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Rolex Round Table with Martin Fuchs at CHI Geneva: "Looking back at the year we have lost, I am thrilled we are all back together"

Friday, 10 December 2021
CHI Geneva 2021

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof Rolex Testimonee Martin Fuchs. Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof.


Text © rEvolution – Round Table organised by Rolex



Who are the most important people in your team and what does a normal day at home look like?

"I am very lucky that my family are very involved in the daily management of our horses. My father is always the first one at the stables and he feeds them and puts them on the horse-walker. At 07:30am he starts tacking up the first horses – we ride them in the indoor arena at this time of year. I usually start at 08:00am and then my dad and I always ride and jump the horses together. Often, he will lunge or warm up the horses for me and then I take over – so that helps me a lot. My mother is more involved with the office and the management of the horses, and she ensures that we have the correct paperwork for all the horses. We also have very good people around us who have been with us for a long time. They ride, take care, and groom my horses, which takes a lot of effort and time because we like to ensure all the horses are taken out of the box several times a day. All the horses start on the horse-walker before they get ridden, then they go in the sand paddock before the grass paddock. Some of the horses sometimes get ridden twice a day, such as Chaplin who always gets ridden twice a day because we don’t put him on the walker as he is a stallion. So, it takes a lot of staff and good people that you can trust with the horses. I am very lucky to have a very good team behind me so I can just focus on the jumping and the riding at home. When I go to a competition, and I am away for several days, I usually will not hear anything from the people from home, they just take care of it and I know that everything is in good hands." 

After Clooney’s accident, you went on to have great success with Leoni Jei, how did you turn your mindset around?

"Obviously, the accident with Clooney 51 was a massive shock to me, my whole family and all the people around me. He is such a special horse. He is getting much better, on Wednesday we put a saddle back on him for the first time since the accident, so he got to walk around a little bit more. The vet’s team called me on Tuesday to say we could start moving him a bit more to make sure that the shoulder gets looser and more flexible, so that was very emotional. It was the Wednesday morning just before coming here. But for all of us it was a very traumatic accident. It is not about the medals when things like this happen, it is bigger than winning a medal, and that is definitely something I have learnt this year. It is not all about the result or the business, other things now have a higher value to me than they did a year ago. Looking back on the year, I have learnt to take a step back and look at my personal life, as well as always wanting to be on top. You should take as good care of yourself as you do your horses." 

To compete the highest level you need a good horse and to be a good rider. But you also need to have a special bond between the horse and rider – what is your special recipe? 

"I have been very lucky with my background and my family, it helps a lot, and it definitely makes it easier. It doesn’t make it easy to get to the top, but it makes it easier, because since I was a child I have seen how to do things right. I am not saying that I think that my dad does everything right, but in my opinion he is one of the best in the business. So, when you grow up with horses and start learning how to tack up, lunge etc, you learn how everything should be done properly, which gives you a very good basis to the sport and horse management. Thanks to this grounding, later when you doubt yourself or you are having problems, you can trust that the basic work is good and then you try to come back to basic work and the small details and get them right. Since I learnt them as such a young boy, much of it is intuition and it comes naturally to me." 

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof. Martin Fuchs and Chaplin. Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof.

You said it is not about the medals, and more about the relationship with the horse, how do you create a special bond?

"You do not have that special bond in the beginning, it comes over time. My two favourite horses Clooney 51 and Chaplin have been with me for eight and five years respectively, and slowly over time you get closer, and you connect more. The other horses I have here, Conner Jei and Leone Jei, I have a good partnership with them, but it is still not like what I have with Clooney 51 and Chaplin. I think that it is important to be patient with your horse but also patient with yourself.

I had to learn this with Connor Jei this year, I have had some difficulties with his rideability, so I have needed to adapt and change some things. Paris [Sellon] has helped me a lot in the past few weeks, lending me one of the bits that she uses, and that has helped a lot with Connor Jei – it was something I would have never tried before, so it is important to be open to new ideas and to other opinions and to learn from other people."

How many horses do you have at one time?

"Together with my rider Emily, I believe we have 14, and out of those, nine are mine." 

You have quite a few young horses now?

"I have two very good five-year-olds, two six-year-olds and two seven-year-olds."

