Behind the CHIO Aachen Digital with Michael Mronz, General Manager, CHIO Aachen
Tell us about Digital Aachen, what are the highlights of the programme?
It is totally diversified. We have sport challenges with top riders like Patrik Kittel, Luciana Diniz, Ludger Beerbaum, Jessica von Bredow‐Werndl or Sandra Auffarth. In the virtual SAP Cup, the CHIO Aachen fans can become Eventing Managers, and on top of that there are many competitor stories on the most important competitions; for example, Luciana Diniz will tell us again what it was like being pipped at the post in the Rolex Grand Prix three times and Otto Becker and many others will report about the fascination of the Mercedes‐Benz Nations Cup. In addition to this, of course, we have highlights from the Rolex Grand Prix and other fascinating competitions and as‐live formats from the 2019 CHIO Aachen, enhanced with commentary as well as exciting background information. All of this is going to be highlighted in a daily report from August 4th‐9th, on Facebook, YouTube, chioaachen.de and via clipmyhorse.tv.
How did you come up with the ideas for the content?
Naturally, the entire CHIO Aachen team have developed the ideas and the concept jointly. Whereby a lot of the input came from the outside – from the CHIO Aachen fans and even some of the riders have provided us with ideas.
What are your objectives for the digital event?
Our aim is the same as for the “real” CHIO Aachen: Entertaining people. We want to deliver a bit of this very special and unparalleled Aachen Soers atmosphere to the living‐rooms of the CHIO Aachen fans around the world in this challenging year.
How has the team adapted to dealing with the COVID‐19 pandemic?
Very well. The majority of the employees are working from home, we engage with each other via video conferences and online communications. Everyone adapted to the situation very quickly, I think we have also learned a lot in terms of how we will work in the future too.
Do you think this experience has forced you to look at changing the format of CHIO Aachen next year?
We will no doubt also be able use many of the aspects that we have now digitally integrated into the CHIO Aachen in future. Applications like the Eventing Manager, but also the intensive online exchange with our visitors and fans.
Do you think there will be more virtual events, even after the pandemic is over?
I can well imagine that, albeit on a smaller scale. Everything that offers added value is worth being considered for the future too.
Have you observed any great initiatives in a different sport you would like to mention?
Definitely, there are many good initiatives and ideas of how to keep fantastic events alive in spite of the pandemic.
Which riders have been involved with Digital Aachen?
National riders as well as international. For example; Ludger Beerbaum and Sandra Auffarth, Jessica von Bredow‐Werndl, Ijsbrand Chardon, Patrik Kittel and Luciana Diniz will be involved.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt during these challenging times?
To never be too sure about anything.
What have you most enjoyed about putting the Digital Aachen together?
The enthusiasm within the team. Of course, we were all sad, disappointed and stunned that the CHIO Aachen 2020 had to be cancelled – but it was magnificent experiencing how new ideas were born and put into practice.
Looking at the quest for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2021, which riders do you think will be in contention for it?
The great thing about our sport is the high density of performance. There are no longer five or six riders that dominate everything like in the past. We experience outstanding sport in the most fascinating equestrian arenas in the world every year in the scope of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Scott Brash made it clear to us that it is possible to master the ultimate challenge, but who is going to be the next contender? That is impossible to predict. Of course, my fingers are crossed for our Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender Martin Fuchs. And next to them I personally would like to say: I would be delighted if it were to be a woman.
Behind the Stable door with Sean Lynch, international travelling groom for Daniel Deusser
How did your routine change during lockdown?
It wasn’t as busy with no competitions that’s for sure, it was very quiet at the start. Then, in the end, we were actually still very busy at home. We had a few people off, because obviously there weren’t any shows going on so not everyone was needed. In April, it was just me and a home rider and Daniel, although we finished at a normal time, which was the good part, it was busy enough!
Did you learn anything new about the horses, spending so much time with them at home?
I must say that, it was very nice, as I travel with different horses every week when I go to the shows, I’d take for instance Jasmine, Killer Queen and Tobago one week then I go with the young ones the week after, so it was actually quite nice to be at home and take care of the Grand Prix horses every day, as well as getting to know some of the newer horses we have in the stable slightly better.
Have you used the time to learn any new skills?
As you mention it, I’m currently making an app, for iPhone and android. Basically, it’s called GroomsGoTo, everything you need, at the touch of a button. From your show calendars, which will be linked up to World of Show Jumping, to overnight stabling, as well as clinics, I’m also going to include a few ‘how to videos’ for the younger generation that don’t travel as much. There will be a lot of ‘get-to-knows’ to keep it interesting for people to read. The last part will be the paperwork, so a packing list etc. to make everything much easier.
I also started to learn a bit of German, but I gave up on that quite quickly!
What sparked this idea?
