Exclusive interview with Rolex Grand Slam live contender
The CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is notoriously difficult to win – were you confident ahead of the class?
I have to say I was having a really good week with Darry Lou. He won the big class on Friday, so he felt like he was on good form which gave me confidence that he would be good on Sunday too. He is such a consistent horse, so although it’s always hard to win at The Masters, I thought I might have a good chance
How did this victory feel compared to your previous Grand Prix win 14-years-ago?
The first time I won the big Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows, the weather was really bad and there was controversy surrounding the Nations Cup the day before, so it was great that I ended that week on a good note. This year the weather was so good to us and I felt that the horse deserved a really big win, so it was exciting and certainly a moment I really remember for years to come.
How do you stay at the top of your game?
I think I’m very lucky that I have a great team behind me. From my husband, to the owners and the sponsors – they make my life so much easier. I’m able to work with some very good horses so it’s always exciting and inspiring for me. Obviously, a little financial backing helps as well. Some members of our staff have been with us for over 20 years, so we have an amazing team and that’s a constant support for me.
How has the sport evolved since you started competing professionally?
The breeding, the types of courses, and the universality of the sport have all changed massively. So many riders from all over the world are now riding with similar styles, the horses are lighter going than in the past, and the courses are more careful and technical. Because of the technicality of the sport, it takes longer to develop a top Grand Prix horse. Many years ago, you might see a 6-year-old in a Grand Prix, but those days are over. Also, the prize money has skyrocketed which makes the sport even more competitive and more commercial.
Could you talk about the time you needed to win prize money to fly home?
Well my husband had a sales business, so only one of the horses we had was owned by someone else. However, we were paying all the expenses on that horse and the others who we owned at least part of. So, when we took our first trip to Europe to compete, we had enough money to get there, but after that, we had to win enough money to get to the other shows and to get home-no pressure! Luckily, we were able to help our team win the Nations Cup in Rome and went on to win some classes at other shows. I think we went home with money to spare.
How has the travel of horses affected the sport?
The ability to fly horses all around the world has made it possible for many more countries to have top sport. When riders and horses were more confined to staying within their country or continent, they weren’t able to compete against each other. Now many more riders are exposed to top sport and able to raise their level of riding to compete at the top. When we are able to easily ship horses in and out of places like India and China, our sport will grow rapidly.
How has the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhanced the sport?
The Grand Slam is a great concept that certainly creates further excitement within our sport. It also has brought incredible prize money to the sport and encouraged other competitions to increase their prize money. I think the Grand Slam involves some of the best shows in the world, so every rider wants to win the Grand Prix at any single event of the series which makes it all the more special. The riders don’t just go to the shows because they have to in order to win the bonus, they go to the shows because they are special, and the possibility of a bonus is even more incentive.
Can you talk a bit about Darry Lou, his personality and what he’s like back home?
Darry Lou is a really special horse. He is very confident in himself, but at the same time, he is very sweet and always wants to please. I think he had a wonderful upbringing in Mexico, so it was an easy transition when we became partners. One thing he loves to do is roll. I don’t know if he likes the rolling or just likes to be dirty, but he is a professional roller.
How important is the role of owners in the sport?
The owners are a very important part of our sport. These days more than ever, we all need good financial backing to have the horses it takes to compete at a high level. Even buying young horses is more difficult than say 10 years ago. When we find one and develop it, then we need to be able to afford to keep it also. So even though I feel it still can be done without a huge budget on occasion, the owners who support us so loyally are essential to our success in the sport.
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I think it’s a little tough to break into this sport in some ways, but the sport is growing all the time which opens up more and more opportunities for people. I think it’s important for young people to always try to make a good impression on other people. You never know who your future employer or sponsor or partner might be. You can definitely help create your own opportunities.
What is your earliest riding memory?
When I was probably four or five years old my brother and I got ponies for Christmas and my mum had a small horse truck that was parked outside our house. So, on Christmas morning we met our new ponies and went for a ride. It was so exciting!
Is there a sportsman/woman outside riding that you admire?
It’s hard to say, but I am a Green Bay Packers football fan, so I would have to go with Aaron Rogers.
How will you be preparing for Geneva?
I have done three indoor shows in North America with my horses Coach and Garant to prepare for Geneva. Now they have a short break before they travel to Europe where they will do a 2* in Sentower Park as a warmup for Geneva. The plan is to bring both Garant and Coach to Geneva for the Rolex Top Ten Final and of course the Rolex Grand Prix.
Behind the stable door with...
Amy Devisser, groom to Beezie Madden
How did you get into grooming as a profession?
I went to Cazenovia college which is a college right up the road from the farm here. I did an internship year and never left! I’ve now been here for 26 years and it’s the only job I’ve ever had grooming and I still love it.
What do you think has kept you there for so long?
I think the Maddens are just really easy going and great people to work for. It’s been a really good fit for me and when you love something why change it?
How has your job changed and evolved along with the sport?
When I first started, we weren’t doing quite as much and we certainly weren’t as busy, but the sport has definitely got a lot bigger and there are now so many more competitions. Keeping up with all the events requires a lot of travelling so I have definitely had to travel a lot more than when I first started.
What is your proudest moment of your career so far?
Probably the most recent one would be when Beezie won the Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows, that was really exciting. I couldn’t really watch too much of the class as I was with the horse and when it came to watching Beezie, I was very nervous! It was pretty amazing when she won, we were doing a boot check and suddenly someone came around the corner jumping up and down and told us the news. We didn’t really do too much celebrating because we had to get back to work, however, the horse got lots of carrots and treats and we gave him a couple of days off in the field to have a break.
What are Beezie’s top horses like personality wise?
They all have their little personalities and the good thing is that none of them mind the crowd when performing. Back in the barn they are all pretty even-keeled I suppose. Coach is like a big dog that craves attention and wants to be on your lap all the time, Darry Lou is actually very good for a stallion but he is very vocal and again, Garant would sit on your lap if he could. They are all puppy dogs really and thank goodness for me they’re all amazing horses, I feel very lucky.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I quite like the travelling because you get to visit a lot of different places and see so much of the world.
What’s your least favourite part of the job?
The very long days and sometimes it is six or seven days a week which makes it hard to plan stuff with your family. I guess that’s just something that comes with the job.
What’s it like working for someone like Beezie?
She’s a great person with a good sense of humour, so it’s very enjoyable. At the same time, she is very quiet and down to earth, and doesn’t ever seem to get too stressed.
As a team, do you feel like there is extra pressure going into CHI Geneva as the live contender?
I think you feel pressure before any big competition because you always want to succeed and do well.
Do you think the introduction of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has enhanced the sport?
Yes, definitely. Mainly because I think it creates a bit more publicity around the sport and gives it that extra buzz.
After 26 years of being a groom, do you think grooms are now in the spotlight more than ever before?
I think there is still quite a lot of room to increase the recognition of the groom, but I do think organisations are doing a much better job, especially in the last 10 years. Even after winning a Grand Prix, there is a lot more recognition shown towards the groom which is great.
If you could swap careers for a day what would you do?
I would probably just be a bartender on the beach somewhere.
If you could describe Coach and Garant in three words, how would you describe them?
Garant is definitely quirky, has a lot of personality and is very handsome. Coach is very loveable, always happy and very handsome too.
How do you, Beezie and the team prepare for an event like CHI Geneva?
I don’t feel like too much changes from our daily routine to be honest. I think everyone is quite relaxed and down to earth but we still prepare exactly the same. The team always has a goal at the start of the year to make sure the horses peak at a certain time so the win in Spruce Meadows was a great bonus.
In your 26 years which horse has been your favourite to work with?
I would probably say current the current horses Coach, Darry Lou and Garant because they are all extremely fun to go to work with and I care about them a lot.
Which country has the highest winning percentage in Majors since 2013 ? 🐎🏆
Germans are in the lead with 8 wins, the most recent being Marcus Ehning winning CHI Geneva last December. The British are second, mainly thanks to the great performances of Scott Brash! The third place is taken by two nations: the United States and Belgium, both with three victories.
Full list by Countries:
8x GER - 29,62%
5x GBR - 18,51%
3x BEL - 11,11%
3x USA - 11,11%
2x SUI - 7,50%
1x CAN - 3,70%
1x BRA - 3,70%
1x EGY - 3,70%
1x SWE - 3,70%
1x FRA - 3,70%
Top 3 by victories
THE DUTCH MASTERS 2013 DAVID WILL
THE DUTCH MASTERS 2015 DANIEL DEUSSER
THE DUTCH MASTERS 2016 MARCUS EHNING
SPRUCE MEADOWS 'MASTERS' 2017 PHILIPP WEISHAUPT
CHI GENEVA 2018 MARCUS EHNING
CHIO AACHEN 2014 CHRISTIAN AHLMANN
CHIO AACHEN 2016 PHILIPP WEISHAUPT
CHIO AACHEN 2018 MARCUS EHNING
CHIO AACHEN 2013 NICK SKELTON
CHI GENEVA 2014 SCOTT BRASH
CHIO AACHEN 2015 SCOTT BRASH
CALGARY 2015 SCOTT BRASH
CALGARY 2016 SCOTT BRASH
SPRUCE MEADOWS MASTERS 2013 PIETER DEVOS
CHIO AACHEN 2017 GREGORY WATHELET
THE DUTCH MASTERS 2018 NIELS BRUYNSEELS
CHI GENEVA 2017 KENT FARRINGTON
CHIO AACHEN 2019 KENT FARRINGTON
SPRUCE MEADOWS 'MASTERS' 2019 BEEZIE MADDEN
This week, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has been catching up with the new generation in professional show jumping. Almost 40 year’s younger than some of their senior competitors, we took a look at how initiatives such as the Young Riders Academy and the introduction of U25 competitions at the Majors, gives young riders the opportunity to break into the senior world.
Words from Harry Charles
Young rising star of show jumping
When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in show jumping?
When I was about 14 years-old, I won a big pony class in England, which at the time was probably the biggest class you could win at 16 years of age and younger, so I won that and got such a good buzz of it and realized this is exactly what I want to pursue a career in.
Do you think if you hadn’t have competed at CHIO Aachen your career wouldn’t have progressed the way it has?
Realistically CHIO Aachen is one of the biggest shows in the world. There’s so much that sponsors and event organizers can do now, so if I hadn’t gone to Aachen as young as I was at the time, I don’t think I would have got the opportunities that I have now been given.
What other opportunities have you had since then?
I think the main thing is that it has helped me connect with important people and sponsors within the sport. I made a lot of great contacts and friends there so there were so many benefits from doing that and lots of opportunities have opened up since last year.
What do you think are the three most important attributes for being a professional show jumper?
The first one is patience, something which I must improve a bit. I think it’s important because of the injuries associated with the sport, especially the horses. You can get a really talented rider who might have to sit back for a few years because of a horse being injured or maybe not having enough experience yet. You must let the horse develop at its own pace.
Second one I think is that you have to be mentally strong, something I work very hard on. I think I’m quite lucky that I am naturally quite mentally strong, but I have had to develop a lot in this area. I remember I always used to get really annoyed when I started doing the big shows and my head would drop a bit if I hit a fence, but now having a bit more experience, you realise it’s not the end of the world. As long as you learn from your mistakes, that’s all that really matters.
I think the third one is good work ethic. When I’m off the horses I now do a lot of gym work and specific training. My father once said you can never stop improving and I think that’s such a great mindset to have in this sport because you are working with two athletes; you and the horse.
Can you talk about the 5* horses you currently have? What do you see for them in the future?
I think we have got a good group of horses; I think ABC Quantum Cruise is the best horse I have at the moment. I still think he is maybe a year or two off hitting his peak, so I don’t think I have got the best out of him yet, but he is very good and very consistent. We work with him every day to try and improve him, so hopefully you will see the best of him soon.
Who are your idols / which riders do you look up to?
For me it has always been Scott [Brash]. As well as great rider, he’s a really nice guy too so he is definitely my idol. We talk about everything actually and he is always willing to help me out and lend a hand. Especially when I started doing the big shows, he was always the first one who would come and sit with me at breakfast in the morning when I didn’t know anyone, which I really appreciated.
Do you get nervous competing against them?
Not really, it makes me hungrier to be honest and it makes me want to win more. I am pretty confident, and I like to think I actually thrive on pressure and it makes me ride better.
You are almost 40 year’s younger than some of top riders who are still competing – what are the tools you need to have such a long career?
I think you have got to have patience; you don’t want to push it all too quickly. If you play it right, it can be a long sport. You’ve got to take care of yourself. I always see riders in the gym. The sport has changed so much and the margins are so tight now, I think gym work has become more important than it ever used to be.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Definitely competing in the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen, that has always been the dream of mine since I was small and to be able to do it was incredible. I still have to pinch myself that I have done it to be honest with you. Sometimes when I am hacking with ABC Quantum Cruise at home, I look down and say to him, ”can you believe that we jumped the Rolex Grand Prix at Aachen”!
Now that you have tried competing in a Major, is the Rolex Grand Slam a long-term goal?
I would love to win at least one of the Rolex Majors and of course the Rolex Grand Slam, but by the time I’m 25 I would love to have won one and I think in five years its possible.
The Rolex Grand Slam Majors are promoting youth by organizing more and more U25 competitions, what is your point of view on this?
I think it is great, any chance for a young rider to jump in a top-level event like any of the Rolex shows is massively important and influential. Being among the top riders with a big crowd is just amazing, not only to inspire and motivate young riders, but also for their exposure. For example, when I was in Aachen, so many people contacted me, and I think I gained about 400 followers on my social media platforms each day I was there. Taking part in these events really does give you drive, and although you may only be able to jump two classes, it makes you even more motivated at the idea of jumping more later down the line.
If you weren’t a professional show jumper, what would you be?
I would love to be a pilot. I have a very big interest in aviation and I am actually doing my private pilot’s license.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
A piece of advice I was given was that when the horse knocks a pole down, 9/10 times it’s your fault even if you think it’s not your mistake.
Words from Jos Verlooy
European Championship Bronze Medallist
When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in show jumping?
I decided early, but I also loved playing football so I wasn’t sure which sport I wanted to pursue. As soon as I started winning some show jumping events at 14-years-old, I realised that show jumping was what I wanted to do.
What do you think are the three most important attributes for being a professional show jumper?
Work ethic is number one for me and I think it is the same in all sports. You have to work hard in order to achieve your goals and you have to be willing to learn. It is also very important to have good people behind you who you trust. Finally, a good relationship with your owners is so important because the role of the owners has evolved so much.
What impact has your owner had on your career?
I have a very good owner and I am very lucky that I could keep riding Igor because a lot of people wanted to buy him. Our sport is not just about riding, it’s about finding the right horses and the right partnerships and that is where the importance of the owners comes in, it really is a team effort.
How has your father (former Olympic show jumper and renowned horse dealer, Axel Verlooy) helped with you career?
My father has many years of experience in the sport, that was one of my advantages as an emerging rider. With Harry [Smolders] and my father next to me, they will always give me good advice and will tell me the good things and the bad things. They always give me direction, which is so important to be a successful rider. Although the sport is about falling and getting back up, it certainly helps when you have that support network.
You are almost 40 year’s younger than some of top riders who are still competing – what are the tools you need to have such a long career?
It’s hard to say, but definitely the most important thing is to have the right horse. Even if you’re 50 you can always learn and keep improving and I think if you have a good horse you can perform at the highest level whatever your age. I have a lot of respect for Ludger Beerbaum who has had an incredible year and always kept the right people behind him. It’s only until you’re in the sport that you realise how difficult it is to have the right horse, the right management and the right team, you need all pieces in the puzzle really.
What’s your point of view on sponsors trying to help youth riders?
I think our sport is doing a very good job now to give new opportunities to the younger generation and help them compete at the highest levels. I have never been in it, but I think the Rolex Young Riders Academy has done and, continues to do, a very good job of educating the riders. I know riders who did it and they learnt a lot about how to talk to owners as well as the management side of the sport. These concepts and innovations are very important and you can see already there are so many younger riders now which is a result of sponsors like Rolex helping to promote more under 25’s competitions, which also allows us to see younger riders in big competitions.
Can you talk about the FEI European Championships and winning a gold medal there?
I had a really good build up to the European Championships and I felt very confident and fresh. The first goal was of course to qualify in the team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which I achieved, and I guess the gold medal was just a bonus. Before the final I felt good and my horse still seemed to be very fresh and it all worked out well for us! It is great to win two medals at my age and it has definitely given me more confidence and increased my drive for the next championships.
Do you have any show jumping idols?
