KENT FARRINGTON CLAIMS TOP SPOT IN THE TROPHÉE DE GENÈVE FOR THE SIXTH TIME
The beautiful city of Geneva once again welcomed the world’s most talented horse and rider combinations to what is often considered to be the best indoor equestrian show in the world, the CHI Geneva. The show, which hosts the final Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the calendar year began yesterday, with today, signalling the first day of international 5* competition.
In total, 48 combinations started in the feature class of the day, the coveted 1.60m Trophée De Genève. The competition also provided the first chance for riders to secure their place in the pinnacle event of the show, the Rolex Grand Prix. As is often the case at the CHI Geneva, the field was truly star-studded and included the current Olympic, World, and European individual Champions of Ben Maher, Henrik von Eckermann, and Steve Guerdat.
First to canter into the Palexpo’s iconic Geneva Arena was Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam riding the chestnut gelding, Cjoxx Z. The duo produced a faultless jumping round, however, picked up an agonising time fault. It was fourth to go, the in-form Vitor Bettendorf, winner of two of today’s classes, who produced the first clear round – next to jump, Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer secured a jump-off after a super performance much to the delight of the home crowd. At the halfway point there were eight clear rounds, with faults coming throughout the masterfully designed course.
After a short break, the crowd was treated to another seven clear rounds and some exceptional levels of horsemanship from riders including Kent Farrington, who triumphed in this class two years ago, Germany’s Christian Kukuk, and Switzerland’s Elian Baumann. However, there was also heartbreak for the Swiss crowds as fan favourites, Steve Guerdat and Martin Fuchs, the current live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, both finished with faults and did not proceed in the second round.
In total 15 riders graduated to the jump-off after navigating the Gérard Lachat-designed course fault-free, and entered the arena in the same order as the first round. It was first in, Luxemburg’s Bettendorf who set the standard with a clear in the time of 38.63 seconds, however, the lead changed a number of times in what was an exceptional jump-off. World Under-25 No.1 Harry Charles looked like he may claim his first victory at this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva with a time of 37.08 seconds, however fellow Rolex Testimonee Kent Farrington, set the crowd alight and crossed the finish 2.31 seconds faster than Charles. The remaining five horses that followed could not set the pace matched by the American and his exceptional mare, Toulayna, and he took home the Trophée De Genève for the second time in three years.
Thrilled with his nine-year-old bay mare’s performance, Farrington commented: “I am really excited about my horse – I bought two young ones here with me this week – they are developing so well and so I am thrilled with her performance. My tactic in the jump-off was to try to win – I wanted to give my horse a good experience – but it is one of the biggest shows in the world, so I came to compete.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, the American rider followed on: “I am excited after tonight, but tomorrow is a new day and there is still a long way to go – but I am really looking forward to it.”
Toulayna’s groom Denise Moriarty continued: “I am so proud, she is always game – she does whatever we ask her to do, and does it extremely well. Even at nine years of age, she is a super reliable horse, and we are very excited about the future. She travelled really well over from America, she is very relaxed in general apart from when she is in the ring.”
How has planning been going for this year’s event?
Everything has been going well. Work for the show began in February, when we starting thinking about the sporting schedule and the communications plans. We are delighted to be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping this year, and we have an excellent list of riders who are competing at the show – we are very excited to welcome our fans back to the CHI Geneva.
Is there anything new that the CHI Geneva has introduced this year? Will you be doing anything special to mark the 10th anniversary of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
We have organised a ceremony on Saturday evening at 21.00 in the main arena to honour Steve Guerdat. He has competed in all of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors, and so we wanted to recognise his incredible achievement. We will also celebrate the grooms – we are hosting a brunch for them for the first time. They are such an imperative part of the sport, and so we felt it was important to thank them for all of their hard work. Finally, we will have some smaller activities that will mark the 10 year anniversary of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
How important are the volunteers to the successful running of the show?
They are spirit and soul of the show – they truly make the show unique. They are so passionate, and they add this into the show. They are incredible, and they give a lot – we are very thankful for them.
The CHI Geneva places a lot of emphasis on young riders – why is this something that you focus on year on year?
