In your opinion, what makes CHI Geneva such a special competition?
The particular layout of the event makes CHI Geneva special; everything is under the same roof, which makes the riders’ accessibility easier. The show jumpers do not have to go outside, and they have easy access to their hotel nearby. This easy accessibility makes the riders value the competition in terms of logistics. As this is the Rolex Grand Slam, there are some amazing courses, and classes filled with ambitious riders, which raises the competition level. Due to the event being linked with Rolex, the event’s atmosphere becomes naturally prestigious. It is clear that there is a lot of money behind the event, and this adds to the riders’ motivation to take part.
What kind of course have you prepared for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
It is a fairly long course, similar to last year with 14 obstacles, including two doubles and a triple, making it a real Grand Prix course. We have created the CHI Geneva course differently compared to the Rolex Grand Slam courses in Aachen and Calgary, as for those there are two rounds and a jump-off. In Geneva, we do not make riders do two rounds, so it allows the course to be extended, to be slightly more difficult and to include a jump-off.
How many clear rounds are you expecting?
It’s always more or less the same, we try to have eight or 10 without mistakes. If we have 12, it means that there are too many – if this does occur, it will be less than ideal. In general, we always try to have fewer than 12 but we are aiming for eight clears. This is the ideal number, but if there are six or even 10 then these would be fine, as well.
Which combination do you think has the best chance of winning the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?
A lot of the riders who compete in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva have great performances. It is essential to have a horse that has skill and speed, and is overall in great shape. Another factor that affects a rider’s performance is whether they are personally fit on competition day. Everyone, even the best riders can have bad days. For example, we saw this with Ben Maher, who has won a lot of Grands Prix. I spoke to him yesterday and he said he hopes his luck lasts throughout the weekend. He is a good show jumper, as he views every situation and competition realistically, while weighing up his rivals. At the moment, he is on top form and he has horses that are on great form, as well.
There is always a rider who experiences periods of great form and victories. These riders are often the ones who are at the top of the rankings, such as Steve Guerdat, Martin Fuchs and Henrik von Eckermann. These riders have achieved incredible success recently. But all of a sudden there can be a relatively new rider, such as Julien Epaillard, who comes along; someone who has never been ranked number one in the world, who certainly has the ability to achieve this one day. There is a possibility that Julien does well this weekend if, for example, von Eckermann has a weak performance.
When did you design your first course as head course designer?
Unfortunately, I do not remember my very first course well, but I am certain that it was a small course. I would say it was around a 1,00m or a 1,10m event. However, I remember the first big competition I designed was in St. Gallen – all the pressure was on me. Unfortunately, we experienced terrible weather that weekend so only two events took place. A few weeks later, I gained some more experience and responsibility at CHI Geneva and it went relatively well.
Do you have any passions outside of the equestrian world? What do you do when you are not working?
Being fully transparent, I do not have much time to myself, as I still have my breeding centre that I take care of. We have a lot of foals, and young horses that require a lot of attention and patience when training them. At home, we also have foals that I take care of, so when I do have some free time, I tend to not do much to relax.
Have you ever been intrigued by a particular course?
In truth, I cannot decide on one course, as there have been so many that I have liked. For example, last year’s Rolex Grand Prix course at CHI Geneva was, in my opinion, the best Grand Prix course that I have ever designed. It was appreciated by the audience and the riders, and despite having an event during the pandemic, I was proud of the way it was designed.
On the other hand, there are a lot of courses designed by others that I like and that I think were successful. Again, I cannot make my mind up on one but I really enjoyed the one at this year’s World Championships in Herning. I went with Louis Konickx, as his assistant, and I enjoyed all the courses he designed for the World Championships.
I’ve seen several courses on TV, and I appreciated the Tokyo 2020 show jumping course. It was designed successfully – it was a very professional course that contained several difficulties, and several lines, which were technical. I was lucky enough to receive the plans and I can confirm that it was technical, it was interesting to see – it was a superb event.
Is there a course designer that has inspired you more than others?
It is hard to say whether there have been some who have inspired me more than others but there are definitely course designers that have guided me to my success today. For example, I was inspired and influenced by Rolf Lüdi, and in my career, I have had the chance to work with several designers and it has been very beneficial. Early on, I had the chance to work with Louis Konickx, and that was amazing, as we had the same approach and ideas regarding competition lines. The way we worked together was great – we were supportive of each other’s ideas but we also provided constructive feedback regarding our lines. We criticised each other in a constructive way, and at the end of the day we had the same goal to progress the sport. There was absolutely no tension working with him. I also had the chance to work twice with Uliano Vezzani; it was a different experience, as we have different approaches, and style in terms of the work, but he is an incredible person.
Source: Press Release from Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping
Photo: © Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder