Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

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The Rolex Grand Prix Podium at CHI Geneva  From left to right: Harrie Smolders (NED), Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Max Kühner (AUT).  Photo: www.scoopdyga.com The Rolex Grand Prix Podium at CHI Geneva From left to right: Harrie Smolders (NED), Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Max Kühner (AUT). Photo: www.scoopdyga.com

 

What are your goals, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

My main goal for this year is to do well at all the Rolex Majors and the other Rolex Grands Prix; they are my main focus. In addition, I am aiming for the FEI World Equestrian Games TM and the FEI World Cup™ Final. I have some incredible horses so I will aim to use those for the bigger Grands Prix and Championships. I also have some lovely young horses that I am looking forward to bringing up through the levels.

How does it feel to know you made history by winning consecutive Rolex Grands Prix at CHI Geneva in front of your home crowd?

It is always amazing to win a Rolex Grand Prix, but to win one back-to-back, and in front of my home crowd made it so much more special to me. Leone Jei is such a young horse as well; it was certainly a very big win for me!

Do you think that Leone Jei could be the next Clooney 51?

I do not compare them; Clooney 51 was the most successful horse in the history of Swiss show jumping. So, I really cannot expect to have the next Clooney 51 straight away. However, I do think that Leone Jei has shown that he has all the qualities and I think that he is one of the best horses on the circuit right now.

Looking ahead to The Dutch Masters next month; which horses will you compete with, and who have you selected for the Rolex Grand Prix?

I will ride Chaplin in the Rolex Grand Prix. He is in very good form, and I think that The Dutch Masters will really suit him. I am planning to take Leone Jei to the bigger outside rings, such as CHIO Aachen, as I think that they suit him better. 

Which horse and rider combinations do you think have what it takes to win the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters?

I don’t think that there is one specific combination. At every Rolex Grand Slam Major, you find the best horse and rider combinations, and therefore everyone there has a chance to win. In my opinion that is why the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is so special and unique. I think that our sport is different from most other sports, it is much harder to win regularly or back-to-back, as we work with animals which makes the sport so unpredictable. This makes winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, like Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos did, such an incredible achievement.

How did your partnership with your owner Adolfo Juri came into place?

Adolfo owned horses for my uncle, Markus [Fuchs], for more than 20-years. When Markus stopped riding, Adolfo moved his horses to another rider for a few years. After that he moved his horses to me, which was a very nice gesture, and we work very well together. He has been incredibly supportive of my career, and I am very lucky to have him as part of my team. He and my other owner [Luigi Baleri] get along really well and are very supportive of each other.

Tell us a little bit about your current stable of horses and their personalities… Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

Obviously, Leone Jei is a spectacular horse. He has an amazing mentality and is very ambitious – he always wants to try his best. Sometimes, that does make it slightly harder because he has so much blood and is so keen, I have to try and keep him as calm and relaxed as possible. Chaplin has already won so many Grands Prix, and he has such an amazing character. He is a very special horse to me. Conner Jei is very talented, but he can be a bit tricker than the other horses. He won the Rolex Grand Prix of Dinard last year, and I am planning on taking him to the FEI World Cup™ Final this year. The Sinner is also one of best horses currently and is very capable. These horses have already won many 5* Grands Prix between them and I feel very lucky to be able to ride them.

I have four very nice young horses. Commissar Pezi is a nine-year-old, and I am currently competing with him out on the Sunshine Tour for the first time. He looks very promising, he has a great jump and attitude – however he is very green for his age, but I am still very excited by him. Viper Z and Diva Van Het Cauterhof Z, are eight-years-old and they are also both with me on the Sunshine Tour. They have both jumped really well so far, Diva [Van Het Cauterhof Z] has jumped 15 rounds and has not had a fence down yet. Pina Van De Moerhoeve is my seven-year-old and she has been jumping a lot of the young horse classes out here. I have been having a lot of fun on the Tour, I am not jumping the biggest classes, but I am really enjoying bringing the young horses up through the levels.

They are all giving me very good feelings, but it is always difficult to know whether they are going to be my next 5* winning horse. However, they have a lot of quality and have jumped a lot of clear rounds – so I think the future is looking promising.

How do you plan which shows you take your horses to?

I plan my shows around the Rolex Majors as they are my main priority. I decide which horse I am going to take to which show based on their form and their strengths. Then, when there are no big shows on, I like to bring out my young horses and give them some experience jumping in some smaller classes.

How is Clooney 51?

He is very good. He gets ridden every day as it is good for his shoulder to keep active. He gets to go out on hacks and goes in out in the field – I think he likes retirement! We are just so pleased to have him home and for him to be in such good shape.

At CHI Geneva, you had someone making crepes outside your horse’s stables. Can you tell us about that?

He is my friend from France. He likes to come to the shows and take care of me and my grooms. All of the riders like to stop by in between classes to have a snack!

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

For me the special partnership between horse and rider is so exciting and keeps me motivated. Each horse is different every day, and I really enjoy spending time with them. When you work with a horse every day to improve and your work pays off at a big show, it is so rewarding.

Sophie Mottu Morel (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Sophie Mottu Morel (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

 

What are you most looking forward to in your role as President of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping this year?

After these two very extraordinary years, I am really looking forward to finally seeing the whole team together again. Whether you are the President or not, the goal is to work and move forward together to ensure the very best for our sport.

How important is it for the four Majors, that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, to communicate and innovate together?

There is strength in numbers. Each competition has a different vision, and each can be inspired by the other. Each Major has its own specialty, history and qualities, and each one can always improve. It is only by communicating together that we can move forward and develop the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. We are a united group with the same vision for the sport and that ultimately created this concept. We want the group to remain the same as this in order to serve show jumping and to make it grow, by placing the sport and the horse's well-being at the centre.

How will the Majors build on last year’s events, as we restart the Rolex Grand Slam season this year?

One thing we will remember from these two years is that the situation has forced us to always be creative and very reactive, according to the constraints imposed upon us. Despite this, we hope above all that 2022 will be more conventional and that the Majors can be held normally. We were very lucky last year, that even with constraints, all the Majors could take place. Moreover, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is not an annual process, it is a never-ending cycle, so the fact that one year starts again does not change much for us. The aim is to always improve, and to offer the very best of the sport. The welfare of the horse is always at the heart of our concerns and will be even more so this year.

Which horse and rider combinations do you think could win a Major and possibly the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping this year?

The Majors always host the best horses and riders in the world, so it's hard to pick favourites. But Martin Fuchs – after his two victories at the CHI Geneva [with Clooney 51 in 2019 and Leone Jei in 2021] – is definitely one of them. The same goes for Steve Guerdat, who won his fourth Major at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ with Venard de Cerisy in 2021, and has been one of the most consistent riders in the Majors since 2013. After the 2021 season, it will also be of no surprise to see a Swede come out on top, like Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward, who have been one of the most successful duos in recent months. But there are so many others, including Ben Maher, Daniel Deusser, and so on.

Do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping can take inspiration from other sports that have Grand Slams, such as tennis and golf?

Of course, there is always something to be learned from other sports, whether it is golf, tennis or any other sport. We have been taking inspiration from other sports since the creation of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. There is a lot we can learn, for example, in terms of technology and visitor experience.

There have been some incredibly special moments since the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping was launched in 2013 – what has been your personal highlight?

There have been so many amazing moments. Firstly, the launch of the project in Gothenburg in April 2013, then Steve Guerdat and Nino's [Nino des Buissonnets] victory at CHI Geneva’s first Rolex Grand Prix as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in December 2013. Of course, the Rolex Grand Slam being achieved by Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos in 2014/2015 is something I will never forget.

Daniel Deusser (Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof) Daniel Deusser (Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof)

 

2021 was a stellar year for you, what are your main ambitions for 2022?

Having won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, my main ambition at the moment is to win the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters in March, as I am in contention to gain a bonus if I win there. So, all of my planning and preparation now is focused on going to 's-Hertogenbosch to try and win the Rolex Grand Prix there.

With the pandemic it is difficult to plan, as many shows are being cancelled, but there are a few shows that I am really looking forward to, including La Baule which Rolex is now a partner of. I have not been there many times because of other Nations Cup competitions or other plans from the German Chef d’Equipe, so this year I am really looking forward to competing there. Of course, I always love jumping at CHIO Aachen, and I would love to win the Rolex Grand Prix there again. 

How are you preparing for The Dutch Masters and which horses will you take?

At the moment I am planning on taking Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z. I haven’t brought him out to Florida [to the Winter Equestrian Festival] so he will be fresh for the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters. He is a very good horse for the indoor season, and he finished last year in great form. The Dutch Masters is such an amazing show for so many reasons, I always love going there, and the potential Rolex Grand Slam bonus makes me even more excited to return to 's-Hertogenbosch.

Looking ahead to the Majors this year, in your opinion what makes them stand out from other shows?

The organisation of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors is phenomenal, the standards are always so high, and the facilities are the best for the horses and riders. Of course, the prize money also sets these shows above the others, which makes them very exciting for everyone; the riders, the owners and the fans of the sport. More fans come to watch the Majors than other shows, and that creates the most incredible atmosphere to ride in. Not many other shows have the capacity for such large amounts of spectators – the stadiums of CHIO Aachen and CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ for example are unmatched, and that definitely makes the Majors stand out from other shows. The Majors also have such rich history and traditions; the best riders in the world have competed at them, and now my generation of riders are part of their history, which makes them so special to compete at.

I think that the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is absolutely comparable with the Grand Slams in tennis or golf; for example, CHIO Aachen is like the Wimbledon of the equestrian world. The Majors are in amazing locations and have incredible fans; I definitely think as a rider there is a motivation to want to perform your best at these four shows.

Killer Queen VDM is such a talented horse, do you have any new/young horses that will make their 5* debut this year?

I have two very talented young horses here in Wellington competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival with me; Scuderia 1918 Mr Jones and In Time. I have had Scuderia 1918 Mr Jones for about two or three years now, but because of the pandemic I have not done that many shows with him. He is here in America to hopefully gain some more experience so that he can step up to the bigger classes. He jumped in a 1.50m class here the other day, and I think he is ready to make the step up soon. He has a lot of potential, has a very big character and is extremely scopey, so I am really looking forward to his future.

In Time is a nine-year-old mare. I have only done one show with her, and that was at CHI Geneva, but I think a lot of her. She is very scopey, straightforward and wants to be careful. I have only had her for two months, but I really hope she will follow in the steps of Killer Queen VDM and Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z and be able to replace them when they retire from the sport in a few years.

They both need more experience and time to develop before they become the next ‘Killer Queen VDM’ but I think we are in good shape to have these talented young horses coming up. I think with more experience they both could be my next superstars.

When not at shows, how much time is spent training the horses and developing the younger ones?

When I am at home, I like to spend as much time as possible with the younger horses, but I am often away competing. So, we have several very talented riders at Stephex Stables who train the young horses and take them to the Young Horse and 2* shows to develop them. If they show good potential, like In Time did, then I will start riding and competing them when they are rising eight-years-old, and see if they can go up the levels.

How does the winter season differ from the summer season in your preparations?

The winter season in Europe is mostly indoors, so we therefore train mostly indoors. Here in Florida, as the weather is warmer, everything is outside. It is a bit of an adjustment for the horses to come from the cold and jumping indoors to the warm and jumping outside. All the competitions are in outdoor arenas, which are much bigger and there is far more for the horses to look at, so it is harder to make them focus on the fences.

There are a variety of different classes, and I think for horses like Scuderia 1918 Mr Jones and In Time it is very good to bring them out here to prepare them for the summer season in Europe. We now really spread out our summer season for longer, competing in two different continents. Ultimately, the goal is that our horses will be more prepared for the summer season in Europe, and with the pandemic we have lost shows, so it is very important that the horses are still able to get the experience that they need.

There are some really talented young riders rising up the rankings who would be your future star to look out for?

There are so many, it would be difficult to mention them all. But I am very close to the American rider, Spencer Smith. He was at Stephex Stables last year, and he is here in Florida with us now. I think he is very talented, and definitely one to watch for the future. Another rider who I think is a future star is Jack Whitaker, the son of Michael Whitaker. He is very young, but he has fantastic feel and I think he will achieve great results in the future.

What is your best piece of advice for a young rider who wants to be a professional in the future?

You just have to be patient. I also think you must watch other riders; you can learn so much from watching. Also, every horse is different, so you have to learn to adapt and be patient to get the best out of your horse.

When I was young, I was very ambitious and when I think about it now, I really believe I should have been more patient at the beginning. I used to watch a lot of other riders and see how they worked with their horses and how they warmed them up. I think that is my best piece of advice, you can have the best trainer in the world who can tell you things over and over again, but you have to watch other people to understand why they are doing what they are and how you can do it. Definitely, do not copy anyone, though, do it your own way but just learn what you can from other riders.

Rolex Grand Slam Majors Rolex Grand Slam Majors

 

The 2021 show jumping calendar was filled with exceptional entertainment, featuring not only the sport’s most decorated competitors but also welcoming a new generation of future stars who shone brightly at the year’s four Rolex Majors. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping continues to be at the forefront of every rider’s ambition, none more so than Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, who starts the year as the Rolex Grand Slam live contender following his stunning victory at CHI Geneva in December.

Opening this year’s Rolex Major season in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands from 11-13 March is The Dutch Masters, latest addition to the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The largest indoor show in The Netherlands and one of two indoor shows on the Rolex Grand Slam calendar, The Dutch Masters brings a rich heritage with traditions dating back to 1967. This year, show jumping’s very best riders will descend upon the Brabanthallen for three days of world-class competition, culminating in the Rolex Grand Prix on the show’s final day. Hosting the tightest arena of the four Majors, the trust between horse and rider is more crucial than ever, as the combinations navigate the sharp turns, which give them little room for error. Last year’s winner, Austrian Max Kühner, rose to the occasion alongside his talented 11-year-old gelding, Elektric Blue P, and in doing so claimed his first Major victory.

The second Major of the season, CHIO Aachen – often referred to as the ‘Wimbledon’ of the equestrian world – will once again take place in the North Rhine-Westphalia city in the west of Germany. Dating back to 1924, CHIO Aachen is a show steeped in history and continues to attract more than 350,000 knowledgeable fans across 10 exhilarating days of equestrian sport, which will this year run from 24 June-3 July. One of the most prestigious competitions on the annual show jumping calendar, CHIO Aachen’s highlight class, the Rolex Grand Prix, takes place on the show’s final day and is the one every rider wants to win, etching their name into equestrian history on the iconic winners’ wall. 2021 saw Rolex’s newest Testimonee, Germany’s Daniel Deusser and his phenomenal mare, Killer Queen VDM, take home the spoils after fulfilling a lifelong dream to be crowned champion. Hot on Deusser’s heels was the young, up-and-coming American rider, Brian Moggre, who at 20-years-old displayed incredible levels of skill and determination to fight-off a field of former world number ones and Olympic, World and European Individual champions to secure second place.

From 7-11 September, attention turns to Calgary in Canada for the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. With a reputation of being one of the most demanding courses in the world, it takes a very special partnership to be victorious in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat and his 13-year-old gelding Venard de Cerisy epitomised this, producing two precise and fault-free rounds, the only pair to go double clear and ultimately clinch the coveted trophy. The Rolex Grand Slam has fond memories of this Major, as it was here in 2015 that Great Britain’s Scott Brash became the first winner of the revered Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping following a flawless round aboard his legendary gelding, Hello Sanctos, a feat no rider has been able to emulate since.

The Major season culminates in Switzerland when riders return indoors to compete at CHI Geneva. Held from 8-11 December in the Palexpo complex, CHI Geneva is one of the most historic and prestigious international shows and has been voted the world’s best show jumping event a record nine times. Hosting the sport’s most accomplished riders, the Rolex Grand Prix is the highlight of the four days of elite competition. Local hero, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs rode to victory in 2021 with his 10-year-old gelding, Leone Jei, and made history by becoming the first rider of the competition to win consecutive editions after triumphing in 2019.

As the current live contender, Fuchs will be under the spotlight as he prepares to continue his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey at The Dutch Masters. Could 2022 see a new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion crowned?

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

Martin Fuchs wins the Rolex Grand Prix in CHI Geneva

and becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender

 

The world watched on in anticipation, as the final Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of 2021 – the Rolex Grand Prix – played out at CHI Geneva in Switzerland, with 16 out of the world’s current top 20-ranked riders each staking their claim for a distinguished place in equestrian history. The culmination of four days of the highest level of show jumping, the Rolex Grand Prix would be decided over one round and a jump-off, should more than one rider go clear.

Representing 15 nations, the international field of 40 horse and rider combinations included the esteemed winners of the year’s previous three Majors: Max Kühner from Austria (winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters); Swiss Steve Guerdat (winner of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’); and Daniel Deusser from Germany (winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen). As live contender, Deusser would settle for nothing less than victory in order to keep his Rolex Grand Slam journey alive, while Kühner and Guerdat would be looking to trigger the ‘two out of four’ bonus, which they were both in contention for.

As well as Duesser and Guerdat, Rolex was represented in CHI Geneva’s headline class by a further six of the world’s very best equestrian athletes, including Harry Charles (GBR), Bertram Allen (IRL), Martin Fuchs (SUI), Kent Farrington (USA), Kevin Staut (FRA), Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion, Scott Brash (GBR), and the Swiss watch brand’s longest-serving equestrian Testimonee, Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA).

After a little over an hour, none of the first 23 partnerships to tackle the 14-obstacle, 18-effort test were able to go clear, with the majority struggling to master the course’s tricky combinations, particularly the oxer at 13a. However, that was soon to change when Ireland’s Darragh Kenny produced a faultless round, much to the delight of the well-informed crowd. Kenny’s clear was immediately emulated by local rider, Swiss hero Martin Fuchs, who cleared the final vertical to rapturous applause. Co-designed by Swiss Gérard Lachat and Louis Konickx from The Netherlands, the course then claimed the scalps of a trio of top-level riders, including Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender, Daniel Deusser, reigning Olympic Individual champion, Ben Maher and three-time winner of CHI Geneva’s Rolex Grand Prix, Steve Guerdat. The opening day’s winner of the Trophée de Genève, American Kent Farrington, was once again on top form, immaculately negotiating the course with his 15-year-old mare, Gazelle, and booking his place in the jump-off. After another handful of combinations were unable to go clear, it was Major winner at this year’s Dutch Masters, Max Kühner, and his brilliant 10-year-old gelding, Elektric Blue P, who made no mistake, ensuring they were still in the running for the non-consecutive ‘two out of four’ bonus. Representation in the jump-off from the United States was soon doubled when Laura Kraut and Baloutinue crossed the finish line without a fault. Shortly afterwards, Harrie Smolders became the final rider to go clear, and in doing so setting up a scintillating six-horse jump-off.

First to go in the jump-off, Ireland’s Darragh Kenny became the first rider to record a double clear. Next up, Martin Fuchs and his nine-year-old, Leone Jei made it two out of two, comfortably beating Kenny into second place by nearly two seconds in a time of 41.54 seconds. Kent Farrington looked as though he would make it three out of three; however, after a typically blistering round, he was denied the honour after putting down the final Rolex oxer. Despite going double clear, Max Kühner was unable to knock Martin Fuchs off top spot after the Austrian finished 0.68 seconds off the pace. With Laura Kraut putting two fences down, Fuchs’ destiny would lie in the hands of last to go, 41-year-old Harrie Smolders; however, the Dutchman fell agonisingly short, eventually finishing in second place, just 0.23 seconds off the time of 2021 Rolex Grand Prix champion and the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Martin Fuchs.

On his special and hugely talented nine-year-old gelding, Leone Jei, Fuchs, commented: “Leone Jei is very unique in the qualities that he has. The way that he jumps – he does it so lightly and effortlessly, which is impressive to see in a nine-year-old horse. He is very good in his head, he is so motivated, and he always wants to do his best, so I really appreciate having a horse like that in my stable and being able to look forward to the future together.”

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

Rider Interview with:

Martin Fuchs

 

Aside from it being your home show, why is CHI Geneva so special to you?

CHI Geneva is not just special for me, all the riders feel really welcome here, but obviously as a Swiss rider, the support of the home crowd and the fans is huge.

For you, what makes a great team?

In show jumping and horse riding in general, you really need a huge team around you, that can help you with everything. So much work, time and passion goes into caring for the horses. I am very lucky with my family, as they are so supportive. I have a lot of good people around me and a good team, who all take great care of the horses at home to ensure they feel their best. This allows me to be able to solely focus on the sport and when I am at the shows – it means I do not worry about anything at home.

