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Questions & Answers with Steve Guerdat: Hopes, Dreams, Idols & Relationships

Lausanne, Switzerland – April 06, 2022 – Defending champion, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (SUI), has won the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ title three times during his sparkling career. He talks about his hopes for the 2022 Final in Leipzig, Germany this week…..

How is the lead-in to this year’s Final?

“My horse (Victorio des Frotards) is feeling good, for a few weeks now he seems to be in the right place and I’m happy that it’s starting and that I did my job before I came here and that I have brought him in top form.

I took him to Arezzo (Italy) for two weeks just to train. I had 15 horses there and I planned to go back in the second week to ride him at home but thought it better to bring him, and I was glad I did because it was very nice to ride him in the countryside and to train there and I just gave him a few small jumps to keep him in shape and then he came home on Friday last week and I jumped him a little at home on Monday and now we are here.”

What are the horse’s strengths?

“He’s a completely different horse to what I thought he was when I got him! He was very successful at 2-Star level with a French rider and I thought he could be a very good second horse, a speed horse, so he had to try and win at 1.45m. But I was surprised that it wasn’t as easy to clear the jumps when I went fast but he had a lot more scope than I expected. So it was the other way around, I thought he was so careful and not so scopy, I found he was sometimes not so careful but super scopy, so it took us a while to find each other out and he needed more experience at the higher jumps but since then he’s been very successful. 

But I still find it hard to have him “on the day”, he wins a Grand Prix I didn’t expect him to win, jumping amazing, and then the week after he jumps not so good and still wins. And then he jumps super but has four faults, eight faults, I can’t tell beforehand how it will be. That’s why I’m happy he feels good now, but I’d be lying saying I’m 100% confident this week.”

This is your 14th World Cup Final – does it ever get boring?

“No! Not at all! For me the World Cup Final has always been something I’ve been looking up to, back when I was very young and starting….the World Cups all the winter season were the highlight and then the World Cup Final. When I was a kid it was a dream to do it, and being part of it today I feel blessed to be doing what I dreamed of as a kid!

Winning three titles with three different horses…how great is that?

“I don’t like to look back, but if I do I get more sorry I missed two wins with my best horse, Nino. Twice I was in the jump-off for the win and ended up second with him and I should have won both of them. When I look back I don’t think of the three (wins), I think of the two I missed!

But I’m here this week and excited as much as was at the first one!”

Has becoming a father changed anything? 

“Of course it changes things, I have a lot more responsibilities now I have my daughter to look to…life after a child is not the same …sometimes I feel bad to say it but I believe that because I’ve had so many amazing horses with which I had such a strong relationship it felt like I’ve been a father before! It’s different, but you have to look up to them, take care of them, you think day and night about them like I do with my child now.”

What have you learned from riding Victorio?

When I got him I had big hopes and then I kind of lost the hopes but then I thought no – I have to find a way to understand him, to be more patient with him and I have to not be upset because he made a mistake but learn how can I be a better rider and understand him better. 

It’s not his mistakes, I’m just not understanding him in the right way. He has taught me not to be stubborn but to be more open-minded about how differently I have to ride him and get along with him so that we understand each other better.

What is special about competing again in Leipzig?

“The first thing special is that when I think of Leipzig I see myself winning my first big class, I was 16 and I won a car, and I couldn’t drive it! I beat Marcus Ehning, Hugo Simon, Ludger Beerbaum in the jump-off. It’s an amazing memory. This show has a lot of history and of course I think of Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet (winners in Leipzig in 2011).”

What are you goals for the next few days? 

“I have to deal a bit with a new situation. I’d be lying if I said I came here at the top of my game and 100% confident. I’m having quite a low at the moment, I have fantastic horses coming up but they are still too young so I have a bit of a gap. 

Venard (de Cerisy) did a lot for me last year so I had to give him a break over the winter because he is aimed for the big outdoor shows this year. Maddox is difficult indoors, so I had Victorio and we haven’t been very successful the last few months. 

I had a lot of horses in Spain and Italy trying to build the next generation of horses and I believe it’s very promising, but if you watch my results over last 4 to 6 months they haven’t been great. It’s not easy because as much as I like riding I also like to win. So there have been a lot of short Sunday nights with not a lot of sleep, thinking about how to improve and change, it’s a new situation. I think my fortunes have to change but I’m ready to fight and I’ll take it day by day and ride as best I can and see what it brings.”

Do you feel a lot of pressure? 

“No, I’m just happy to be here and to compete, it’s really exciting! The World Cup Finals have always been something amazing for me and it’s still the same. It’s not a question of pressure, more a question of self confidence that’s not 100% with me at the moment. I have to ride better than I’ve been riding the last few months. Victorio has won five 5-Star Grand Prix competitions so I know he can do it but I’ve been making too many mistakes and I hope I’ve done them all now!”

Who are your favourites to win the title this year? 

“Martin Fuchs (SUI), Harrie Smolders (NED) and McLain Ward (USA).”

You have often said Britain’s John Whitaker (champion in 1990 and 1991) is your idol, what is it you most admire about him?

“His horsemanship. He keeps it as simple as it gets. It’s like I don’t think John knows what he’s doing, he just sits there and makes it work. He speaks the same language as the horse and this is the nicest thing you can get in our sport. It’s even better than winning.”

How would you describe your relationship with Victorio? 

“It’s a bit complicated for me, it might be easier for someone else. That’s why it never gets boring because you keep learning and every day at every show he teaches me something new. It’s like with people, sometimes you just match at first and sometimes you never match. And sometimes you match 70% or 80%, I don’t think I’ll ever match 100% with him but we match well enough to be successful. Not many horses have won five 5-Star Grand Prix in their career but he’s done that for me. So he has already given me a lot.”

What should a horse expect when it is ridden by Steve Guerdat?

“Concentration. My main thing when I train someone is, once you are on the horse you need to be 110% focused and concentrated on them. Because you decided to take him out of his field and to put a saddle on and ride him now, so the least you can do is be 100% with him and concentrate so that we don’t repeat jumps or exercises because you were not concentrating.

I don’t like to overdo things, I don’t believe I push my horses too much, and I’m trying to be very focused when I ride them out of respect for them.”

Source: Press Release by Louise Parkes for FEI – Fédération Equestre International

Photo: © FEI / Richard Juilliart