Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping



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


Can you introduce yourself, tell us who you work for, and what your role is?

My name is Denise Moriarty, and I have been the head groom for Kent Farrington for 11 years now. Our relationship is great – we know each other so well. Kent is very good at involving us all in every step of the horse’s journey, he wants us to understand why he is doing something. For example, if he is trying a new bridle or bit, he shares his feeling as a rider with us so that we can better understand. There is a lot of communication and trust.

You often make the long journey across from America to Europe, how do you ensure that your horses travel well so they can continue to perform at their peak?

We like to make sure that they are extremely fit so that they can handle the travelling and recover quickly after the journey. For example, before CHI Geneva, we would fly and land in Europe on the Monday before the show. They would then trot-up on Tuesday, with their first class taking place on Thursday. The biggest thing during their transportation is to make sure that they stay calm, and that they are eating and drinking properly. We try and make the experience enjoyable for them.

I fly with the horses and honestly, it is much nicer to fly with them than on a normal commercial flight. You do not have to queue or wait for the stewards to come around with food and drinks – you can just help yourself. With the permission of the pilot, we can walk around and go and check on our horses, which is really nice. Each of the planes that we fly on is different, for example Qatar Airways has a huge upstairs area for us, but some of the domestic flights are a lot smaller and we sit on the jump seats – but these flights are only a couple of hours, so it is okay.

If there is a horse that doesn’t like to travel, what can you do to help it?

If I have a horse that does not like to travel or is new to it, I will try and pair them with a more experienced traveller, as they learn and feed off the more experienced horse’s energy. If an anxious horse sees the other horse not reacting, it calms them down and helps them to understand that there is nothing to worry about.

I also like to make sure that everything is laid out for them properly – so the ramp is safe, and the partition is open – I try and make sure that everything is totally clear to them. It is important that their first travelling experiences are positive, sometimes we will use earplugs to take away the sharpness and help it be an enjoyable experience. I have found that if they have a good experience the first couple of times, then they will be good travellers in the future.

Can you tell us about the horses that you currently look after and what their characteristics are like?

There are a lot of big characters in our barn! But we like this, and we let them be themselves – they are all very different.

Creedance is just happy about everything, and is excited about every day, even though most of his days are the same. He loves getting his halter on and going out for a ride or a jump. Landon is very much the same way. He is excited to do his work, but he can be a bit cheeky and become quite stallion-like at the shows, even though he is not one! For the most part, they are great horses, of course, they have their little quirks just like people do, but they are sweet horses.

How much do you enjoy coming to the Majors – The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, and CHI Geneva? In your opinion, what sets them apart from the other shows?

I think it is just the prestige and the respect for the Majors. You get all of the best horses and riders competing there and the facilities for everyone including the grooms are incredible. They are the best of the best.

The shows are held in venues where everyone who attends understands horses and has a connection with them. The crowds’ involvement and all of the hype and energy that they create add to the unique atmospheres. You just don’t see that at other shows. 

I have always loved CHI Geneva – it is one of the pinnacles of our year. The atmosphere at CHIO Aachen is just unbelievable, and the size of the fences at Spruce Meadows makes it such an incredible competition. Then, The Dutch Masters is filled with such knowledgeable horse people, and the staff there are amazing. Each of the four shows have something so unique and special about them.

How special was it being part of Kent’s team when he won at CHIO Aachen and CHI Geneva?

They were both such special moments. Gazelle was amazing, she just kept on fighting and wanting to win. As I have mentioned, these shows are the best in the world and to watch your rider and the horse that you look after everyday win – it is something words can’t describe.

Did you do anything differently?

Honestly, with Gazelle, we try and keep everything the same. She will let Kent know once he gets on whether she is in a winning mood – he will be able to feel it. As long as everything works out, then it is normally a good day.

What has been your proudest moment as a groom?

It is hard for me to pick just one. We have had Gazelle since she was seven-years-old and so we have built her up into the horse that she is today, seen her grow, and watch her highs and lows. To look back at her win at CHIO Aachen, and to remember watching her jumping three of the biggest and testing rounds in the sport, and to still see her fight to clear the last fence and gallop to the finish line, wanting to win as much as Kent did, it was amazing. It was an incredible feeling – what these horses do for us is just unreal. That win meant a lot.

Of course, watching Kent and Voyeur win the team silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio was another incredible moment.

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?

My favourite part is just being with the horses. As grooms, we are very lucky, we get to work outside all day, and we are always moving. It is great because we are active and healthy. We get to go to some of the nicest places in the world, and there is always a chance to just take a deep breath and appreciate what you do. For me, the travelling is the hardest part – there can be a lot of long days and it can be quite tiring, but it is just part of the job.

What advice would give to someone who would like to get into this career?

To watch and learn – you must also have a passion for the horses and love what you do. If it is not something you enjoy, then you should not be doing it. Even now, I still watch other grooms and how they do different things or how they deal with a difficult horse – you always keep learning in this job.

It is a great industry to be in – I have made lifelong friends from all over the world. You just have to leave yourself open to be social and take all the opportunities that you can.

What is the grooms’ community like? Do grooms support one another?

We are all in this job for the same reason – we love the horses. We all share the same passion and all work hard. A lot of my friends who are grooms have been with their riders for a long time, so it is like a small family on the road together. There is always someone that you can call to get advice from, even the other day I had to call Sean because I couldn’t get the electricity in the lorry to work! Someone is always willing to help – it is a great community to be a part of.

Nick  SKELTON riding Big Star - Winner of the Rolex Grand Prix (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton)


How special was it winning the very first Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major at CHIO Aachen in 2013?

It was incredible winning the first Rolex Grand Slam Major at CHIO Aachen in 2013. I had been lucky enough to win this Grand Prix three times before, but to be the first Major winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping was incredibly special. I was in a great position heading to the next Major, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, but unfortunately Big Star got injured so we couldn’t go.

Can you remember your emotions and how you felt at that moment?

Winning in Aachen was truly amazing, it is the best show in the world. In terms of it’s stature, I would place it on par with The Masters in golf, and The Championships, Wimbledon in tennis. Winning with Big Star was amazing, he was the most phenomenal jumper, it was also incredibly memorable for me as his owners and my family were there which made it far more special than a normal show, or any other Grand Prix.

Can you tell us about Big Star and what made him so special?

Big Star was such an incredible horse – he had it all. I would rate him 11 out of 10 for everything. He was so scopey, careful, and incredibly intelligent. He was always so excited to jump – he loved it.

I bought Big Star when he was five-years-old. Laura [Kraut] found him when she was at a show in Holland in 2008 where the American Team were at a training camp ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She was at the show a day early and saw him jump, and knew I needed to have him. 

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary later in the year – how big an impact has it had on the sport?

The Rolex Grand Slam has had a huge impact on the sport of show jumping – it is incredibly prestigious. To win the Rolex Grand Slam, riders need to win three out of the four Majors – each Major is incredibly difficult to win as a stand-alone competition, so combining these shows really makes it the sport’s greatest challenge and something that everyone wants to win. In total, including the pre-Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping era, I won CHIO Aachen and CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ four times each, The Dutch Masters twice, and CHI Geneva once – so I wish the initiative had been around sooner.

Do you have a personal favourite moment over the past 10 years?

My favourite moment over the past 10 years has to be when Scott Brash won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Everyone was backing him and wanting him to win his third Major at CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, a feat which at that point had not been achieved – it was such an incredible moment for our sport. I hope someone will do it again – maybe McLain Ward will achieve this at Aachen this year, the mare has been jumping fantastically and I am sure he will be giving it his best.

Throughout your career you had a number of highs and lows, how did you ensure that you kept moving forward?

I have always tried to buy young horses and bring them through. It is incredibly important to always younger horses moving up the levels – this allows you to constantly remain at the top, as hopefully when you retire your best horse, the next one is ready to step up. All of my horses apart from Dollar Girl were bought as young horses, including Arko III and Big Star. It is very satisfying to produce a horse up to the point that they compete in or even win a Grand Prix or Major.

Now you have retired from the sport, what do you do, and do you miss the thrill of competition?

I do not miss competing anymore. I competed for so many years and I ended my career on a good note in 2016. Currently, we have numerous students that we train, in addition, we also source young horses with the aim to produce and sell them to owners or riders.

During the winter, we spend a lot of time in Florida, for the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, which is three-months of hard work. After that, we usually come back to Europe to follow the European tour. We will be attending CHIO Aachen this year – we are aiming to win.

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

I am not sure what the best piece of advice I have been given, but the piece of advice that I always give to my students is to remain patient, stay consistent in your training, and do not give up. In this sport, you have to have patience, especially when training young horses.

(Photo: Pexels / Harry Cunningham) (Photo: Pexels / Harry Cunningham)


The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is delighted to announce that it is launching a new Podcast series to celebrate one of the most important groups – and often unsung heroes of the sport – the grooms. Much like a caddy in golf, or a mechanic in Formula One, the grooms play a vital role in the success of their horses and riders. Launching  in June the podcast will be released on Spotify and Apple Podcasts quarterly ahead of each of the four Majors that make up equestrianism’s ultimate challenge.

Each episode will vary slightly, depending on each participant and their individual stories, but will mainly focus on and highlight the important role that grooms and the whole team behind the scenes have on the success of a top show jumper. In addition, it will explore their careers so far and the relationship that they have with the horses that compete in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

First to feature in this exciting new series are the grooms of World No.3 and current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender McLain Ward – Virginie Casterman and Lee McKeever. The knowledgeable duo have worked in the industry for numerous years and have experienced both the highs and the lows of the sport.  Whilst Casterman has been part of the team since the end of 2016, her seven years with Ward is eclipsed by McKeever, who has been with the American rider for over thirty years.

Speaking during the Podcast, Casterman stated: “I have wanted to be a groom since I was 13-years-old. I love what I do, so I don’t really feel like I am working. We travel a lot and so we are away from our home base for around 10 months of the year, but for me home is wherever horses are.”

Together as a team, they travel the world with Ward – who refers to them as ‘the best in the game’ – and his horses. They know what it takes to take care of horses at the very top of the sport, including keeping the extraordinary HH Azur, also known as Annie – who is now 17-years-old – fit, healthy, and able to keep winning that the highest level of the sport.

McKeever followed: “Annie [HH Azur] is like a professional athlete, she knows her venues. When she arrives at Rolex Grand Slam Major, she knows that they are something special – she is a winner and rises to the occasion. She is like a person; she wants to do her best and loves winning. Looking ahead to Aachen, she has always jumped well there, so hopefully the Rolex Grand Slam is something we can achieve!”


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


Embryo transfer

Nathalie Beaufort started to dream 18 years ago about breeding a foal. However, it did not go entirely without a hitch: "My husband Pedro was competing HH Azur's dam, Sion vd Zuuthoeve. I asked Pedro if he could ask Sion vd Zuuthoeve's owner if I could flush an embryo from the mare. Sion vd Zuuthoeve was actually meant to become a dressage horse, but Pedro was very successful with her in show jumping. It was agreed, and so we took the mare to the vet to have her inseminated. I had already looked at possible suitable stallions, and Pedro thought Argentinus would be a good choice. We tried three times and it just didn't work. The vet said a son of Argentinus, Thunder van de Zuuthoeve, was available. He was a young stallion and nobody knew of him, but when I saw him in the stable I instantly fell in love – he was fantastic to look at. He cost half the stud fee of Argentinus and we had fresh semen. She [Sion vd Zuuthoeve] became pregnant in one attempt and the embryo transfer went very well. The following year HH Azur was born, her birthname is Azur Garden's Horses. She was a beautiful filly with long legs, and it was such a special feeling for me when she was born. She stayed with us as a yearling and two-year-old – I don't like my young horses being reared in a big group of young horses as I am afraid of accidents. I have bred other foals and sometimes when they are weaned from their mothers, I let an older horse raise them. I have not bred another foal like HH Azur. When you breed a foal like HH Azur it is difficult to have a real eye to judge the other foals as she was just so special.”


Her career as a jumping horse

The next important chapter for HH Azur began when she turned three-years-old. She was broken-in and step-by-step she was prepared for a career in the sport. Nathalie recalls: “At three-years-old, we started her under saddle. It was incredible, every time you did an exercise that she hadn’t done before she made you feel like she knew that exercise. It was so easy for her to understand what we wanted from her. After a couple of months, I told Pedro we were going to stop her training and let her go back into the pasture, and when she was four-years-old we would pick it up again a bit. We took her to a competition maybe three times as a four-year-old, just as a learning experience. Then she went back in the pasture until she was five. As a five-year-old, we did the same again, and then as a six-year-old, she did a few international young horse competitions – not to win or place, but again for her experience. The most important thing for us was that she understood what we were asking of her and that she enjoyed it, we then we built up to three-day shows. Even as a six-year-old, she was allowed to go out to pasture again after the season – it is very important for horses to be able to breathe and come into themselves in the field. HH Azur was fine with it all. As a seven-year-old, when we began again people started to recognise her and wondered why she was so good. We didn't really want to show her to the outside world when she was five and six-years-old, we wanted to show her quality when she was seven. By then we were already getting offers from people who wanted to buy her. Pedro turned everything down because he thought she would be an Olympic mare – he had all this belief in her since she was three, but he realised he was not a good rider enough for her. He was a good rider for two-star level and we also didn't have a sponsor or much money to ride at top level. Just riding well doesn't get you there, everything around it has to be good too."

Nathalie Beaufort and her own bred horse Thor de Beaufort (Photo: Nathalie Beaufort) Nathalie Beaufort and her own bred horse Thor de Beaufort (Photo: Nathalie Beaufort)


François Mathy

The success of HH Azur did not go unnoticed. The interest in her began to grow. Nathalie looks back: "At the end of her seventh year, François Mathy Sr. came by and was very fond of her. He thought we were asking a lot of money for her, but he one day he came by with McLain Ward, who was very surprised by HH Azur's quality. Pénélope Leprévost had also been to try HH Azur, no one really knows this, but François Mathy Sr. also worked with Pénélope at the time. Initially, HH Azur was ridden in the international classes by François Mathy Sr.’s rider, Spaniard Diego Perez Bilbao. A few months after that, HH Azur left for America with McLain Ward. There HH Azur's next chapter began."



It brings a lot of emotions for a breeder to see the horse that they bred and raised compete at the highest level. How does it feel for Nathalie Beaufort to see HH Azur compete at the highest level? “I experience HH Azur's success with two emotions.  The first is a great pride and an intense admiration for her when I see her jumping with McLain. But at the same time my heart is in my throat because she is no longer close to me. These two emotions often mix and bring tears to my eyes. Azur left at the dawn of her eight birthday. We looked after her for over seven years, selling her was emotionally very hard. It creates a lot of emotional bonds when horses stay with their breeder for so long. I knew she had a great career ahead of her and that the financial means to get to that level are not insignificant. When she left for HH Farm with McLain Ward as her rider, I felt comforted. She was going to be fine in this new structure and today I can only continue to admire this magnificent mare. She remains one of the most beautiful stories of my life with my horses.”






About the author

Adriana van Tilburg is an equestrian journalist with thirty years of passion for breeding and bloodlines of showjumping horses.  She started to write about breeding and bloodlines after Diarado became the champion of the Holsteiner stallion approvals in 2007. She worked as a groom for some of the best people in showjumping to get a better understanding about breeding and sport. In 2016 she took the step to become a freelance journalist and writes for several studbook magazines and other equestrian publications.

More information here

Adriana van Tilburg (Photo: Remco Veurink) Adriana van Tilburg (Photo: Remco Veurink)

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock)


In the history of equestrian sport, there are riders whose names and achievements will be immortalized in history. By winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2015, British rider Scott Brash added his name to the record books. Followers of the sport now wait with bated breath to see if America’s McLain Ward can add his name this illustrious list at CHIO Aachen, 10 years on from the initiative’s conception, following his wins at CHI Geneva and The Dutch Masters. In doing so he would become only the second person to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

Considered to be the sport’s ultimate challenge, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping comprises four of the most prestigious and historic shows in the world; CHIO Aachen, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, CHI Geneva, and The Dutch Masters, and rewards the rider who wins three consecutive Majors. Much like the Majors in tennis and golf, the Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping are deemed to be the most esteemed and celebrated in the sport. The 10year anniversary celebrations will begin at CHIO Aachen, often referred to as the Wimbledon of the equestrian world, from the end of June to the beginning of July, and will conclude at The Dutch Masters 2024.

The impact of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping on the sport has been significant over the 10 years since its inception. Bringing together the four Majors, who all strive for quality and are united together in their search for perfection, has set the standard for show jumping venues. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors have a cumulated history of 300 years and are deep-rooted in traditional values.

Such is the prestige of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping that it attracts the world’s best horse and rider combinations from across the globe, resulting in unmatched levels of competition. Looking ahead to the future, the initiative also supports show jumping’s stars of the future by inviting two promising riders to each of the four Majors to provide them with experience competing at the top-end of the sport.

The past 10 years of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has provided some of the most remarkable moments in the history of the sport. Most notably, when British rider Scott Brash raised the bar to unprecedented levels by winning consecutive Majors at CHI Geneva in 2014, followed by CHIO Aachen, and finally CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2015. Even more remarkable is that he achieved this feat on the same horse, Hello Sanctos, making him the first and only rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

The only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Scott Brash expressed: “Winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping was such an incredible moment in my career, words really cannot describe the feelings and emotions I felt when I lifted the trophy. It was even more special that I achieved this feat with one horse, Hello Sanctos—he truly is my horse of lifetime.”

Speaking on behalf of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Steering Committee, Marcel Hunze stated: “The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is an unbelievable initiative, it has bought together four of the very top-level shows and attracts the best horses and riders in the world. Over the past 10 years, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has really elevated the sport, not only in the quality of competition, but also the entertainment for fans and the welfare for both horses and the grooms.”

Olympic and World individual champion, Rodrigo Pessoa continued: “The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has been incredible for the sport. The four Majors are really special shows in our calendar that all of the riders and owners aim for and dream of winning. Looking back at the past 10-years of the initiative and seeing what has been achieved, I am very excited to see what will happen in the next decade.”

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The Rolex Grand Slam is considered by the sport to be the ultimate equestrian challenge, primarily due to the sporting prowess required to achieve this feat. It is a quest taken on by the world’s top riders, vying to secure the legendary status associated with winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

The format of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is simple: anyone who wins three Majors in a row receives the Rolex Grand Slam trophy and a €1 million bonus in addition to the prize money won in each of the Grand Prix events. If that same rider then continues their success by winning a fourth Major in succession, they will be rewarded with an additional €1 million bonus.


With over a century of knowledge and expertise in watchmaking, Rolex is driven by tradition and craftsmanship, along with innovation and a passion for perfection. These values are reflected in the brand’s support of equestrianism. For over 60 years, Rolex has cultivated an enduring legacy with this elite world and is now a major presence at play behind the finest riders, competitions, and institutions.

The brand’s contribution to excellence in equestrianism is based on this heritage, encouraging modernization while respecting the elegance of this prestigious sport. Whether supporting leading athletes, the historic CHIO Aachen in Germany or the iconic Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Rolex has built on a relationship that began in 1957, through an alliance with British show jumper Pat Smythe. A pioneer in equestrianism, she became the brand’s first equestrian Testimonee.

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock

McLain Ward and HH Azur keep the Rolex Grand Slam dream alive


The pinnacle class of The Dutch Masters came in the form of Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The Brabanthallen’s knowledgeable crowd was full of anticipation, ahead of being treated to unparalleled levels of precision, bravery and athleticism from the world’s best show jumpers. 35 horse and rider combinations, including eight of the top 10, all battled to claim one of the most prestigious prizes in the sport, the Rolex Grand Prix.

First to master Louis Konickx’s expertly designed 17-obstacle course was the World No.1, Henrik von Eckermann, aboard his FEI World Championship gold medal-winning partner King Edward. Next into the arena, France’s Julien Epaillard, produced a faultless round to ensure a jump-off. Rolex Testimonee Martin Fuchs, current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender McLain Ward, and winner of the 2022 Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen Gerrit Nieberg also showed their class to join the elite group of riders going through to the second round. Meanwhile, the Dutch crowd came alive when the winner of the VDL Groep Prize on Friday evening, Willem Greve, rode an immaculate round of jumping.

With 16 riders, including the top four ranked riders in the world, making it through to the jump-off, fans were set for a true spectacle of speed and agility. Sweden’s Henrik van Eckermann laid down the gauntlet with a breathtakingly fast clear in the time of 38.52 seconds, however this lead was soon eclipsed by Julien Epaillard, who came home 0.46 seconds faster. Live Contender McLain Ward then stepped up the pace once again to keep chances his of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping alive. France’s Simon Delestre looked to take the win away from Ward finishing 0.09 seconds faster, but heartbreak came when the final Rolex oxer fell. This left Ward to take the victory and retain his title as Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender.

Speaking on his extraordinary win, McLain Ward said: “I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet, it was lot of stress having to watch the remaining 12 riders in the jump-off. The level here so high, and I think later tonight I will realise what we have achieved. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has truly raised the bar of the sport and winning a Major is one of the greatest moments in a riders career. I am so proud of my team and my horse – and a little proud of myself.”

