Penelope Leprevost has been the “leading lady” in French showjumping over the last years. The one girl you see on every French Nations Cup team together with the guys. We met Penelope in Falsterbo in July and we got to know a little bit more about this fantastic rider, her amazing horses and what it is like to be one of few girls at this level.
The first thing we found out about Penelope is that she has a great smile and her laughter is never far away. The second thing we found out is that she is not from a horse family, but started riding at the local riding school as everyone else. Her parents could not afford to buy her a good horse, and as a junior and young rider she only competed on national level in the 1.25 classes. Penelope started helping her boss riding his horses as an amateur, and it was only after she had jumped the Ladies National Championships three times that she got her first real sponsor.
What might separate Penelope a little from many other top riders is that she has several different owners on her horses, and none of them are her own. For many riders this can be a challenge as each owner has their separate wishes and needs, but we get the impression that is no problem for Penelope. She lets us now that she has a good rider back home in Normandie who takes care of the younger horses. The days Penelope is home during the week she takes them to the shows for young horses.
Penelope explains that her philosophy when she rides is to find a solution between herself and the horses. “I like a lot of gymnastic riding and to ride my horses in a quite low form – with their head down. My trainer and mentor over the last years has been Michel Robert, who has been really important to my development. Michel is often a part of the French team too, and we attend several of the same shows which makes it easy to get the good advices,” Leprevost says.
Being the only female French rider at this level and one of few in general is obviously not a problem. On the contrary Penelope tells us (with a great smile on her face) that this can be an advantage from time to time. “I’m a girl between lots of men. Some owners want girls to ride their horses. Like Topinambour - he had a male rider, but he wasn’t that happy with the strong riding. So he came to me! It has taken some time, but now we have worked it out,” Penelope says.
When you sit down with someone like Penelope you need to spend some time talking about the horses. She has an amazing string of horses that would make most riders a bit jealous. Penelope loves stallions, and one of the biggest stars in her string is the eleven year old Selle Francais Mylord Carthago (Carthago x Jalisco B) who most likely will be Penelope's partner at the Europeans. “I got him when he was about six or seven years old, and I really believed in him from the start. It has taken a lot of work, but the work has paid off. He is a horse with lots of blood, but he is really careful and light to ride. He is quite sensible though and I ride him without spurs,” Penelope explains.
Topinambour (Heartbreaker x Veneur du Luc) is also an eleven year old stallion. Penelope explains that he was strong and difficult when she first got him, and she used six months just riding him in the 1.30 classes. She could feel he had a lot of scope though and as he got under control he has proven to be a great horse.
Then there is Nenuphar’Jac (Cumano x Pidayack) - a ten year old grey Selle Francais gelding. “He is a fantastic horse, but I didn’t actually think he would jump the big classes as he is a bit scared and stressed,” Penelope says. Hard work and Penelope’s good riding must have paid off though - as the horse seems to jump better and better.
Sisley de la Tour Vidal (Organo Sitte x Calvaro) is a nine year old stallion. “He is very big, very slow, not strong and easy on the flat”, Penelope explains. ”He is a fantastic horse, but still a bit green and needs some more big shows, we are doing our first 5* Grand Prix this weekend in Falsterbo,” she continues. With a big smile Penelope tells us that Sisley is a horse she will bring to Aachen some day. He is truly a horse for the future!
Photos by Jenny Abrahamsson/Text by Jannicke Naustdal - copyright © worldofshowjumping.com 2011.
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