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Rolex Round Table: Martin Fuchs about Clooney "He really knows when it counts"

Sunday, 15 December 2019
CHI Geneva 2019

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof


A handful of journalists got to meet Rolex  Testimonee Martin Fuchs at CHI Geneva, and of course his incredible Clooney 51. 



Martin, could you speak about the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final [on Friday night] and how it went?

The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final is a very unique event, I’ve always watched it when coming to Geneva, I remember one year when Meredith was doing the presentation, I was so amazed by it and the general atmosphere in the arena. 

I was so excited for the class, it was great. Steve and I rode in second last and last, and the crowd was phenomenal. During the class I ended up sixth, in each round I had one fence down. My horse is fairly inexperienced at this level, but I’m very happy with the way he jumped. We had an unlucky fault in the first round, so I tried to go quickly in the second round, I had a really good time but again, I had a fault at the second last fence, so it’s a little disappointing but sixth place out of the ten best in the world is good, and now I can save Clooney for the Rolex Grand Prix.

Speaking of the Top 10 in the world, one of those riders is Steve Guerdat, a very close friend of yours and also a member of the Rolex family, could you tell us about this dynamic and how you find competing against each other?

I’ve known Steve for such a long time, since our parents competed together. His dad was a rider and both of my parents were doing Nations Cups together. I’ve known Steve since I competed in the junior and young rider championships, obviously I was much younger, as Steve is 10 years older than me. I was always a huge fan of his, I used to watch him ride and walk the courses with him. He moved away to Holland for a while, and when he came back to Switzerland, he asked my dad for help, he asked him to train him, and since then we have become really close. Steve has spent a lot of time at my parents house, we spent a lot of time at my home together and now we have lived eight kilometres apart for the last two years, so we are basically neighbours, and we see each other at least once a week. 

When you have a close friendship like that, how do you balance that rivalry?

At the end of the day, you just go into the ring and you want to do the best that you can, you want to win, obviously you don’t want to be beaten by anyone. But we are always happy for each other, and its great to have Steve as a teammate for the European Championships, to be able to support and help the Swiss team is great, we are able to spur each other on.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping

You have had some great success over the last two years, you had the World Equestrian Games (WEG) last year and the European Championships this year, which of these events has had the most impact on you? Personally, and professionally?

It’s hard to say, WEG was very special because it was the first individual medal for a Swiss rider in history, so that was pretty amazing. I was over the moon with this. This year, I won the European Champion title, the first individual gold medal for a Swiss rider since my godfather won it 25 years ago, so again, this was very special. I honestly cannot compare those two events, both are a huge success for any rider, they are both major championships.

Do you find being European Champion, that you feel more pressure going into other events?

Not really more pressure, just more of a welcome, every time I enter the ring I am announced as European Champion, and it’s a great feeling. 

You have achieved such huge titles at a young age, do you have longer term goals in terms of what you want to achieve in equestrian sport? What are the next steps for you?

My main goal is to stay among the Top 10 riders in the world, because being in the Top 10 means you have a lot of success throughout the year, and you remain consistent. It is very important to stay consistent and within the Top 10. I would love to win a Major in the Rolex Grand Slam, here in Geneva, or at The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen or the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, they are all huge events so it would be amazing to win one.

Can you tell us about Clooney?

Clooney is a great horse, we bought him when he was seven, he has a very big character. The first day I got him, I went for a hack and fell off because he didn’t really like going on a hack, he was nervous, especially when there was something new for him. Ever since then we have worked a lot together, we have grown together, especially over the past two years. Our partnership has improved, we worked a lot on the dressage, especially since his refusal at Aachen. I’ve tried to understand him more, to work out why he did it, what I may have done wrong and what would eliminate these mistakes. I think this has helped us a lot in our career. He is such a great jumper, he really doesn’t want to get any faults, he focuses on the jumps and has a real talent.

Do you think there is something magical about Clooney?

Obviously, I feel it when I come into the arena riding Clooney, he is a very special horse. I do have to say, that when I ride him at home, or on the flat, you wouldn’t feel quite the same. He is very smart and very clever, he really knows when it counts, which is the best thing about him. When it’s a big class, he understands that its important to me, and important that we do well. I think that’s why he is so good. I don’t know another horse that has been on the podium at the last three championships, we won the European Championships, we were second in the World Cup Final this year and second at the World Equestrian Games last year. In history, I’m sure that there are not many horses that can say this. It was so nice to win the European Championships because I had come second twice.

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof. Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof

When it comes to training horses and building this relationship, how do you know? What do you look for? How do you bring them to championship level?

