo. This proved to be incompatible with the indoor competitions of The Dutch Masters. Therefore, it was decided to skip the dressage programme of this edition for a year. The programme will be completed with extra show jumping classes so that the riders can prepare their horses optimally for the Rolex Grand Prix.

Let's get ready for another edition of our often copied, but never equalled Monday Clear Round at Home 🔝🐎🏆

 

The best known show jumpers will still answer a series of quickfire questions to find out what makes them tick, but from their homes!

 

In this edition we welcome Belgian rider and winner of the 2012 Spruce Meadows 'Masters' Major, Olivier Philippaerts 🇧🇪🏆

 

Sit down, relax and enjoy the show!

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof

 

On Monday 1 March the FEI announced that all international equestrian events had to be cancelled due to an outbreak of the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) in Valencia, Spain. It was a disappointment beyond comprehension for the organisation of The Dutch Masters but they were pulling out all the stops to find a solution. And they found one after extensive consultations with the umbrella organisations and the veterinarians of the Dutch Equestrian Federation and the FEI. The Dutch Masters will, if the outbreak doesn’t spread any further, be staged behind closed doors from Friday 23 till Sunday 25 April in the Brabanthallen in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Initially the FEI decided to cancel all international events up to 28 March, now it has been extended to 11 April. The Dutch Masters will closely follow all developments in the coming weeks and if needed adjust the planned date in April. Priority in all circumstances will be the safety of both competitors and horses.

Horses’ safety

The organisation is working on a protocol for the participating horses, together with Prof. Dr. Marianne Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University and advisor of the Dutch Equestrian Federation, Randy de Greef, The Dutch Masters veterinarian and the FEI. To organise the event not only corona-proof but also rhino-proof, measures will be taken such as a veterinarian check-up upon arrival, regular temperature measurements and possibly a nose swab of the participating horses. All measures will be discussed in detail in the coming weeks in cooperation with all authorities in order to be well prepared.

Riders positive about decision

The riders are positive about and happy with the new date. Currently there are not enough high level events, which are so important for the riders’ preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games. The world’s numbers 1 in both dressage and jumping confirmed their participation. Germany’s ‘dressage queen’ Isabell Werth: “I think it is great that The Dutch Masters is making every effort to organise the event. I will be there!” Rolex testimonee Steve Guerdat: “I am very happy that The Dutch Masters, part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, is scheduled to start now in April. For the riders it is very important to compete again at this level so I am looking forward to it.”

The April edition will present a similar programme as the scheduled event in March with the Major of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping on Sunday afternoon. Dressage fans will be offered an equal programme with a Big Tour (CDI4*): a Grand Prix and a Freestyle to Music. All competitions can be watched live on multiple channels.

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton

ROLEX GRAND SLAM OF SHOW JUMPING – CONFIRMED DATES FOR THE MAJORS IN 2021

 

The World Equestrian Festival, The CHIO Aachen (RESCHEDULED)

The CHIO Aachen 2021 has been rescheduled and will take place from Friday 10 until Sunday 19 September. For further information about the CHIO Aachen 2021, please visit https://www.chioaachen.com/

Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 

The dates for the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2021 remain unchanged and the show will take place from Wednesday 8 until Sunday 12 September. For further information about the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ 2021, please visit https://www.sprucemeadows.com/

CHI Geneva 

The dates for CHI Geneva 2021 remain unchanged and the show will take place from Thursday 9 until Sunday 12 December. For further information about CHI Geneva 2021, please visit https://www.chi-geneve.ch/

Photo: Spruce Meadows Media Services Photo: Spruce Meadows Media Services

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BELGIAN RIDER OLIVIER PHILIPPAERTS

 

What are your plans for the rest of 2021 and what would you ultimately like to achieve?

I would like to win another 5* with Legend [H&M Legend of Love]. She’s a great horse, and I’ve had her for a long time. She’s been unbelievable for me, the amount of success and the number of good rounds we’ve had has been really incredible. Even last week – she’s 15 now – she still tries to give her best each week at every show. So, at some point throughout 2021, I’d love to achieve another 5* Grand Prix with her, so hopefully that is something we’ll be able to do.

 

What are your plans for 2021?

Last year was obviously a massive setback, but this year, we’ve started on the right track. I went to Oliva Nova in January to prepare the horses for the season. Then came Doha, and recently I have been getting ready for The Dutch Masters. We’re looking forward to the season, and we fully believe that this season is going to be fantastic, and that it will be yet another step forward for everyone involved. There are lots of competitions coming up, including a few Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors and of course the Tokyo Games, which we’re all trying our best to get to. So, these are the main targets for the year, and right now I’m trying to put together the best programmes possible to achieve our goals.

 

Which horses are you most excited to be competing with this year?

I’m very lucky at the moment, I’ve got a couple of very nice horses. I have some experienced horses like Legend of Love, and Extra [H&M Extra], who I’ve had for a couple of years. I’ve also got a new horse, called Blue Diamond [Le Blue Diamond V't Ruytershof], who jumped his first 5* Grand Prix last week in Doha, which I was very happy about. I really believe that this could be a horse that can compete consistently at 5* level, I’m really looking forward to this year, and to trying to get him to compete at the top of the sport.

