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CHI Geneva Rolex Round Table: With Daniel Deusser and Steve Guerdat

Sunday, 11 December 2022
CHI Geneva 2022

Photo ©Rolex/Peggy Schroeder Rolex testimonee Steve Guerdat and Dynamix De Belheme in the stable at CHI Geneva. "If you want to spend your life or have a career in the sport you have to love your horses," Guerdat says. Photo ©Rolex/Peggy Schroeder.

On Saturday morning, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender Daniel Deusser and home hero Steve Guerdat – who has won the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva on no less than three occasions– met the media for the CHI Geneva Rolex Round Table.

Daniel, live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam, tell us how you are feeling, how has it been since the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’? How are you feeling coming here to CHI Geneva? 

"To be honest, yes, I am feeling good, and it is getting a little bit more relaxed the closer you get to the competition tomorrow. A couple of days, weeks, in advance, you start thinking about what the best program for your horse is; what can you do, you have to do more shows, you have to do less shows, what can you change in the training etc. But actually, now that you are here, you can’t change anything anymore you have to see how the horse feels, and so now I am just waiting for the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow and I will try to do my best tomorrow."

Steve, your home show here, tell us how it feels, does it feel any different being back this year compared to different years, how are you feeling? 

"It is probably different for me, it is easier, I am in a completely different situation to Daniel, for example, and most of the top riders that are here. I am a little bit down in my career if you think of recent results, but I have some great up and coming horses which will allow me to get back to where I want to be hopefully in the next 1-2 years. So, for me, it was a goal to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow and I am very happy to have qualified and to be part of it. I wasn’t sure before the show started, but I am going to try the Rolex Grand Prix with my young horse, Dynamix De Belheme, who is only 9 years old, so of course I don’t have the same goal as those guys but I am still very motivated for the experience and I know that if I ride good, I also have a chance because she is a very, very special horse. I am not going to put that pressure on her of ‘has to jump clear’ or ‘has to finish top 3 in the class’, everything else and a good round will be a bonus for me and for her. So yes, it is a little bit different from the other years where I have come hoping to win the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix, so it is something new, but something I also enjoy with this kind of horse, now that I am qualified, I am really looking forward to the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow."

Daniel, have you chosen which horse you are going to be riding tomorrow in the Rolex Grand Prix, and why have you chosen that horse? 

"I choose to ride Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z tomorrow. I was doubting a little bit, because actually both horses have jumped very well in the last couple of weeks, both horses have won one of the Majors already, so both horses are able to win, it is a nice but difficult situation and decision. But why did I do that? Because I have jumped them both here the first two days, CHI Geneva has a different atmosphere. Some horses get a little bit more excited with the noise here, Killer Queen VDM was a little bit, like I say, a little bit strong, a little bit too forward for me here which maybe would help in the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow when the fences are really big, but I went for my feeling, and I choose Tobago. He was great yesterday also, he was maybe a little bit shy with everything here, but I think with another day, he has had two days experience here, he will be really good for tomorrow."

Photo ©Rolex/Peggy Schroeder Rolex testimonee Daniel Deusser wearing his Rolex Yacht-Master at CHI Geneva. Photo ©Rolex/Peggy Schroeder.

Daniel, you’ve had an incredible year, you’ve won two Rolex Grand Slam events, are you close to a adding another Major? 

"That I don’t know, like you said; I’ve had a very, very good year, I’ve won a few very important classes this year, I’m also in the lucky position to have two very good horses so I can swap a little bit, maybe that helps. In terms of CHIO Aachen last year or Calgary this year, I think Killer Queen is also the perfect horse for a big grass arena outside, Tobago, inside in CHI Geneva, he is a different type of horse, he is a bit more rideable, a bit more flexible, he can turn a little shorter, so I think I had four different classes, different venues, and a good selection of horses. The horses are also old enough in terms of having enough experience, so I think I am in a good position this year with these two horses." 

Steve, what are your plans and goals for next year? 

