Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

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Inside The Rolex Grand Slam: Riders Interview, Breeders Uncovered and more...

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof

Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender interview with:

CHI Geneva 2019 winner and Rolex Testimonee Martin Fuchs

 

Having triumphed in the Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva in December 2019, current world number three-ranked rider, Martin Fuchs is the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, and the Swiss show jumper now has his sights firmly set on the first Major of 2021, The Dutch Masters in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands on 23-25 April. Martin spoke to the Rolex Grand Slam about his plans for 2021, which horses he’s excited to be competing with in 2021, and his thoughts going into The Dutch Masters.

 

What are your plans for 2021 and what would you like to achieve?

Well, obviously the biggest goal for 2021 is the Olympic Games in Tokyo. That is my number one target, I dream about getting a medal at the Olympic Games. Another main focus for me is the Rolex Grand Slam, especially for me, as I’m currently the Live Contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. In any normal year, the four Majors are the most important shows, but being the Live Contender gives an extra edge to it.

 

Which horses are you most excited to be competing with this year?

I’m really looking forward to competing with my number one horse, Clooney, he’s still my main horse, but I also have some other really nice horses. I brought up my nine-year-old Leone Jei to 5* level in Wellington, which is very exciting, meaning he will be jumping some FEI Nations Cups this year. My stallion Chaplin is still breeding at the moment, and for the first time in his career, we’ve sent him to breed at Team Nijhof, but he will be back in Switzerland soon, so I can bring him to some competitions. Then I have Sinner with whom I won the World Cup in London, who will definitely do some 5* events. I also have two or three younger horses, who I’m excited to ride in 2* events, when I’m not competing at 5* events.

 

What have you learnt over the course of the last year (about yourself and generally), and what positives will you take?

I’ve learnt that I can be happy and enjoy other things, rather than just horses, that I don’t have to be at horse shows every week. I’ve liked spending time with friends and family, of course I’ve done that before, but it’s usually been done on the road. I’ve appreciated having some down time and not constantly traveling.

 

You won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in 2019, which makes you the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender. Does this give you extra motivation to win the Rolex Grand Prix at this year’s The Dutch Masters?

Being the Live Contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is very exciting. I do try to look at it like any other show, as every time I bring Clooney to the big classes, I try to win, and at any Major that I go to, I’m always trying to be at the top of my game. So, I’m trying to approach it like any other competition, although it does cross my mind every now and then that this could be a really big achievement to win two in a row.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think the Rolex Grand Slam has been very important for the sport of show jumping, you can really see that all of the top riders plan their top horse around those competitions. We obviously have the four Majors spread throughout the season, which allows riders to really bring their best horses. For anyone that has competed at any of the Majors, you can really tell that the level of sport that a Major brings is unparalleled. 

Willy Wijnen and Ben Maher Willy Wijnen and Ben Maher

Breeders Uncovered with:

Willy Wijnen

 

In this edition of Breeders Uncovered, we speak to KWPN Breeder of the Year 2019, Willy Wijnen, who is responsible for producing British show jumper, Ben Maher’s exceptional gelding, Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet).

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

When I was young, I remember my grandfather, who was in the military, he started spending more time around horses, but not show jumping or dressage horses, these were work horses. I can’t remember a specific memory, but I remember when horses became part of my life, and that was thanks to my grandfather, when I was around eight years old. For as long as I can remember, horses have been my life.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

My proudest moment of my equestrian career was when Barina (grandmother of Explosion W) was four years old, when she competed in the national championship in Utrecht. She ended up coming third, but I was incredibly proud. It was an amazing moment, especially considering I was a very small breeder at the time. Marianne Van Rixtel was the rider, and it was a wonderful performance, from both of them, as in this time, Barina was both a jump horse and a dressage horse.

How did you get into the breeding side of the sport?

I was looking to breed Barina, as she was a magnificent mare. I invested a lot of money and time into the best stallions, I would travel around Holland, Germany and France, going to all these stallion shows. I was looking for a horse that would be a really good combination with Barina.

Could you summarise what the main elements of breeding a top show jumping horse are, what is the background behind it, how do you decide which pairings to breed, etc.?

The first question I would ask, is whether the stallion would fit well with the bloodline of Barina, as well as what the history of the stallion’s mother line looked like. The stallion is obviously very important, but I believe that the mother line is even more important.

Has there ever been a time when pairings have had unexpected results?

It has happened, but there is not a lot of rhyme or reason. I often get calls from people, asking for good information about breeding for their mares, which I cannot do, as I don’t know the intricacies of that specific mare, as every horse is different, so it’s very difficult for me to comment on whether it would be a good combination, without knowing the bloodline of the horse. On a more personal note, of Barina’s 17 progeny, nine of them are top horses, competing at national and international top level dressage and show jumping, and nine of them have gone on to be very good mares for breeding. She also has very good offspring including five approved stallions.

The partnership between horse and rider is clearly important; is that something you’re looking for when you sell to new owners?