 

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think it’s been an incredible success that Rolex has brought the Grand Slam into our sport. This is the best way for us to compare our sport with, for example, tennis. Everybody in the world recognises the Grand Slams as the biggest events of the year, so to be able to translate that across to our sport in order to explain to someone who is not in the horse world what the Grand Slams are, it gives our sport an extra boost. As a rider, those shows are the most important of the year, and as true athletes and competitors, we strive to have those wins on our list of accomplishments.

 

Do you have a favourite out of the Majors, is there one that stands out as the competition that you really want to win?

Of course, everyone has their favourites. Spruce Meadows is always going to be very special to me, as when I won there, it was a truly unique moment. On the other hand, Aachen is incredible, it’s close to my home, I’ve been going there for a long time, my father competed there so many times and I’ve also competed there, so those two shows are the most important of the year to me.

 

What have you learnt over the course of the last year, about yourself? And what positives can you take from what’s been a very unusual and tricky year?

I think the biggest difference was that the year before we competed in so many competitions, perhaps too many. It’s great that there are so many 5* competitions, as this gives everybody a better chance of winning, but from a personal perspective, I think from now on I’ll select fewer 5* competitions to compete in. This will give me the opportunity to go to these shows, and really focus on those specific competitions. Sometimes, due to the sheer number of competitions, we’re competing week in week out, and flying back and forth across the world, which maybe is slightly excessive. Over the last year, I’ve learnt that it would be better to focus on a smaller number of shows, to try and arrive ready, with the right horses.

 

Also, I think when you have so little time, like I did, unknowingly, you make small errors that you don’t see. Now that we’ve all been at home, we’ve been able to reorganise ourselves, so that everything is set up for the coming season. We try to buy young horses and bring them through to the top level, so we’ve tried to create a good, solid structure to enable this, so that even when I’m away at shows, we still have a good opportunity to find the best young horses. Time in this sport moves so fast, so it’s imperative that we have horses for the future.

Photo: Élevage du Thot Photo: Élevage du Thot

BREEDERS UNCOVERED

Interview with the Nöel family (Élevage du Thot)

 

In this edition of Breeders Uncovered, we speak to Margrith and Florian Noël from “Le Thot” Stud, which is located in Normandy, France – www.elevage-du-thot.com. We would also like to thank Judith Noël for making the interview possible.

 

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

Margrith Noël:

My father was part of the Swiss Cavalry, and each member had their own saddle and horse at home. I was young, and when his horse had gone, he used to hang his saddle at the bottom of the stairs. Me, being the young child I was, at around four or five, I used to spend a lot of time climbing up on this saddle and pretending to go horse riding.

 

Florian Noël:

I was born around horses and having two older sisters, who were passionate about horse riding, my parents always wanted me to follow in their footsteps. On Wednesdays or Saturdays, my parents would force me to prepare a horse or a pony, by brushing them, but I really didn’t like doing it. I learnt to ride when I was young, as this was the ‘normal’ thing to do when you’re young in our family. I always went with my sisters to camps during the summer, where we did a lot of riding, and other activities. Each time we went, I’d bring my bicycle, so I’d actually end up spending more time cycling around the equestrian centre than horse riding. I also had a friend that owned a pony, and we used to race each other in fields and on the beach. So, we spent more time racing than doing equestrian.

 

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

Margrith Noël:

For us as a family, it was Ideo du Thot, a horse who won the World Cup in Las Vegas in 2007. To have a horse of his level, that was truly exceptional, a true one-of-a-kind horse. This was an incredibly proud moment for us. As a mother, it has made me very proud to have three children who are passionate about riding, and when they compete on our own horses that we’ve raised, that makes me especially proud.

 

How did you get into the breeding side of the sport?

Margrith Noël:

It all started when I married Jean-Francois Noël, whose father was very involved in breeding horses. His father was a Normand cattle breeder, who also had a few mares, and he started getting involved when he was very young, breaking-in the horses. We developed the business little by little, buying a few foals, and trying to develop them, and by crossing them with our own bloodlines. This was how the breeding business grew, and it was like this that we bought the bloodline of Ideo, which we then crossed with ours, which enabled us to continue to grow. It’s interesting to see how far we’ve come, because we started just the two of us, with three horses; that was 35 years ago, and now we have been able to become a well-performing and large breeder.

 


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.?

 

Florian Noël:

It’s a mixture between physical and mental attributes, and the horse’s education. The horse has to be well raised, well-fed, and very mentally strong. The breaking-in of the horse, and the development is also integral in breeding a top-class horse. It’s also very important to have a good base, which facilitates having horses that are straightforward to ride, and straightforward mentally. It’s very central to have a good mare, because once you have a good mare, then the choice of father is wide open, so it’s most vital to get the choice of mother right.