"Personally, I want to try the European Championships with a young horse, Dynamix. The European Championships are very important next year, but especially for Switzerland next year as we still have to qualify as a team for the Paris Olympics, so I am going to plan Dynamix towards that Championship. Then I am going to try to qualify for the World Cup Final, I am halfway in the points for what I need to qualify for the final, so I am going to try and qualify, then I am going to try and keep Venard de Cerisy for the two Rolex Grand Slams; Aachen and Spruce Meadows, that is going to be his goals, then I am going to try and be competitive in the other important big shows. I think the Olympic qualifier in Milan will be the main goal for Dynamix next year."

With horses, it doesn’t happen today or tomorrow, it takes time

Daniel, what are your plans for next year, how will you work around the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors? 

"With the two horses that I have, Tobago and Killer Queen, I will of course try to have Tobago one more time for The Dutch Masters next year, Killer Queen I am aiming a little more for the outdoor shows. She felt very good, she competed very good the last couple of years in Aachen and also this year in Spruce Meadows, so I hope if she stays sound and fit, that she does it one more time next year. I try to not do too many other shows with her, because I know she feels more comfortable on these big fields. About now, the winter season, I’ve also a couple of World Cup points already so the next couple of weeks I will continue and try to do a few World Cup to get maybe qualified for the World Cup Final, and yes after that I will look towards the summer season. I don’t really have too many other big plans at the moment."

Yesterday was the final of the Rolex IJRC Top 10. You were not participating, was that frustrating? Did you think it had a good ending being the competitor that you are? 

Daniel: "Yes both a little bit! Of course I would’ve liked to ride yesterday evening. My situation was a little bit a shame because it was just one ranking that I missed out, because I didn’t have enough results, but that’s life, 10 other ones [riders] were better. I still had a good evening to watch it, because it was a fantastic class and when I saw the jump-off, I was also quite happy that I was not in the jump- off to be honest, because it looked very fast, very competitive. It is always difficult if you don’t ride, but I said to myself yesterday “ah that would’ve been difficult to beat that now”. I still had a good evening, and I enjoyed the class and we had a very good winner with Henrik. That rider and horse combination this year, he was by far the best, so yes, he deserved to win that class."

Steve: "It’s not frustrating in my position this year with the Top 10. Something like that is a little hard to think ‘what went so wrong that it is so far away from me’, but as I say, that thought is more a few months ago when I was thinking like this, but for a few weeks now I have a different philosophy, a different way of thinking, where I say; okay I will have to skip a few months, maybe a year, so I can come back stronger. With horses, it doesn’t happen today or tomorrow, it takes time, and I am in that position now but for sure, when you see that kind of sport, which of course I really enjoyed watching the class, a lot of excitement, it really motivates me to keep on working towards my goal and come back stronger in a few years to be able to compete and be competitive in that class in the future."

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/World of Showjumping "Horses teach you something every day, they take up a lot of energy, a lot of thinking time about what you could do better for them," Rolex testimonee Steve Guerdat says. Photo © Nanna Nieminen/World of Showjumping.

The Rolex Grand Slam is something that I think everyone wants to achieve, but that comes with a lot of pressure, how do you deal with the pressure? Especially you, Daniel as the current live contender? 

"I think I just try not to think about it. Of course, the possibility is there tomorrow because I have a horse that won it before and I have won three Majors in the last two years, but on the other side, the best of the world is competing tomorrow, and 39 other riders want to win as well, and can win as well. Everything has to be really perfect in the right two mins in the arena and I know that the possibility to be second is also very very big. So, I just try not to think about it, try to concentrate on your horse, do the same that I usually do, ride your horse every day, see how they feel, see the course tomorrow, think about ‘what would you normally do’, or ‘how would you normally handle that course’, and then let’s see at the end of the class what your result is."

Steve, please can you describe the pressure of the feeling coming into a Rolex Grand Slam? 

"I have to say, I was also a few times in the position where I could win two in a row, or two out of three, never did it cross my mind at the show, or entering the arena the thought ‘bonus winner’ etc. For those classes I think every rider getting in the arena gets nervous because it’s a Major, because it’s the one class you want to win in the year, or in your life time, and the pressure is high for everybody, not because it is a Rolex Grand Slam or because there is a bonus, but because it is the most important class, or one of the most important classes in the year and in our sport. So it doesn’t really change anything, it is really just about the class that is, in our eyes, already so important anyway."

