This September, international show jumping fans from around the world will turn their attention to the third Major in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Taking place between 4–8 September 2019, the Rocky Mountains of Calgary once again play host to the world’s leading riders and horses for seven days of intense competition and equestrian mastery. The event, which attracts 100,000 spectators to its grounds, has been regarded as one of the leading equestrian events in North America. Rolex has proudly been a supporter of the show since 1989.
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
The CP ‘International’ presented by Rolex will welcome the most established equestrian athletes from around the globe to compete for the sport’s most coveted prize. Looking ahead to the third Major of the year, there are some competitors who have consistently performed to the highest level and look to be strong contenders heading into the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’.
Rolex Grand Slam live contender and Rolex Testimonee Kent Farrington, claimed the top prize at CHIO Aachen this summer, beating seven horse-and-rider combinations in the final round aboard the supreme mare, Gazelle. 40,000 spectators filled CHIO Aachen’s main stadium to watch the unstoppable pair as they flew through the jump-off, producing a clear round in 43.98 seconds. Frequently named one of the fastest riders in the world, the US show jumper has proved time and time again that he is more than capable of taking home the top prize at the next Major.
Great Britain’s star show jumper and Rolex Testimonee, Scott Brash has also been on form this season. Great Britain was the winning team at the Nations Cup in Dublin, Ireland in August, which saw Brash achieve a foot-perfect double clear with Lady Harris’s and Lady Kirkham’s Hello Jefferson. As the only person to have ever won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the Scottish-born rider has his eyes firmly set on another victory this year in Calgary
Rolex Testimonee and Swiss legend, Steve Guerdat has once again held his position as the World number one-ranked show jumper for the eighth consecutive month. Guerdat, aboard Venard de Cerisy, narrowly missed out on victory in the Grand Prix at the Nations Cup in Dublin, Ireland, finishing in sixth place. Having also finished in the top 10 in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen with Albfuehren's Bianca, the Swiss rider will be in a good position to secure his first Major title of 2019.
Previous Rolex Grand Slam live contender Henrik von Eckermann has shown vast promise and has unquestionably been a crowd favourite this season. The magnificent duo that is Henrik and Toveks Mary Lou completed a double clear for Sweden, the winning team at the Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup last month. There is no doubt that von Eckermann has high hopes of another Major win in 2019.
Rolex Grand Slam live contender interview
Can you talk through your emotions from CHIO Aachen and what has happened since you won?
Of course, the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen is the biggest Grand Prix in our sport and a competition every rider dreams about winning at some point in their career. To come back and win the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen after recovering from an injury last year has been a big confidence boost. I really feel like I am now back at my best and I think it’s been an emotional victory for me for a lot of reasons.
You’ve now won two Rolex Grand Slam Majors at CHI Geneva and CHIO Aachen. Do you think you can ultimately win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
Of course, I think I can. Whether or not it happens, who knows? But I am going to try my best and that’s where my focus is now. My mentality is very much to always focus on the next thing and the next task. When I finish something, my focus quickly moves to the next job at hand and right now that is the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. I am putting all my energy there and hopefully we can be on form and pull this off.
Now that you are the Rolex Grand Slam live contender, have you changed your training programme ahead of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
No, our training programme has very much stayed the same. I try to keep my programme with Gazelle the same in order to keep her confidence high. She is a very careful horse and in order for her to compete and be so successful in these big rounds, I need to focus on her being super confident before we attend the event. I will usually compete at small training shows, and jump smaller rounds leading up to an event like the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. The plan is to keep on doing what we’ve been doing and hope that is all comes together.
You’ve won quite a few times at the ‘Summer Series’ at Spruce Meadows but not the ‘Masters’. Do you feel as if there is added pressure now to win?
As I always say to everyone, I put a lot of pressure on myself. It wouldn’t be possible to put any more pressure on because I already put it there. I guess that’s both a good and a bad thing. I want to win as much as anybody, and I am incredibly hard on myself, so for me there is no added pressure. I always want to win and that will never change.
Gazelle is clearly such a talented horse. What is she like to ride in the big arena like CHIO Aachen?
Yes, she really is an exceptional horse. She is very careful and wasn’t always confident enough to clear the biggest of jumps, but she has a huge heart and works hard. She’s always been an incredibly smart horse and it’s amazing what a horse can achieve when you give them enough time and confidence.
You and Gazelle obviously have such a powerful relationship. Can you talk about how you develop such a partnership with your horses?
I think that’s really what the modern sport of show jumping is, a great partnership and a great bond between horse and rider. Most of the horses that I have are ones that I’ve produced since they were very young. I’ve had Gazelle since she was seven, so this partnership has been something we’ve been working on for years and years. In a way, it’s as if she’s grown up with me, starting off in small classes and building her up to her first Grand Prix. Gazelle knows me so well and I know her, and I think that’s what has created such a strong bond and is what it takes to win these kinds of events.
As you say, you’ve had Gazelle since she was a seven-year-old. When she was so young did you think she could win such prestigious events like the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen?