 

Photo: Élevage du Thot Photo: Élevage du Thot

Has there ever been a time when pairings have had unexpected results?

Margrith Noël:

Yes, Samourai du Thot, who was once the best French eventing horse on the world rankings. This horse came from a mix that we didn’t believe would amount to such a world-class horse. The mother was a good, complete horse, but not a particularly well-known horse, but a horse that had a lot of sense; we paired her with Milor Landais, and this led to a real surprise in Samourai du Thot.

Florian Noël:

We sometimes try to get stallions that don’t necessarily tick all of our boxes, that are sometimes quite ordinary. This gives us the opportunity to do something different, like mixing them with pure bloods, Anglo-Arabs, to really get something unique.  

 

The partnership between horse and rider is clearly important; is that something you’re looking for when you sell to new owners, or when they ride the horses themselves?

Margrith Noël:

It is something that we look for, but often, the way the market and the industry works, that’s not something that we have full control over. We do a lot of business with traders, so this makes things complicated sometimes, when there could be a client who doesn’t fit well with the horse, we can’t take the horse back and replace it with another, because when we have 12-15 foals, they’re all different.

Florian Noël:

We do try to produce and develop horses that are easy to ride and deal with, as lots of people are searching for more or less the same thing in a horse. They’re looking for a high quality, chic, well-ridden horse, scope as the more well-ridden a horse is, the easier it is to work with. So, we try to produce the best horse for our clients, and we try our best that they arrive to them in the best possible condition.

 

Can you share some behind the scenes insights into your breeding programme?

Florian Noël:

There are a number of important factors, such as good mothers, good cross-breeding, and diversity. The horses that we think have a high sporting pedigree, we sometimes keep until they are six years old, before we do the embryo transfer. We also raise the horses all in the same way, to try and get the best out of them. That’s the method that we use, but there are times when we have to adapt to all the different horses and their needs.

 

How long do you keep the foal before it goes on to its next home or before you break it in?

Florian Noël:

We can sell certain foals when they are still with their mother, it’s rare but it does happen. We break them in during the winter, when they are between two or three years old. So right now, they are pretty much all broken-in. To test them a little bit, we get them to jump two or three times by themselves, and they are mounted a few times. This gives us a real insight into what the temperament of the horse is, and to know what the horse will be like later on. In the spring, we will start putting them all on grass, and collect them back in next September, at the end of year three. At this point in time, we are in a point of selection, we are doing the first competitions at three years old, the first presentations, and then the trading starts, as soon as the veterinary visits have been completed. There are horses that were sold already during winter, but we try to sell them on a case by case basis, some horses are ready, but we keep some slightly longer, as they are still very young.


How many horses are you breeding during the year?

We have on average 30 each year, but roughly half of those are ours, and then half of them are from other owners, mainly international.

 

What is your main ambition with your career in breeding horses?

To continue to increase the quality of our horses, year on year.

 

Which homebred horses are you most proud of?

It’s definitely Ideo du Thot, but he’s getting a bit older. This year, we have Diaz du Thot, who is with Constant Van Paesschen, and Diadem du Thot, who is with Laura Kraut in the United States, who we hope will get to the top, like Ideo did.

 

Aside from breeding, what are your other ambitions and aspirations?

Margrith Noël:

As we live next to the sea, we have a lot of horses that come here for a thalassotherapy programme (on rehabilitation from injury or on pure enjoyment). We’ve had some very good horses come here, such as Paille de la Roque from Steve Guerdat. We’re always striving to improve this side of the programme, and we’re also continuously trying to develop the sporting side of things with our young horses, as it’s very fulfilling to create value out of our young horses, when they are just four, five or six years old, and it’s also amazing to get some real performances out of them.

Florian Noël:

For us as breeders, and as a family of five, we are always trying to improve our knowledge, communication, our structure and our organisation. There are a number of people working here now, and we want it to be a nice place to work. It’s a family business, and breeding is our passion, it’s what we live for.  

 

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

Margrith Noël:

They are four legendary competitions, and we dream to have a horse compete in them. It’s thanks to the sponsors, like Rolex, that these competitions have become so notorious, and that they have such a worldwide visibility. It’s always a pleasure to go and watch horses compete on such nice grass arenas, like Aachen.

Florian Noël:

We go to the competition in Geneva every year, as it happens in December, which is always less busy for us. So, it’s a bit of a winter treat for us, to go to Geneva and see old friends. They are without a doubt the best competitions in the world, so we watch all of them, whether that’s in person, or on TV.


 

Photo: Élevage du Thot Photo: Élevage du Thot

Out of the four Majors that make up the of Show Jumping, which of them would you like to go to most, and why?

We dream of going to Aachen, it’s the pinnacle of our sport. We also love going to Geneva as a family, it’s the closest one out of the four to our heart.

 

Who is your biggest inspiration? Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

Florian Noël:

I was in England with William Funnell, working on his stud farm. I found it inspiring, that he bred just as many foals as us, and brought value to the process of breeding young horses. He also is part of the Great Britain national team, so he is a real inspiration, but the most inspiring thing I take from him, is that he brings value from the very beginning of the breeding process, to the very end.

