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Gold for Guerdat and his genius Dynamix de Belheme at the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023

Sunday, 03 September 2023
FEI Jumping European Championship 2023

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Flawless through five rounds of competition, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and the 10-year-old mare Dynamix de Belheme were in a league of their own at the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 – taking the individual gold medal at Ippodromo San Siro in Milan, Italy, on Sunday. All photos © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



Flawless through five rounds of competition, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Dynamix de Belheme (Snaike de Blondel x Cornet Obolensky, bred by Frederic Aimez, and owned by C.H.C. Horses SA & La Giraffa SA) were in a league of their own at the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 – taking the individual gold medal at Ippodromo San Siro in Milan, Italy, on Sunday. On an afternoon of extraordinary sport, three great horsemen finished on the podium with Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt and the only 9-year-old Zineday (Zinedine x Polydor, bred by Franz-Georg Ottman, and owned by Alice Lawaetz) claiming silver, and France’s Julien Epaillard and Dubai du Cedre (Baloubet du Rouet x Diamant de Semilly, bred by Sylvain Pitois and Perrine Cateline, and owned by SARL Exceptional Horses S.L., Perrine Cateline & Sylvain Pitois) bronze.

Developed by Guerdat since she was five, the now 10-year-old mare has been matched carefully towards the top sport and made her first international championship in Milan this week. Earlier this year, Guerdat told World of Showjumping he believes Dynamix has everything to be a horse for the history books and today he proved that prediction right. 

“I have been very, very, very, lucky, or even blessed, since the beginning of my career. I’m for sure no better rider than this guy sitting beside me [Weishaupt], but he did not always have the same luck with his horses towards the championships – a luck that I was able to have – so for me to say it is the best horse I ever had, it takes a lot,” Guerdat said about Dynamix de Belheme. “I have had so many special horses through my whole career, but I did not want to put this pressure on her telling everybody that I have a new superstar, but we knew it – or we hoped for it – and we just tried to let her develop the way she had to develop. But, basically since the first day I had her, I felt she had all the qualities that all my superstars have had and she had it all as one horse. So, she is very, very, special, and I just try to don’t rush things and listen to her and what she wants to do. She felt ready now – she only did her first five-star a year ago, but she has not really missed anything.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "I just tried to stay focused on what I had to do – and I knew that she would not let me down because she is a very, very, special horse," Guerdat said of Dynamix.

Sunday’s individual final went over two rounds – both set at 1.60m and each judged under Table A not against the clock. The best 24 pairs from Wednesday, Thursday and Friday’s competitions jumped the first round – starting in reverse order. 

The first round shook the standings up, and the crowd at Ippodromo San Siro had to wait all the way until Austria’s Max Kühner and Elektric Blue P (Eldorado vd Zeshoek x For Pleasure) entered the ring as start no. 15 before Uliano Vezzani’s twelve-fence track was cleared – leaving them on their overnight score of 6.16. It was the double of uprights at 6ab with a blue slim plank on flat cups jumping out that got the riders in trouble over and over, as it followed on a forward six strides or a very short seven that few got just right as it came after the open water. The 1.60m track also included a massive triple combination with an oxer on two strides to a vertical and one stride out over an oxer where many struggled, and poles fell again and again. 

Sitting 8th overnight, it was Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann – world no. one – and Iliana (Cardento x Gentleman) that delivered the second clear of the first round, leaving them on their score of 4.70. France’s Julien Epaillard and Dubai du Cedre as well as Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt with Zineday followed suit, and kept on their respective scores of 4.61 and 4.31 – keeping it tight on top. Meanwhile, Great Britain’s Ben Maher, France’s Olivier Perreau and Ireland’s Michael Duffy all collected faults – Maher and Perreau four each, in the triple and the double respectively, while Duffy had eight penalties added, dropping them down the result list behind Kühner who advanced. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "I had no expectations, I know the horse is super, I need to ride well and just keep him calm," Weishaupt said after his silver medal with the only 9-year-old Zineday.

If a pin had dropped at San Siro, you would have heard it as Steve Guerdat entered the ring with his wonderful Dynamix de Belheme. Holding a collective breath, the crowd went silent as Guerdat – sitting 2nd coming into the individual final – got going to tackle Vezzani’s 13-fence track with the 10-year-old mare. And Guerdat kept it together, delivering his fourth clear round and adding nothing to his score of 0.43.

The pressure now piled on to Sweden’s Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit (Cohiba x Calido I) who had held the lead since the championship kicked off on Wednesday. But, choosing the six to the double of uprights, Fredricson could not get the gelding quick enough off the ground and the plank at 6b fell – accompanied by a collective groan of disappointment from the Swedish fans who were hoping for another gold medal. Fredricson had added four faults to his score, dropping down to sit second behind Guerdat, followed by Weishaupt on 4.31, Epaillard on 4.61, von Eckermann on 4.70, Kühner on 6.16, Perreau on 6.79 and Maher on 7.13.

With the twelve best returning for round two, and the top eight sitting so close to each other, anything could happen as the last and medal deciding course was to be jumped. Vezzani – who has received praise for his fantastic course design in Milan – had put together a track that counted ten fences, with a triple combination as the penultimate challenge at 9abc, followed by a massive Longines oxer as the very last jump. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "I'm happy to bring back a medal for France," Epaillard said after only having one fence down over the five rounds of competition with Dubai du Cedre and finishing with the bronze.