What is your plan for this winter?

This winter I will do some of the World Cup shows. We have some really nice World Cup shows coming up and they are very exciting and traditional shows that I like to go to. My goal is to build-up some of my younger horses and prepare them for the bigger classes so that I can develop some new horses for Grand Prix level.

Is there a young horse that you have that you think could be a future Rolex Grand Prix horse?

It is always difficult to say, but I do have a few rally nice five-, six- and seven-year olds. I have big hopes for all of them and I hope one or two will turn out to be Grand Prix horses and compete here at the CHI Geneva in the future.

Just like tennis and golf, show jumping now has its very own Grand Slam. Which other sporting Majors do you love to watch?

I enjoy watching tennis. As a Swiss, Rolex Testimonee Roger Federer is a big sporting idol, so I have followed tennis a lot. All four of the tennis Grand Slams are very exciting and for me Wimbledon is the top one that I love to watch.

What does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you?

For riders, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is the most special and unique competition that there is because it brings together the best four shows in the world into one series, and it is a dream to win one of them. All riders work extremely hard to one day win one of the Rolex Grand Slam Majors.

If you were stranded on a desert island what three items would you take?

A book, water and my mobile phone.

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

In the owner lounge with:

Luigi Baleri, owner of Clooney 51

 

Where does your passion for horses and show jumping come from?

It’s a long story… I’ve always liked horses since I was a child, and we had a training centre close to our apartment. I always asked my parents if we could go there but we couldn’t afford it. Then I totally forgot about horses. I started working on my own and when I was 20-years-old, I went on holiday in Ticino for a week, and it poured with rain non-stop and I didn’t know what to do. There was an equestrian centre and it revived some memories and I went for a one-week course. I wanted to learn all about it but the coach said that one week wasn’t enough to learn everything, so from there I started training hard. Unfortunately, I was too old to become a complete rider, but I wanted to compete so in the end I did took part in some regional competitions.

Then I got to know Thomas Fuchs because he was my banker. As a car dealer, I had to do a lot of coming and going to my bank, and by talking we became friends. We lost ourselves a little because I went to Fribourg to train with Beat Grandjean at his stable. I stayed there for 15 years before coming back to Zurich and it’s at that time that I bought a horse from Thomas Fuchs. I continued riding a bit, but I was working and riding at the same time. Thomas is like this, if you buy a horse from him, you train with him!

So that’s when you met Martin Fuchs?

Exactly! One day I was in training with Thomas, and he asked me to do five strides between two obstacles, but I couldn’t do it, so he said that even a child was able to do it. I didn’t believe him, so he brings a kid to show me. Obviously that kid succeeded, so I said, “he might be lucky”, so he tried again and he did it brilliantly. Then he told me “I can do it 10 times if you want”, and that kid was Martin Fuchs. It’s at that exact moment that I said to myself that I need to buy horse not for myself, but for him.

A few days later, Martin was leaving for the Youth Olympic Games in Greece with one of my horses. When he came back, he said to me, “It was fantastic, but you have to buy a horse that is more efficient if we want to be competitive”. From there, we started to do a lot of competitions together. The competitions followed one another, and the purchases of horses followed one another. I bought one more, then another, and so on. This is the start of my collaboration with Martin.

How does the process work with you and the Fuchs family?

The way I see it is that they decide on all things relating to the horse. Sometimes Martin will come to me saying, “There is this show, do you think we should go?”, but he needs to make the decision himself, as I trust him with the horses more than anyone. I really like this process because I can rely on the Fuchs family because they are the best in their domain.

What’s your proudest moment as an owner?

There is not a particular moment. I am lucky enough to have won a medal in almost all championships and Majors, so for that reason it is impossible to choose. I like to say that the last win is always the best win, because it pushes you to get another one. I am always proud to see Martin win, from a regional championship to the top level of our sport. If you force me to choose one, of course I will tend to say the victory in 2019 in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva, because of the way it happened: the last line, being in front of the best riders in the world, and the fact that it was a home win.

What does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you?

To me, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping represents the ultimate challenge for a horse, and it cannot get any better than this. It makes me think of Formula One, which brings a very particular type of excitement. The Rolex Grand Slam demands preparation and focus, and that you need to be detail-oriented – all of this transcends the values of Rolex as a company.

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

Ben Maher wins the 20th Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final

 

Ten of the world’s very best show jumping athletes battled it out in the headline class on day two of CHI Geneva 2021, with each partnership vying to be crowned Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final champion in the 20th edition of this epic encounter. Contested over two rounds the Gérard Lachat- and Louis Konickx-designed course would be the ultimate test of horsemanship, requiring a perfect balance of speed, precision and harmony between horse and rider.

First to go, Frenchman Kevin Staut and his 14-year-old mare, Tolede de Mescam Harcour, were unlucky to put one fence down. Next up, current world number eight Jérôme Guery and his stallion, Quel Homme de Hus, crossed the finish line fault-free, much to the delight of the Belgian. Great Britain’s Ben Maher and his superstar gelding Explosion W followed Guery’s lead, making no mistake around the 12-obstacle test. Then followed a procession of five riders, including Henrik von Eckermann and Rolex Testimonees Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash, Kent Farrington and Martin Fuchs, who were all unable to record a clear round. The last two riders out of the 10 starters – Germany’s Daniel Deusser and Swede Peder Fredricson – showed their class, breezing the course with ease, each without a fault.

A slightly shortened second round, made up of nine obstacles, awaited the evening’s competitors. As well as the half-time break giving the volunteers an opportunity to modify the course, the Geneva Arena’s spectators were treated to some sad but celebratory words from legendary Canadian rider, Eric Lamaze, as his adored 18-year-old mare Fine Lady 5 was retired. Lamaze and Fine Lady won the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final in 2016, so the setting for a final goodbye was very fitting.

First to go in round two, home favourite Martin Fuchs picked up another fault, while compatriot Steve Guerdat and partner Victorio Des Frotards were also unable to record a clear round. Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion, Scott Brash, made amends for his first round penalty and time fault, going clear, but accumulating a total of five penalties. 2017’s Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final champion, Kevin Staut and his stunning grey received a huge cheer from a delighted crowd after they went clear. Current world number one Peder Fredricson wasn’t to be so fortunate, picking up a second fault to finish on eight penalties. A stunning and assured round by Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward was enough to knock Staut off top spot. Uncharacteristically, Deusser’s mount Killer Queen VDM refused the second fence putting him out of contention. The penultimate pair to go, reigning Individual Olympic champion, Ben Maher and Explosion W went brilliantly clear, beating von Eckermann into second place by nearly two seconds. All eyes were then on Jérôme Guery to cause a late upset; however, a fence down and a slower time saw him slot into third, meaning Maher would be crowned 2021’s Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final champion, rounding off a truly memorable year.

On the part that his team played in his victory, Maher, commented: “My team plays a huge part. My owners are here to watch this evening, and without them I wouldn’t be able to be riding Explosion W over the last few years. My groom Cormac has been with me since he was 16-years-old, so he’s grown up together with me, and it’s very special for me to see him take big moments like this, and it wouldn’t be possible without him.”

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

Rider Interview with

Peder Fredricson

 

Despite COVID-19 you’ve had a spectacular year. What are your plans for 2022?

I haven’t finished 2021 yet. I am still enjoying the successes of this year and I haven’t set any new goals for next year.

If you could re-live one moment from your whole career, what would it be?

It would be the Team gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It was great to win there with my team, and it is a memory I will always treasure.

For you, what makes a great team?

I think that you can never be successful if you are on your own, you have to build a good team around you, who want to reach your goals as much as you do. That is the only way to achieve big ambitions.

Which other sports do you love to watch?

I have a 14-year-old son who plays football. I wasn’t a big fan of the sport before, but now I am getting more interested in it.

Who has inspired you most throughout your career?

All of the top riders inspire me, you can learn so much through watching all of them.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for more success?

I really enjoy developing things. If there is a new and better way of doing something, I find it very inspiring to learn how.

Tell us about the horses you have brought to CHI Geneva this week?

I have brought H&M Christian K and Catch Me Not (Catch Me Not S). They are both fantastic horses and actually quite similar in that they are very positive and scopey.

Is there a young horse that you have who you believe could be a future Rolex Grand Prix contender?

I have one new horse at home called Extra, who I believe in a lot. I love the journey with a young horse, there is nothing quite like having a talented youngster in the stable.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?

Set your goals high.

What does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you?

I think it is fantastic that we have a Grand Slam in Show Jumping. It is always very exciting to watch these four shows, and it means a lot to the show jumping community to have them.

If you were stranded on a desert island what three items would you take?

A horse, a saddle and a bridle.

Swiss course designer Gérard Lachat (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton) Swiss course designer Gérard Lachat (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton)

Walking the course with:

Gérard Lachat, course designer for CHI Geneva

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of CHI Geneva is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?

Yes, very much so, the last year has been extraordinary. We haven’t been able to see the horses compete as much and as regularly, as in normal times, so we’ve taken this into account when designing the course, and we’re very excited to see them compete here once again.

Why is CHI Geneva such a special event?

For me, it’s special, as it’s one of the biggest indoor arenas in the world. With the event being held in Switzerland, that also makes us incredibly excited, and proud. The event is incredibly well run, the horses can arrive by plane, people can get here by foot, it’s an exceptionally well-organised event, which is very rare. The event has a lot of staff who are experts in their field, who we love to work with. It really is one of the most special events on the equestrian calendar.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve prepared for the Rolex Grand Prix – the fourth Rolex Grand Slam Major of the year – on Sunday?

Of course, we’re preparing something that will be slightly more difficult, as those competing are the best in the world. CHI Geneva and The Dutch Masters have the same formats, while Spruce Meadows and Aachen have a different system. At Spruce Meadows and Aachen, the horses and riders have to do two rounds on an outside course with a lot more obstacles. Here we only have one round, so we try to make it a slightly longer route than normal, with 14 jumps and 17 or 18 efforts. There are lots of different factors for us to consider, so we do our best to make a course that is enjoyable for both horse and rider. The course needs to be difficult and big enough, and we need to have the jumps at a decent height of just over 1m60. We won’t be increasing the oxers this year, and we certainly won’t be going to the extreme with the course. The plan is that this year’s course will be relatively similar to 2019’s, which was quite classic. The horses will be required to work a bit harder this year, with faster obstacles and more positivity needed, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a similar style to previous years. This isn’t the time to be arranging a special course, it’s better to keep the classic style.

How many clear rounds are you expecting?

This is always the most sensitive question. In my opinion, the ideal scenario for the public, the competition, the sponsors, is when there are eight riders who go clear. With this course, and the calibre of the competitors, all the horses and riders have a chance, so let’s wait and see.

Do you have a favourite rider for the Rolex Grand Prix?

It’s very difficult to pick a favourite out of the 40 riders, as they really are the best in the world, and they all have the opportunity to win. There are obviously factors that we have to take into account, such as the bond between horse and rider, then there is always a degree of luck. All we can wish for is the rider that is the most in form on the day wins the Rolex Grand Prix.

There are a lot of potential outcomes in the lead up to Sunday, but it’s very difficult to decide, as we have so many of the best riders and some of the best horses in the world competing. It’s the same scenario every year, where it’s next to impossible to pick a winner. 

Could you tell us a bit about how you became a course designer?

I started off my career as a rider, and my boss told me early on that I should become a course designer, as this would help me in my career. I completed a course, and that was it really, I was hooked. At 18 years old, I designed my first course at the nationals. I then had the opportunity to come here to the Palexpo with my boss Hermann von Siebenthal, who was the head course designer, who helped me design my first course here at this venue. After this, I was lucky enough to work with some of the best, such as Leopoldo Palacios, and Rolf Lüdi, who was my mentor, and whom I assisted at the World Championships. He played a big role in my career, and it’s thanks to him that I am where I am today. I can’t forget the show organisers, as they put their faith in me, which I’m very grateful for. In my fourth year here, I worked with Louis Konickx, who is a great friend, but also an excellent designer, who has a huge amount of experience, much more than me! He’s here this year, and always gives me advice and reassurance, which always helps, especially when I’m under pressure. Over the years, I’ve found that this is a fantastic thing to have at these types of shows.

What is your favourite aspect of the job?

The ability to be creative is wonderful, to be able see my designs come to life is amazing. I also enjoy determining the difficulty of the courses and finding the balance. Of course, I also love watching the horses jump. The teamwork is a great, but crucial part of the job, as without the team, we aren’t able to be designers. Without all the assistants, the group heads, the groundsmen and women, as well as many others, we would be nothing. It’s the interpersonal contact that is great, with these people, with the riders. We have lots of contact with the riders, who consistently give us their feedback, sometimes they can’t describe why something on the course doesn’t work, but it definitely helps us not make the same mistake twice. These types of relationships that are fostered in this industry, with people that are also passionate about horses, is a real perk of the job.

If you weren’t a course designer, what would your job be?

I would definitely be working with horses in one way or another, as it really is my passion. I’d probably ride more, maybe compete in some national tournaments. I’d also work more with younger horses, focusing on their training, which is something that I’ve always dreamed about. My wife and I have a business at home, where we have around 100 horses. It’s thanks to her that I’m able to do what I do, as the two or three months of the year that I’m away, she takes care of everything. I’ve always loved horses, so if I couldn’t be a course designer, I’d spend more time with the younger horses back at home.

What are your thoughts about the Rolex Grand Slam and the concept behind it?

The concept is brilliant, it’s a great motivator for the riders, and the system of striving to win consecutive Grand Slams is fantastic. The Rolex Grand Slam brings the best riders in the world together, as it’s made up of the best facilities and the best shows in the world.

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

Kent Farrington wins the Trophée de Genève

 

Forty nine starters representing 16 nations – including nine of the world’s current top 10-ranked riders – contested the headline class, Trophée de Genève, on the opening day of the 60th edition of CHI Geneva. With the Palexpo’s iconic Geneva Arena filled with excited and expectant fans, many starved of witnessing top level international show jumping, the world’s very best show jumpers and their equine partners braced themselves for course designer, Gérard Lachat’s 13-obstacle, 16-effort 1m60 test.

Eighth to go, 56-year-old French veteran rider, Roger-Yves Bost, demonstrated his experience, recording the class’s first clear round with his stallion, Cassius Clay VDV Z. Team gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, Bost was soon to be joined by compatriot Edward Levy, who went clear with his mare, Rebeca LS. At the halfway stage, the two Frenchmen were joined in an exclusive group progressing to the jump-off comprising Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington and his long-time partner, Creedance, and two future next generation riders: 22-year-old Swiss Edouard Schmitz and his 12-year-old gelding, Quno, and 24-year-old Greek, Ioli Mytilineou with her talented 10-year-old gelding, L'Artiste de Toxandra, who she refers to as her ‘big friendly giant’.

After the break, Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender and world number two, Daniel Deusser, partnered by Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z, went effortlessly clear, with a stellar list of riders joining the newly crowned Rolex Testimonee in what was shaping up to be a scintillating 14-strong jump-off. They included current world number one, Peder Fredricson (H&M Christian K), Austrian Rolex Grand Slam Major winner, Max Kühner (Elektric Blue P), Rolex Testimonee and local hero, Martin Fuchs (Conner Jei), Germany’s Christian Kukuk (Checker 47), Jérôme Guery from Belgium (Quel Homme de Hus), home favourite, Bryan Balsiger (Dubai du Bois Pinchet), and Nicolas Delmotte (Ilex v.) from France.

Into the jump-off and it was American, Kent Farrington, who proved too strong for the other 13 riders, clearly demonstrating how much he loves competing at CHI Geneva. With half of the field going double clear, Farrington and his gelding, Creedance – who possesses a superior mix of speed and accuracy – held on and had enough to beat current Olympic Team champion, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson into second place by 0.47 seconds. Germany’s Daniel Deusser slotted into third.

Thrilled with his win and to be back at CHI Geneva, Farrington, commented: “It’s great to be back at CHI Geneva. It’s tough times in the world still, so I’m very happy the organisers are able to put on this great event. It feels amazing to be competing with these guys, the best riders and horses in the world. We’ll use Gazelle in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday. She’s feeling good, and the plan is to jump her in a small round tomorrow and then go from there.”

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

Meet the Next Gen with:

Ioli Mytilineou

 

Why is CHI Geneva such a special show?

I think it’s a special show to every rider out there. For me, the first time I came here I was kindly invited by the show through Steve Guerdat, as we owned a horse of his called Bianca [Albführen's Bianca] at the time. From that very first time, CHI Geneva was super special, as it was my first time competing with the big guys. I thought to myself, ‘I have to come here and perform, otherwise I’m going to let Steve down!’. Now that I’ve managed to qualify on my own merit, from having had success at this year’s Europeans – it’s just an absolute dream come true. It’s an amazing venue, with a huge arena, and so much atmosphere – it just feels like home and I love it.

Which horses are you competing with this week? And can you tell us a bit about their characters?

I’ve got two horses with my this week. One is a gelding called L'artiste De Toxandra, who’s just a giant softie. He’s a big, long, strong horse, but at the same time he’s a big friendly giant, which is exactly how I’d describe him. He’s a little bit nervous with things like the sounds, but he can run, and when he wants to run he’s just gone! Then I’ve got a stallion called Levis De Muze, who as a character is just everything you could possibly wish for in a horse. He’s intelligent, super cheeky but gentle at the same time, and just an all-round pleasure to be with. And that’s not just for me, he’s the same for my groom and my home rider – we all have the same feelings for him, as do the spectators. They’re both relatively underused 10-year-olds so they’re both quite new to this level, so coming here is an experience for the three of us.

Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

At the moment, I’ve only got one young horse, who’s a seven-year-old called Sevenoaks. When I say ‘only one’ he’s actually a very good young horse, and I honestly think he’s a horse who could jump here in the future. He’s got all the right tools, including being athletic and clever, but he’s only seven so he’s still got work to do. He’s got it all, I do believe.

What are you dreams and ambitions for 2022?

A big goal of mine next year is the World Equestrian Games, which I’m sure a lot of the riders here are also aiming towards. There’s so much to jump in this sport, so I also just want to take a step back and decide which ones I really want to do, as I think you can sometimes get ahead of yourself and just jump everything.

What’s the proudest moment of your career so far?

Definitely Riesenbeck this year. I was actually proud of the way my horse handled the whole event. He’s never done anything like that in his life, I’d barely even jumped him for three days at a show. Going there and jumping so many rounds under so much pressure, he just handled it like a true veteran. I was just so proud to be there and feel the love that everyone had for him and for us as a couple. I just felt as though everyone there wanted to see me doing well and were rooting for me, so I felt proud that I could touch so many people’s hearts.

What attributes do you believe a successful show jumper needs?

For me, patience is a big one, and then just believing what you’re doing is the right thing and making the best plan for you. It’s very easy to see what other people are doing and change things around all the time, but having trust in yourself and your horse is a huge thing. Having a strong mind is also a big part of it. You can have all the ability, but if you’re not mentally tough enough to cope with it all, it certainly makes things  harder.

How important is the team behind you?

So important. I’m a huge believer in everyone knowing their roles – I’m the rider, the groom’s the groom, the vet’s the vet, the farrier’s the farrier, and so on. Having said that, we also all need to be able to come together and work as a team. I really admire each and every person I work with because everyone is so good at what they do, but respectful of outside opinions.

What does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you?

It means everything. Just being here at one of the Majors is indescribable. The four Majors combined create the most prestigious series there is to win. Being able to be a part of just one of them is amazing, and I hope to get the opportunity again – I’d love to be part of all the Rolex Grands Prix, if I could. It’s just a very cleverly thought out idea, and I’d say most people would agree with me on that.

Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its very own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting ‘Majors’ do you love watching, and which is your favourite and why?

I’d say tennis because my dad is a huge tennis lover. He’s been playing tennis for years and years, so my sister and I played tennis a lot when we were growing up. For me, it’s one of the most interesting sports to watch. I went to Roland Garros a couple of years ago and just being there was unbelievable. I watched a young Greek tennis player [Stefanos Tsitsipas] who’s very high in the rankings at the moment, so we went to watch him, and there were so many people cheering his name. I think he was only 20, so I nwas imagining, ‘Wow, I’d love to be young and have people chanting my name’. Golf I don’t watch so much of, but my trainer Sean Crooks plays it a lot so he’s always talking about it, and includes a lot of golfing analogies in his training.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you take with you?