Commenting on his horse, the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender said: “She is smarter than everybody else and is truly a queen. I think she understands what is happening and really rises to the moment. She loves her job and the partnership that we have created is truly so special. We will now aim her for CHIO Aachen to try and win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.”

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

Behind the stable door:

Joseph Stockdale's groom Charlotte Attwell


Tell us a little a bit about your journey to The Dutch Masters…

We have been in Holland for the past few weeks, competing at Kronenberg, and then training over here as well, so actually I had a very leisurely drive to The Dutch Masters as we were only an hour away. It was much nicer than having to drive from the United Kingdom.

This is your first time at The Dutch Masters, how are you finding it, and how are the facilities for the horses?

The facilities for the horses are great, this is our first time here and I am really impressed. The show has made sure that the horses’ welfare is a priority and you can really see this in the stables and the arenas. 

Do you do a lot of driving, and how do you keep yourself entertained on long journeys?

During long drives, I like to sing, I’m not very good but it keeps me awake. Also having a great selection of snacks helps!

Can you tell us about the horses that you have brought with you and what their characters are like?

We have brought Equine America Cacharel, our best mare. She competed at the FEI World Championships in Herning and has done a lot of FEI Nations Cup™ competitions. We love her, and she has the best character. She is totally spoilt and loves her treats.

The second horse that we have brought with us is Equine America Bingo de Chateau. He is very cheeky, and gets spoilt as well, but maybe that is my own fault! He is a real character and can be quite naughty in the warm-up, but is incredibly talented.

We have also got a new horse with us this year called Ebanking, who is a nine-year-old stallion. The Dutch Masters will be hist first 5* competition so it will be interesting to see how he progresses, and reacts to the atmosphere. Currently, he is looking on top form.

If there is a horse that doesn’t like to travel, what can you do to help it?

We are quite lucky as all our horses have become so used to travelling that they are incredibly well behaved. They all drink, have their hay nets, and are very calm.

How much do you enjoy coming to the Majors – The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, Spruce Meadows and CHI Geneva? In your opinion, what sets them apart from the other shows?

I have attended CHI Geneva along with The Dutch Masters, and these Majors are just a different level compared to other shows. You are just blown away when you arrive in the arena and see all of the facilities. Now, I need to get to CHIO Aachen and CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’.

What has been your proudest moment as a groom?

My proudest moment is definitely winning team bronze at the FEI World Championships – you cannot get better than that. I was so nervous during the whole week, I remember waiting in the back as we found out that the team had won a bronze medal and that was an incredible moment. It is really hard to explain my feelings in words from that moment. It was a such great team effort and one we are all very proud of.

How much riding do you do?

I used to ride but I don’t as much anymore as I don’t have the time. I am quite happy being on the ground looking after and spoiling the horses.

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?

My least favourite part is the packing and unpacking of the lorry, as it is so time consuming. My favourite part is forming a bond with the horses. I spend a lot of time with Cash and Bingo as they come to most places with me. The bond that you form with them is incredible as you know those horses inside and out. It is really nice as the horses want to spend time with you and see you – it is a great feeling. I do not view this as a job, it is a way of life and I love it .

What is the grooms’ community like? Do grooms support one another?

You definitely form a community with grooms as you are constantly travelling and attending shows with each other. You always ask which shows your friends are attending or where they are travelling on to from a show. It is really nice that people try to keep track of one another. Our team only really started 5* competitions last year, but everyone is really nice and welcoming. It is a really nice atmosphere as everyone tends to go to dinners together as well, and we all share our advice with each other.

What attributes do you need to have to be a top-level groom?

You definitely have to be committed, as if you are not, you will not advance. You have to want to win as well! Anyone can become a groom, as you learn on the job, but it is important to be dedicated and willing to learn. No one is perfect at the start; you definitely work your way up. It is really beneficial to spend time around other grooms, as you learn so much from them and everyone has their own methods. There is no right or wrong method, you have to find what suits you.

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

The best piece of advice that I have been given is to not panic. It is important to take your time with tasks, and to ensure that things are done in a correct manner.

What are the three items that you would take with you on to a desert island?

I would take my phone, my dog Otis and finally I would bring crisps with me as they are a great snack!

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock

Rider interview with:

Leopold Van Asten


Why is The Dutch Masters such a special show?

The Dutch Masters is an extraordinary show. It is local to me, my stables are only thirty-five minutes away. This means that my friends, family and sponsors come to support me which makes the show extra special.

How did it feel to win the Rolex Grand Prix here at The Dutch Masters in 2017?

Winning the Rolex Grand Prix here at The Dutch Masters in 2017 is one of my favourite memories, it was unfortunately not considered part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, as it was the year before The Dutch Masters became part of the initiative. As always with Rolex Grands Prix, it was an incredibly competitive class, and it was indescribable to win in front of the home crowd.

Tell us a little bit more about the horse that you won on here…

I was riding VDL Groep Zidane N.O.P., who is now retired. He is in a field close to my home, and still looks in great shape. I had a fantastic career with him and we won several Grands Prix, but the most special was here at The Dutch Masters.

What are your goals and ambitions for 2023?

I am focusing on the FEI European Championships at the moment. I am also directing my energy on developing and training my younger horses; I have two ten-year-olds here with me at The Dutch Masters. They are both very talented, so I am very much looking forward to this upcoming season.

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

The proudest moment of my career would have to be winning the Rolex Grand Prix here at The Dutch Masters in 2017. I have won the Dutch Championships three times, which is something that I am very proud of.

How important is the team behind you?

As a rider, it is impossible to compete without a supportive team. The grooms are the most important people behind the scenes, as they work incredibly long hours and ensure that they are happy and in peak condition. We also have a fantastic team who remain at home with the horses who are not travelling, and they are vital for the training and development of the younger horses.

Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your career?

Whilst growing up, I looked up to riders such as John Whitaker and Jos Lansink. They have both had inspirational careers and there is a lot that can be learnt from them.

What does The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you as a rider?

It is an unbelievable opportunity that the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping was created within our sport. It has totally elevated and revolutionised the sport. The four Majors that are part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping are the best shows in the world, and it is an incredible feeling to compete in them.

Who are you competing at The Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?

I am planning on riding VDL Groep Nino Du Roton who is still slightly unexperienced at these 5* shows. He has competed at 1.55m but I believe that he has the capabilities to perform well on Sunday despite it being a slight step-up. He had a good show last week, so I will only jump him in the 1.40m class before the Rolex Grand Prix. I am hoping that it will go well. 

Behind the Scenes Gallery

To download the pictures click here

Groom Interview with:

Virginie Casterman and Lee McKeever

(Photo: The Dutch Masters / Digishots) (Photo: The Dutch Masters / Digishots)

Willem Greve and Grandorado TN N.O.P. win the VDL Groep Prize


Held under the bright lights of the Brabanthallen, 39 riders, representing 13 nations, contested Friday’s feature class – the VDL Groep Prize – on the second day of The Dutch Masters 2023. This impressive line-up featured no less than 8 of the world’s current top 10-ranked riders, including the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender McLain Ward, World No.1 Henrik von Eckermann and the Rolex Grand Prix defending champion Daniel Deusser. In addition, seven Rolex Testimonees and 12 riders from the home nation contested Louis Konickx’s masterfully designed course.

First to enter the arena was Britain’s Scott Brash, the only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, riding the nine-year-old stallion Hello Valentine, who set the standard with a flawless clear round. Second to go, Simon Delestre with the feisty Cayman Jolly Jumper, followed suit to ensure a jump-off. To the delight of the Dutch crowd, three riders from the home nation secured a place in the second round, including 60-year-old Loewie Joppen, who put in an impressive performance aboard Havel van de Wolfsakker Z.

12 horse and rider combinations successfully made it through to the jump-off, over a shortened course of 8 fences. Brash set the early pace as the first to go, with a clear round in a time of 42.10 seconds. His lead looked to be in jeopardy as Delestre set-off meaning business, coming home in an exceptional 37.54 seconds, but accruing four faults enroute. Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann, the only woman in the jump-off, temporarily took over pole position as third to go, but with Delestre’s speedy round, the following riders knew the time was beatable.

The lead changed several times before Dutchman, Willem Greve, set the crowd alight riding Grandorado TN N.O.P., stepping up the pace once more to post a clear in a time of 36.62 seconds. It was left to Rolex Testimonee Harry Charles, as last to go, to attempt to knock Greve off the top spot, but despite an impressive display of speed and agility, his time of 37.93 was only good enough for second place.

Speaking after the class, Greve said: “I am extremely happy to win in front of my home crowd. The first round was big, but it was fair on the horses – it is the second biggest class of the show so it should be a real test, and I thought it made for a great competition. I have had this horse since he was three-years-old, so I have a produced him throughout the levels, which makes this win even more special. He is just such a super horse, and I have worked hard over the winter to improve his rideability and his fitness – he is feeling fabulous now, so I am looking forward to Sunday.”

When asked about his tactics going into the jump-off, the Dutchman said: “I was near the end of the class so I managed to watch a few other combinations before I went in. I thought that if I got a good jump at the second fence, that I could do seven strides to the next and then take advantage of his big stride down to the last fence and it worked out very well!”

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock)

Walking the Course with:

Louis Konickx


For you, why is The Dutch Masters such a special show?

The Dutch Masters is such a special show as it draws the best show jumpers in the world to compete here in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and this is incredible to witness. In 1994, when we hosted the first World Cup™ Final, it was a very extraordinary day and one that will go into the history books. The fans that come to this show are so vibrant, passionate and knowledgeable, and this really adds to how unique it is. As a course designer, the lead up to a show can be challenging as you are questioning whether the courses will be a correct fit, but you just have to trust in yourself.

Can you tell us a little bit about the course that you have designed for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix?

I have designed this year’s Rolex Grand Prix course with my assistant Quintin Maertens – who is a very talented individual. We are extremely happy with the size of this year’s arena as it allows us to build lots of challenges and different distances. We have some tough lines that require the riders to be totally precise in their rhythm, speed and power.

How many clears are you expecting?

Sometimes the number of clears can be viewed as a dilemma for course designers. In Holland, and in many other countries, fans like it when there are lots of clears in the first round as it results in an interesting jump-off, especially if someone from their own country makes it through. I think I will be happy if there are around 10 people in Sunday’s jump-off.  

Which rider do you predict will win Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix?

The first round of the Rolex Grand Prix can play to the strength of certain riders, such as Harrie Smolders who is incredibly consistent. However, the pressure instantly increases in a jump-off, and it is a different atmosphere, so it is certain riders like France’s Julien Epaillard, who are so fast, that can came out on top and win here. I hope that the winner will be a Dutch or Belgian rider, or even a legend of the sport such as Marcus Ehning.

How did you become a course designer?


In the area that I grew up in, there was a course designer whose courses the riders did not like– he tried hard but unfortunately he was not that talented. To succeed in course designing, you need to understand the space and how best to utilise it in each arena. Whilst I was still studying, so when I was 25-years-old, I remember approaching him with a suggestion of what could be changed in that particular arena. He then suggested that I pursue my interest in course designing.

I continued to ride alongside studying to become a course designer so this lengthened the process but it allowed me to create an understanding from the riders perspective as well. As I progressed, people started to trust me, which resulted in me working on better and more renowned shows. I remember Arno Gego from CHIO Aachen contacting me saying that they had a show in my local area and he asked whether I would be interested to work as an assistant to him. This was a great steppingstone as it allowed me to become an assistant to the main course designer for some of the most renowned shows in the world, which was an invaluable learning experience.

When and where was the first course that you designed, as head course designer?

The first big international course that I designed as head course designer was at CHIO Rotterdam. Emile Hendrix, the show director, and Frank Kemperman gave me the opportunity to design the course and emphasised that they would trust me and support my suggestions. This was an important moment in my career, and it is incredible to think that it was for Rolex. Frank Rothenberger also helped design the course for that show.

What are your passions away from course designing?

I am still riding, it is still important for me to follow this passion of mine.When my daughters were small, I took up playing guitar again – in fact, I have joined a new group now, and we were actually rehearsing yesterday evening, I am definitely the oldest but it is a very fun hobby.

Finally, I used to sail a huge amount with my brother when we were teenagers.,I I have started sailing again. Once I was in Lausanne, Switzerland looking out onto Lake Geneva and in that moment called my brother to tell him of my urge to get a sail boat. So, I currently have a decent sized sail boat, which myself and my daughters have great fun on!

Which course designer has inspired you the most throughout your career?

The course designer who has inspired me the most is Arno Gego. He has contributed so much and influenced a significant amount to our profession. He has worked hard to create a base that all course designers can work up from and he has inspired so many people to push their standards higher.

Could you tell us about your relationship with Gerard Lachat?

When I reflect back on my life, it is noticeable that my life has been linked to Rolex competitions and this is brilliant. I met Gerard in San Patrignano at a 5* competition, where I was invited to help design the course. We have built some of the greatest courses in the world together such as Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva and here in ‘s-Hertogenbosch as well as courses at the FEI World Championship in Herning and so many more. We have built a friendship that goes beyond our profession and we still ride together.

The Rolex Grand Slam was formed in 2013 and will this year celebrate its 10-year anniversary; how beneficial has this initiative been for the sport of show jumping?

The Rolex Grand Slam has really benefited the sport of show jumping as it provides variety with the different Majors that have been encapsulated within it – each has their own unique and captivating atmosphere. As a course designer, it is great to see that every Major has their own signature which makes the show so special. As there are only four Majors every year, it increases the importance and prestige around them. As a result, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping attracts the best riders from all over the world. It is extremely influential in the sport and has become a dream of many riders to compete at the Majors. In addition, it has promoted riders to be tactical with their horses and to make sure that they are fresh for each of the Majors – this has actually benefitted the horses, as the riders do not over-jump them to ensure that they are at their peak levels of performance for these shows. 

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Thomas Lovelock)

Word from the Organiser:

Marcel Hunze


You must be delighted that this year’s edition of The Dutch Masters is going ahead with full capacity?

It is great that after several difficult years due to the pandemic that we can have a full edition of The Dutch Masters with crowds, hospitality and the entertainment village all returning. The after parties are also promising to be fun this year! 

How has planning been going for this year’s event?

The planning has been going very well! We have seen a huge amount of interest from the fans that are looking forward to attend again. As a result, we are expecting a lot of crowds and exhibitors to be at the show to watch the best riders of the world – so everything is going smoothly at the moment.

Is there anything new this year that The Dutch Masters has introduced?

In 2020 a lot of changes were made, but unfortunately the event had to be cancelled only one-hour before the show was meant to start, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For this year’s edition, we have implemented these changes, so it is a great opportunity for those attending to see the differences in the set up. The team have added new restaurants, have improved facilities for the audience, and have increased the size of the warm-up arena for the riders. We hope that everyone will enjoy these changes that we have made.

What qualities do you look for in team members? And what makes a successful team?

There is a considerable team working on the show each year – there are about 1,500 staff working during the event. We always try to build a trusting environment between management, staff and volunteers so we can work effectively with each other. Our goal is to build a long-term relationship with the team and that everyone is aware of the high standards we are looking for at The Dutch Masters. This therefore allows the effective running of the event.

What is your advice to someone who wants to get into the sporting events industry?

My main advice is to make sure that they gain a multitude of experience in the sports industry, and to not only focus on the area that they are interested in. This will allow the individual to gain a variety of skills and knowledge that will benefit them later in their chosen sport as well as understand how the industry works in general. Finally, it is vital to have an eye for detail as this will benefit and contribute to the successful running of an event.

For you, what makes a successful major sporting event?

At a successful major sporting event, a balance between fans, sponsors and media needs to be achieved. I believe that for sponsors, it is vital for the facilities to be amazing but if there are limited fans, the atmosphere is not the same which can result in an unsuccessful event. Similarly, if an event does not have sponsors that support and invest in the event, it too will be unsuccessful. In my opinion, creating a successful major sporting event is a blend of sponsors, athletes, media and fans that are in attendance, as they all rely on each other at the end of the day.

Later in the year will mark 10 years since the launch of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping; how successful has it been and how has it positively changed the sport?

We are incredibly proud that The Dutch Masters became associated with the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2018. It is an unbelievable concept, and it is incredibly important to the sport of show jumping. It has elevated the sport in both its prestige, as well as the level of riders who are drawn to compete. This year at the show, eight out of the top ten are attending. It also ensures that the highest quality of the event is delivered and that we as event organizers do not stray away from this goal. It is a great concept for riders, fans and sponsors – it has definitely been an absolute success.

Do you and The Dutch Masters organisers take inspiration from any of sport’s other major competitions, e.g., in tennis or golf?

It is definitely beneficial to observe the organisers of other major sport competitions. We also organise an ATP and WTA tennis event in the Netherlands alongside The Dutch Masters. It is a combined tournament that takes place on grass ahead of The Championships, Wimbledon. We apply and use several interchangeable skills and methods when organising both tennis and show jumping events as both can benefit from each other and this has enabled the successful running of events.

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


The highly anticipated Dutch Masters returns this year from 9-12 March with a spectacular schedule of sport and entertainment. Hosting the first Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the calendar year, this iconic show will see some of the world’s best horse and rider combinations fight to claim one of the most prestigious prizes in show jumping, the Rolex Grand Prix. This year, The Dutch Masters will welcome the return of both a second arena and national competitions. This second arena, as per tradition, will host the majority of the national competitions taking place throughout the show.

The action in the main arena begins on Thursday 9 March with the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Grand Prix presented by RS2 Dressage, where elegance, precision and harmony will be seen in abundance. Crowds are sure to be in awe of these partnerships they ‘dance’ together. Britain’s Charlotte Fry and the stunning black stallion Glamourdale will surely be the favourites when they enter the arena. The double Individual gold medallists at the 2022 FEI World Championships have gone from strength to strength and have continued to impress judges and crowds alike since their victory in Herning. Rolex Testimonee, Germany’s Isabell Werth and the Netherlands’ Dinja van Liere will also be contesting the top spot on the leader board. Dressage fans will be treated to a masterclass from some of the world’s best in the discipline, including Charlotte Fry, Britt Dekker, Samantha Steenwijk & Anky van Grunsven later on in the day. Meanwhile, in the second arena, the national competition commences with two jumping classes.

With seven classes taking place across the main arena and the second arena, Friday in the Brabanthallen will be action-packed. First off in the second arena is the KNHS Para Dressuur Trophy, which will see para-dressage riders competing in a Freestyle to Music competition. The feature class comes later in the day in the main arena, where the world’s leading show jumpers will be looking to claim the VDL Groep Prize. Away from the dressage and show jumping taking place during the day, spectators will be treated to a vast variety of exceptional shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy.

Saturday sees the second half of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ with the Freestyle to Music taking place in the early afternoon. This class will be one of the last chances for riders to secure points to qualify for the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final, taking place in Ocala, Florida, USA in early April. Saturday evening sees the return of the ever-popular Van Schijndel Indoor Derby, as well as the headline show jumping class of the day, the Audi Prize. Meanwhile national jumping and dressage classes take place throughout the day in the second arena.

All eyes on Sunday will be on one class, the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix. Here, 40 of the most elite show jumping combinations will take on Louis Konickx’s expertly designed course in the hope of becoming the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender. The competition is expected to be fierce, with numerous former Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major winners in the field, including last year’s victor and Rolex Testimonee Daniel Deusser, as well as the current Live Contender McLain Ward.

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


Congratulations! You are the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender, how are you feeling ahead of The Dutch Masters? Which horse do you plan to compete with in the Rolex Grand Prix?

I am extremely excited to attend and compete at The Dutch Masters. The four Rolex Grand Slam Majors are some of the most prestigious events in the show jumping calendar. These Majors have elevated the sport as they represent an opportunity to showcase the highest quality of jumping in the sport.

I am planning on bringing two of my horses, HH Azur and Contagious, both of whom competed at CHI Geneva. They have been performing very well on the winter circuit. For HH Azur, I have been adapting her training schedule to ensure that she is at her peak performance at The Dutch Masters. Hopefully we will have prepared correctly so that we execute a great performance.

What have you been up to since winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva, and how have you been preparing yourself and your horses for The Dutch Masters?

It is important to take time to yourself between seasons to reset and to feel prepared. Currently, I am competing on the winter circuit in Wellington, Florida as this provides a variety of classes that all my horses can compete in. In terms of the preparations for HH Azur and Contagious prior to The Dutch Masters, it is important for them to compete in the build-up to the show. HH Azur is 17-years-old now, so she does not compete as often anymore – instead we just aim her at the most important competitions. On the other hand, Contagious competes more often, I am planning on jumping with him this week at the 5* classes here in Florida. This will be his last show before we travel abroad.

You have had great success at the Winter Equestrian Festival over the past few weeks – how does that affect your confidence going into The Dutch Masters?

