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!
Source: Press release from Rolex Grand Slam
Photos: © Rolex / Tiffany van Halle / Ashley Neuhof