I look up to many riders and every rider is different. I think first of all Harrie Smolders, because he has always helped me since I started riding and I have a lot of respect for him. He is such a great guy who is always there to help me with anything. Most of the people that are now jumping with me are the people who I looked up to as a small kid on the sofa watching TV.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
I think the highlight of my career is definitely Rotterdam, to win two medals at such a young age is beyond what I dreamed of doing.
Words from Karen Polle
How did the Young Riders Academy help you achieve your goals and further your career?
I think it did a lot for my career. First of all, during the year that I lived in the Academy we had sessions where we would do a mixture of lectures and practical sessions. I found them so informative and you learn so much about the sport. The topics ranged from veterinary care to FEI ranking point systems, types of footing, horse management and the economic side of the sport. So, from an educational standpoint, it had a huge impact on me as a rider. It is especially important for me as I actually manage my own horses in conjunction with my owner. Beyond that, the people you meet throughout the academy are very important and helpful. Everyone is always willing to give help and guidance and it is such a great community to be in. The Academy really helps you to get into shows, especially when you are trying to break into that top-level of the sport.
What are the reasons for your early success?
I think probably the most important thing is not giving up. This sport is very difficult, you lose more than you win, and the horses have a mind of their own which you can’t control. So, it is all about perseverance. I take it very hard when it doesn’t go well and I really blame myself, but I have learned a real lesson to put my mistakes behind me and to focus on the next task at hand. I am still working on this, but it is so important to be able to do this if you want to make it to the top.
The Majors are investing in more U25 competitions, how important are these events?
I think they are great classes. They give young riders an opportunity to jump at nearly the highest level, but jumping against their peers rather than jumping against the top riders almost allows you to get your feet wet a bit. I think it is really good to get mileage and gain confidence at that top level, so it is a great thing for the sport.
Do you feel a responsibility to help grow the sport of show jumping in Asia?
I am really glad to see that the sport is growing in Asia. As a Japanese and Asian rider, I definitely feel a responsibility and want to play whatever part I can in expanding the sport. I think at least in Japan there is a big interest in horse racing, but not so much show jumping. I think the reason it’s not as popular yet is because it’s not quite as well-known, but I think once people learn how great show jumping is and how great the horses are, I do think it will become very popular. It is all about building awareness around the sport and I think with the Olympic Games coming up this is starting to happen which is great. The Japanese eventing team is very strong, both individually and as a team. Also, they are hosting an Asian Championship in Thailand in December for the first time and that involves a lot of investment and infrastructure so there definitely is a growing interest in the sport.
When did you decide you wanted to be a show jumper?
Probably when I was a junior. I competed in the US national jumper championships, and I went into it being a real under-dog. I had an amazing week and my horse was incredible and we ended up winning which was very special. After that I understood what it felt like to win and that’s when I knew I wanted to do show jumping. I thought to myself, if I work really hard, I could maybe achieve more. After that moment I just absolutely loved show jumping and it catapulted from there.
What are the three attributes that make a 5-star horse?
I think the biggest one is heart. Horses that have a big heart, who dig in and fight for you are always going to be the most successful. Secondly and quite obviously, the horse also has to have scope to be able to jump the jumps that we are faced with. Finally, I think the third is mentality and it’s a little bit broad but something that encompasses both the understanding element and the enjoyment factor. Horses must enjoy competing and be willing to learn which I think all comes under mentality.
How important is the role of the owners in show jumping?
It is so important. I have an owner from Japan who owns two of my top horses and I can’t thank him enough for his generosity because he has given me the opportunity to ride two world class 5-star horses and what that’s done for my career is incredible. I am very grateful.
If you weren’t a show jumper what would you be?
I would probably be doing something in business. I studied economics at school so definitely along that track.
What is the average age of the horses that won a #RolexGrandSlam Major (since its creation in 2013)?
The answer is precisely: 12.29 years old !
The youngest is LB Convall winning CHIO Aachen with Philipp Weishaupt at the age of 9!
The oldest are Silvana*HDC (with Kevin Staut, winner of The Dutch Masters in 2014), Ursula XII (winner of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2015) and more recently Prêt à Tout (winner of CHIO Aachen and CHI Geneva in 2018) winning at 15 years-old!
Statistics powered by JUMPFAX !
Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof; Kit Houghton
Beezie Madden becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender !
In contrast to Saturday’s BMO Nations’ Cup, which was bathed in warm early autumn sunshine, the International Ring was overcast and chilly for the final day of the 2019 CSIO Spruce Meadows 'Masters'. An unprecedented 48 horse and rider combinations contended the week’s showcase class, the CP 'International', presented by Rolex, for the enviable title of becoming a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major winner and securing a place in equestrian history.
Spruce Meadows’ veteran Venezuelan course designer, Leopoldo Palacios and his assistant, Peter Grant set the riders from 22 nations a typically tough set of challenges, with the first round consisting of 17 obstacles and the second round 14. Of the 48 starters, 12 riders progressed to the second round, including eight, who were faultless after round one.
But it was the current world number six-ranked rider, American Beezie Madden and her 11-year-old chestnut stallion, Darry Lou, who triumphed, adding just one time fault to her clear first round in a time of 66.94 seconds, and claimed her first Major as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Also clear in round one was Australian Rowan Willis and his 13-year-old chestnut mare, Blue Movie, who put one fence down in round two to finished in second place in a time of 65.93 seconds, while Austria’s Max Kühner and his 12-year-old grey stallion, Chardonnay 79 slotted into third with a total of five faults in a time of 66.78 seconds.
A delighted Beezie Madden, commented: “It feels amazing. This is such an amazing place, it’s just an honour to be here. Any win is fantastic, but I have to say, this one is pretty special.
“I kind of have a feeling that Darry Lou is the fans’ favourite because he’s so cute. The fans here are great. Obviously, they’re very loyal to their Canadian riders, but they appreciate great sport.
“Today, he [Darry Lou] was just about right. I thought I left him a little too fresh when I was warming up the other day, but I got away with it and he was great anyway. It’s nice when you have a plan and it actually works out that way. If anything goes wrong, it’s my fault because he does absolutely everything I ask him to do. He has a beautiful gallop and a beautiful jump, and his temperament is amazing. He’s careful and scopey, and he’s really a pleasure.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to go there [CHI Geneva] or not, but I guess this might seal the fact that I do want to go there. Winning this is amazing, and trying to win the Rolex Grand Slam, or even a portion of it would be amazing.”
Behind the microphone with:
What do you enjoy most about equestrian commentating, and what do you find is most rewarding?
Equestrian commentating is something I’ve been doing for quite a few years now. It’s got many highlights and sometimes it can be hard work, but you get to travel the world, and you get to socialise and meet a lot of very interesting people. You’re also lucky enough to experience places like Spruce Meadows, where you see the world’s best riders and horses compete at the very top level.
What are the highlights of your equestrian commentating career?
There have been so many highlights of my career so far. Spruce Meadows itself and this ‘Masters’ tournament is always a highlight – it hosts the biggest Grand Prix in the world and there’s CAD$3 million in the prize fund. Other highlights include the 2017 World Cup Jumping Final, which I commentated at in Omaha, Nebraska – for such a small town the atmosphere was electric.
Are there any sports commentators that you take inspiration from? Do you idolise anyone?
As far as commentators go, I’m a bit of a strange one, as I don’t really look towards other commentators for inspiration. I started my career at a very young age at stage school where I did some theatrical stuff. I then trained in radio and television, as well as riding all my life, so I very much combined the two. When I’m looking for inspiration or for people to get tips from, I’d look to television programmes like The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. In a way that gives me a little bit of a different edge, because I’m able to take elements from non-sporting events and weave that into my show jumping personality.
What makes an exceptional commentator?
Doing lots of preparation is key, as you need to know a lot about the riders, the horses and the sport. As well as being a commentator, I think you also need to be more of an entertainer that wants to inform those watching. There are a few commentators on the circuit who sound very much the same, even a little uninspiring. Although our sport is a minority sport, which is growing all the time, it’s incredibly exciting, and it’s my job to make it sound like it’s The X Factor.
What advice would you give to someone contemplating a career in sports commentating?
For someone considering a career in commentating, I’d say prepare, prepare, prepare. If you’re doing a one-hour broadcast, you should be doing approximately three hours of preparation. I’d also recommend trying to get as much different experience as you can. Starting off in radio, it taught me so much, as I used to sit in a studio for four hours a day, six days a week, and literally talk to myself! If something happens in the ring and I need to fill time, it’s not daunting to me, as I know how to talk. It’s also a good idea to watch as many different shows and other sports as possible, decide what you like and what you’re good at, and then form your own character.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever been given?
I think it goes back to preparation. If you don’t prepare, it’s so easy to sound bored or stale. You’ve also got to try and make sure you’re fresh all the time.
Which equestrian shows do you most enjoy commentating at, and why?
I’m extremely lucky, as I get to travel to a lot of the world’s best shows. There aren’t any shows I do these days just for the sake of it, or because they pay lots of money; every show I work at is ultimately because I enjoy it. Spruce Meadows is where I started my commentating career in North America. They advertised on Facebook, and I sent them a showreel of everything that I had done. This is my seventh year coming here, so it’s one of my most enjoyable shows.
As well as commentating at the top-level events, I also enjoy being part of the smaller shows at home in the UK, because it means so much to the riders, as they don’t get to hear that standard of commentary very often. I suppose it would mean more to them than it would to Kent Farrington or Steve Guerdat, for example.
What makes Spruce Meadows so special?
Spruce Meadows is incredibly special, and if you haven’t been here you should come and experience it. There are so many elements that make it magical. The rings are spectacular, the crowds Spruce Meadows attracts are electric, and everything is pristine. The thing I first noticed when I first came to Spruce Meadows was the attention to detail. Because it’s a family run venue and it’s so international, it attracts people from all over the world, not only to compete but also to watch.
You then have highlight classes such as the CAD$3 million CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, which is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Other highlights include the ATCO Electric Six Bar, and an evening’s entertainment with an orchestra and fireworks. You just wouldn’t see that at any other shows in the world.
What do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has done for the sport?
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping just keep growing. It attracts so many of the world’s top riders, who are all focussed winning one of the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors and going down in history. I was here when Scott Brash became the only rider to ever win the Rolex Grand Slam, and he still talks about it to this day. I don’t think it’s the financial incentive that drives riders, I think it’s that trophy and that title. So many other sports have got their own Grand Slams, and for show jumping to have its very own Grand Slam, it’s just transformed the sport.
Behind the stable door with:
Eric Lamaze's groom Kaytlyn Brown
Which horses has Eric brought to Spruce Meadows this year? Can you tell me a little bit about each of them?
Eric has brought Coco Bongo, Chacco Kid and Fine Lady 5. All three horses have very different personalities.
Coco Bongo is very easy going and nothing seems to really bother him. He’s very simple to take care of and has very low stress levels – I’d say he’s pretty cool. You can literally do anything with him – he’s so easy to have around all the time.
Chacco Kid is the sweetest thing I’ve ever met – I’ve never met a horse that understands humans like he does. He always wants someone’s attention and he always has something in his mouth – he will literally try to eat anything. When Eric is around his stress levels go up and he gets quite anxious because he always wants to please, and he knows that Eric expects a lot of him.
Fine Lady 5 is without doubt the most complicated out of the three. She’s the only mare that we have. She’s very sensitive and is bothered by everything, particularly music and anything loud – it drives her crazy. If it’s loud and she’s in the horse box, she’ll dig and roll around and generally cause a huge scene. She’s my absolute favourite, though and we’ll never have another one like her – she’s so willing to please all the time. When I look at her, I know I’ll never have another relationship with a horse quite like this one – she’s unbelievable.
How has your last year been? Any highlights?
After the 2018 CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, Eric had a long break, so things were a little slow. My absolute highlight was to see him back in the ring – it’s unbelievable what he can do. It wasn’t just a highlight for me, it was the highlight for all of the team. It was very difficult for all of us when he stopped showing. After everything that happened, to come here for the Summer Series and win two 5* classes back to back, we couldn’t have asked for any more than that.
Have any new horses joined Torrey Pines stable since the 2018 Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
We have a bit of a dealing stable and we always have a lot of horses coming and going. We have a few promising prospects at home, who we believe could do something, and Eric is hoping that they’ll be able to step up soon.
How much time do you spend travelling?
We’re only in Canada for five weeks of the year during the Summer Series. We’re then in Florida, USA from December through April, and the rest of the time we’re in Europe. It’s more exciting to be in Europe, as you’re at a new place every week, and in my opinion every European location is always beautiful.
Canada has qualified for Tokyo 2020; how are you and the team preparing for the Games next year?
We’re still a while away from Tokyo 2020 and it’s a long process, but we’re starting to discuss which of the horses we believe have the potential perform at the Games, and which types of classes we need them to jump to ensure they’re ready. We need to consider what time of the day we need to jump them, and if they need to jump more night classes, and we also must factor in the weather, as Tokyo could be very hot.
Eric and Fine Lady 5 finished seventh at last year’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex; can they improve on that this year?
I would like to think so, as Fine Lady 5 is in a good place right now. We all have high hopes for her, but I personally think she’s going to perform well. Not that last year was a bad result, but I think she and Eric can improve.
As a groom, do you feel added pressure coming to a Rolex Grand Slam Major?
Always. The week before the show starts, the stress levels at home are high. We’re doing absolutely everything we can to prepare to come here, as we know it’s a long hard week for Eric and the horses. The horses came from Europe, so they had to endure a long flight, and our aim is for them to be the best that they can be and on top form, as soon as they arrive here. For sure, it’s stressful – coming here for the ‘Masters’ isn’t the same as coming here for the Summer Series, as there’s a clear end goal at the end of this week.
Friday evening’s 1.60m TOURMALINE OIL Cup was contested by 28 horse and rider combinations in Spruce Meadows’ iconic International Ring, with a large majority struggling to master Venezuelan course designer, Leopoldo Palacios’s technical 16-fence challenge. Just six riders eventually went clear and progressed to the eight-obstacle jump-off, including Beezie Madden, Martin Fuchs, Mario Deslauriers, Max Kuhner, Daniel Bluman, and Kevin Staut.
Current world number six-ranked rider and two-time Olympic team jumping gold medalist, Beezie Madden and her extremely talented 11-year-old chestnut stallion, Darry Lou produced a magical performance in the jump-off going double clear in an unassailable time of 42.81s. The pair – a firm favourite with the animated Calgarian crowd – finished over two seconds ahead of second placed Austrian rider, Max Kühner and his 11-year-old stallion, Alfa Jordan, while the Swiss and current world number two-ranked rider, Martin Fuchs and his 10-year-old grey gelding, Silver Shine claimed third spot.
The educated Spruce Meadows crowd now look forward to Saturday’s BMO Nations’ Cup, which will be contested by 10 nations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden, and USA). Then, on Sunday, the highlight of the 2019 CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ will host some of the world’s best riders and horses, as they compete for the third Major, as part of this year’s Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex.
Walk the course with:
Are there any tricky parts to the course on Sunday?
The reality is I try to make most of the fences the same level of difficulty. The start will be big but not too tough. In the first round there will be a triple combination with the dry ditch, which I believe will be challenging for the competitors. I also have included a double vertical after the water jump, which will also be difficult. Then in the second round the double Liverpool could prove to be tricky.
I have heard there could be some rain on Sunday, but in my experience, during my 25 years of course building in Calgary, the forecast can change in five minutes. I know this ring perfectly, so if there is bad weather, I know where the good and the bad spots of the course are, so I can change it to make sure the fences are in the best places.
How many clears are you expecting?
No more than three and no less than one!
Which horse/rider combinations do you think the course will suit?
I think the course will suit the smaller athletic horses, and the bigger horses with lots of power. I’ve tried to give those two different types of horses an equal chance.
Who do you think will win the CP 'International', presented by Rolex?
This is very difficult. We have five of the world’s current top-10 ranked show jumpers competing in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday. It’s nearly impossible to predict which rider will win. Last year’s winner, Sameh El Dahan always performs well at Spruce Meadows, so maybe he has a chance. But this showground intimidates the horses and the riders, especially when the stands are full of people and the flags are flying. The horses really need experience, so those that have been here before and have performed well will stand a better chance.
How did you first get into course designing?
Originally, I was a national rider in Venezuela. I come from a riding family – my older and younger brothers rode and so did my father. It was, in fact, only my older brother, who was professional, and the rest of us were amateurs. But now, nobody in my family rides! However, the situation in Venezuela deteriorated, and because show jumping is an expensive sport, I decided to pursue a career in construction. I always loved design and creating things, so I guess you could say I’m a frustrated architect. I ended up building courses all over the world for free; however, I started doing too much and was losing money, so I knew I had to start charging for my expertise to make a living.