I have a lot of great horses thanks to my fantastic owners, who are very enthusiastic in supporting my goals. I am incredibly grateful to my grooms and my team within the stable, as they keep the horses fresh and healthy. However, in the lead up to these Majors, I can find myself internally questioning whether we have prepared correctly and made the right choices. You can never be certain of those aspects until the competition occurs, but it is important to try to have confidence in our methods and training.

You will be making the long journey across from America to The Dutch Masters, how do you ensure that your horses travel well so they can continue to perform at their peak?

My team and I have become very experienced at this, as over the years as we have attended numerous shows abroad. This has allowed us to develop an understanding of how to manage the logistics of travelling. I feel incredibly grateful to have an excellent team of people who support my horses and me. My grooms and stable workers are brilliant with the horses; it is clear that they are passionate about them and the industry.

As we are based in the United States, we have become used to travelling abroad to attend shows, as the best of the sport is based in mainland Europe. I have always wanted to compete against the very best show jumpers, so it is important that I attend Majors, such as CHIO Aachen, CHI Geneva, and The Dutch Masters. The horses that we select to compete have become accustomed to the travelling, and they now handle the changes very well. Travelling with horses always takes a substantial amount of planning and preparation ahead of the events, but my team are now experts at this.

What are your goals, dreams and ambitions for 2023?

My main goal for this season is to help the United States qualify for the Paris Olympic Games 2024. As soon as we achieve the qualification, we will then shift our focus to becoming the best national team who are ready for the world stage in Paris. This is the ultimate goal, as it is always such an honour to represent your country.

My personal goal is to remain in contention for the Majors in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Every year, I place a great deal of importance on these events, as they are great Grands Prix – they are iconic in their own right. As a result, a considerable proportion of the year is focused on preparing for these events with the aim to execute a great performance. On the day itself, you need a certain amount of luck for your performance to go your way and to win. It is extremely challenging to win multiple Majors, and therefore to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, explaining why only one person, Scott Brash, has achieved this. 

You have had so much success with HH Azur – tell us about her and what it is about her that makes her so successful?

HH Azur has an incredible physical ability but what makes her truly stand out is her character. She is a warrior at heart. I use the term ‘Queen’ when referring to her, as she encapsulates every aspect of that term. Two years ago, I thought that it was the end of her career, as she had several injuries but she overcame them. At the beginning of the 2022 season, she was feeling better than ever, and we made the decision to keep competing her and then assess her later on in the season. She ended up having the best year of her career so far. You can directly notice that she is truly passionate and in love with the sport. As long as she is still in love with the sport and happy, we will continue competing. She handles both indoor and outdoor arenas really well; she does not get fazed by much. She is a very smart horse and understands a huge amount of what we do with her. I love spending time with her, whether that is hacking, training or competing – she is such a brilliant horse.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

I am currently extremely motivated and I feel that I am in a good place in my life. I have a really wonderful support network, whether that is from my family or group of owners. I really enjoy my professional and personal interactions with my owners, as we are like minded, we have similar purposes and clearly share the same passion. I continue to enjoy figuring out new strategies to improve myself and the horses, as well as ‘playing the game’ well. I still feel like I am in great physical condition – competing against the younger generation keeps me on my toes and inspires me to constantly aim to be at my best.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary later in the year – how big an impact has it had on the sport?

Rolex’s involvement and the introduction of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has elevated our sport, in particular the four Major competitions, to a superior level. Once you have represented your country on an international stage, such as at the Olympic Games, the next prestigious goal is to win these iconic Majors. They are the equivalent to The Masters and The Championships, Wimbledon, which gather the best sportsmen and sportswomen in the world.

However, there is an increased challenge in completing the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, as you are required to win three Majors in a row. In contrast to other sports, we have the variable of the horse; it is one thing to prepare yourself mentally and physically, but ensuring that the horse is in peak condition is a different challenge in itself. Winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is definitely doable, as it has been won before. Hopefully, this incredible feat will be achieved again. In terms of my horse, HH Azur, she was clear in the last three Grand Slam Majors, but unfortunately we were only successful in one jump-off.

The challenge of winning the Rolex Grand Slam brings out the best in our sport, as everyone is training and performing with the aim of being victorious. Last season, at CHI Geneva, we witnessed the greatest jump-off in the history of our sport, and it raised the bar on what is achievable.

Away from show jumping, how do you relax? What do you love to do?

I am lucky that, other than trying to find some headspace, I do not have this urge to get away from the sport. I love every single aspect of it. I am very lucky that I live on two beautiful farms, one in Florida and other in New York. My family enjoy, and are involved in, the sport, as well, so it has become a way of life for me. Of course, it is important to find balance and spend some time away from the horses to keep your head clear but I need to remind myself to do this.

If you weren’t a show jumper, what would you have been?

I imagine that I would have ended up building high-end houses and developments. I have actually built a number of properties and I truly enjoy it. I appreciate the challenge when building and renovating places; it allows me to be creative when I work with landscapes and designs. There are a lot of crossovers with show jumping, as in both you have to think creatively and forwardly.

Do you follow any other sports aside from show jumping?

I follow most sports in general; my eldest daughter is a sports fanatic so we enjoy following multiple sports together. We both enjoy the competitiveness that comes from watching different disciplines. I think it is important to watch other sports so you can observe and learn from the economics and politics and bring their learnings to our sport.

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

I would bring my three girls: my wife Lauren, and daughters Lily and Maddox.

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

The Dutch Masters returns from 9-12 March 2023 and will play host to the first Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the year. The four-day show will showcase some of the finest horse and rider combinations and will culminate on Sunday with the Rolex Grand Prix. Heading to this prestigious event and seeking to claim this pinnacle class will be eight of the world’s current top 10-ranked riders, as well as seven Rolex Testimonees.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

The current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender McLain Ward makes the journey from America with two of his top horses – HH Azur and Contagious. The American, who wowed the crowds at CHI Geneva with his exceptional jump-off performance in the Rolex Grand Prix, has continued his triumphant form at the Winter Equestrian Festival this year, recently winning a CSI5* Grand Prix. Ward will travel to The Dutch Masters brimming with confidence and hoping to impress in Europe.

This year’s competition is set to be one of the toughest yet with numerous former Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major winners in attendance. Leading the way is Rolex Testimonee, Daniel Deusser, the defending champion of the Rolex Grand Prix held under the bright lights of the Brabanthallen. The German is a fierce competitor and knows how to perform at high-pressured Majors, having won two last year. The three-time Dutch Masters Grand Prix winner will be looking to restart his quest to become only the second person to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Deusser will be joined by compatriot, and winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, Gerrit Nieberg, who will be aiming to claim his first victory at this iconic show.

World No 1. Henrik von Eckermann adds to the impressive list of entries this year and is always one to be at the top of the leader boards. The Swedish rider ended 2022 with a sensational win in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final held at CHI Geneva with his incredible gelding, King Edward. Von Eckermann is the ultimate horseman and has now held the World No.1 position consecutively for the past seven months. As a previous winner of the Rolex Grand Prix held at The Dutch Masters, having won in 2019 with the sensational Toveks Mary Lou, all eyes will be on the World No.1 when he rides into the main arena. Fellow countryman, Peder Fredricson, with whom von Eckermann won Team gold at the FEI World Championships last summer, will also line up in 's-Hertogenbosch.

Two of Switzerland’s most decorated show jumpers, World No.2 Martin Fuchs and Steve Guerdat, will also be in attendance. The duo, who have won six Rolex Grand Slam Majors between them, have never been able to claim this prized trophy; however, both riders understand the precision, bravery and athleticism required by horse and rider to be successful, and will be two of the favourites going into the class on Sunday.

France’s three representatives at the show will be Julien Epaillard, Simon Delestre and Kevin Staut. Epaillard, who is World No.3, won over 75 international classes last year, and will be tough to beat if he makes it through to the jump-off on Sunday. Delestre and Staut have strength and depth in both their talent and their string of horses and will no doubt be vying for the top spot in this esteemed class.

The home crowd will be delighted to welcome 14 Dutch riders to the Brabanthallen. At the forefront of the Dutch contingent is last year’s runner-up in the Rolex Grand Prix, Harrie Smolders. Smolders, who led the Dutch team to victory at the FEI Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona in 2022, will be hoping to go one better than last year, bringing the trophy back to the home nation. Other notable Dutch riders include World No.8 Maikel Van Der Vleuten and Willem Greve, the latter finishing third in this feature class last year.

The only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Britain’s Scott Brash, is never one to count out at a Rolex Grand Slam Major. Brash will be joined by two of his FEI World Championships bronze medal-winning teammates, Under-25 riders Harry Charles and Joseph Stockdale. Charles, who last year broke into the World’s top 15 is one of the most exciting talents in the sport, and will be looking to claim his first Rolex Grand Prix win .

Other riders to look out for at the first Major of year include Austria’s Max Kühner who won this coveted title in 2021, FEI World Championship Individual silver medalist Jérôme Guery, and the World No.7 from Brazil, Marlon Modolo Zanotelli.

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

McLain Ward wins the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva and becomes the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender


Before the Rolex Grand Prix – the highlight class of the 61st edition of CHI Geneva – got underway, 8,000 adoring fans said farewell to an all-time great horse, Martin Fuchs’ legendary gelding, Clooney 51, who was retired in August 2021. After winning this Rolex Grand Slam Major in 2019 with the now 16-year-old grey, a visibly emotional Fuchs paraded Clooney to each corner of the Geneva Arena, to rapturous applause and cheering from all who watched on, before closing with a short speech honouring his loyal companion.

The scene was then set for this year’s Rolex Grand Prix, in which 40 horse and rider combinations representing 14 nations – including 16 out of the current top 20-ranked riders – lined-up, each staking a claim for one of the sport’s most sought-after prizes, as part of their Rolex Grand Slam quests. Course designers Gérard Lachat and Louis Konickx set a technical, 14-obstacle first round test, which would be followed by a nine-effort jump-off, should two or more partnerships navigate the opening round without a fault.

Great Britain’s Ben Maher (Dallas Vegas Batilly) recorded the 1.60m class’s first clear, emulated soon after by Daniel Deusser of Germany with Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z. At the halfway stage, a further seven riders had gone clear, including Gilles Thomas (Calleryama), French duo Kevin Staut (Scuderia 1918 Viking d'la Rousserie) and Simon Delestre (Cayman Jolly Jumper), Andre Thieme (DSP Chakaria) and Christian Ahlmann (Dominator 2000 Z) of Germany, Dane Andreas Schou (Darc de Lux), and Irishman Shane Sweetnam (James Kann Cruz). The second half of the round witnessed just four additional riders progressing to the jump-off, with the Oxer-Liverpool (6a) proving to be the trickiest and most knocked down. These riders included crowd favourites, Martin Fuchs (Leone Jei) and Elian Baumann (Little Lumpi E), American McLain Ward (HH Azur), and a delighted Daniel Bluman of Israel (Ladriano Z), making a final shoot-out of 13 pairings.

Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender, Daniel Deusser set the early jump-off pace and put the pressure on after becoming the first to go double clear in a time of 42.58 seconds. However, it wasn’t to be a second consecutive Major victory for Deusser after Simon Delestre went 0.12 seconds faster, with the Frenchman’s time soon being eclipsed by next gen Belgian talent Gilles Thomas, who went 1.58 seconds quicker still (40.88 seconds). After both Christian Ahlmann and Rolex Testimonee, Kevin Staut were unable to go clear, Saturday’s winner of the Credit Suisse Challenge, Shane Sweetnam, looked like a man possessed, going clear and knocking Thomas off top spot in 40.48 seconds, a time that looked unbeatable. However, next into the arena, Martin Fuchs proved Thomas’ time in fact was beatable, going sub-40 seconds (39.77 seconds), and in turn sending the crowd wild. With penultimate rider Daniel Bluman putting one down, Fuchs’ destiny lay in the hands of American McLain Ward and his 16-year-old bay mare HH Azur. Renowned for their speed and accuracy, the pair glided around the course, going faster than Fuchs at the first two sectors, eventually clearing the final fence over a second quicker than the Swiss, etching their names into Rolex Grand Slam history, with Ward ultimately becoming the Live Contender.  

On his first Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major victory and where it ranks among his career wins, McLain Ward, said: “To win the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva ranks right up amongst the very greatest moments. Olympic gold medals, the Grand Prix in Calgary – this is a very special moment.”

And on what makes CHI Geneva such a special place to compete at, McLain Ward, commented: “Its people! I mean, it’s spectacular, the atmosphere, the environment, the organisers and sponsors make it so special that the competitors rise to the day.”

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

Meet the Next Gen:

Alexandra Amar


Why is CHI Geneva such a special show?

It’s a home show so it’s already something special, as you’re competing in front of your home crowd, which is really lovely. For my part, I’ve been selected to compete at CHI Geneva three times, which means a lot to me. Michel Sorg, who is responsible for the [Swiss Team] selection is always believing in me and always giving me my chance. And of course, CHI Geneva is the most beautiful indoor show in the world, so it’s always a very special feeling to be competing here.

How much inspiration do you take from fellow Swiss riders, such as Martin Fuchs and Steve Guerdat?

When I was a little kid I was always lining-up to get a signature from Martin and Steve, so to be competing with them is something that means a lot to me. I’ve been dreaming of it and working hard, and now being there with them, my dreams are kind of coming true. This year, we can also speak about Edouard [Schmitz], who is competing at 5* level; he has had a wonderful year, and I think he is now an idol, who we can all take inspiration from.

Which horses are you competing with this week?

I’ve had a bit of disappointment jumping here this week, as I brought a very green horse with me to jump at this level, to give him his chance, but maybe it was a little bit early. The horse is Lyon Van De Plataan, he’s 10-years-old and a super-quick horse and very competitive, especially at this level. But this arena is very spooky, with a lot of things to look at, so for a horse who is a little bit green, it was maybe a little bit too early, but he’s definitely a horse for the future and one we will keep an eye on.

Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

That’s an easy question! I currently have a seven-year-old, who my trainer Constant Van Paesschen is riding. She’s a wonderful horse and I think next year we will definitely see her competing in the ranking classes. I’m taking her back this winter so I’m very excited. It’s a horse who I love, it’s a horse we have bred, so I’ve literally been growing with her. In two years’ time I believe we’ll see her jumping some of the biggest competitions in the world – she is fantastic.

What are you dreams and ambitions for 2023?

I’ve been selected again for the Swiss team, so I would like to confirm my place and take part in a few Nations Cup competitions, and eventually I would really enjoy stepping up a little bit, which I will really work for. Maybe I can jump my first 5* show in St. Gallen, or get my first selection in a really big event, which would absolutely be a dream for me next year. 

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

There have been a lot of really happy moments. I would have to say last year when I became Swiss champion with Vinci [Du Gue] – that was something very special, which I was working towards a lot, and with no faults, it meant a little bit extra. I’ve been really proud of how I’ve managed my championships and the way my horse has been with me and fighting for me, so this has probably been the best moment in my career so far.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

Definitely my dad. My trainer, Constant Van Paesschen, has been super with me, carrying  me through the sport and helping me through the ups and downs. But my dad has really taught me a lot of important things, not just in sport, but also life lessons that you can apply to sport. He’s taught me to be a fighter and to never let myself down, to take my own path and to just go for it, and I think that’s the most precious lesson that someone could give me.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in show jumping?

Just believe in your dreams. I used to be a little kid, who was lining up for riders’ signatures, watching those riders with stars in my eyes. But don’t ever think it’s easy, as it’s a hard path, but don’t give up and just go for it.

In your opinion, how positive an impact has the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping had on the sport?

Rolex has always been a wonderful sponsor and a wonderful support for the sport – they’ve made this Rolex Grand Slam circuit legendary. Scott Brash contributed to it by winning the Rolex Grand Slam, which I thought would be impossible, but he made the impossible possible. For me, it’s a just a timeless concept. It’s made up of four of the biggest competitions in the world, the four competitions, which every single rider dreams of competing at and winning. The Grand Slam of Show Jumping will always be a very special circuit and in the hearts of every single rider in the world.

What are your passions away from show jumping?

I study law, so I would say that I am also 100% in my studies. It’s something that has become a passion, which I guess is mandatory to be able to study law, as if you don’t love it you just won’t make it. I play tennis, which helps me to take a break from show jumping – I think we all need something in order to escape and to breathe different air when show jumping becomes a bit too heavy. All of my hobbies are more of less associated with sport and studies.

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

The Vet Check:

Dr. Marco Hermann


What is your role at CHI Geneva?

I am the veterinary delegate for the FEI at CHI Geneva. I am in charge of looking at the veterinary rules set by the FEI and making sure that they are implemented correctly. This starts with the organisation of the veterinary team and examination of the horses on arrival, making sure that they are sound, that they do not have any signs of the EHV virus or any other contagious disease and ensuring that the horses are fit to compete. Another important job that we have is conducting doping tests and treating any horses onsite who have become unwell or lame.

Have you worked on any other international equestrian events?

I have been fortunate to be able to work on a variety of different international events with the FEI. I was the veterinary delegate for CSI Zürich for 30 years, as well as for CSIO St. Gallen for almost 40 years. I am  also in charge of the veterinary service at CHI Basel and was a member of the vet commission at the FEI World Championships in Herning last August.

This is the second year that I will be the veterinary delegate at CHI Geneva. Before, you could work at an event with no break, but nowadays the veterinary delegate (VD) has to change every three years, so next year will be my last year working as VD at CHI Geneva.

How important is nutrition for a horse’s wellbeing?

A horse’s wellbeing is very important – in my opinion it is as important as it is for athletes, although, it is not as well researched as it is in high level human athletes. The horse’s digestive tract needs a lot of fibre, but nowadays people tend to treat a horse’s nutrition as they would a human athlete’s. People now give their horses food with a lot of ingredients that are highly concentrated – horses cannot process this type of food because their digestive tracts are still the same as they were many years ago. In my opinion, the old way of feeding horses is the best way and the supplements that are sold now are not so suitable for a horse’s natural system. 

Why did you decide to become an equine vet? Did anyone inspire you?

It was easy for me – even when I was at school, I always wanted to be an equine vet. I do not think anyone inspired me, but for some reason it was always clear to me that this was what I wanted to do. I didn’t even grow up in a horse family – my family was more into cars.

What career achievement(s) are you most proud of?

When you get older you realise that you have done a lot of things. I think the thing that I most proud of is that I built a good reputation in Switzerland and that I am a well-respected member of the veterinary community who is known to have good professional knowledge. I did a lot of colic surgery when I was still fully practicing, and I was able to build up a private clinic which I sold five years ago. It still has a very good reputation and that is the thing that I am most proud of.

What do you enjoy most about being an equine vet?

The thing that I enjoy most about being an equine vet is being able to work with horses – they are the love of my life. Being able to spend so much time with them is a privilege – although sometimes I wish I didn’t have to deal with their owners, but that is not possible! I love being able to treat horses and find out how to help them so that they are no longer lame or ill.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an equine vet?

I think that nowadays the younger generation shows more interest in the ‘life’ aspect of the ‘work-life balance’, but to be an equine vet requires a full engagement. You have to be completely devoted to this career, and it will be more ‘work’ than ‘life’. Another key quality that I think people have to have is patience – it is one of the most important things that you need in order to work with horses.

What is a typical day for you like?

It is difficult to say now because I am partially retired, so I can enjoy my life a bit more. I no longer have to drive all day to clients like I did for many years – it could sometimes be from 6am in the morning to 10pm at night. In the past I also used to help students in the clinic. Veterinary practices are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, which meant sometimes I would be operating all night.

I still have some clients, such as Steve Guerdat and the Fuchs family , who are some of the best show jumpers in the world. I work from my car privately, so I do not need to have a clinic or employees anymore.

Tell us a little bit about your team at CHI Geneva…

At CHI Geneva there will be four vets at all times, two official FEI vets and two t treating vets. It depends on which event you are working at but generally the more horses there are, the more vets need to be on-site. For example, at CSIO St. Gallen, we have five or six vets on-site at all times.

Now you have retired, what legacy do you think you have left in equestrianism?

Now I have partially retired, I spend a lot of time giving speeches and seminars, especially to people who are amateurs and do not compete at a high level. Often, they have a full-time job alongside having a horse, and so I think that sometimes they do not understand the complexity of horses because they do not spend all their time looking after them. I try to educate them on what horses need in order to perform best, how to feed them correctly and how to be a better horseman.

The welfare of the horse underpins what the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping stands for; how do you ensure this is upheld and veterinary standards are constantly improving?

To me, communication is the key, and we need to include all stakeholders in the industry, including riders, grooms, owners and officials, in the conversations. We need to consider all aspects of the sport, but the key thing that we need to remember is that the horse should always be at the centre of these conversations.

Sometimes it can be difficult because there is a lot of money involved and people also have their own personal goals and ambitions within the sport. However, it is so important to recognise that horses are living animals and they are not machines – you cannot just turn them on and off like you would with a car.

In your opinion, what more can be, and should be, done to improve the welfare of the horse?

