Steve Guerdat is one of Switzerland's best riders; on Tresor he was third in the World Cup final in Las Vegas in 2007, he won European Team gold in 2009 and last year he won the Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final in Geneva – the latter two on Jalisca Solier, not to forget his numerous Grand Prix victories. WoSJ had a chat with Steve and learned that he is a rider who also cares about contributing to the sport outside the ring, especially through his engagement in the International Jumping Riders Club.
"My first contact with the IJRC was about four years ago during one of their meetings considering the ranking system. I was asked if I wanted to join them in their work, and I thought it was a good opportunity to make a difference so I said yes," Steve says. "There were few riders involved at the time; I guess we were about seven or eight."
"Since then the interest in the club has grown, and more younger riders are involved now than before – like Ben Maher and Kevin Staut, which I think is important. It feels like the club has more power now; that others actually listens to us – before it felt like we had to fight a lot to achieve things," Guerdat points out.
"I think many things in the sport should be changed. I don't like to criticize without doing anything to change it though; there is no point in complaining if you can't come up with alternative ideas or solutions. That's part of why I joined the club in their work," Steve explains on why he became involved. "I think many of the riders are good at complaining about what's wrong with the sport, and that we don't do enough in the club – but when they join our meetings they are too lazy to speak up and say their opinion."
"I'm not saying that what I want for the sport – or feel is important – is the right thing. But at least I give my voice," Steve smiles. "Also, all the contributions from the riders are important for the club – it has a small structure and no economic funds. What is done of work is voluntarily, and Club Director Eleonora Ottaviani does most of it," Guerdat continues.
"There are many things we need to continue to work on for the sport to become better. I think it's important to focus on how we can avoid on overusing – and abusing – the horses when the sport is developing as it is with the numbers of big shows increasing every year. We have to take care of the horses; it's not all about getting enough points – either in the Global Champions Tour, the Top League or in the World Cup, not to forget the World Ranking list. The welfare of the horse must come first," Steve says.
"Our sport is still sport; by that I mean that the sport is so far open for the best and not the richest. We have to focus on keeping it that way. I think we see a certain development where many of the riders in the bigger classes are not at the level they should be at. And then they take up places in the classes that should belong to the riders that are good enough, who actually earned the place," the Swiss rider says.
"We also need to fight for the Nations Cups series to get stronger. The riders should prefer to ride in the Nations Cup, and represent their country there. That's why we need to bring the level of the Nations Cup shows up to a standard that can compete with other top shows," Steve points out.
"Luckily we still have a pretty clean sport. I mean, it's far, far, from cycling to pull up an example. But even though our sport is quite clean, it is important to be open and bring issues that might arise to the table. When it comes to doping and horse abuse I'm all for a zero tolerance. That being said I am not happy with the zero tolerance when it comes to medication; the rules here go too far," Steve says clearly.
"I think it's great working with the club, but of course sometimes it's a little bit of a pain – like when I get a lot of papers to read through," Steve laughs. "Like all riders I have a lot to do; things are on seven days a week and I travel a lot – so there's little time to do other things," he smiles. "But I like my sport, and I gladly fight for it and I really feel I'm working for something good!"
Photos by Jenny Abrahamsson/Text by Jannicke Naustdal - copyright © worldofshowjumping.com 2011.
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