I talked to my mum and my best friend, and we concluded that it would be so much easier if everything you needed was in one place. Instead of having 20 different sites, it was all in one app, that gives you notifications and enables your life to be somewhat easier. If it picks up the way I hope it does, I hope to add a jobs section to it, for people to advertise that they need for example a show groom for a month or so, where people can apply to the job.
What did you miss most about competing?
The buzz! Especially because the weeks leading up to lockdown, we won two 5* Grands Prix back-to-back. I was so pumped, the horses were in good form, we were getting organised for FEI World Cup™ Finals and I was actually on the way to S-Hertogensboch when I got a phone call saying that I had to turn around because it was cancelled. So, I must admit, I miss the buzz, the adrenaline, but also my show family, that’s a big part for me, since we spend so much time together.
What did you miss the least?
The Driving… I got into that truck to go to St Tropez and I joked with myself “No, I can’t do this anymore”
How do you keep the horses fit and ready to jump a Major? Or did you give them a break?
I think you have to play it by ear, it’s not like we’re going to get a phone call saying that CHI Geneva is happening in three days, it will happen gradually, and we’ll be given a few weeks in advance to prepare things. We’ve given the horses a few easy days, when we knew in April and May that lockdown was still going, we gave the horses a few days off. Killer Queen went to the woods every day, on the racetrack and spent some more time as a ‘normal’ horse. But then when we heard that St Tropez might happen in a couple of weeks, we got them straight back into the program. We kept them ticking over so that they remained fit and would be ready to go to a show with a short amount of notice.
How has it changed Daniel’s game plan?
I guess for me it’s less stressful. We had to see how this year was going, to see what horses were ready to go, he had a couple of options, as we are privileged enough to have a fair few Grand Prix horses. At the moment we have around six Grand Prix horses in the stable, three that could do a championship. We are in a great position right now, we have some great horses, an amazing team, but I don’t exactly know the planning behind it all, I know Jasmine was going to go to S-Hertogensboch, to do the last Major there before the FEI World Cup™ Finals. I don’t know how it would have worked for the rest of the year, I know he spoke about the CSIO Spruce Meadows Masters and about Killer Queen doing the Olympics, there was a lot of speculation, but ultimately, we had to see how the year went. Daniel always has a very good plan with the horses, he’s very professional and very clever, never over-using the horses, but it really depended on how the year was going to play out.
Which horses will you be aiming for CHI Geneva in the hope of winning the Rolex Grand Prix in December?
My dream is: it will be Killer Queen, Tobago and Jasmine, then we can win everything! Killer Queen jumped there last year as a nine-year-old, she jumped her first top Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, it wasn’t the plan, but Tobago was injured, and she ended up coming fourth which is amazing. She’s now a lot more experienced, especially in that ring, it could be a good show for her.
Daniel has been so close to winning a Major on more than one occasion, is this a big aim for the team?
I know that he was gutted in Aachen last year when he was so close. From a groom’s point of view, you always want your riders and horses to do well, it makes everyone happy. So, it would be very special to win something like CHIO Aachen, it’s one of the biggest events on the circuit and the crowd would go wild. We’re ready for IT next year!
What would you do if you weren’t a groom?
I don’t know, I’ve always been in the industry, when I was younger, I was riding and grooming, now I’m a Travelling Groom for one of the best riders in the world. I think I landed on my feet pretty well, but of course I don’t want to do the shows for the rest of my life, because I do want a family and things like that. I’d quite like to manage a stable, so that I can stay at home a bit. It’s not something I want right now, but something that I’d quite like in the future.
Best piece of advice you have been given?
You never stop learning. In this job, you never ever stop learning, there are old school grooms that could tell you how they did it back in the day. With the new style grooms, because we have new machines, new methods etc. it makes things very different. But one thing that I will always remember and take with me is “never stop learning”
Worst piece of advice you have been given?
It’s not really advice, but separation of the grooms, we all do the same job, we are all equal. I hate this controversy where 2-star grooms and 5-star grooms are made out to be completely different – we are the same and everyone should be treated equally.
Best moment of your career so far?
There have been so many, I’ll have to give you top three. Rio is definitely up there, Europeans too. It will sound weird but also the Mechlen FEI World Cup™ last year, just because we were having such a tough period where Tobago was off, which made it all the sweeter. I could list so many but those three will always be special to me.
What other sports do you follow? / get inspiration from? Are there any teams you support?
No not really, the horse world is like a drug, it almost takes over your life. I must say, when the Olympic Games are on and I’m not there, because I did Rio, I like to watch the Athletics with Usain Bolt and others. I really enjoy that, it’s not something that I would take time out of my day to watch, but when it’s on I would watch it. I’m equestrian through and through, and currently I’m really enjoying dressage.