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Rolex Round Table: Jeroen Dubbeldam and Harry Charles on motivation, passion and patience

Sunday, 12 March 2023
CSI5* The Dutch Masters 2023

Photo © Rolex Harry Charles and Jeroen Dubbeldam during the Rolex Round Table at The Dutch Masters. "It's fantastic to be back at The Dutch Masters," Dubbeldam said. Photo © Rolex.


Text © Rolex



We are here at The Dutch Masters, the opening Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the year. How have your preparations been for the show and what is it like to be back at a full-scale version of the event again?

Jeroen: It's fantastic to be back at The Dutch Masters. I must say, the setup this year is better than ever. I am here with a young horse, so my preparations have not been especially different. We are not ready to compete on Sunday in the Rolex Grand Prix, but we have been competing in the other classes and I am jumping in the big class tonight [Editor's note: Saturday], so that's going to be a test for him. It will be exciting, he is a very good, talented horse, and hopefully he will be ready to compete here next year in the Rolex Grand Prix.

Harry: Yes, I agree, it is a fantastic show. I was here for the first time last year, which I believe was a smaller version of the event, so to see what it is like in full-scale has been great. I’ve seen amazing crowds already on the first night and to experience the whole buzz around this place is really special. I've started my preparations for this year quietly, starting at Oliva Nova in Spain, just doing a few smaller shows at first. I've got this very special horse at the moment, Balou du Reventon. To jump a horse like this at a Grand Slam Major is very big for me, I'm really looking forward to Sunday and that is very much our goal for the week.

We are indoors here at The Dutch Masters; how does that differ to the other Majors?

Jeroen: Well, yes, jumping in a big field at CHIO Aachen or at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament is very different to jumping in an indoor arena like here at The Dutch Masters or CHI Geneva. It's a different approach, it requires a different technique also, sometimes it even needs a different kind of horse. Some horses can manage it of course, like for example Harry’s good horse, Balou, he can cope with all circumstances. But still there are horses that prefer outdoor grass rings or indoor surfaces and so I think it’s really great that the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping feature both. It creates more of a challenge and variation in talent, similar to Formula One where you have different kinds of circuit. I think it's a good thing.

Harry: I agree with Jeroen. To have that variety is really important. Sometimes the different rings can make it feel like a different sport. At Spruce Meadows you have bigger bolder jumps, and Aachen is a bit different too. The way you prepare needs tweaking here and there, but on the whole, it’s not so different.


I love working with my horses, I love the sport

- Jeroen Dubbeldam -


Harry, do you think you could tell us a little more about Balou du Reventon, what are your plans for him?

Harry: Balou is an experienced horse; he is 17-years-old but he is still in fantastic shape. Credit must go to everyone who has looked after him his whole life, to have him competing at his age, he's still at the very top of the sport, so I’m very fortunate. To have the opportunity to ride the horse at all was pretty amazing, and I’m at the stage where I can pretty much pick the shows for him now. You're not going to see him every week at every show, but if I can pick maybe five or six Grands Prix across the year, and really work towards those, that’s my main goal for him. We’ve started off this year with Bordeaux and it went very well, better than I expected, we’re here at The Dutch Masters, he will go to the FEI World Cup™  Final in Omaha and then the big one we've picked out for the year is Aachen. The main goal for me is to keep him happy, fresh, and fit, and enjoy every show with him as I know it won’t be often that I get the opportunity to ride a horse like Balou around courses like these.

A question for Jeroen; you’ve won almost everything a show jumper can win, where do you get your motivation from?

Jeroen: I am often asked this question, and it is a very simple answer; horse riding is my passion. I love working with my horses, I love the sport, I love the whole equestrian world, so it is not difficult for me to find the motivation to keep doing it. Since the retirement of SFN Zenith, I have taken a step down from competing in the top classes, which maybe followers of the sport don’t quite understand, but I've been working hard behind the scenes with my horses, and I still enjoy it a lot. In fact, I love it.

Do you have students?

Jeroen: I have students as well yes, so I am often busy with them, but competing is still my priority. I have a group of young horses at the moment, talented horses, and whilst they are not quite ready to compete at the top level, I love working with these horses and developing them. I am here at The Dutch Masters this year with one good horse and I am hopeful next year he will be ready to compete in the Rolex Grand Prix.

Photo © Rolex "It is such a unique sport; we have 40 riders in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday and all 40 could win so the chance of winning is very small," Charles said. Photo © Rolex.

What does it mean to you to be riding at The Dutch Masters?