If you are not absolutely in love with the animal, then you won’t be able to last all career

Steve, what is so special for you competing here at CHI Geneva, your home Major? 

"Well of course you always like to compete in your home country. It is always very nice when you have friends and family watching. We always travel so much that we don’t often have our close friends and family with us, so to have them all underneath the same roof is very nice and I am in the very lucky position that my home show is actually one of the best shows in the world, one of the Majors, so it makes it even more special. Every year coming back to Geneva is a very special feeling for all of my team, everybody from the stables is always looking forward to the show and coming here to enjoy the show to support me, and to see the best sport that our sport has to offer. I feel very blessed to be able to call this show my home show, so it is a lot of happiness coming here every year."

Daniel, is it any different coming here to a Swiss Major compared to CHIO Aachen, your home Major? 

"At the moment we are in the indoor season, and for the indoor season CHI Geneva is an outstanding event. If you see the size of the arena and the warm-up arena, we have it only once during the whole indoor season. Aachen is also very big, but it is outside so it is different. Like Steve said, a home show in your home country, for me riding at Aachen is something very, very special for the reason that Steve mentioned already, you have a lot of family, a lot of people you know around you. Here in Geneva it is a little bit less in my case, but still, as an indoor show it is still an outstanding event, and you see from the people coming to the show the importance of the event, it gives that little bit of extra feeling for the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow, because people just come to watch that specific class, it makes it special." 

Yesterday we saw all the grooms on the podium after the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final event, how important are the grooms to you and what can be done to put them more in the spotlight, Daniel? 

"The grooms are one of the most important people in our lives, for the horses as well, without the grooms we could not do the same job. They have a very difficult job in my opinion, they will live with the horses 24 hours a day, they travel with the horses seven days a week, and to have a good groom, this gives a rider a lot of advantage I would say. For example, if you know that your horse is always feeling good, if you don’t have to worry about little things in the stable before they come to the warm-up arena, it gives you so much more time and confidence to concentrate on your classes, which can make a huge difference."

Photo ©Rolex/Peggy Schroeder "Everything has to be really perfect in the right two mins in the arena and I know that the possibility to be second is also very very big," live contender Daniel Deusser says ahead of the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva. Photo ©Rolex/Peggy Schroeder.

Steve, what piece of advice would you give to the next generation of riders, including balancing so many shows? 

"There are a lot of things to know about our sport, but I think that you have to like the sport, to want to be competitive, that’s for sure a key point. The most important thing is definitely the love of horses. That is the one thing that follows you all day, all year long, there is no day without them. In good days, but also, and especially in bad days, you need to spend a lot of time. Horses teach you something every day, they take up a lot of energy, a lot of thinking time about what you could do better for your horses. If you are not absolutely in love with the animal, then you won’t be able to last all career, so for me that’s the most important thing. Whether you are going to be successful or not is something different, but if you want to spend your life or have a career in the sport you have to love your horses."

Daniel, same question, what piece of advice would you give to the new young riders coming through? 

"I think it is always the same as Steve said, You must have a lot of patience first of all. You work with an animal, you always think about what you can do better. The situation is that every animal is different, maybe what is good for one animal is not good for the other animal, with age and experience also, you can get much better in our sport, which is sometimes a little bit frustrating because as a young person you want to set your goals and achieve them, and sometimes it doesn’t go quick enough for yourself. I had the same problems when I was younger. Later on, you understand that you need patience and mustn’t be frustrated because it is the first year. Like Steve said also, you depend on a very good relationship with your horse, you have to be a very good team and that can’t happen in a year or two. You have to know each other really well and sometimes with a young talented horse it takes a bit longer. Time and patience I think is the biggest advice you can have. Don’t be frustrated. Think about it over and over again, maybe take a step backwards or start from scratch again. Then with age and experience you can go again."

