From 14-17 March 2019, the town of 's-Hertogenbosch is set to welcome 65,000 spectators for the 52nd edition of The Dutch Masters, the Netherlands’ leading equestrian show. Visitors can expect an extensive programme of equestrian competitions featuring elite national and international show jumping and dressage riders. The event will reach its climax on the Sunday afternoon with the Rolex Grand Prix, in which the best show jumpers in the world will compete to become the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender.
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
Many of the world’s top horse and rider combinations will compete at the 14,500 capacity Brabanthallen 's-Hertogenbosch, the impressive indoor arena in the Dutch town. This year there are a number of contenders who are among the favourites to claim a victory in the first Major of the calendar year.
Hotly tipped to take the prestigious title will be Marcus Ehning, after he won the most recent Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in December 2018. The German enjoyed a thoroughly successful year, riding Prêt à Tout to victory not only in Geneva, but also at CHIO Aachen. Ehning will be riding a different horse in the Netherlands later this month, which will make for fascinating viewing to see how he performs as a different combination.
Current world number one-ranked show jumper and Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat, will be looking to claim the first Major of the year and brings with him a strong contingent of horses. After finishing fifth and then second at CHIO Aachen and CHI Geneva respectively in 2018, Guerdat will attempt to go one better and secure his fourth Major and become the new live contender.
Another rider looking to continue his fine form is Niels Bruynseels. The Belgian won The Dutch Masters last year, meaning he will be looking to replicate his strong showing in the 2019 edition of the Major. Currently sitting at number 15 in the global rankings, the 36-year-old will be aiming to break into the top 10 with another win in the Netherlands this month.
Performing in front of their home crowd are riders Harrie Smolders and Jeroen Dubbeldam. Smolders rode well in 2018 and at one point claimed the top spot in the world show jumping rankings. Although he has now dropped to third, he will be targeting The Dutch Masters as an opportunity to propel himself back to the summit. Dubbeldam is a rider who has already accomplished so much within show jumping and is recognised as a true legend within the sport. Although it’s uncertain who will win the Major, what can be assured is that they will be supported by a strong patriotic crowd at the Brabanthallen 's-Hertogenbosch, which will benefit them in their pursuit to claim this prestigious Major.
Someone who can never be overlooked when considering potential Rolex Grand Prix winners is legendary equestrian Scott Brash. What sets the Scotsman apart from other riders is that he is the only ever winner of the distinguished Rolex Grand Slam title, having won three Majors consecutively in 2015. This unprecedented feat has still not been replicated, and as a result Brash is a name that is synonymous with success in the Majors.
Young, up-and-coming rider Bertram Allen is a name to pay attention to during this year’s event. The 23-year-old is the youngest member of the Rolex Testimonee family and currently sits at the top of the FEI Jumping U25 Rankings and will be aspiring to achieve a similar position within the main rankings. The Irishman will unquestionably be hungry to claim his first Major.
Through the key hole with: Prêt à Tout’s owner Ruth Krech
What is your background?
I grew up with horses and they have always been a big part of my life. Even though I loved riding, competing, and being with horses, I stopped at quite an early age and focused on other opportunities. I became a business woman, working with my husband, but I was, and still am a horse owner and a breeder as well.
Why did you decide to become an owner?
I never decided to ‘become an owner’. I have always had my own horses and I would usually ride them myself. I’ve had Prêt à Tout since he was six-years-old, and although I started riding him, I really bought him for my daughter. I never had the intention of giving him away, however, my daughter decided to dedicate herself to her studies, so I was lucky to find a girl who was growing up at the same time as my horse. Kaya Lüthi and Pret à Tout achieved two successful Young Riders European Championships together before Pret à Tout moved to Marcus in 2015.
What did you first see in Prêt à Tout?
I met him in France at a friend’s place. He looked at me and I immediately fell in love with him. He had these wonderful eyes and I just knew that he was special. However, obviously at that time I didn’t know what an extraordinary horse I had found.
What is Prêt à Tout’s personality like?
He has the most incredible personality. Toutou, as we call him, always gives his best and loves having a close relationship with his rider. Marcus can really trust him, and his intelligence makes their partnership so easy. He loves the rider, the groom, and in fact, everyone that he meets. He is very kind and has a huge personality, sometimes you almost think he’s human! He’s a horse that you can’t forget, and he won’t forget you – he really is a once-in-a-lifetime horse! We are so lucky to have him.
How often do you see Prêt à Tout?
I don’t see him enough given that we live in Switzerland and he lives at Marcus’s stables, so I mainly see him at the Shows. When he retires though, he will come back home to our farm in Switzerland, where he can live in our field and will be treated in any way he wants, just like a normal horse!
Do you get nervous watching Marcus and Prêt à Tout compete?
Yes, of course! I get really nervous, it’s my part of the game and part of the fun
What is the best part of being an owner?
It’s a fantastic experience and so nice to meet people and just to generally be involved in such a wonderful sport.
How many horses do you have?