Jeroen: Riding at the Dutch Masters, for a Dutch man, is a feeling like no other. It is something very special to be riding in front of your home crowd, and I find it more special riding here than anywhere else. Even though I am not competing in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, I am still very excited to compete in the other classes, and the main class tonight [Editor's note: Saturday] will be a big test for my horse. We will give it our best go and hopefully perform well in front of the home crowd.

What are the three most important skills a show jumper has to have?

Jeroen: I think the most important part is your love for horses, and to love working with horses, because that is where it all starts. If you do not have this love, this passion, then it is difficult. It is also important to have some talent, a strong mentality, drive, and discipline. To make it as a show jumper it takes a lot of discipline and hours of hard work, both in the sport and in the business of the sport.

Harry: I agree with everything Jeroen has said. To be a show jumper it takes discipline, talent and of course you have to have affection towards horses and an appreciation for all that they do for you.

How do you deal with failure?

Harry: I think it’s something you have to experience quite a few times to learn how to properly deal with it. I think sometimes we all go into events and classes with very big expectations, and it’s important to keep at the forefront of your mind when competing that you’re two athletes, not one, so things can’t always turn out the way you want them to. So, if you do not have the success you expected, you just have to put it behind you, which is easier to say than actually do, but you have to pick yourself up and focus on the next one. It is such a unique sport; we have 40 riders in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday and all 40 could win so the chance of winning is very small. It’s not like football where there are just two teams and there is a 50% chance of winning. More often than not you fail, so I think it’s very important to have realistic expectations.

Jeroen, do you have a Rolex Grand Prix winner among your young horses?

Jeroen: Very good question! That is always difficult to answer, but yes, I do think it is possible. I have a really good group of young horses and it is up to me to work them up to the top, so we will see – I am hopeful. The horse I have brought for the other classes this weekend has huge potential, but I can’t say for certain, maybe I'm wrong, maybe one of my other horses who is at home will step up. We will have to see.


You have to love working with horses, because if that's not the case, then this world is not made for you

- Jeroen Dubbeldam - 


Harry, as Rolex’s youngest Equestrian Testimonee, could you share what it feels like to be part of this elite group? How has it motivated you to push yourself and how do you handle the pressure?

Harry: It is surreal to think that I am part of the Rolex Equestrian Testimonee family. Even now, sitting here talking to all of you, alongside Jeroen, a rider who has won virtually every accolade available in the sport. I still don’t quite feel as though I deserve to be here, but to be part of this family is really amazing for me. Rolex have done so much for the sport; their shows are run to the highest level, they have set the bar so high for every other global equestrian event, so it is a real honour to be part of the Rolex Testimonee family. It gives me a lot of motivation to prove that I am worthy of being here and I am very proud to be part of it.

What is next on your bucket list?

Harry: To win a Rolex Grand Prix and bring a green rug home!

Jeroen: I am of course the same, to win a Rolex Grand Prix would be fantastic. I have won a couple of Rolex Grands Prix before, at Aachen and at Spruce Meadows, but this was before they were part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, so yes, to win a Rolex Grand Prix is still on my bucket list!

What advice do you give to your students?

Jeroen: The top advice I give to my students is that you have to love working with horses, because if that's not the case, then this world is not made for you. I advise them to continually work on their horsemanship, and to really master their understanding of how to work with horses. That is where success starts, and if that leads on to competing at the top of the sport, then fantastic, and if not, if you only compete at the lower levels, it can still be enjoyable as long as you love this world, and love working with horses. That's what it's all about!

Photo © Rolex "To make it as a show jumper it takes a lot of discipline and hours of hard work, both in the sport and in the business of the sport," Dubbeldam said. Photo © Rolex.

How do you think we can encourage more people to be interested in show jumping?

Jeroen: I think it's our job as riders to display how nice our world is and how nice it is to work together with horses.

Harry: It seems to me that sport is only getting more popular; more people are coming in to watch, I think The Dutch Masters are expecting to sell out seats this weekend. I remember back to Aachen last year; every day was sold out; it was unbelievable to experience 40,000 people in the stands every day. As Jeroen said;  we, as riders, need to keep doing what we can to show the public what these horses mean to us and show how great a sport it can be. As we all know, it’s a fantastic sport. 

Can you share what your favourite timepiece is and if your timepiece has any significant stories?

Jeroen: I love my Rolex Submariner, it’s the ‘Hulk’. It is the watch I am wearing right now and I like it a lot! It's green in colour, the colour of Rolex, and I don't see people with it that often. Another watch I have is the Rolex GMT-Master II, the ‘Batman’, which is also very special to me. 

