And the winner is...
Marcus Ehning wins the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen
Germany’s Marcus Ehning gave the 40,000 patriotic spectators a reason to celebrate at CHIO Aachen, as he clinched the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix title aboard his 15-year-old chestnut gelding, Pret A Tout. Although this is the fourth Major Ehning has won, his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has only just begun, as he becomes the new live contender. We spoke to him following his incredible performance, which left him two seconds clear of his closest rival, Portugal’s Luciana Diniz:
What were your thoughts when you walked the course?
I thought it was a really good course, I thought there would be about 10 clears and, in the end, there were 11. There wasn’t anywhere specifically that I thought would be too challenging or that my horse couldn’t jump, but my horse has performed amazingly in past years here, and he gave me a confidence that I could really trust him and believe that we could go all the way. He is a very flexible horse and I am very lucky to be riding him.
Which round was more difficult, the first or second?
For me the first round was more difficult, a few times I didn’t have the perfect rhythm that I wanted but I was very happy to be clear. The second round was amazing from the first jump to the last we were fast but there was a lot of control and I really enjoyed it.
Where you nervous watching Luciana’s round?
I was nervous watching Luciana, she is a good rider and has come close to winning her a few times.
You are now the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, will you be competing at the CSI Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September?
Before this win today I was only focusing on the World Equestrian Games, but obviously now this is a very different situation. I need to speak to my team and my owners to work out a strategy and think about what we do.
Behind the Stable Door With:
Marcus Ehning’s groom, Mel Obst
Can you tell us about Pret A Tout?
Pret A Tout is the easiest horse we have, he has a super character and is so brave. He is very calm, you can give him to anyone to hold and he will behave, he is just lovely and easy. When he is jumping he is like ‘I am doing my job and focused’ after he has finished he is like ‘I am chilled, I just want to eat’ when he is eating he is very happy, I think he even had a bit of grass in the prize giving! In the stable he is so relaxed and such a wonderful horse to be around, I am so lucky to work with him.
How will you reward him tonight?
We will reward him with a lot of food, he loves food. He loves carrots, apples, everything, so he will be getting all of those tonight for sure.
Do you get nervous watching Marcus compete?
No, I am usually ok actually. When I watch I usually stay very calm, I think whatever happens it will be ok! When he is inside the arena I start to get a little bit nervous, but I always try to hide it!
How did you feel when you realised Marcus had won?
I felt unbelievable, it is so exciting for us! We have had an amazing week here at CHIO Aachen and to win the Rolex Grand Prix tops off an incredible Show for us, to win this and the Mercedes-Benz Nation's Cup, it feels like a dream. It took some time to sink-in that we had actually won, I suddenly realised Luciana’s time was slower and worked out we had actually won, it was unreal.
Now you are on the Rolex Grand Slam journey, do you think you will go to Spruce Meadows?
We have some amazing horses that could certainly compete well at Spruce Meadows. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is something I every rider wants to win, and I would really love for us to go to Spruce but we will have to see!
Walk the Course With:
Frank Rothenberger, CHIO Aachen Course Designer
Could you talk a bit about the Rolex Grand Prix course?
It’s the biggest class I build every year, it’s scheduled up to 1.70. We have thirteen jumps with a big water jump and a triple combination. It’s a very tough course in a big arena, and there is always such an exciting atmosphere. There will be two rounds with a tricky jump-off too, we have built a course almost to the maximum we can build so it should be very interesting.
What do you think the biggest challenges are going to be?
I think today the double ditches and the double oxer. You never know how spooked the horses will get and how they will react when they see the water beside the lake. The last line is also very difficult, with three big jumps from the entrance. It requires seven long and five short strides. These will probably be the most challenging aspects of the course, but we will have to see.
Do you feel extra pressure when having to design a course that is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
I’m starting to sweat at the moment. I’m already getting nervous and my hands are already getting wet. Of course, it is a very nerve racking experience. The closer we get to the Rolex Grand Prix the more nervous I feel. But I am looking forward to seeing how the riders do on the course.
What is your favourite part about your job?
My favourite part is to design the courses, to start designing big classes like the Rolex Grand Prix and the Nations Cups. I love to start from the beginning and see how the courses grow and develop. There is so much pressure because you never know what the results will be, sometimes you want ten riders in the jump-off but you end up with fifteen, or you want ten and you only get two or three. Then you have to question why this has happened and why we have ended up with so many people in the jump off. We have to consider what was wrong and how we can change the course next time. Every course is different, I’ve been doing this job for 40 years and no course has been the same.
How big is your team?
In Aachen, we have 60-70 people. It is such a big show with so many different classes, including the Nations Cup and the Rolex Grand Prix so we need a big team to manage everything well.
How many clears are you expecting?
It would be nice to get 10-12 clears and end up with around 3 or 4 riders in the jump-off.
How long does it take you to build / design the course? What goes into that?
Sometimes, twenty minutes to half an hour and sometimes we need three or four hours. It depends how the course is flowing. I also prepare other courses for Aachen in March and April, so then I come back here and have the chance to consider what else I can do with the course.