You can feel it at the shows, I could tell when Clooney was young that he had a great talent, he was a really good jumper. Obviously, I didn’t know he would be one of the best in the world. When he was eight, one of my other horses was injured, so Clooney had to step in for the Swiss championships, and he won it, this is pretty amazing for an eight-year old, so since then, we built him up for Nations Cups, and championships. He had experience as a young horse in some of the championships, the more he jumps, and the later on in the week it gets, the better he jumps. Some horses get tired and pay less attention, so they don’t jump as well later in the week, but Clooney is the exact opposite. 

Do you have to prepare yourself for the bigger events, like a Rolex Grand Slam Major? Are you different in the lead up?

Not myself, it is more the work with the horses that is a little different because the Rolex Grand Slams are unique, Geneva is the biggest indoor show on the circuit, then Aachen and Spruce Meadows are the biggest outdoor grass shows, which can be difficult for some horses. When training for these shows, we try to ride a lot on the grass, and practise in grass rings. The more Clooney gets used to something, the better he is, so this is how we try and train.

Is there a different mentality when you come into a Rolex Grand Slam Major compared to smaller competitions?

In a way yes, in a way no. I try to do my best in all competitions, I am very ambitious, even at smaller shows, usually when I go to a show, I want to win. I obviously want to win a Rolex Grand Prix even more; it would be really special to win the Major at CHI Geneva. We tend to think about a strategy for the horses, so Clooney jumped at Aachen, Spruce and Geneva, and two championships (European Championships and World Cup Final), this year.

Where do you plan to compete next year? Except for the Olympics?

The Rolex Grand Slam Majors will definitely be one of the main goals, I might not compete with Clooney in all of them, as the Olympics takes up a lot of time. The horses have to go over two weeks before the competition starts. I will be in Tokyo for a while, and then will need a little rest. Silver Shine has been great in Aachen and Spruce Meadows this year, so maybe I will focus on him for one of the Majors next year.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping

When you look for a horse, what do you look for?

I try not to compare horses to Clooney, I have a lot of people offering me horses that are for sale, and they like to compare them to Clooney, but its unlikely they will be better than him. When I look for a horse, I try them to see if I feel anything.

How does your partnership with Rolex work? How does that benefit what you do?

There are a lot of benefits for the riders, Rolex put on amazing shows for us, the Majors in the Rolex Grand Slam are the best competitions in our sport. I remember when my parents were riding, I was always obsessed with these shows. Having a partner like Rolex to support us, and push us to be at our best, is really special. Rolex ensures they have the best riders as part of their family, we had a lunch yesterday and I was asking Rodrigo if he could advise me on how to win the Top 10 final because he has won it twice, its lovely how the Rolex family brings riders even closer together – Rolex have built a little team for us.

What advise did he give you?

Just go as fast as you can!

The Rolex Top 10 Final and Rolex Grand Prix are both very difficult competitions, which one do you think is more challenging?

I would say the Rolex Grand Prix is more technical, and a bit more difficult, as we have 40 of the best riders. The course might be longer, with more difficult lines in the Rolex Grand Prix, so I expect it will be more difficult. 

Do you get nervous?

Sometimes, I do get nervous, but not so much with Clooney.


Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping

Stable Tour with Martin Fuchs

My groom Sean can have some trouble with Clooney at the vet-checks, because he gets a little excited, he can be quite fresh and buck a bit, but then usually later on in the week he settles in, becomes more calm, so he can focus on the importance classes. 

He is a very friendly horse, people make fun of him saying he has a little belly because he is quite round. He is often looking for food. He is lovely with other horses, and with people. When Sean is taking too much care of another horse, he doesn’t like it. We had a show this year, where Clooney had to wait until Sunday to compete, and one of our other horses had had a very good week, so Sean took a lot of time over him (Silver Shine), and Clooney got quite cross, putting his ears back. He loves the attention and being number one in the stable.

He knows when there is a big occasion coming up, because usually the atmosphere is amazing around the shows, so he feels this. He also senses when I’m more excited or nervous. It is always important to keep him calm and relaxed, because he can get a little overexcited.

I got him when he was seven, and now he is 13, so six years, so we know each other very well. We have competed in national championships when he was 8, which gave me the confidence to know that he was a championship horse. Sometimes, you don’t know whether a horse will be that good, but when a horse competes in a show and gets better day by day you know they are a special horse.

Fun fact about Clooney – he doesn’t have any front teeth, but this doesn’t affect him, he can eat – as you can see. He shouldn’t be left outside for too long because he loves to eat, so he just gets bigger.

Clooney is now 13-years old, but I don’t feel like he is getting older or more tired. I was worried he might get a little slow or tired, but I’ve never had this problem with him. I know him better and I ride him better now, and age doesn’t seem to affect him, so I’m sure he has many years to come. I do plan these shows a bit differently than I used to, last year Clooney competed in the Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix, but this year I only wanted to compete him in one of the classes, so we picked the Rolex Grand Prix.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping

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