I think that maybe we should limit the amount of  high level competitions and large classes that horses compete in over the course of the year. In our sport we have so many great and well organised events – such as the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors – that there are so many opportunities to compete at the very highest level and often the prize money is so good that riders are tempted to jump in more classes. Therefore, often the horses do not have enough time to fully rest and recover between classes. I think that most top riders understand this, but I think that we should help them to make an informed decision about which tour they follow and what their annual plan is for each of their individual horses – in the end this will stop people over jumping their horses and will thus improve the welfare of the horse. 

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

Henrik Von Eckermann and King Edward win the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final


A capacity crowd in the Palexpo’s Geneva Arena watched on in anticipation, as 10 of the world’s very best show jumpers and their equine partners battled it out for the honour to be crowned the 2022 Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final champion. Having qualified for this esteemed class, based on November’s FEI jumping rankings, the truly international line-up, comprising riders representing France, Sweden, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Switzerland, The USA and Brazil, would undoubtedly produce unrivalled levels of show jumping.

Just four riders managed to complete the first round of the Gerard Lachat-designed course without picking up a fault, including Thursday night’s winner of the Trophée de Genève, Marlon Modolo Zanotelli, current world number one, Henrik von Eckermann, and in-form riders, Simon Delestre and McLain Ward, with the Frenchman ultimately setting the fastest fault-free time of 65.90 seconds. While those with first round faults still found themselves in contention – particularly Peder Fredricson from Sweden with just one time penalty and Dutchman Harrie Smolders with one down – unfortunately, Ben Maher and Exit Remo had a night to forget, after the pair accrued 31 penalties.

On to the second round and everything was to play for. First to go, Great Britain’s Ben Maher found a small consolation after he and his 13-year-old bay gelding went clear. Local hero Martin Fuchs and Conner Jei were unable to apply any pressure after accruing 12 penalties, while Julien Epaillard and McLain Ward both put one down. Swede Peder Fredricson was able to set the early pace after going clear, thereby finishing with one point; however, his teammate, the inimitable Henrik von Eckermann, went one better, thereby becoming the first rider to go double clear with his superstar gelding, King Edward. The final two riders to go, Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and Simon Delestre, were determined to go one better still. But it wasn’t to be after the Brazilian’s mare hesitated and put the penultimate fence down and the Frenchman, while going double clear, just couldn’t find enough pace, crossing the line over nine tenths slower than von Eckermann, who was ultimately crowned champion of the 21st edition of this revered class, much to his delight.

Thrilled after going one better than last year and achieving a bucket list goal, Henrik von Eckermann, commented: “Yes, definitely – it was one of my focuses after the World Championships when I gave King Edward a bit of a rest, and wanted to build up slowly again, and this was one of the targets, absolutely. It has been a target for many years. Like I said when we had the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final in Stockholm when Daniel Deusser won it; I walked the course and spoke to Eleonora [Ottaviani] and said one day I would like to win this one, so it’s a very special moment for me.”

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

Walking the course with:

Gérard Lachat


In your opinion, what makes CHI Geneva such a special competition?

The particular layout of the event makes CHI Geneva special; everything is under the same roof, which makes the riders’ accessibility easier. The show jumpers do not have to go outside, and they have easy access to their hotel nearby. This easy accessibility makes the riders value the competition in terms of logistics. As this is the Rolex Grand Slam, there are some amazing courses, and classes filled with ambitious riders, which raises the competition level. Due to the event being linked with Rolex, the event’s atmosphere becomes naturally prestigious. It is clear that there is a lot of money behind the event, and this adds to the riders’ motivation to take part.

What kind of course have you prepared for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?

It is a fairly long course, similar to last year with 14 obstacles, including two doubles and a triple, making it a real Grand Prix course. We have created the CHI Geneva course differently compared to the Rolex Grand Slam courses in Aachen and Calgary, as for those there are two rounds and a jump-off. In Geneva, we do not make riders do two rounds, so it allows the course to be extended, to be slightly more difficult and to include a jump-off.

How many clear rounds are you expecting?  

It's always more or less the same, we try to have eight or 10 without mistakes. If we have 12, it means that there are too many – if this does occur, it will be less than ideal. In general, we always try to have fewer than 12 but we are aiming for eight clears. This is the ideal number, but if there are six or even 10 then these would be fine, as well.

Which combination do you think has the best chance of winning the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?

A lot of the riders who compete in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva have great performances. It is essential to have a horse that has skill and speed, and is overall in great shape. Another factor that affects a rider’s performance is whether they are personally fit on competition day. Everyone, even the best riders can have bad days. For example, we saw this with Ben Maher, who has won a lot of Grands Prix. I spoke to him yesterday and he said he hopes his luck lasts throughout the weekend. He is a good show jumper, as he views every situation and competition realistically, while weighing up his rivals. At the moment, he is on top form and he has horses that are on great form, as well.

There is always a rider who experiences periods of great form and victories. These riders are often the ones who are at the top of the rankings, such as Steve Guerdat, Martin Fuchs and Henrik von Eckermann. These riders have achieved incredible success recently. But all of a sudden there can be a relatively new rider, such as Julien Epaillard, who comes along; someone who has never been ranked number one in the world, who certainly has the ability to achieve this one day. There is a possibility that Julien does well this weekend if, for example, von Eckermann has a weak performance.

When did you design your first course as head course designer?

Unfortunately, I do not remember my very first course well, but I am certain that it was a small course. I would say it was around a 1,00m or a 1,10m event. However, I remember the first big competition I designed was in St. Gallen – all the pressure was on me. Unfortunately, we experienced terrible weather that weekend so only two events took place. A few weeks later, I gained some more experience and responsibility at CHI Geneva and it went relatively well.

Do you have any passions outside of the equestrian world? What do you do when you are not working?

Being fully transparent, I do not have much time to myself, as I still have my breeding centre that I take care of. We have a lot of foals, and young horses that require a lot of attention and patience when training them. At home, we also have foals that I take care of, so when I do have some free time, I tend to not do much to relax.

Have you ever been intrigued by a particular course? 

In truth, I cannot decide on one course, as there have been so many that I have liked. For example, last year’s Rolex Grand Prix course at CHI Geneva was, in my opinion, the best Grand Prix course that I have ever designed. It was appreciated by the audience and the riders, and despite having an event during the pandemic, I was proud of the way it was designed.

On the other hand, there are a lot of courses designed by others that I like and that I think were successful. Again, I cannot make my mind up on one but I really enjoyed the one at this year’s World Championships in Herning. I went with Louis Konickx, as his assistant, and I enjoyed all the courses he designed for the World Championships.

I’ve seen several courses on TV, and I appreciated the Tokyo 2020 show jumping course. It was designed successfully – it was a very professional course that contained several difficulties, and several lines, which were technical. I was lucky enough to receive the plans and I can confirm that it was technical, it was interesting to see – it was a superb event.

Is there a course designer that has inspired you more than others?

It is hard to say whether there have been some who have inspired me more than others but there are definitely course designers that have guided me to my success today. For example, I was inspired and influenced by Rolf Lüdi, and in my career, I have had the chance to work with several designers and it has been very beneficial. Early on, I had the chance to work with Louis Konickx, and that was amazing, as we had the same approach and ideas regarding competition lines. The way we worked together was great – we were supportive of each other’s ideas but we also provided constructive feedback regarding our lines. We criticised each other in a constructive way, and at the end of the day we had the same goal to progress the sport. There was absolutely no tension working with him. I also had the chance to work twice with Uliano Vezzani; it was a different experience, as we have different approaches, and style in terms of the work, but he is an incredible person.

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

Word from the Organizer:

Alban Poudret


As Sport Director at CHI Geneva, please tell us about your role and your team

I have been Sport Director at CHI Geneva for the past 30 years. Before that, I was involved in the commentary team and did some other little jobs at the show. My role involves being responsible of both the sport, as well as the entertainment – this includes attractions, displays and the whole spectacle of the show. We have an incredible team – Sophie [Mottu Morel], Michel [Sorg] and I, we are great trio, and we discuss all of our ideas together. I pitch new ideas and how to fund them, then if we are happy we will present the ideas to the whole committee.

The committee is made up of 25 people, and then there is a sub-committee that is made up of 10 people, who are focused on equestrianism. The other 15 members are non-equestrians and are, for example, architects, finance or security specialists, who ensure the show is a success and runs as smoothly as possible.

The sub-committee meets regularly, and we all share our thoughts and opinions of the different concepts. It is a very democratic process, and we ensure that the majority agrees with the ideas before we implement them.

During the show, we have extra support from other people, such as Philippe Guerdat, who is the father of Steve. Philippe stopped his jumping career in 1996 and since then he has helped me behind-the-scenes at CHI Geneva. He speaks with the riders about the ground, their wishes and how we can improve things. There are so many people who help to make this show the success that it is today.

We heard you love your statistics – which are your favourite statistics from the last 30 years?

Yes, I love statistics and facts – I spend a lot of time collating them, especially historical facts and looking back at all of the different generations of the sport. For my magazine [Le Cavalier Romand], I have collated the medallists of all the different championships since 1912, as well as the winners of all the major Grands Prix of the last century. Ludger Beerbaum has won the most, with John Whitaker second, Rodrigo Pessoa third, Steve Guerdat fourth and Hans-Günter Winkler fifth – it is very interesting to compare and contrast different generations.

At CHI Geneva, we did not have a list of the champions of the major classes, so I created a record of all of the different winners. Steve Guerdat has won 12 major classes at CHI Geneva, including three Rolex Grands Prix and two Rolex IJRC Top 10 Finals. Rodrigo Pessoa has won 10 of the major classes and Kent Farrington nine.

This year we invited Francisco “Paco” Goyoaga Mollet, a U25 Spanish rider, to compete at CHI Geneva. He came to speak to me at CHIO Aachen, and he told me that his grandfather won the Grand Prix at CHI Geneva twice. In addition, he won the Trophée de Genève and the Nations Cup here – up until 1983 we were allowed to have Nations Cup competitions indoors, but since then in Europe they have to be held outdoors.

In your time working at CHI Geneva, how have you seen the quality of the sport positively develop?

I have to say it's changed incredibly. Thirty years ago, perhaps eight or ten riders could win the Grand Prix on Sunday, but these days 30 out of the 40 starters are in contention. It's not even guaranteed that the best riders will even qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix. It's remarkable how close the competition is nowadays, and I do wonder if it will continue to always be like this. The horses today are so good – this means you have to have an almost perfect horse to be in with a chance of winning. The riders' technique has also improved a lot, the size of the riders’ teams have grown, and overall everything is just so professional. So, sometimes I think where can we go next. In the end, I realise that the situation is fair, which in part is testament to the course designers, who are very clever, and they understand they have to push the riders and their horses, but only very delicately and gradually.

As organisers, we also have a responsibility for the evolution of the sport; for example, to ensure we keep the door open to allow future show jumping talent to compete and develop. We are proud to have invited Victor Bettendorf from Luxembourg, who has had so many 4* Grands Prix victories, but has not had the chance to ride in the 5* shows and last night he was second in the Trophée de Genève!

We have a lot of offers from riders to pay to participate at CHI Geneva, but we are determined to always refuse, to keep our values and our philosophy, which is to ensure that the most talented athletes compete here and not just those who are able to pay. As organisers, we have a big responsibility to safeguard the evolution of the sport.

What is your personal highlight of CHI Geneva?

We have had so many amazing moments. Steve’s [Guerdat] first win in the Grand Prix here in 2006 was incredibly special. He won with Jalisca Solier, who he had only had since September 2006 and had never jumped in a 5* Grand Prix before. The day he got the horse, he rang me and said that he thought with that mare he could win the Grand Prix at CHI Geneva and go to the Beijing 2008 Olympics (Hong Kong) – and he did both. Since then, Steve has won CHI Geneva’s Rolex Grand Prix twice and the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final twice, but I think his first win was the most emotional.

Another highlight for me was watching the incredible Martin Fuchs win the Rolex Grand Prix last year to make it a historic two wins in a row. This year I am really looking forward to Sunday for the incredible Clooney’s [51] retirement ceremony.

Last year we introduced the indoor cross-country, where Swiss rider Robin Godel won the class. He had a really tough year, as he sadly lost his horse during the cross-country phase of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It was really nice that he was able to end his year on a high and go into 2022 with a positive mindset.

Next year marks 10 years since the launch of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping; what has been your favourite memory?

I have two favourite memories. Firstly, it was incredible to watch Nick Skelton and Big Star win the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. It was one of the most magical horse and rider combinations, and to have them win the first Rolex Grand Prix, as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping at CHIO Aachen was such a special occasion. Then, watching Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos win three Majors in a row was phenomenal, particularly as we thought we would have to wait 20 or 30 years or even more to see someone accomplish this incredible feat. We knew our concept was victorious, not only Scott!

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

Marlon Modolo Zanotelli and VDL Edgar M win the Trophée de Genève

Staged in the Palexpo’s iconic Geneva Arena, 50 riders, representing 15 nations, contested Friday’s feature class – the Trophée de Genève – on the second day of 2022’s edition of CHI Geneva. The stellar line-up starred no fewer than 17 of the world’s current top 20-ranked riders, including world number one, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and fellow Swede Peder Fredricson, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Daniel Deusser, local favourite Martin Fuchs and previous Major winner Max Kühner, all of whom would be hoping for a spectacular finish in this 1.60m, 13-combination class in order to qualify for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix.

With no obviously tricky fences standing out, at the halfway point, 12 riders out of 25 starters graduated to the jump-off after navigating the Gérard Lachat-designed course fault-free, including current Individual Olympic champion Ben Maher, the in-form American McLain Ward, and last year’s winner of the Coupe de Genève, Harry Charles and his mount Borsato. After the break, the crowd was treated to another six clear rounds and some exceptional levels of horsemanship from riders including the up-and-coming 24-year-old Gilles Thomas, a key member of Belgium’s 2022 Nations Cup Final-winning team. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for CHI Geneva debutant, 23-year-old Briton Joseph Stockdale, who, after a super smooth round, picked up an agonising time fault.

Into the jump-off and it was evident early on that the shortened course was proving more of a test than the first round, with the British duo of Maher and Charles, Swedish duo of von Eckermann and Fredricson and America duo of Kraut and Ward all accruing faults. Last year’s Rolex Grand Prix champion, Martin Fuchs and Shane Sweetnam bucked this trend, both jumping fault-free, but with the Irishman eclipsing the Swiss maestro’s time by an impressive 12.06 seconds, which appeared to be unassailable. However, the sole representative from Luxembourg, Victor Bettendorf, soon went one better than Sweetnam, beating him into second place by 0.28 seconds. With just a handful of riders left to go, Bettendorf looked to have things sewn up, but a determined Marlon Modolo Zanotelli from Brazil flew around the seven-combination jump-off over a second quicker than Bettendorf, thereby taking the victory with his superstar partner VDL Edgar M.

Thrilled with his 13-year-old chestnut gelding’s performance in both rounds, Modolo Zanotelli commented: “He was amazing – he has had such an incredible season, and this is his last show of the year. To have a victory this early in the show is definitely something incredibly special.

“I was lucky to go towards the end of the class so I could watch the rest of the riders and know what I had to do. I know my horse incredibly well now and know his strengths which meant I could take some risks at the beginning of the course – luckily today that was enough to win.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix and asked if he will be partnered by Edgar, Modolo Zanotelli said: “That is the plan, but I am jumping Like A Diamond in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final tomorrow so we will see how she goes and then make a final decision.”

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

Behind the stable door:

Louise Persson


Tell us a little bit about your journey to CHI Geneva…

I flew from Miami to Belgium with Nayel Nassar’s Coronado and Igor Van De Wittemoere five days ago, and we stayed there until Tuesday night, before arriving in Geneva yesterday morning. They are feeling good and are in a great mood. They both travelled extremely well, eating and drinking plenty. They are very kind, friendly and talented horses. Coronado and Igor travelled in a double container. There are also containers called ‘triples’, which hold three horses, but the horses have less room. To ensure they have a more comfortable journey, we always ship our horses in a double.

This time the plane was also full of flowers, which were being transported to Amsterdam – there were lots of tulips so the whole flight smelt beautiful! The flight is a little cold, as the horses travel better when they are cool, and it’s also better for the flowers. We also had one boat engine on the flight; generally, as well as horses, these cargo flights transport all sorts of things – cars, washing machines, pretty much anything you can think of. The grooms sit behind the pilots’ cockpit and from there we have access to check on the horses, which is what we’re doing every second hour or sometimes every hour, depending on how they travel.

It must be very important to monitor a horse’s hydration, nutrition and wellbeing when they fly?

Yes. Some of the horses don’t drink very well when they fly, so we try to give them a bit of wet mash, which we sometimes add apple juice to, as a way of hydrating them. The hay that they eat of the plane contains a lot of electrolytes, which hydrates them even more. It’s also important to make sure that the horses are properly fed and hydrated and fully prepared before any type of plane journey.

Do you do a lot of driving, and how do you keep yourself entertained on long journeys?

I used to, but now I do not do as much, as I am lucky enough to have use of a transport company that drives for us. I like to listen to music on long journeys, and I am now lucky to travel with friends so we try and get the atmosphere going. I think a lot – travelling is a good time to reflect.

If there is a horse that doesn’t like to travel, what can you do to help it?

I think you have to know your horses really well – in that way you can recognise if your horse does not feel well or if they are stressed, and then you will be able to help them. It is important to know these little things, such as if your horse travels hot or cold – the more you know about your horse the better it will be.

How have Coronado and Igor been preparing for CHI Geneva?

The horses have been jumping at home in the United States. A few weeks ago, they did some big shows in America and Canada so they have had a few quiet weeks since then in the build-up to this Major. I think that they can sense that it is a big venue here at CHI Geneva with a lot of atmosphere, and you can tell that their adrenaline kicks in.

How much do you enjoy coming to the Majors – The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, Spruce Meadows and now CHI Geneva? In your opinion, what sets them apart from the other shows?

Yes, absolutely – they are some of the best shows in the world! Everything is the best of the best – the facilities, the sport, the stabling and so on. They really take care to make sure the horses, riders and grooms do not want for anything.

Do you feel more pressure when you are at one of the Rolex Grand Slam Majors?

There is always pressure in this sport, but I do definitely feel that there is more pressure at a Major. You have the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix, both are such prestigious classes with a lot of prize money. Everyone wants to win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, and I think the field is so strong this year that anyone could win.

How much riding do you do?

I do not ride much anymore. I used to ride a little bit, but to be honest I think I am better at grooming the horses and giving them treats!

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?

I love being with the horses. It is always a very proud moment when the horses do well at a show – it is a whole team effort to get those results. I also love the bonds that you create with people at the shows. My least favourite part has to be mucking out!

What is the grooms’ community like? Do grooms support one another?

It is a great community. The grooms definitely support each other, which is very important, as the job can sometimes be hard. There is now more support than ever, with the introduction of associations that look after us – it is hard work and it is nice to be recognised.

What attributes do you need to have to be a top-level groom?

You need to be hardworking, passionate, love what you do, and of course want to win!

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

Monkey see, monkey do. You must always look and learn by keeping your eyes and ears open at all time.

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

Word from the Organiser:

Sophie Mottu Morel


You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva is going ahead with full capacity?

It is completely amazing! Ticket sales for this year’s edition of the show have been great. I think we will have a full house on Sunday, and maybe even Friday and Saturday. I cannot explain why this year has been so good for sales, maybe it is Clooney’s [Clooney 51] retirement ceremony or the chance that Martin Fuchs may win the Rolex Grand Prix again for a historic and successive third time. We are happy to see that a lot of people want to come to the show this year. I think people want to be  hereto share in a special memory with other people and to cheer for a Swiss victory. Also, last year CHI Geneva was the only event in Geneva in December, so maybe last year people discovered the show and have decided to come back this year.

This year we have an extra day of competition on Wednesday, and we have opened up the show to everyone, as it will be free to enter. This is one of our philosophies to make CHI Geneva accessible to everyone and gain a new audience for our sport.

Is there anything new to this year’s schedule at CHI Geneva?

Yes, the Prix Credit Suisse, comprising three National Jumping classes on the first day of the show. These past years, the competitions were held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but we realised it would be hard for the riders to get here because the traffic in Geneva in the mornings is difficult, and it’s also easier for the National riders to only come to the show on one day. It also means that we can give the volunteers a break during these mornings, as they do not have to be at the Palexpo so early, and it is also nice for us, the organisers, to have a few quieter mornings!

How important are the volunteers to the successful running of the show?

They are crucial. We have 700 volunteers this year and they are the stars of the show. They give the show so much passion – they want to be there and they are happy to be there, and for me they are so important. The show wouldn’t be the same without them – they are spirit of the show.

What qualities do you look for in team members? And what makes a successful team?

We work like a family – we all want to help each other. We have a lot of responsibilities, and we have to count on each member to do their job correctly. We have to trust our colleagues – there are lots of people doing lots of different jobs but we all come together to achieve the same objective.

What is your advice to someone who wants to get into the sporting events industry?

You have to love the sport that you want to be part of but you also need to follow other major sports, such as tennis, golf and skiing and their sporting events. If you want to be good, you have to look at what the others do well and always strive to improve.