I would take my horse, Porky, as I like hanging out with him. I’d have to take my phone. And a saddle so I could ride Porky!

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

Word from the organisers with:

Sophie Mottu Morel, Show Director

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?

Yes, we are very happy to be here. Last year was very tough for us because we had to cancel the show one month before it was supposed to begin. So, this year we are delighted that the show is going ahead even though it has been a challenge to organise. We love to see the riders and the fans back in the arenas, and to be able to meet friends we haven’t seen for a long time, so we are very happy.

Last year, CHI Geneva hosted a daily television programme, which was a huge success. You must be thrilled to have fans, volunteers and media back at the show this year?

Yes, definitely. Last year we did a TV show because we wanted to keep the contact with the public and to do something during the normal dates of the show and it was a huge success, but this year we are so excited to have everyone back. The fans are so important to us, and they give so much positive energy that inspires us to keep going. The volunteers are the soul and the spirit of the show, they are so passionate and are part of our CHI Geneva family. The show would not be a success without them, and this year we have dedicated it to the volunteers – it was very important to us to shine a light on their hard work and dedication. Some of the volunteers are behind-the-scenes and are never seen, so on Saturday evening we are having a ceremony for them. It is very important to us to give them their glory moment.

The media are also vital to the success of the show, they convey the excitement and top-level sport shown at the CHI Geneva. We are so happy to see our press centre full again, and we are very appreciative to have people from all around the world here when it was very hard to get to Switzerland. The crowds will be back in full capacity, although we have to respect the rules of mask wearing and COVID-19 certificates for entry, but this is a small price to pay in order to have our fans back. Things change so quickly at this time, so we have our fingers crossed that it all stays the same.

Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges that you’ve had to overcome to ensure that this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva has been able to go ahead?

The biggest challenge was that everything kept on changing. We had to keep on adapting to these changes and have new ideas about how to react to them. Initially, we had to be really reactive and have new ideas every day, and we were quite anxious, as we did not know what tomorrow would bring, and for me that was the toughest challenge. Of course, this period has caused financial issues for many people, including our fans and our sponsors. We had to keep reassuring our partners, giving them confidence that we will produce a beautiful show in these difficult times. It was very exhausting but also rewarding, as we had to be so creative and adaptive that I think it has been a good thing for the show.

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

This year we have a new team, so it was a bit harder, as many of them have never organised the show before. This year it was difficult to keep the team and the organising committee motivated because of all of the uncertainty around the show. The majority of the organising committee are volunteers, and so to motivate them and assure them that the show would be back for the 2021 and even better than before has been tough. It was not easy for some people, but we all love the event and wanted to see it back again. My team was easier to motivate, as it is their job, and we all love our jobs even when it is hard.

What positives will you take from the last 18 months?

Definitely the creativity that we had to have has been a positive both for me and the show. It has given us a chance to think about any changes we wanted to make to the event. For me one of the biggest positives is that people and relationships have become closer and stronger – in these tough times we had to come together and work as a team. My team wants to be a big family and give all of our positive energy to the show.

Lily Attwood (photo: Ahmed Al Maawali) Lily Attwood (photo: Ahmed Al Maawali)

 

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

Recently, I have been climbing up in the rankings, but due to my injury I think I will drop back down. My main aims for 2022 are to compete in a few World Cups and step up to the 5* level. It has been difficult to move up to 5* level this year due to COVID-19 and all the other riders trying to compete at that level, as well. I am also aiming to build up my string of horses; I have a few young ones coming up who I think are very exciting for the future. I have three older horses, with whom I have had great success in the last few years, so I would love to move up to the next level with them. 

Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses…

I have had my two top horses for two and half years. I bought them straight after I had finished ponies, and they were supposed to only compete up to 1.35m level to give me some experience riding horses and also jump some bigger tracks. However, I have been really lucky, and they have both turned out to be really good. I have won up to 4* Grand Prix level on them; they have really helped me get my name out there and given me some amazing experience over the bigger tracks.

I have just got a new six-year-old, Lee May, who we bought from Richard Howley. I took her to Vilamoura and she jumped eight out of nine clear rounds so I was really pleased with her, especially as she is still very green. She learnt a lot at the show; she is very careful and has a great brain. I plan to take her slowly to let her progress, and hopefully have a successful seven-year-old year.

If there were three things you could win in your career what would they be?

Definitely, the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, I think that is on every rider’s bucket list – just to ride there would be incredible. I love representing my country and riding on a team, so a senior European medal and an Olympic medal would be my other goals.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

I won a bronze team medal the Young Riders Europeans this year, which was incredible. But probably my proudest moment was when I first came off ponies, I went to Amsterdam for a young riders competition, where I had no intention of doing well. I had only had the horse for a month, and I won the Grand Prix. It was the start of my career, when I decided that winning the big classes in front of a crowd is what I want to do for the rest of my life,– it was amazing. Winning my first ranking class was also amazing. I won quite a lot when I first came off ponies; I definitely could not have done it without the help of my trainer, Guy Williams. Lastly, my final proudest moment is being selected for the senior Nations Cup team at 18 years-old.

How important is it having a mentor, like Guy Williams, in being able to progress your career?

I think that it is huge. As a young rider you don’t know it all, and you can’t do it on your own – you need a very good team around you. I have excelled more than I thought I would do by this age because of Guy. It is not just about being good on the horse, it is about being a great horseman on the ground. He has taught me how to manage my horses, from their feet to their feed, what I have learnt from him and his groom, Nat, has been invaluable. It is more than just riding; the horses have to be properly managed if you want to do well.

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

You need to know that 99.9% of the time it is not the horse’s fault and you cannot get angry with them. You cannot get frustrated after a bad round, you have to just breathe and come out the ring, trot them off, then come back to see how you can improve. They are not machines and they can only do what you say. On ponies I was quite hot headed, and Guy has really taught me to calm down, and I have a lot. You can’t get angry with the horses after a bad round even if you are frustrated.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

More recently I have got to know Michael and John [Whitaker] very well, they have definitely inspired me. They are true horsemen, and I always watch their rounds. I watched John at a show last week, and it was like watching poetry in motion; he makes it look so effortless – like he is doing nothing!

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

This year I got very close to getting into the 5* jumping at Royal Windsor Horse Show and the World Cup at the London International Horse Show. I was one off both of them, and that was very upsetting. But it makes me want to climb up the rankings and to do better next year. They are such great shows, and especially being in my home country, makes me motivated to be consistent and climb up the rankings so I can compete there next year.

How much of a boost does it give you having fans back at shows?

Having fans back definitely motivates me more in the ring. My first show back with a proper crowd was Valence, which was very special. I was recently at the Horse of the Year Show, which had such an amazing atmosphere, being an indoor show with full crowds. As riders, we love having the fans back, you get extra adrenaline and it really motivates you to perform well. It has been difficult without them.

Of course, some horses can be affected by the crowds. My top horse is very spooky and sharp, he is scared of everything, so much so that I cannot even jump him over a pole at home. At the Horse of the Year Show, he didn’t jump very well, as there have been no big indoor shows due to COVID-19, he wasn’t used to the lights and the crowds. I think there are horses that can benefit from the crowds, as they are used them. Also, some horses will rise to a big occasion with a large crowd. They are all very different.

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

It is amazing. It is something that all riders dream of winning; I think that it has brought show jumping to the next level. I also think that the Rolex Grand Slam has made the sport more accessible to the general public and more globally friendly, as people want to watch top level sport that has high stakes. The Rolex Grand Slam has the best Grands Prix in the world, which really brings the sport to another level. I think that Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM could be the next combination to win the Rolex Grand Slam – they have been on amazing form this year.

Photo: CHI de Genève / scoopdyga.com Photo: CHI de Genève / scoopdyga.com

 

After nearly two years of waiting, the highly anticipated CHI Geneva returns from 9-12 December, representing the fourth and final Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the year. The show will host an impressive number of world-class horse and rider combinations, including all of the current top 10-ranked riders, 17 of the current top 20, as well as featuring seven Rolex Testimonees. The show will celebrate its 60th edition, as well as the 20th anniversary of the IJRC Rolex Top 10 Final. As ever, CHI Geneva will be a truly international affair, with those riders competing representing 16 nations, and the home nation boasting a squad of 19.

After his remarkable maiden victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen in September, Live Contender and current world number two, Daniel Deusser has confirmed his talented mare Killer Queen VDM will travel to the Swiss capital in his quest to continue his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey. CHI Geneva, the pinnacle of the international indoor show jumping calendar for top riders, will once again provide one of the toughest tests in the sport when it culminates with the Rolex Grand Prix, which requires the highest level of talent and horsemanship in order to be crowned champion.

 

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

Current world number one, Peder Fredricson from Sweden, looks incredibly competitive and the one to watch heading into the final Major of the year. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Team champion has strength in depth in his talented team of horses, and will be the rider to beat in the Geneva Arena in front of the Palexpo’s knowledgeable crowds.

Fredricson’s compatriot, Henrik von Eckermann, played an integral role in Sweden’s Olympic success in Japan this summer. Currently ranked number two in the world, von Eckermann, who recently won the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona aboard his trusted partner, King Edward, will be aiming to add a Major win at CHI Geneva to his superb year.

Reigning Olympic Individual gold medallist, Ben Maher, will take his magnificently gifted gelding, Explosion W, to CHI Geneva. Winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at Royal Windsor Horse Show in May this year, the Briton will be looking to round off an exceptional 12 months with a win at 2021’s final Rolex Grand Slam Major

The first and only rider to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, British rider Scott Brash will be looking to reclaim his CHI Geneva Rolex Grand Prix crown. Acutely aware of the intricacies and nuances required to win a Major, Brash will be sure bring his top horses to CHI Geneva in his bid to once againget his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey underway.

One of the home crowd’s favourites, and winner of the last edition of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in 2019, Rolex Testimonee Martin Fuchs will be looking to retain his title aboard his European Championships Team gold and Individual silver medal-winning partner, Leone Jei. The striking grey looks to have the innate talent and jumping abilities required to succeed in this challenging test.

Fans will also be delighted to welcome back fellow Swiss Rolex Testimonee and Fuchs’ teammate , Steve Guerdat. After his spectacular win in this year’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September aboard Venard de Cerisy, Guerdat will be looking to claim his second Major of the 2021 season.

Kent Farrington, a previous Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final winner and Rolex Grand Prix winner in 2017 at CHI Geneva, knows what it takes to win in this prestigious indoor arena and will be looking to continue his success at the venue. The American Rolex Testimonee will be joined by fellow compatriots Laura Kraut and Jessica Springsteen, who have both had numerous successes this year including a Team win in the Nations Cup at the CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival.

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

 

What have you been up to since winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen in September?

I was very busy the first couple weeks after winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. It is something very special to win and very different to winning another Grand Prix. A lot of people wanted to do interviews and photo shoots with me; I really enjoyed the whole experience. But unfortunately, the horses don’t know that I have won one of the best Grands Prix in the world, so we got back to reality quite quickly.

As a German, to win at CHIO Aachen was amazing. Aachen is so special to me, and the crowd is fully supporting you. When you come into the arena it is very loud, but the moment the bell goes, it is silent in the stadium – it is a very special feeling. 

You’re the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender – what’s your strategy building up to CHI Geneva?

I am definitely taking Killer Queen VDM to compete in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. She is my best horse at the moment; however, I would not say she is a traditional indoor season horse. But she jumped in the Grand Prix at CHI Geneva two years ago, so she knows the arena. At the beginning of the week of CHI Geneva I will jump her in a class and see how she feels and decide whether she needs to jump in a bigger class before the Rolex Grand Prix. I will make my decisions according to how she feels in the build-up the class.

Which other horses will you take to CHI Geneva, and which of your young horses are you really excited about?

I have not fully decided yet, Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z had a bit of time off during the summer, as he was injured, but he came back for a couple of shows. He did not jump in the biggest classes over the summer, so I will take him to a show this weekend and see how he feels in a bigger class and then decide whether to take him to Geneva. He will either go as my second or third horse, I will see after this week.

I have two really nice young horses – they are both very exciting prospects for the future. One is a nine-year-old, called Mr. Jones [Scuderia 1918 Mr. Jones], we bought him two years ago as a seven-year-old. We have very big hopes for him for the next couple of years. However, due to COVID-19, he lost a year of experience, as he did not do very many shows, so he is a very young nine-year-old. The second horse is called In Time and I have never actually taken this horse to a show myself. One of our Stephex riders has competed him in the young horse classes, he is only eight but I think I might take him to Geneva. I would like to get some experience on him and get to learn more about each other. I think he has a lot of potential.

The arena at CHI Geneva is quite different to CHIO Aachen, how do you prepare for this?

I haven’t changed anything specifically, but of course coming into the indoor season we train different distances and lines than for the outdoor season. For example, in the indoor season you see a lot of three- or four-stride distances, which outdoor you hardly ever see in a big ring like Aachen, for example. That is something you have to train, but in general most of our horses are well educated and old enough with good experience that you do that one or two times before the indoor season and that is enough. It is more of a fitness programme and they only see the big fences during the shows.

You have a great team behind you, how important is that in order to achieve great success?

Without a good team you cannot be successful, you need a good team that travels with you, one that looks after the horses at home and in the office. To have success when I am travelling almost every weekend, you need to have a big team of people and horses around you and they all need to fit together and work together. The sport is now so complicated and close together, and I travel so much that my team at home is just as important as my athlete in the saddle.

Sean Lynch is my main groom and has worked for me for around seven years. I trust him one hundred per cent, which is very important when he is travelling with our top horses. He does everything with the horses, and he is a very important person in my career. My success would be impossible without him. He loves the horses, it can be a 24-hour job, if something happens to one of them, he is there for them and he is so dedicated to them.

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

As the Live Contender, I hope that I win the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva and then I can aim to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Even if I do not win in Geneva, I will still aim to win a Rolex Grand Prix next year. Apart from Scott [Brash], no one has won two or three in a row, so it is definitely a goal for the next couple years.

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

Of course, winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen was a goal that I had for many years, really ever since I was a child. Very close to that success I have to put winning the World Cup Final with my former horse Cornet d'Amour. He was a horse that brought me on to the international stage, and I had my first experiences of championships and success. It is a moment that I put at the same level as winning the Rolex Grand Prix.

Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting ‘Majors’ do you love watching, and which is your favourite and why?

I am a very sporty person, so I love to watch any sport. My three favourites apart from show jumping are tennis, soccer, and Formula One. It is very difficult for me to choose just one sport that I love to watch the most. I don't really have a favourite football team, but a couple of years ago my friend got me really into Borussia Dortmund. I went to see them a couple of times when they were playing in the Champions League. The atmosphere there is incredible, and it is a great sport.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career? Is there one rider you idolise?

When I was a child and I went to the big shows to watch the world's best show jumpers, there were only two combinations that I really loved to watch. One was John Whitaker and Milton on the other was Franke Sloothaak and Walzerkönig. I was very lucky a couple of years later that I got the opportunity to work for Franke Sloothaak for four and a half years and I'm still in contact with him. Even though he lives far away from me, he is still a major support to me and gives me advice over the phone. He watches all of my rounds, and I must admit he is a huge part to my success.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

There is just something in me that likes to go a step further and likes to win. As show jumpers, we go to a lot of shows, and there are usually a lot of competitors in the classes, with only ever one winner. So, you do not win all the time, being second or third is not a drama, but when you don’t win you will always re-live the round and wonder what you could have done better. Even though you don’t always win, the motivation on a Monday morning is always there. I learn from what could have gone better, and I see each show as more experience, so that when I go to the next show I will do better.

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

First of all, you need experience. You cannot compete at your best when you are young, you must grow up and learn from your experiences. I think the most important thing is patience. This was something that I learnt from Franke [Sloothaak]. He was very quiet and cool on the horse, even if the horse had been very difficult during the week, and he was very patient with it and they always jumped well in the shows. If you are too young and too motivated it can be very difficult. I think it is very important to just be patient and learn from your mistakes in the past. You need to get the basics right, both for yourself as rider and your horse, in order to be successful.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you take with you?

If I leave my house without my phone, my watch and my wallet I feel very empty – so I would have to say those three items.

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

 

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

My earliest equestrian memory comes from when I was 10-years-old, and I remember watching the top riders at the London International Horse Show [formerly known as Olympia] racing camels!

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

One of my proudest moments was winning Individual European gold medal for Ireland in 1995, I had a massive point to prove because I left the British team two years prior, aged 32, because I wanted to compete in major Championships. Previously, I had won many good 5-star Grands Prix, but this was a huge moment in my career, as it vindicated a lot of what I had done previously. It proved my planning, thinking and direction was correct.

I changed nationality again in 2008, which was unprecedented, but it was something the owners I had at the time wanted because they wanted to have a horse on the British team at the London Olympics in 2012. At this time, I had just broken my back in three places, so I wasn’t even sure I was going to ride again, so to jump the last round on Vinidicate in order to the win the gold medal for Great Britain at home was something only dreams are made of. What made it more special, was Vinidicate was a true family horse, my wife was the half owner and my son, Harry persuaded me to buy the horse as a four-year-old.

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

One of my very good friends, Kevin Cooper, who lives down the road from me, got me into the breeding side of the sport. He would always talk about it and he had a nice Irish mare, who was very good 1.40m jumper. We were at a show together and he asked me what I thought of the stallion Carnaval Drum, who he had just brought, and I said: “That’s a good one, let’s use him”. I rode the progeny, he was called Carnavelly, and I won the six-year-old World Championships, the German Masters, the Berlin Grand Prix, and the World Cup at The London International Horse Show on him. To have had a hand in that horse was fantastic, and that really inspired me to breed myself. Kevin has also bred many good horses since.

What do you believe are the main elements of breeding a top show jumping horse?

I can’t say for sure, because sometimes you get horses that don’t have any top pedigree lines at the very top of the sport. But I do 100% believe that if you have a really good dam, with top breeding going back two or three generations, you are improving your chances of breeding a top horse. 

All a stallion can do is better the mare, so in percentages of probability, you need a very good mare to start with. If you have that, then you are increasing the chances of your success rate – it is not guaranteed but you are giving yourself a fair chance. However, with some mares it doesn’t matter who you put them to, they still produce outstanding horses.

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

Definitely! The perfect example is Liscalgot who was ridden by Dermott Lennon. They together won the Individual World Championship in Jerez de la Frontera in 2002. Liscalgot’s dam was bought by a breeder to act as a way of keeping his grass down in his paddock. One day he decided to put her into foal, but she would not load into the lorry, so they chased her down a road in Ireland to the nearest stallion who happened to be Touchdown. This combination bred the world champion in 2002!

The partnership between horse and rider is incredibly important – is that something that you look for when selling to new owners?

I think it is very important. When I sold Spirit T to Jessica Mendoza a few years ago, I could instantly see the partnership was going to be successful. Her father, Paul Mendoza, took some more convincing, but I could see how well the horse and rider suited each other, and it has turned out to be an exceptional partnership.

Sometimes partnerships do not work out, but I think with enough time and a smart rider, who does not try to force issues, a partnership can develop. Many people now, do not give the horse time or a chance, they pay so much money that they expect instant results. It has never worked like that – a horse does not know how much it costs.

What is your breeding set-up like?

We have nine mares, none of which are very old. I believe the younger mares produce the best horses. If you also look at horse racing the successful ones tend to be by young mares. So, I have taken that onboard. I try to mainly breed from good pedigree; over a few generations with the mares themselves. They must also have a good jump and confirmation. We have no mares over the age of 16, and we start to take embryos from them around 8-10 years old.

How long do you usually keep a foal for before it goes onto the next home or before you break it in?

I am not very commercial; I like to keep the foals and not sell too early. Each year we breed between six and nine foals and I’ll buy one or two as well. I like to wait until they are in the spring of their fourth year, before we break them in, this allows the horse to be strong enough to show me what they are like and I will not misread a situation with the horse not being ready or strong enough. We never loose jump our horses; they will have a few small jumps with a rider when they are first broken in and this gives us an accurate representation of their talent. Loose jumping can give out a lot of false impressions, and I cannot judge a horse loose jumping at a sale because it can be totally inaccurate.

Why do you do it / what is your ambition?

I love it. I love seeing the foals being born and bringing them up. Earlier on in my breeding career I sold one horse too early, and I have learnt from this. I sold Clear Round and Party aged two-years-old, for £1,500, because I judged the horse too early on his loose jumping. He ended second in the Grand Prix at The London International Horse Show. It taught me to never be impatient and if you judge a young horse every time they jump and perform you will be disappointed. They need time to develop, and all are vastly different in their development.