I have some quite complex feelings and thoughts about the horses, I look in their eyes and then I look at their frame and their base. This helps me determine whether it would be a good rider and horse match-up.

How long do you keep the foal before it goes on to its next home?

In the beginning, when I had my company, a lot of the foals would go straight away to another owner, as I had no time for them. I had time for the breeding side of things, but not for nurturing the foals, breaking them in and their future. Nowadays, things are different, I have a lot more time to take care of all aspects of the process, but I’m not at a point where I’m interested in selling many of my foals. Explosion W was sold when he was seven years old, I knew he was a very good horse but he needed some time, so he could develop. So my rider, Mareille de Veer, spent a couple of years in training with him and know he is now one of the best jumping horses in the world.

How many horses are you breeding during the year?

I usually breed around six or seven each year.

Which homebred horses are you most proud of?

I am very proud of Explosion W, but he is not the only horse I’m proud of. I also have a half-sister of Explosion W called Zarina III, she is the offspring of Heartbreaker x Baloubet du Rouet. She is a breeding mare and her offspring is amazing. Every rider in the world would love her offspring!

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think it has been very important for the riders and the sport. The Rolex Grand Slam really is an incredible programme, with some beautiful shows.

Out of the four Majors that make up the of Show Jumping, which of them is your favourite, and why?

Aachen. It’s difficult to put it into words, it’s just the most amazing show. Everything about the show is brilliant, the people, the facilities, the show itself.

What is your main ambition with your career in breeding horses?

My biggest ambition in breeding is to breed a horse that competes at sport at the top level. For every breeder, having a horse they bred competing in the Olympics, is the ultimate dream.

Who has inspired you the throughout your career?

I’ve been heavily inspired by the VDL stud in the north of Holland – I’ve always admired the way they do things up there. I have horses with them, such as approved stallion Liamant W (Diamand de Semmily x Heartbreaker x Baloubet du Rouet), and a young stallion called Power Blue W (Chacco Blue x  Heartbreaker x Baloubet du Rouet).

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The best piece of advice I’ve been given, and that I could give too, is when you start with breeding, start with a good bloodline, that is willing to work and is in good health including good x-rays. The bloodline should have a lot of sporting history and quality in it, as having this will allow a breeder to lay the groundwork for their whole operation. The mother line is the most important aspect, I think it’s worth around 60 or 70 per cent of the focus, with the other 30 to 40 per cent going to the stallion.

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof

Rider interview with

Irish rider and Rolex Testimonee Bertram Allen

 

What have you been focusing on recently, and what are your plans and goals for 2021?

As a result of COVID-19, and due to very few competitions being held in Europe, we made the decision to go to Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival [WEF], which was incredibly busy. I was there for nearly three months, and I’ve only recently returned, so I’ll take it easy now for the next few weeks.

The plan is to then build myself and my horses up for a few FEI Jumping Nations Cup events. I will also aim for the Tokyo Games in July, and then the Rolex Grand Slam Majors at the end of the summer.

Which horses are you most excited to be competing with this year?

My two main horses are Pacino Amiro and Harley van den Bisschop. Harley is the more established horse – he lost a bit of time last year through injury, but he’s back now and he feels really strong, and hopefully he can get into a good rhythm this year.

Pacino Amiro stepped up to the highest level in Wellington at the WEF, and jumped a 5* Grand Prix, which he won, so he’s a very exciting prospect. Fingers crossed that they’ll both be on form, as if they are, then they’ll be able to jump anywhere.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?

It’s a fantastic series of four of the world’s very best events, which gives me and the other riders something to aim for. These shows are already the best on their own, but when you combine them, it makes them even more important and prestigious. If you talk to any rider, these are the Grands Prix we want to win every year. They’re an extra level up again from a normal 5* Grand Prix. There’s no point in aiming for these Majors and turning up unless you and your horses are in pristine shape. Winning one of them feels so special because they really do represent the top end of the sport.

In terms of my plans for the Rolex Grand Slam this year, we’ll just take things step by step, as Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and Aachen are still a long way off. Thankfully, if Harley van den Bisschop and Pacino Amiro are in good shape, they could both easily do either show. After that, we’ll start planning for Geneva.

What have you learnt over the course of the last year – about yourself and just generally – and what positives will you take?

As riders, we’re used to competing literally every weekend of the year, but in 2020 we were really restricted by what we could do. I’ve learnt a lot, but the main thing is that I’ll probably cut back on the sheer number of shows I attend. Before the pandemic, I really felt I needed to compete week in, week out. But when I was forced to take a few steps back, I had time to contemplate and study everything, and it became apparent that I really didn’t need to be pushing myself and my horses that much.

Now, I think I’ll really concentrate on the biggest 5* shows, which will also allow me to spend a few more weeks at home to keep everything in order. This will give me valuable time to focus on the sales side of the business, and also on the younger horses, who in the past I probably didn’t spend enough time with. As with everything life, it’s just a case of finding that balance and happy medium.

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