This is incredibly important for us – they are the stars of tomorrow. We like to give them the chance to compete in the same arena as the most talented riders in the world. Hosting young rider classes is part of the fabric of the show and we think it is crucial to provide opportunities for young riders.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. How has the initiative positively impacted the CHI Geneva as a show?
It has had a huge impact – it takes the four shows that are involved to the next level. Having a Grand Slam in our sport is very important, and it is something that the CHI Geneva is honoured to be part of. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has increased the visibility and understanding of our sport for those who are not fully aware of equestrianism. For people who don’t know about show jumping, it can be difficult for them to understand it completely, it can be complex, but the Rolex Grand Slam makes it simple – you have four Majors and these are ones that everyone wants to win.
What has been your personal highlight from the first 10 years of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
It is so difficult to select one memory as there have been so many – I would say for me, it would be Steve’s [Guerdat] victory here at the CHI Geneva in 2013. It was the first Major that we ever organised, and it was incredible to see a Swiss rider win.
What is your advice to someone who wants to get into the sporting events industry?
You need to really understand the sport that you want to work in – for example, I would find it harder to organise a football event as opposed to an equestrian event as I don’t know as much about it. If you organise a music concert or a sporting event – you can’t be afraid of how many hours you will work.
In addition, it is also important to have good relationship with external influencers, such as politicians or the state, for example for the CHI Geneva, it is vital to have a relationship with the state of Geneva. You also need to understand finances, be a good multi-tasker and flexible – you will do something different every single day. Finally, you must be able to manage your stress, sometimes you will be in a difficult situation and you have to be able to keep calm.
For you, as well as the CHI Geneva, what are the key components that make a successful sporting event, or sporting major?
Overall it is a mix between, fans, media and sponsors. I think you need to create a community for your fans and volunteers to be part of – it is important to create something strong with the people who love you.
Of course, you must have a very good relationship with the sponsors – without them you cannot organise a show. Having a very close relationship with them, and being able to be flexible and adaptive to what they want is very important in running a successful show. You can’t work in a ‘closed box’, you have to be able to work beyond a set boundary to find a solution with your partners – the world changes every day and so you have to aware of this.
You also need to be close to the athletes – they are a vital part of the show. It is a mix of all of this – you need to have all of these elements balanced to run a successful show.
Like the tennis legends Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, who have dominated the tennis world and its Majors, how important is it to the CHI Geneva to have the best in the world competing at your event?
It is very important for the sponsors – they want to have the best. It is also vital for our communications, if you want to sell tickets, having the best athletes in the world competing at your show is crucial, as the fans want to come to see the best. If you don’t have the best riders, it isn’t catastrophic, but it is better to have the crème de la crème for the image of the show – it gives credibility to the show. It is also great for attracting volunteers as they are proud to be part of a show that welcomes the best.
The CHI Geneva, is often considered to be the leading indoor equestrian venue, how do you ensure that you continue to innovate and adapt to ensure you maintain this status?
It is not easy – there are a lot of incredible shows across the world. To try and keep the CHI Geneva at the top level, we reflect each year and look at what we did well or what could have been done better. Year after the year we organise a debriefing session with the show’s partners and the whole team to be critical about the show and how we can improve.
A number of our organising committee are volunteers, and so therefore there is a lot of passion, and when you have passion you are more motivated. Our organising committee are so proud of our show – we listen to what the people say and we are very open to the critics – we just want to offer the very best. We are not afraid to make changes and adapt. There is passion in our veins – maybe this one of the explanations as to why the CHI Geneva is so successful.
Do you and the CHI Geneva organisers take inspiration from any of sport’s other major competitions, e.g., in tennis or golf?
It is very important to attend other show jumping shows, but also different sporting events. You need to do what the others do – it could be a festival, or a football event or a music event – you always have to learn.
If you go to an event you get ideas that would transfer into your own sport. I try to go to other shows – maybe I could go to a few more, but when I do go I try to talk to the organisers, and go backstage, as well as speak to a wider selection of people in the team, anyone from ticketing to communications to security. I took the idea for our security from a festival in Switzerland, and our ticketing system came from a music event I attended. You can also get ideas from watching sports on TV.