Which homebred are you most proud of?

Clear Round and Party – he was the first horse that was born here. I must stress I never gave him that name, that was Geir Gulliksen!

What does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you? How positive do you believe it is for the sport of show jumping?

I think that Rolex has taken show jumping to next level, it is now on par with all the other sporting Majors, such as tennis and golf. Rolex has picked the four most iconic arenas in the world, they are without a doubt historic venues and the history in them needs no explaining. The level of competition associated with those arenas, over the years, is the best in the world.

CHIO Aachen is beautiful, manicured, and the attention to details unrivalled. It takes your breath away every time. They have taken CHI Geneva to another level, way beyond any other indoor show in the world. The CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is a long plane ride away, but it is worth every second when you get there. The crowds are phenomenal, and they have created the best show jumping arena in North America. The Dutch Masters is magnificent and steeped in history. Each of those venues are also outstanding for the horses, great stabling, warm up arenas and plenty of room to move them around. 

CHI Geneva is the next Major and it brings the whole equestrian world together, with the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, the Rolex Grand Prix and the fantastic prize money. It is without doubt the pinnacle of the whole indoor season and is proper Grand Prix showjumping with no pay cards and no gimmicks.

Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout career?

I loved watching the pure belief of Hugo Simon. I would watch him, his warm-ups, his approach at beginning of a show. He was the only man to jump every class in the show, and he would try and win them all even on his best horses. His horses had to win and the belief that he gave his horses to win was something you rarely see. I have never seen that level of intensity; a few riders want to win the top few classes at a show, but they usually mainly focus on the Grand Prix. But Hugo wanted to win from the first day, to the final Grand Prix. His mental preparation was amazing, and he prepared his horses to win. They knew what to expect from him as a rider, they were ready, and his belief in himself and his horses was extraordinary.

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

Paul Schockemöhle, in 1984 when I won my first World Cup in Brussels on a seven-year-old, called April Sun. After my round he offered to buy the horse, and I was quite naïve at that age and I told him that the horse wasn’t for sale. He said are you sure? I told him my plan was to go to Seoul Olympics. Paul said good luck and look after him they don’t come around that often. The following year the owner sold him!  So ever since then with owners or partnerships I make sure there is a clear plan. It is better for everyone involved.

If you had to give advice to someone entering the equestrian industry, what would it be?

Solely concentrate on your riding career, and do not mix too many things into it. It is very hard to try and establish yourself in the industry. It’s a marathon not a sprint. First and foremost, make sure you do a proper apprenticeship and learn everything you can about good horse care on a daily basis.

As a rider you must work hard and have good training and be dedicated. I would recommend not to worry about the breeding until further down the line. It takes up a lot of time and lot of expertise – I wouldn’t as a young rider try and do it all because it is too much. Nowadays, to be a very successful rider you need a really good team around you, dedicated owners when things don’t always work out, good staff and a long-term plan and goal.  Take your career step by step.

Edouard Schmitz and Balenciana K (photo: Om'Photographe / Jump Mag) Edouard Schmitz and Balenciana K (photo: Om'Photographe / Jump Mag)

 

What are you goals for the rest of this year, and what are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

This year, I was selected to jump in a few World Cups for the first time, which has been an amazing experience. I am competing in the World Cups in Madrid, London and Mechelen, and having a good result in one would be a great way to end 2021. I am going to CHI Geneva, and as it is my home show, I want to perform really well there.

I have been on an upward curve the second part of this year and my goal is to continue this and keep it going. I want to get higher in the rankings – hopefully in the top 50 – that would be a big achievement for me and enable me to jump in some bigger classes. I dream of competing in a Nations Cup. As a proud Swiss and patriot, to wear the red jacket is always something special for me and to have that chance next year would be great.

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

My proudest moment happened a few years ago when I was 16-years-old, from the outside you may not think that this is the best moment in my career but for me it is. I was at an international U25 show in Chevenez, and as I was 16 my trainer wanted me to jump in the junior Grand Prix; however, I really wanted to jump in the U25 Grand Prix, as I had a wild card to jump in it, and it meant I could also win a wild card to jump at CHI Geneva. All week I was fighting to jump in the bigger class, and my trainer kept on saying it was a bad idea and I should not jump in it; but I fought so hard to jump in the class that eventually he let me enter into it – and I won it and got the wildcard to CHI Geneva! I was riding Cortino 46, and I think it was one of the proudest moments of my career because I felt like I had proved everyone wrong.

You were (are!) an accomplished junior skier; why did you decide to focus on show jumping?

I don’t really know why I chose one over the other, as I was really passionate about both sports. But I guess in the end I did have a preference for show jumping, and I have never once regretted choosing it over skiing.

Is there anything you’ve learnt as part of your undergraduate studies that you apply to show jumping, and vice versa?

I think that in general that sport is a good life school for everyone. The systematic thinking that you learn in engineering or maths studies are also an asset in several situations in horse riding. I think that in sports we have the tendency – which is sometimes a good thing – to sometimes let emotions get the best of us and we feel more that we think. It’s what is also so beautiful about sport, that you can bring a bit of systematic thinking, which is a good thing.

In engineering you have a problem, and you solve it with the tools that you have, and I think to bring this mindset to horse riding is very valuable. Sports and systematic thinking are very complementary, and my undergraduate studies have really helped me learn this.

Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its very own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting ‘Majors’ do you love watching, and which is your favourite and why?

As a Swiss person you can’t say you don’t watch the tennis Majors, especially when you have an athlete as great as Roger Federer. He is just as incredible off the court – he is a very sympathetic person, and the vibe that he gives off during interviews is amazing. He has progressed personally a huge amount, when he first started out, he was the ‘bad boy of tennis’ and he has now turned into the most fair and polite athlete. I feel that everyone has something to learn from his or her path, and to follow that path at the highest level is something that is, of course, extraordinary.

My favourite Major would either be Wimbledon or Roland-Garros, but I think if I was pressured to choose just one it would be Roland-Garros. I think that the tournament is more interesting because Federer does not play as well on clay and so there is bit more pressure.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career? Is there one rider you idolise?

I don’t like the word idolise – because there is a lack of criticism about idolising someone. Just looking and worshipping someone without questioning what they do, I think can be very harmful. I like to look at all the riders and choose my favourite part that I want to emulate.

When I was a small child, I went to CHI Geneva every year and I would watch the riders on the flat and during the warm-up, and I would pick what I liked most. I would go back to the stables on Monday and try it out on my own. The riding teacher would always say, ‘Edouard, what are you doing?’, because I was very fond of Pius Schwizer at the time, and he would always ride with his elbows out. So, on Monday I would be on my pony with my elbows out, and everyone would ask me what I was trying to do. I look at everyone and cherry pick what I like most and not idolise because I think that idolising gets you into a stagnating state.

My parents have always been really big supporters and are a huge inspiration to me. They never get too deep into show jumping and that is a problem I have sometimes – I get so obsessed with some things that sometimes it is hard to get me out of the situation. My parents have done a very inspiring job because they always know when to pull me out but still keep me deep enough that I care enough to do the work to make it happen.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

I think that anything that is related to horses and competition keeps me hungry and motivated. I have always been a competitor ever since a was a small child – I had to be the first one to touch the car when racing to it or I had to have the best grades at school. Some people may say it is a bit toxic at certain times, but I am just a competitive person to my core and I always want more.

Tell us a little bit about your current stable of horses and their personalities… Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

I have the best string of horses that I have ever had this year, and there has been a lot of movement lately on that side of things. I don’t really have that many young horses at the moment – we have built up some seven-year-olds but they are all now eight or nine.

I have had the ride on Quno for the last few months. He had already gained some experience jumping in bigger classes with his previous rider, and I hope I can make the most of his experience to build mine up in the bigger classes.  I have a few horses who are owned by Mr Arturo Fasana, one of which is called Gamin Van't Naastveldhof and I think that he is going to be the real deal. It is always hard to tell at this point, but the way things are going,  it looks really good and we are all really excited about that horse.

Then I have Cortino 46 who I have had since I was 15 and I have competed in five Youth European Championships with him. He has been the most incredible horse for me, I won my first 5* with him, as well as jumping in my first 3* Grand Prix – most of my experience from 1.45m to 1.60m comes from him. Balenciana K is another very good horse that I have, but she is a bit of a lady, she wants to be spoken to politely. She is sensitive so it is not easy to deal with her, but with the right management she will do anything for you.

And then I have Babylone Des Erables, who I also ride for Mr Arturo Fasana, she has competed at 3* level this year and she is a very competitive horse over 1.50. Finally, I have Illusion who is an eight-year-old and my youngest horse, also owned by Mr Arturo Fasana, and I think that he could also be a really good horse. It is always really hard to tell and it is always raw speculation anyway – but if I’m not excited, I don’t know who will be!

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

My previous trainer had a phrase that he always said, and I really like, which is ‘You should never think you are smarter than others’. We would go and try new horses together, and you sometimes hear riders say, ‘I think I could do a better job with this horse’, and it can sometimes be a little bit rude. I think that it is a very good phrase to live life by.

As a young rider, what does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you? How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?

I think it is the most prestigious thing that you can win in our sport. It groups some of the most legendary shows in our sport together. I mean, of course I love Geneva the most – but all four shows are the best of what our sport has to offer, and they all have so much history. There has only been one person to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Scott Brash – and that makes it the most exclusive prize in the sport.

Not by anyone’s fault, but by history, every other title to win has been won by numerous people and over time more people are going to win them. So, if you want to be in the most exclusive group in our sport then you have to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. I want to be remembered as someone in the sport and the way to do that is to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and become part of this exclusive group.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you take with you?

That is a tough question! I think probably a book – although I don’t know which one, then my laptop – but there would be no Wi-Fi, and then some pictures of my family and people I love.  

Keeley Durham Keeley Durham

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

My earliest equestrian memory comes from when I was ten years old, and I went to my first show at the Parklands Equestrian Centre. I was competing in a clear round class, and each round cost my father 50p – I think he ended up spending £20 for me to finally get a clear round rosette because my pony kept stopping and I kept on falling off!

What is the proudest moment of your career so far- either in riding, equestrian or breeding?

I have been fortunate to have had some amazing moments in my career thus far. In terms of my riding career, I have a few proudest moments, including winning the Young Riders class at the Horse of the Year Show in 1991 and being part of the Young Rider Team that won gold at the 1992 European Championships in San Remo on Welham.

As an owner, Welham was an amazing horse, after my career with him he went on to compete with John Whitaker and won so many classes. His biggest achievement was winning the Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. Then as a breeder, it definitely has to be breeding Argento.

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

When John [Whitaker] was riding Welham, we were once down at Nick Skeleton’s yard and he suggested that I should get a broodmare and start producing more young horses. I thought this was a great idea, but I did not really act upon the idea until about two-months later when John asked me to go and collect something for his cattle from a local farmer, and I ended up coming back with a two-year-old mare, named Flora May. We bred from her aged three, before we broke her in and it all really started from there. After her first foal we jumped her for a little while before she had her second foal – which ended up being Argento.

Did anyone mentor you on how to breed successfully?

I never really had a mentor – I go mainly off instinct and gut feeling. But now, I spend more time looking at the pedigree of the horses than I used to when I first started.

Is there anything you look for specifically in your mares and sires to ensure you breed the best possible progeny?

Definitely! Actually, I have carried on breeding with the progeny of the first broodmare that I had as she was a great horse. To me she had everything I look for and all of the horses that she has bred have been very correct and that is very important to me. For a mare, I think that it is very important to have a good correct stamp, a good temperament and to be a ‘nice person’. Of course, you also want them to move nicely and jump well. For the stallion, I try to match them up to the mare, for example if the scope needs more scope, then I would choose a scopey stallion. They also need good conformation and temperament.

What are the three fundamental points to breeding a top show jumping?

Firstly, the mare and stallion must have correct conformation. Then, I think that the stallion they must have a good jumping technique and be scopey, and lastly having a good attitude from each side. I wouldn’t want to breed from a horse that was tricky or has a bad temperament, I do not mind them being hot though.  

Has there been a time when you put some pairings together and you didn’t think would produce something special and they’ve ended up giving unexpected results?

When I put Flora May to foal with Arko, we definitely were not expecting to breed Argento. Arko, at the time, was a young stallion and Argento was one of his foals bred in England. I chose Arko because I saw him jumping with Nick [Skelton] when I was travelling around the shows with John and Welham, and I really liked him. Even though he was cheeky, he was a ‘nice person’ and had a huge amount of jump.

The partnership between horse and rider is so important – is that something you look for when you sell to new owners?

Definitely! Malcom Pyrah would say – I nearly vet the person buying my horse, as much as they would want to vet the horse. I do not sell many of my horses, but when I sold Argento to John, I already had a very good relationship with him and trusted him a lot. More recently I sold a horse called Arakan to the United States of America, and if I didn’t like the people, I probably would not have sold him. 

Are there any insights you could give the reader to a day in the life or your facilities?

It is very important that you have access to enough land – so that they [the horses] can live out and be horses – the foals should grow in a natural environment for as long as possible until you start breaking them in. I also think that it is very important to handle the foals correctly from when they are born. We start leading our foals from day one – they will have a headcollar on and are taught to lead in hand from the very first day.

I don’t breed many foals, so I can spend time with them and give them more attention than you could do in a big breeding yard and that is what I enjoy. I love the foals and looking after them. I think you if you are foaling them at them at home you must be committed to being there and watching them through the night – it only takes 10 minutes from something to go wrong. Everything can be alright one minute and then the next you need to be there for the mare and foal.

 

If you are planning to sell foals, how long do you tend to keep them for?

I have never sold any foals; I always produce them up to competition level. If you were to sell a foal you can sell when it’s on the mare and then around weaning time you would take the foal from there. As well as Show Jumpers, I have bred one horse that went up to intermediate eventing and others that have not been superstars but they have been nice horses.

How many horses do you breed in a normal year?

At one point we had two broodmares, but we now only have one, so we will only breed one foal this year. However, I am thinking that next year I may do an embryo transfer. I plan to keep one embryo and sell one embryo as a mare in foal with the embryo from Betty May [daughter of Flora May]. Betty May is full sister to Argento, and her first foal is by Big Star, this foal will be three next year and we are very excited about her. She is called Stellar; we have not loose jumped her but from seeing her around the field – I think she is one to watch.    

What is your ambition for breeding horses?

Well, I would say to breed a superstar – but I am very lucky that that has already happened. However, it would be lovely to breed another horse like Argento. They say that you only have one good horse in a lifetime, but I have been so lucky to have had Welham and Argento. I have achieved every Pony Club girl’s dream when I bred Argento. I would however love to breed a coloured horse out of Betty May if I found the right coloured stallion.

Do you have any aspirations away from breeding?

Recently I have started taking on a few clients on my yard that have competition horses. I coach and mentor them. I love being on their journeys and helping them achieve their goals and guiding the management of their horses. I have three main clients, one of which is Evie Toombes, the para-rider, she is such an inspiration and I love being part of her journey. My other two clients are Evie’s mother Caroline and Andrea Lloyd.   

How positive do you think the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport?

I think it’s very positive – it is something for the top show jumpers as well as the next generations to aim for. The prize money is incredible and to be able aim for the bonuses give the riders a real drive to succeed.  

Which of the four majors your favourite and why?

I have been incredibly fortunate, and I have been to all of the Majors. I think that they are all amazing shows, but I think that my favourite is Aachen. It has very special memories for me, with John and Welham winning the Grand Prix there in 1997 – it is like winning Wimbledon for tennis. I also love Spruce Meadows, it is such a unique show, especially where it is situated. The Southern Family are so welcoming, they make you feel like part of the family and they will go any lengths to help you out. They have improved it so much and the atmosphere is incredible.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My mother; she is my inspiration and has supported me through everything. She worked so hard to help me achieve what I did, and we were very lucky to find Welham together through Nick Saywell. She is amazing and will always have my back.

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

I worked for Nick Saywell when I was doing well with Welham; and he told me remember your friends on the way up, because you may need them on the way down. Another piece of advice that I think is very valuable is you should always take advice because you should never stop learning.

What advice would you give a youngster wanting to get into the industry?

I think that you have to go into the industry with a good attitude and be willing to work hard and listen. I think that listening is so important, I lot of people come to me and they don’t listen – I find this very frustrating when you have to constantly tell people what to do. In addition, you have to be ambitious and be willing to work hard for your goals.

Thibault Philippaerts (Photo: Dirk Caremans) Thibault Philippaerts (Photo: Dirk Caremans)

 

What are you goals for the rest of the year?

I’m going to CHI Geneva for the U25 class and then Mechelen in Belgium at the end of year and I am really looking forward to these shows!

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

I have some really lovely horses, but most of them are younger and so they do not have much experience. I was trying to build them up this year, so next year I would like start jumping bigger classes on them. My main aim is to go to the European Championships for Young Riders. This is the last year that I will be eligible to compete, and I would love to go with a strong team and have a chance to win a medal.

You’ve had a great career so far – what has been your proudest moment?

When I was 13-years-old, I won Individual bronze at the Pony European Championships, I was thrilled with this result as it was a big surprise to do so well there. However, I think my proudest moment was winning Team gold at the Junior European Championships in Fontainebleau. It was such a special team because we had all been friends for so long, so to win Team gold together was unbelievable. It is an experience I still think about to this day, and I think I will think about it for a very long time.

How did you deal with the pressure of being on the cusp of those achievements – how do you deal with pressure at such a young age?

I do not really get very nervous, so I don’t find dealing with the pressure too hard. In the moment, I don’t really feel the pressure, but after a big show has finished, I realise the pressure has gone and it is a relief. But the big moments are what we live for in our sport, and we are lucky to be able to compete in championships or Grands Prix, so I think the pressure is a privilege.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

There are so many riders who have inspired me; however, I think the person who has inspired me the most is my father. I have everything to thank him for, he has given me countless opportunities and chances with my ponies and horses. What he built at home and how he has provided horses for me and my four brothers is incredible. Despite always being away at shows, he is also able to keep the stables and business running successfully at home. To be able to be successful in the sport as well as in business is very difficult, so I find this very inspiring and I hope one day I am able to do it myself.

You come from a show jumping dynasty – was there ever a thought that you and your brothers wouldn’t pursue careers in show jumping?

Our parents never really pushed us to have careers with horses. Growing up, we did a variety of sports, such as football, tennis and running. But we were with the horses every day; I think that we were born to do it. We love the horses and have the want to do it every day. I also love the relationships that you can build with the horses.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

Watching the big shows and of course having my brothers and father there makes me highly motivated. These shows always have such special moments and atmospheres, and I would love to be able ride in the Majors one d. All I want to do is to work my hardest to be able to compete at the top level every week, as well as being able to have an incredible relationship and connection with my horses.

Is there a horse that you have had a particularly special relationship with?

When I was 16-years-old, I had a horse called jaimi van dorperheide. She was very special to me, as we bred her ourselves and she was one of the first horses I was able to compete in bigger classes with. She was extremely talented and very fast, but she also had an incredible character – she was so intelligent. We had such a great partnership together and she really was the horse that started everything for me.

Can you tell us a little bit about the horses that you have at the moment?

I have a great string of horses right now, many of them are younger but I have one older horse called Aqaba De Leau, who was third in a 3* class in Italy recently, and she has also jumped in some bigger classes this year. She is a great horse and she always tries her hardest to jump clear – I am very lucky to have her. I have a nine-year-old called Cap Du Marais, who we bought in the middle of the year. He doesn’t have too much experience, but he is now jumping in some bigger ranking classes, and I think he is one for the future. I also have two promising eight-year-olds who I think have a lot of potential.

I am very happy with the horses that I have now. I think they are all very talented and special, but they do need some more time to mature and get more experience. I think that next year is going to be very exciting.

How does it feel to have fans back the shows?

I love having the fans back, they make the sport even better. They create such an amazing atmosphere; it is really not the same without them there. I think that it motivates me to perform better, and some horses definitely love the atmosphere and will rise to the occasion. I prefer riding in front of a crowd, to hear the fans cheering is amazing.

Do you perform better when there is a crowd there?

I am a bit of a showman, so having a crowd at the shows motivates me to do better. I really like it when there is lots of noise and people.

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

The best piece of advice I have been given is to never give up. Every rider will experience ups and downs, and this normal. I think you have to keep going and keep trying to improve and get better. You also need to keep believing and trusting in your system of training your horse and yourself, and I think it will work out in the end.

