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Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender Steve Guerdat from CHIO Aachen: “I feel blessed to be able to do what I love – my sport, in places like this”

Saturday, 18 September 2021
CHIO Aachen 2021

Photo © Rolex Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender Steve Guerdat. Photo © Rolex.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Prior to the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, World of Showjumping got the opportunity to meet up with Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender Steve Guerdat. The Swiss show jumping ace spoke about reaching a milestone when winning last weekend’s CP International presented by Rolex at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, his expectations ahead of tomorrow’s Major, as well as about being outside his comfort zone, doing what he loves the most and trusting the process. 

One of the toughest tests in the sport

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof "It is one of the classics in our sport, and I was always dreaming about winning it," Guerdat said about his victory with Venard de Cerisy in the CP International presented by Rolex at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof.

“First of all, I am feeling really, really happy!” Guerdat said when speaking about his victory in the CP International presented by Rolex at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. “Calgary is a win that I was really running behind since I know about horses, sport and show jumping. It is one of the classics in our sport, and I was always dreaming about winning it. For me, winning Calgary or Aachen is just about the same as winning the Olympics or the World Equestrian Games. It is the best of our sport and what makes it what it is – it is the history of our sport.”

“Calgary is probably one of the toughest tests we have in our sport,” Guerdat continued. “Personally, it is a show that I always had problems being successful at. Calgary was never my zone of comfort, because the kind of horses I normally ride are very careful horses and maybe not so powerful, or with so much scope, as other ones – and this is what you normally need to win in Calgary. I was always worried that I would not be able to win it, and I also had my words with the course designer there in the past because I was blaming him for what Calgary was and the tough rounds,” Guerdat grinned. “I had to get over that; I made the trip two years ago to spend the summer there – to make my horses improve in this ring, but also to make me as a rider improve and feel more comfortable in this kind of courses. I thought that was what we did, it was a very successful trip at that time. Now, I made it and I feel that all that effort we put into trying to make it possible paid off – that’s why it is very enjoyable and a very nice feeling.”

“It is actually quite a shame that Aachen is so close, because everything might be over on Sunday – the winner will be the new Live Contender, so it does not give me that much time to really enjoy it,” Guerdat smiled. “It was a nice moment of enjoying it on the plane, but then it was back at it on Tuesday already here in Aachen with full focus on Sunday. That’s not because I am the Grand Slam Live Contender, or because there is a bonus, but because it’s Aachen. When I start in Aachen, I want to be good and especially on Sunday. This is where my focus is at the moment.”

The importance of variety 

Photo © Rolex "The horse is an animal, living in the nature – it is not born in a comfortable bed with the heating on. I think it should stay an animal, and I think they stay healthier this way," Guerdat said. Photo © Rolex.

Guerdat pointed out that it’s a different experience to compete at traditional venues such as Spruce Meadows, or Aachen, compared to the majority of other shows in the international show jumping calendar. “Unfortunately, it also becomes more and more different because all the other shows are getting more and more similar,” Guerdat said. “I think it is a bit of a shame because I find it nice for the spectators, riders and horses to have different kind of rings, different kind of material, different kind of course designers. Especially when you show in Europe, you have more and more the feeling, that while you are in a different place, it’s the same thing. You have the same course designer, the same fences, and it is getting a bit boring. So, this makes it even tougher [to compete at venues like Spruce Meadows or Aachen], because it is the only time of the year you get to jump something like this. I would prefer that this would be the normal as well. I am sure it would make our sport more interesting.”

“The problem actually comes from us riders though,” Guerdat pointed out when speaking about the lack of variation when it comes to footing and fences. “It already started at national level, where if you would organise the nicest show on grass there were no entries anymore. Then you do a show on small sand spot on the same date, and it’s full. I think it’s the wrong mentality on the riders’ side; I wish that we would go back to these kind of classes – this would be a big plus for our sport.”

