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Olympic course designer Guilherme Jorge: “I love the sport and I find it fascinating to be able to create the courses”

Wednesday, 26 October 2016
Interview

Guilherme Jorge. Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.
Guilherme Jorge. Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

At the Olympic Games in Rio, it was Brazil’s own Guilherme Jorge that was behind the much praised course design.

Designing the tracks in Rio was very special for Jorge. “My first Olympic experience was in Atlanta in 1996, and I think being at the Games has a special energy about it. When Brazil won the bid to host the Olympics back in 2009, I had my mind set on being the course designer there. I think with all the other jobs I had, I never thought I wanted to do this or that championship; I worked hard, tried to learn as much as I could – working as an assistant as well as at major events. I think that based on this, I was receiving my invitations. However, when the Olympic Games were allocated to Brazil I was already a Level 4 FEI course designer so I really wanted to do this job and kept preparing myself for it. The process itself was pretty complicated,” Jorge explains during a seminar put together at the Helsinki International Porsche Horse Show.

One and a half year of preparations from Jorge and his team resulted in great sport in Rio. As to his methods when building for different horse and rider combinations, Jorge explains: “I like to mix things; build a little bit for the scope, a little bit for the carefulness – then we can play a little bit with the time allowed and ask the riders different questions.”

“The current state of showjumping, and the quality on the horses and riders makes our work as course designers very challenging – but we should not forget that we are on the same side as the riders. We all want to create good sport. I don’t like to talk about ‘tricks’ when we talk about the challenges we can create when we build courses; I like to talk about ‘asking questions’. The easiest way to put pressure on the riders is through the time allowed. But, that should be only one of the factors of the course. Then there are other questions, for example the riders have to be able to shorten and lengthen the canter, they have to be balanced in their turns and so on,” Jorge explains.

“What I think would help to develop the sport is to start asking these questions already at a lower level, of course taking into account the level and experience of the participants,” he continues. “For example, at junior level there are already strong horse and rider combinations. It is ok to ask a few more questions when the height of the fences stays low.”

“For young horses it is important to have common sense,” Jorge says. “The courses have to be encouraging and have mostly forward distances. For the time allowed with the young horses I think you should give them enough. When they are six- and seven-years-old you can start to ask them more questions, but I don’t like to pressure them with time.”

Although he is now considered one of the very best course designers in the world, it took a while for Jorge to find his calling. Before becoming a course designer, he did something totally different. “I loved horses, my dad was a doctor – well what is the logical choice? I studied to become a vet. I worked as a vet for eight years, but I always loved the sport and I wanted to do more with it. I never considered myself as a good enough rider, never had the means to have proper training and horses – so course building gave me the chance to be more involved in the sport. At first I worked both as a vet and a course designer, but slowly the latter took over,” Jorge tells.  

“Our sport is unique in this way: We have someone creating the course, and the challenge for the riders is a new one every time. I love the sport and I find it fascinating to be able to create the courses.”

 


Text and picture © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen 

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