When it is all going well it is easy to be motivated, but it is also easy to be disappointed and struggle when things do not go so well. With horses you have to enjoy and love the moments when it does go well; they are animals, and anything can happen. I think this is the special part of our sport, the relationships and connections that we have with our horses. The horses are our friends, and when you have that connection, they will fight for you. It is incredible when everything comes together in one moment, and you have to remember to cherish those moments.

As a young rider, what does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you?

The Rolex Grand Slam has the best shows in the world and I always love going to them to watch my brothers compete. It is my dream, one day, to compete in them myself. Every rider dreams of competing in them and everyone involved with horses wants to be part of it.

Who do you think the next Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping winner will be?

It is very hard to win, so it will take a very special rider. But I think that Ben Maher and Explosion W could win. They are so incredibly talented; their partnership is unbelievable and they have proved they can win on the biggest occasions.

Do you get competitive with your brothers?

Yes! We are very competitive with each other. My dad is actually the most competitive, though! He stopped riding for a while, but now is back competing in the same shows as us. He will tease us when he beats us or goes faster than us. We always want to beat each other, and this motivates us to be better. But we are also always there for each other and we really care for each other – we are really one big team. I learn so much from my brothers and my father through their experience, but of course if we are in the same class we want to beat each other.

How do you decide which horses go to which family member?

This can be tricky because there are five of us [four brothers and a father], but it is actually easier than people think. Often, we decide by who needs the horse and who the horse fits the best. But usually the horse finds the rider. We will also switch horses around between us. So far, we have managed this process very well and I hope it continues in the future.

Do you have any superstitions before you compete?

Not really; however, if a show goes well, I will keep the same tie until a show or class doesn’t go well – then it goes in the laundry. I don’t really have any lucky charms.

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

Daniel Deusser wins the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen and becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender

 

The world’s most distinguished show jumpers and their equine partners contested the highlight class of 2021’s edition of CHIO Aachen: the Rolex Grand Prix. The third Major of 2021’s Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the 1m60 test, created by leading course designer, Frank Rothenberger, comprised 40 starters from 15 nations. Amongst them was current world number one, Daniel Deusser, current world number three and Rolex Testimonee, Martin Fuchs, winner of the 2021 CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex and fellow Testimonee, Steve Guerdat, reigning Olympic Individual champion, Ben Maher, plus another 11 of the world’s current top 30-ranked riders.

The tense action played out in front of approximately 19,000 knowledgeable show jumping fans in CHIO Aachen’s Hauptstadion, a truly iconic stadium which also hosted the sport’s World Championships in 2006 and European Championships in 2015. The format was simple: following the Rolex Grand Prix’s first round, the best 18 riders would qualify for Round 2, with a jump-off triggered should any riders' combined scores be tied. In the case of a jump-off, the rider with the fewest penalties and fastest time would be crowned champion.

Clear rounds combined with fast times saw three of the sport’s greatest riders comfortably progress to the second round: Great Britain’s Ben Maher and his 12-year-old megastar gelding, Explosion W; the first and only rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam, Scott Brash and his 12-year-old gelding, Hello Jefferson; and Steve Guerdat and his 12-year-old gelding, Venard de Cerisy. However, it was Mexico’s Patricio Pasquel, who topped the leader board at the end of the first round, after he and his 14-year-old gelding, Babel, finished over two and a half seconds ahead of next fastest rider, America’s rising talent, Brian Moggre.

Other riders of note to make the cut of 18, included the sport’s current highest-ranked rider, Daniel “Double D” Deusser of Germany, Frenchman Kevin Staut, Martin Fuchs from Switzerland, winner of the Rolex Grand Slam Major at CHIO Aachen in 2017, Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet, and the next generation of show jumping talent, 22-year-old American rider, Lucy Deslauriers and 23-year-old Sanne Thijssen from The Netherlands.

Consisting of 15 fences, and over a very slightly shorter course than the first, home favourite Deusser soon assumed control of the second round, the first of the 18 riders to go double clear. He was followed by Belgian, Jérôme Guery, confirming a jump-off would decide who would become the new Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender, after the last Major winner, Steve Guerdat, failed to record a clear round. Guery’s Tokyo 2020 Team bronze medal-winning teammate, Gregory Wathelet started a procession of double clears, with Laura Kraut from the USA, Scott Brash, Ben Maher and Brian Moggre all booking their places in the final showdown, thereby making it a mouth-watering seven-way jump-off.

First to go in the jump-off was Daniel Deusser and his 11-year-old mare, Killer Queen, meticulously navigating the nine-fence course and recording the first double clear. Deusser held on to top spot after Gregory Wathelet finished clear but was over a second off his pace, while Scott Brash, Ben Maher, Laura Kraut and Jérôme Guery all recorded faults. Last to go, Brian Moggre and his 15-year-old stallion, Balou du Reventon, were Deusser’s last remaining threat; however, despite an impressive clear round, the 20-year-old from Texas crossed the line 0.31s off Deusser’s time, which meant a new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender was crowned.

On his first Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major victory, Deusser, commented: “The Rolex Grand Slam is part of equestrian history. So far, I haven’t been in this position of winning one of these four Major Grands Prix, but I’m now looking forward to trying my best at the next three stages.”

On his partner, Balou du Reventon, runner-up, Brian Moggre, commented: “I really think our personality types are similar. I didn’t really give myself a chance to not get along with him, so I’m glad he liked me. We have just gone step by step, and he wants this just as much as I do. He’s a really competitive horse and I find myself a bit of a competitive rider, so we mesh well and I’m very thankful for him.”

Brian Moggre (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) Brian Moggre (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

Meet the Next Gen with:

Brian Moggre

 

What are you hoping to achieve between now and the end of the year?

I really am hoping to have a great week this week at CHIO Aachen. This horse show is one I’ve dreamed of coming to for years, so to have a really great week would be a perfect end of the year.

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

The World Championships being next summer is a huge goal of mine, so I’m starting to really focus on that. Otherwise, just focusing on the young horses stepping up and developing them.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

There have been a few, for different reasons. But I’d say one that’s very special to me was my first 3* Grand Prix win at Live Oak, which was on my junior jumper, who I’d had for several years, so it was a big win for both of us.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

So many different people, it would be hard to just pick one. Currently, there’s Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton, who are both helping me – they’re a huge inspiration. My parents inspire me, and Lesley Leeman, who takes care of my horses – she inspires me every day, she works so hard, and she take such good care of the horses. All of those people have inspired me to be my best self.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

My love for the horses. It’s been my passion since I was a little kid, and I’ve never really known any different. I didn’t really come from a horse family, so it all starts with me. I’d say horses motivate me the most.

Tell us a little bit about the horses you’ve brought to CHIO Aachen this week…

I have two horses here, who are both owned by Ann Thompson – Balou Du Reventon and Gelano. Gelano is a newer mount to me, who I got a few months ago, so I’m still getting to know him. Balou has been with me for under a year. They’re both fantastic horses, so I think I have a good shot for this week.

Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

There’s one who I own myself called Mtm Los Angeles. He’s not really a young horse, but he had a really big seven-year-old year, so we took it really slow. He’s nine now so we’re getting him back on the scene again, and he seems really promising. There’s another one I ride called Nolo Contendere, who’s owned by Lindsay Maxwell. He’s a six-year-old and I think he’s got everything.

How much of a boost does it give you having fans back at shows?

I think atmosphere is everything at horse shows like this. I live for the crowd and the overall experience, so I think for the horses and myself, it really puts us in our game zone.

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

In terms of riding, I would say smooth is fast. It’s a good piece of advice.

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

It great for the sport, and it’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid. To now be a part of it and showing at these shows, it’s really a dream come true. I think a lot of riders look up to it and it’s just great!

What makes CHIO Aachen such a special show for you?

There’s no horse show like Aachen in the world. I’ve been to Spruce Meadows a few times and it’s a great atmosphere and a great ring, but you come to Aachen and your jaw drops. The atmosphere and all the ring, the ground is just incredible. You feel as though you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to come and what you’re going to get. You can rely on it, it’s one of the best – it is the best!

Frank Kemperman (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) Frank Kemperman (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

Word from the Organiser with:

Frank Kemperman, Show Director

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHIO Aachen is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?

We are very happy that we have managed to stage a CHIO this year, which has included all five disciplines, because the situation has been so difficult. On the one hand you can say we’ve had a long time to prepare, but on the other hand we’ve faced so many challenges, including changes to the programme and changes to the date. Then there is the situation with the spectators’ tickets, which were first moved from 2020 to 2021, with people given the choice whether they wanted their money back or to retain their tickets for this year’s event. Then we had to postpone the show from June to September, so we gave spectators the choice to defer their tickets to CHIO Aachen 2022, because we had no idea if 2021’s show would go ahead. Maybe it’s a little bit later in the year, but a CHIO with fewer spectators is better than no CHIO at all.

Do you take any positives from the last 18 months?

The main positive is that we’ve always looked forward and we’ve managed to stage this great event. There has also been so much goodwill from the fans. The reaction from the public to the situation that CHIO Aachen has faced has been amazing – their response has been really good for the soul, so we must thank them.

For you, what makes the CHIO Aachen so special?

Normally, I would say the crowd, because the crowd is at the heart of the event’s atmosphere, along with the riders and the horses. But for me, we always try to organise and create something superb, which has to be of the highest quality. For me and the organisers, the key word in everything that we do is quality, which is always more important than quantity. We always ensure that every element of the CHIO Aachen is 100% – for the spectators, the media, the sponsors, the officials, the athletes, for everyone.

How positive is the Rolex Grand Slam for the sport of Show Jumping?

We created the Rolex Grand Slam to differentiate it from the rest, and for many people it’s regarded as the very best in the sport. It’s four unique events: one in the winter, one in the spring, one in the summer and one in the autumn; two indoor shows and two outdoor. It’s a valuable concept with top quality events - 4 Majors -;  it’s the Rolex Grand Slam, it works, it’s great for the sport of show jumping and we’re extremely happy to be part of it.

Nicolas Delmotte and Urvoso du Roch (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) Nicolas Delmotte and Urvoso du Roch (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

Nicolas Delmotte and Urvoso du Roch win the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia

Fifty world-class horse and rider combinations entertained CHIO Aachen’s crowds over one round and a jump-off in Friday’s feature class, the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia, the final chance for those riders not already qualified to book their place in the week’s pinnacle event, Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix.

Second to go, Germany’s Jana Wargers made the 17-fence Frank Rothenberger-designed course look straightforward, effortlessly going clear with her 12-year-old Eve Jobs-owned bay stallion, Limbridge in 87.02s. The 30-year-old – currently ranked number 361 in the world – was to hold on to top spot for the majority of the first round, after many of the sport’s very best were unable to emulate her performance and go clear, demonstrating how difficult the course was. However, reigning Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion, Great Britain’s Scott Brash and his 12-year-old gelding, Hello Jefferson, and Nicolas Delmotte of France and his 13-year-old gelding, Urvoso Du Roch, both demonstrated their talent, confidently navigating the course without accruing any penalties, thereby triggering a deciding three-horse jump-off.

First to go in the jump-off, it looked as though the crowd favourite, Jana Wargers, would make it a fairy-tale ending after going double clear in a time of 47.03s. Next up, Scott Brash was to also go double clear, but over a second faster than the German managed, slotting into top spot with just one rider to go. Last to go, July’s winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at the Chantilly Masters, Nicolas Delmotte breezed the jump-off, eventually eclipsing Scott Brash’s time, finishing double clear in 45.03s.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, current world number 25, Delmotte, commented: “I’m very happy about this season’s results that I’ve had with Urvoso du Roch and also today. I’m feeling confident with him, but this will be the very first Major of his career, so I am looking forward to the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday.”

On his 13-year-old gelding, Urvoso du Roch, who he competed with at the recent Tokyo Games, the Frenchman, said: “He’s very sensitive, but he didn’t start very well with his previous rider, and would sometimes refuse jumps. Now, he has a bit of a funny technique, and I think he has to really grow into these classes with their heights. I will have to be very careful with how I ride him, to make sure I give him the opportunity to jump well, so he can use his technique to the best of his ability.”

Scott Brash (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) Scott Brash (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

Rider interview with:

Rolex Grand Slam winner Scott Brash

 

Tell us a little bit about the horses you’re competing with this week at CHIO Aachen…

I have Hello Jefferson here, who I have qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix, which was a bit difficult as an individual, so the plan is to now jump it on Sunday. A seven-year-old of mine called Hello Vittoria has also travelled here to Aachen, who will compete as a Young Horse – it’s nice to get experience for the young horses in a ring like this.

You won the Rolex Grand Prix here in 2015 – CHIO Aachen must be an incredibly special show for you to compete at?

Absolutely. Aachen is a special arena – there’s a lot of history that’s been made in that ring. We all want to jump here, the conditions are excellent, the ground is amazing, the jumps are fantastic, and you really feel that the horses give something extra in this arena.

There are many world-class riders here at CHIO Aachen; who do you think will be the one to beat in Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix?

I really don’t know, as the field is fantastic and there are many top horse and rider combinations. I think Daniel Deusser is going very well, and he’s been second many times here in Aachen, so I think he’ll be really hungry to make it a win. He looks to be on top form and his horses look in great shape, so if I had to pick one rider, I think he’s the one to beat.

Why are Majors so important in sport?

I think Majors bring out the best competition. The best horses and riders come to the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors of the year. The four Majors are the competitions that everyone wants to win. From what I can see, this is also the case in tennis and golf, and all the other sports. It’s the best competitors that are there, and everyone is giving their absolute all. They don’t come around every other weekend, which makes the Majors extra special to win in a place like CHIO Aachen.

Do you watch other Grand Slam events, for example in tennis and golf?

I try to watch them. I caught the highlights of the Djokovic US Open final match last week. I do try to catch up on all of the sporting Majors, and I also enjoy watching Formula One, as well. Every sport is in its own bubble, so its great to witness some of the other top sport that’s going on around the world and appreciate the incredible talent on show.

Frank Rothenberger (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) Frank Rothenberger (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

Walking the course with:

Course designer Frank Rothenberger

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHIO Aachen is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?

Absolutely delighted! We’ve been waiting for such a long time to have another big event like this again. We managed to stage a 3* jumping show in the dressage stadium this time last year when some COVID-19 restrictions were in place, but it was absolutely not comparable to what we have here now. I’m so glad we’re finally back. Last night we nearly had a full stadium for the Nations’ Cup, which is a very nice class and for me one of the best classes of the year, alongside the Rolex Grand Prix, of course.

I’m not working at CHIO Aachen for the whole year – I’m only coming here to design courses. We have to prepare the courses for the CHIO months in advance, which we completed in February and March this year. However, we didn’t know if the show would go ahead and what the schedule would look like. We decided we would work to last year’s schedule, but we still had to wait for the authorities to tell us how many spectators would be allowed to attend. But it’s happening, so we are extremely grateful for everyone’s hard work, especially the organising committee.

It must give you a real boost having spectators back watching top sport at CHIO Aachen?

Yes, it’s so cool! On Wednesday we had a big class and the stadium was almost without any spectators – it was so strange and it felt like a training competition. But yesterday the stadium was much more full and there’s a great atmosphere here with the crowds every day, and hopefully on Sunday it will feel almost back to normal.

What makes CHIO Aachen so special for you?

The organisation of the event is top. CHIO Aachen is run by 25 or 30 full-time employees all year, and what they’re consistently doing is absolutely perfect. They really focus on every little detail and in the end the product is just quality, it’s class.

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

It’s a competition over two rounds with a jump-off. We will have 40 horse and rider combinations. Five riders have pre-qualified already and another 18 from yesterday evening’s Nations’ Cup. There are then two more classes where riders were able to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix. As it is every year, I hope it will be a spectacular class. We have 13 jumps in the first round and another 10 in the second round. We will hopefully end up with a jump-off including just a few riders, which is what the crowd here would like to see, but you never know and this is what makes the sport interesting. For me, between three and five riders in the jump-off would be perfect.

Which rider do you believe has got what it takes to win Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix?

I think there’s just one name: Ben Maher. He and Explosion W are a top, top partnership and my favourite for Sunday. But that’s not just my opinion, it’s everyone’s opinion. It’s an unbelievable horse. But you never know, he could have a pole down and that makes things interesting. There are lots of other top horses here, but at the moment Ben is on great form, and he was brilliant in Tokyo.

How positive is the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping for the sport?

I’ll give an example. Recently, seven international riders between the ages of 25 to 30 were asked what their career goals and ambitions were. They all said the same: winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. No one mentioned the World or European Championships or the Olympic Games, simply Aachen and the Rolex Grand Prix, so I think that goes to show that the Rolex Grand Slam is the pinnacle.

Max Kühner and Elektric Blue P (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Max Kühner and Elektric Blue P (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Max Kühner and Elektric Blue P win the Turkish Airlines - Prize of Europe

 

Following Tuesday evening’s Official Opening Ceremony, 2021’s edition of CHIO Aachen well and truly got underway with Wednesday’s Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe, a qualifier for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix. The two-round Frank Rothenberger-designed course over 14 obstacles was staged in the iconic 40,000 seater Hauptstadion and contested by 48 horse and rider combinations representing 16 nations.

In the first round, Philipp Schulze Topphoff and his 11-year-old grey mare, Concordess NRW, set the early pace, going clear in a time of 84.86s. The German’s time was eventually bettered by both Ireland’s Darragh Kenny and his 14-year-old stallion, VDL Cartello, and Pieter Devos of Belgium and his 13-year-old mare, Mom's Isaura, after they completed the 17-fence course fault-free in 84.37s and 84.77s respectively.

With the best 25% of Round 1’s finishers qualifying for Round 2, nine further stellar combinations would progress, including the current world number one-ranked rider from Germany, Daniel Deusser (Bingo Ste Hermelle), Tokyo 2020 Team bronze medallists, Jérôme Guery (Eras Ste Hermelle) and Gregory Wathelet (Full House Ter Linden Z), Dutch duo Bart Bles (Gin D) and Marc Houtzager (Sterrehof's Dante N.O.P.), Portugal’s Luciana Diniz (Vertigo du Desert), Patricio Pasquel of Mexico (Babel), Israeli Daniel Bluman (Gemma W), and Max Kühner from Austria (Elektric Blue P).

First to go, April’s winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters, Max Kühner, set off at blistering pace, completing the shorted nine-obstacle second round course without posting a penalty in 56.36s. One by one, and without success, the remaining riders desperately tried to better Kühner’s impressive time, which looked increasingly impossible. Daniel Deusser looked to be in contention, but put the penultimate pole down, and Gregory Wathelet was eventually outdone by the last. Jérôme Guery came within half a second of the Austrian’s time, while Luciana Diniz went agonisingly close, finishing just 0.19s off top spot. When Ireland’s on-form Darragh Kenny put three down, an ecstatic Kühner claimed the win, a seemingly perfect preparation for him and his champion 10-year-old bay gelding ahead of Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix.

Commenting on his Rolex Grand Prix strategy for his Major-winning partner, Elektric Blue P, Kühner, commented: “Tomorrow I will rest him and I will ride him on the flat a little bit. I will feel him and he will tell me what we do next. Either I will just leave him and work him until Sunday, or I will do one more small class, just to keep him a little bit in the rhythm and jumping. Sunday will be very big, so if we go all these days without jumping him, it might be too big in the beginning. He’s a very careful horse, so I’ll probably jump him in one more small round, which will keep him in the rhythm.”

Ludovic Escure (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) Ludovic Escure (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

Behind the stable door with:

Ludovic Escure, Kevin Staut's groom

 

Tell us about the horses you have here at CHIO Aachen?

We have a seven-year-old named Emir [De Moens Harcour] with us. He is sometimes very excited and nervous in big stadiums. But I think he will show good rounds here in Aachen. A mare named Tolede [De Mescam Harcour] is also here, she will probably jump in the Grand Prix on Sunday. She is a little bit inconsistent sometimes, one week she can win and the next week she can have three discards and we don't really know why.

Then there's a 12-year-old mare named Visconti Du Telman with us, she's really sweet and special. Kevin has been riding her for two years now, and in the beginning it wasn't easy. She always tries hard and learned a lot at the last European Championships. She will jump the Nations Cup here in Aachen. And then we have another mare [Lubie de l'Elan], who belongs to a very good friend of Kevin. Kevin is only riding her for four shows to see what potential she has. He has competed with her at Valkenswaard and at the Brussels Stephex Masters, and most recently at Riesenbeck, where she jumped clear in a 3* Grand Prix. She tries very hard to do everything right.