You have to go to events and speak to people working there, and you can take those ideas and translate them for your own event. In addition, I would say, do not count your hours because you will work a lot – but it is also fun because you meet a lot of people and if you are passionate about your sport, you can sometimes meet your sporting idol. All in all, don’t be afraid of the job, speak with lots of people and open your eyes to everything so that you can continuously improve.

Do you and CHI Geneva’s organisers take inspiration from any of sport’s other Major competitions, e.g., in tennis or golf?

Yes, of course. It is so beneficial to look at what other sports are doing. I did go to The Championships, Wimbledon once, which was incredible. I think maybe going to the other sports’ Major events is something we should do a bit more to learn how they do things.

Why does CHI Geneva emphasise giving younger riders opportunities to compete in a Major competition?

Because they are the stars of tomorrow. It is really important for them to compete with the best riders and in the best arenas, and it is a fantastic way to learn. Supporting young riders has been part of CHI Geneva’s long history; even before I came to the show, Alban Poudret and many others made sure it was a priority. Nowadays, we have the U25 classes but before those were introduced, we welcomed the younger generation in the international classes. I think these classes have helped to develop riders, such as Edouard Schmitz, who is only 23-years-old. He started doing the U25 classes when we first introduced them three years ago, and now he is one of the best in the world.

Next year marks 10 years since the launch of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping; how successful has it been and how has it positively changed the sport?

I think it has been an amazing success. It was 10 years ago we started out on this journey, and now we are having the chance to be able to reflect on it. We have met some amazing people from the other Majors and have learnt so much from each other. It was great when Scott Brash won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2015 because it gave our concept creditability – it proved it is possible even if it is tough.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping set the benchmark and standard for other shows to achieve – the quality of riders that come to compete is phenomenal and the prize money is also incredible. CHI Geneva has learnt so much from being part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, and we are so proud to be part of this family – the other Majors inspire us and make us want to keep getting better. I’m also very grateful and thankful to Rolex – they’ve been a very faithful partner.

What has been your personal highlight from the first 10 years of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?

There have been so many. A personal highlight for me was watching Scott Brash win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in Calgary – it was breath-taking. Also, watching Steve Guerdat and Nino [Des Buissonnets] win the first Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva, as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2013 is something I will never forget.

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

You have had great 2022 – what have you enjoyed the most and what are you most proud of?

2022 has been a great year. It has been the first year that things have gone back to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic and it was so great to be back at shows with the spectators there as well. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic we did lose some shows but all in all it has been a positive year.

I have also had a couple of new horses come into my yard that I am very excited about. I have a nine-year-old, Major Tom, who this year has stepped-up to jump in some bigger classes. I am very pleased with how he has handled this, and he will now have some downtime before next year. I have big hopes for him next year.

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2023?

Next year is incredibly important for the Brazilian team as we are looking to gain our qualification for the Olympic Games – so this will be my main goal. We will work towards the FEI Nations Cup™ Final in September and the Pan American Games held in Chile in October. So, 2023 will be a busy year to make sure that we perform well at these events to ensure our place in Paris.

Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses which ones are you most excited about?

Major Tom, a nine-year-old Belgian-bred is my main horse. We have had him for two years, since he was a seven-year-old, and he is owned by Artemis Equestrian Farm. He has a huge amount of ability and quality so we have been trying to produce him as best we can so that he can tackle the big events.

I also have some other very nice horses that are owned by Artemis Equestrian Farm including Chili, Quality FZ and Venice Beach who are all 5* horses that have a lot of experience and are competitive at top level. I am really excited about the horses that I currently have, and I have a lot of hope for 2023.

This year marks the 21st Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final – what is the role of the IJRC role and in your opinion how important is the club for show jumping?

The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final is organised by the IJRC. We founded the class after I came back from the Tennis Masters in Portugal and I thought that was something that needed to be added in our sport. It is something that is so exclusive, has great prize money and now the riders really fight to get into the Top 10. The riders always bring their best horses to try and win this prestigious class. I am really proud to be part of it and the IJRC make sure that the class is so well run.

I think that the club is so important. We are trying to improve the sport and make sure that we introduce new innovative ideas to the sport to ensure that it evolves in the right way. The IJRC does a tremendous amount of work to ensure that the committee represents all the riders and additional stakeholders such as owners and breeders – it is an important piece of the puzzle of our sport.

In your opinion what do the decision makers and the rights holders need to focus on to keep evolving and progressing the sport?

I think that we really need to focus on promoting the sport across the world to get more mainstream media attention. Sports such as tennis or football take up much of the media attention and sponsorship – so you really have to battle to be in the media much as possible so that we can keep sponsors, ensure the sport develops and keep the prize money improving.

You have recently been elected as the FEI athlete for jumping riders – what will your role be, and what will you be aiming to achieve over the next four years?

I am the voice of the riders, my voice is what comes out of the IJRC board – I try to defend our interest as much as possible as well as guiding and suggesting changes that I think are positive for the sport. So, my job is to promote the views of all riders across the world, and to speak with riders that have problems, especially ones that are not really known or under the radar. I bring them up with the FEI and help them solve their problems so that the sport can continue to grow.

You have had an incredible career as both a rider and a high-performance manager – what else would you love to accomplish?

My focus right now is on competing, especially with the nice stables of horses that I have, so to compete at a high level is my number one objective. Through my role in the IJRC I am focused on moving forward to keep developing the sport – it benefits me, but also everyone.

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

I think is very important to have a brand that is as big globally as Rolex to get behind the sport. We are incredibly lucky to have such a great brand behind our sport – they invest a lot of money, not only in the events, but also in media and press to try and put the word out about equestrian sport. Rolex are so famous and prestigious that our sport being linked to them is a huge benefit for us – I would say it is more a plus for us then it is for them, so we are very lucky to have their support.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has been incredible for the sport. The Majors are something that riders and owners look forward to and aim towards. All of the Majors, both indoors and outdoors, are phenomenal, and something very special in the calendar.  The Rolex Grand Slam is something that is very difficult to achieve, with only Scott Brash achieving it in 2015 and I do not know if it is something that will be achieved again – but I hope that someone else will do. I think that if someone was going to be able to do it again it would be Daniel Deusser in the next 12 months – he knows how to perform on these big occasions.  

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 am a sports fan in general – I like high quality sport. I love watching Formula One, football, golf and tennis. I think Formula One is my favourite sport to follow but I have been lucky enough to attend some of the Golf and Tennis Majors through my partnership with Rolex, which have been amazing.

What is the best advice someone has given you?

I think it is that patience with horses is the most important thing that you must have. Also, I think that even if things are not going your way, you must keep on pushing and trying and eventually your time will come.

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

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping returns to CHI Geneva from 7 – 11 December 2022 with an action-packed schedule, including the 21st running of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final on Friday evening and pinnacle class, the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon.

Held in the impressive Palexpo in Geneva, the world’s elite horse and rider combinations will tackle some of the toughest tracks of the year, at is what is often considered the sport’s leading indoor show jumping venue. Taking part in this year’s show is a spectacular line-up of athletes including 17 of the top 20 riders, as well as six Rolex Testimonees and 17 riders representing the home nation.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

After his sensational win at in the CP ‘International’, Presented by Rolex at The CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament, Germany’s Daniel Deusser will be looking to continue his impressive form in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors, having won two of out the last three Grand Prix. Deusser will be aiming to continue his quest to become only the second person to have ever won The Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping, following fellow Rolex Testimonee Scott Brash’s triumph in 2015. Deusser will also be joined by fellow countryman Gerrit Nieberg, winner of the Rolex Grand Prix held at CHIO Aachen earlier this year.

Home favourite and defending champion, Martin Fuchs, will be the one that everyone has their eyes upon. Having won the last two editions of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva, the World No.2 understands the precision, bravery and athleticism required by horse and rider to be successful in this prestigious competition. Joining Fuchs is compatriot and three-time winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at this iconic venue, Steve Guerdat, as well as FEI World Championship teammates Edouard Schmitz and Pius Schwizer.

World No.1 Henrik von Eckermann adds to the impressive list of entries this year. The Swedish rider will come to the show brimming with confidence, having been World No.1 for the past four months and following a recent win in the FEI Jumping World CupTM Qualifier in Verona. The double world champion and team Olympic gold medalist will however be looking to claim his first victory in the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva. Sweden will also be represented by Peder Fredricison. The ever-competitive Peder, who joined Henrik on the podium in Tokyo and Herning will also be aiming to lift the prestigious trophy for the first time.

Last year’s runner-up Harrie Smolders will be hoping to go one better this year to become the first Dutch winner of the class. A strong contingent of riders from France will also head to CHI Geneva this year, including World No.3, Julien Epaillard, the in-form Simon Delestre and Rolex Testimonee Kevin Staut. Staut, a former winner ofboth the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix, will be looking to use his knowledge and experience of how to win in this venue to add the last Rolex Grand Prix of the year to his impressive results this year.

Great Britain will be represented by all members of their FEI World Championship bronze medal-winning team. Ben Maher won the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final last year with his Olympic gold medal-winning partner, Explosion W, and has continued his impressive form throughout the year with new string of horses at the very top of the sport. Scott Brash, is never one to discount in this prestigious class, having won here in 2014 on his way to claiming the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2015. The Under-25 World No.1 Harry Charles will also be in attendance. Having broken into the Top 15 this year, the young British rider has cemented himself as one of the best riders in the world and will be joined by another up-and-coming young rider, Joseph Stockdale, who will be making his debut at CHI Geneva.

Belgium’s Gilles Thomas, who was third at in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at The CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament, will be joined by compatriots Gregory Wathelet, who won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show earlier in the year, and FEI World Championship individual silver medalist, Jérôme Guery.

Other notable entries include Ireland’s Conor Swail, who has recently won both the FEI Jumping World CupTM Qualifiers in Washington and Sacramento, Max Kühner from Austria who was third in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva last year and the USA’s McLain Ward.

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Dave Chidley) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Dave Chidley)

Congratulations! You are the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender once again, how are you feeling ahead of CHI Geneva? Which horse do you plan to compete with in the Rolex Grand Prix?

I am feeling confident ahead of CHI Geneva. My horses have been in good shape over the last couple of weeks. I am really looking forward to Geneva as it is a fantastic show, and I have some fantastic memories from past experiences there. I realise that it will be difficult to win this Grand Prix again,  but I definitely have a chance this year. So in the lead up, I am taking it easy.

What have you been up to since winning the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at CSIO Spruce Meadows  in  September,  and  how  have  you  been  preparing  yourself  and  your  horses  for  CHI Geneva?

With your best horses you are always trying to make the best plan. When thinking of CHI Geneva, I have two horses that come into consideration – Killer Queen [VDM] and Tobago [Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z]. Killer Queen had a couple of weeks off after the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, where she jumped fantastically. I think that she is back in shape and now she feels good. Over the next two weeks, I do not have a show so I will hopefully bring both horses very fresh to Geneva.

I do not really have a plan yet, I still need to make decisions regarding who I am going to jump in the Rolex Grand Prix, and which horse I will use for the Grand Prix qualifier. A lot of this depends on my feelings during the last training week before we leave for Geneva. It will allow me to observe and assess how the horses are feeling. Maybe one will remain a little too fresh that they need to start with a small class and maybe one will be ready to go straight into a big class. Until now, I have had a very good feeling with both of the horses, they both feel very happy and sound, so I am really looking forward to Geneva.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary next year – how big an impact has it had on the sport?

With the Rolex Grand Slam, the four shows have created an important source of motivation in our sport. They have created something that is very unique, with an exclusive format that to this day cannot be rivalled. It really pushes the sport to another level, as before you only had one championship at the end of the season. However, nowadays, all show jumpers look to the Rolex Grand Slam, and treat the four shows as four championships throughout the year. It is a fantastic format. Everybody knows how difficult it is to achieve the Rolex Grand Slam. In 2015, Scott Brash achieved it but this is already seven years ago. Since then, no one has come close to achieving this, but during each season all show jumpers aim to do so. I think that this shows the incredible role of the Rolex Grand Slam.

How important is it for a show jumper to keep learning in this sport??

I worked for Franke Sloothaak over the period of four and a half years. He was a top rider for some time, and I learnt a lot from him. To this day, I am still in contact with him regularly. I still learn from him, as he tends to visit every once in a while. I have to say that mentoring programmes may be a bit different to this now but I am actively looking out for successful riders, even younger ones in the arena during show jumping competitions. In a show jumper’s career, no matter how long one has been doing it for, there is still so much to learn, as every animal is different. Their characters change, and riders must constantly adapt and learn to be able to handle or communicate with different horses. And even with my own experience, every year with my horses, I incorporate new trainings with new and old horses for us to constantly learn and improve. It is important to constantly keep learning in this sport, and to observe and study other riders.

What does your diet and nutrition plan look like? How important is diet and nutrition to your overall training programme?

To be honest, I really do not have to monitor my weight, as I am very tall and slim. I think the most important thing in terms of nutrition, is that one has to be aware that the goal is to feel physically fit and comfortable. Obviously, everyone has to adapt their nutrition to themselves and to their body type. As I said, I am a very tall person, which I do not really think is always an advantage in the saddle. In terms of my weight,  I am very lucky that I can still enjoy food and eat whatever I fancy as my weight is easy to manage.

I really try to take the time to do a lot of stretching exercises so my body can remain flexible. Being a tall rider has some disadvantages, and flexibility is a bit of a challenge for me compared to shorter riders. It is important to continually work on flexibility. In our sport, one sits in the saddle for hours at a time, and this is a position where one’s muscles, certainly in the legs, gain strength.

Away from show jumping, how do you relax? What do you love to do?

Nowadays, if I am not training my horses, and not attending a show, I try and spend as much time with my family and young daughter. Before her, I would relax by watching a movie or going on bike rides in the evenings but now that has changed with her around. We take her to hockey training once a week and that is fun. So, yes, I try and spend time with my family.

My wife and daughter play a bit part in my life, and in my overall success in show jumping. There is a lot of travelling when we compete, and this means I am not at home for long periods of time, so people around me need to support and understand my sport and lifestyle. They certainly do this. I am really lucky with my family, as Caroline came from a show jumping background, as well, and is very supportive.

If you weren't a professional show jumper, what would you be doing? Are there any professional sports men who you idolise?

I really do not know what I would be doing if I was not a show jumper. I know for certainty that it would be something to do with the outdoors and that would involve a lot of physical activity. I could not visualise myself sitting in an office throughout the day. It would most likely have been another sport. When I was younger, I played a lot of sports such as tennis, and even rode BMXs.

What would be the perfect day? What would it look like from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep?

My perfect day would be waking up on the Sunday morning of CHI Geneva, and discovering my horses feel great, and then go on to win the Rolex Grand Prix!

What is your favourite holiday that you have been on? Do you find it easy to relax, or do you have to stay active?

It is really hard for me to decide on a favourite one because I have had some amazing summer and winter holidays. When I am away on holiday, I have to stay active. When we were in the Mauritius, I had to do some sort of water sport to ensure that I was doing some physical movement. I cannot spend a couple of days lying still on the beach. This is why I love going on skiing holidays, as you are outdoors and active all day long.

(Photo: Arturo Fasana) (Photo: Arturo Fasana)

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

I am Swiss-Italian, so I can link my first equestrian memories to when I was living in the Italian part of Switzerland, near Lugano. One memory I have is of some great show jumpers, including Graziano Mancinelli, Piero D'Inzeo and Raimondo D'Inzeo, not because I was fond of horses, but because when watching Italian television at that time, they were such big champions. These are the three champions that still come to my mind, and the first ones that introduced me to the equestrian world.

How did you become a top level owner in the sport?

First and foremost, I don’t come from a family in which I was brought up with horses, so I became a show jumping horse owner a little bit by chance. When my daughter decided to take up horse riding for her enjoyment, I bought her a six-year-old in Ireland called Castlefield Eclipse, which was my first top level horse. It is thanks to Eclipse that I discovered my interest and passion for show jumping. I also discovered that I enjoy being surrounded by the very best riders and that I strive to achieve great results. Eclipse competed at the Olympics in London in 2012, then won in St. Gallen, and then received a bronze medal with the Swiss team at the European Championships in Aachen in 2015. So, I became an owner at first by chance but then my love for being an owner was fuelled by the results that my first horse Eclipse achieved.

As an owner, what is the proudest moment of your career so far?

The first memory that comes to mind is Edouard [Schmitz] and Gamin [Van’t Naastveldhof] winning in Dublin – that was something very special but also unexpected. It could be compared to a tennis player winning Wimbledon due to the tradition and the thrilling atmosphere of the show, which makes the competition so unique. Of course, there are other favourite moments, for example, when Eclipse made six clear rounds in the Nations Cup of Rome, Rotterdam and Aachenn. These are very different memories but are still very important to me.

What qualities are you looking for when purchasing a 5* (or a potential 5*) show jumping horse?

I purchase horses that are quite young, usually six- and seven-year-olds. When you purchase those types of horses, there is potential in their legs, for them to jump at the biggest competitions, but this is not everything, this is only one aspect of what one looks for when buying a horse. Physiology, mentality, and agility are also very important when selecting horses. In my opinion, it is very important to train horses thoroughly; one has to be attentive from when they are young, to ensure that things are not done too quickly, to take the time, and to be patient with them. It’s very important to train the horses well for them to be successful at a high level where there is pressure and stress. As I joined this profession quite late, I had to observe other people and gain experience through learning and buying. I was looking at horses that could have the mentality to be able to continuously perform, and to remain at the top. At this high level, you only have three or four percent of the horses that can remain at the highest level and win competitions.

How much involvement does a rider have when you look to buy a new horse?

When we buy new horses, I always want Edouard to give his advice, which is important, as at the end of the day, he is the one who is going to ride the horse. I like to not only receive advice from the rider but from other people when buying horses, as it allows me to make an informative decision.

Tell us a bit about your relationship with Edouard Schmitz?

I have known Edouard since he was young, and everyone recognised that he was a very talented rider.  When I was making decisions on who I wanted to lend my horses to, Edouard came to mind. After discussing with my daughter, we both came to the conclusion that he would be a good choice, as we believed we would be giving a rider the possibility to succeed in the sport. Edouard has always had a very supporting family and it has been such a pleasure to have him as a rider. Our relationship is based on seriousness and humour, and contains a certain lightness, which allows us to not feel too pressured, which is hard in this world. I am not the type of person that would cause stress or pressure, as I believe this can lead to issues, so it’s important for me to have a good relationship with whoever is riding my horses. So, for this reason, I let Edouard decide how to train, and how to handle the horses, as this is not my area of expertise.

How many horses do you currently own, and which is your stand-out horse? Edouard has referred to Gamin Van’t Naastveldhof as ‘the real deal’;

I have two horses with Edouard, a seven-year-old called Karel [Doorman], who has the potential to succeed at a very high level, and an 11-year-old called Babylone Des Erables, who is good but may not have the capability to achieve Karel’s level. Then I have Gamin, who I bought when he was six-years-old – he is my best horse. He is a horse that every rider would love to have, as he has all the qualities that one looks for: power, agility, a fantastic gallop, and he has the mentality.

Which of your young horses do you believe has the potential to be the most successful?

Karel is a horse we hope will succeed at a high level – he is a very quick and careful horse with a great mentality. But as he is only seven, he cannot yet compete in 5* competitions, so this is the only problem that we have with him at the moment. A solution is for us to enter him into some smaller classes, which is a good way to train him and build him up. In a way, Karel has similar qualities to the ones that Gamin had at this age, but he doesn’t have the same body, as Gamin has always been a big horse. Despite this, there is a very good chance that we will succeed, and be able to jump Karel at a high level, but it may be too early to say for sure.

Why do you do it? What is your ambition in being an owner?

My only ambition is passion. I mean, I don't have any special interest at all in horses. In the last 15 years, I have maybe sold only two horses, not because I wanted to do it, but for other reasons. I am really proud that along with Edouard’s family, we have helped him achieve so much, certainly during this last year. This is thanks to his skills and his personal qualities, but also due to the horses that he has.

The Rolex Grand Slam of show jumping, how positive do you believe it is for the sport of show jumping?

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is absolutely essential at this level and for the sport. A competition that is supported by Rolex is naturally prestigious, so all the riders dream of competing in competitions like CHI Geneva and the other three Majors at some point in their career. Competitions like the Rolex Grand Slam motivate and inspire young people to start riding and to discover the sport, which in my opinion is very important.

(Photo: Hippofoto) (Photo: Hippofoto)


What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2023?

My ambition and plan for 2023 is to achieve a podium during the European Championships at Riesenbeck International in September.

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

The proudest moment of my career so far was when I received the gold medal during the 2020 Junior Swiss Championships at Chalet-à-Gobet. The horse I rode was called Cosby, and I was very proud of our performance, as we did not touch one bar throughout the whole tournament.

How much are you looking forward to CHI Geneva and how confident are you feeling?

I hope to win the prestigious Land Rover U25 Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. However, as the world’s elite attend the event, I would be very happy if I made the top three, so a podium in my age category would be amazing.

