How does it feel to be the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender?
It is a real privilege to be the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender. It has always been a dream of mine and I have always looked up to the other riders who have achieved this. After my victory in the Rolex Grand Prix, I think it took a week or so to sink in that I am the Live Contender!
What are your goals, dreams and ambitions for 2022?
I would like to continue with the Rolex Grand Slam shows in Spruce Meadows and then Geneva. This was something that I had not originally planned for because, due to my previous world ranking, I would not have been able to get into these shows. However, now that I have a chance to compete these shows, I want to do my best and give everything to continue this momentum.
When did your love for show jumping start, and who has inspired you the most throughout your career?
I only started riding when I was 13 years old. Before this and growing up, I was more interested in other sports like soccer. However, I did grow up with horses because of my parents so there were always horses around and I decided to give it a go one day.
My love for show jumping developed quickly and one week after starting to ride, I decided that I wanted to become a professional show jumper. From that moment on, I was working and training hard every day to achieve this dream.
My dad was the person who inspired me most when I was young due to all his experience and success. My dream has always been to be as good as he was and still is, and maybe even be a bit better one day! I still really look up to him in terms of who he is and how much he works each and every day. Although he is not showing competitively anymore, he is still riding every day at home. His motivation and support for everything that I do is unbelievable and very inspiring.
Tell us a little bit about Ben 431… What’s his character like? How was he after CHIO Aachen?
I have to admit that Ben 431 is really over-motivated. Occasionally, it can be quite difficult to handle him and keep him calm but that is also a real positive thing because it means he is always fighting for you and trying to do his best at all times. He is tireless – for example, after three rounds at CHIO Aachen, he was not tired and would have been able to do another one or two rounds. After the victory at Aachen, he also understood that he had done something special. There were lots of media commitments and so he received lots of attention – even more than before. Now he is always looking out of his window for more attention so I think he feels like a bit of a superstar!
What treats does Ben 431 like when he is successful?
Apples from the trees at the stables!
Looking ahead to the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ next month; which horses will you compete with, and who have you selected for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?
I will be competing with Ben 431 and Blues d'Aveline, who was also competing at CHIO Aachen and was placed in Hamburg. Ben will definitely partner me in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex.
Is Ben 431 a good traveller on long journeys?
Until now, he flew once a year to Doha and was actually fine. It was very smooth and uncomplicated so there should be no problems getting him to Calgary.
Tell us a little bit about your current stable of horses and their personalities… Which of your young horses are you most excited about?
There are lots of exciting young horses but it is always hard to say who will make the transition into the bigger part of the sport most effectively. I would say that I am particularly excited about Amigo 1841, who is now nine years old. I really hope he will make the step to the next level.
How important is your team – your groom, your farrier, your coach, your vet, your owner?
My team is hugely important. It’s not just me and Ben. We are in the ring together for 80 seconds but there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes. The whole team play a key role in enabling us to have success in those 80 seconds in the ring. It is often that everyone only talks about the rider and the horse but there is so much more to it. All the others are just as or even more important. They are the true unsung heroes.
Gut Berl seems to be a real family operation – tell us a little bit about it…
Gut Berl is run by Hendrik Snoek, the former German show jumper, and we are all there working for him. While it is Hendrik’s place, it is very much a family business. We have a really good partnership and relationship which I am really happy about. Also, to have the chance to have these kind of horses and be able to go to shows like these now is great.
Hendrik is the owner of the stables and the owner of most of my horses. However, horses like Ben are owned 50:50 between Hendrik and my father. There are also a few other horses at the stables which have different owners.
What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?
Quite simply, the success is what keeps me motivated! It is important to have a goal. I absolutely love riding but I don’t know whether I could do it without the element of competition, the shows and something to work towards. Events like Aachen are what I work towards every day and the opportunity to compete there fuels my motivation. I am working as hard as ever to enjoy more moments like this.
Do initiatives like the Rolex Grand Slam make you even more motivated to win?
Of course. The Rolex Grand Slam is so traditional and unique. In our sport, there are so many shows each year and the Rolex Grand Slam is definitely a highlight as it consists of four of the best events. Everyone would love to be a winner at one of the Rolex Grand Slam events. It is viewed as a really important initiative among us riders and within the sport.
Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its very own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting Majors do you love to watch? Which is your favourite and why?
Unfortunately, I don’t have time to watch too many other sports but if I do, I really enjoy watching tennis. My favourite player is Roger Federer.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To always believe in yourself. This piece of advice is so important for your mentality – in particular, your mindset and how you think about everything. Equally, to always believe in your horses. Also, it is important to ride as many different horses as possible. That’s the best way of learning to ride, building experience and developing an understanding of the horses.