What’s Kevin [Staut] like to work for?

He’s a really special guy and he knows his horses so well. He reads articles and researches stories because he wants to be the best possible horseman. It’s not easy when we’ve had a bad show, as he can be really hard on himself. He’s also really demanding with himself, which is exactly how he is with me. It’s really nice to work with him because we work together as a team, and we’re constantly trying to improve together. He’s a real morning person, and I question whether he actually sleeps sometimes! However, I’m not a morning person. I’ve been with Kevin for four years now and people told me I would become a morning person, but this is definitely not the case so far! He really cares about me and he helps me at shows when we have a lot of horses and things are busy, like this week at Aachen. Of course, he’s my boss, but we’re really close now and he’s like a friend to me. We both understand when we need to work and be serious, but also when we can relax and enjoy life.

What makes CHIO Aachen so special?

I’ve been watching Aachen on the television since the World Championships was here in 2006, with great horses like Shutterfly. Even on the television you can feel how special it is – the atmosphere, the stadium, so many spectators. If you ask all of the grooms and riders which show they don’t want to miss, it’s this one. When I came here for the first time, I wasn’t disappointed. The noise coming from the stadium was incredible and I thought it was coming from the football stadium next door, but then we realised it was the opening ceremony, which was full of people. Every day it was packed! It’s such an important show for Germany and people are coming here from all over the world. When you do this job and you go to Rolex Grand Slam shows like at Aachen, it’s just different – they’re on a different level. Geneva, Calgary, Aachen and The Dutch Masters – it’s a dream to work at those shows.

What’s your favourite part about being a groom?

Winning, for sure, and this is what keeps me motivated. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if it’s a 1m40 class or a 5* Grand Prix, it’s such a special feeling to win. I’m excited about winning and I love it when Kevin qualifies for a jump-off. There are some periods when nothing goes to plan, so it’s very important to have a good relationship with you boss when times are like that.

What’s your least favourite about being a groom?

Early mornings! And maybe mucking out, but I don’t mind it too much. In general, we have to make a lot of sacrifices, like seeing family and old school friends, but we have so many friends on the show jumping circuit, which makes up for it. Driving a lot isn’t so easy, but at the same time I quite enjoy it – it gives me a chance to be alone and think and dream.

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

Word from the organiser with:

Michael Mronz, General Manager of the Aachener Reitturnier GmbH

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHIO Aachen is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19, and then after this year’s postponement?

It’s fantastic to see. I wouldn’t say it’s a normal CHIO, more like a special one, and because of the pandemic it has a special feeling. It has a different feeling in that on one side it’s going to take place, which is very special for the whole team, the spectators and the riders. On the other side, we have to think about the capacity, as we are normally a full house in Aachen, so to see some empty seats is unusual for the spectators, the riders, the media and also for the organisers. We always have to bear in mind that we’re still in a pandemic, so we’re very happy to be able to run this show this year.

Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges that you’ve had to overcome to ensure that this year’s edition of the CHIO Aachen has been able to go ahead?

I wouldn’t say the challenges have necessarily come in the last 18 months. The biggest challenge came in March when we decided to postpone the tournament until September. Getting to that point required making a lot of decisions, which had many consequences on the financial side. For example, building the infrastructure without knowing if the show was going to take place or not. The financial risk this year was much bigger than it was last year when we knew for certain that we would cancel the show. But this year we decided we were going forward with the belief that the show was going to take place, and that we wanted to present the best possible show with the best riders, horses and infrastructure. So, therefore, we’re very pleased that everything worked out well. I’m a very positive person, so I prefer to not look back over the last 18 months, but instead to look forward.

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

I wouldn’t say it has been hard work, I would call it a privilege to be able to work as a team for a show with such a huge heritage. The club was founded in 1898 with the first show taking place in 1924, and then the first international show in 1927. With this history in mind, as a team, we therefore have a very big responsibility. It’s unbelievable to see how enthusiastic the whole team has been in being able to deliver an outstanding product, which has really touched me.

How much of a privilege is it for CHIO Aachen to be able to host a Major as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?

First of all, it’s unbelievable to see that Steve [Guerdat] won last week at Spruce Meadows, and we’re very pleased that he decided to compete here at Aachen. In general, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is fantastic – it’s like the Champions League for the equestrian world. Scott [Brash] is the only person to have won it, which goes to show how difficult it is to win, and that makes it very, very special. If you compare it to tennis, just look at what happened last week with Djokovic, who had the chance to win the Grand Slam, but he wasn’t able to achieve it. If you look at each of these four incredible shows, they all have great heritage. It’s not all about the money – it’s about the combined heritage of the horses, the spectators and the riders, and about the places that it’s organised at. This makes the Rolex Grand Slam totally unique for the equestrian world.

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

CHIO Aachen 2021 Rider Watch

Who to look out for at the third Major of the year

 

After immense anticipation, CHIO Aachen returns on 14-19 September following a one-year hiatus, as a result of COVID-19. An exceptional list of 66 riders from 17 nations, which includes 19 of the world’s current top 30-ranked athletes, and amongst them four Rolex Testimonees, are confirmed to travel to the North Rhine-Westphalia city in the west of Germany, bringing a total of 210 extraordinarily talented horses. Unsurprisingly, home nation Germany will be represented by no fewer than 18 athletes, with current world number one, Daniel Deusser, the stand-out and in-form rider.

As well as hosting feature classes on each of the five days of world-class equestrian action, including the Mercedes-Benz Nations´ Cup team jumping competition; the globally renowned show, which dates back to 1924, is set to conclude with the inimitable 1m60 Rolex Grand Prix, the third Major of the year, as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Newly-crowned Live Contender, Steve Guerdat – following his stunning victory in Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ – will now continue his epic Rolex Grand Slam journey at CHIO Aachen where he will defend his Live Contender status.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

Current world number one-ranked rider, Germany’s Daniel “Double D” Deusser travels to CHIO Aachen with a stable of four horses, including his 11-year-old mare, Killer Queen Vdm, who he finished second with in the Rolex Grand Prix at last month’s Brussels Stephex Masters.

After flying the flag for Switzerland at last week’s CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, current world number three, Martin Fuchs, is accompanied by five of his star horses, including his two geldings, nine-year-old Leone Jei and 13-year-old The Sinner, and his seven-year-old mare, Diva Van Het Cauterhof Z, who will feature in the classes for Young Horses.

Also present in Calgary is Great Britain’s Scott Brash, who in 2015 became the first and only rider to be crowned the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Champion. Current world number four, Brash will be hoping to start his Rolex Grand Slam journey at the CHIO Aachen, and brings three of his horses, Hello Jefferson, Hello Shelby and Hello Vittoria, the former who the Scot partnered to an impressive Grand Prix victory with at Valkenswaard in July.

Much to the delight of show jumping fans worldwide, Brash’s British teammate – the recently crowned Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Individual Jumping champion and current world number six – Ben Maher teams up with his formidable 12-year-old gelding, Explosion W. The duo look to be the ones to beat, and are sure to have their sights set on victory in the Rolex Grand Prix on the final day of the competition. Maher also travels with his highly-regarded seven-year-old, Point Break.

Currently sitting 10th in the world rankings, recent European Team Jumping champion and the only rider to compete at each of the Majors since the inception of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2013, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat puts his faith once again in Albfuehren's Maddox. His 10-year-old stallion travels to CHIO Aachen alongside his gifted 12-year-old gelding, Victorio des Frotards.

Joint world number 27-ranked riders, America’s Laura Kraut and compatriot Jessica Springsteen both travel to westernmost Germany full of confidence after the pair played an integral role in securing the United States’ Team Jumping silver medal at last month’s Olympic Games. Kraut travels to CHIO Aachen with her Olympic partner, 11-year-old gelding Baloutinue and her experienced 14-year-old gelding, Confu. Meanwhile, Springsteen travels with 12-year-old stallion, Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve, who she partnered at Tokyo 2020, and her stand-out 14-year-old mare, Rmf Zecilie, who she won the Rolex Grand Prix at the Brussels Stephex Masters with just over a fortnight ago.

Steve Guerdat and Venard de Cerisy (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Steve Guerdat and Venard de Cerisy (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Steve Guerdat and Venard de Cerisy win the CP 'International', presented by Rolex

 

2021’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ culminated with the week’s pinnacle class, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. The second Major of the year, as part of the revered Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, welcomed 28 horse and rider combinations, who would go head-to-head in their individual quests to become the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender. Austrian Max Kühner had his sights set on retaining his Live Contender status after winning the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters in April.

The ultimate show jumping test for horse and rider, the Leopoldo Palacios-designed course would be contested over 14 demanding obstacles within the confines of Spruce Meadows’ imposing International Ring. With the competition watched on by 2,000 excited and knowledgeable spectators – the maximum allowed under COVID-19 restrictions – and with just 12 pairings progressing to Round 2, the stakes were high, with the riders all too aware that there was very little margin for error.

Australian Rowan Willis, a familiar face at Spruce Meadows, set the early Round 1 pace with his 15-year-old mare, Blue Movie, jumping fault-free in 80.99s. Home favourite Mario Deslauriers confidently progressed to Round 2 with his 12-year-old mare, Bardolina 2, crossing the line in 83.00s without a penalty. Swiss Steve Guerdat and Australian Hilary Scott were the only other riders to navigate the Round 1 course without picking up any penalties. The eight riders also advancing to Round 2, included Egypt’s Nayel Nassar, Canadian Erynn Ballard, Kent Farrington, McLain Ward, Will Simpson and Natalie Dean from America, Mexico’s Carlos Hank Guerreiro, and Briton Scott Brash.

In a change of fortunes, American duo, Kent Farrington and McLain Ward, faultlessly steered their equestrian partners around the second round course, after each put a fence down in the first. Hot on the American pair’s heels was reigning Rolex Grand Slam champion, Scott Brash, who added just four penalty points to his first round score. However, it was former world number one, Steve Guerdat who was to assume top spot after he effortlessly guided his prodigious 12-year-old gelding, Venard de Cerisy, around the 14-fence course. Following Guerdat’s performance, the final two riders to go were Deslauriers and Willis; however, neither were able to match their first round scores, meaning the three-time World Cup winner (2015, 2016, 2019) and 2012 Olympic Individual jumping champion won the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, and in doing so was crowned the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Live Contender.

The only rider to compete at each of the Majors since the inception of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Guerdat, commented: “I’ve been dreaming of winning these classes since I’ve been a little kid. Since I can remember, Calgary and Aachen have always been the shows that I want to win. I’ve been lucky enough to win Geneva a couple of times, but Aachen and Calgary have been missing. I’m not going to quit until I win them – I have one of them now, and I’m going to aim for the other one very soon. This is what drives us riders, I guess.

“Venard is a very strong, brave and powerful horse. He has a lot of blood and energy in his jump. He doesn’t have the best of techniques, but because of his power and will to do good all the time, we’ve had the chance to understand each other over the years. He’s a very sensitive horse – he’s very difficult to get on and off, you can’t move him, and he’s a little bit shy with everything. But once he sees a jump, he just wants to jump it.”

Linda Southern-Heathcott (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Linda Southern-Heathcott (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Word from the organiser with:

Linda Southern-Heathcott, President and CEO of Spruce Meadows

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?

We’re ecstatic to have horses jumping. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re thrilled to see the riders and the horses. Starting yesterday, we’ve been allowed to have two thousand fans per day, and we chose to take the position that they all had to be fully vaccinated. Everybody has been going through an awful lot of protocol, because that’s what we have to do for the Canadian government. It’s been difficult for the last 16-18 months, but it’s genuinely exciting to see everybody, and it’s enjoyable to watch the competitions and to see how good the riders and horses are.

How would you sum up the last 18 months?

I think the best words to use to describe the last 18 months are resiliency and flexibility. With COVID-19, everything is run through the government, so you have to have lots of patience, and you have to be incredibly resilient. It’s definitely not a straight line from the start to the finish – it has a lot of curves. You have to be able to manage what the government is doing and what COVID-19 presents to you. I’m sure every government has been difficult, but Canada has been extremely difficult. Our borders have been closed and they only opened five days ago.

We started in February with an application to the province, which was a 100-page document, which included a COVID-19 mitigation plan. That has to be signed-off by Alberta Health, which is our province, and then by our Chief Medical Officer, whose name is Dr. Deena Hinshaw. We got that on 6 June, so from February to June we were talking to the authorities, but they wouldn’t approve anything. On 18 June we received the minister’s sign-off, and then we had to take that document and to the federal government, because with the federal government we had to apply for a National Interest Exemption with four of their departments. It had to go to heritage, which is where sport sits; it had to go to health again; it had to go to immigration, essentially the border; and it had to go to jobs and economy. We had to gain approval from all of those ministries alongside another document in order for a lot of people to be let in to Spruce Meadows. So, if you want one word, I think patience would be the right word!

How much hard work have you and your team had to put in to make this year’s edition of CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ happen?

COVID-19 has been very difficult, because the minute we weren’t able to run any shows in 2020, we immediately knew that it would really affect us. We lost 90 per cent of our revenue and so we had to let 100 people go, some of them who has been working for us for over 20 years. We only kept 30 people on, which consisted of 10 in the office, 10 in the horse programme, and then 10 in maintenance and operations. The people in the office have worked very, very hard. Conor Charlton, our Competitions Manager, was the lead for the application to the government. He’s worked extremely hard, and he’s always come at it with a great attitude. Our whole team has just really pulled together and has managed to do more with less, but at the same time it’s been hard. I have an enormous amount of respect for them.

Hannah Rajotte and Patronusin (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Mike Sturk) Hannah Rajotte and Patronusin (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Mike Sturk)

Meet the Next Gen with:

Hannah Rajotte

 

What are you hoping to achieve between now and the end of the year?

I just graduated high school and I’m taking a few years off to pursue riding, as in the future I want to make a career out of this. I’m not sure how that plan looks in the short-term, but finding someone I could work and ride a little bit for, and bring on one or two horses – that’s the plan at this point.

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

I just recently did my first 1m45 with one of my horses. A pretty huge goal, depending on how things go and what horses I have, would be to do my first 1m50, or be a little more competitive at that bigger height, which I haven’t done as much. On a more personal side, being a little more confident, to be able to talk to some more people around the shows, and to make some more connections.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

That’s hard, but one great moment was when I was awarded the 2019 Xerox Junior Rider of the Year award here. Obviously, the award felt pretty great, but the horse that I rode into the International Ring with for the presentation is my horse, Theo. He’s a bit of a weird guy and sensitive, and the moment that he went in there, he was so good and solid, so it was a pretty good feeling. Above that was my first time in the International Ring last Friday with Theo again – it just feels like it’s opened another step to the whole journey.

Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses…

Right now I have two geldings. Theo is my long-term guy, who I’ve had for three years now, and we’ve moved up together. When I got him, he’d only competed up to 1.20 level in show jumping. He was an eventer and I’d only competed up to 1m30. We did our first 1m30 together, our first 1m40, our U25 classes, we had a few U25 wins, so I have a really good relationship with him. He’s definitely where I got my confidence from. My second horse is actually a lease from Spruce Meadows, and his name is Charlie [S 15]. He’s a little bit more normal than Theo, so we got him so I could practice a little bit to be more consistent at the 1m40 height. He is a great guy, who steps out every day and loves his job, and he’s really level-headed and loves to jump clean. They both love their job.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I could probably name any top rider. Beezie Madden is someone I’ve looked up to for a really long time, and also Tiffany Foster. My mum has helped me and supported me through my entire journey so far, almost completely by herself, and she’s tried to give me every opportunity possible. I look up to her in a lot of ways, and she works really hard to be able to give me these sorts of opportunities.

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

My mum, my coach and all of my support team have always told me to just keep focused on my own path and not to get too worked up on what everyone else is doing, as everyone has such different paths in this sport.

What makes Spruce Meadows so special?

I love Spruce Meadows – it’s my favourite show, and I consider myself really lucky that I’ve been able to grow up competing here. Nowhere else has the type of atmosphere that Spruce Meadows has – you step into its grounds and it feels as though you’re transported into its own type of world. The crowds are incredible and the fact that it attracts top Olympic riders from all over the world makes it pretty special.

Tiffany Foster and Brighton (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Tiffany Foster and Brighton (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Tiffany Foster wins the Suncor Winning Round

 

Twenty five combinations contested Saturday’s 1m50 Suncor Winning Round in a wet International Ring following overnight and early morning rain. However, spectators’ spirits were not in the slightest bit dampened, as they were treated to some world-class performances from not only Canada’s finest equestrian athletes, but also a number of leading riders from eight other nations, who descended on Calgary for the 2021 edition of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’.

Round 1’s proceedings were dominated by the home nation, with four Canadian riders amongst the 10 who eventually progressed to Round 2, including Tiffany Foster and her 15-year-old gelding, Brighton, Amy Millar and her 11-year-old gelding, Christiano, and the experienced duo of Eric Lamaze and Jim Ifko, who were partnered by 11-year-old gelding, Kino and the 12-year-old La Silla-bred mare, Celine Ls La Silla, respectively. The Irish trio of Jordan Coyle (Centriko Volo), Daniel Coyle (Ivory TCS) and Conor Swail also made the top-10 cut, and were joined in the Winning Round by the talented 23-year-old Belgian, Zoe Conter (Dawa De Greenbay Z), the in-form Egyptian, Nayel Nassar (Igor Van De Wittemoere), and British rider, Matthew Sampson (Geneve R).

But in the end, it was Tiffany Foster’s day to shine in front of an enthralled crowd, after she and the brilliant Brighton did enough to see off a late challenge from Irishman, Conor Swail, beating him to top spot by three tenths of a second, with the current world number 59-ranked rider, Egyptian Nayel Nassar slotting into third place.

Delighted with her long-time partner, Brighton, Foster, commented: “The Suncor Winning Round here at Spruce Meadows is a kind of unique event, as you know you don’t carry your faults, which means you’ve got to get into that top 10, so it’s always better to carry a little bit of rhythm. Brighton seems to love this class, so I just ride my round. The good thing about him is he’s super-fast, so even if I happen to have one down I’m usually in with a shout, but he’s clear more than not!”

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

Rider Interview with:

Eric Lamaze

 

Which horses are you competing with this week? And can you tell us a bit about their characters?

I have Dieu Merci [Van T & L], who is an up and coming stallion. He’s 11-years-old this year and he’s going to be my future star. He will be doing the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex here on Sunday, and hopefully in the future he’ll be able to put a Rolex Grand Slam Major in his pocket, or in my pocket. He’s going to do great things, this horse – I really believe in him.

I have my young horse, Fine Lady [5], who’s 18-years-old (!) – I don’t know if I have to say much about her. She’s a winner. She’s not as sharp as she once was, but she still loves jumping and we’re planning on keeping her in form just to finish in Geneva, if she will let us do that.

I have a new horse called Kino, who we just purchased, as an addition for this year, as we have some great young horses coming next year. I don’t know him well, so I can’t tell you which way it’s going to go. I had a problem with his previous rider. He came from Ludger Beerbaum originally, and then Rodrigo Pessoa bought him for one of his students and it was never a match. I like the horse and the horse seems to like me.

Why is CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ such a special show to compete at?

Spruce Meadows in general is special. Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is the Wimbledon for me; it’s the French Open; it’s all of the above. It’s a Rolex Grand Slam Major; it really is the event. This year with travelling and covid and the restrictions, you’re not going to see the familiar faces, but you’re not going to see any less difficulty in the course. I really believe that it’s going to be something that’s incredible.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

I just love the sport, I love jumping, I like going fast, and I love the jump-off. I love adrenaline. I love to think I ride as good today as I used to. I’m missing a few beats, actually, but I like to think that! Adrenalin is the one word I would use.

Do you have any secret tactics for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday?

My strategy was to jump my horse [Dieu Merci Van T & L] in yesterday’s 1.55m and then to leave him alone and keep him fresh, as he’s just travelled here, and then enter Sunday to win.

Who do you think will be the one to beat in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?

I believe Kent Farrington, Scott Brash and Steve Guerdat. It’s like horseracing: I always pick the favourite, but I always lose, so I don’t know!

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

Walking the course with:

Course designer Leopoldo Palacios

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?