When did your love for show jumping start, and who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I first got into horse riding and show jumping when I was 10 years old. My inspiration was the Dutch show jumper Jeroen Dubbeldam.

What attributes do you believe a successful show jumper needs?

I believe that to be a successful show jumper and rider, you need to be willing, to be motivated to train, to work, to understand the horses, and to constantly understand and provide them with crucial necessities and opportunities. I also believe that to excel in this sport you need a supportive team behind you.

Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses which ones are you most excited about?

My stable is primarily a business, we are constantly training and preparing horses to be sold but I personally own and train 18 horses, and I have competed with most of them. I currently have a young mare who is called Filomene Du Sart, and she will help me achieve great things once I compete with her. I will be taking my best horse to CHI Geneva, a stallion called Arley De Vayrie.

How important is your team – your groom, your farrier, your coach, your vet, your owner?

My team, which comprises grooms, farriers, a coach, and several vets, is very important – they all attend the shows with us. This is for precautions, but we want to ensure that the horses needs are met, and are treated excellently. All the decisions, and as a result the teams’ actions, always have the horses’ needs, and health at heart. In the end, this allows us to excel and succeed whilst achieving positive rankings. We bring a few vets, as they know how to treat the horses, and what’s specific to each of them. All our decisions and actions are made to achieve the best for the horses.

What do you love most about show jumping? Competing, the camaraderie with the other riders, travelling the world…

The aspect that I love the most is that I am show jumping with my national teammates. I am constantly observing and learning from my teammates, specifically the improvements that they are making, and this benefits myself as a competing rider.

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

The best piece of advice that I have received is that you truly have to be passionate about our job, show jumping. You not only need to be motivated about training yourself but you need to connect with the horses, which allows you to prosper as a team. Another good piece of advice I’ve received is that in this sport there are a lot of risks but the rewards outweigh them.

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

Rolex is an extremely well-known brand, with major prestige. It is every rider’s goal to compete in the Rolex Grand Slam.

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 sometimes watch the tennis Grand Slams, as I looked up to Rolex Testimonee, Roger Federer – being from Switzerland myself, I naturally supported him. From watching the different tournaments, I have noticed the prestige, glamour, and influence of the other Grand Slams, which Rolex is deeply connected with.

What do you do in your free time outside of Show Jumping?

For the majority of my time, I train and look after my horses so I have limited time to myself. However, when I do, I play a lot of football. Another way that I like to relax is by going go-karting with my friends but we do not do this frequently.

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

I would bring a boat, as it would allow me to access the closest island nearby, but I would not want to forget about the necessities that I would need to rely on to survive, such as a certain food and a water bottle.


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


The highly anticipated CHI Geneva returns this year from 7 – 11 December with an extra day of competition added to the already speculator schedule of sport and entertainment.

Taking place on Wednesday 7 December, the additional day will enable the introduction of three classes purely dedicated to national competitions. Starting at 1.15m and going up to 1.35m, the classes will be a unique opportunity for amateur riders to compete in one of the most prestigious Show Jumping arenas in the world. Furthermore, these competitors will have the chance to qualify for a brand-new class taking place on the Saturday evening of the show this year, the Credit Suisse Coupe du Jockey Club. This class is a team competition held over one round, with a jump-off if necessary, to determine a final winner. The teams will be made up of two winners from the amateur classes on Wednesday, an international rider, and an eventing rider, thus joining together a range of athletes competing at the show.

Top level international classes start on Thursday 8 December with the Trophée de Genève, held in the evening, providing the first chance to qualify for the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday. Prior to this esteemed class will be the first of three classes dedicated to Under-25 riders, showcasing the next generation of top Show Jumpers.

On Friday 9 December, spectators will be treated to the adrenaline filled Indoor Cross-Country presented by Tribune de Genève which will see some of the top Eventers in the world gather to compete during their ‘off season’. The highlight for many on Friday will be the 21st running of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, which sees the most elite Show Jumpers fight to be crowned ‘best of the best’, in what is often compared to the Nitto ATP Finals in Tennis.

Competition kicks-off on Saturday with the Land Rover Grand Prix which is the final competition for the Under-25s. CHI Geneva has always prized itself on supporting the next generation and this final class will showcase Show Jumping’s up-and-coming talent in the world’s biggest indoor equestrian arena. Following on from this early morning class there will be plenty of action to keep equestrian fans entertained, including the Coupe de Genève; La Grande Chasse and the Credit Suisse Challenge as well as the first of the Driving classes, the FEI Driving World Cup™ presented by the International Institut de Lancy, which will determine the starting order for the six drivers who will compete in Sunday morning’s Geneva leg of the FEI Driving World Cup™, presented by Radio Télévision Suisse.

The final day of the show is set to be a true spectacle with the pinnacle class of the day being the Rolex Grand Prix, the final Major of 2022. Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs will be looking to make history once again in front of his home crowd by winning the prestigious title for the third time in succession. However, he will have the toughest of competition from 39 of the world’s best horse and rider combinations including Germany’s Daniel Deusser, who has already won two of the three Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors this year.

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


What is your earliest equestrian memory?

My brother and I used to go hunting a lot when I was growing up. So, I think that my earliest equestrian memory was when I was around five-years-old, and we would bet with each other who would fall off the least during the day.

As a rider, what has been your proudest moment this year?

This is easy for me. It was winning the Aga Khan Nations Cup™ at The Dublin Horse Show with Count Me In. It was an incredible moment in my career and winning in front of my home crowd was amazing.

What qualities are you looking for when purchasing a 5* (or potential 5*) show jumping horse?

It is difficult to say – I think everyone is looking for the same thing. They have to have good results and the want to win, and then in terms of qualities I think that carefulness and the ability to do the right thing when it is needed are so important.

How did you become a top-level owner in the sport?

This happened because I didn’t have any big sponsors or owners, so I had to do it by myself. Now, I am very lucky because a good friend of mine, Conall Murray at Mannon Farm, has started to purchase horses with me. Together we own Count Me In, Vital Chance De La Roque and Nadal Hero & DB who are my three best horses. Having the support from him has been incredible and makes it a lot easier on me when I can split the cost of the horse.

As an owner, what is the proudest moment of your career so far?

I am very proud of what I was able to achieve without the help of numerous owners. Obviously, I would have preferred some more financial help so that I could have bought more horses and given myself more chance to win. But I am very proud of what I have done on a limited budget, and I have been loving the last couple of years of my career.

How do you balance your dual roles as a world-class rider and a top-level owner?

I find it quite easy. I think that it is all about having a good schedule for the horses. As a rider, I have to travel around a lot, but I always make sure that none of the horses are doing too much at any one time. I try to make sure that their balance between work and rest is right and that the horses are fit, otherwise they do not perform at their best.

How are you preparing for CHI Geneva?

I am bringing my best horses, Count Me In and Vital Chance De La Roque. I jumped Count Me In indoors at The Washington International Horse Show last weekend where he won the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Qualifier. He will go to Toronto next week, and then have a few weeks off before we go to CHI Geneva.

Vital Chance De La Roque jumped in Sacramento a couple of weeks ago, where he also won the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Sacramento presented by GV23 Wines. He will go to Las Vegas next, which is about a month before CHI Geneva. Both horses have been jumping really well indoors and will have had a couple weeks rest before CHI Geneva – so I hope they will continue their form until the end of the year.

How many horses do you have in at the moment? Are there any young horses that people should be looking out for?

At the moment I only have five or six. I haven’t got too many young ones at the moment. Usually I have some in Ireland that I will produce over there and then if I think there are any future 5* horses, I will bring them over to North America when they are eight-years-old.

You must be incredibly proud of Count Me In; tell us a little bit about him, including when you first noticed his potential? What makes him stand out from other 5* horses?

Before I purchased him, I knew the horse relatively well. He was jumping on the circuit with Beth Underhill and was always a successful horse who was very careful and who jumped a lot of clear rounds, although not at the level he is jumping at now.

So, when he became available, I decided to take the risk on him, even though he was 14-years-old. The gamble has really paid off and I think that he has surprised not only me but a lot of other people. He has been an incredible horse to me, and we have a great partnership. He continues to go from strength to strength – he has changed my career and I have only had him for just over a year.

What are your hopes and ambitions for 2023 and beyond?

I think that your ranking is a reflection on the consistency of success that you are achieving – I am very proud of the fact that week in and about that my horses are able to win and place well in a lot of very big competitions. But a big aim of mine would be to win a medal at a major championship.

I passed on the opportunity to compete at the FEI World Championships this summer with Count Me In. I think that for a horse of his age, it was too big an ask to jump over numerous days. I did not want overexert him or for him to hurt himself. I think that if we had gone then we would have done well, or even won a medal because of his quality. But it was the right for the horse and his longevity in the sport to not go. It is so important to make the right decision for your horses and keep their best interests at heart.

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

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is the most prestigious series in the sport. The prize money is incredible, and it is made up the best shows in the world. It is a privilege to jump at the Majors when you have a horse good enough to do so.

Out of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping's four Majors, which is your favourite, and why?

CHIO Aachen is obviously a very special place. I also spend a lot of time at Spruce Meadows and compete there all summer – the venue is just so incredible. CHI Geneva is also one of the best indoor shows in the world. But I think I would have to say CHIO Aachen is my favourite, you only go there once a year, which I think makes it more special, and the crowds are amazing.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I admire a lot of the great riders, and I try to watch and learn as much as possible from them. If I had to choose one, then I would have to say John Whitaker. I think that he is one of the most naturally talented riders – he has had a lot of very different horses and he rides them all unbelievably well. His longevity is incredible, and he has always been very inspirational to me.

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

You should always believe in your own ability. Throughout your career you are going to have good and bad results, so you must believe in yourself and your ability to keep moving forwards.

What do you love to do away from show jumping?

I love sport and I really enjoy playing golf or watching sports when I get the opportunity.

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


You have had a great year, what has been your highlight?

I have an such an amazing year – it is hard for me to pick just one highlight! I had my first 5* victory in the King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead in July which was amazing, and then coming third in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament was a fantastic result. Most recently being on the Belgium team and winning the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final was incredible for me. I don’t think I can choose just one of those moments!

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

I am hoping to ride at CHI Geneva – that would be amazing. Then in Belgium we have the have a 5* show which includes a FEI Jumping World Cup™, in Mechelen, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This show is always very important to Belgian riders, and my family are involved in the organisation of it, so I really hope I can have a good result in the FEI Jumping World Cup™ there.

What are your hopes and ambitions for 2023 and beyond?

My ultimate dream is to compete at CHIO Aachen, in my opinion it is the best show in the world and the Rolex Grand Prix there is one of the most prestigious classes in the calendar. I am also aiming to compete in a Belgium senior team at a big championship. I have competed in Junior and Young Rider teams, but to be part of the Belgium team at the FEI World Championships or the Olympic Games and win a medal would be a dream come true.

After your great performance in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament, how will you prepare for CHI Geneva?

I’m not totally sure whether I will be competing there yet, but I hope that I will. They are two very different shows, but I would still take Aretino 13, as even though the arena at CHI Geneva is indoors, it is still very big. If I go to CHI Geneva, it will be the only indoor show that Aretino 13 competes in because he is a big horse and needs more space, so suits outdoor arenas better. CHI Geneva is such an amazing show and so I will plan to take my three best horses if I go.

Tell us a little bit about your current stable of horses and their personalities…

I am very lucky at the moment because I have a stable filled with very high-quality horses, and that has enabled me to have such a successful season. I have around 12 horses in total and four of them can jump in a 5* Grand Prix. I also have some very talented seven and eight-year-olds that I have very high hopes for the future.

Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

I have an eight-year-old stallion called Ermitage Kalone by Catoki. He has been breeding a lot this year and is very popular in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. He is a very good jumping horse and is well bred himself which is why I think he has been so popular.

Next year he will turn nine-years-old and so we will start to jump him more – he is currently jumping at 1.45m and in 2* Grands Prix and finding it very easy. My plan is that next year he will be my second horse for the 5* shows, and I will hopefully take him to a 3* FEI Nations Cup™ – we will build him up slowly throughout the year. I think that he will really start to be a top horse in 2024.

What keeps you motivated?

I love the feeling of winning and achieving top results, and this year has really given me that experience. It has been an amazing year, where I have been able to go to some of the best shows in the world, where the organisation is amazing and I am competing against my idols. Of course, there are a lot of shows in the calendar, and you have to go to most of them to keep your rankings points up, but I am very lucky that I have enough top horses to swap them out across the season to keep them fresh.

The Belgium team has been so successful this year, how does it feel to be riding on the same team as great riders such Wathelet, Philippaerts, Guéry, etc.

At the beginning of the year, I was third in a big class in Miami, and both Jérôme Guery and Gregory Wathelet messaged me to say they hoped that they we would compete on the same team this year, but I never thought it would happen.

My call-up to the Belgium team came sooner than I thought, and I was selected for the Nations Cup™ team in Falsterbo, where we won. I was then also selected for the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona where I was on a team with Jérôme, Gregory and Olivier [Philippaerts], where we also won and gained Olympic qualification. Everything this year has happened so quickly, but it has been so incredible to be part of such a successful team. It has been amazing to compete on the same team as them as they are fantastic riders and have had such successful careers.

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 that it is so positive for the sport. The four Majors are at the best shows in the world, and they are so good at ensuring everything perfect for the horses – of course the prize money is incredible as well. There are so many 5* shows but the Majors really stand out to be as something to aim and prepare for, they are the top of the top. I think for riders, these Majors really motivate us, and we want to try and produce our best results there.

Which is your favourite Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major and why?

Even though I had such a great result at CSIO Spruce Meadows, I think I have to say CHIO Aachen. I live in Belgium, but Aachen is only around an hour drive from my yard. I have been and spectated there a few times and I think it is the best show in the world – I really hope I get to compete there one day.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

My uncle, Marc van Dijck. He is also my trainer and has competed at the top level of the sport as well as representing the Belgium team. Around 10 or 15 years ago he was competing at CSIO Spruce Meadows and CHIO Aachen, and he was actually third in Aachen. He gives me the best advice, but I am also super motivated to make sure that I beat his results!

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

I am a very competitive person, so I think the best piece of advice I was given was that it is better to ride for second place and not for first place, and you will eventually win more. I really think this is true because you ride a bit slower, and it allows the time to build up their confidence and ability.

What is a typical day for you at home?

When I am at home, I ride around eight or nine horses. At the moment, my uncle manages my stables which enables me to focus solely on riding the horses, which is great for me. I try to ride all the horses in the morning. We have a lot of young horses as part of our breeding programme, and so in the afternoon I spend my time with the foals and free jumping the younger horses. It is very exciting to see the next generation of horses that we have at the stables.

What do you do in your free time outside of Show Jumping?

I do not have a lot of free time because most shows are on the weekends, but when I am free, I like to meet up with my friends and go for a drink or to a restaurant. I don’t see them that often – so I really appreciate the time I spend with them. I am also very sporty, so play squash once a week with a friend.

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

Definitely my pillow – I have to take this everywhere I go, otherwise I get neck pain. Then I think a pocketknife to help me survive, they are always useful. Finally, a speedboat, so that I can get home!

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Dave Chidley) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Dave Chidley)

Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM win the CP 'International', presented by Rolex at Spruce Meadows

The German rider is the new Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender


A typically enormous and challenging Leopoldo Palacios-designed course awaited 38 of some of the world’s finest horse and rider combinations, as they contested the pinnacle class of ‘Masters’ week, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, part of the Rolex Grand Slam series, in Spruce Meadows’ iconic International Ring.

In the opening round, no clears after the first 20 starters and a string of DNFs was testament to the gravity of the test that the partnerships faced, with the triple combination after the water jump just one of the obstacles catching lots out. However, 24-year-old Gilles Thomas from Belgium and his 14-year-old gelding, Aretino 13 soon proved that Venezuelan Palacios’ course was rideable, after confidently clearing the 14 obstacles fault-free in a time of 84.72. Despite accruing four faults, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Gerrit Nieberg and his partner in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen in July, Ben 431, jumped fluently and remained very much in contention. Shortly afterwards, McLain Ward demonstrated his and his superstar mare HH Azur’s class and harmony, notching up the second clear of the round in 83.73 seconds.

Swiss Steve Guerdat and his 13-year-old gelding Venard De Cerisy, looked inspired, recording the day’s third clear in a time of 85.53 seconds. After exceeding the 86-second limit, a time fault for Dutchman Harrie Smolders and his 2019 CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex winning horse, Darry Lou, blemished what was an otherwise flawless round. 2021 CHIO Aachen Major-winning duo, Germany’s Daniel Deusser recorded the fourth clear of the day and the final one of the first round. Six further combinations progressing to the second round, included Mexicans Eugenio Garza Perez and Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane, Swede Peder Fredricson, Rolex Testimonee Martin Fuchs of Switzerland, Irishman Paul O’Shea, and Brazil’s Francisco Jose Mesquita Musa.

The top 12-placed horses and riders from the first round faced a second round comprising even taller fences over a slightly shortened course, with a time limit of 72 seconds. Fifth to go, Martin Fuchs and his 10-year-old grey gelding looked pure class, breezing the course without fault in 69.80 seconds, the first of three consecutive clears with bringing four faults from the first round, which also included Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Gerrit Nieberg and Brazilian Eugenio Garza Perez and his 11-year-old stallion, Contago. However, their hopes were short-lived after 2021’s winning duo of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Steve Guerdat and Venard De Cerisy, were the first pair to go double clear. Current world number 39-ranked rider Gilles Thomas went next and, much to the delight of the Calgarian crowd, also went clear, meaning a  jump-off was triggered. Rolex Testimonee Daniel “Double D” Deusser and his 12-year-old mare Killer Queen VDM made it three in jump-off. And it appeared that Friday’s winner of the Tourmaline Oil Cup, McLain Ward, would make it four, but agonisingly rolled the first of the double Liverpool. A wide-open third round jump-off was set and the knowledgeable crowd waited on in anticipation.

First up, Steve Guerdat put down the first of the double, crossing the finish line with four faults in 41.70 seconds. Next to go, Gilles Thomas nudged and rolled the CP fence and put the final fence down, crossing the line with eight faults in 42.31 seconds. Daniel Deusser calmly entered the International Ring and meticulously navigated the eight-fence jump-off, crossing the finish line within the time limit, thereby winning the 2022 CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex and becoming the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender.

On winning the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Deusser, said: “It is an historic Grand Prix here, it’s a class that I’ve followed since I was very, very small. I watched it on television, and I still have VHS cassettes at home that have the Grand Prix here. I’ve watched it over and over again, and I could never imagine to be here, so to win the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex here in Spruce Meadows is a fantastic feeling.”

Thrilled with his mare Killer Queen VDM, Deusser, commented: “She had a fantastic week, to be honest. I started the first day with a small class and I was doubting to jump her in a big competition, but in the end I jumped her in the big class on Friday, just because she has never been here in the International Ring. I think it was a good decision today, she jumped three fantastic clear rounds and she will definitely have a big, big dinner tonight and some carrots and sweets!”

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Jack Cusano) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Jack Cusano)

Meet the Next Gen:

Dylan Munro


What are your plans between now and the end of the year?

As of right now, the older horses that I have here at Spruce Meadows will get a bit of time off and then we’ll be back here in October for Oktoberfest with some of the younger horses. After that, we will have some time off before we head down to Thermal for the winter circuit for the first four months of next year.

What makes Spruce Meadows such a special place to compete at?

I’ve grown up around here, and as a kid you come here and you always dream of competing in the International Ring with the best in the world. The history here, it’s just iconic, and it’s really a dream come true to be able to compete here.

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

The proudest moment of my career so far would probably be earning the right to compete in the International Ring once during the Summer Series. I had just stepped up to 1.40m during the Summer Series, so to qualify to compete out there was awesome.

Who’s inspired you the most throughout your career so far?

Most recently, I’d have to say both of my coaches, Kelly Koss-Brix and Ben Asselin. I’ve really enjoyed them taking me under their wings and really showing me the ropes of show jumping and giving me the opportunity to ride some incredible horses.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

What keeps me motivated is that there’s always more, you want to achieve the biggest and the best in the sport, the goal is to be able to jump on Sunday here and to jump in the biggest Grands Prix. All of that motivates me to keep going and keep working as hard as I do.

Tell us a little bit about the horses you have here this week…

I have Face to Face here, or as we know him in the barn ‘Frankie’. I love the horse to death, he’s done so much for me and for my riding career. We’ve really built quite the amazing partnership, and I’m just thrilled what he and I have achieved over the summer. He’s been a great horse for me and I can’t say enough good things about him.

The other mare I have here is Castelle [Van Het Beeckhof Z], she’s owned by Telsec Farm. I’ve been fortunate enough for them to give me the opportunity to ride the horse. She’s a typical mare, she has a bit of an attitude and always wants it to be her idea. But she really is an incredible jumper and I think she has big things in her future to come.

Have you got any young horses you think will be future superstars?

I personally don’t have any young horses of my own, but the one that Ben and Kelly have me riding at home called Macgyver, he’s a full brother to Ben’s good horse Makavoy, who’s now retired and is enjoying his good life out in the field. He’s slowly coming along and figuring it out and I really think he has some top potential.