 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Florian Noël:

I was told one day that we should all go and work together as a family, as there is a common ground between us. We all shared the same passion, yet we didn’t always get along, so I was told that it would be really good for us to all work together.

 

Margrith Noël:

I was also told that no matter what you do, do it to the best of your ability.

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton

THE VET CHECK WITH:

Randy de Greef, veterinary for The Dutch Masters

 

What is EHV-1 and how is the FEI helping to manage it?

EHV-1 is an equine virus, which can cause neurological problems in some of the affected horses. I understand the FEI is helping with the organisation of veterinarians in Valencia, Spain to take care of the affected horses. And more generally, the FEI has cancelled international competitions in a number of European countries to help minimise the risk of the virus spreading 

 

Has show jumping ever had to cope with a virus like this before?

I don’t believe the sport has ever had to cope with a virus on such a large scale as this outbreak of EHV-1

 

Is it likely that the virus will eventually spread globally, i.e. beyond Europe?

The virus already exists in the horse population globally; it becomes a problem when large groups of horses get infected and for some reason the infection cannot be contained to the area of the outbreak. In that situation, there is a lot of the virus being transmitted, which makes other horses sick.

 

What measures have been implemented to mitigate the virus getting out of control?

As far as I know, all horses are as much as possible isolated in Valencia, and the FEI has cancelled international competitions in a number of European countries to help minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

 

How soon could the virus be brought under control? Can it be ever be fully eradicated worldwide?

It really depends how many infected horses have already left the Valencia showground and are infectious to horses in their hometown stable. EHV-1 will never be fully eradicated; we have to live with it and perhaps in the future be more careful with the hygiene measurements around the transport of horses, particularly internationally

Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

The later in the year, the better the event: The World Equestrian Festival, CHIO Aachen 2021, is opening its doors from September 10th-19th. The event was originally planned for the end of June.

Everyone is extremely looking forward to the CHIO Aachen 2021, whereby health and safety are of course priority number one,” commented Frank Kemperman, Chairman of the Managing Board of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein e.V. (ALRV), organisers of the event. Hence, the organisers are overjoyed at succeeding in finding an alternative date in the late summer, “which has now been approved by the FEI so that we can officially confirm it”, states Kemperman.

The CHIO Aachen 2021 is going to be a top show, just like we are accustomed to with
all five disciplines and the best horses and riders,
” explained Kemperman. Although the sports-related aspects of the event are crystal clear, the framework conditions are currently uncertain. Kemperman went on to say that it is still not known today, which spectator capacities will be allowed in September. With this in mind, tickets already purchased for the CHIO Aachen 2021 can be exchanged for tickets for the CHIO Aachen 2022. Those who don’t want to have their tickets transferred to 2022, can have their money reimbursed or donate the sum. The respective form and all further information are available online at https://www.chioaachen.de/en/tickets-2/. All ticket customers will be informed accordingly in the next few days.

We expect that we will know which spectator capacities are possibly going to be allowed
by mid-June,
” reported Frank Kemperman. Which is also when the ticket sales for the CHIO Aachen 2021 will begin. Plenty of CHIO Aachen atmosphere, but also all information on the CHIO Aachen, can be found at www.chioaachen.com as well as on the social media platforms of the equestrian sport classic.

Henrik von Eckermann (Photo credit: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Henrik von Eckermann (Photo credit: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Last night the FEI announced that all international events are cancelled until 28 March. This decision has been made to prevent the spreading of the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), which originated in Valencia over a week ago.

A big disappointment for the organisation of The Dutch Masters. Marcel Hunze, director of The Dutch Masters: “Over the past few months, the team has worked very hard to set up a safe edition with all the protocols. The intension to organise The Dutch Masters in an adjusted format, despite all the challenges with the Covid-19 virus, was received with much enthusiasm by the riders and the whole equestrian sector. Now that we are confronted by another virus, which means that the event had to be cancelled shortly before the start, is beyond comprehension. Unfortunately we can only look forward and work towards a next great edition.”

Let's celebrate Steve Guerdat's victory in the #MemorablePerformance bracket challenge with an interview of the Swiss rider 🔝🏆🐎🇨🇭

 

He's the only one to have participated in all the Majors since 2013, and still number one in the World! What's your favorite victory from the Swiss legend? 🐎🇨🇭

Henrik von Eckermann (Photo: Ashley Neuhof / Rolex Grand Slam) Henrik von Eckermann (Photo: Ashley Neuhof / Rolex Grand Slam)

In line with the government decision to restart top sport competition in the Netherlands, the organisation of The Dutch Masters decided, to proceed with the sports programme of the 2021 edition. “It is of great importance to ensure continuity for the equestrian sport, for the event but also for the horses, the riders and all parties associated with the equestrian sector,” according to Anky van Grunsven, president of The Dutch Masters. The organisation is grateful for all the support they received from their partners after the cancellation of the 2020 edition. NOC*NSF responded positively: “It is important for the equestrian sport that top competitions can be staged again. It offers the necessary perspective for the TeamNL athletes to prepare for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games. Especially for the equestrian sport, as not only the riders but also the horses have to get in top form. It is good that The Dutch Masters can be organised and that the TeamNL athletes can prepare in the best possible way for the Games.”

