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WoSJ Exclusive; Simon Delestre – The fast and the fearless

Thursday, 03 March 2011

The fast and the fearless: Simon Delestre. Photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
The fast and the fearless: Simon Delestre. Photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Simon Delestre is known as one of the fastest and most fearless riders on the international circuit. WoSJ met the stylish French rider to find out more about him, his horses and his fascination for speed.

The 30 year old rider comes from an equestrian family; Simon’s father Marcel was a showjumper himself. Surrounded by horses at the family’s yard in eastern France, it comes as no surprise that Simon himself started to ride very early on.

“I rode the European championships for ponies, junior and young riders on several occasions – and in 2000 I was a part of the young rider team that earned a gold medal at the championships in Hartbury. I got to represent France in the Super League quite early on as a senior rider, and was successful in shows such as Rotterdam, Hickstead and Rome – my horse at the time was Inédite de Balme,” Simon tells WoSJ. “I finished school at 18, and then it was all showjumping for me,” Simon explains.

Great results have followed Delestre over the past years, such as victories in the classes at the Global Champions Tour shows in 2010 – including Chantilly, Valkenswaard and Rio – as well as victories at the 5* shows in Lyon and Paris in 2010, followed by victories at Basel’s and Bordeaux’s 5* shows in 2011. Currently Simon is ranked as number 10 in the world, which is no less than very impressive considering his young age.

Napoli Du Ry and Simon Delestre.
Napoli Du Ry and Simon Delestre.

Simon has a great string of horses, which he rates very highly. One of his top horses is the lovely grey stallion Couletto (Couleur Rubin x Caletto), who now is 11 years old. At the end of his seventh year this Oldenburger came to Simon from Paul Schockemöhle’s stables. The stallion has gone on to be very successful with Simon, collecting several prizes in the international grand prix classes around the world. “Unfortunately a crack in Couletto’s hoof last year prevented us from going to the WEG in Kentucky,” Simon says. The wonderful horse was out for seven months to heal, but is now back in top form.

Then there is Napoli Du Ry; Simon’s faithful companion over the years by Baloubet du Rouet x Silvio I. The ten year old Oldenburger gelding has proved to be one of Simon’s best and most steady horses, but it hasn’t always been like that; “Napoli was very difficult as a young horse – he was quite stupid and extremely spooky. I took him on after Rodrigo Pessoa, and I took me quite some time to get to him,” the French rider explains. “But what I could see in between all Napoli’s difficulties was an incredible quality, and a very talented horse – I really believed in him. I proved to be right, with time he has only gotten better and better,” Simon continues. “Even though Napoli has come a long way, he can still fall back to his old self and become stressed – but I know how to deal with him now,” Simon tells us. The French rider also reveals that it will be either Napoli or Couletto that will be aimed against the Europeans in Madrid in September.

A third favorite is Oslo du Chalet, a nine year old stallion by Concorde x Germino d’Elle. “Oslo is a very careful, scopey and modern horse – he has all the qualities needed,” Simon says. “I have had him since he was a four year old, and he went to the 5, 6 and 7 year old championships in Fointanbleu,” Delestre continues. “I don’t know if I will be able to keep him, but I really hope so.” Like Couletto, the French bred Oslo du Chalet is also used for breeding, travelling to a stud nearby to do his duties.

Orpheé de L'Illion and Simon Delestre.
Orpheé de L'Illion and Simon Delestre.

Simon also has the speedy little mare Orphèe de L’Illion (Arpege Pierrville x Prince du Logis). The nine year old has won a lot, and amongst her triumphs are victories in the 6 and 7 year old championships in France. Then there is the Toulon-mare Bijou Orai, the Pacific-stallion Vancouver and the Chellano Z-mare Ciana Z.

“I have about ten different owners on my horses. Couletto’s owner also has a part in Napoli. With horses that are going to be produced from a younger age, I normally want a part in the horse as well. That is important to me when I use a lot of time building the horses up,” the sympathetic riders says.

Simon prefers to produce the horses himself, and thus likes having them from a younger age. “Right now we have around 45 horses at home, and 20 of these are mine to ride. Around thirteen of them are in the age group from four to six years old, but I don’t have the time to ride them as much as I’d like to. If there is one horse I really find interesting, I try to do a young horse class or two – it helps me to get the feeling about the horse,” Simon says. With all the travelling and so many horses, there are four riders at Simon’s yard that helps keep the horses fit for fight. Delestre’s father also rides and helps out when needed. With so much success under his belt, it’s interesting to hear what Simon looks for in a horse; “The answer is simple; scope, quality, good health and good breeding,” he smiles. “But you never know with horses. There is no guarantee for anything.”

The French rider’s like for producing horses leads us on to chatting about breeding. “I tried that. I had a really good mare with excellent bloodlines, who also did well in the sport. Then I used a really good stallion on her, but the result was not as good as I hoped for. It’s difficult with breeding as you will never be sure of what you get,” he says. “So I prefer to buy”.

How does the talented rider think 2011 will be like? “Well, first of all I will aim for the World Cup final in Leipzig, and then it’s all about the Super League and the Global Champions Tour. I won’t ride all the Super League shows, I need to match it all up for the Europeans this year as well,” Simon concludes.

Action; exactly what Simon prefers.
Action; exactly what Simon prefers.

Simon is known for being one of the fastest riders on the international circuit, and if there is a speed class or a jump-off he is for sure one of the riders that needs to be looked out for. Does he have a build-in clock maybe? “No, I just like to go fast in everything I do. Whether it is on the horseback, on downhill skies or behind the wheel of my car,” he laughs and continues with a huge smile “at least when I have my driver’s license!”

Although he loves going fast, Simon still likes to let his horses get plenty of walking and thinks it is important that he gets to ride them as much as possible himself. As to any philosophy he might have, the charming rider explains “I adapt to the horse, I don’t just follow one system – the horses are all individuals.” Simon has trained for his father all his life, but also for the national team trainers through the times – at this point it is Henk Nooren who is the coach. “And I must say that it has helped both me and my team that we now have Henk Nooren as a team trainer; he has so much experience. You just don’t question what he has to say, and I have a lot of respect for him,” Simon finishes.


Photos by Jenny Abrahamsson/Text by Jannicke Naustdal - copyright © 2011.

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