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.