Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

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Inside CHIO Aachen 2019: Interview with Henrik Von Eckermann’s groom, Tiia Karhu

Photo: Tiia Karhu Photo: Tiia Karhu

Which horses has the team entered to take part in CHIO Aachen 2019?

This year we have entered Toveks Mary Lou and Forever. Henrik will also be bringing Janika Sprunger’s youngster, Little Magic d’Asschaut. We are thrilled to be returning to Germany for CHIO Aachen!

In your eyes, what makes CHIO Aachen such a special event?

The entirety of the show is incredible. Henrik has always said that the feeling the riders get when they enter that ring is like no other. I think there is something very special about being at Aachen, and every rider and every groom wants to attend. The show is always very busy and is a lot of hard work but it’s always worth it.

Does the team feel extra pressure now that Henrik is the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender?

Yes, of course. The pressure is there but we are all very excited to see him continue his Rolex Grand Slam journey and see how this season will end. Henrik also definitely feels the extra pressure; you can really sense it around the stables now that Aachen is around the corner.

How have you been preparing the horses for the competition?

We try to keep the horses’ schedules as normal and regular as we can. We want them to be as fit as possible, so Henrik rides each of the horses every day and then in the afternoons they go hacking for a few hours. The most important thing is that we keep the horses safe and happy. They absolutely love hacking out in the forest and riding in big open spaces, it keeps them very calm and relaxed.

What is your daily routine at Henrik’s yard?

We start each day at 6.30am by cleaning the stables and riding then begins at 8.00am. Each horse is ridden twice, once in the morning and then a hack in the afternoon. The horses then go to field for the rest of the day. Right now, Henrik is riding each horse every day leading up to Aachen.

Why did you decide to become a groom?

I’ve always loved horses and I really do love the sport. I think you really need to love the sport to be in this job, it’s a huge responsibility and it’s really my whole life. Four and half years ago I started working for Henrik and I am still here. Henrik is the best to work for and he really cares about the horses – he would do anything to keep them safe and happy, which makes our job a lot easier!

Do you get nervous watching Henrik in the ring?

Oh yes, of course. Sometimes I can’t even watch him during a jump-off because I am so anxious! We were so nervous at The Dutch Masters when Henrik finished his second round. We wanted to be excited and were very happy with how Mary Lou jumped, but there were still a few people behind Henrik and we were all just praying that he wouldn’t come second once again in a Rolex Major [von Eckermann and Toveks Mary Lou finished in second place behind Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva 2017].

What is Mary Lou like in the stable?

She loves to be around people! She is always the first horse to come out of the yard in the morning and if you’re late she gets very restless and will make sure you know about it!  She knows that she is one of the best horses in the stable and she’s also a bit spoilt! But she deserves special treatment, she is such an incredible horse. 

What is your favourite part of the job?

Without doubt being around the horses. When you see them succeeding and progressing, it is the most rewarding feeling in the world and I just love being a part of it all.

If you could have worked with any past legendary horse which one would you choose? 

I would have to say Steve Guerdat’s mare, Albführen’s Bianca – she’s so lovely and seems to be really stealing the show right now!

What’s the best advice you could give to someone wanting a career as a groom?

You really need to love the horses and the sport – it’s a huge commitment and you need to be ready to dedicate everything. It takes a lot, but it gives even more and if you are ready for that then you’ll be great!

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