Fourth in the ring for round two, it was Maher who posted the first clear with Faltic HB (Baltic VDL x Concorde) and the pressure was on for the remaining seven riders. So, when Perreau pulled in one stride too many to take down the last oxer, followed by Kühner who saw the plank on no. 7 hit the grass and world no. one von Eckermann who had Iliana clip a pole on the upright at no. 3, Maher was closing in on the top four. 

Epaillard, however, seems allergic to pressure and rode one of his signature forward rounds – making it all look deceptively easy despite a small touch on the upright at no. 5, and crossing the finish line clear there was no room for error for the top three. 

Weishaupt has impressed from the first round on Wednesday, and continued like he started with the extraordinary Zineday playing with the fences. With another clear round – his fourth of the championship – Weishaupt remained on his score of 4.31, and the pressure was at a max for Fredricson and Guerdat as neither could afford a rail down with Weishaupt and Epaillard breathing them in the neck. 

But, the plank at no. 7 stopped Fredricson’s dreams of another medal at San Siro and the Swedish rider had to add a further four faults to his score – leaving him on a total of eight penalties and outside the podium.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ The medallists: Gold for Steve Guerdat, silver for Philipp Weishaupt and bronze for Julien Epaillard.

If Guerdat was nervous, it did not show. The Swiss rider put on a performance that demonstrated his exceptional horsemanship skills and that also illustrated the unique partnership he has formed with Dynamix. Calmly, Guerdat piloted the mare around the ten-fence track without a moment of doubt. Crossing the finish line clear, as the only pair with five flawless rounds, it exploded at San Siro and Guerdat punched the air in delight as he had secured the individual gold medal ahead of Weishaupt with silver and Epaillard with bronze. 

“I tried to not make anything different because I have to go clear – it is my job to try and go clear every week, every Sunday, every championship,” Guerdat said when detailing his very last round. “My mare was in great form, I just tried to keep her fresh because it was her first championship and I felt her a little bit tired today already in the first round. So, I tried to really save the jumps, I only did five or six jumps before the last round and I just tried to stay focused on what I had to do – and I knew that she would not let me down because she is a very, very, special horse. So, I tried to stay focused on my job, so that she could express herself at her best – and that’s what she did. I’m proud of being able to ride a horse like this.”

Weishaupt was another rider who was proud of his horse. At only nine, Zineday was the youngest on the podium. “At the beginning of the year it was not my priority to come here to the European Championship because Zineday is only 9 years old – a year younger than Steve’s horse, but I think quality-wise not far away from each other those two horses,” he said. “But I said ‘no pressure’; I have to listen into him on how far he is and do step by step and show by show. I also tried to keep him a bit in the background, and make sure not too many people asked me questions about him but then after his performance in Aachen it was no chance to hide anymore. He did it so easy in Aachen, and then I said ‘you know what, I’ll see how he does the show after Aachen’ and that was Riesenbeck where he came back very solid and strong so I thought he was ready for a championship. I thought he would learn and get experience here doing those five days, and I did it day by day – I had no expectations, I know the horse is super, I need to ride well and just keep him calm.” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “I have had so many special horses through my whole career, but I did not want to put this pressure on her telling everybody that I have a new superstar, but we knew it – or we hoped for it – and we just tried to let her develop the way she had to develop," Guerdat said of Dynamix de Belheme.

“Steve was the only one jumping clear all days, he deserves to be there – I wasn’t – so I think the result could not be better for me,” Weishaupt added.

Epaillard, who had to catch a flight and was not present at the press conference, said: “The results are very positive. We know that this mare does not yet have all the experience for her 10 years. But she had an incredible championship. She is a mare that goes the distance, she was not tired at all today. This gives a good feeling for the future. And I'm happy to bring back a medal for France.”

Guerdat and Weishaupt will now both give their horses a well-deserved break. Weishaupt pointed out the importance of now taking a step back and let Zineday breathe, saying: “To not overdo it is also my goal for the coming time because I should not keep on pushing him. Now he gets a bit of a rest and then we see what the future brings.”

As for Dynamix, Guerdat said: “If I saw right, she has eight weeks off; she will go in the field and get a good rest as she deserves.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Steve Guerdat: 2023 European Champion!

Both Guerdat and Weishaupt highlighted the owners of their horses, and how much their support means – and also praised the breeders and the job that they do. “I am lucky with an incredible owner – Sabina Cartossi – who has been with me for many years,” Guerdat said. “It started with Corbinian who won the World Cup Final, then Venard who has won so many Grand Prix classes and Nations Cups for us, then now Dynamix since she was 5 years old. I told her [Sabina Cartossi] already that I had many nightmares where I woke up in the middle of the night because someone had bought the horse – but she said ‘you can sleep well, this mare is staying with you’. I am so thankful to have someone like that to share our happiness with and make our dreams come true.”

“In our case, it’s a little different – at our barn we live off also buying and selling, but in the specific case with Zineday I was smart enough two years ago to find somebody because I knew exactly which situation I was going to be in in two years time with the quality I always felt,” Weishaupt explained. “We knew what we were going to have, and that we had to find somebody who would buy the horse so that I could say no whenever there was a question to sell. And I am in the lucky situation that I found somebody with Alice Lawaetz, she is a great supporter – and also owns Coby – and she told me ‘don’t worry, whatever comes just say no’. That feels unbelievable; I never had that in my whole career – as soon as a horse was ready, it was for sale. This gives a good feeling for the future; I don’t have to rush with this horse, I can really do my plan and what is best for this horse and this is so important. We need to have those people in the background because imagine what these horses are worth on the market. So, we are really, really thankful to our owners and that they support us.”


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