Too many! There are two foals on their way next month, one from Comme il faut, and the other from Kannan, so hopefully everything will go well. There are two more young horses who I hope will grow into ‘big horses’ one day. One is a Kannan, and the other one is a Diamant de Semilly. Currently they’re residing at Susanne Behring’s stable so that they can get a good education before hopefully being adopted by an elite rider. Who this rider will be depends on the horse, because in my opinion it’s extremely important that the horse and rider make a good combination. We’ll see what time brings, but the show must go on!
Do you compete yourself?
No, I don’t ride that much anymore due to an injury I picked up. I did compete in higher classes many years ago, but I’m still very much involved in horses. I’ve learnt so much over the many years of working with them and I’m still learning every day.
What makes show jumping an interesting / exciting sport?
Show jumping is very exciting to watch, especially given that the result can change so quickly with just one touch of a pole. For me, it’s not just the sport of show jumping that is exciting, but also equestrian sport and equestrianism in general. In my opinion, the most exciting aspect is that an animal and rider can come together and form a special partnership which enables them to achieve things that they never could dream of. The horse learns from the rider every day and in the same way the rider learns from the horse!
How will you celebrate if Marcus and Pret à Tout win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
There will be a lot of celebrations from both parties, but first things first we would have a glass of champagne or a beer!
How long has Marcus ridden for you and what makes him different from other leading riders?
Marcus started riding Prêt à tout at the end of 2015, and since then they have formed an incredible partnership. Marcus is obviously a very talented rider, but what I admire most about him is his ability to grasp the horse’s feelings. He never pushes the horse to a level where it is not yet ready, and he is able to adjust his riding depending on how the horse is feeling on any given day. Sometimes horses can be pushed too hard, which can affect their confidence, but Marcus knows their limits and is able to get the most out of them. He is kind and polite towards all horses and they share a mutual respect. Marcus really is a true horseman
Exclusive interview with Kim Emmen, rising star of show jumping
What is your background, how did you get into show jumping?
I was born on 21 March 1995 in Raamsdonk, The Netherlands where I also grew up. My Mum has always been involved in dressage, whereas my dad has nothing to do with horses. I got into show jumping because my mum was always better than me at dressage, so I took up show jumping to make sure that she couldn’t tell me what to do anymore! Having grown up around horses, I rode from a very young age and had my own pony by the age of four.
What are the biggest challenges?
Competing is always difficult because you obviously want to do your best and unfortunately that can’t always be the case. So sometimes it can be hard, but I believe if you want to go far you must always strive to do your best and keep on going. You must consistently try to improve.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career and why?
In my career I am influenced by my own character because I never give up no matter how hard it can sometimes get. I started working at a stable when I was 17-years-old and was only going to school one day a week and riding the other six days. I spent three years there just riding horses and training. Then I went to Niels Bruynseels’ stables, who I learnt a lot from, but unfortunately, I couldn’t do many shows over there, so my stay lost its purpose a little bit.
Eventually, I got the opportunity to work at The Margaretha Hoeve, where I’ve been for the last three and a half years. My mum influenced my career, as she was only interested in dressage, which made me interested in show jumping! I must also say a huge thank you to Eric Berkhof, who has given me incredible opportunities and wonderful support.
Has there ever been a moment in your career when you were scared? How did you overcome this?
Not really, I’m a determined rider, which I believe helps me to compete at my best level. I am never nervous when I ride, I’m more nervous about conversation and speaking in interviews than I am in the ring! The ring is where I feel at home and at my most natural.
What drives you to keep going?
My drive to keep going is that I always want to get better, and when you get a good result it gives you encouragement to push on and keep improving.
Which horses are you planning to bring to The Dutch Masters?
I’m planning to bring a few horses: Delvaux, who’s an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion and then probably Teavanta II C Z, a 14-year-old Zangersheide mare, who was previously ridden by Ruben Romp and David Will. I’ll also bring a younger horse that’s only 10-years-old, who doesn’t have much experience.
What are you most looking forward to at The Dutch Masters?
The Dutch Masters is very close to the place where I was born, so it is a special show for me and I’m hoping that I can put in some good performances and get some even better results.
Who do you think your biggest competition is for the Rolex Grand Prix, and who are the riders that you think could win?
I see everybody as big competition in that class, because honestly anybody could win, so I think it’s going to be difficult. Of course, there are some riders who are favourites. I’ve just seen the list of the riders and of course Niels Bruynseels, Harrie Smolders, and Marcus Ehning stand out as favourites to win, Marcus because he won the most recent Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva.
What are your thoughts on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
This is going to be my first time competing in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Last year I rode at the show but didn’t compete in the Rolex Grand Prix, so I’m really looking forward to taking part this year. I think it’s a fantastic competition, which includes four of the biggest and most beautiful shows on the circuit: The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, Spruce Meadows and CHI Geneva. They’re really exciting to watch, particularly as the Rolex Grand Prix is always that little bit bigger than the other 5* shows, but also because it’s always extremely competitive and pushed riders to their limits.
What are you hopes and dreams for the future?
I had my first show last week, and although the results weren’t so great, it was a really good experience. So, I hope I can have a good season all round this year and ride in some of the Nations Cups – that’s something I’m hoping for.