Then I started making a living out of course designing. I remember there was a year when I worked at 42 shows across the world, with only 10 weeks resting – I was living out of my bag. These days I’m still working at a lot of shows, but a large part of my job is also overseeing the designing and advising organising committees.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
A constant challenge for course designers is having enough material to work with. However, the material I and my assistants have at our disposal at Spruce Meadows is exceptional – plenty of fences and a wide variety of obstacles. Spruce Meadows has one of the most complete and diverse collections of jumping obstacles out of any show I’ve designed at, including fences from the Olympic Games, European Championships, and Pan American Games.
My challenge here at Spruce Meadows is to ensure that the course for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday is big and wide, and that it is the signature of the whole year. The challenges I face are made easier by the fantastic team of assistants I have around me. They have a lot of experience working with me and they know what I like, and the support the offer me is invaluable.
Rider interview with:
You grew up in Calgary. Presumably it’s a dream come true to be competing at Spruce Meadows?
To be part of the ‘Masters’ and to be one of the five representing Canada this week is a real honour. Calgary is my hometown and Spruce Meadows is my home show, so I’m grateful to be part of such a big week.
Have you ever contemplated a career away from equestrianism?
I think I’ve always thought about going into the family business, and that’s something I wouldn’t rule out in the future. I’ve worked there in the past doing terms in between the horse shows. But I think right now, my career with the horses is going so well that it’s hard to see outside of the next show and the next season, particularly with some of the goals I’m focussed on with the horses right now.
The atmosphere here is one of the best in the world; how does it feel to compete here in front of your home crowd?
It’s incredibly special. First off, there are many people in the crowd I know, including friends and family. But also, in Calgary, we have a very educated show jumping crowd. There are some people who have been coming to Spruce Meadows for decades and they really understand and appreciate the sport, so to have a great round in front of such a passionate crowd, it’s so much more special than competing in front of some empty stands.
Which horses are you competing with this week? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
I have two FEI (CSI 5*) horses with me this week, who are both 10-year-olds – my mare, Catinka, and a gelding called Valentino. I’ve had both horses for a little while now, Catinka since she was seven, and Valentino since the very start of his ninth year. They’re wonderful, very athletic horses, with incredibly big hearts.
Catinka is a real diva. You could fall out with her, if you were having a fight on the flat, but when you walk into the ring, she’s a lion. She’s not a big horse, but she jumps pure heart, and she’s got great technique. She’s an overachiever when you look at her stature, as she’s not very tall, but the feeling is like you’re riding a giant.
Valentino is so sweet. He has actually got quite a cheeky personality, but when you go into the ring he’s very loyal and talented, and has been an incredible second horse to have here this week.
What is your advice for someone who wants to become a professional rider?
If you’re looking at a career in equestrian sport, you really have to focus on how much you love the horses. This isn’t something for you, if you’re only attracted to the lifestyle or to the glitz and the glamour of being an athlete, as that’s not what it’s like. At the end of the day, you have to be passionate about horses, riding them and their wellbeing; that has to be the heart and soul of why you want to be a part of the sport because everything else eventually wears thin.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Keep your leg on!
Who is your biggest inspiration? Do you have a show jumping idol?
There are a couple of riders I’m incredibly in awe of. One is Beezie Madden, while another is Laura Kraut. I think they’re not only two of the best female riders in the world, but also two of the best riders in the world, hands down. They really demonstrate that you can be at the very top in this sport regardless of whatever background you come from. And I really appreciate the fact that we’re a sport, in which men and women compete equally. They are two of my role models, who really show women that you can be at the top.
What’s your goal for this year?
My goal for this year is to continue to put in really great results in the Grands Prix. I’d like to be representing Canada at the start of next year. If I can put in some big results in the 1.60m classes this week then I think that really demonstrates that I’ve got what it takes to be part of the team going forward in advance of an Olympic year.
How has the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhanced the sport?
To have the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping makes the sport even more of a showcase that gathers the attention of the crowd and the public.
What is your show jumping dream?
My show jumping dream is to be in the top 12 of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex here at Spruce Meadows.
Eric Lamaze wins the CANA Cup at the Spruce Meadows 'Masters'
Fifty horse and rider combinations took on Venezuelan course designer, Leopoldo Palacios’ 1.60m challenge in Thursday afternoon’s CANA Cup. Of those 50 partnerships, 14 eventually went clear and progressed to the jump-off, which consisted of eight obstacles. But it was Canadian favourite, Multiple Major winner and Olympic individual gold medallist Eric Lamaze and his 13-year-old gelding, Chacco Kid, who proved to be a class above the rest of the field, with the pair seemingly thrilled to claim the 2019 title. Australia’s Rowan Willis and Diablo VII finished in second place, while Frenchman Kevin Staut and Urhelia Lutterbach slotted into third.
On his winning performance, Lamaze commented: “You rarely win those classes going first in the jump-off. Chacco Kid today was quite fast. He doesn’t have the biggest stride, so when I ride forward to a distance he gets going and he jumped very carefully, so that was my advantage today.
“Chacco Kid is very careful. I sometimes have to worry about the back rail of the oxers because he is so careful that he’ll stand away from the front rail and can make an oxer be a little wider, but in general you can flat out run to a fence and feel that he’s got his eye right on it, and he’s taking care of you.
“This has been a special venue since I was much younger than I am now. I’ve had the greatest memory here at Spruce Meadows. One cannot get tired of hearing that noise going through that clock tower, and I think it brings the best in me, and it brings the best in everyone, because the last thing you want to do is disappoint the people cheering.”
Word from the organizer
Linda Southern-Heathcott, Spruce Meadow’s president and CEO
CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is regarded as one of the best equestrian events in the world, how do you keep innovating it to improve it each year?
Firstly, we pray for good weather! What has guarded us over the years are Spruce Meadows’ four stakeholders: our sponsors, our fans, our media and our athletes. While every year we consider all four stakeholders and their respective experiences, we would specifically focus on one or two stakeholders and try to improve their individual experience. This could be the fan experience, which would look at what other activities aside from the world class jumping we can introduce, or the athletes’ experience, which would mainly look at the prize money on offer but would also consider the footing and the stabling. This strategy has held us in very good stead over the years.
Since CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ has been part of the Rolex Grand Slam; in what ways have you seen the show develop?
Since we’ve been part of the Rolex Grand Slam, I see we’ve improved and honed our skills. We learn from the best venues around the world and improve our procedures. As an example, if a horse gets injured or an athlete gets hurt, we must determine the best procedures and protocols, and I believe those are really important details for us to contemplate and get right. You see that at the Kentucky Derby and at other big global sporting events. Being part of the Rolex Grand Slam has raised the bar for all of us.
The indoor tournaments have the luxury of not having to worry about the weather, and they have a grand entrance. At Spruce Meadows, our property is 500 acres, so we must ask ourselves how we make a grand entrance for our fanbase. We tweak it and try to come up with different ideas to make the experience better. But I think it’s been a wonderful learning curve for us, and it’s made us appreciate that we must never rest on our laurels.
We don’t just learn from horse sports, we also learn from the front-page sports, whether that’s NFL, CFL, tennis, golf or Formula 1. We ask ourselves how they are doing what they do, and what makes them the best, and what inspiration can we take from their events to improve our event.
What are the main challenges of putting on an event like CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
I look at show jumping, and, in some ways, I equate it to golf. Golf has the R&A, the foundation of the sport, which is based in the UK. However, much of the sport is, in fact, played out by the PGA in North America. Show jumping is largely centred in continental Europe, and in that regard Spruce Meadows is very much seen as a satellite venue. Geographically, we have a challenge because we need to charter a plane to transport the horses from Europe. Calgary has never been an easy place to get to, and you must travel long distances to get here.
The support of our sponsors and their prize money is integral to the success of Spruce Meadows. There must be a compelling reason for the athletes to want to come and compete here. When they do come, compared to other shows around the world, it’s very different for them because it’s a family-owned operation. It has a very cosy feeling, as the family welcomes everyone, and the family is extremely hands-on and involved. The logistics and the changes in travel has been one of our biggest challenges, particularly since 9/11, as homeland security is very difficult. The grooms are transient people, and you need 10 years’ history on them in order for them to get into Canada. Overall, the way the world is evolving, and various global changes are always throwing up new challenges for us.
What are you most proud of during your career working at Spruce Meadows?
The proudest moment of my career was to represent Canada at the Atlanta Games in 1996. For me, as an athlete, my biggest success was mentally overcoming the challenges at Spruce Meadows, and to be able to compete on home turf. That brought about a certain toughness for me, so internally that’s my biggest success.
The best advice I ever received was from my mother and my father. My father would say that you have successes and you have failures; you have one night to bleed about your failures, and one night to enjoy your success, and when the sun comes up you start all over again. The moral of that advice is to always soldier on. My mother always instilled in me that whatever I do I should always do it with grace.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love meeting the people. Towards the end of my father’s life, he didn’t take the time to just enjoy Spruce Meadows. I really think Spruce Meadows is a beautiful and tranquil place, and I walk around the grounds pretty much every day, and I just really enjoy this place. I’m amazed at what my team has created, and you can tell that they really enjoy their jobs, and that makes my role special.
CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is one of the four Majors – does that add to the pressure of putting on a world class event?
It always adds pressure because we want to excel at what we do, and we want to go further than the point that everyone thought we would reach and do a better job than what people expected. It means we must pay attention to the smallest detail and have precision in everything we do. But pressure is a good thing because it’s a motivator, and for that reason I don’t see it as a cross to bear, rather a challenge. The reality is, if we have full stands on Sunday then we’ve been successful.
Rider Interview with:
Sameh El Dahan
You won last year’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. Does that give you more pressure going into the Major on Sunday?
There’s always pressure in each Grand Prix you jump in, but the higher the stakes the higher the pressure. I personally like the pressure, especially when you have a horse like Suma's Zorro underneath you, as you know she’ll give her best every time, so that takes a bit of the pressure off. I’m very grateful for her that I can go into such big Grands Prix and not really have that pressure on, knowing I just have to do my job.
What are your expectations going into Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?
My expectations are always high, but in show jumping nothing is ever guaranteed. I love my job and I love my horse, so one thing is sure – we’re going to give our best shot in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday.
How has Suma's Zorro been since last year’s epic win in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?
We’ve had a bit of an up and down sort of year. Suma's Zorro didn’t really winter too well; she’s a mare that likes a bit of sun and a little bit of heat, so the winter was not so good for her. About a month ago she started hitting form again. She jumped well in the CHIO Aachen Grand Prix, and I’m really looking forward to Sunday, as I believe she’s hitting form at just the right time. I don’t want to jinx it, but I have a good feeling about Sunday!
Can you tell us a little bit about Suma's Zorro’s character?
She’s a stubborn mare and I refer to her as a stubborn red head – very fiery, and you always have to get on her good side, otherwise you have no chance. But I’ve now known her for eight years, so you could say she’s now like my best friend in that I know everything about her, and she knows everything about me. I know one thing for sure: I cannot go against her and I need to get her on my side. But she’s a fighter and she always demonstrates that fighting spirit for me, and I feel very fortunate for that.
Other than Suma's Zorro, which horses have you brought to Spruce Meadows?
I’ve brought a 10-year-old gelding called WKD Exotic, a stunning looking horse. I haven’t had him a long time, maybe just under a year, and I’m just trying to figure him out. He’s done some great things and I’m looking forward to working with him for the rest of the week.
What drives you and keeps you going?
I really love what I do, and I call myself lucky every day, because for me, horses give me an incentive to wake up every morning. Horses are like human beings and you need to treat them like individuals, which means that your mind is always working, and I like that. Figuring out what’s best for each individual horse is a real challenge. I have a fantastic relationship with my teammate, Joanne Sloan Allen. We bounce ideas off one another, and that keeps me motivated. I have a very competitive nature, so every class I compete in I try to win, but in show jumping you lose a lot more than you win, so when you do win you really appreciate it. A moment like Spruce Meadows last year is something I’ll never forget, and when I do go through dull moments, I think back to that win, which gets my spirits back up. Show jumping is a very interesting sport and very much a lifestyle, and that’s why I love it.
What do you love most about Spruce Meadows?
All the people who work here do everything with a lot of pride. From the organisers to the showground to the atmosphere and the crowds; when I come here, I feel as though I need to fight a little bit more to get a good result because everybody does everything with so much passion. I just love the place; I call it Disney for horses. Everything is there, including incredible stabling and so many grass fields. And the organisers have held on to their traditions through the generations, which nowadays is a hard thing to do, particularly with the modernisation of the sport. The organisers of Spruce Meadows have a vision, which they’ve stayed true to, so I have to say hats off to them.
If you weren’t a professional in equestrianism, what would you be doing?
I studied medicine so I guess I’d be a doctor!
For you, how has the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhanced the sport?
It’s enhanced the sport in every way. I just look at the start list at this show and I see the world’s best riders and horses. So much money has been injected into these Majors and their individual profiles have been amplified hugely; but for me, it’s not about the money or the material side, it’s much more about being part of the four biggest Majors in the world – Geneva, Aachen, Spruce Meadows and the Dutch Masters – which are all supported by Rolex. When you go to a Rolex Grand Prix, regardless of whether you’re jumping for €3 million, €1 million, or €500,000, you want to win it, even if there was no prize money at stake. If you win it, your name goes down in history, and sits alongside some of the biggest names in the sport, such as Nick Skelton, Eric Lamaze and Eddie Macken, and other riders of that world class standard. It’s a dream for every rider, and I feel so lucky that I, a young rider from Egypt, can stand here today and say that.
This September, international show jumping fans from around the world will turn their attention to the third Major in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Taking place between 4–8 September 2019, the Rocky Mountains of Calgary once again play host to the world’s leading riders and horses for seven days of intense competition and equestrian mastery. The event, which attracts 100,000 spectators to its grounds, has been regarded as one of the leading equestrian events in North America. Rolex has proudly been a supporter of the show since 1989.
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
The CP ‘International’ presented by Rolex will welcome the most established equestrian athletes from around the globe to compete for the sport’s most coveted prize. Looking ahead to the third Major of the year, there are some competitors who have consistently performed to the highest level and look to be strong contenders heading into the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’.
Rolex Grand Slam live contender and Rolex Testimonee Kent Farrington, claimed the top prize at CHIO Aachen this summer, beating seven horse-and-rider combinations in the final round aboard the supreme mare, Gazelle. 40,000 spectators filled CHIO Aachen’s main stadium to watch the unstoppable pair as they flew through the jump-off, producing a clear round in 43.98 seconds. Frequently named one of the fastest riders in the world, the US show jumper has proved time and time again that he is more than capable of taking home the top prize at the next Major.
Great Britain’s star show jumper and Rolex Testimonee, Scott Brash has also been on form this season. Great Britain was the winning team at the Nations Cup in Dublin, Ireland in August, which saw Brash achieve a foot-perfect double clear with Lady Harris’s and Lady Kirkham’s Hello Jefferson. As the only person to have ever won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, the Scottish-born rider has his eyes firmly set on another victory this year in Calgary
Rolex Testimonee and Swiss legend, Steve Guerdat has once again held his position as the World number one-ranked show jumper for the eighth consecutive month. Guerdat, aboard Venard de Cerisy, narrowly missed out on victory in the Grand Prix at the Nations Cup in Dublin, Ireland, finishing in sixth place. Having also finished in the top 10 in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen with Albfuehren's Bianca, the Swiss rider will be in a good position to secure his first Major title of 2019.
Previous Rolex Grand Slam live contender Henrik von Eckermann has shown vast promise and has unquestionably been a crowd favourite this season. The magnificent duo that is Henrik and Toveks Mary Lou completed a double clear for Sweden, the winning team at the Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup last month. There is no doubt that von Eckermann has high hopes of another Major win in 2019.
Rolex Grand Slam live contender interview
Can you talk through your emotions from CHIO Aachen and what has happened since you won?
Of course, the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen is the biggest Grand Prix in our sport and a competition every rider dreams about winning at some point in their career. To come back and win the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen after recovering from an injury last year has been a big confidence boost. I really feel like I am now back at my best and I think it’s been an emotional victory for me for a lot of reasons.
You’ve now won two Rolex Grand Slam Majors at CHI Geneva and CHIO Aachen. Do you think you can ultimately win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
Of course, I think I can. Whether or not it happens, who knows? But I am going to try my best and that’s where my focus is now. My mentality is very much to always focus on the next thing and the next task. When I finish something, my focus quickly moves to the next job at hand and right now that is the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. I am putting all my energy there and hopefully we can be on form and pull this off.