Behind closed doors

 

Given the current situation The Dutch Masters will be staged behind closed doors and in an adjusted format. The safety of the competitors and the staff has the highest priority and the organisation will stay in close contact with the authorities in order to organise an event that is completely corona- proof. Alderman Huib van Olden, speaking on behalf of the city council of ‘-Hertogenbosch, is equally satisfied with this solution: “That this competition, which is so important for our city and province, can be staged in a safe way makes my sporting heart beat faster.” The Dutch Masters will be broadcasted on multiple channels.

Rolex extends partnership

 

Main sponsor Rolex has renewed its partnership with The Dutch Masters in a long term extension. Rolex has been the crown in equestrianism for over 60 years and a founding supporter of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The Swiss watchmaking brand has been a partner of The Dutch Masters since 2014 and in 2018 The Dutch Masters joined the prestigious Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping together with three of the world’s best shows: CHIO Aachen in Germany, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in Calgary, Canada and CHI Geneva in Switzerland. “The cancellation of The Dutch Masters in 2020 had a big impact on our organisation. We are grateful for the trust of our partners and the extension of the long-term partnership with our loyal supporter Rolex is a great encouragement for the future,” according to Marcel Hunze, director of The Dutch Masters.

The Dutch Masters is scheduled from 12 till 14 March 2021. The final programme is published online.

Sophie Mottu Morel (Photo: Joseph Carlucci) Sophie Mottu Morel (Photo: CHI Geneva - Joseph Carlucci)

Inside the CHI Geneva virtual with

Sophie Mottu Morel, Show Director

 

What can equestrian fans look forward to seeing as part of CHI Geneva Virtual? Are there any surprises in store?!

As soon as the cancellation of the CHI Geneva was announced, it was obvious for us to be virtually present from 10-13 December 2020, the original dates of our event. We brainstormed with the team, and our goal was to create something different from what has been done already. That is why we have decided to produce a daily television programme, lasting about one hour, which will include prestigious guests. We have been producing a TV show during the CHI Geneva for a few years now, so we already have a bit of experience in this area. Alban Poudret and Michel Sorg – the voices behind the Geneva CHI – will lead these interviews, which will feature a star guest each day, in the studio or by video conference. The conversations will include anecdotes and memories, and the guests will also comment on some of their favourite courses over the years in Geneva’s Palexpo Arena.

How will people be able to get involved in CHI Geneva Virtual?

Equestrian fans will be able to watch the TV show on the CHI Geneva’s website (www.chi-geneve.ch) and on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CHIGeneve). The broadcasts will be live on Thursday 10 (special guest: Kevin Staut via Zoom), Friday 11 (special guest: Steve Guerdat either in the studio or via Zoom) and Saturday 12 December (special guests: Eric Lamaze and Luciana Diniz via Zoom) from 18.30-19.30 GVA, and on Sunday 13 December (special guest: Martin Fuchs via Zoom) from 14.00-15.00 GVA. Fans will be able to ask live questions to guests via social networks and a dedicated platform, participate in polls, and there will be opportunities to win special gifts!

CHI Geneva has been voted the ‘World’s Best Show’ on 10 occasions. Does that phenomenal achievement give you an added incentive to make CHI Geneva Virtual a huge success?

Winning these awards make us work even harder every year – they drive us to continually surpass ourselves. Accolades like these incentivise us to think differently to our peers – the other great equestrian shows – which is why we have decided to do something unique as part of CHI Geneva Virtual.

What’s the key to organising a successful show, either live or virtual?

The key to our success is undoubtedly our passion for equestrian sport. The team put its heart and soul into the organisation of the show. Sometimes people call us dreamers, but I think that's our strength, as it’s important to dream big!

What have you most enjoyed about organising CHI Geneva Virtual?

It has been very exciting to think about the content of each of these four daily programmes. The organisation has taken considerable teamwork from our communication team, including Yannick Guerdat, with whom we will produce the programmes, and Nicolas Bossard, who has been working with us on the programmes since the beginning of CHI Geneva (CHIG) TV.

What positives will you take from this experience?

A real willingness to do something different, a common vision in the ideas that we’ve created and implemented, and a fantastic motivation to propose and deliver something truly inspirational and original for the equestrian community.

Due to COVID-19, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors, CHIO Aachen and CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ both held virtual editions. Has CHI Geneva Virtual taken any inspiration from these two events?

As I say, the organising team at the CHI Geneva wanted to do something different and original that’s never been tried before. But of course, we followed with interest what our friends from the Rolex Grand Slam have done this year, which was very impressive, so we commend them.

You must have an exceptionally talented team behind you to be able to organise CHI Geneva Virtual in such a short period of time?

