Kent Farrington and Gazelle leap into history in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen
The sun shone down on the impressive CHIO Aachen arena for the pinnacle of the event, the Rolex Grand Prix. With seven horse and rider combinations through to the jump-off, the world’s best battled it out, but it was USA’s Kent Farrington who claimed the top prize aboard the speedy mare, Gazelle, in 43.98 seconds. In a nail-biting finish that went down to the wire as last-to-go Germany’s Daniel Deusser, looked close to beating Farrington’s time, but despite an electrifying clear round, finished just 0.37 seconds behind the American and had to settle for second place.
You have always said you wanted to win here, how does it feel now you have finally done it?
Every rider wants to win here. I have been riding out of that ring all week, looking at that winner’s wall and imagining my name on there, so I am so happy to come out with a win finally. I still can’t believe it’s real! CHIO Aachen is one of the most prestigious events in the world, I just feel so proud to win here.
Can you tell us how the course was to ride?
I think it is typical of an Aachen course. You have best of the best here, so every test you have out there on the course is difficult. Gazelle has the ability, scope and carefulness, and that was tested over the two rounds. I think that’s why you see so many faults throughout the class as every part of it is a test and so there is no easy part.
Will you be carrying on your Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
Absolutely! I will be there! The Rolex Grand Slam is great for the sport and I am excited to be a part of it again.
What was going through your mind entering the jump-off when there had been no clears? Did it change your strategy?
I have been so close in this class before. The last time I was in the jump-off I was the fastest but I had one pole down, so today I really wanted to go one better! I thought if I go clear it will put enough pressure on, so I had a different strategy and it paid off today.
What is Gazelle’s temperament like?
She has become a real professional in this sport. She knows the prize giving, she knows when she’s performing, she knows everything! She hasn’t always been that way, but now she is a real pro.
Rider Interview with Beezie Madden
CHIO Aachen seems to attract a lot of American riders, what makes it such a special show for the US Team?
I think everything, the atmosphere here, the crowds, the infrastructure for us and the horses, the tradition and the prize money, they have everything to make it special.
It’s a huge arena, what’s it like to ride in?
For me, it’s a lot of fun, I love big fields, my horse Darry Lou, loves big fields so I feel really at home here.
The US Jumping team for the Nations Cup team was heavily dominated by women, it seems that in the US the sport is dominated by women, but less so in Europe. Can you talk about your thoughts on this?
When you grow up in the States, the little girls love to ride, and the boys are off doing other sports all the time. So as a young kid, growing up it was really girls who were riding, not boys. Once we got to international level its equal in the US.
Travelling across from the States is a big task, does it effect the performance of the horses? How do you cope with the travel?
It depends on the horse, most horses are fine with it. We try to plan it that they don’t arrive and then compete in the following couple of days. My horses came from Spruce Meadows, it takes a week for them to travel, recover from the trip and then get ready to compete again.
You’ve had a long and successful career, what has kept you at the top for such a long time?
I think, number one you need to have the passion for it, the love of the horses and the competition. I also have a fantastic team behind me, from the people that work in the stables, to my husband John who runs everything, and I have a great owner.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A previous British Chef d’Équipe told me once, "to go in there and enjoy yourself". We asked him to explain this, and he said "if you go in there and enjoy yourself, you allow yourself to be the best you can be and ride the best you can ride", so I thought that was great advice.
Do you still get nervous?
Not too nervous, I haven’t ever suffered badly from nerves. But I’d be lying if I said I never got nervous. Once I’m on the horse, I feel pretty good.
Behind the camera lense with: Ashley Neuhof
What attributes does it take to be a professional photographer in Equestrian sport?
With any good sports photography, I think one of the most important things is to be able to anticipate moments. When you are dealing with an atmosphere as big as Aachen, I think it’s even more vital because you are not only trying to capture the sporting action, you are trying to capture the crowds and the atmosphere. You always have to be three or four steps ahead of the action – sometimes you’re there, sometimes you’re not, but I always try and make sure I can easily get from one place to the next to photograph the event in as many different ways as possible.
What is CHIO Aachen like to photograph?
There are very few words I can think of to describe Aachen, it’s just magical. There is no other place in the world that captures this level of the sport. It has such an educated crowd that knows the sport and as a photographer that’s really special because you feel all of the energy behind you. Everywhere you look there are crowds, there’s cheering, there is so much emotion and that’s what really drives me as a photographer – it’s a real adrenaline rush and the moments here are like no where else in the world.
Do you feel extra pressure when photographing a Rolex Grand Prix at one of the four Rolex Majors?
Absolutely, the Rolex Grands Prix always give me the biggest adrenaline rush. It is nerve racking as you only get one shot, the moments don’t happen the same way twice. There is that one split second where you get that fist pump, the reaction of the crowd or the emotion from the team behind the horse, so you can’t miss it!
Which is your favourite horse and rider combination to photograph?
That’s a tough question! The horse and rider combinations that I really love to photograph are the ones where you can really tell that there is a truly special relationship between them. I think all riders who compete at this level have a huge respect and understanding of their horses and I really love to photograph that.