By Jean Llewellyn (with grateful thanks to Sascha Dubach)
Photography: Courtesy Rolex, and Peter Llewellyn
Many breeders decide to sell their products as foals or young horses in order to avoid incurring further management and training costs. Thereafter, it’s a stroke of luck when an unlikely competition horse with a doubtful future ends up in the hands of an Olympic champion – one with the foresight, vision, and dedication of Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat.
From glancing through the FEI’s showjumping competition results, there are numerous horses who have continually passed from one rider to another over a period of years, either because they didn’t meet results expectations in international arenas, or perhaps passing to a junior or young rider when world-class performers reach their golden years.
Another possibility is that a rider finds him or herself in possession of a ‘maverick’ who appears to have few redeeming features in terms of being a solid competition prospect. So, what are that horse’s hopes for the future?
Steve Guerdat is a veteran of five Olympic Games, including individual gold in London 2012 riding Nino des Buissonnets; three World Championship appearances (individual bronze in Tryon 2018); 14 FEI World Cup Finals™ (winner in 2015, 2016, and 2019 riding Albführen’s Paille, Corbinian, and Alamo, respectively; twice a runner-up with Nino des Buissonnets in 2013 and 2014); and results in 13 European Championships, from being a junior in 1997 and 1999, a young rider in 2001 and 2002, and seniors from 2003 onwards – several times winning team medals. In recent years he’s spent an uprecedented number of weeks heading the FEI’s showjumping rider rankings, and currently occupies 28th place as at the end of October 2022.
In September 2022, Steve Guerdat travelled to the CSIO5* Spruce Meadows Masters as a Rolex Testimonee with his eye on defending the Rolex Major he won at this iconic show ground in 2021. And, of course, mindful of his home show at the CHI Geneva as the next leg in this coveted series running from December 7-11, 2022 at the city’s Palexpo Exhibition Hall.
(This interview was partly conducted ahead of the CP International Grand Prix presented by Rolex – a Rolex Major – at Spruce Meadows, in which Steve and Venard du Cerisy finished second to Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM in the jump-off. Some of the questions were posed by others attending a select round-table interview organized by Rolex.)
Q How are you feeling one year on from winning the Rolex Major at Spruce Meadows last year?
I’m always very excited to come back to Spruce, it’s always been one of my favourite venues. It hasn’t been for many years my most comfortable venue because I always ride a lot of careful rather than really scopey horses, so this venue with the setting of the fences and the course designing was never very easy for me. That’s why a few years ago  I made the move to come over for the summer to teach my horses and to teach myself as a rider to feel more comfortable in this ring. I now feel more confident when I come here, and my horse Venard has grown a lot in this venue. He was here when I made the trip over in the summer, and now likes this ring. It’s no pressure, but a lot of excitement because Sunday is a big ask and always a challenge, so I’m excited to see what Leopoldo [Palacios] will set for us. The only thing I know for sure is that it’s going to be tough, but I’m ready for it, my horse as well, so we’ll see what it brings. It’s for sure one of the best places where you can win as a rider.
Q This is the third Rolex Major of the year, coming out of the Dutch Masters and Aachen, and moving on to your home show at Geneva in Switzerland in December. Tell us how the shows compare and differ – obviously two indoor, two outdoor – and coming here at this time in the year from a rider’s perspective?
They are all actually very different. I would say the Dutch Masters is the only one that’s maybe a little bit more what we’re used to with the size of the ring and the fences. We have many shows of this kind, not as prestigious as the Dutch Masters, but when you enter the ring it’s similar to what we see at other venues during the year. The other three are quite unique. What you see in Aachen you only see in Aachen, what you see at Spruce is only what you see here, and when you enter the ring in Geneva there’s no other indoor in the world like that, so they’re all very unique. I’m actually very happy that more and more you see the best riders that set goals and focus on these events with the best horses. That’s why at the end of the year they are for sure the four best venues with the best sport because they get the best riders with their best horses fighting for the most prestigious win we can achieve in our sport... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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