What’s the best advice someone has ever given to you?

Just this past week Ben said to me that I’ve done all of the hard work outside of the ring so at the end of the day I just have to go into ring and compete. He said I have to trust in the work and processes that I’ve done and the countless hours that I’ve spent training, which will pay off inside the ring. I just have to go in the ring and be competitive and believe that I have the opportunity to win every class.

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

I think it’s been amazing. It’s really brought public support back to show jumping and made people really interested in the sport. I haven’t been to Europe to witness some of the big events there. Being here and being able to see the public’s interest and how into the sport they actually get, it’s been great and it’s really good for the sport.

Away from show jumping, what do you love to do?

I actually try to help out at my family’s home farm, as much as I can. I really enjoy hockey and going to the Calgary Flames’ games in the winter here as much as I can. Overall, I just really enjoy sports in general.

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Mike Sturk) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Mike Sturk)

Word from the organiser:

Linda Southern-Heathcott


You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is going ahead with full capacity?

Absolutely, it’s so great to be back. Someone must be looking down on us because we’ve got beautiful sunshine, we’ve had amazing sport, and it’s just wonderful to have all the elements come together.

Is there anything new this year that CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ has introduced?

The biggest thing that we’ve introduced this year has been the demonstrations and we really wanted to highlight dressage. I think that in Canada there’s been a need to really promote dressage. It’s a very fast growing sport, it’s very elegant and it seems to me that the fans have really enjoyed it. We’ve had two wonderful performers, who are Canadians and are CDI winners. One has just recently returned from the World Championships, while the other is an up and coming athlete. It was kind of fun, but the horses were well matched and they did a wonderful performance on Friday night and they will next kick off the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex.

What qualities do you look for in team members? And what makes a successful team?

The biggest quality is that the team works together, both in good times and bad. They have to hunker down and really try and find solutions to the issues that are presented, and they should turn those challenges into opportunities. For me, that’s the biggest thing.

What is your advice to someone who wants to get into the sporting events industry?

The biggest advice I would give, which isn’t my strong suit, would be patience. I would also encourage people to set their goals, to understand them and to always work towards them. I believe that one of the biggest fundamental threads for all four of the Grand Slam events is that we’re all in it for the long game. It’s not about a quick fix or immediate results, it’s about building the sport and being committed to the sport, building all of the stakeholders, whether it’s the athletes, our fans, our sponsors, or the media. It’s about keeping all of those elements together and moving the sport forward.

For you, what makes a successful major sporting event?

It needs to be exciting. Each of the Rolex Grand Slam events are unique and they each have a different feel. In the sport right now, I believe that there’s a little bit of a numbing sameness. The Masters in golf is different to the U.S. Open Championship, and in Formula One the Monaco Grand Prix is different to the Dutch Grand Prix. Being unique and being true to your culture and character is one component. Having the ingredients of the top athletes is another. And then allowing the sport and the competitiveness to take over so, as a spectator, you can watch and really enjoy the intensity, and be entertained and thrilled. If you have all of those ingredients, I believe you will have a successful event.

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media/Jack Cusano) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media/Jack Cusano)

McLain Ward and HH Azur capture the Tourmaline Oil Cup


No fewer than 49 horse and rider combinations, including four of the world’s current top-10-ranked riders, contested the highlight class of day two of the CSIO5* Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, the 1.60m Tourmaline Oil Cup. Venezuelan course designer Leopoldo Palacios appeared to have set a tough task, with many of the world’s leading riders unable to negotiate the 12-obstacle course fault-free and progress to the jump-off. However, much to the delight of the International Ring’s crowd, a small flurry of partnerships bucked the trend towards the end of the class, thereby setting up a scintillating six-horse jump-off, which was later reduced to four after Daniel Bluman from Israel and Ladriano Z, and third placed in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga v/h Dingeshof decided not to compete.

The four duos contesting the final show-down included American McLain Ward and HH Azur, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion and Rolex Testimonee, Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson, fellow Rolex Testimonee Daniel Deusser from Germany and his 11-year-old stallion, Bingo Ste Hermelle, and Harrie Smolders and his superstar stallion Darry Lou, who knows this arena better than most, having triumphed here in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex in 2019 with previous partner Beezie Madden.

An eight-fence jump-off awaited the four pairs with Scott Brash first to go, who notched up a double clear in 45.92 seconds. He was followed by McLain Ward, who stormed around the course without a fault, beating Brash’s time by over five seconds. That left Deusser and Smolders, who both went clear, but neither were able to better the American’s unassailable lead, with the German slotting into second place and the Dutchman finishing third.

Thrilled with his win and his 16-year-old mare, McLain Ward, commented: “Horses understand the importance and the energy differently than we do. I think these great horses sense the atmosphere and want to do well and want to please and want to rise to the occasion. She walked up to the gate today and she raises her head, her eyes are right on the arena, ears pricked, this horse is pulling me in to go and do the job, so she understands it in some ways for sure.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex and how he will prepare himself, Ward, said: “I have enough experience now. I just try to focus on my job and believing in our plan and believing in the horse, and you need a bit of good fortune also.”

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk)

Rider Interview:

Matthew Sampson


You’ve had some amazing successes here at Spruce Meadows – what makes it such a special place to compete at?

I came here for the first time last year and then again this year for the Summer Series, which has been fantastic. I’ve been lucky enough to win two 5* Grands Prix with two different horses. The horses just grow here and the facilities are the best in the world, so I’m just very grateful to be able to ride at this show.

Which horses will you be competing with this week at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?

For the 5* I’ve got two horses including Ebolensky, who won the 5* here last week, and then I’ve got Fabrice DN, who will be doing the Grand Prix [CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex], so that’s my plan. They’re both super horses, both very different. One’s owned by Luis Alejandro Plascencia from Mexico, and the other one is owned by me and the Evison family in England. Both horses are great and I’m looking forward to a good week.

You and Fabrice DN won the RBC Grand Prix of Canada CSI 5* in June and you gave a lot of credit to your team. Tell us how important your team is to your successes…

I couldn’t be doing any of it without them – Kate, Brad, my girlfriend Kara and all the guys at home. Alongside those people, I can’t forget my owners and my parents, who brought me up to do this. Often it’s not talked about enough but there’s a massive team behind me who get these horses feeling as good as they can for the day.

Have you got any young horses that you believe have the potential to be future 5* Grand Prix winners?

I have a horse call King Lepatino, who’s jumped here and is owned by Cumberland Acres, which is an American stable. He’s a seven year old and made his international debut here in the International Ring and he did a lovely clear round so I have high hopes for him.

Who’s inspired you most throughout your career?

My parents first of all who are always pushing me forward with lots of confidence. Rider wise, I think John and Michael Whitaker – I’ve grown up watching those guys. My good friend Scott Brash, who’s obviously done fantastically well here. We did a lot together when we were younger so he’s always there for advice. There are many others including Duncan Ingles who I worked for when I was younger and who’s helped me a lot.

Away from show jumping, what do you love to do, what makes you tick?

Anything competitive. Most of the time we don’t get many chances to do anything else, so just seeing my family is the most important thing when I’m not at a show.

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

I think winning my first 5* Grand Prix here at Spruce Meadows, which was a life-long ambition, it’s what every rider strives to achieve so that really stands out.

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

It’s just incredible. It’s the most exciting things our sport has. There are so many Grands Prix but these ones are absolutely the best. To have the best venues that host these Grands Prix is just fantastic for the sport so thank you to Rolex for that.

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

Walk the course with:

Leopoldo Palacios


What’s a typical day for you like at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?

I normally get up at 6am, arriving at the showground at 7am. I will finish quite late tonight, at around midnight, as I have to wait for the ATCO Six Bar to finish, after which I’ll build tomorrow morning’s course. I’ll then arrive here early tomorrow morning to put some finishing touches to the course, which is all part of my job.

Away from course designing, what are your passions?

My main passion is horses. I love horses. The other thing I like is deep-sea fishing for marlin and tuna, which my father also loved. But just fishing for them, not swimming with them! My family used to have a special fishing boat, which my father would use for competitions in Venezuela. Towards the end of my father’s life, after he finished farming, he would go fishing, and I would go with him, so that’s how my love of fishing started. My home country, Venezuela, is an absolute paradise for fishing marlin, and also the Caribbean. That life runs very much in parallel to my course designing career.

What advice would you give to someone young who wants to become a professional course designer?

The first piece of advice I would give them is that you have to love horses. I would also tell them that you need to have passion and not be driven by money, as this is not a job for money. You can absolutely survive and I have a good life; but this job is all about loving the horses and having passion for the sport. Technically, I would recommend that a young course designer learns about geometry and having the skill to draw, so as to be aware of scale and to ensure you have great plans. Understanding horses and learning about them is also crucial, specifically being able to read their expressions to see when they’re happy or sad. So, a good balance of technical skill and feeling is what someone wanting to be a course designer should have. Finally, you need to build the very best courses that you can, and make the riders compete against one another and not against you and your course.

What’s your favourite ever memory from your course designing career?

That’s a very difficult question, but one day that I was really happy and when my heart was pumping was when Scott Brash won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping here. That day the stadium was full and there was total silence in the International Ring – all you could hear was Hello Sanctos. In my opinion, what Rolex is doing for this sport is fantastic. Another moment for me that was very emotional was at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Never in the history of the Olympics did the Individual jump-off have just three horses in it to determine the three medal. That was always my dream and something I asked for. And I had it. In that moment I went crazy and I was jumping all over the place when it happened. And it didn’t happen with double clears, it happened with faults in both rounds.

As head course designer, where and when did you design your first course?

I designed my first course as lead designer in Venezuela in 1976. I then designed my first international course in the North and South American League in 1977.

Who has inspired you throughout your career?

My main inspirations were Arno Gego and Pamela Carruthers, they were two of my mentors. I worked with both of them for many, many years. Over a three year period I was Arno Gego’s assistant and I learned an awful lot from him, and he became like my father after this. 

Finally, tell us about the course you’ve designed for Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, and who you believe will win the class…

I never like to build courses that don’t balance, so for Sunday I will make sure that if I include a long distance, I will also include a short distance, and then a normal distance. In this way, the course will appeal to all of the horses and riders.

This year I think we have a super field of horses and the quality is very high – the best of the best. Normally, when I look at the startlist for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex and I think about how the horses have been jumping throughout the week, I can pick between 15-20 horses who could be in with a chance of winning. But this year I think up to 30 combinations will be in with a good chance of winning. I think that riders have started to understand the significance of the Rolex Grand Slam and they’re saving their horses for this incredible opportunity.

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

Conor Swail wins the CANA Cup


Staged in the iconic International Ring on a sunny but chilly Calgarian day, 37 combinations from 17 nations – each with their sights firmly set on qualifying for Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex – contested the 1.60m CANA Cup on day one of the 2022 edition of the CSIO5* Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Stand-out riders included current world number one-ranked rider, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion, Scott Brash from Great Britain, American McLain Ward, and former Major winner, Austrian Max Kühner.

Designed by Leopoldo Palacios, six partnerships completed the Venezuelan’s 12-obstacle first round course fault-free; however, out of those six riders, Frenchman Kevin Staut and Daniel Bluman from Israel chose not to return, meaning just four riders lined-up in the jump-off. These riders included Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts, Marc Dilasser of France, Irishman Conor Swail, and the current world number 18-ranked rider from Germany and Rolex Testimonee, Daniel Deusser.

First into the arena, Olivier Philippaerts and his 11-year-old stallion Le Blue Diamond V't Ruytershof finished with four faults, as did second to go Daniel Deusser and his 11-year-old stallion, Bingo Ste Hermelle. On form Conor Swail – currently sitting fourth in the world rankings – and his 15-year-old gelding, Count Me In, made no mistake, confidently navigating the shortened course fault-free in a time of 43.46 seconds. Last to go, Frenchman Marc Dilasser looked strong in the early stages; however, he and his 10-year-old gelding Chamann Has eventually put the penultimate fence down, finishing in third place overall.

Delighted with his win and lauding the support of his team, Swail commented: “I get on every day and ride for an hour or two, but they’re the ones putting in all the hard work, making sure he [Count Me In] is healthy, ensuring he’s travelling from A to B correctly. We’re obviously very good at what we do but it’s the team behind you that makes it all work and makes the success happen.”

And on qualifying for Sunday’s Rolex Major, Swail said: “I’m very excited because my horse is on good form. He’s already jumped here during the summer and he’s been second in the Grand Prix [CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex] here. He always gives me good chances, so if I have a bit of luck on Sunday we’ll hopefully be knocking on the door in or around the top spot.”

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

Rider Interview:

Amy Millar


Which horses will you be competing with this week?

I have two horses here, Christiano and Truman. They’re both bay geldings and I’ve been riding them for a while. They’re fantastic horses – they’re solid, brave, kind and scopey, so I’m optimistic about our chances this week!

Why is Spruce Meadows such an incredible place to come and compete at?

It’s such a beautiful ring here. When you walk under that clock tower and there’s the formal nature of saluting the sponsor, coupled with the courses always being really challenging, it means it’s never boring here. What’s truly special about the ‘Masters’ is the crowd and the quality of the animals here. It’s so good for Canada to have this quality of horses and riders coming to our country. Since covid, it’s been really hard in Canada, so to now have attracted all of these great Europeans and the best in the world is really exciting.

What are your plans for this week, particularly looking ahead to Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?

Qualifying is of course important. My best horse is Truman, who has to jump the Nations Cup on Saturday, and then jump again on Sunday. He’s a solid horse and he’s definitely fit enough to do everything. It will all just come down to recovery, especially if we jump two hard rounds on Saturday. It’s going to be about him feeling his best and having lots of energy for Sunday, and then we see what happens.

Tell us about the World Championships and the all-female Canadian show jumping team…

The World Championships was a great experience. Being surrounded by that quality of horse and rider and professionalism was incredible. The courses were difficult but fantastic, and there was zero margin for error. Being in that environment, it just makes you want to up your game. Yes, there’s always room to be better, but being around that quality inspires me to be better.

As far as the all-female team is concerned, I had a fantastic time. With those girls – Tiffany, Beth and Erryn – we had a great time together and we all get along really well. We’re all really strong women, we’re really different but at the end of the day we’re fighters. I really enjoyed spending time with them and fighting that battle.

Do you have any young horses, who you have high hopes for?

I’m riding two really nice eight year olds right now. One of them is called Jagger Hx and I have very high hopes for him. He’s scopey, he’s careful, and with a little bit more training, I hope that he makes it all the way. The other one is a little Irish mare called Athena. She’s fast and careful and a real player. If those two come up the way I want them to be, then I will have another one-two punch coming right behind Christiano and Truman. That’s the goal in terms of longevity and sustainability.

What has the Rolex Grand Slam done for the sport of show jumping?

The Rolex Grand Slam has been so special for show jumping. I had a little conversation with the Rolex team when I was in Europe and they were explaining to me about their brand and how they try to only associate with excellence because that is their brand. Then I look at the horse shows and riders they sponsor. I look at the quality of their watches and it really resonates with me that Rolex is all about excellence. So every time you go to one of these Rolex Majors, you know everything is going to be amazing the highest level of competition. As I say, it’s truly inspiring.

What do you love to do away from show jumping?

Well, I have two children – I have a four year old and a 12 year old. I also have a wonderful husband, who doesn’t ride horses. When I’m not riding I spend as much time as possible with them. Just being around my family is what I want to do when I’m not riding.

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

Word from the Organizers:

Ian Alisson


You must be thrilled to have fans back at CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, who will add to the atmosphere in the International Ring and also for TV audiences at home around the world?

The last two years have been very unusual and, in some respects, difficult. Of course, not being able to organise tournaments in Canada in 2020 and then running under a national interest exemption last year, which was very restrictive, that at least allowed us to try and find our game legs. Coming back now has been like dragging a boat out of a dry dock; we had some personnel challenges, the sport has changed and there are new players coming in, so it’s tremendously exciting for the venue itself, all of our constituents, including the riders, the media, the fans and also the corporate supporters. Our corporate supporters have been wonderful, we have a fantastic media support and this is the best entry list we’ve ever had for the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, which is fantastic!

Can you tell us about the new partnership with Sportsnet?

We’ve worked with Sportsnet on a number of occasions. What happened during the pandemic is that we started thinking of bringing things in-house because we couldn’t have a lot of people inside the property, so streaming has become much more prevalent and acceptable. We started discussions and they were welcomed enthusiastically, and we were able to expand to run 13 consecutive weeks on Sportsnet, in prime time, on both a live and delayed basis.

One of the interesting things about this sport is that while it has a core audience, it also has an  audience of passionate fans who are also horse people, who are usually busy with horses on their weekends. We felt that if we could bring something with a live offering of every event, where you’d never miss a round out of the International Ring, plus something that would allow people to watch highlights, then it might be the time to do it. We decided to make a business plan and talked to Sportsnet, and honestly discussions were short because they knew the property and our way of working, and they knew we have a coast-to-coast audience in Canada because of the great amount of interest we’ve been cultivating throughout the years.

The collaboration started this year and it’s been terrific since the beginning. This Sunday we’ll have three hours telecast on Sportsnet from coast-to-coast and also because of their schedule flexibility and the number of platforms they have, people will be able to watch it throughout the week, because people might be more interested in watching the start of the NFL season or the US Open Final this weekend. It’s a really busy schedule.

It's your 47th year working at Spruce Meadows – what is your standout memory?

On this particular day, it’s hard not to look back on Her Majesty The Queen’s visit to Spruce Meadows. In June of 1990, the day dawned without a single cloud, and the fans started to arrive on an unusually sunny day in June. I remember clearly a woman sitting in the south grandstand with her Welsh flag at 06.00, and she had driven a couple of hundred kilometres to be here. It was a very magical day and we were given a great responsibility to run this project with Mrs Southern because she was traveling with Her Majesty, and we knew that she wanted to make her proud when opening the gates of the property.

Then there were more patriotic days for us with iconic wins for Ian Millar with Big Ben and Eric Lamaze with Hickstead. And of course Scott Brash winning the Rolex Grand Slam, that will be never taken away from the venue.

Next year marks 10 years since the launch of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping; how successful has it been and how has it positively changed the sport?

It has been wildly successful. It has expanded into the non-equestrian world with people realising what an amazing concept and challenge it is. I think that it has been able to bring four of the great show jumping venues in the world – each and every one of them distinct – under the umbrella of a distinctive brand all with one common goal. It wasn’t just created as a marketing strategy and all four shows were able to keep their individuality, be that the magnificence of Geneva or The Dutch Masters or Aachen.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping’s credibility is what distinguishes it from other concepts that have been launched. There wasn’t anything added to the calendar, and it was built off this foundation of established organisations that have a certain reputation for excellence. The athletes knew the venues and they knew what it would take to win there. If you look at the roster of champions from the individual events, it’s been amazing. What’s also amazing is the people who have come out of nowhere, such as Sameh El Dahan and Gerrit Nieberg – it’s changed their lives. So for these reasons, I think it’s been an unqualified success.

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media)

What is your role at CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?

I first came on board after doing some postgrad work in 1988 and have been the resident veterinarian ever since. I work across the many tournaments hosted here, including the ‘Masters’, and throughout the busy summer season, taking care of the 900 horses we get on the grounds over that six-week period. As for my current job, the FEI define my role at Spruce Meadows as being the Veterinary Service Manager. It’s an oversight role working with the organising committee, helping to coordinate the visiting delegates and veterinary commission to ensure that the facility, surgical backup, and the treating areas are all ready for the tournaments. I basically work as the oversight veterinarian for the treatment side of things, rather than the commission.

Have you worked on any other international equestrian events?

Earlier in my career I was invited to the World Cup Jumping Final in Las Vegas, as part of the treating team. That was during an era when the World Cup Final was taking place in Las Vegas every second year, and I went down as part of the veterinary team on a number of occasions. Aside from that, I haven't worked as an official at any other international events – my focus has primarily been on Spruce Meadows.

How important is nutrition for a horse’s wellbeing?

Nutrition is just one part of the equation. Horses are amazing in what they can metabolise, so as long as we maintain a nice, consistent diet they should be fine. Rather than complicated nutrition, I think the hardest thing international horses face is the change of diet as they travel from event to event. When they're going from venue to venue, trying to maintain consistent nutrition or feed source can be difficult. When you look at our international horses arriving by planes, enduring long transport times, you can find that there is an adjustment period and some of our toughest cases have been through a lack of adaptation to the new feed source. For example, Alberta is known for high quality grains and roughage, compared to Europe where there is really good forage, so the European horses can sometimes have trouble adapting to that. Current government requirements mean that we have to dump all European horse’s grain and bring them onto a brand-new feeding regime once they arrive in our care. This all takes place over a very concentrated period of time, maybe 10 days at most, so it can be a big adjustment for them and one that we have to tread carefully. Our main aim is always to get them on board without creating abdominal disruption. Over those first few days we always cross our fingers, because if there is some abdominal discomfort we are really limited as to what we can treat them with. The FEI holds us to very high requirements and, while they will never deny treatment for the horses, we have to make sure we don’t interfere with performance later on in the competition.