Now that you are the Rolex Grand Slam live contender, have you changed your training programme ahead of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
No, our training programme has very much stayed the same. I try to keep my programme with Gazelle the same in order to keep her confidence high. She is a very careful horse and in order for her to compete and be so successful in these big rounds, I need to focus on her being super confident before we attend the event. I will usually compete at small training shows, and jump smaller rounds leading up to an event like the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. The plan is to keep on doing what we’ve been doing and hope that is all comes together.
You’ve won quite a few times at the ‘Summer Series’ at Spruce Meadows but not the ‘Masters’. Do you feel as if there is added pressure now to win?
As I always say to everyone, I put a lot of pressure on myself. It wouldn’t be possible to put any more pressure on because I already put it there. I guess that’s both a good and a bad thing. I want to win as much as anybody, and I am incredibly hard on myself, so for me there is no added pressure. I always want to win and that will never change.
Gazelle is clearly such a talented horse. What is she like to ride in the big arena like CHIO Aachen?
Yes, she really is an exceptional horse. She is very careful and wasn’t always confident enough to clear the biggest of jumps, but she has a huge heart and works hard. She’s always been an incredibly smart horse and it’s amazing what a horse can achieve when you give them enough time and confidence.
You and Gazelle obviously have such a powerful relationship. Can you talk about how you develop such a partnership with your horses?
I think that’s really what the modern sport of show jumping is, a great partnership and a great bond between horse and rider. Most of the horses that I have are ones that I’ve produced since they were very young. I’ve had Gazelle since she was seven, so this partnership has been something we’ve been working on for years and years. In a way, it’s as if she’s grown up with me, starting off in small classes and building her up to her first Grand Prix. Gazelle knows me so well and I know her, and I think that’s what has created such a strong bond and is what it takes to win these kinds of events.
As you say, you’ve had Gazelle since she was a seven-year-old. When she was so young did you think she could win such prestigious events like the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen?
When I get these young horses, I always try to choose ones that I think can be competitive. If you believe in a horse and you are confident around them, they feed off that belief and confidence and amazing things can happen. Only time will tell, and I think that’s the beauty of the sport and the fun of the whole process.
Do you have any young horses who you’ve recently started riding that you think have the same potential to be future stars?
I have a quite a few young horses in the works and like I said it’s all about believing in them, so right now I believe they all have potential! I am a real optimist when it comes to young horses and I always try to see the best and their strengths. I hope that over time we are able to overcome any doubts or weaknesses, so at the moment I’m feeling really positive with the group of horses I have.
Can you talk about the role that the owners play in the sport? What is your relationship like with the owners and how influential have they been to you?
I think that as the modern-day sport of show jumping has increased in popularity with higher prize money and more visibility, this means that the horses have also gone up in value. That’s why, as riders it’s important for us to find people who are passionate about the sport and who support our dreams of competing at the highest level. I feel very fortunate that I have a great group of owners behind me, who are passionate and help me chase my dreams.
Each of the four Majors of the Rolex Grand Slam of Jumping have their own different personalities. Which Major stands out the most for you?
Today, I would have to say that CHIO Aachen is my favourite. I think I’ve probably said that before but after winning, it really does feel special to me. There is so much prestige and history behind the show and every rider would agree that it is an amazing Grand Prix to win on its own but to tie in with the other Majors is even more incredible!
Behind the stable door with:
Robin Parsky, co-owner of Kent Farrington’s Gazelle
How did you get into equestrian sport?
I was born and raised in California and I started riding when I was only about six years old. My father was involved with race horses and I wanted to be an equestrian. I was one of four children, but I was the only one who wanted to ride horses. There was a famous Oscar-winning Walt Disney documentary called The Horse with the Flying Tail, which was a story about a Palomino horse named Nautical, who won the team gold medal at the 1959 Pan American Games. It was an incredible story of how a horse from the American West became a United States Equestrian Team (USET) show jumping superstar. After watching that film, I told my parents that I would one day own a famous show jumping horse. I was so inspired by that story and from then on I just loved the sport. The first rider who I supported on the US Team was Anne Kursinski who grew up in the same town as me, Pasadena in California. I was very inspired by Anne.
How long have you been working with Kent Farrington for?
I first started working with Kent when I gave him my horse, Blue Angel, to ride in late 2012 and he worked with her up until the end of the 2016 season. He did exceptionally well with her and treated her beautifully. From then on, I decided I would be a supporter of his.
Do you have any young horses at the moment that you think might be a star in the future?
Yes, I do. I have a couple of young horses, one being a seven-year-old gelding named Heavenly. I thought that was a very suitable name as I already have an Angel! I also have a wonderful eight-year-old mare named Glamour Girl. These two horses are really promising, and we will just have to wait and see what the next steps will be for each of them.
Obviously, Gazelle is amazing in the arena but what is she like out of the ring and behind-the scenes?
Gazelle is very attuned to the people around her. We don’t expose her to many other horses, she can be quite a mare in that way! But she loves being around people and the attention she receives from everyone. Gazelle has such large ears and she’s so attentive, so she can usually hear me coming from a mile away and is always so excited to see me. She’s so easy to work with and because she’s been with us for such a long time, she knows everyone at Kent’s yard really well. She’s a little bit spoilt and knows she has the best stable in the yard!
How closely do you and Kent work together when it comes to Gazelle’s programme and routine?
When it comes to what shows she will attend and what her daily programme looks like, Kent makes all the decisions. Of course, we discuss these things but it’s up to him and he makes the plans and oversees her training. He is very much responsible for all those things, but he always consults me, and we discuss what we think is best for her. When it comes to travelling to competitions, I really haven’t missed a competition that she has been in for a very long time. I love travelling the world with her and I try and be there for every show.
Gazelle has won two of the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors, both an indoor and an outdoor Grand Prix. Do you think she can win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping one day?
I have great confidence in her, I really do. I think that if all the stars are aligned, then she is absolutely a top contender because she has proved to us time and time again that she can do this. For her and Kent to have done so many big classes together and to have worked together for so long is a huge advantage. Kent knows her so well and now when he sees a course, he knows exactly what he needs to ask from her. I really saw this happen for the first time in Aachen, when Gazelle and Kent entered the ring and made that incredibly difficult course look so easy. After that first round, I knew that she was going to win but we just had to be patient and get through the three rounds. In 2017, she won 15 5* events, 10 of which were Grands Prix, so I really do think she wants to win it all. All my life I have dreamed about having a horse as amazing as her.
Has the role of being an owner changed over the years since you started in the sport?
I am the Vice Chairman of the Jumping Owners Club and I think the role of the owner definitely has changed because of how many more team and individual competitions there are today. In the past, when I first started in the equestrian world, Americans did not come to Europe to compete unless they were on a team. So, when it comes to purchasing horses for individual riders rather than teams, the role for an owner has changed. If you want a rider to be able to have access to the best shows, you must provide multiple horses who can compete against the best horses and riders in the world. I have learned so much from being part of the FEI Jumping Owners Club and being around other professional owners. We have a huge responsibility, which is to assist both our riders and our horses achieve their goals.
The offspring of which breeding stallion have competed the most in the last four Majors (from Spruce Meadows 2018 to CHIO Aachen 2019)? 🐎
8 - Chacco-Blue : Explosion W (2x), Chaqui Z, Calisto Blue, Chacna, Blue Movie, VDL Groep Miss Untouchable, Delvaux
6 - Quidam de Revel : Verdi TN (3x), Quel Homme de Hus, Sterrehof’s Calimero (2x)
5 - Balou du Rouet : Babalou 41, Albfuehren's Bianca (3x), Saura de Fondcombe,
5 - Cornet Obolensky : Cornet Kalua, Cornado NRW, Balou du Reventon, Clooney 51 (2x)
5 - Toulon : Vancouver de Lanlore (2x), Iq Van Het Steentje, DM Jacqmotte, Jumpy Van De Hermitage
Statistics powered by JUMPFAX !
#jumpintohistory #becomealegend #itstime #jumpfax #showjumping #horse #equestrian #wednesdaystats
Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof ; Tiffany Van Halle
Kent Farrington and Gazelle leap into history in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen
The sun shone down on the impressive CHIO Aachen arena for the pinnacle of the event, the Rolex Grand Prix. With seven horse and rider combinations through to the jump-off, the world’s best battled it out, but it was USA’s Kent Farrington who claimed the top prize aboard the speedy mare, Gazelle, in 43.98 seconds. In a nail-biting finish that went down to the wire as last-to-go Germany’s Daniel Deusser, looked close to beating Farrington’s time, but despite an electrifying clear round, finished just 0.37 seconds behind the American and had to settle for second place.
You have always said you wanted to win here, how does it feel now you have finally done it?
Every rider wants to win here. I have been riding out of that ring all week, looking at that winner’s wall and imagining my name on there, so I am so happy to come out with a win finally. I still can’t believe it’s real! CHIO Aachen is one of the most prestigious events in the world, I just feel so proud to win here.
Can you tell us how the course was to ride?
I think it is typical of an Aachen course. You have best of the best here, so every test you have out there on the course is difficult. Gazelle has the ability, scope and carefulness, and that was tested over the two rounds. I think that’s why you see so many faults throughout the class as every part of it is a test and so there is no easy part.
Will you be carrying on your Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?
Absolutely! I will be there! The Rolex Grand Slam is great for the sport and I am excited to be a part of it again.
What was going through your mind entering the jump-off when there had been no clears? Did it change your strategy?
I have been so close in this class before. The last time I was in the jump-off I was the fastest but I had one pole down, so today I really wanted to go one better! I thought if I go clear it will put enough pressure on, so I had a different strategy and it paid off today.
What is Gazelle’s temperament like?
She has become a real professional in this sport. She knows the prize giving, she knows when she’s performing, she knows everything! She hasn’t always been that way, but now she is a real pro.
Rider Interview with Beezie Madden
CHIO Aachen seems to attract a lot of American riders, what makes it such a special show for the US Team?
I think everything, the atmosphere here, the crowds, the infrastructure for us and the horses, the tradition and the prize money, they have everything to make it special.
It’s a huge arena, what’s it like to ride in?
For me, it’s a lot of fun, I love big fields, my horse Darry Lou, loves big fields so I feel really at home here.
The US Jumping team for the Nations Cup team was heavily dominated by women, it seems that in the US the sport is dominated by women, but less so in Europe. Can you talk about your thoughts on this?
When you grow up in the States, the little girls love to ride, and the boys are off doing other sports all the time. So as a young kid, growing up it was really girls who were riding, not boys. Once we got to international level its equal in the US.
Travelling across from the States is a big task, does it effect the performance of the horses? How do you cope with the travel?
It depends on the horse, most horses are fine with it. We try to plan it that they don’t arrive and then compete in the following couple of days. My horses came from Spruce Meadows, it takes a week for them to travel, recover from the trip and then get ready to compete again.
You’ve had a long and successful career, what has kept you at the top for such a long time?
I think, number one you need to have the passion for it, the love of the horses and the competition. I also have a fantastic team behind me, from the people that work in the stables, to my husband John who runs everything, and I have a great owner.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A previous British Chef d’Équipe told me once, "to go in there and enjoy yourself". We asked him to explain this, and he said "if you go in there and enjoy yourself, you allow yourself to be the best you can be and ride the best you can ride", so I thought that was great advice.
Do you still get nervous?
Not too nervous, I haven’t ever suffered badly from nerves. But I’d be lying if I said I never got nervous. Once I’m on the horse, I feel pretty good.
Behind the camera lense with: Ashley Neuhof
What attributes does it take to be a professional photographer in Equestrian sport?
With any good sports photography, I think one of the most important things is to be able to anticipate moments. When you are dealing with an atmosphere as big as Aachen, I think it’s even more vital because you are not only trying to capture the sporting action, you are trying to capture the crowds and the atmosphere. You always have to be three or four steps ahead of the action – sometimes you’re there, sometimes you’re not, but I always try and make sure I can easily get from one place to the next to photograph the event in as many different ways as possible.
What is CHIO Aachen like to photograph?
There are very few words I can think of to describe Aachen, it’s just magical. There is no other place in the world that captures this level of the sport. It has such an educated crowd that knows the sport and as a photographer that’s really special because you feel all of the energy behind you. Everywhere you look there are crowds, there’s cheering, there is so much emotion and that’s what really drives me as a photographer – it’s a real adrenaline rush and the moments here are like no where else in the world.
Do you feel extra pressure when photographing a Rolex Grand Prix at one of the four Rolex Majors?
Absolutely, the Rolex Grands Prix always give me the biggest adrenaline rush. It is nerve racking as you only get one shot, the moments don’t happen the same way twice. There is that one split second where you get that fist pump, the reaction of the crowd or the emotion from the team behind the horse, so you can’t miss it!
Which is your favourite horse and rider combination to photograph?
That’s a tough question! The horse and rider combinations that I really love to photograph are the ones where you can really tell that there is a truly special relationship between them. I think all riders who compete at this level have a huge respect and understanding of their horses and I really love to photograph that.
Home win for Germany’s Daniel Deusser in the RWE Preis von Nordrhein-Westfalen!
It was all smiles for the home crowd at CHIO Aachen as Germany’s Daniel Deusser was crowned winner of the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia aboard his bay mare Killer Queen VDM. The course set by Frank Rothenberger asked tough questions for the 42 starters in the first round with just 11 reaching the jump-off to battle it out for the top spot. Early clear rounds put the pressure on the later starters with the leader board changing frequently as the competition remained wide open. Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts rode a speedy clear in the time of 45.79 seconds but Deusser produced a thrilling display of skill to shave over a second off Philippaerts time (44.65 seconds) and much to the delight of the patriotic spectators held the lead to take the victory.
What’s it like to win in front of such a big home crowd?
It’s always such a special feeling to win here at Aachen. When the home crowd gets behind you, you can really feel them, and the atmosphere is incredible. You always want to perform well, you always want to jump clear but when 40,000 people are behind you and cheering you on, it creates the most incredible atmosphere and it does influence your riding.
Is Killer Queen VDM a star for the future?
Absolutely, I really think this horse can compete at the highest level. I said last year, that I thought she was a horse with lots of potential and I am really happy with her performance today.
The water jump seemed to cause a few problems today, what were your thoughts on it?
It is very difficult to explain; it is the same water jump we jumped yesterday but in the other direction. Even my horse who is normally very good over the water, jumped it much higher today than she usually would. It is hard to say, perhaps because of the grass as maybe we spend more time in sand arenas. The water jump itself was not too big or hard but for some reason the horses jumped it worse today than yesterday. Also, I saw a few horses jump it badly, which then gave me some mixed feelings on how I should jump it, and maybe meant we didn’t ride with the same confidence and enthusiasm we would normally.
You have qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix on three horses, which one will you ride on Sunday?
I will be riding Tobago Z on Sunday.
Behind the stable door with: Martin Fuchs' groom, Sean Vard
Can you tell us about the horses you have here this week?
This week we have Clooney for the Rolex Grand Prix, and then we have a new youngster and two more horses Chica BZ and Silver Shine. They are both going to do a big class each, Clooney will do the Rolex Grand Prix and then the youngsters will hopefully win their classes.
Clooney 51 is obviously very popular among fans; can you talk about what makes him such a wonderful horse?
It’s hard to explain unless you know him, but Clooney is mentally so quick, he’s very intelligent. He’s special, he’s one of a kind. I think he is the most intelligent horse in the world, he knows when the pressure is on. He’s had his difficulties in the past, but since he came back from surgery last year, he seems completely on it. He’s reliable, he’s a great horse, mentally so strong. He is not built to be a show jumper, but he does his best to be one, and the results speak for themselves.
What’s he like in the stable?
He’s hilarious. This week he has been particularly funny, he’s always looking for attention, always. If you are busy with another horse, you can see that he is always watching from the corner. He can be a bit difficult sometimes, with a high atmosphere, and when there are lots of people watching he can be a little spooky, but most of the time he is nice to handle and easy to work with. Once you have a pocket full of candies, you survive.
What’s Martin like to work for?
Martin is super, I’ve been working for him for three years now, I know his system. We keep everything very simple, once everything’s simple, he’s happy. Now, he trusts me, I do my own thing and it normally meets his standards – we work well together.
From a groom’s perspective, what makes Aachen so special?
From the moment you drive in the gate you just feel motivated to do better in every aspect of the job. From the warm-up, to the shopping, to the stables there is a really special vibe here. The atmosphere in the ring is so special too, it’s a different level.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Getting good results is amazing, but I think seeing a young horse progress is one of my favourite parts. We have Chica BZ here this week, she was a youngster two years ago and this year she is jumping the 5*. Seeing the young horses come up the ranks and watching them perform at the highest level is the most positive part of it.
