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Simon Delestre: Electric – on and off the course

Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Interview

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Simon Delestre. Photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Simon Delestre took a phenomenal win with Hermes Ryan in the Longines FEI World Cup in Lyon earlier this month, and to say that the atmosphere in the fully packed EurExpo was electric feels like an understatement. But whether winning in front of his home crowd or sitting down for a chat – there is always a certain vibrant vibe around the French rider.

World of Showjumping met Delestre prior to his victory in Lyon, and whether it was his 5-year-old daughter pulling him away or a fan asking for an autograph, there seemed to be action around the 36-year-old at all times. “I always keep going, I try to keep moving,” Simon tells. “You have to stay open in your mind. The sport is changing and evolving all the time, and so are we riders. You have to keep up and stay open – there are always details you can do better. You have to wake up every day thinking, ‘What can I do better today?’”

Delestre was literally born to ride – being the only child of parents who were into showjumping. “My father was a rider in the French team in the 90s, and later on he has been the national trainer for juniors and young riders in France for over 12 years,” Simon explains. “He was the trainer for Team Colombia until the Olympics in Rio, and now he is the national trainer of the Moroccan squad. I live in the east of France, at our family yard where I was born, just at the border of Luxembourg. We have a stable with 55 horses and around eight to ten people working with us together with my wife and my father,” Simon tells about his home base. “It is a dealing stable and normally I like to keep around 10-15 older horses, five or six of them for the big sport while the rest of the horses are for sport and dealing. I have around 30 young horses, everything from age four to age seven. I always like to keep a lot of young horses, and we also have a partner who breeds with 120 horses at his farm and every year we try to keep the best ones for the sport and develop them.” 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Marine with Hermes Ryan.

“Horses were a part of my life since I was born. I never wanted to do anything else,” Simon goes on to explain. “I studied mathematics for two years – but only because my father pushed me to do that,” he laughs. “I love the sport, I love my way of life and I think I am very lucky to be going to a show every week,” he says. “Showjumping is really a passion for me and I enjoy everything about it; finding a super horse, selling a horse when everyone is happy, winning a big class, developing a new horse you believed in. Sometimes you are wrong, sometimes you are right – that is the way with horses. Sometimes you have an idea, and in the end you are far from reality – everything keeps changing daily, and every day is intense.”

Most of the days are spent on the road. “From Monday to Tuesday I am at home, then I leave to a show or go try horses with clients. From Thursday on I am at a show – every week. I think last year I had 46 weeks of showing,” Simon tells about his busy schedule. “There are so many shows now, with the Nations Cups, World Cups, Global Champion Tour… But to be honest – I like it, because every weekend we can fight with the best riders in the world and that is where I want to be. I think all these shows are not working against each other; there are more opportunities now than ever before. In general, you always need to have someone doing better and trying to grow. It keeps the sport alive.”

Being extremely busy means you need exceptional team behind you. “I am lucky – I have always had a super relationship with my groom Marine,” Simon tells us. “For me she is the one who is the most involved with my horses – and she is incredible, she gives her all for my horses and it is fantastic to work with her. Every day is a pleasure, and I think everyone needs someone like her – as a rider you need to have confidence in the people around you and you have to be able to trust them.” And whenever you spot Team Delestre at a show, you are usually greeted with a huge smile. “I don’t know if we are always happy, but we are always working in a good atmosphere,” Simon tells. “I hate fighting – I want to stay in good spirits, and when something is not working, I am not waiting to part ways in that case. I work hard and I am strict, but me and the people around me share the same mentality. I think that is the key: You have to be walking on the same line.” 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
“For me, he is one of the best horses in the world and I am very lucky to have a horse like him," Delestre says about Hermes Ryan.

And the most special part of the team? “Ryan for sure – he is amazing,” Simon smiles when he starts to talk about the little chestnut. “For me, he is one of the best horses in the world and I am very lucky to have a horse like him. To have a horse three quarters as good as him once more during my career – I am not sure that will ever happen! Ryan is a real crack. We bought him when he was a 5-year-old from Belgium, from Stephan Conter. They got him only a few days before we bought him. He was very difficult as a youngster, with a big character, but the jump was incredible – I always believed in him,” Simon goes on to explain.

Because of the special bond he shares with Ryan, the individual bronze medal at the European Championships in Aachen 2015 with him is one of the achievements that have meant the most for Delestre – even though seeing any sort of progress is always satisfying for him. “When you win a big class with a horse you have worked long with, and that you have believed in - it is always a really intense feeling,” he says.

Always on the lookout for the next star, Delestre values the intelligence of a horse over everything else. “With some horses you can never be sure, but when they are clever and intelligent – that is the most important quality for me. To have a real crack you need to have everything, but often you must settle with having a little bit less on some parts,” he says. “If you have to compromise on some points, you have to fill in on the other parts – and if a horse is intelligent, it is possible. Many times a horse can change completely from how it was as a 3-year-old to how it turns out when it is eight – if they have the right mind-set. In the end it is all about the feeling you get as a rider – whether you believe in them or not. I try to adapt to every horse – I believe every horse is a new story.” 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Simon Delestre with Chesall Zimequest.

Having previously trained with the names like Henk Nooren and Katie Monahan, Simon now works closely with his father. ”And, I am lucky to be in contact with all the best riders every week –there is always something new to learn.”

“To be honest, I have not a minute left over to do something different – this is my way of life. If you are not passionate about what you do, then it will be hard. I like what I do. My favourite moment of the day is the first horse that I ride. I start riding every day around six in the morning. It is a good time; I have no calls, no one needs me, it is quiet – it is the only moment of the day where I can just concentrate on my horses and be alone with them.”

 


Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen // Pictures © Jenny Abrahamsson

No reproduction without permission

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