The CHI Geneva is fortunate to be able to count on extremely competent, talented and motivated people. I must mention the incredible volunteers, who are the soul and spirit of the show, and without them it wouldn't be possible. So, that’s why we are giving them the exclusive opportunity to be the only ones that can ask questions to our special guests on CHIG TV on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 December – this is our gift to them. But one volunteer will also win a big gift: a VIP experience to next year’s CHIO Aachen.

Swiss prodigy, Martin Fuchs is the reigning champion of the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva. Do you believe he has what it takes to retain his title in 2021?

Martin must be incredibly disappointed not to be able to defend his title this year, but I am sure he will be even more motivated to retain it in 2021.

Steve Guerdat is currently ranked number one in the world he has participated in every Major since 2013. How is Steve so consistent, and how is it that he and Martin are ranked number one and number two in the world respectively?

Steve is extremely talented, and he knows how to manage his horses' programmes perfectly, and I believe that's one of the keys to his incredible consistency. He is an inspiration to many young riders in Switzerland but also around the world,  and I am sure for Martin too. Martin’s father trains Steve, and Martin and Steve have fostered a mutual respect for one another and a very friendly rivalry, which, combined, is why I think the Swiss team is so strong today.

2021 will mark the 60th edition of the CHI Geneva. What have been your personal highlights since you’ve been involved in the show?

There are a lot of wonderful highlights that have stood out for me. I would have to say that the ones where I have really had goosebumps were Steve and Jalisca Solier’s World Cup Final victory in 2006 and the emotional farewell to Nino des Buissonnets in 2016.

The 20th edition of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final at CHI Geneva will be celebrated at next year’s show – will CHI Geneva Virtual’s programme include a virtual Top 10 class?!

We will of course talk about the Top 10. For example, there will be an opportunity for our special guests and the equestrian fans that tune in to the broadcast to create their very own Top 10 from over the years, even from the very first edition of the show in 1926!

Lisa Lourie (Photo: Spy Coast Farm) Lisa Lourie (Photo: Spy Coast Farm)

Breeder Undercovered with:

Lisa Lourie, Horse Breeder & Farm Owner at Spy Coast Farm

 

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

That would be trail riding just outside of Boston in Winchester, Massachusetts, bareback in the woods behind my house with a good friend of mine. We were about 12 years old. She went to pony camp in the summer and would take some horses home with her in the winter; she needed help exercising them, so she and I would go off in the winter in the woods and trail ride.

 

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

The easy answer is: when Chaqui Z, whom I own, and who Shane Sweetnam rides, were on the winning team at the European Championships. Recently though, I had the experience at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, of standing by the ring where the five, six and seven‐year old classes were being conducted, and I had a couple of horses warming up to compete in those classes. At the same moment, there was an eight‐year‐old that I’d bred in the equitation warm-up, and there was another good rider, Aaron Vale, who’d bought another Spy Coast‐bred horse, who was going into the five‐year‐old classes. Then somebody else walked by with another Spy Coast-bred horse. So that was a moment for me when I was literally surrounded by horses that I’d bred that were doing well. That moment really had an effect on me. I thought: “It’s really happening!”

 

How did you get into the breeding side of the sport?

I had a thoroughbred mare, that was a real schoolteacher, who I bred. Her colt had become two and a half, and eventually someone said to me: ‘What are you doing?’, at which point I realised that since it was a thoroughbred, it should have been gone by now! I realised then that there was no way I was going to give up these thoroughbreds, these babies, so young. So, that’s how I got into warmblood breeding, and it made so much more sense to me. I felt I could have an impact in warmblood breeding, but I could really lose my shirt in thoroughbred breeding, which I knew nothing about it, so that’s why I went in that direction.

 

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.?

Obviously, I try to breed the best to the best – proven dam lines to great breeding sires. So, for me, the dam is really the biggest element, and then you want excellent breeding sires. Not just ones that have succeeded in the ring, but those that have also succeeded in breeding good horses. I always breed brain first, as 95‐99 per cent of my buyers are amateurs. I’ve tried to follow in the footsteps of some of the best European breeders, because I figured, why recreate the wheel, when Europe has been doing it for decades, so I try to follow their example. I try to acquire the best mares possible, and Shane and the rest of my riding crew are involved in pretty much every aspect of the breeding that I’m involved in. Not being a rider, and not being at every international show, they’re able to tell me how these horses actually go, what their mouths are like, what their attitudes are like, things like that. Their input into my breeding programme is essential.

 

Has there ever been a time when pairings have had unexpected results?

Yes, sometimes I’ll breed a very nice mare with a very nice stallion, and I’ll get a mediocre filly, who may be too short, she may not be very good looking, or she may not have very much scope. It was actually Joris De Brabander, who told me that it’s often those mares you want to breed to, as it’s the grandchild that’s going to be the one. So, with some resistance from my team, I’ve done that. I’ve bred to those mares and we’ve been very impressed with the results, so that was a good tip!

 

The partnership between horse and rider is clearly important; is that something you’re looking

for when you sell to new owners?