“I think the riders do it like this, believing it’s better for the horses,” Guerdat said. “They think it’s safer, healthier – they mean it good by going on sand, and going on level ground, with soft jumps and light material, but I see the opposite. The horse is an animal, living in the nature – it is not born in a comfortable bed with the heating on. I think it should stay an animal, and I think they stay healthier this way. I cannot understand when a rider tells me that the horse needs to get used to grass, because this is the natural element of the horse. It should be the other way around; the horses should get used to the sand. I think a natural ground is the best for the horses, and not the artificial – with all the fibre in – but the mentality is changing, and unfortunately not in the direction I like.”

A change of plans

Photo © Rolex In Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, Guerdat will be in his right element – and once again he puts his faith in the 12-year-old gelding Venard de Cerisy. Photo © Rolex.

In Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, Guerdat will be in his right element – and once again he puts his faith in the 12-year-old gelding Venard de Cerisy. “At first, I had Venard planned for Calgary, and Victorio for Aachen,” Guerdat explained. “Then on the Friday in Calgary, Venard jumped one class and felt so good that I told my groom that we had to see if it would be possible to do Aachen as well. Then, on Sunday, not because he won, but because he felt so good, I said ‘ok, let’s go to Aachen’. When you are a bit further from the show, you say ‘I go with this one, or this one’, but then a week prior it is the Grand Prix of Aachen and you want to be there with your best horse and try to win. I know he travels very well, and he also has a lot of energy so I wasn’t’ scared that he would be tired, so I said we will give it a go. Venard arrived here really fresh, he jumped a small class here yesterday. We’re going to have a tough test tomorrow, then he is going to have a break and only do one or two small shows before Geneva.”

To keep his horses fresh for all these big occasions, means Guerdat has to pay careful attention to how he manages them. “You cannot do everything,” he said. “I did all these shows, but I went to Calgary with only one horse and only jumped two classes. I came here to Aachen, and did not jump the Prize of Europe, I did not jump the Nations Cup – also not in Calgary. My focus is always on the Sunday. Of course, at the Olympics, or at the Europeans, the focus is only on the championships, then Calgary was just for the Grand Prix, and also here. I do all the shows, but not all the classes – but that’s why I think my horses are fresh enough.”

As to his expectations ahead of tomorrow’s Rolex Grand Prix, Guerdat said: “The course is different, the ring is different, the material is different – it is a completely different setting. I will be disappointed of course if I don’t win, but I still feel happy enough that I won last week and that’s how I want to stay. I’m not going to let my head down for two weeks if I don’t win tomorrow. There are forty riders, and there are for sure 15-20-25 others who will be there to win as much as me. For sure it’s more a surprise tomorrow if I win, rather than Ben Maher for example, but there are also another 10, or 12, or 15, like this. I’ll try though!” 

Trusting the process

Photo © Rolex "I feel blessed to be able to do what I love," Guerdat said. Photo © Rolex.

With all the ups and downs the sport brings with it, Guerdat knows the name of the game. “One thing I normally don’t do, is to give up,” Guerdat said. “Sometimes, the way back home on Sunday night can be very tough. Let’s say in Riesenbeck, even though we had the team gold, the way it ended in the individual final for me was not so nice. But, as soon as I get up on Monday morning and I go to the stable, to my horses, my team, at my place – I feel happy and privileged to keep on going. Then the next show is coming up, and that motivates me, and it gives me the will and energy.”

“With horses, I don’t think it’s a good thing to force things, so I try to stick to what I know has worked in the past and trust the process, trust my horses, trust my team,” Guerdat said about his philosophy when it comes to getting through periods where things don’t go as expected. “I’m not saying I wait until things turn around, but my main focus is on trying to understand my horses. Sometimes doing less can be better. I try not to over-do things or over-think things, even if it’s not easy, but I try to stay calm and have the right energy.”

With a very busy program during July, August and September, Guerdat reflected on the last few months. “I feel blessed to be in all these places. Riesenbeck was amazing, the sport, but also the place – being there felt so good. Then going to Calgary, it is a place I love to go, then Aachen, I cannot even describe how it feels to be here. The only thing is that I miss my family, and I wish I could see them soon. For the rest, I feel blessed to be able to do what I love – my sport, in places like this,” the 39-year-old smiled. 

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

Copyright images © Rolex 

 



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