Rider interview with: Kent Farrington
How important are the physical and mental preparations for you to be a top show jumping athlete?
I think being a top-level show jumper, or any athlete, is a combination of all factors. Mentally being prepared, physically being prepared, and in our sport, you have the added element of the horse also being mentally and physically prepared for the event. So, I try to have those in order, and then hopefully we can have peak performance on Sunday.
Being a rider based in America, how much preparation and organization of your horses and your team does the travel over to Europe entail?
Living in America, it takes a lot of organisation. I have a big team behind me that makes this all possible, so I’m very grateful for that. Obviously flying over and having the horses here, creates a scheduling issue. I have to have the horses here early enough that they can leg up for a big event.
The arena here in Aachen is one of the biggest in the world, what is it like to ride in?
I think this is the best arena to ride in, but I think you have to have the right horse for the occasion. A lot of horses are really intimidated here, so it helps to come with a brave horse and a horse that has experience.
Yesterday, the class was quite big and presented some tough questions, can we expect the same on Sunday?
The same and more, I think that’s what you expect when you come to Aachen, this is the best of the best, competing for the biggest prize in our sport. I think that we will see everyone put to the full test.
Explosive start for Ben Maher at CHIO Aachen!
The first Rolex Grand Prix qualifier, the Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe, provided thrilling entertainment for the packed crowds at CHIO Aachen. The nail-biting jump-off saw Great Britain’s Ben Maher take the top prize following a tightly fought contest, with Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and Daniel Deusser finishing in second and third place respectively.
With eleven horse and rider combinations reaching the jump-off it was Dutch rider, Marc Houtzager, who put the pressure on his fellow competitors with a careful round in 50.13 seconds to secure the first clear on the scoreboard. But, much to the delight of the home-crowd, Germany’s Daniel Deusser showed off his enviable skill to shave nearly three-seconds off Houtzager’s time and with an eruption from the patriotic spectators he took the lead. His position was not held for long, with Great Britain’s Ben Maher and the notoriously fast chestnut gelding, Explosion W, producing an electrifying round finishing in 46.28 seconds, a time that proved too difficult to beat.
Explosion looks to be in amazing form, how did he feel during this first class?
It is his first time in Aachen, he hasn’t seen many arenas like this in his life yet but when you put the tack on and you get on this horse, he makes you believe you can do anything. He makes my life and my job much easier than most!
There seemed to be few problems at the water, was that an issue for Explosion at all?
It wasn’t an issue for him, but it was an issue for me! I actually made a mistake, I made eight strides in the first round instead of nine. I had a kick in the head this morning from a fall, so maybe I can’t count anymore! But he made up for my small mistake and that’s the difference between an incredible horse like him and some of the other horses I have had.
It appeared to be quite a difficult course for the first 5* class at CHIO Aachen, what were your thoughts on this?
I agree, it was a difficult first class, but it creates good sport for the spectators to watch when they see a little drama like this in the competition. It was a big course and, judging it on this, we now know what might be coming on Sunday for the Rolex Grand Prix.
CHIO Aachen is renowned as one of the best equestrian events in the world, how does it feel to win a class here?
Winning never gets old, I am very competitive! I think the difference with winning here is the size of the arena and the number of fans that are watching, we don’t have that in our sport normally. I think that’s what makes it even more special, to ride into this ring that has so much history and so many people following it, that’s why every rider wants to win here.
Interview with Rolex Grand Slam live contender Henrik von Eckermann
How have your preparations been coming into CHIO Aachen?
I have been really focused on training my horse (TOVEKS Mary Lou) over the water jump, it is the only thing that she can sometimes be a little bit tense on. So, we have been practicing that lots to prepare for coming here. Her jumping is great, and she has been on fantastic form so it has really only been the water that we have been concentrating on.
How does Mary Lou react to the atmosphere at CHIO Aachen?
I have to say, yesterday she jumped fantastically in the 1m45 so that’s good. You never really know how horses are going to be. One horse might love being in a big arena like this, which would make it the best arena in the world to ride in, but another horse might be slightly shyer and find it intimidating, which makes it not so good. Mary Lou enjoyed it yesterday and she was feeling good, so I am looking forward to the week ahead.
Have you felt extra pressure being the Rolex Grand Slam live contender?
Not really, I feel pressure at every show to be honest. You only have a few big shows a year with the horses and Mary Lou is such a fantastic horse, I always want to perform well for her. I always want her to do well at every show we compete at, otherwise I feel like it’s a waste. Of course, here at Aachen, there is always increased pressure as it is the Rolex Grand Prix that every rider wants to win.
Walk the course with course designer Frank Rothenberger
How is the course looking for Sunday? Are there any particularly difficult bits?
The course on Sunday I don’t know. We have two rounds and the jump-off. It’s up to 1m70 and we will have two or three jumps at 1m70 and the double of Liverpools. It will be one of the toughest courses of the year here on Sunday.
How many clears are you hoping for?
I think we should end up with three or four riders in the jump-off, that would be the perfect result. But you never know – it’s show jumping.
Are there any particular horse and rider combinations you think the course might be suited to?
It will be a classical course, flowing and this arena is very difficult because we have 40,000/50,000 people watching. I must go to every corner with jumps because everyone in the audience wants to see a horse up close in front of them. It will not be a little, tiny, technical course. It will be a long classical course. Of course with distances, water jumps, ditches, triple combinations and double combinations.
Do you think the atmosphere affects how the horses perform?
I think the horses during the Rolex Grand Prix – they know this type of atmosphere and they know this type of place very well. The horses won’t be surprised by the spectators and music. They are professionals, just like the riders are.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Weeks in advance we design the course for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday. It’s always interesting to see the result and this is the beauty and the thrill for me, because you never know the result. Anything can happen. We work with horses, we have no motors, no machines.
Who is your money on for Sunday?
I don’t know – 70% of the 40 starting riders could win the class and I cross my fingers for the best combination on the day.
How did you get into horse riding?
I was born on a farm and my whole family rides. I grew up constantly being around horses, so for me there was no other path and I never wanted to do anything else. I think I started riding when I was three or four-years-old and could almost ride before I could even walk!
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
An amazing moment in my career so far was in 2017, when I won a silver medal in the individual class at the FEI European Championship for Young Riders, Juniors, Children. It was my first year competing at the Young Rider Championships and my horse was just eight-years-old. I don’t think anybody expected us to do so well!
What are you most looking forward to about competing at CHIO Aachen?
I competed at CHIO Aachen last year, so I know the feeling you get when riding into the arena. The atmosphere is amazing, you really can’t describe it. To be around and watch the 5* riders who attend is both inspiring and motivating. Seeing how they prepare for this show and compete is a huge learning experience for young riders like myself. For me, Aachen is the best show in the world and I think everyone involved feels like there is something special about this show. I am so excited to compete there once again!
Which horses are you taking? Can you tell us a bit about them?
I am taking Light Star, a 10-year-old stallion by Light On. I also rode him last year and he’s my best horse at the moment. I know that he is always happy to compete at Aachen and he jumped amazingly last year. He always makes me feel confident when we enter the arena.
What are your thoughts on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
To be able to compete in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is every rider’s dream, and to able you win it would make you the happiest person on earth!
What is the one competition you want to win the most?
I think it would have to be the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. Once you’ve won, no one will forget you as a rider. It’s the most special and prestigious competition.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
I don’t really have one thing or one person who is my inspiration. I think it’s the team work between the horse and rider that inspires me the most. You and the horse are never perfect, but you are continuously learning from one another. I always want to be the best I can be, and I always love learning new things from my horses, as well.
Which riders do you idolise the most?
My father (René Tebbel), because he is the best trainer and rider in my eyes. He rode at both the Olympics and at the FEI World Equestrian Games™. He is such an inspiring trainer and rider and I try to learn as much from him as I can. The end goal is to be as good a rider as he is!
How much fitness do you have to do to be in peak condition?
Recently I have had to train a lot more due to my back injury. I couldn’t do anything for six weeks but now I am back to riding and training every day. I am also working with a physio two or three times a week, which is important for my recovery.
What does your daily routine look like?
My daily routine changes and I don’t really have one thing that I do every single day. The most important thing to me is that my horse is perfectly prepared. When I’m at a show, I like to watch old videos of me riding to see what I did well and what needs improving. Watching past competitions helps me feel more confident before entering the arena.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
To never give up has been important advice for me, especially recently. When you are at the bottom, there is always something to get you back on top. You can never be perfect, but you can always learn and do better. To me, that’s the most important thing to remember.
Rolex Grand Slam & Young Riders
An integral part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is to target the fostering and development of young talent. Two young, exceptionally gifted riders from a young Riders Academy are invited to each of the four Rolex Grand Slam shows, where they gain invaluable experience at the very pinnacle of equestrian sport.
Three out of the four Majors, which make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping are staunch advocates of developing young, aspiring equestrian athletes. A national young riders class – the German U25 Trophy of the Stiftung Deutscher Spitzenpferdesport, Prize of Family Müter – features on CHIO Aachen’s competition programme each year; as part of its Summer Series, CSIO Spruce Meadows hosts the Alberta Power U25 Challenge, which consists of multiple U25 competitions; while a CSI U25 competition will be staged for the first time at this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva.
Which horses has the team entered to take part in CHIO Aachen 2019?
This year we have entered Toveks Mary Lou and Forever. Henrik will also be bringing Janika Sprunger’s youngster, Little Magic d’Asschaut. We are thrilled to be returning to Germany for CHIO Aachen!
In your eyes, what makes CHIO Aachen such a special event?
The entirety of the show is incredible. Henrik has always said that the feeling the riders get when they enter that ring is like no other. I think there is something very special about being at Aachen, and every rider and every groom wants to attend. The show is always very busy and is a lot of hard work but it’s always worth it.
Does the team feel extra pressure now that Henrik is the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender?
Yes, of course. The pressure is there but we are all very excited to see him continue his Rolex Grand Slam journey and see how this season will end. Henrik also definitely feels the extra pressure; you can really sense it around the stables now that Aachen is around the corner.
How have you been preparing the horses for the competition?
We try to keep the horses’ schedules as normal and regular as we can. We want them to be as fit as possible, so Henrik rides each of the horses every day and then in the afternoons they go hacking for a few hours. The most important thing is that we keep the horses safe and happy. They absolutely love hacking out in the forest and riding in big open spaces, it keeps them very calm and relaxed.
What is your daily routine at Henrik’s yard?
We start each day at 6.30am by cleaning the stables and riding then begins at 8.00am. Each horse is ridden twice, once in the morning and then a hack in the afternoon. The horses then go to field for the rest of the day. Right now, Henrik is riding each horse every day leading up to Aachen.
Why did you decide to become a groom?
I’ve always loved horses and I really do love the sport. I think you really need to love the sport to be in this job, it’s a huge responsibility and it’s really my whole life. Four and half years ago I started working for Henrik and I am still here. Henrik is the best to work for and he really cares about the horses – he would do anything to keep them safe and happy, which makes our job a lot easier!
Do you get nervous watching Henrik in the ring?
Oh yes, of course. Sometimes I can’t even watch him during a jump-off because I am so anxious! We were so nervous at The Dutch Masters when Henrik finished his second round. We wanted to be excited and were very happy with how Mary Lou jumped, but there were still a few people behind Henrik and we were all just praying that he wouldn’t come second once again in a Rolex Major [von Eckermann and Toveks Mary Lou finished in second place behind Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva 2017].
What is Mary Lou like in the stable?
She loves to be around people! She is always the first horse to come out of the yard in the morning and if you’re late she gets very restless and will make sure you know about it! She knows that she is one of the best horses in the stable and she’s also a bit spoilt! But she deserves special treatment, she is such an incredible horse.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Without doubt being around the horses. When you see them succeeding and progressing, it is the most rewarding feeling in the world and I just love being a part of it all.
If you could have worked with any past legendary horse which one would you choose?
I would have to say Steve Guerdat’s mare, Albführen’s Bianca – she’s so lovely and seems to be really stealing the show right now!
What’s the best advice you could give to someone wanting a career as a groom?
You really need to love the horses and the sport – it’s a huge commitment and you need to be ready to dedicate everything. It takes a lot, but it gives even more and if you are ready for that then you’ll be great!
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
From 12-21 July 2019, visitors from all over the world will once again travel to Germany to witness one of the most prestigious equestrian events of the year, CHIO Aachen. The nine-day event will play host to the second Major of the year, the Rolex Grand Prix, in which the world’s top equestrian athletes will go head-to-head, as they each contend for the highly sought-after victory.
The world’s greatest horse-and-rider combinations will be vying for one of show jumping’s most prestigious titles, the Rolex Grand Prix. With many of the world’s top 20-ranked riders set to compete, the field looks wide open; however, following strong recent performances on the outdoor circuit, there are notable partnerships that could claim the Rolex Major win:
Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and his impressive Toveks Mary Lou have demonstrated outstanding consistency, having recently won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show. The infamously quick duo flew through a faultless jump-off, defeating 15 of the world’s top 20-ranked riders. With the outdoor show jumping season well and truly underway, von Eckermann shows no sign of decelerating and has high hopes of continuing his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey.
Daniel Bluman made history at CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena, becoming Israel’s first ever rider to claim victory at this prestigious event, after winning the Rolex Grand Prix. The complicated course saw only four of the 44 combinations go clear in the first round, with Bluman and his 11-year-old gelding, Ladriano Z proving unbeatable after going clear in the jump-off. The 29-year-old rider has his sights set on his next victory and will pull out all the stops to secure his first Rolex Major title.
Rolex Testimonee and show jumping hero, Eric Lamaze has displayed remarkable determination this season. Lamaze won the PwC Cup at last month’s ‘National’ CSI5* presented by Rolex at Spruce Meadows, in which he and his mare, Fine Lady 5 won an electrifying jump-off. Just two days prior, Lamaze won the RBC Grand Prix of Canada presented by Rolex with his 13-year-old gelding, Chacco Kid. After his recent successes the unstoppable 51-year-old rider will do everything in his power to lift the coveted trophy at CHIO Aachen.
Legendary Swiss rider and Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat has also been on fine form this season having tasted recent success in Calgary, Canada. Aboard his young mare, Albfuehren's Bianca, the Swiss rider finished runner-up to Lamaze in the RBC Grand Prix of Canada presented by Rolex. The current world number one-ranked rider and his 16-year-old gelding, Venard de Ceris then went on to win the ‘Pan American’ Grand Prix. Guerdat, who was second in the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters 2019, will be hoping to go one further in Aachen to claim his first Rolex Major of the calendar year.
Following an impressive win with Balou du Reventon in the Rolex Grand Prix at Knokke Hippique in Belgium, Ireland’s Darragh Kenny is another rider to watch. It wasn’t an easy win for the Irishman, as the complicated course, designed by Uliano Vezzani, saw only six of the 47 combinations qualify for the jump-off in the 1.60 metre competition. Kenny and his 13-year-old stallion proved unbeatable and, having tasted recent victory, he will travel to CHIO Aachen with high hopes of continuing his success.
What is the average age of a Rolex Grand Slam Major winner (since its creation in 2013)?
The answer is precisely: 36.39 years old !
The youngest is Pieter Devos winning Spruce Meadows 'Masters' at the age of 27!
The oldest is Ian Millar still winning Spruce Meadows 'Masters' at the age of 67!
Statistics powered by JUMPFAX !
Did you know that Steve Guerdat is the only Rider who has participated in all the 20 Majors of the Rolex Grand Slam since its creation in 2013?
The world number one is in the best shape, and after two 2nd places in the Majors of CHI de Genève and The Dutch Masters - Indoor Brabant, he will try to get his fourth Major in CHIO Aachen .
Is he the favorite to claim the Rolex Grand Slam trophy?
Interesting statistic on which gender has won the most since the launch of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2013.
Mares are taking the lead with 8 different wins, followed by geldings (6 wins) and stallions (5 wins).
We can argue that gelding, evethough winning less than mares, are the only ones to have multiple wins (Hello Sanctos with 3, Prêt à Tout and Nino des Buissonets with 2)
Will Henrik von Eckermann and Toveks Mary Lou extend the mares winning streak?
Statistics powered by JUMPFAX
Henrik von Eckermann becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender at The Dutch Masters
It was an afternoon of electrifying sporting drama at The Dutch Masters, with the world’s best horse and rider combinations taking to the arena in the Brabanthallen for the first Major of the year. Course Designer, Louis Koninckx laid a tough course, which saw only five reach the jump-off to battle it out for the Rolex Grand Prix title.
Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat (SUI), secured the first double clear, after producing a series of thrilling turns to shave seconds off the clock. Many thought he could not be caught but it was clear from the outset that Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann only had winning on his mind. Together with his 13-year-old bay mare, Toveks Mary Lou, the pair crossed the finish just 0.63 seconds faster than Guerdat to clinch the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix title and become the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender.
It was so close between you and Steve Guerdat, how did the jump-off feel for you?
It was great! I knew that Steve was very fast, he knocked three-seconds off Daniel’s (Deusser) time, so I thought to myself, I need to hurry up! There were only five in the jump-off, and it is nice when there are so few because then you don’t have so much competition to worry about. I just tried really hard, I wanted to win it, I gave my best effort to win it and here we are!
Toveks Mary Lou performed so well today, what is she like to ride?
She always performs so well. She is so special, it’s like she knows what is going on, she thinks ‘ok it’s Sunday today, it’s the big day I need to be the best I can be’. She always tries that little bit extra for me and it makes her a fantastic horse.
You’re the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender, is CHIO Aachen in your calendar?
Yes, it is absolutely, I really would like to go there. I am just so happy with what has happened today, and we will take it from here.
How are you going to celebrate tonight?
I have to drive the lorry home with Mary Lou in the back and I am happy for that. My girlfriend, Janika, the groom and I will head home together smiling! But the feeling I have now is amazing and that is enough, I don’t think we have to do any thing special.
Lastly, is The Dutch Masters a special show for you now?
Absolutely! I have ridden here quite a few times now and it is a fantastic event. Every year it gets better and better, they always try to make it more and more special. The atmosphere is always electric, and the crowd is always behind you.
Rider interview with: Harrie Smolders
What’s it like to compete at The Dutch Masters in front of your home crowd?
This show is very special to me, it was my first experience of professional show jumping and I came here for the first time at a very young age.
Have you seen a transformation of The Dutch Masters since it become one of the Majors?
This show has always been very nice, bit since Rolex became more involved it has certainly had an upgrade. There is now one extra ring and the facilities are even better. It really is a world-class show.
What motivates you to keep striving to be the best?
I was World No.1 one last year but there a lot of things in Show Jumping that I haven’t won yet. One thing is for sure, I would really like to win Major this year!
Do you get nervous when competing?
It depends, when you feel you have a good chance to win and this is your moment and your day, you really don’t want to mess up for the horse which can put on the pressure. You always want to make sure you do the best job and don’t mess up for anyone.
Does competing at one of the Majors put extra pressure on you?
Not necessarily extra pressure. They are four very different venues and you have some horses that suite venues more than others. But, the best horses in our sport are allrounders and they can compete at any venue.
Do you prefer riding in indoor or outdoor arenas?
I don’t really have a preference. For example, CHIO Aachen and The Dutch Masters have very different atmospheres and arenas, but they are both world-class events. Tomorrow, here, you will see the best horses and riders, who are all in the best shape. Whether its Aachen, Geneva, Calgary or here, everyone is focused on the four Majors and they are the ones that the riders want to win.
Which is your favourite Major to compete at?
My favourite competition is The Dutch Masters, for sure! It’s my area, this is a show with a lot of history for me and it has a lot of character. I always want to perform well here.
Who is your biggest competition in the Rolex Grand Prix?
I watched the classes over the weekend and I do think last year’s winner, Niels Bruynseels, has a really good chance, he is in really good form. I also think Danielle Goldstein with Lizziemerry, she looks like she is ready to win a Major, the horse has the experience and the capability to win one of them.
Behind the microphone with: International Equestrian Commentator Ed Holloway
Ed, how did you get into commentating?
It was a total accident. I was grooming for my sister at a Pony Club tetrathlon and the commentator didn’t turn up. A dear old lady, Mrs. Baxter said I need you to help Ed, would you fence judge or commentate. I was going for the fence judging but my mum and Mrs. Baxter pushed me into the commentary box and I’m very glad they did.
How do you prepare for a Rolex Grand Prix?
I have a big database of riders and horses, results wise, so I will be particularly focusing on the 40 for the Rolex Grand Prix. I will be updating it, finding out any of their latest results, which will give me an idea of their form and to who I think is going to win. So, it’s some last minute work plus work that’s been going on for a few years.
Do you feel extra pressure commentating at one of the Majors?
You certainly want to give it your very, very best. You know that everyone is there for a huge sporting occasion and that puts a greater onus on you as a commentator to nail every line. You have to perform at your very highest for a Rolex Grand Prix.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
It’s simply being the generator of energy and the atmosphere. You create the atmosphere. I say the sport is the painting and we put the gloss on the painting. Try and make it sound wonderful. That is a great privilege at this kind of level.
Which riders do you think have the edge for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
Steve Guerdat is World No. 1, he’s looking very much in form. I think Daniel Deusser is also winning a lot. Marcus Ehning having won two legs last year in Geneva and in Aachen has got to be one of the favourites. It’s wide open the field but they would be my front runners.
How many shows do you go to each year?
I go to between 30 and 35 each year.
Does that take you all over the world?
Yes, it takes me to the USA a few times, I now go to China, quite a lot in Scandinavia, Germany, Holland and Polland. It’s a busy calendar.
Do you get nervous before you are about to start?
Not really, you are aware you want to make it your best work. You put a little bit of pressure on yourself, I wouldn’t describe it as nerves. It’s more excitement that you want to deliver your finest work each time.
Do you have any special warm up exercises that you do?
Absolutely not. I like to walk the course. I like to know the distances on the course and I like to have my research well and truly done so that I can go there well prepared. But that’s the only warm up I do.
Do you have to take special care of your voice?
I used to have whiskey but now I use herbal tea and some throat lozenges and that keeps me in good form.
What has been your career highlight so far?
The best moment for sure was the World Equestrian Games in Aachen. I got a call from Frank Kemperman before that and that was very special. That was an incredible atmosphere and definitely my career highlight.
The Audi Prize brings another win for the untouchable Dutch
It was another night of crowd-pleasing entertainment in the Brabanthallen, as Maikel van der Vleuten took the victory in the Audi Prize, the second Rolex Grand Prix qualifier. The Dutch maestro produced an uncatchable clear, in the time of 37.25 seconds, knocking over three-seconds off the time set by last year’s Rolex Grand Prix winner, Niels Bruynseels (BEL).
That was a very fast round, how did the ride feel to you?
It was a tough competition, with strong riders, so I knew I had to go for it. Dana Blue is a very strong horse, she won yesterday and is naturally very, very quick and that’s the type of horse you need these days.
The Dutch team are taking all the top spots this week, what’s it like to win in front of the home crowd?
Performing in front of my home crowd certainly gives me even more motivation. So far, it’s going very well here. Tomorrow is the Rolex Grand Prix and I hope we can continue our winning streak, but it will be a very tough competition.
How will you be preparing for the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow?
We will stick to our normal routine. I will make sure my horse (Verdi TN) is in good shape, yesterday he jumped very well in the big class, he was double clear. Today I gave him a bit of an easy day so I am hoping he will be very fresh tomorrow!
Who do you think your biggest competition is tomorrow?
There are so many riders, it’s hard to say. That’s the thing, it’s always exciting in our sport because out of the 40 riders you have at least 25 combinations who can give it a serious go!
Now that The Dutch Masters is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, has the event been enhanced?
Yes, I think it is a really good thing that this show is now one of the Majors. It is so important, being such a horse country, that we have a world-class event like this in Holland. It’s great for the Dutch people.
Walk the course with: Course Designer Louis Koninckx
How is the course looking for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
In the Rolex Grand Prix, you have the top riders in the world, and they know they are here to be tested. I started to think about the course for this year, looking back to the course of 2018, to use it as a base. I think we have a nice variation on the type of course for this year’s Rolex Grand Prix and it should be a great competition.
How many clears are you hoping for?
In terms of drama, people usually say they want between six and eight clear rounds. I have learnt through the years that when we have the heroes in the jump-off, (i.e. a famous Dutch, German, or Belgian rider, for example), the crowd is much more engaged. I would rather have more than six-eight, and have some of the sports heroes, than have fewer riders. When your favourites are riding in the jump-off, everybody is riding with them.
Which horse and rider combinations do you think might be suited to the course?
The course that I have built this year will need a lot of scope, but that’s not enough. The riders who have a very good partnership with their horses are a favourite for me. It means they will be able to react really quickly. I hope I have set a good time to test the riders and we have a mix of long and short distances. I think the winner will have to be an all-round combination.
Who do you think has a good chance of winning the Grand Prix on Sunday?
I cannot say a name, but the Dutch riders will be good because they want to win, and the crowds will be supporting them. The winner, will in any case, be able to manage the moment well and be prepared, meaning that they started getting ready for The Dutch Masters months ago.
How did you get into course designing?
I started years ago as a rider in National competitions. I was a mediocre talent of a rider, but it gave me some ideas about how a course should be. Once, I was giving the course designer a hard time and he said to me ‘well you try it for yourself’, so I did. This was over 30 years ago. Afterwards I had an opportunity to assist at Valkenswaard, which was then a Rolex competition. For me this was the perfect chance to get involved.
What are the biggest challenges that you face being a course designer at this level?
In general, it’s achieving a balance between letting the horses showcase their talent, whilst also being an exciting and dramatic competition for the audience. It’s a balance that can be tricky but always needs to be achieved.
Have you seen the effects of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has had on the sport?
Yes indeed. What’s special with the Rolex Grand Slam is that each of the Four Majors involved have an extremely strong character. A lot of shows are developing in a very good way, but the deep character of the Rolex Majors are remarkable. Everybody knows this.
I can also say that the support I have from the Rolex team is always perfect and friendly. They are always asking for what I need. I have always been very impressed by the relationship we have together.
Riders interview with: Nicola Philippaerts
Which horses are you competing on this weekend?
I’ll be competing this weekend on H&M Ikker, Cayani and Captain Jack. Cayani and Captain Jack are quite new horses so we will see what happens…
Do you need different horses for different arenas? Obviously, The Dutch Masters has quite a tight arena, compared to something like CHIO Aachen that has a big wide arena?
I think every horse suits a different ring, but I think the best horses in the world can jump well in any ring. The Dutch Masters is completely different to Aachen so maybe you need a horse with a bigger stride in Aachen, but I think a really good horse can compete in both arenas.
Do any of the horses you have here this weekend have any interesting characteristics in the stables?
Ikker I haven’t had very long yet, my brother always rode him before but he’s quite cool at home and then when he gets in the ring he can look a little bit more, spook a little bit more, but is a very nice horse.
Why is The Dutch Masters such a special show to compete at?
I have been coming to The Dutch Masters for a few years but I think the last two years that it has become part of the Rolex Grand Slam, it has become one of the best shows in the world. The Rolex Grand Slam Majors are some of the best shows in the world, I am very happy to be here and be competing this weekend.
What’s a typical day in the life for you?
Well we travel a lot. From Wednesday to Sunday we are always at a different show in a different country but Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday we try to get the horses ready for the upcoming shows at the weekend. We have quite big stables with many horses so actually its 24/7 with the horses.
Is there a sibling rivalry between you and your brother?
I think in the ring we have a rivalry but at home we are one big team and we try to help each other out wherever we can. It’s very nice to go to the shows together.
If you weren’t doing equestrian sport as your profession, what would you like to do?
Well, that’s a very difficult question. We’ve grown up our whole lives around horses. Our father rode a lot of shows before and competed at the top level for many years, so I guess we’d be doing something to do with horses also.
It's a home win for Leopold van Asten in the first Rolex Grand Prix qualifier
The first qualifier for the Rolex Grand Prix kicked off in style with Dutch rider Leopold van Asten clinching a home win aboard VDL Groep Beauty, much to the delight of his on-looking sponsor, in the VDL Groep Prize. Last year’s Rolex Grand Prix winner, Niels Bruynseels (BEL), set the bar high with a time of 28.18 secs but it was not fast enough as Leopold van Asten and his super speedy mare secured the win by a fraction, stopping the clock at 27.82 secs.
What were your thoughts heading into the jump-off?
I saw Niels ride before me, he was very fast and had a very good round, so I knew that I really had to go for it. I knew that Beauty is naturally a fast horse, so I tried to get a smooth round and it went well. I didn’t have to pull anywhere, I didn’t have to wait anywhere and luckily in the end it was enough.
Are you riding VDL Groep Beauty on Sunday?
No, I am not riding her on Sunday for the Rolex Grand Prix. I made a plan to jump her today and tomorrow, and will jump Miss Untouchable on Sunday.
The audience are very close to the action at The Dutch Masters, do you notice that when in the ring?
I think the audience is always close to the action, it doesn’t change anything for me. It didn’t ride any different this year. The atmosphere was very good for a Friday evening, the audience were cheering lots, seemed very happy and were really loud which is nice to hear. I think it’s going to be an exciting two days ahead.
How does it feel to win, not only in front of your home crowd, but also your sponsor?
It is always nice, he can only come to five or so shows a year, so you want to be good when he is here but that is easier said than done! It is nice that on an evening like this everything came together and we have a win.
How will you celebrate this evening?
I will walk to the box to meet my owner and I think we are going to have a drink, and then tomorrow is a new day!
Words from the Organiser with: show president Anky Van Grunsven
You have been a competitor at the event and now you are the Show President, how does the experience differ?
It’s completely different! When I was competing, I was just worried about my own conditions, my horse, the warm-up and the main arena. I was so focused on my competition, I didn’t realize how much was going on in the background to put on an event like this. This is a completely different experience, there are so many dimensions I never knew about but it’s very interesting and I am learning so much, I love it.
What are the main challenges of putting on an event like The Dutch Masters?
We are always working hard to make sure we are one of the best indoor shows in the world, so we are always looking at how we can improve and making sure that everything we do is of the best quality. For me, in some ways, it is the same feeling I had when I was riding – I was always looking at what was good, but also how I could make it better. I think that’s why this is one of the biggest competitions in the world now, as we are always working to improve the experience for the riders and the spectators.
The Dutch Masters is regarded as one of the best equestrian events in the world, how do you keep innovating it to improve it each year?
Last year we added a new hall and a new entrance which increased the size of the area significantly. We increased the dimensions of the arena and enhanced the competition facilities which all make a huge difference to The Dutch Masters. This is our second year as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which gives a whole new dimension to the event and makes it even more exciting for spectators.
The Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters is now one of the Majors, how has becoming part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhanced it?
Being part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has certainly enhanced the event. There is now bigger prize money and we know for sure that the best jumping horse and rider combinations will be here, so we certainly feel that we have grown positively since becoming one of the Majors.
Why did you decide to become such a big part of The Dutch Masters?
I actually didn’t want to become a big part of The Dutch Masters originally, but I was asked by Gerrit-Jan Swinkels and at first, I said no, as I am a rider and I want to be active and I am not so good at the socializing and other elements that the role involves. But he really pushed me into it, and I am so happy he did. I actually really enjoy it, it is a different way of looking and going to a competition and I always love a new challenge, so it fits me well.
Has life changed since you stopped competing?
I am still riding, and my kids are competing, so my life hasn’t really changed too much except that I am not competing myself. I still have some stress, especially making sure I am organized for this event, but it only lasts for a few weeks, so I certainly feel more relaxed.
Where do you keep your Olympic gold medals?
I hide my gold medals as I am always scared someone is going to steel them! Every once in a while, I grab them, and I look at them and I am really proud. For me one of the most important things is that feeling of achievement and when I am holding my gold medals, I go right back to that moment I won them and just feel so proud.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
I am not sure if someone gave this advice to me, but it is the advice that I give to people… The reason I think that I was so good is that I really enjoy what I am doing, so the major thing in life is that you do something that you really love and work hard, then you will achieve great things.
Who do you think will win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
I could probably tell you who is going to win the Dressage but Show Jumping, I don’t have a clue! For sure I know it is going to be a really exciting competition because all the riders here really want to win. But, a fence down changes results fast and Louis Koninckx, our course designer, is already really thinking about the course so it is going to be a great competition. I am sorry, but I do have to say, I hope a Dutch rider wins!
Behind the stable door with: Denise Moriarty, talking about flying horses!
Can you explain how flying with horses works?
It depends on if you are flying from Europe to America, or America to Europe. With America to Europe the horses must go through quarantine in Miami beforehand. They are in quarantine for a couple of hours before they start the process, then we take them to the loading centre from the quarantine facility, and they are then loaded onto the pallets. For us, we like to put a well-travelled horse with a not so well travelled horse to keep the other one company. They have hay and water in their pallets and there’s not much room for the grooms to move around, but if the horses have what they need, that’s what matters.