I’m delighted and so happy to be back here in Canada. For so many years I’ve been coming to Spruce Meadows and designing courses, but for 2020’s and the first part of 2021’s shows to be cancelled, it was incredibly sad. I really hope the improvements we’re currently seeing continues and 2022 will be back to normal and things will settle down.

How much work has the team at Spruce Meadows put into making this year’s event happen?

They’ve all spent an incredible amount of time to put the ‘Masters’ Tournament on. The team has been working tirelessly to ensure that my visa was granted to allow me to travel to Canada from Venezuela. People have to understand how international this show is, the huge amount of people come from so many different overseas countries. To find show jumping crew was a huge challenge for the organising committee. Spruce Meadows is a seasonal event, which requires a lot of people to make it happen, and finding help wasn’t easy.

Have you faced any challenges this week?

Something that has been challenging for me is Saturday’s BMO Nations Cup, as we only have five teams competing. There have been a number of factors responsible for this, including COVID-19, the recent European Championships, next week’s CHIO Aachen, and the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. We seem to have everything against us. However, we still have a significant amount of prize-money [CAD$600,000] and a very proud sponsor in BMO, so we will aim to keep the standard as high as normal.

What makes Spruce Meadows different from other international shows?

We see other shows using long distances, very light poles, not a lot of materials and a short time allowed. Here at Spruce Meadows we have big poles, heavy fences, and I believe we’re using more space than any other show. I’m seeing other shows’ 5* courses around the world today with 1.60m and 1.70m oxers in their Grands Prix. On Sunday I will have 1.75m and more, and I’m also using short distances. We like to be this way and we like to be unique.

Can you tell us a little bit about the course that you’ve designed for tomorrow’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?

For many years, I believe the course that I’ve been designing for Sunday’s class is one of the hardest in the world. The feature class at Spruce Meadows has become a benchmark for what the horses are able to jump, and this year I feel confident that we will have an excellent Grand Prix, as I think we have a group of riders here who are absolutely world class. The first round will require a normal level of show jumping. You then have to remember that only 12 riders will progress to the second round, which I think will prove to be the absolute limit to what their horses are able to handle.

McLain Ward and HH Azur (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) McLain Ward and HH Azur (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

McLain Ward wins the Tourmaline Oil Cup

 

On a breezy and autumnal Calgarian afternoon, 28 horse and rider combinations representing 12 nations contested Friday’s feature class at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, the 1.55m Tourmaline Oil Cup. Legendary course designer Leopoldo Palacios set the pairings – which included three out of the world’s current top 10-ranked riders – 12 testing obstacles, with the Venezuelan and his team of assistants making full use of the vast and iconic International Ring.

American McLain Ward set the early pace with his 15-year-old bay mare, HH Azur, going clear in a time of 72.51s, within the 75-second time limit. Compatriot Kent Farrington and his 14-year-old gelding, Creedance, looked to be on imperious form, breezing around the course fault-free. In a show of American domination, winner of 2019’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Beezie Madden and her 15-year-old La Silla-bred Stallion, Breitling LS also made light work of the 15-fence course. Much to the delight of the crowd, home favourites Tiffany Foster and Erynn Ballard progressed to the shoot-out, both abroad their talented 10-year-olds, Hamilton and Gakhir respectively. In-form Nayel Nassar from Egypt and his veteran 19-year-old gelding, Coronado was joined in the jump-off by Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes and his stallion H5 Chagauns and Australia’s Rowan Willis partnered by his grey stallion Ashton Dakota.

First to go in the jump-off was recent Olympic Team silver medallist, McLain Ward, who set a blistering time of 37.38s, which looked hard to beat, after the next seven riders – Rowan Willis, Kent Farrington, Eduardo Menezes, Erynn Ballard, Beezie Madden and Tiffany Foster – all failed to navigate the eight-fence jump-off without penalties. Last to go, it was apparent that Nayel Nassar was playing it safe, with his sights set on second spot, eventually crossing the line without a fault and finishing runner-up behind deserved winner, McLain Ward.

On his victory and his mare HH Azur’s stunning performance, the two-time Olympic Team gold medallist, commented: “I don’t know if I particularly did it better than any of the other riders, she just jumped it better! I actually wasn’t upset by my position in the jump-off. I was just going to ride my plan, I know what her strengths and weaknesses are at this point, and I thought if I put a little bit of pressure on there might be some mistakes and that played out.

“HH Azur is going to jump the Nations Cup tomorrow for our team, and then Casper, a stallion I’ve been kind of bringing along, who’s a phenomenal jumper and has had a strong summer in Europe, is the horse I’m aiming towards the big Grand Prix on Sunday.”

Martin Fuchs riding Conner JEI (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Martin Fuchs riding Conner JEI (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Rider Interview with:

Martin Fuchs

 

What are you hoping to achieve between now and the end of the year?

I still have some big goals this year, including the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex here at Spruce Meadows, which would be a dream to win. Next week we have the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, which would be another dream to win. Then at the end of the year, there is the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva, which is my title to defend, so there’s a lot still to come.

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

For us showjumpers, the biggest goal is always the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The four Majors are so special and part of such historic shows, so that’s where you want to thrive. Next year we also have the World Equestrian Games, which is a big goal of mine.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

My proudest moment would probably be winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. It was against the best riders in the world and included a really exciting and fast jump-off, and to win in front of my home crowd was just amazing.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

The most important people in my career are definitely my dad, Thomas Fuchs, and Steve Guerdat. They both supported me a lot from a young age, and I’ve been looking up to them my whole life.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

To work with horses is a really rewarding but hard job, but they give you a lot back. The more you work, the more you try to understand them. The more you’re with them, the more they give you back, so that’s very rewarding as a rider.

Tell us a little bit about who you’ve brought to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’…

I brought Conner Jei to Spruce Meadows to jump the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday. He comes here after a big win in the Rolex Grand Prix at Jumping Dinard, so I feel like this field is going to suit him. Dinard is quite similar to Spruce, as it has quite a big grass ring with not the easiest fences, so I have really big hopes for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

I have two very nice young horses. One six-year-old called Captain Morgan [Weering Z] and one seven-year-old called Diva [Van Het Cauterhof Z]. I definitely think these are two horses we will see a lot more from in the future.

How much of a boost does it give you having fans back at shows?

It’s great to be back with a crowd. For us riders, it’s so different between riding in front of a crowd and riding without a crowd. It really motivates you to perform better when you have people cheering for you. It really is such a great feeling.

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

Just to try and really understand your horse, and to work together with your horse to achieve something really big.

What makes Spruce Meadows so special?

Spruce Meadows is one of the most special shows there is. I feel great here, and it’s such a historic place. My dad used to come here all the time, and when I was small he would always tell me what a great show it is. Then when I got to come here eight or nine years ago for the first time it was a really special feeling.

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

Word from the organizer with:

Ian Allison, Senior Vice-President of Spruce Meadows

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?

It’s been a long haul, and it’s great to be getting the band back together, as they say. September 2019 was the last time we celebrated a championship here with Beezie Madden aboard Darry Lou winning the Rolex Grand Slam and starting her cycle, and then the world changed a short time later. It’s been a very, very interesting time, and at times Spruce Meadows became a pretty lonely place for those of us who were here watching all of the goings-on around the world.

Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges that you’ve had to overcome to ensure that this year’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ has been able to go ahead?

The challenges have been extraordinary, as each nation has approached and managed the global pandemic in a different way. Canada is a very large country which covers six time zones and has a large border with the United States, which has been one of the big hurdles, plus the restriction of flights into Canada.

We started this process about nine months ago, starting at regional level, then working with the provincial authorities to get our documents in place and our plan approved to host a national event. Following that, it goes from a regulatory to a political side to get what’s called a National Interest Exemption. Fortunately, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping were deemed by the federal government, as something that merited a National Interest Exemption, both for international sport and commerce, which didn’t actually come through until 25 August, so you have to align all of the variables that may or may not effect that, and consider a lot of other planning around the international sporting calendar. We took what would be our CSI5* national tournaments and moved them to September to be part of our ‘Masters’ Tournament, which created a three-week reason for athletes, media, etc. to be at Spruce Meadows. The process was somewhat exhaustive and always everchanging, but we’re here now, the sun is shining, and we have a wonderful entry.

What positives will you take from the last 18 months?

We have an adage here: adapt and overcome. There’s been some amazing innovation over the last 18 months, and I think about the Spruce Meadows Television group, who were at the forefront of creating a Virtual Summer Series last year. They reached into 44 years of history and created content, which was able to keep our fans engaged and our own brand relevant. I think of the tremendous efforts put forward by people in areas which aren’t necessarily part of their job remit here at Spruce Meadows, so it’s really been an example of life on the farm. We normally operate the ‘Masters’ Tournament with about 175 full-time staff, 400 volunteers and hundreds of sub-contractors, which just wasn’t able to happen this year. To witness the teamwork, the innovation and the inspiration that everyone has provided at every different level has been nothing short of remarkable and memorable.

Finally, it’s great news that Spruce Meadows has been allowed to invite 2,000 spectators to enjoy the sport on Friday, Saturday and Sunday…

We’ve been approved to welcome a fraction of our fanbase. They will see the very best in international show jumping, including Max Kühner enjoying his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey, whether Beezie Madden can defend her title from 2019, and the great Eric Lamaze, who’s gone to great lengths and considerable inconvenience to be here, and in doing some demonstrated a huge amount of grit, determination and quality. There are many great storylines unfolding, which is very exciting.

Kent Farrington rides Jasper in Spruce Meadows 2019 (photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Kent Farrington rides Jasper in Spruce Meadows 2019 (photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Rolex Grand Slam 'Rider Watch'

Who to look out for at the CSIO Spruce Meadows Masters 2021

 

The CSIO 5* Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ returns from 8-12 September 2021, and will play host to the second Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the year: the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, which will be staged in the impressive International Arena on the final day of the competition.

After winning the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in April – and in doing so becoming the live contender – Austrian Max Kühner has confirmed his attendance, alongside a stellar list of competitors, including five out of the current top 20-ranked riders in the world, and five Rolex Testimonees. As ever, the five-day competition promises to be a truly international affair, with 15 nations represented, with the hosts welcoming no fewer than 42 of its very own home-grown athletes.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

Current world number three, Martin Fuchs travels to Calgary brimming with confidence, following Switzerland’s win in the team jumping competition at the European Championships, which he and his gelding, Leone Jei played a crucial role in. The 29-year-old will be accompanied at Spruce Meadows by his talented 10-year-old gelding, Conner Jei, winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at the Jumping International de Dinard.

British rider Scott Brash returns to Spruce Meadows, where he was crowned the first ever Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion in 2015 with his legendary gelding, Hello Sanctos. The current world number four brings Hello Vincent to Calgary, who he finished a very credible fourth with in the Rolex Grand Prix at Knokke Hippique in June.

Fuchs’ compatriot and the current world number 10-ranked rider, Steve Guerdat, has also added the Team European champion accolade to his impressive list of titles. The three-time World Cup champion (2015, 2016, 2019) will compete at Spruce Meadows with his dependable 12-year-old gelding, Venard De Cerisy, who he took to this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where the duo finished fifth in the Team competition.

Rio 2016 Olympic Team silver medallist, Kent Farrington leads the charge of athletes from the United States, and in a clear demonstration of intent, brings seven horses with him to Spruce Meadows. Of note, the current world number 13 will compete with his 15-year-old mare, Gazelle, 14-year-old gelding, Creedance, and nine-year-old hot prospect, Orafina.

Rolex Testimonee and home favourite, Eric Lamaze, is one of 42 athletes who will be flying the flag for Canada. Currently ranked number 120 in the world, Lamaze will be joined by his 18-year-old mare, Fine Lady 5, who helped him clinch an Individual bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Games, 12-year-old stallion, Dieu Merci van T & L, and 13-year-old Kino.

Other accomplished Canadian riders who are set to compete, include Tiffany Foster, Kara Chad, Mario Deslauriers and Erynn Ballard.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender and current world number 20, Max Kühner, is the competition’s sole representative from Austria. Kühner brings Eic Coriolis des Isles to Spruce Meadows, a nine-year-old French stallion, who he will partner in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, the next stage of his Rolex Grand Slam journey.

2019’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex champion, Beezie Madden is part of the US contingent, and travels with her 15-year-old La Silla-bred stallion, Breitling LS. Madden’s compatriot, four-time Olympic Team medallist, McLain Ward, travels to Calgary off the back of a Tokyo 2020 silver medal, and will be hoping for more success at Spruce Meadows with Kasper van het Hellehof and HH Azur.

No stranger to Spruce Meadows, having competed at the ‘Masters’ in 2019, a young rider to note is 23-year-old Belgian, Zoé Conter, who is confirmed to ride with her 12-year-old stallion, Davidoff De Lassus and 12-year-old mare, Dolitaire Chavannaise in the week’s 5* classes.

Live Contender Interview with:

Max Kühner

 

What have you been up to since winning the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters in April?

Generally I’ve been fine, considering we’ve had a lot of shows, which have followed the various lockdowns. After Den Bosch, Elektric Blue had his next show in Madrid, where he won the Global Champions League team competition. After that, he went to Knokke Hippique, where he came third in the Rolex Grand Prix. In Monaco, I rode one of my young horses called Eic Coriolis des Isles, and he came second in the Grand Prix. Finally, Elektric Blue was fourth in the Grand Prix in Valkenswaard, which was a chance to prepare him for the European Championships, and now his next stop will be CHIO Aachen. We love and enjoy what we do, so as long as everything works out well, it’s less about work and more about passion.

You’re the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender – what’s your strategy going to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?

I will bring Eic Coriolis des Isles with me to Spruce Meadows, who’s a nine-year-old French stallion, who I mentioned finished second in the Grand Prix in Monaco in July. I’ve had him since he was a seven-year-old, so I’ve known him for quite a while. He’s never competed in a Grand Prix like the one in Spruce Meadows, so it will be interesting to see how he likes the amazing show arena. I think I’ll give him two classes before the Grand Prix, just to get him accustomed to the whole situation, so I hope he will be well prepared.

Eic Coriolis des Isles performs well in an outdoor situation. He has an outstanding character and is amazingly brave. He has a lot of possibilities in his body, so jumping is very easy for him – it feels like he has endless scope and good riding abilities. For sure, he doesn’t have vast experience, and he generally needs one or two days to get to know a new place. He has a very big stride and he’s not spooky or shy with anything, so I’m assuming he will like Spruce Meadows.

This year the shows have been scheduled very close together, which is why I decided to take Elektric Blue P to CHIO Aachen, as it comes directly after CSIO Spruce Meadows. We are extremely happy to have a horse which is able to win just one Grand Prix in the Rolex Grand Slam series. If we want to win several of them, then we would usually just choose one horse, but I think it’s too much to jump the same horse week after week, particularly travelling these long distances.

Which other horses will you take to Spruce Meadows, and which of your young horses are you really excited about?

As a second horse, I will bring Vancouver Dreams to Spruce Meadows, who I’ve known for over five years since she was a five-year-old. She’s a very careful horse with a big stride, who likes the big arenas, and she’s also very fast, so I hope we can win something with her. Eic Coriolis des Isles is still young, so he is one of the big hopes. We also have Eic Cooley Jump The Q, an Irish horse who I have big hopes for. He’s just eight years old and we’re slowly introducing him to the bigger classes, and we might bring him to CHIO Aachen. There are some more young horses, who have big hopes, such as Eic Ambiance Du Seigneur, who’s just seven, but is an outstanding jumper. Then there’s an eight-year-old mare called Neugschwents Concordia, who is a very careful horse and probably needs a bit longer. Overall, we have some very nice developing young horses for the future.

Max Kühner with Elektric Blue at The Dutch Masters 2019 (photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink) Max Kühner with Elektric Blue at The Dutch Masters 2019 (photo: The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink)

Michael Pender and HHS Burnchurch at the CHI Geneva 2019 (photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Michael Pender and HHS Burnchurch at the CHI Geneva 2019 (photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Meet the Next Gen with:

Michael Pender

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

The horses have been going quite well this year, and I’m now up to number 55 in the world rankings, which is great. Thinking towards the back end of this year, I’d like to do a few World Cup qualifiers, then I will start trying to get ready for next year, to try and do even better in 2022. I’d love to compete in CHI Geneva again – I competed there in 2019, and it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.

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

Hhs Burnchurch has been very good this year, I also have a nine-year-old called Hhs Fast Forward, who’s been jumping really well, as well as another nine-year-old called Hhs Javas Gucci, who’s jumping fantastically, too. So, we do have a few good young horses coming up through the ranks that we hope will do great things in the future. Two of my horses are brothers – Hhs Burnchurch and Hhs Fast Forward – and they have pretty similar personalities, and have a lot of the same traits and mannerisms. When you’re riding them, you just know that they will both have a little look at certain things in the yard or the arenas, which is quite funny. They’re both very talented, and Burnchurch went clear in the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva in 2019 and at one or two other 5* Grands Prix. I’ve also just jumped in Dublin with a very good six-year-old horse called Hhs Corneta, she jumped amazingly there, and I think she has a good chance of becoming a future Grand Prix horse.  

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

I think it’s been amazing for the sport of show jumping. To put all those shows together, raising that much prize money, is just incredible. To win the Rolex Grand Slam is a very hard thing to accomplish, so to see Scott [Brash] manage to do it is astonishing. I’m interested to see if anyone else will also manage to complete it at some point in the future. They are all massive shows, and are a big part of the show jumping calendar. To be a part of them is already a great accomplishment in my eyes, but to go on to win one of them would be unbelievable. The Rolex Grand Slam brings something completely different to the sport, one week you’re jumping in Calgary, then you’re jumping in Aachen, which are two of the biggest grass arenas in the world; it really is the pinnacle of the sport. I prefer to jump outdoor, and although Geneva is one of the most incredible shows I’ve ever been to, I find those big grass arenas easier to ride.

What have you learnt over the course of the last 18 months, and what positives will you take?

I’ve learnt that it’s definitely not a bad thing to give a horse some time off, and over the last 18 months, they’ve developed a lot from not being at shows every week. It’s become clear to me that we shouldn’t rush the horses, as they need time and will only get better with age. I’ve spent more time at home with my family and the young horses, which has been nice. Having dinner at home a few times a week and riding the young horses a bit more myself has been a real positive out of the last 18 months. These are the things that we forget about when we’re so busy at shows every week. While it was a really nice time that we had together at home, it has been really great to get back to shows and get going again.

The Summer Rolex Grands Prix Season Results

 

The period between 2021’s first two Rolex Grand Slam Majors – The Dutch Masters in April and the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September – played host to no fewer than five top-class show jumping events, each featuring a prestigious Rolex Grand Prix as the pinnacle class of the show, which attracted the world’s very best riders and horses.

The 1m60 Rolex Grand Prix presented by Audi concluded five days of entertaining jumping from 23-27 June at Knokke Hippique in the north-west of Belgium. After nine riders progressed to the jump-off, local hero and Tokyo 2020 Team bronze medallist, Jérôme Guery, and his bay stallion, Quel Homme de Hus, proved far too strong for the rest of the field, finishing over six seconds ahead of second-placed riser and Rolex Testimonee, Kevin Staut.

Royal Windsor Horse Show’s crowd in the iconic Castle Arena in the shadow of Windsor Castle witnessed a dominant display of horsemanship on 4 July, after another local hero, Ben Maher, and his extraordinarily talented stallion, Explosion W, took the honours in the CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix ahead of Swiss Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat. The Briton’s next stop would be Tokyo 2020, where he and his dependable equine partner were eventually crowned Individual Olympic champions.

Rolex was warmly welcomed to The Masters of Chantilly, as the show’s Official Sponsor, Official Timepiece and Title Sponsor of the Grand Prix. Staged on the manicured lawns of the Hippodrome de Chantilly from 6-11 July, it was Nicolas Delmotte, who brilliantly continued the local hero theme. The Frenchman and his gelding, Urvoso du Roch triumphed by just 0.36 seconds over Swiss Martin Fuchs, yet another Rolex Testimonee who had to settle for second place.

Brittany’s Emerald Coast provided an exquisitely picturesque location for Jumping International de Dinard as spectators were welcomed back in the tribunes from 15-18 July, where Fuchs superbly made amends for his Chantilly disappointment. Paired this time with his gelding Connor 70, the current Individual world champion pipped Ireland’s Denis Lynch to top spot in the show’s finale, the CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix de Dinard.

