Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

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Inside the CHI Geneva 2019: Thursday 12 December

Kent Farrington (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Kent Farrington (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

USA’s Kent Farrington produced a lightning fast round aboard his notoriously fast mount, Creedance,  to claim the Trophée de Genève at CHI Geneva. This victory secures Farrington’s spot in Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, where he will be hoping to emulate his success of 2017 and become the next Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender.

How did you produce such a fast round?

I brought Creedance here because he is so fast and he does a lot by himself so I just try to stay out of his way and let him go, which is usually the best plan. He’s actually won this class before, so he really knows what he’s doing and he showed that tonight.

You have had a lot of success at this Major, how does it feel to be back?

Yes, I think this is one of the best, if not the best show of the year. All the top riders, all the greatest horses are here and every class feels important. Each class is hard to win and, of course, it’s part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping so it’s very special. I’m just really glad I have started off so well and hopefully we can keep it up.

Looking ahead to Sunday, which horse will you be riding in the Rolex Grand Prix?

The plan is to ride Gazelle. I am going to do the normal routine, let her get some small rounds under her belt for her confidence and the go for it on Sunday.

Ben Maher riding Explosion W in the Prix des Vins de Geneve, accompanied by groom Cormac Kenny (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Ben Maher riding Explosion W in the Prix des Vins de Geneve, accompanied by groom Cormac Kenny (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Behind the stable door with

Cormac Kenny, Ben Maher’s groom.

Can you talk about your daily routine as a show groom?

I wake up early in the morning to feed the horses, then we give them some time to rest so they are able to digest their food. We then ride them through the morning and afterwards if they need icing or any extra care, we sort this out. After lunch, we take them out for hang grass so they can relax outside and chill.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

My favourite part of the job would be riding the horses at home, I love riding and working with the horses. I usually ride between three and four horses a day. Explosion and F One are actually incredible horses to ride, Explosion is very light, he is fresh and happy and F One has a little bit of an attitude so it’s never boring. He’s always that something different, you can never tell what’s coming next, so he is an exciting horse to work.

What’s your least favourite part of the job?

Travelling, I hate the lorry, I’m not good at it. I need to download some good podcasts. I usually watch Netflix and I have made a few good playlists on Spotify, I make them en route to pass the time.

How did you first get into this job?

My dad brought me to my neighbours house when I was young – they had a horse which I was able to ride, and my love of horses went from there. I used to jump a bit in the ring, but I found that I love being a groom, so this is what I’ve pursued.

What’s Ben like to work for?

He’s very focused on his job, but he is good fun. He has a very funny side to him, along with his focused side, where he knows what he wants, and what he needs to do to get there. Working for someone who has had such a phenomenal career is very special. We are lucky to be able to work with wonderful horses every day and watching Ben and the horses compete is always very exciting. Standing beside them before they go into the ring, you can see that a horse like Explosion really wants to win, and knows exactly what he’s doing. He can play around in the warmup ring, and buck a bit, but once he knows he is entering the arena he just goes for it.

Do you get nervous watching?

Yes, extremely nervous, sometimes I can’t watch. But the feeling when I realise that Ben and one of the horses has won, is a very proud moment. Not just for me, but for everyone. It takes a lot to get just one horse to a show, and its great for everyone if we get good results because it gives us all motivation to work even harder so we can achieve even more.

CHI Geneva is one of the Majors in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, do you notice a difference in atmosphere / pressure?

Yes, the atmosphere is very special here – when you walk into the show you get a feeling straight away that’s different to most other shows, it’s a little bit intense, everyone is focused. The horses can also sense the extra pressure, when I rode the horses around the warmup arena, they were sharper and fresher. It must be the atmosphere at CHI.

Looking ahead to the Rolex Grand Prix, how are you preparing Explosion and the team for that?

We have to treat it as just another show, we don’t treat it any differently, although its one of the most amazing shows on the circuit and, of course, the Rolex Grand Slam is something that everyone wants to be a part of. The horses need to be happy; we need to ensure that they are taken care of, and are as happy and relaxed as can be.

What rewards does Explosion get when he wins?

He’s spoilt everyday – there’s no hiding it! All of the horses are quite spoilt, but Explosion begs a lot more, so he ends up getting a few more treats than the others. His favourite is always lots of carrots.

Sophie Mottu Morel (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) Sophie Mottu Morel (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Word from the organizer with:

Sophie Mottu Morel, CHI Geneva’s president

How do you keep innovating the show each year?

It’s not easy to have new ideas each year, but we listen to the partners and the sponsors, as they give us ideas. We also listen to the riders and the public, so that each year they have something new when they come to the CHI Geneva. So this year, we have the CHI TV close to the attraction arena, we have changed the lights of the show, so that it’s a bit darker in the halls, we have made the lighting and the music before a competition feel more exciting, and more like a show, to create a great atmosphere before the classes. We think about the horses in the stables, so they have something new, and are more comfortable. Next year, we will have more to reveal, as it will be the 60th edition, so we will create something completely different. This year, we have made lots of small adjustments to improve the show, so it is not that noticeable. We always keep in mind the feedback we receive at the end of the shows.

Have you found that the digital and social media aspects have changed / impacted how you promote the show?

This is extremely important for us, we have a big community and we want to communicate on social media, because this is how everybody does it now. Social media is a very quick way to reach your audience and the people you want to be in touch with immediately. This year we have a great Community manager, each year we want to improve, because we know that this is how the young generation communicates. However, we also think that the more traditional routes of communication, i.e. newspapers are very important too. We have a lot of different people in our audience, and we have to communicate to them all. Although we do put more into the social aspect each year, because it is the future.

What is your favourite thing to do at the show (if you have time)?

I love to watch the horses jump. I do not have much time throughout the show, going from meetings to meetings, talking with the partners, sponsors, the volunteers and the people. So, when I have time, I sit on a chair and watch the sport. If I have a chance to watch the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, this is fantastic for me, but the main highlight is the Rolex Grand Prix on the Sunday, because this is of course, the biggest class of the event.

What are the exciting events happening across the week? What can people expect to see?

There are a lot of exciting things people must see when coming to the show this week. Firstly, the Rolex Grand Prix, we have 40 of the best international riders competing, it is a beautiful class and the pinnacle of the show. The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final is also a highlight and a must see. For me, one of the greatest experiences is to just be in the arena, because the riders always give so much energy to the audience. We have three disciplines, so if it is possible to see all three, the best ones to go to would be the Rolex Grand Prix, the Cross Indoor and the World Cup driving.

How many people does it take to put on a prestigious event like this?

In the committee, we are 35 people, and we also have 700 volunteers, so it is a lot. For the arena, there are 150 volunteers, for the stables there are more than 100. We also have all our partners, the catering, the exhibitors, they are all part of the team because they create the show. We are very lucky to be able to have so many volunteers, as Geneva is a small city! But we have a lot of stables and farms around Geneva, so a lot of people love to ride and be around horses, as well as being a part of the show. It is incredible, but not hard to find volunteers for the show because they want to do something for the CHI. Normally, we have to refuse around 100 people, which is very unfortunate!

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