The pallets are then loaded onto the plane in the order of stallions, mares and geldings. The stallions must be upfront. We watch the process to make sure the drapes are hung up so they have air, and so we can figure out where each horse is. We then make sure the horses are settled, and depending on the plane, you either go and sit upstairs or you sit right in front of the pallets, or if it’s a commercial plane you go through a small door and sit with everyone else. You do get some funny looks because you smell of horses. We sit at the back of the plane and then once you take off and are at the right altitude you go back to check on the horses and give them water. If they are happy, we leave them to sleep and eat for a couple of hours. We check on them two or three times during the flight and do a final check before we descend. It can be shocking for the people who don’t realise they are flying with horses.
Have you had passengers asking where you keep going?
Yes, all the time people get confused as to where you are going, because we keep disappearing and then come back smelling of horses through a small door at the back, covered in hay, water and carrots. So, the public wonder where we come from and ask questions. They do see the plane get unloaded though, so they do see the horses at the end.
How long does it take for the horses to recover from flying?
Every horse is different, the more well-travelled sleep, they know what’s going on, so they are quite relaxed. The younger, more inexperienced ones take longer to recover because they spend a lot of the flight feeling tense. So, on the other side they sleep for a lot longer. The main thing is to monitor the water intake that they have, if you know that they aren’t going to drink much water we give them extra fluids before or after. If you pay attention to this the recovery time can be quite quick.
Are horses like humans, where some are nervous flyers, and some are not?
Yes, some get tense and the box is small, so if the horse is slightly claustrophobic, the box can feel quite small for them. That’s why we like to put a relaxed, experienced horse next to a nervous one, so they don’t work each other up. The only parts where they have to steady themselves is the take off and the landing, the rest is quite smooth, so they can sleep. It’s easier than a truck, they don’t have to balance themselves all the time so they can sleep standing.
Do horses ever get jet-lagged?
They can be tired on the other side but as long as you keep their feeding routine normal, telling them when it’s breakfast and dinner and putting them to bed and waking them up at the right times then they get into the rhythm. It’s easier for them to swap around because they are told what to do, whereas it’s harder for humans as they can stay up and watch TV.
What’s your favourite competition to be at?
Definitely CHI Geneva. It’s one of my favourite venues, it’s a great show with an amazing atmosphere. It’s the end of the year, so it’s our final goal and it’s always been quite a successful show for us.
Who are your favourite horses to work with?
Honestly, I love them all equally, they all have great characters. Creedance is slightly crazy and naughty, but he’s only a little guy, so he’s allowed to do whatever he wants. Gazelle will try her heart out for you every single time, she’s a bit of a princess but she’ll give you what she has. Voyeur and Uceko are both amazing horses, they have done a lot for Kent’s career and are a pleasure to take care of.
Are they all good in the stables? Do they have funny characteristics?
They are all good, Voyeur likes to talk to the other horses, he makes cat noises and gets really jealous when you spend too much time with the other horses. Creedance likes attention, he likes to play with the other horses, but they don’t really like to play with him. Gazelle hates the other horses, Creedance is the only one that Gazelle will let anywhere near.
What’s your secret grooming tip for keeping the horses in such good condition?
The horse comes first, they are athletes so you have to take care of them and treat them with respect. They are not machines, they are all individuals, so it's about getting to know each horse and making sure they have what they need.
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.
The pinnacle of international show jumping, the Rolex Grand Slam, released a ground-breaking new multi-channel media campaign in March 2018, which has demonstrated some phenomenal results since its inception
The multi-platform campaign, which uses the strapline ‘Surpass yourself and become a legend’, was first revealed in the form of a 60-second-long commercial and is designed to promote the dedication and passion required to win the revered Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping comprises the most highly regarded international show jumping events in the world, notably the four Majors, including The Dutch Masters, the CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva. The evocative and innovative film tells the story of a rider’s journey to achieve success, through emotive footage accompanied by a compelling narrative, relatable not only to the equestrian audience, but to anyone wanting to achieve greatness and striving to accomplish a lifetime goal.
A 30-second version of the film featured across the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping’s social media channels conquering the digital world to report impressively high figures, including a reach of 12 million on Facebook. Not only was the reach high, the 30-second film generated over 3.5 million views on YouTube, outshining comparable equestrian-focused films.
The 30-second film also featured on international lifestyle online publications, including GQ, The New York Times, and Bloomberg, as part of a strategy to target a wider global audience. The strategic placements of the film achieved an enviable reach across lifestyle and economic media titles, educating new audiences on what the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is.
On the success of the campaign the new president of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping’s Steering Committee, Marcel Hunze, commented: “This campaign is the first step towards raising awareness of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and growing audience reach globally. Like tennis and golf, show jumping has its own Grand Slam and we want to demonstrate to the broader sporting enthusiast the parallels these three Grand Slams share, with each creating an environment for athletes to strive for excellence and pursue their dreams of becoming a legend.”
The first Major of the year takes place at The Dutch Masters in 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, where the world’s best riders will compete for victory in the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday 17 March 2019. Among the stellar line-up is the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, Germany’s Marcus Ehning, who will be hoping to emulate his success at CHI Geneva in December 2018 and move one step closer to lifting show jumping’s most coveted trophy.
To view the 30-second Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping YouTube film click here
The Dutch Masters is starting in less than a month and Jeroen Dubbeldam cannot wait to compete at the first Major of the year!
Jumping legend Marcus Ehning wins the Rolex Grand Prix and becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender
Germany’s Marcus Ehning road a masterclass in the jump-off aboard Pret A Tout to win the Rolex Grand Prix and his second Major of the year. Fifth-to-go, Ehning shaved over three seconds off the time set by World No.1 Harrie Smolders and produced a time that was impossible to beat. Much to the delight of the home crowd, Steve Guerdat and Albfuehren's Bianca were clear but had to settle for second place, finishing just .45 seconds behind the eventual winners.
How did your ride feel tonight?
I am really happy with my performance and with my horse. I thought it was an amazing course with the right winner! Last time I was in this position was for the World Cup™ Final, so quite a few years ago, and I am very happy to be back here again. The victory feels like an early Christmas present.
Pret A Tout has performed so well this year, can you talk about your relationship with him?
This horse is so clever and has such good experience. He is very powerful and a very good jump-off horse. It is easy for him to leave strides out and he always manages the turns.
Did you feel the jump-off course suited you?
I thought the course was really good, it wasn’t too crazy, it was quite technical and asked a lot of questions, which I like. It felt like a very full course and I thought that if I did everything to the best of my ability I would be in with a good chance.
All the riders say they don’t know what your secret is, can you tell us what it is? How do you go so fast?
I am only as good as my horses, I have been around a long time so have a lot of experience which helps. Steve (Guerdat) is very fast, he still has a few years to catch up with me. I thought his jump-off in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final was incredible. I don’t think I have a secret, I just ride the way I do and make sure I have the best horses.
Looking ahead to the next Major, The Dutch Masters, will you be focusing on the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping now?
I have been competing for a long time, and I know that you can’t get too ahead of yourself. We will take each day as it comes and see what position we are in early next year.
Rolex Grand Slam winner Scott Brash retires Ursula
Rolex Testimonee Scott Brash, the only rider to have ever won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, announced, today, the retirement of his 17-year-old mare Ursula XII. In a heartfelt interview Scott pays tribute to the Scottish Sport Horse as he reflects on the incredible journey they have had together.
Did you feel emotional knowing this would be Ursula’s final performance?
It felt amazing out there, but yes, I have mixed emotions, in one way I am feeling very sad that it’s her last event, but on the other hand I am delighted with her and how she performed tonight. She has been an amazing horse and to jump big courses like that at her age and feel as good as she does is a credit to my team and to the owners. I get a lot of reward in stopping her at the top end of the sport, in such good health and condition, which for me is the main thing.
There were a lot of world-class combinations in the jump-off, were you happy with how it went?
I was slightly disappointed with the jump-off, being first to go is really difficult especially with so many fast riders behind me. The course rode slightly differently to how I walked it and if I had been slightly later and seen some of the others go, I might have changed my tactics slightly. But Ursula jumped amazingly, I can’t complain, and I am very happy.
What’s next for Ursula?
Ursula will stay with us at my stables. We are hoping she will go in foal next year, she will make a really good mother as she has the best temperament and I think she really wants to be a mother, when she sees other foals, she always looks at them and is interested in them, so fingers crossed for that. We will make sure she enjoys a very happy retirement and she will certainly be very pampered.
What’s been your best moment with Ursula?
I think winning the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2016 has to by my favourite moment with her. I don’t think I will ever ride a horse again that can jump around such a big course as easily as Ursula can. She gave me an unbelievable feeling around that course and I am really going to miss that.
Behind the stable door with: Rodrigo Pessoa
You hold the equal record number of wins for the IJRC Rolex Top 10 Final and Rolex Grand Prix combined, why do you think you always performed so well here?
Geneva is a show that I have always liked very much and being part of the Rolex family meant I always wanted to come here and do my best. I think Geneva was also just a really lucky place for me, I was very fortunate to have such incredible horses and everything always used to come together on the day.
In your mind what makes the perfect student? What are you looking for when you’re coaching?
I’m looking for receptive students, students who are open to changes and trust what you are saying from your experience and from what you are picking up on that they can improve. I am looking for students who are not blind to what I am saying, because as a coach I have been through a lot of experiences in my life and seen a lot, so I can use this to help the students.
Who do you think will win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
That’s a difficult question because the best riders and horses in the world are here, it is very hard to pick one. We have Kent Farrington, McLain Ward, Pedro Veniss, Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash, we have so many, so it is difficult to say. What I can say is that it will be an outstanding class with the best riders and horses in the world competing, which guarantees an unbelievable spectacle.
When you are looking at younger horses what qualities are you looking for to make the next 5* jumping horse?
You look at the raw qualities of the horse, how intelligent it is, how much scope it has, and how it corrects its mistakes. When a horse is young you don’t know for sure, a lot of things will happen before the horse becomes a 5* horse, there’s a lot of questions that only time can answer and so it is really difficult to always predict correctly.
If you could compete on any horse in the world that has ever lived, which would it be?
Probably Jappeloup, Pierre Durand’s horse, the Olympic champion of ’88, he would be the horse of my dreams
Swiss Hero, Steve Guerdat, steals the show in the Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final
The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final always promises to bring top class sport, with the world’s best riders competing for the coveted trophy, and this year did not disappoint. It was a home win for Swiss hero, Steve Guerdat aboard Alamo, who thrilled the crowd with a gasp provoking round in the time of 39.75 seconds. Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann was close behind but could not shave the milliseconds needed off the former Olympic champion’s time. Team World Champion, USA’s McLain Ward and his stunning mare Clinta, produced a textbook round to claim the third podium spot.
Did you find it hard waiting for the final result?
Steve Guerdat: Yes, it is sometimes very hard to wait, especially when you have such a good line-up of riders still to go behind you. Each time a new person started their round I was getting more nervous and was hoping we could keep the lead. I was very happy with my ride tonight, it feels amazing.
When did you decide to enter Alamo for this competition?
Steve Guerdat: I planned Alamo for this final a while ago, I took him to Paris last week mainly to prepare him for this competition. He is a bit of a nervous horse, so I wanted to give him more time in the ring to help calm his nerves. I had a really good feeling with him in the warm-up ring, he was really listening to me, so I decided I had to give it everything in the jump-off. Alamo responded to me so well in the ring and road beautifully, I am just so proud of him.
Can you talk us through what you were thinking during the jump-off?
Steve Guerdat: I knew that Alamo is very good jumper and is quick on the ground. He has a huge drive and jumps forward, so this jump-off course really suited me. My turn to the wall was not perfect, so after the double I thought, I have to give this a real go! I saw an even bigger stride to the second last fence and my horse really helped me here. I then decided to speed up further and left one stride out on the last, Alamo was just amazing, but I was relieved there were no more fences as I don’t think I would have been able to hold him anymore!
How does it feel to equal Rodrigo Pessoa’s record of the greatest number of wins at the CHI Geneva?
Steve Guerdat: Rodrigo was an idol of mine when I was younger, so to know, today, that we share the same number of victories in Geneva feels incredible and is very pleasing to hear!
Behind the stable door with: Joanne Sloan-Allen, owner of Suma's Zorro
What was going through you mind when Sameh won in Spruce?
It was really funny actually because I didn’t know he had won, it looked like Sameh was second and I couldn’t see the gate because I’m really small. So, I was asking everyone ‘did he win?’. I eventually found out he did and just couldn’t contain my excitement and emotion. The second round was unbelievable, I was in tears because it was everything we had worked for. It was everything Zorro had worked for. All her life people had said she has no scope, but now competing in this 1:70 class, surely people cannot say she has no scope. I’m so happy for Sameh, we have been on a long journey and I felt this was his year.
How did you celebrate afterwards?
We had soup and got on a plane! We were on such a high but then we had to get on a plane to go straight to Tryon. Then Sameh lost his medal, so that was a drama. We got home, and his suitcase hadn’t arrived at Dublin airport. So, I said, ‘good job I put the medal in your hand luggage’ and he went very quiet. Sameh told me he had put the medal in the case because it was too heavy to carry. Two days later, still no suitcase and we were leaving for Tryon. Sameh said, ‘what are we going to do?’ So, I put it on Facebook and everybody clubbed together to share it, and eventually someone found the suitcase. It was only the week after that we had a yard party for everybody, but we are planning a Christmas celebration after this show.
What is Zorro’s personality like?
Zorro is the perfect pony. If you only ever had one horse, it would be Zorro. She rides like an angel, she’s sweet, she’s kind. She has a couple of quirks – she hates vets and she hates being clipped but she is the kindest, sweetest horse. She just wants to win, she believes she can jump anything. I got her as a foal at three-months-old and she came into the yard at six months, she got off the trailer when she arrived, trotted up to a five-bar gate and popped it. She has been amazing since.
What did you see in Zorro at such a young age?
There was a dsale, selling mares around 14-15 years ago, when we were just starting our green programme in Sycamore. I saw this little mare and she kept popping and popping. I said to my parents that we needed to buy her. The jumping technique she has now is the same she had when she was three months old. She just looks like a little star and she always has been.
Can you talk about your premonition before Spruce?
Sameh and I usually don’t differ in opinion, we work so well together. But he really wanted to go to the WEG, which was after Spruce. We initially agreed we wouldn’t be able to do both but one day I had this dream that Sameh had gone to Spruce and won, so I woke up and told him he was going to Spruce. Sameh disagreed, but I believed we could do both, there were enough days in between and the mare was really fit, I thought this was her year and so she had to go. I told Sameh he would be so disappointed if he had a fence down in Tryon and he hadn’t gone to Spruce. At the end of the day it’s part of the Rolex Grand Slam, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, which you must take. Even the morning of the class, I said to Sameh, ‘this is your course.’ It was meant to be.
What’s it like to work with Sameh?
He is amazing, we work so well together. Its hard to find someone with the same ideas and ethos. I wanted to try and get to the top level but do it with the horse in mind, they always come first. It’s difficult when you are a competitor like Sam, to have an owner in the background saying not today. But he believes the horses should come first as much as me. Sameh is a true competitor, I believe in him so much. I believe that if the day is right and the course is right, Sameh will win.
Tell me about your background?
I think horses are in your blood. My mother’s grandparents were in racing, that was in their blood. When we were small my mother took my sister and I riding, my sister gave up early, but I stuck at it. I did a business degree in French at university, then I set up my own stable yard. I was lucky enough to train in England with some fantastic people including David Broom. Then I set my own yard up, I enjoy bringing horses up.
Do you sell your horses on? How do you make a call on which horses to keep?
Sadly, we can’t keep them all, it is very important for us to see our horses go in the right direction and I am very picky about who they go to, we have been very lucky so far, all of our horses have gone to some very good places. We have eight five-year-olds at the moment and we can’t keep them all. Sometimes we keep them based on the gender or the bloodline, we also look at the horses that will suit our system.
Do you get nervous watching your horses compete?
It is harder to watch than to do. When I’m jumping its just me and the horse, but when I’m outside there is nothing you can do, and I have such a feeling of frustration. I jump every fence with Sam and click at each jump, he always tells me to stop! Every fence I am with the two of them, I sometimes think I’ll have a heart attack. Being part of something this special is so amazing.
Do you prefer watching or competing?
Watching is torturous and Sam says the same. When you care so much about what you do and the horses its impossible not to get that adrenaline rush.
How do you think the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has enhanced the sport of show jumping?
The sense that you get here in Geneva is pride, history and tradition. This is also what hits you in Spruce Meadows, it is a huge high-quality event. They take such pride in their arena and everything else. For me, the fit with Rolex is perfect. When you think about the Rolex brand, it is quality, precision, it is about pride in what they do. For me, the sport of show jumping is an interaction between the two. To have a sponsor like Rolex come into the sport and do the Grand Slam is life changing for people like Sameh and the likes of our yard. We have been pushing and climbing for eight years and getting into these shows is very difficult. To win a Rolex Major has been incredible for Sameh. We were a tiny yard in Northern Ireland, and for us to attend a show like this and be in with a chance, it is such a dream. So, for Rolex to be a part of this dream, is amazing.
Have you competed at Geneva before?
What are your aims and dreams for the future?
Our future is to win the next Rolex Grand Prix with Zorro. We have the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday and Prague next week, Sameh is in the play offs because he won in Paris. The next couple of months will then be lower key, we will go back to working on our other horses and pushing them, as they have been on the back burner for a little while. In January we want to be in the yard and try to sell some horses then we will go on tour in February and then it all starts again. We are on the road, changing horses all the time and we are enjoying every minute of it, it’s been incredible. If you don’t appreciate it and enjoy it then why would you do it. Sometimes you must stand back and remember how amazing it all is.
Walk the course with: Rolex Grand Prix Course Designer, Gérard Lachat
How long does it take to plan a Rolex Grand Prix course?
I started the planning two weeks ago, we brainstorm a few ideas and map out what we think we want. Then last week I finalised the plan and this week we fine-tune all the technical details and final touches before the build on Sunday.
How many clears do you expect to see on Sunday?
Ideally, we would like between eight – 12 competitors to go clear, however it is sometimes hard to predict how the horses will react to the track.
How did you first get into Course Designing?
I started a long time ago, first assisting at Swiss National competitions and then I progressed to international level seven years-ago. I have been at the CHI Geneva for five years and really enjoy being part of such a prestigious event. The atmosphere is always amazing, and the world’s best horses and riders compete here, so it is a fantastic show to be involved in.
What is your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part of the job is seeing the competitors on the course and hopefully enjoying it. I am always intrigued by the results too, so I look forward to finding out who does well and who doesn’t!
Do you feel extra pressure when building a course for a Rolex Major?
Yes, there is certainly extra pressure when building a Rolex Grand Prix course. The Majors are the biggest competitions in the world and the peak of the season, so you need to get it right and achieve the best results.
Has the art of course designing developed since you first started?
Yes, a lot has changed. The poles have become much lighter, which you have to take into consideration when planning. The riders and the horses’ skill sets have developed and improved, so you have to make the courses more technical to challenge them further and you have to focus on the lines and distances more than ever before.
Which riders do you think have a good chance of winning on Sunday?
It is very difficult the predict who will do well on Sunday. We have the world’s best horse and rider combinations taking part and it is almost impossible to choose between them. From a Swiss point of view, I would love to see Steve Guerdat win, but who knows!
Germany’s Daniel Deusser wins the Trophee de Geneve, the first Rolex Grand Prix qualifier of the CHI Geneva
The first qualifier for the Rolex Grand Prix saw nine horse and rider combinations compete in a hotly contested jump-off. Setting the bar high, Daniel Deusser riding Calisto Blue, was the first to produce a clear round with a thrilling time of 37.31 seconds.
Last to go, Pieter Devos, looked on par to emulate Deusser’s clear round but was a fraction too slow and had to settle for second place, with Simon Delestre finishing in third, both excellent contenders for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday.
How did the course feel tonight?
Daniel Deusser: The time was really tight in the first round so everybody was forced to ride forwards, and in the end the horses got quite long which accumulated a lot of faults. There were 10 combinations clear and a couple more with time faults, which is a good amount for a jump-off, but it was certainly not an easy class.
Going into the jump-off did you think you were in with a good chance?
Daniel Deusser: To be honest, I was not sure. There were a lot of fast combinations to compete against and I thought that one or two might be a little bit quicker, but I think my clear round put the pressure on and some of the horses were forced to go quicker which made them go a bit flat. I had a good round and was really pleased with my horse.
Looking ahead to the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, who do you think your biggest competition is?
Daniel Deusser: There are quite a few really good competitors here this weekend, so it is hard to say. I think McLain Ward and Clinta will go well, Steve Guerdat and Bianca are hard to beat when they are on form as well, it will be a good competition for sure.
Behind the stable door with: Emma Uusi-Simola, groom to Steve Guerdat
What is your favourite part of the job?
One of my favourite parts of the job is the travelling. I really enjoy seeing different parts of world and spending time with the horses away from the yard. I also love the atmosphere that the shows bring, each one is so different but the feeling of excitement you get from the crowd is the same and really special.
Do any of Steve’s horses have any funny characteristics?
Yes, Bianca has such a big character and is a typical mare! At home she is the calmest horse on the yard, she is so easy and laid back, but once she gets to the show, she becomes really nervous and a lot less calm! I think she get’s nervous about competing, but she always manages to channel her nerves in the ring. She is also very picky about what treats she likes and if you give her the wrong ones, she turns her nose up at them.
Albfuehren's Bianca has had an incredible year of results so far, why do you think she is performing better than ever before?
Steve has worked with Bianca for a while now and wanted to make sure he gave her time to grow and develop before pushing her too much. I think this is the key to her success, as it is important to make sure the horse is both mentally and physically ready to compete at this level. She has grown up now and is an amazing horse with so much talent and scope, so we are really pleased that she is doing so well.
Do you have any grooming / travel tips?
I think the most important part of this job and the best tip I can give, is to always make sure the horses are happy. For me, I like them to have freedom and for them to feel like horses not just competitors, so we make sure we give them lots of time in the field to relax and eat the grass. It’s not a secret, but a happy horse will mean a happy rider and that makes my job easier!
What routine do the horses have when they finish competing?
After they have jumped, we use some ice on their legs, give them a very thorough brush to get the blood circulation moving well and with some of the horses we use massage blankets too.
What advice would you give for someone wanting to start a career in this industry?
You have to be sure that you want to work really hard, the days are long and require a lot of commitment. My advice would be that you can always keep learning, so always ask people questions and seek advice from others, as it will mean that you keep improving.
What is the best moment of your career so far?
That’s a hard one as there have been lots of high points working for Steve. I would have to say the two moments that stand out for me are; the first time we won the World Cup Final, I can still remember the buzzing feeling and celebrations, it was so exciting. The second has to be when Steve won the Rolex Grand Prix here with Nino, the crowd’s reaction was incredible, and it was so emotional.
Word from the organisers: Interview with Sports Director, Alban Poudret and Show Director, Sophie Mottu Morel
CHI Geneva has been voted the ‘World’s Best Show’ nine times, how do you keep the show fresh each year?
Sophie: Each year we take time to speak to people involved in different aspects of the show and ask them what worked well and what can be improved. It is really important for us to gather information, listen to the comments, and use this to progress each year. We are never complacent and no matter how small the detail or adjustment, we want to make sure there is no stone left unturned. It is also important to keep the spirit of the volunteers high and treat them well, as without them we simply wouldn’t be able to produce such a great event.
Alban: I would just add, we give all our heart to the task as we want the people to feel our love of the sport and our ambition is to welcome the riders, grooms, spectators and volunteers – everybody that makes this show so special. I use the analogy: ‘when you invite friends to your home, you want them to feel welcome and have a good time’ and that’s what we try to do at CHI Geneva every year.
You have two show jumping course designers, what were your thoughts behind this decision?
Alban: We think it is very important to have two course designers for the show jumping as we have so many classes throughout the week – including many special classes like the speed class with the natural fences and the combination class – which is a lot for one person to manage on their own. I think it is also vital to have a partnership where you can work together, bounce ideas off each other and I truly believe you will always get better results when you work as part of a team. Our system is to have one Swiss course designer, which is now Gérard Lachat, and an international course designer.
How did the show change when it became part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?
Sophie: We were in the World Cup circuit for a long time, from 1979 – 2012, so it was not an easy decision to change, but I really feel it re-energised the show and gave us a great boost. We, as a team, are so proud to be a part of the Rolex Grand Slam together with CHIO Aachen, The CSIO Spruce Meadows 'Masters' and The Dutch Masters. Before we became part of the Rolex Grand Slam, some of the members of the team who had been here a long time were starting to think about stepping down, however the injection of the Rolex Grand Slam gave them a whole new lease of life and it has certainly allowed us to enter a new and exciting chapter.
Sophie could you talk about your background and how you progressed to become the Show Director?
Sophie: I started off working with the former President for two years and at the end of 2001 he said that he wanted to step down and would I join the team? At first, I thought he was crazy, I was so young (28 years-old) and I did not know if I was ready for such a big responsibility. I took some time to think about it and I decided to accept the offer, then in 2004 I became the Show Director. As a little girl, I would not have dreamed that I would be in this position one day! Even just to work at the show was a dream come true for me, an event with so much history that welcomes such beautiful horses and talented riders. It was certainly a big challenge, but the team were so welcoming and really believed in me which I am so grateful for. Alban was actually good friends with my parents, and I had always admired his work, so to actually be working with him seemed so surreal to begin with, but his support is something I will never forget and now we are very good friends too.
Alban: We had every confidence in Sophie and we can only say thank you to her. She is such a good Director and brings so much spirit to the team. She has brought 15 years of happiness to the committee and our friendship has grown from strength to strength. I think this organising committee is very special as we are all here for the sport, no one is here for just themselves. We all share a passion to improve the sport and all had a childhood dream to be a part of this special world and we stay faithful to our roots and to our dream.
It is such a historic show, how has it changed since it first started?
Alban: The show started in 1926 but has only been running annually since 1991. Originally, we only had show jumping until we introduced dressage in 1997, then we added driving in 2002, then two years ago we were completely mad and decided to have four disciplines! We wanted to create a mini-indoor Aachen by having show jumping, dressage, driving and cross country. We know that we have reached our limits now due to space, but we love the challenge this brings and are proud at how far we have come. We don’t know what the future will bring, we make sure we listen to our spectators and absorb their feedback, so we can bring them what they want to see in the next editions.
Alban, what are your three best stats about the show?
- We are very proud to have won the prize for the ‘World’s Best Show’ nine times
- Rodrigo Pessoa holds the record for the most amount of victories in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix combined. Pessoa has won 10 times. Steve Guerdat is very close behind with nine victories and then Kent Farrington sits behind with six titles
- Our spectator number record is 50,000 which was for the FEI World Cup™ Final, and our attendance record for a normal edition is 43,000
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a Show Director one day?
Sophie: I would say you need to believe in yourself, sometimes it feels like there is a big mountain to climb, but you have to tell yourself you will reach the top. You also need to be open to the other people you are working with and not to think that you have all the solutions. Lastly it would be to show respect to the volunteers because without them we can’t do anything.
Alban: You need to make sure you have good stamina as the days are long and after the work is finished, you must have energy left to dance! I would also say, never forget your childhood dreams and always stay faithful to your passion.
How did you start your equestrian career?
My parents have a riding school with over 50 horses, so it has always been in my blood! I started riding at a really young age and did my first jump at six-years-old. My Father was a successful show jumper and he has passed on his wisdom to my brother and I, we used to go to ever single show with him and I always dreamed I would follow in his footsteps one day.
What motivates you the most?
I just love being able to work with the horses every day, they are such incredible and loyal animals and when you grow a successful partnership with them, there is no feeling like it.
I have tried lots of other sports in my life, I used to play football, basketball and compete in athletics, but none of them compare to show jumping. I still sometimes play those sports, just as a hobby, but the thrill of competing each week in different places with your horses is so special.
The continuous competition also really motivates me. I like to win, and I want to be the best! I am constantly working towards the next step and wanting to be better – so there is never a dull moment!
What has been a career highlight for you so far?
My career highlight so far must be winning a gold medal at the European Championships for Young Riders with Clouzot de Lassus. It was a really tough competition and to be crowned champion was the most incredible feeling. It has also made me hungry for more!
What are you most looking forward to about competing at CHI Geneva?
I am so excited to be competing at CHI Geneva this year, especially as I have already qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix. The event is so historic but also patriotic and to have the chance to compete in front of such an enthusiastic home crowd is a dream come true for me.
I have had a good season, so I am hoping if everything goes well on the day, I could be in with a chance at finishing in the top 10.
Which horse will you be riding in the Rolex Grand Prix?
I am taking Clouzot de Lassus, my 10-year-old gelding. I have been riding him for three years now and he is just amazing, I get the most incredible feeling from him every time we jump together, like nothing I have experienced before. We are growing in confidence together and I feel very lucky to have this wonderful partnership with him.
What would it mean to you to lift the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping trophy one day?
To lift the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping trophy would be a dream come true for me, especially if I did it at CHI Geneva in front of my home crowd! It’s the ‘almost un-touchable trophy’ that every rider really wants to win and for me it is a big objective in my career. Hopefully one day I can take it home with me.
What are your main aims to achieve in your career?
Right now, my main aim is to win the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. To win any of the Majors would be amazing, but to win in front of my home crowd is unbeatable. I would also love to win at CHIO Aachen, that is a goal for next year!
Who is your inspiration?
Marcus Ehning and Steve Guardat are my two main idols. Marcus rides with such perfection and has an incredible work ethic. His long and successful career is something that I hope to emulate and achieve myself. Steve Guerdat is a Swiss hero, he is so cool under pressure, competes so well and has such close relationships with his horses.
If you weren’t a show jumper, what would be your day job?
That is a tough question as every day I feel so lucky to already have my dream job! But if I couldn’t be a show jumper, I would be an engineer. That would be a back-up career, but one I hope I don’t need to re-visit.
Best advice you could have given to your 10-year-old self?
I would tell myself to work hard, find a good horse, a good team and listen to those who are working with me. That way, the only way is up.
Do you feel extra pressure to be successful given that your father was also a show jumper?
My father has been my trainer since I first started to ride. He has always been behind me and supported me through everything. As a family, we live and breathe horses and it is such a nice feeling knowing that we have such a strong support network. My brother also competes and is progressing each year and we always ride together.
What is a normal day like for you?
I am really lucky to have so many amazing horses to ride, I start the day at my owners yard and spend the morning schooling and exercising the horses there. I then drive to my family stables and ride more horses, often the younger horses and help my father with riding school clients. It is a real family business and I have to pinch myself every day, as I know I am so lucky to have such amazing opportunities, I wouldn’t swap it for anything.
CHI Geneva: The biggest contenders
From 6 – 9 December 2018, more than 41,000 spectators are set to flock to the Swiss city for the 58th edition of the CHI Geneva, the final Major of the year. Taking place in the Palexpo, which at 5,200 m2, is the largest indoor arena in world, visitors can expect to be thoroughly entertained at an event that has won the Best Equestrian Sports Show Worldwide award no less than nine times.
Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Rider Watch
With several prolific horse and rider combinations set to compete in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva, there are a whole host of contenders who will undoubtedly be among the discussion as to who will be crowned champion in this historic Rolex Major.
A hot favourite to claim the title this year is the current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender, Sameh El Dahan. The Egyptian rider clinched victory at the CSIO Spruce Meadows 'Masters' in Calgary riding Suma’s Zorro, and will be tipped by many to continue his fine form in Switzerland. With a potential €500,000 bonus for winning two Majors successfully, Sameh will be doing his utmost to repeat his performance in Canada.
Never far from success is Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat, who currently sits at second in the Official Jumping World Rankings. Being a Swiss rider competing in Geneva, Guerdat is likely to be well supported, and when combined with his unquestioned ability, it would be a surprise if he is not one of the top performers in the competition, especially given that he has already won the Rolex Grand Prix on three occasions.
Last year’s winner, American rider and Rolex Testimonee Kent Farrington, unfortunately suffered a broken leg in a fall at the Winter Equestrian Festival shortly after his Rolex Grand Slam journey had started. Despite this setback, only a few months later, the rider from Chicago was back competing and has swiftly reinstated himself into the top 20 on the Rankings list. A well-known and talented equestrian, Farrington is certainly one of the top contenders to take home the highly coveted Rolex Grand Prix title.
Scott Brash MBE is a rider who needs no introduction. The first and only rider to have won the ultimate prize in Show Jumping, the Rolex Grand Slam, Brash is a name that is synonymous with success in the Majors. An undisputed legend of the sport, whose last win came in 2016, perhaps now in 2018, the Scott is due a win.
Up-and-coming young rider Martin Fuchs is a name to look out for during the final Major of the year. Performing in his native Switzerland, the 26-year-old already has plenty of successes to his name, including, taking the silver medal in the Individual Jumping at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ earlier in the year. Results this year have led to Fuchs firmly establishing himself in the world’s top 10 and is in good form to potentially finish the year with his first Rolex Grand Prix title.