When I get these young horses, I always try to choose ones that I think can be competitive. If you believe in a horse and you are confident around them, they feed off that belief and confidence and amazing things can happen. Only time will tell, and I think that’s the beauty of the sport and the fun of the whole process.
Do you have any young horses who you’ve recently started riding that you think have the same potential to be future stars?
I have a quite a few young horses in the works and like I said it’s all about believing in them, so right now I believe they all have potential! I am a real optimist when it comes to young horses and I always try to see the best and their strengths. I hope that over time we are able to overcome any doubts or weaknesses, so at the moment I’m feeling really positive with the group of horses I have.
Can you talk about the role that the owners play in the sport? What is your relationship like with the owners and how influential have they been to you?
I think that as the modern-day sport of show jumping has increased in popularity with higher prize money and more visibility, this means that the horses have also gone up in value. That’s why, as riders it’s important for us to find people who are passionate about the sport and who support our dreams of competing at the highest level. I feel very fortunate that I have a great group of owners behind me, who are passionate and help me chase my dreams.
Each of the four Majors of the Rolex Grand Slam of Jumping have their own different personalities. Which Major stands out the most for you?
Today, I would have to say that CHIO Aachen is my favourite. I think I’ve probably said that before but after winning, it really does feel special to me. There is so much prestige and history behind the show and every rider would agree that it is an amazing Grand Prix to win on its own but to tie in with the other Majors is even more incredible!
Behind the stable door with:
Robin Parsky, co-owner of Kent Farrington’s Gazelle
How did you get into equestrian sport?
I was born and raised in California and I started riding when I was only about six years old. My father was involved with race horses and I wanted to be an equestrian. I was one of four children, but I was the only one who wanted to ride horses. There was a famous Oscar-winning Walt Disney documentary called The Horse with the Flying Tail, which was a story about a Palomino horse named Nautical, who won the team gold medal at the 1959 Pan American Games. It was an incredible story of how a horse from the American West became a United States Equestrian Team (USET) show jumping superstar. After watching that film, I told my parents that I would one day own a famous show jumping horse. I was so inspired by that story and from then on I just loved the sport. The first rider who I supported on the US Team was Anne Kursinski who grew up in the same town as me, Pasadena in California. I was very inspired by Anne.
How long have you been working with Kent Farrington for?
I first started working with Kent when I gave him my horse, Blue Angel, to ride in late 2012 and he worked with her up until the end of the 2016 season. He did exceptionally well with her and treated her beautifully. From then on, I decided I would be a supporter of his.
Do you have any young horses at the moment that you think might be a star in the future?
Yes, I do. I have a couple of young horses, one being a seven-year-old gelding named Heavenly. I thought that was a very suitable name as I already have an Angel! I also have a wonderful eight-year-old mare named Glamour Girl. These two horses are really promising, and we will just have to wait and see what the next steps will be for each of them.
Obviously, Gazelle is amazing in the arena but what is she like out of the ring and behind-the scenes?
Gazelle is very attuned to the people around her. We don’t expose her to many other horses, she can be quite a mare in that way! But she loves being around people and the attention she receives from everyone. Gazelle has such large ears and she’s so attentive, so she can usually hear me coming from a mile away and is always so excited to see me. She’s so easy to work with and because she’s been with us for such a long time, she knows everyone at Kent’s yard really well. She’s a little bit spoilt and knows she has the best stable in the yard!
How closely do you and Kent work together when it comes to Gazelle’s programme and routine?
When it comes to what shows she will attend and what her daily programme looks like, Kent makes all the decisions. Of course, we discuss these things but it’s up to him and he makes the plans and oversees her training. He is very much responsible for all those things, but he always consults me, and we discuss what we think is best for her. When it comes to travelling to competitions, I really haven’t missed a competition that she has been in for a very long time. I love travelling the world with her and I try and be there for every show.
Gazelle has won two of the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors, both an indoor and an outdoor Grand Prix. Do you think she can win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping one day?
I have great confidence in her, I really do. I think that if all the stars are aligned, then she is absolutely a top contender because she has proved to us time and time again that she can do this. For her and Kent to have done so many big classes together and to have worked together for so long is a huge advantage. Kent knows her so well and now when he sees a course, he knows exactly what he needs to ask from her. I really saw this happen for the first time in Aachen, when Gazelle and Kent entered the ring and made that incredibly difficult course look so easy. After that first round, I knew that she was going to win but we just had to be patient and get through the three rounds. In 2017, she won 15 5* events, 10 of which were Grands Prix, so I really do think she wants to win it all. All my life I have dreamed about having a horse as amazing as her.
Has the role of being an owner changed over the years since you started in the sport?
I am the Vice Chairman of the Jumping Owners Club and I think the role of the owner definitely has changed because of how many more team and individual competitions there are today. In the past, when I first started in the equestrian world, Americans did not come to Europe to compete unless they were on a team. So, when it comes to purchasing horses for individual riders rather than teams, the role for an owner has changed. If you want a rider to be able to have access to the best shows, you must provide multiple horses who can compete against the best horses and riders in the world. I have learned so much from being part of the FEI Jumping Owners Club and being around other professional owners. We have a huge responsibility, which is to assist both our riders and our horses achieve their goals.