Harry: My favourite is the Rolex Sky-Dweller, it is my first ever watch and it has been with me through my Olympic debut, my World Championship podium success and my first World CupTM Final, so it’s very special. It also has a really cool story attached to it; I was competing at CHIO Aachen in 2022 fell-off at the wall on the Saturday. The horse actually trod on my wrist with his stud and the stud went through the watch. After the event, the doctor said that if the watch wasn't there, the stud would’ve gone right through my vein, but I managed to come away with only a scratch, all thanks to my Rolex! Better yet, just two days later, Rolex had fixed my watch already so that I could wear it the next weekend. Thinking back, it really saved my summer as had the Rolex not saved my hand, I wouldn’t have gone on to the World Championships to win a medal.

What are your goals for 2023?

Jeroen: Since the retirement of Zenith, I stepped down and started working on a new group of horses, young horses, which I have a good feeling about. So my main goal is to focus on building these horses up to the highest level, and to get myself competing on the circuit again with the top riders. That's definitely my goal.

Harry: If I could have half the career that Jeroen has had, I think I would be extremely happy. In the near term, whilst I've never really been one to chase the FEI World Ranking, recently I’ve got quite close to the Top 10, so I think if I could really establish myself in that group, that would be fantastic. Although, I know in order to do that, it takes a lot of consistency, so hopefully a good result on Sunday could really help. This year, I'm trying to target specific shows and work towards them. In show jumping you can go 50 weeks of the year if you want to, but our focus is going to be to compete at a couple less shows, but really try to deliver on the day at every show.


Horses have taught me patience

- Harry Charles -


What is the best piece of horse-related advice you have ever received? Advice that has really helped you and stayed with you?

Jeroen: I think my first horse and the horse that really brought me this career, De Sjiem, he taught me more than I taught him. Whilst every horse is different and they all need a different approach, De Sjiem really made me more of a horseman than anything else. I think we put each other on the map. I put him on the map and he put me on the map and that is the nicest thing.

Harry: As Jeroen said, every horse is very different and to be able to ride every horse, you need to first of all be a horseman, and so I am very thankful to my Dad in particular. When I was a child, he made me ride every single pony, the good, the bad, even if they stopped, I rode everything. Maybe at the time, when I was 11 years old I would fall off a bit and I didn’t like it, but I'm so thankful I had that education. The experiences have really stayed with me. For me, the biggest piece of advice I’ve received is the importance of patience - I have a couple of very exciting younger horses, one is 10-years-old, and I could have pushed him two years ago and tried to jump bigger stuff, but I've waited for the right time. Horses have taught me patience, throughout my pony days and young rider experiences, and I’m really thankful for these lessons.

What kind of other sports are you interested in?

Jeroen: I’m interested in all kinds of sports! I love following all the sports and I follow them closely. As a kid, my dream was to be a top soccer player, but I soon found out my chances in the equestrian world were bigger than in the soccer world. I still follow soccer a lot, I know Harry does as well! But yeah, in general, I follow all kinds of sports.

Harry: Yes, football is huge. My dad grew up in Liverpool, and so Liverpool Football Club is a big part of the family. We had a very good day the other day, when Liverpool beat Manchester United seven-nil, my dad was very happy, in fact he is still celebrating. I also love golf, when I was younger I played a lot with my dad - that's what my dad wanted me to be, a golfer. When I was 12-years-old, I got to the National Championships and I went to Portugal to play a few tournaments. Dad was my caddy, and he said he would be my caddy for the rest of my life, but I just didn't enjoy it as much as show jumping. I still play golf and I still follow the sport and enjoy it.

There's a lot of buzz around technology, ChatGPT, etc. What do you guys think about the sport embracing new innovations, technologies and trends?

Jeroen: Well, I started my career without all these technologies, so I have an old fashioned view, but I see people around me are starting to use it more and more. For me, it's difficult because I come from a different generation, so I am still learning a lot from the younger people around me. Whilst it is interesting, I must admit I think the old fashioned way still works. Horses haven’t changed. The horse is still a horse. It was a horse 30 years ago, and it is still a horse now and I think the best technology and the best knowledge to understand the horse is still our own feeling, this tells us the most.

Harry: I think Jeroen is totally right. The best example of technology in show jumping I can give is a company called EquiRatings. They provide an insight into all your analytics, every round is analysed, every horse, and whilst it's interesting to see and is pretty accurate, at the end of the day, the best judge is your eyes. I follow it a bit and see the areas I need to improve, but it’s really just a guide. So I’m sure we can use technology to our advantage in our sport and it can only be a good thing that it’s advancing right now. 

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