The Brussels Stephex Masters 2021 climaxed on Sunday 29 August with its showpiece class: the CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix presented by Audi. After nine combinations progressed to the jump-off, after navigating the 13-obstacle, Uliano Vezzani-designed course fault-free, it was the USA’s Jessica Springsteen and her 14-year-old mare, Rmf Zecilie who prevailed by a tenth of a second over Germany’s Daniel Deusser, with Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca slotting into third place over a second further back.

Breeders Uncovered with the Studbook La Silla

Please tell us about the history of La Silla  

Pilar Cepeda Yzaga (P) “Alfonso Romo started La Silla in Monterrey, Mexico. At the time, we were extremely lucky to have talented mares such as Doreen LS – who competed at the Olympic Games – at the farm. As the mares got older and retired, we felt so privileged to have competed them and thankful for all that they had done for us that we did not want to sell them. So, we decided to breed from them instead, and this is how La Silla was born. Over the years, the breeding programme started to expand, as Poncho [the nickname of Alfonso Romo] bought top-class show jumping mares, such as Dollar Girl, Renata, Carrera, Quinta, and Olympica (Ninja’s mother).

“In the times when La Silla was founded, it was impossible to buy semen from a foreign country due to customs’ rules. Therefore, that is why there are some La Silla horses in France. Every year we would send a few of the mares over to France to have one or two foals from different stallions. The customs’ rules have changed recently, and over the last two years we have been able to import semen from Europe. Personally, I think this will have a significant effect on breeding in Mexico.”

What is the proudest moment in the history of La Silla?

P “I think that it would be impossible to highlight just one moment. We have been incredibly blessed to have had such wonderful horses and results from the La Silla programme. One moment, of which we were incredibly proud was when Rodrigo Pessoa finished fourth with Rebozo LS at the World Championships. This was very meaningful to us, as the mother (Renata) is one of our favourite horses and is one of our best breeding lines.

“We have horses competing for numerous nations at the biggest and best shows. We are of course so proud of these horses, but we also get so much satisfaction and pride seeing our horses jumping at the smaller national shows or with young riders. For example, one of La Silla’s mares recently won a gold medal at the North American Youth Championship in Michigan. It truly is impossible to pick one moment – you remember all of them with passion and feeling.”

Alejandra Romo Garza Lagüera  (A) “We have been lucky to have had so many proud moments. Breitling LS, ridden by Beezie Madden, winner of the World Cup Jumping Final in Paris in 2018, and Team and Individual bronze at the Pan Am Games, Peru in 2019. Also, Chela LS, who was ridden so beautifully by Ashlee Bond Clarke at the $1 million Grand Prix at HITS Thermal in 2014.”

Could you explain the operation at La Silla?

P – “We are a studbook and a farm. We have amazing veterinary facilities on-site with excellent staff, such as Juan José Vazquez, who is our leading equine reproduction specialist vet. He looks after the embryos and is key to our programme. We have been incredibly lucky to have numerous people from Europe and the United States of America, who give us advice so that we can continue to learn and improve our programme here in Mexico. Dr. Irwin Liu in the United States of America has given us all of the necessary knowledge in regard to the correct and proper treatment of embryos.

“We do not breed from the mares before they are four years old, which is uncommon in Europe where they breed much earlier. We believe the horses grow until they are six, so they need more time to develop before they have foals. We know all the mares so well, as we ride, compete and look after them, and this enables us to understand which horses should be bred from, to ensure that we continue to produce the best we can.”

A – “We have our staff working on this programme, including an agricultural engineer, veterinarians, grooms and riders in charge of the horses. We pair the riders and the horses together based on their individual attributes and evaluate this partnership over time. We have a very considered approach to how we start our horses, and unlike other places, we wait until they are either four or five years old. This decision is made in conjunction with our veterinary team, who advise us on the bone structures and confirmation of each of the horses. Our vets are truly top-class, and we often have horses who are not from La Silla coming to be cared for by the team.”

Have you ever had any unexpected results from the breeding programme?

A – “One time, we had a mare who was a bit slow. In my opinion she needed to be paired with a horse with a lot of ‘blood’. My brother chose a stallion who was not ‘bloody’ at all. I thought he had chosen the wrong stallion, but the foal turned out to be very ‘bloody’, which was a lovely surprise. At the end of the process we always say a prayer and trust everything will be for the best.”

P – “You can choose the best mare and stallion, but at the end of the day nature and god will always play such a strong role that you cannot predict the outcome.”

The partnership between horse and rider is very important, is this something you look at when you sell to new owners?

P – “I think that it is most important to have a good reputation, so this process is critical. Unfortunately, as breeders, we cannot always control the clients, as they bring their trainers who advise them. You have to be straight and honest.”

A – “I like to ask a lot of questions when someone comes to buy one of our horses. I really need to know the type of rider and the needs that that rider will have. Amateurs and professionals have very different needs and wants from their horses, so really understanding the individual is crucial when pairing a horse and rider. We love to see our horses reach their full potential, so matching the correct rider with correct horse is such an important process for us.”

How many horses are you breeding in a normal year?

P – “La Silla itself used to breed 120 foals; we have now reduced to about half of that because of the pandemic. There are less shows, and therefore there is less demand, so that is why we are breeding fewer foals.”

A – “I would say about 50 [per year] in the last few years is normal.

What are your other ambitions for La Silla? Why do you do it?

P –Alfonso Romo made it possible for Mexican people to have good horses. Back when La Silla was founded, Mexicans mainly used Thoroughbred horses to show jump. These could not compete on the same level as the Warmbloods bred in France and Germany. Poncho decided to help equestrianism in Mexico, and that’s one of the reasons La Silla started its shows. If you look at any of the results from national shows and championships in Mexico, you will see numerous La Silla horses at the top of the leader boards.

“Many of the world’s top riders jumped at La Silla’s junior shows. Now, we want to attract them back. It is challenging because Mexico is so far away. We are aiming to return La Silla to its standard as one of the best shows and to attract top level sport, and top horse and rider combinations to Mexico.”

A – “We would love to host a top-level show here. We aspire to be like Aachen or Spruce Meadows and create an incredibly special venue and be recognised as a world-leading show.”

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

A – “I think the worldwide reputation of Rolex is massive. Rolex’s brand is perpetual, it is precision, and the shows are like that. It is an inspiration for us and others, it is what we aim to be like. It has done so much not only for show jumping but for all the equestrian disciplines.”

P – “I think it’s been incredible for the sport. The epitome of elegance beauty and top level sport. Riders and owners want to be there, so often they plan their whole year to aim for these competitions. I believe that young riders dream about winning a Rolex Grand Slam as they do an Olympic medal. For La Silla, it is an inspiration as hosts to compete with these top-level shows.”

Out of the four Majors, which is your favourite and why?

P – “Aachen is very special to me. The venue is incredible, and I have jumped there myself before, so it holds a place close to my heart. Spruce Meadows has done so much for Mexican riders, allowing junior riders up to top professionals to compete at the show. This has given our riders the opportunity to compete at top of the sport, which is invaluable.”

A – “Aachen is amazing. It is not just a show, it’s everything, the food, the scenery, the music. I have never ridden there myself, but I watched my father, sister and brother compete there. I rode at Spruce Meadows, as a young rider, aged 11. My whole family has competed there, so we have many lovely family memories of the show. I have to say, all the four Majors are special, and each one has touched me in some unique way.”

Is there an individual who inspired La Silla ?

P – “We are incredibly thankful to Arno Grego and officer Harry Confort, who built La Silla’s showgrounds. It used to be a hill and woods and they visualised the place that it is today.”

A – “It is difficult to choose one person. My father is a huge inspiration in my life. Pilar is another, she knows every horse in such detail, including their bloodlines back five generations. She also runs the breeding programme with such passion and perfection.”

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

P – “To give the best of yourself every single day and have faith that things will happen. With the horses, you need to be gentle, patient, and straightforward in your training programme.”

A – “You must pick yourself up when you fall. Someone once said to me, ‘When you are in a dark place you have to look to the light of leaders in the world. They have had to fight and restart many times, look and learn from their perseverance’.”

What advice you give to someone if they were interested in a career with horses?

A – “The advice I have given to my son who has just started riding, is to be patient, persevere and follow your instincts. I also believe in watching the top riders, you learn so much from seeing what they do, especially riding on the flat. Pilar reads about breeding lines, confirmation, and routines of successful riders. This has given her invaluable knowledge.”

P – “I believe you have to listen and learn from the advice and experience of your trainer. Find someone who you can trust and build a relationship, and from there you will succeed.”

Justine Tebbel (Photo: Knokke Hippique) Justine Tebbel (Photo: Knokke Hippique)

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

My best horse got injured at the start of spring, and I also have a lot of young horses at the moment, so you could say my plans and goals have been a little uncertain for this year. One of my goals now for this year is to build the young horses to the next level. My oldest horse is nine years old, and I’m starting him with the 2* and 3* shows, and just like with my younger horses, I’m hoping to build him up to the bigger shows and see what he’s made of. His name is Cote de Pablo, who I’ve already competed with at a few international shows. My brother was riding him before I took him on at the end of last year, so this is our first year together competing in the bigger classes. Our first 2* Grand Prix together was in June this year in Knokke, and I was really happy to go clear with him, particularly as my goals weren’t set too high. The plan is to take him to Spain for three weeks in the autumn, and I hope I can develop him in some of the bigger classes. 

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

I have a few really green ones, who I have only showed at some small national shows in Germany, and I’m planning to take them to Spain to give them some international experience. One is the offspring of Don DIarado, who is one of my brother’s horses. I got him last year and he was incredibly green, and could not even complete a course, whereas now I’m starting to take him to some small international shows. I also have one four year old and another five year old, who are also both very green, so they have a lot of growing up to do!

I really like easy geldings. For me, stallions are always really special, in terms of needing a lot of attention both at the shows and in the stables. The same goes for mares. Geldings are normally the most chilled ones, so I guess I’m similar to them, as I’m very easy going. Cote de Pablo is a gelding and he can sometimes be a bit nervous when I ride him, but in the stables he’s very chilled. I also have a six year old gelding, who is another of Don DIarado’s offspring, and I have to say he is also very laid back.

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

I think the Rolex Grand Slam give us riders a huge amount of motivation, and I believe every good rider should have it as one of their goals. I suppose it’s a dream for me to one day ride in one of the Rolex Grands Prix, but to do that you have to have a horse that you’re able to build up to 5* Grand Prix level. It’s also a great motivation for the owners, who are attracted by the money, but they also want their riders to be competing at the very highest level, which is what the Rolex Grand Slam offers.

What have you learnt over the course of the last 18 months, and what positives will you take?

I was really lucky, as the COVID-19 situation didn’t prove too difficult for me, because I was able to stay at home with my family at our beautiful stables. I spent a lot of time with my younger horses, much more time than I could have when we have international shows all the time, which meant being away for the whole week.

In the last two years I had a bad accident when I broke my back, so I think I’ve become a lot more careful. A few years ago I wasn’t scared of anything and would ride any horse without a second thought. But now, I’ve become a lot more careful, not scared, just more mindful of the situation. I’m now always happy when I’m healthy and able to ride, so I’ve definitely become more appreciative of the good times.

Grégory Wathelet and Nevados S (Photo: Sébastien Boulanger) Grégory Wathelet and Nevados S (Photo: Sébastien Boulanger)

Breeders Uncovered with:

Olympic Medalist Grégory Wathelet

 

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

My earliest equestrian memory was doing my first show, when I was seven years old. It was a local show near Liège, Belgium, where I grew up. The jumps were so small, basically just a pole on the ground, and despite needing help to get me around the course, I loved it.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

It would be easy for me to say the [Team] bronze medal at the Olympics. It was an incredibly special moment for me, my country, my team, as well as the sport in Belgium. But I think that the proudest moment of my career so far is my victory at the Grand Prix in Aachen in 2017. It was always a dream of mine to win, words could not explain my feelings when I won. Aachen is such a special venue, this year I have decided to compete there instead of the European Championships, that’s how incredible it is.

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

My father was a great inspiration, he was involved in the breeding side before me. I started four years ago when I bought my parents’ farm. I then had the facilities, with 70 acres of fields, 60 stables, and indoor and outdoor training facilities. As well as having excellent mares and stallions, I just thought I should try it, I then quickly I fell in love with it.

Can you summarise what the main elements of breeding of top show jumping horse are?

Breeding sport horses versus dealing is very different. For show jumping, we need quick, clever and careful horses. For example, at the Olympic Games, the top horses were able to rise to the challenge and succeed. For the dealing side, which makes up about 95 per cent of the horses each year, you need an easy and brave horse, that has good confirmation and is “flashy”, so they are easier to sell. I am just at the beginning of the process, so I am still learning.

I have competed most of the mares at a high level and at Grands Prix, so I know them very well. I have also ridden the majority of the stallions. This allows me to match them based on their attributes. Some breeders like to look at the history of the bloodlines, but I like to look at the present and the individual talent that they have.

Is the partnership between a horse and rider very important for when you sell a horse?

Yes, it’s extremely important. I really try to match the right horse with the right rider. Sometimes people ask me to try a specific horse, but I am very honest and say: “I don’t think that this is the horse for you”. I am not a dealing stable, and I really care for the happiness of the horse and rider. On top of that, if you want to build a business and ensure people trust you, this process is very important.

How long do you usually keep a horse before you sell it or break it in?

We don’t sell many foals; we usually sell two or three to cover some of the costs. I don’t like selling them when they are young, as I like to see how they progress and mature when they are two or three. Most will stay until they’re three years old, after we have started to free jump and break them in. As I only started relatively recently, this is the stage that many of the horses are at.

How many horses do you breed in a year?

This whole process is still very new to me. In my first year I bred about 10 foals, although this year we bred 34. Ideally, I would like to breed about 15 to 20. This year we bred more, as we had far more time to invest in the process due to the pandemic.

What is your ambition behind your breeding programme?

We would love to have one or more horses jumping at the top level. This could potentially be with me as the rider, so that’s very exciting. It is well known that breeding is very expensive, and there are so many disappointments. So, it’s important to have something to dream and work towards, to keep us going.

I’m very proud of our progress so far, I give 100 per cent in everything I do, and I have learnt so much over the last few years. I am beginning to really enjoy the breeding side of the sport. I have definitely become more involved and interested with the mother and father bloodlines, as before I was just concerned about whether the horse was good or bad.

Is there one horse you are very proud of breeding?

Nine years ago, my father and I bred a mare called Argentina, she is definitely the horse that we are most proud of. She was bred from a very “normal” mare, who just jumped one metre classes with an amateur girl, and an unapproved stallion chosen by my father. That unexpected combination led to the breeding of such an incredible horse, I like to call her “My Little Star”. She is now jumping 2* Grands Prix and won the Belgium Championships. I don’t know if she will jump 5* Grands Prix, but she is incredible.

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

It’s so important to the sport. I think that the four shows are the pinnacle of show jumping competitions, they all have such great atmospheres, and have both VIPs and the general public in attendance, which is great for the sport.

Aachen and Geneva are definitely my favourites out of the Grand Slam shows. The venues and the crowds are amazing. I’ve won Nations Cups and Grands Prix at those shows many times, so they hold a very special place in my heart. In my opinion, Geneva is the best indoor show, everything there is perfect for the horses.

In your career/life who has been your biggest inspiration?

I have always been a huge fan of John Whitaker, how he rides and manages his horses. However, I don’t have one person that is my biggest inspiration. I’ve been inspired by so many people throughout my career. I watch, listen, and learn from the best of the best, and this helps me to continue improving and learning, in order to stay on top of my game.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given in your career?

My parents always told me you must be a hard worker, and if you do this, you will achieve what you want. It doesn’t matter if it is with horses or if it’s in the normal world.

What piece of advice would you give to someone young who is considering a professional career in show jumping?

I would reiterate the importance of the advice that my parents gave me. Even if you do not come from a horse background or have large financial backing, it is still possible to achieve your dreams, as long as you work hard. For example, Jérôme Guery and I both won medals at the Olympics this way. Of course, the way is long and hard, but the journey makes you stronger. Anything is possible with hard work.

Grégory Wathelet's Stables (Photo: Sébastien Boulanger) Grégory Wathelet's Stables (Photo: Sébastien Boulanger)

Jack Ryan (Photo: Sportfot) Jack Ryan (Photo: Sportfot)

Meet the Next Gen with:

Jack Ryan

 

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

I have a really nice nine-year-old horse called BBS McGregor, who I competed with at the FEI Jumping European Championship for Young Riders, Juniors & Children in Vilamoura two weeks ago. We finished seventh individually and won a Team silver so I was really pleased. At some point in the next few months, I would like to move BBS McGregor up to the next level, but as a nine year old, it’s difficult to know how good he really is. When he makes that step up to the next level, then we will find out what he’s really made of. After Saint-Lô two weeks ago, I’m hoping to go to the 3* at the FEI Jumping European Championship in Riesenbeck, Germany. I competed in Deauville in France last week, and go to a 2* at Bolesworth this week, and then Riesenbeck for the Europeans in two weeks.

I don’t know my plans with the young Riders Academy yet, but hopefully I will compete at CHIO Aachen – it would be nice to go there, as I’ve never competed at the show before. I’d also like to compete in Geneva at the end of the year, but everyone needs a chance, so one would be fantastic. Jack Whitaker got the wildcard to compete at the Rolex Grand Slam event at The Dutch Masters in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and did really well winning the Audi Prize. To compete at a big 5* Rolex Grand Slam show is the dream for this year.

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

My main horse is BBS McGregor, who my mother and I bred – he is actually named after the mixed martial arts fighter, Conor McGregor. There was a very worrying period when he was two years old. Everything he ate, he spat back out, and when we put him in his stable, he couldn’t get up. We didn’t know what was wrong, and a week later a lump appeared on the front of his face. My mother thought it might be cancer, so we called the vet and got him x-rayed. Thankfully, it turned out he had been kicked by another horse and it had split one of his teeth, which had gone into the roof of his mouth. The pain is what caused all his problems, which an operations was able to fix. So, we called him BBS McGregor because he is a fighter, and his stable name is Lucky because he is lucky to be alive! He is currently competing in 1.50m classes, and he has done a 3* Grand Prix before, and I’m hopeful he’ll move up to 5* level next.

One of my horses, who competed last week in Eschweiler is a 10-year-old called Guminka. He placed in a few 2* Grands Prix, but then unfortunately got a knock, so he is just returning from that now, and I think he’s got a lot of potential. BBS McGregor would be the horse I would take if I was selected for one of the big Rolex Grand Slam shows, and that would be his first 5*. People think I’m crazy but everything he’s done so far has been so easy.

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

It’s been absolutely massive, Rolex has been an incredible supporter of show jumping, and having an initiative like that for riders and breeders is just amazing. The breeders that bred Explosion W and Hello Sanctos are leading the way, as they’ve won at Olympic and the Rolex Grand Slam level, so it’s a real incentive to try and go on to breed another horse of that caliber. We are aiming to have BBS McGregor jump at one of the Rolex Grand Prix shows. With the exception of this year, because of the Olympics, the Rolex Grand Slam is top of every rider’s list.

What have you learnt over the course of the last 18 months, and what positives will you take?

I’ve learnt to live every day as it comes, and to enjoy every day, as life isn’t the same as it used to be. Hopefully in the next year it will get back as close as possible to normality, but it will never be the exact same as it used to be. Because I work for Shane Breen in Hickstead, I haven’t been home that much to see family, but I’ve spent a lot more time in the stables. We’ve let the horses have a break for a while, which is good for them, as they have busy seasons. Taking some positives from the last year or so, it’s been good to produce the younger horses and give the older horses a bit of time off.

Chinese version of the website (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam) Chinese version of the website (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam)

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping set to expand its reach in China

 

As show jumping is gaining traction in Asia, thanks to the Olympic push, the Rolex Grand Slam has decided to increase and develop its connection with the Chinese community. As a result, from today, the official website of the renowned concept is translated into Chinese.

Chinese fans will be able to check out all of the different sections on the website thanks to this brand new Mandarin version, get information on the four Majors (The Dutch Masters; CHIO Aachen; CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’; and CHI Geneva), check out who is the actual live contender, and much more.

And that’s not it! Eager to engage with fans all around the world, the Rolex Grand Slam has decided to launch accounts on two new social media platforms: Sina-Weibo and Douyin.

Exclusive content will be distributed to these new communities, in order to allow an insightful and experience on these platforms, while getting all the information about the Rolex Grand Slam Majors.

The Chinese version of the website is available here

The weibo account is available here

The Douyin account is available here

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.

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