Why did you decide to become an equine vet? Did anyone inspire you?

I started as a competitor in the junior ranks at Spruce Meadows when it first started, and it was one of the key reasons I became a veterinarian. Watching the facility and the quality of horses unfold really helped me target my career. My aspiration was to look after the quality of horses that were starting to come to Spruce Meadows and to see the facility develop from a ‘cattle feed lot’, as Ron [Southern] used to refer to it, to its current world class status. This journey has been an amazing part of my career.  As for mentors, I've had some great teachers, including some wonderful horsemen and founding trainers here at Spruce Meadows. I’ve also been able to work with a few local vets who were looking after the horses at Spruce Meadows in the early days, who were quite inspirational. Additionally, I’ve met many wonderful mentors and peers during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Colorado and Fort Collins.

What career achievement(s) are you most proud of?

I would say that my two board specialisation degrees, in surgery and sports medicine, would be the academic pinnacles of my career. I enjoyed the preparation for both of those. The modern, athletic horse has progressed so far and are treated like finely tuned Ferrari cars. To be able to work with them at the top of the sport, where it is so demanding, has been great and it’s all due to those two specialisations.

What do you enjoy most about being an equine vet?

While other may say their favourite part of the job is seeing horses compete at the top of their ability, the thing I have enjoyed the most through my career has been cultivating the relationship between clients and their horses. Being able to resolve illness, lameness, etc., and allow the client to resume their relationship with their horse gives me the most pleasure.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an equine vet?

Mentorship. I think the single most important thing is to spend time with established practitioners to develop an understanding of the industry. Of course, the love of the horse is the foundation of being an equine vet, but I think you need to spend time with people that are passionate about the profession to fully understand it. It is so important to also develop an understanding of the demands of the business. Horses are companions, and when we have catastrophic injuries in the ring it takes a huge emotional toll that is hard to comprehend unless you experience it first-hand. At the end of the day, these aren’t cars that you can take down to the automotive shop, they are precious animals in our care who have a huge impact on their owners’ lives – and I think this can only be fully understood through good mentorship.

What is a typical day for you like?

When I first started my career my schedule was very different; full of regular calls and referral surgeries, as well as tournaments. Now it is a little more structured, primarily focusing on mentoring and directing the practice. I'm an early riser, normally starting at 04.30, and I like to get most of my administrative work done early in the day, as well as my exercise. I normally have my workout and admin done by the time I head out the door at 07.30/08.00. As the owner of our current practice, my first job is to touch base with the teams, do the rounds on cases and see how the day sets up. At the moment we have all hands-on deck for the summer season; coordinating teams, treatments, our ringside responsibilities, and work with the veterinary delegates from respective tournaments. Every year, when busy season rolls along, we have to go on autopilot because the days are so full for everyone, so I have to be able to juggle back and forth and always give the job my undivided attention.

What do you like to do away from work?

My back's bothering me a little bit now, but I still play golf, tennis, hockey, badminton, and ski in the winter. I like to have a full range of recreational activities, as I think it's important for my fitness and health. For example, playing four hours of golf offers a real mental break, if I can turn my phone off!. If I can find some time to play a few holes during a tournament, it feels like I’ve had a full weekend off and gives me a chance to reset. That change of mental focus is really important to me, so I’m lucky to have a great spectrum of activities to enjoy.

Tell us a little bit about your team…

The ‘Masters’ is a step down in terms of the number of horses, but a step up in the quality – so we have both permanent and temporary staff involved annually. Every year we need to have at least three support staff and three veterinarians cover the ring responsibilities, as well as another team that maintains the practice. What we normally find during the ‘Masters’ is less individual medical cases, but the ones that come through are of greater importance – so it’s vital to have a selection of skilled individuals that can make hard decisions.

When you retire, what legacy would you like to leave in equestrianism?

I think my legacy probably aligns with the legacy of Spruce Meadows, in that the inception of Spruce Meadows was to provide training and bring our local population of riders to international status. When you look at the success at the Beijing Olympics, it’s clear we achieved the original goal, and it feels special to have been a part of the journey. Ron Southern would say “it's a very unlikely sport in an unlikely part of the world”, and it is a very rewarding feeling to have played a small role in the success of Spruce Meadows.

The welfare of the horse underpins what the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping stands for; how do you ensure this is upheld and veterinary standards are constantly improving?

Fundamentally, we always have to remind ourselves that these are treasured animals in our care. While we can push them to a certain degree, we can't lose sight of the fact that they aren't machines. We can’t ask them, “How are you feeling today? Would you like a day off?”, so we must be empathetic. No athlete can be expected to work on a year-round basis, so it’s important that we don’t just keep adding more and more tournaments and have the horses compete non-stop. They need a break. These horses are in our care, and it is vital we don’t forget that.

In your opinion, what more can be, and should be, done to improve the welfare of the horse?

As mentioned in my last answer, we just need to be mindful of the demands we’re placing on them and ensure that they're not treated as a disposable commodity. A horse can only withstand so many jumps and so much pressure, but it is impossible to legislate that. As long as we maintain good quality people that understand the horses, and owners that respect what trainers say, their welfare should be in good hands. The key is good communication at all levels, with the riders, trainers and even grooms not being afraid to voice concerns.

(Photo: Jacques Toffi) (Photo: Jacques Toffi)


How does it feel to be the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender?

It is a real privilege to be the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender. It has always been a dream of mine and I have always looked up to the other riders who have achieved this. After my victory in the Rolex Grand Prix, I think it took a week or so to sink in that I am the Live Contender!

What are your goals, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

I would like to continue with the Rolex Grand Slam shows in Spruce Meadows and then Geneva. This was something that I had not originally planned for because, due to my previous world ranking, I would not have been able to get into these shows. However, now that I have a chance to compete these shows, I want to do my best and give everything to continue this momentum.

When did your love for show jumping start, and who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I only started riding when I was 13 years old. Before this and growing up, I was more interested in other sports like soccer. However, I did grow up with horses because of my parents so there were always horses around and I decided to give it a go one day.

My love for show jumping developed quickly and one week after starting to ride, I decided that I wanted to become a professional show jumper. From that moment on, I was working and training hard every day to achieve this dream.

My dad was the person who inspired me most when I was young due to all his experience and success. My dream has always been to be as good as he was and still is, and maybe even be a bit better one day! I still really look up to him in terms of who he is and how much he works each and every day. Although he is not showing competitively anymore, he is still riding every day at home. His motivation and support for everything that I do is unbelievable and very inspiring.

Tell us a little bit about Ben 431… What’s his character like? How was he after CHIO Aachen?

I have to admit that Ben 431 is really over-motivated. Occasionally, it can be quite difficult to handle him and keep him calm but that is also a real positive thing because it means he is always fighting for you and trying to do his best at all times. He is tireless – for example, after three rounds at CHIO Aachen, he was not tired and would have been able to do another one or two rounds. After the victory at Aachen, he also understood that he had done something special. There were lots of media commitments and so he received lots of attention – even more than before. Now he is always looking out of his window for more attention so I think he feels like a bit of a superstar!

What treats does Ben 431 like when he is successful?

Apples from the trees at the stables!

Looking ahead to the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ next month; which horses will you compete with, and who have you selected for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?

I will be competing with Ben 431 and Blues d'Aveline, who was also competing at CHIO Aachen and was placed in Hamburg. Ben will definitely partner me in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex.

Is Ben 431 a good traveller on long journeys?

Until now, he flew once a year to Doha and was actually fine. It was very smooth and uncomplicated so there should be no problems getting him to Calgary.

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

There are lots of exciting young horses but it is always hard to say who will make the transition into the bigger part of the sport most effectively. I would say that I am particularly excited about Amigo 1841, who is now nine years old. I really hope he will make the step to the next level.

How important is your team – your groom, your farrier, your coach, your vet, your owner?

My team is hugely important. It’s not just me and Ben. We are in the ring together for 80 seconds but there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes. The whole team play a key role in enabling us to have success in those 80 seconds in the ring. It is often that everyone only talks about the rider and the horse but there is so much more to it. All the others are just as or even more important. They are the true unsung heroes.

Gut Berl seems to be a real family operation – tell us a little bit about it…

Gut Berl is run by Hendrik Snoek, the former German show jumper, and we are all there working for him. While it is Hendrik’s place, it is very much a family business. We have a really good partnership and relationship which I am really happy about. Also, to have the chance to have these kind of horses and be able to go to shows like these now is great.

Hendrik is the owner of the stables and the owner of most of my horses. However, horses like Ben are owned 50:50 between Hendrik and my father. There are also a few other horses at the stables which have different owners.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

Quite simply, the success is what keeps me motivated! It is important to have a goal. I absolutely love riding but I don’t know whether I could do it without the element of competition, the shows and something to work towards. Events like Aachen are what I work towards every day and the opportunity to compete there fuels my motivation. I am working as hard as ever to enjoy more moments like this.

Do initiatives like the Rolex Grand Slam make you even more motivated to win?

Of course. The Rolex Grand Slam is so traditional and unique. In our sport, there are so many shows each year and the Rolex Grand Slam is definitely a highlight as it consists of four of the best events. Everyone would love to be a winner at one of the Rolex Grand Slam events. It is viewed as a really important initiative among us riders and within the sport.

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

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to watch too many other sports but if I do, I really enjoy watching tennis. My favourite player is Roger Federer.

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

To always believe in yourself. This piece of advice is so important for your mentality – in particular, your mindset and how you think about everything. Equally, to always believe in your horses. Also, it is important to ride as many different horses as possible. That’s the best way of learning to ride, building experience and developing an understanding of the horses.

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


The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping returns to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ from 7-11 September 2022, with the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on the Sunday providing a thrilling finale to five days of outstanding sport. Located in the foothills of the Alberta Rocky Mountains in Calgary, the show will welcome the world’s best horse and rider combinations to what is often regarded to as the leading equestrian venue in North America.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

Following his spectacular win at CHIO Aachen with Ben 431, Gerrit Nieberg comes to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ as the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender. This will be the first time that the combination will make the journey across the Atlantic Ocean to this iconic venue, with the duo looking to carry forward their winning momentum from CHIO Aachen to continue their quest to become the next Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping victor.  

Joining Nieberg are a host of world-class horse and rider combinations. Three of the Swedish FEI World Championship gold medal-winning team come to Calgary with their medal-winning horses. Jens Fredricson, Peder Fredricson and Henrik von Eckermann will all be aiming to claim their first victory in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the beautiful venue. von Eckermann and King Edward are sure to be the hot favourites heading into the third Rolex Grand Slam Major of the year, having won the Individual gold medal in Herning. Peder Fredricson is also expected to be at the top of the leaderboard, having won two Rolex Grands Prix in the last two months at Knokke Hippique and the Brussels Stephex Masters. These combinations will be riding full of confidence and will be looking to continue their top-form into the show.

Out of the six Rolex Testimonees competing at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, current World No.2 Martin Fuchs will lead the way. The Swiss, who made history by winning consecutive Rolex Grands Prix at CHI Geneva in 2019 and 2021, will be hoping to claim the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping bonus for winning two out of four Majors. Fuchs has had a phenomenal 2022 season thus far, winning the FEI World Cup™ Final and the Rolex Grand Prix at Jumping International de Dinard.

Compatriot, and last year’s winner of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Steve Guerdat returns to the impressive International Ring at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ to defend his title. The ever-competitive Guerdat is the ultimate horseman and is always able to get the most out of his horses in the big moments. Knowing what it takes to win, he brings two of his top horses (Venard de Cerisy and Taina M&m), to this third Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the year. Joining Fuchs and Gerdat is the next young Swiss talent and their FEI World Championships teammate Edouard Schmitz. The young rider is now cementing himself as one of the most exciting young riders in the sport having recently won the International Grand Prix of Ireland at the Dublin Horse Show.

A regular at the Calgary venue, Kent Farrington and his team of horses will have the advantage of knowing the arena and most importantly the American knows how to win in it. In July, he added to that list of wins with Orafina in the Jayman BUILT Cup at the 'North American' CSI 5* tournament held at the venue. Last year, Farrington came second in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, and will be hoping to go one better this year.

British rider, Scott Brash, is sure to have the fondest of memories from this venue, as it was where he won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2015. Brash still stands as the only rider to have won this elusive title and is a two-time winner of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. He will travel to Calgary brimming with confidence, following his strong performance in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen finishing a close second, as well as winning Team bronze in Herning.

The home crowd will be delighted to welcome a number of Canadian riders. Tiffany Foster, the best placed Canadian rider at the FEI World Championships, will be joined Erynn Ballard and Amy Millar. The last Canadian winner of this class came from Ian Millar and Dixson in 2014, so these talented riders will be looking to bring the coveted title back to home soil once more. The Canadians also have a trump card to play, with their new Chef d’Equipe Eric Lamaze on-site providing his expert coaching and knowledge having won the class in 2007.

The Netherlands will be represented by Harrie Smolders, who will be partnered by Darry Lou. The 14-year-old chestnut stallion was the former mount of American rider Beezie Madden, who in 2019 claimed the prestigious class. The passionate crowd will no doubt be wondering whether the Dutchman is able to repeat this success aboard this talented horse. Adding to Europe’s strong presence at the show is Max Kühner, who brings his trusted partner Elektric Blue P as well as the talented Eic Coriolis Des Isles. France’s Kevin Staut will also be making the journey the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Staut, who has had numerous 5* Grands Prix wins over the last couple of years, is yet to be victorious in this class. The Frenchman’s fellow Rolex Testimonee Daniel Deusser, a previous winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen and The Dutch Masters, will also be in attendance.

Jérôme Guery will head the strong Belgium contingent in Canada. Guery notably, who won the Individual silver medal at the FEI World Championships, will be joined by no less than four members of the Philippaerts family. Ludo Philippaerts will be joined by three of his sons, including Olivier, winner of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex 10 years ago, Nicola who brings the talented mare Katanga V/H Dingeshof, with whom he finished third in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen earlier in the season and Thibault who recently won Individual silver and Team gold-medals at the FEI Young Rider Championships.

Course designer Leopoldo Palacios will be looking to set a challenge that is fair yet challenging for the horses and riders competing in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. With the continued quest for the next victor of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping continuing at the historic venue, the field of competitors look as talented as ever and each rider will be putting their all into lifting the iconic trophy on the final day.

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

The world’s best horse and rider combinations will once again journey to what is often considered North American’s premier equestrian venue. Located in the foothills of the Alberta Rocky Mountains, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, held from 7-11 September 2022, provides spectators with not only spectacular views but also first-class equestrian competition, shopping, and entertainment. The highlight and main draw for many passionate equestrian fans will be the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, which will be held on Sunday 11 September.

Aside from the world class show jumping, the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ provides spectators with a host of activities to keep the whole family entertained. Through the Tournament the MARKT will provide opportunities for those who love shopping to get hold of everything, from original fine art to locally made products, from its 70 different stalls. In addition, equine inspired demonstrations and live entertainment will also take place daily. Throughout the week members of the public will also be able to visit members of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) Mounted Troop, Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, both situated in East and West Meadows.

Thursday will see the start of the 5* jumping classes both the ATCO Cup and the CANA Cup being held in the spectacular International Ring. Both classes provide the first chance for riders to qualify for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on the Sunday.

Friday celebrates the Westjet Evening of the Horse. Attendees can expect to be fully entertained by world class show jumping, music and fireworks. The evening will commence with the 1.60m Tourmaline Oil Cup, in which the top horse and rider combinations will battle it out for the esteemed title. Following this will be the ATCO Electric Six Bar class, which sees riders jumping six fences set in a straight line, with each fence getting higher and higher. Fans will also be eager to find out the winning names for the 2022 edition of Name the Foal, presented by TELUS. The evening will be concluded with live music, a performance from the Musical Band of the Household Cavalry and equine demonstrations.

On Saturday, Spruce Meadows will once again host ‘British Day’ with special appearances from the Members of Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery who will be in full military dress to celebrate the day. The Suncor Winning Round is the first of the 5* competitions in the International Ring which will be followed by the Parade of Nations and the official opening of British Day. Teams made up for four horses and riders represent a variety of different countries in the BMO Nations’ Cup, the final class of the evening.

All eyes will be focused on one thing on Sunday, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. The world’s most elite horse and rider combinations will be in attendance to compete for this prestigious title and etch their names into the history books of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Germany’s Gerrit Nieberg journeys to Canada with hopes of continuing his quest for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping title.

(Photo: Mackenzie Clark) (Photo: Mackenzie Clark)

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

We’ve got some shows in Kentucky we’ll be doing over the rest of 2022, as well as a little bit of training with the horses at home and preparations for the winter season in Wellington. So we don’t have too many big, big things planned for the end of this year. We'll just keep going where we're going and keep practicing and keep training.


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

I would say the proudest moment was probably jumping in my first Grand Prix last summer. It was a 2* Grand Prix, so it was good to get involved in the international scene and jump in the FEI categories.


The experience really opened my eyes and helped me start to see that ‘this is a possibility for me doing this now, and in the future I’ll be jumping even bigger classes’. 


You recently received The Gillian Wilson Trophy after being named Junior Equestrian of the Year – how did that make you feel?

It made me feel good, it’s a great accomplishment. It's always pleasing to be recognised in a positive manner, but the most important thing is to keep going forward and keep just doing what we're doing so we can keep having positive results moving forward.


When did your love for show jumping start, and who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

My family's always been big into horses, so I have always been around them growing up as a kid. But I first started really getting into it when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I started really, really enjoying the horses and all the aspects of the sport. Jumping was something I really wanted to try and have a go at, so I did and haven't stopped since!


As for people who inspired me, my mum has always been there. She's been involved since the the very beginning and has always been a big supporter of my career. Even if it's not a good day or not the best round she's positive and she gives me valuable feedback. So I’d probably say my mum is my biggest inspiration throughout my career.


What attributes do you believe a successful show jumper needs?

I think a successful show jumper has got to have really big ambitions and have a solid love and passion for this sport.


The sport isn’t the easiest at times, so they’ve got to have a really good drive to keep going and keep pushing.

There's going to be a lot more bad days than good days in this sport, so you’ve got to take the good ones while you can. Just keep moving and keep working while something might not be working out, because in the end you will have some good days. Those are the ones you've got to focus on.


Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses – which ones are you most excited about?

We've got a really cool young horse right now, named Chicago. We've had him for about six months now and he's still a little green still, but he's really showing a lot of potential. He's got a very good jump to him, so I think he could possibly be a horse for the future. Time will tell with that one.


How important is your team – your groom, your farrier, your coach, your vet, your owner?

The team is very important, it’s number one. If you don't have a good team, you won’t get very far in the sport. With the day-to-day activities with the horses, our groom, Jo Watson, is incredible. She manages all of the horses and takes care of them.


It's also important to have good vets, farriers, coaches, all of those integral people. If you don't have the proper team, it's hard to get much done, but once you have people to fill those positions and work together, it's amazing what you can accomplish.


What do you love most about show jumping? Competing, the camaraderie with the other riders, travelling the world…

I'm a very competitive person, so I always enjoyed that side of the sport, but having that connection with the horses and being able to work with them - it's something you can't really find in any other sport.


There are no other sports where you have to work with a different animal with a different brain, so I find that part of the sport very interesting. There are so many different ways you can go about it and approach the sport that you never stop learning. There's always something to learn.


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

I would say best piece of advice would be to think about the long-term in this sport. I think sometimes people get stuck on what goes on day to day, and they start to forget what could come as long as they keep sticking at it. You make a plan and you work on it every day, and in a couple months you'll be able to see the results


As a young rider, do you feel there are enough opportunities for up-and-coming riders in the sport?

I think there are lots of good series and some more shows popping up all the time. For example, the U25 circuit in Wellington is great. There are even more junior and young rider Nations Cups starting up around North America, which is nice. It gives us a good opportunity to ride on teams and have that experience.


The only struggle I see for young riders in the sport nowadays is the cost of everything. It’s hard to grasp that side of things.


You must have been really pleased with your performance with Cactus de Cosniere at Spruce Meadows in June. I was over the moon with the horse, it was an unreal experience. It was amazing just to be jumping in that ring, let alone getting a result. That's a very good horse that’s just been coming along slowly over the past two years, and now he's starting to be a real star in show jumping.


In your opinion, why is Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ such a special place?

The grounds are amazing, it's an unreal property. The care they have there of maintaining the show grounds is incredible. What’s more, the actual courses, the jumps, everything is top class. And the atmosphere! When you walk into that International Ring, it's just an unreal feeling.


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

I think it's had really big impact on show jumping, it brings in a lot of spectators to our sport. It really gives top riders something to go for and something to really drive their ambition


Away from the sport, what do you love to do?

I like to be outside and exercise a little bit.


What does a typical day look like for you?

I try to wake as early as I can every morning, but each day looks a little bit different and they're not necessarily structured. I spend a little bit of time in the afternoons finishing schoolwork, but I ride every day from Tuesday to Sunday.


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