It is important for us to be open, and think what would work best for the CHI Geneva, sometimes something will work for any event in Germany but it will not work in Switzerland because you don’t have the same culture. It is important to travel, observe and be open to change.
Can you introduce yourself, tell us who you work for, and what your role is?
My name is Lovisa Munter and I have worked for Bertram Allen for the past three years as his travelling groom.
Tell us a little a bit about your journey to the CHI Geneva…
We were in La Coruña, Spain last week competing. We made a stop in France on the way here to give both the horses and myself a bit of a break. We arrived here at the CHI Geneva on Tuesday night.
If there is a horse that doesn’t like to travel, what can you do to help it and how do you ensure that your horses travel well so they can continue to perform at their peak?
Both of Bertram’s horses travel very well – they are very experienced, especially Pacino Amiro. They had a 12 hour break from travelling on our trip to the CHI Geneva, to allow them to rest. Whilst travelling, it is extremely important that we maintain the horses normal feeding times, and try to keep everything as ‘normal’ as possible, so we will stop the lorry throughout the journey to give them their mash and food. They also have hay nets and water buckets in their area of the lorry. I mostly travel with only two horses in one lorry for the longer journeys, so they have a lot of space – they travel really well.
How important is the whole team, e.g., vets, farriers etc., in ensuring the success of the team?
It is extremely important. We are very lucky as we have a great team. We have a fantastic vet – I call him every week to talk about the horses. Bertram, also has an unbelievable farrier – I have never had a problem with any of horses feet.
At home, we have a flat rider called Nathalie and she is the main rider of Pacino [Amiro] and for all of Bertram’s good horses. She does a fantastic job. Kate, the groom at home, is someone that is very reliable, and she is the person that I always call for advice.
Can you tell us about the horses that you have brought with you and what their characters are like?
Pacino Amiro, Bertram’s top horse – he is incredible! We have done so much together, actually last week it was my 50th show with him. He is a very funny character; he knows that he is the boss of the stable. He can be very demanding, and headstrong; you cannot really tell him things, he does what he wants.
The other horse that we have here is Castigo De Amor. He is new, we have only had him for a couple of months, but he has already won two Grands Prix. He is a stallion but he is the sweetest – we refer to him as a ‘little unicorn’. I never have a problem with him.
What are the facilities like for both yourself as a groom and the horses at the CHI Geneva?
It is my third time attending the CHI Geneva, and it is one of the best shows in the world. Everyone says it and it is very true. When you arrive here, you have the CHI Geneva team help you to unpack and muck out. The boxes for the horses are spacious and quiet – everything is just perfect.
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?
The four Majors are considered to be the best shows in the world. Whilst growing up, I would dream to ride at the shows but it is extremely special to attend them as a groom. The facilities for the horses are perfect and the atmosphere at them is so special.
This year, I went to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament for the first time and it was just amazing. I have also been to the CHIO Aachen – and it is a phenomenal venue! These Majors are the four shows that all riders dream of winning.
Are you and Bertram feeling confident ahead of this week?
Yes, we are confident – Bertram is in good form. He jumped in the 5* classes at La Coruña last week as preparation for the CHI Geneva. He jumped well but not perfectly so will hopefully do so this week. He usually performs well at the important Majors – he is great under pressure.
How special it to be part of Bertram’s team?
It is so special; it has been a dream come true to work with a rider like him. I always enjoyed watching Bertram riding, he is one of the fastest riders in the world, and a very good horse man. I feel incredibly proud to be working with him and his horses.
What qualities do you think that Bertram has that has meant he has been so successful for so long?
It is incredible how Bertram can ride any horse and they will fight and jump for him. He has a talent that many riders do not have.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into industry?
When I started out, I was working in Switzerland and attending only the national shows. The best learning experience I had was working at the Stephex Stables. I was a part of a bigger team, and worked with a number of experienced riders and grooms. It was a great opportunity to observe and learn from everyone. A major factor in being successful is to be patient in finding a good job once you have gained the experience.
What is the grooms’ community like? Do grooms support one another?
It is very important to have a community of grooms and friends to help out – a lot of my closest friends are here this week. The support means that we help each other out. During the long night drives, we all tend to call each other which is great. I consider them as my second family – we see each other more than our actual families.