Yes, not always, but definitely for the best ones. Obviously, we care about the pairing when someone is trying the horse and making sure it’s not too much horse for the person. When we have one of our better horses, we want it to go to somebody who is going to bring the horse along well, especially if the horse is young. So they do well by the horse and also by my programme. We are still a young programme, and because we’re not in the European Union, I’ve had to prove our training programme and our development of these horses, as much as the horses themselves. That’s why we didn’t sell any young ones early on. We needed to prove our breeding programme and get them out there and produced well, so that Spy Coast Farm would be well regarded from the outset. Once they’re seven or eight, there’s more tolerance for the type of rider the horse can take. But the young ones need someone that can bring them along properly.

 

How long do you keep the foal before it goes on to its next home or before you break it in?

We typically start them at two and a half years old, so it’s a gradual start. We try to sell them fairly young now, but there’s not a lot of market here in the US for any horse under five or six years old unless they want to buy them as a breeding prospect and then you’re just selling your bloodlines cheaply. I’d rather the good ones go on to have a jumping career before they are used solely to have their bloodlines reproduced.

 

How many horses are you breeding during the year?

In a typical year, Spy Coast breeds 20 and we generally breed 20 for clients, all on the property. This year not being a typical year, I’ve bred around 31, but then also 20 for clients. We sold a lot more semen to outside customers in 2020 – this year was a big breeding year.

 

What is your main ambition with your career in breeding horses?

To improve the industry, as a whole. American’s are doing alright with sport horse shows and veterinary skills, but there was a giant gap when it came to breeding. I just felt that we had purchased so many good mares and stallions from overseas, that we needed to do something with them. Coming with that meant establishing the training of young horses and having classes and shows for them. It was a big chunk of the industry that wasn’t properly being attended to here. In the end, I believe we will develop even better riders, because they will know how to bring on the young horses we are breeding.

 

Which homebred horses are you most proud of?

Well, probably Kirschwasser SCF – he’s gone on to have a great Grand Prix career with a really enthusiastic rider, Freddie Vasquez, who loves him to death, so I’m super happy about that. There are some exciting ones coming along, but I also have to give a shoutout to my own horse, Nosy Parker SCF, who takes very good care of me. She’s extremely well bred (For Pleasure x Cumano), is very athletic, and she has a fantastic brain in order to tolerate me, but I think I’m going to move her along now, as she’s nearly eight. She has more talent than I have ability, so it would be a good time to move her on.

 

Aside from breeding, what are your other ambitions and aspirations?

To establish a low‐cost, high quality system of the young horse business here in America. That’s the ultimate goal. Also, to form an international alliance, and come up with ways that Europe can help us and that we can help Europe, while moving breeding forward.

 

Out of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which of them is

your favourite, and why?

I haven’t been to all of them, but I’d say the CHIO Aachen, as the energy there is just electric, and my horses always do well there, which helps, so you can’t discount that! I’ve come up with some great ideas from just being there, so for those reasons I’d have to say Aachen.

 

Who is your biggest inspiration? Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

Breeding wise, it’s Joris De Brabander, his Stal de Muze has produced wonderful horses. But I’ve also had the great privilege to work and be around several true entrepreneurs, the type of people who always inspire me, as they think outside the box, and they come at a problem from a different angle, which is what I always try to do. I’ve really enjoyed working with Mark Bellisimo, and our partners in Wellington and Tryon. But recently I’ve really enjoyed working with Klaas De Coster and the Mares of Macha partners in Belgium. They approach breeding from a unique direction, with lots of positive energy and I’m enjoying being a part of that. They are moving the industry forward in a very democratic way.

 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

It’s kind of goofy but it’s actually a song lyric, which goes: “It’s hard to see the spot you’re standing on”. In other words, you have to change things in order to discover where you really are. If you stay in the same place all the time, you don’t leave room for possibilities. Well, at least that’s how I interpret the song lyric.

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The Palexpo Arena (photo: CHI de Genève) The Palexpo Arena (photo: CHI de Genève)

Over the last few days, the Federal Council and the Canton of Geneva have presented new health measures aimed at controlling the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic. Following on from these announcements, the CHI Geneva organising committee decided to cancel the show’s 2020 edition.

The CHI Geneva organising committee have done everything in their power. Strict and far-reaching health security measures had been put in place and many scenarios considered so that the event could take place, even with a very restricted number of spectators or behind closed doors.

However, the announcements made by the Federal Council on Wednesday, 28th October and by the Geneva State Council on Sunday, 1st November have now limited events to five people, rendering the holding of an event like CHI Geneva impossible. With participants and staff not being included in this figure, the closed-door option was studied, but in the current health situation the organising committee cannot of course envisage bringing together under one roof a total of some 400 committee members, volunteers, riders, grooms, etc. The 2020 show which was to take place at Palexpo from 10th to 13th December has therefore been cancelled. Spectators who have already bought tickets will receive full refunds.