We are here for the horses, we are here because we love horses

Steve, how can we improve the image of the sport? 

"I think the only way to do this is to take it in our hands. I don’t think it is only in our sport, I think it is general especially with social media, people are talking about things they don’t know. I believe that 90-95% of people that see our sport of the bad side are people that do not know our sport and I think we should be very careful. Of course people can talk about it, they can ask questions but we have to take it in our hands, and we have to take it seriously, not necessarily fight for our sport, but we need to explain what we do, and what we do for the horse, for the animal, for the wellbeing of our animals, the first thing we do is why we ride? We ride because we love horses. We are here for the horses, we are here because we love horses. I really think that we mustn’t forget that, it needs to come from us, we need to explain that. The problem comes from the people that ask the questions and the answers come from people that do not know what we do."

Daniel, do you have anything else to add? How can we improve the image of the sport? 

"I don’t have much to add, personally, I don’t really spend to much time looking at the bad news from our sport to be honest. If I see that people do pictures or videos where the head of the horse is too low or too short for a second, in a picture you can show everything, that happens, but I think we should also show the nice moments and actually try to explain how impressive it is what the horses are doing in the ring here actually. It is difficult to show this of course, but the horses that win the classes here, that win the Majors, they want to do the sport, they want to be fast in the jump-off, they do something sometimes even before the rider givens them the intention to go left or right or turn short, and so show that what these animals learn and do for us also – I think this is really impressive. It is not something you can teach them with it being hard. It is something they want to do afterwards, and they want to learn that, and they enjoy being in the ring, they enjoy jumping in front of a big crowd like that. We should show that to the public and I think that is an important thing."

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/World of Showjumping "The most important thing is definitely the love of horses," Rolex testimonee Steve Guerdat says about his best advice to the next generation of riders. Photo © Nanna Nieminen/World of Showjumping

Steve, the show calendar is so full, how do you decide which shows to enter and with which horses, including around the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors? 

"Personally, I have a little routine. There are some shows that I really like to go to, I love the summer season, I love the big grass rings, so my first pick is always for the grass ring for the nice shows. I like the shows where you can ride many horses, not just go with two horses, or ones with a lot of classes where you can bring young horses as well. I love basically the traditional shows, so they are always my first pick, and then I try to build the season around that. In the Winter season the World Cups are the priorities. When I open the calendar at the beginning of the year there is always the two Championships, the World Cup Final, European, World and Olympic Games and the four Majors – so I pick the six dates and then after that, the classical grass shows and then also sometimes, I have to pick some 2* or some smaller shows where I can build up the new generations. Depending on the form of the horse, like I said before, I know the big lines which horse should compete in what Championship, what Majors, and for the rest it just goes off the form of the horse and what they need to learn, and how far they are in the building up phase and how competitive they can be at every different kind of shows."

Daniel, you keep winning Majors, do you plan around the Majors and what’s your plan for next year? 

"I definitely try to plan around the Majors, but my situation is also a little bit – like Steve said – I also like to ride in big grass arenas, but you need to have the right horse that feels comfortable in these arenas. I think over the years, you build up your horse, you get a feeling of where does the horse compete the best, where does your horse feel the best, does it jump better on grass, does it jump better on sand, smaller arenas, bigger arenas etc. Then according to that experience that I have, I then plan which horse can go to which show. Killer Queen feels good on grass arenas, she likes grass arenas, so for her Aachen and Calgary are very good arenas, so for as long as I have her and as long as she is sound and fit, I try to do these two shows as a highlight for her, and in the weeks in between, I see what else I have in the stable, what else needs to have a smaller show to build some experience. That’s the way I go into the season."


Rolex facts: 

Rolex’s unwavering commitment to equestrianism, now totals 65 years 

Rolex has been the presenting partner of CHI Geneva since 1996 

Launched in 2013, and supported by Rolex from the outset, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping 

rewards the outstanding rider who wins three consecutive Majors at four of the world’s most historic shows – The Dutch Masters, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament, CHIO Aachen and CHI Geneva 

Rolex has been the Title Sponsor of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final since its inception in 2001 

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