“The health situation is serious and the safety of the population is the absolute priority. This year’s show would have been quite different to what we expect, but we had hoped nevertheless to offer riders and drivers the opportunity to practise their sport, while offering the public the possibility of following their performances on our Live Streaming or on TV. The announcements of the last few days have however made it impossible to hold the event. This cancellation is a severe blow for all involved in the show who have worked extremely hard for many months on the various scenarios. But we will return even stronger in 2021 to celebrate our 60th edition. By taking this decision today, we are guaranteeing the continuation of our event over the years to come”, shares Sophie Mottu Morel, CHI Geneva Show Director.

The organising committee would like to warmly thank their partners, who have provided solid support throughout these last months. Thanks go too to the riders, volunteers, exhibitors and officials for their understanding and support in this decision. The organisers hereby invite their supporters to the 60th edition of CHI Geneva from 9th to 12th December 2021.

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam Photo: Rolex Grand Slam

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping was launched in April 2013 and is today regarded as one of the most revered prizes in equestrian sport. The concept was created by the organising committees of three of the world’s biggest and most well respected shows – CHIO Aachen, Germany; CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, Canada; and CHI Geneva, Switzerland – and rewards the rider who consecutively wins the Grands Prix at these three shows with a €1M bonus. In March 2018, these three global events, which are also known as ‘Majors’, were joined by a prestigious fourth – the largest indoor show in the Netherlands: The Dutch Masters.

The first and only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is Scott Brash MBE, who achieved this pursuit of excellence in 2015 aboard his bay gelding, Hello Sanctos. Having already triumphed in the Rolex Grands Prix at the CHI Geneva 2014 and the CHIO Aachen 2015, the British rider then went double clear in the ‘CP International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2015, and in doing so reached the pinnacle of the sport.

In a relatively short period of time, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has grown exponentially – as portrayed by many of the impressive figures in the infographic – and has established itself as the sport’s ultimate challenge, attracting the very best horse and rider combinations on the equestrian world stage. While tennis has its four Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open; French Open; The Championships, Wimbledon; and US Open) and golf has four Major championships (Masters Tournament; The Open; U.S. Open; and PGA Championship), the sport of showjumping is proud to have its very own Grand Slam. What makes the Rolex Grand Slam stand‐out from its tennis and golf counterparts is that women and men compete against one another on the same level for the same prize.

Since its inception, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has welcomed over 653,500 spectators yearly to its four Majors; crowned Major champions from nine different nations; while everything has been made possible by the unwavering support of more than 2,150 loyal volunteers. To learn more about the magnificent facts and figures that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, please see the attached infographic, which we encourage you to post on your website and share across your social media channels.

Rolex Grand Slam Infographic

CHI Geneva CHI Geneva

Geneva, 28th September 2020 – Why can’t the world’s top riders and drivers do the same as hockey players and footballers? The organisers of the Geneva International Horse Show (CHIG), while aware of the issues, have come up with a concept of full health protection and are delighted to announce the 60th edition of their show-jumping, driving and cross-country competitions from 10th to 13th December 2020.

CHI Geneva organisers have for the last few months been planning the details of the 60th show, along with a comprehensive range of stringent health security measures. Although they are aware that the epidemiological situation could change at any time, they really want to be able to offer both riders and equestrian sports fans an opportunity to meet and have a good time.

“We’ve studied all the options and we’ve concluded that the CHI Geneva event can be held against a backdrop of strict appropriate health measures that will enable us to ensure the safety of everyone”, specifies Sophie Mottu Morel, CHI Geneva Show Director. She adds: “We’re well aware that the health situation could change before December and this could force us to make other decisions in the next few weeks, but we’re doing everything in our power to enable the staging of CHI Geneva 2020. We’re determined to put on a 60th event that showcases the sport at the highest level. It will appeal to spectators, competitors and sponsors alike.”

So, show jumping, driving and the indoor cross-country race will all be in this year’s programme. There will be many highlights, notably the 20th Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final on the Friday evening and the Rolex Grand Prix, one of the four legs of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, on the Sunday. The competition launched last year for talented under-25 riders will be held again, as will the renowned Indoor Cross-country presented by Tribune de Genève, and the FEI Driving World Cup presented by RTS.

The organising committee would like to warmly thank their partners, who have provided solid support throughout these last months and who are fully behind today’s decision. So, we will all meet from 10th to 13th December to welcome the riders and drivers to the Geneva arena.

Ian Allison and Eric Lamaze (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam/Ashley Neuhof) Ian Allison and Eric Lamaze (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam/Ashley Neuhof)

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.

Judy Ann Melchior (Photo: Erin Gilmore Photography) Judy Ann Melchior (Photo: Erin Gilmore Photography)

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.

Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof

*WEDNESDAY STATS*

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!

Michael Mronz (photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton) Michael Mronz (photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton)

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.

Sean Lynch (photo: Tiffany Van Halle) Sean Lynch (photo: Tiffany Van Halle)

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.

Harry Charles (Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof) Harry Charles (Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof)

Nick Skelton (GBR) and Big Star winners of the Rolex Grand Prix Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton

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.

 

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Rolex Grand Slam

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