What do you look for in a young horse?

"Obviously, it is not easy to find the right horse, because everyone is looking for them. You have to be active and quick when you find one that you like. I have a contact that I can call anytime that has the money to buy a nice horse if it is the right one. They must be very careful, you can see in the jump-offs, if they are not careful then you have no chance to win the class. The mind is very important too – this is often very difficult to judge when you only have 30 minutes to try a horse, you cannot really understand everything about that horse in that time or what they will be like at a show. They need carefulness, a good mind, spirit, ability and talent if they are really going to have success at the top level." 

Are you in interested in any special breeding lines?

"No not really – I don’t really know the breeding of my horses." 

Viper Z was of big interest earlier, what makes him so special?

"What was so special was that when we went to try the horses at the Dutch Horse Sport Sales, he was the first one that I tried and I really liked him. I jumped him the most out of all of them and I got a really good feeling from him. Then a couple weeks later, my father tried Viper Z and he had a very good feeling too, so we agreed on that. My owner, Luigi, asked me which one of those horses I would choose if I could choose one and I said Viper Z and we ended up with him." 

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof. Martin Fuchs and Chaplin. Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof.

What does CHI Geneva mean to you? 

"Obviously as a Swiss rider it is a such a special show and a fantastic venue with a big ring, which is amazing for an indoor show. The show has such great tradition and it is the 60th year already. All the best riders have won or made history here, so to come here, with the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final tonight, it is very special. It is the class that I am most excited about and the one I wanted to win most as a child. 

The build-up the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final starts a month before, when you start looking at the ranking list, then you start hoping that you to make it in Top 10. The closer you get to the class, you start to look at who else will be in it. When you get the call or email to say that you are in, it is so exciting. To have the ten best riders in the world, bringing their best horses, it is the top of the top and there is no better-quality horses than in this class, it is literally the best there is all year long. 

The format of the class is so cool, it is really interesting for riders and spectators. I hear a lot of people saying it is also their favourite class. I am excited to be in the final and I would like to make it onto the podium tonight. I will be riding Chaplin, it is his first time at CHI Geneva, actually all three horses that I have here have never been to the show before, but they are all very calm. 

I was very happy with Connor Jei’s performance here yesterday, this arena is not the easiest but he was very good and handled the noise and atmosphere amazingly. Like I said, I have been focusing on the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final for a long time with Chaplin. It is such an important and fast class, the second round is usually lightning fast and I think that Chaplin is one of the fastest there is and that is why I have chosen him. I will ride Leoni Jei in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday." 

In 2019, you won the Rolex Grand Prix and you were the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, and then COVID-19 happened. How does it feel to be back here and to try and carry on the journey?

"It feels very good to be back here, when you are here it feels like everything is getting back to normal as there lots of people here. I am just very excited to be back competing in front of my home crowd. Looking back at the year we have lost, I am thrilled we are all back together. The four Rolex Majors are a huge goal of mine and I have a really good group of horses that I think a huge amount of. Connor Jei and Leoni Jei are great horses for big arenas and big rings and Chaplin is great anywhere. With those three horses I have a very good chance in all four Rolex Majors and all venues."

Which horse will you take to the World Championships?

"I will take Leoni Jei because of his success at the European Championships this year. However, it is a long time away, so I cannot say for sure. I am very lucky to have three horses who are capable of doing a Championship, so I will just see how they are going next year. Leoni Jei will get another break after Geneva, he had one after Aachen too, but as he is only nine-years-old he needs the time to rest. Chaplin, Connor Jei and The Sinner can do some more shows between now and The Dutch Masters."

Where and with whom do you spend Christmas?

"Honestly, I do not know yet! I will probably have one or two days at home with my parents, and then we normally go to St. Moritz, where my mum is from, and spend it with her family."

Do you any tactics for tonight’s Rolex IRJC Top 10 Final?

"It depends on the course, but I will try to be quick in the first round so that I am in a good position going into the second round. I am not sure I will achieve it, but my horse is naturally fast and so hopefully that will put me in good stead and I can be one of the faster clear rounds. It really depends on the course, if there are any strides I can take out or any tight turns to do. I am sixth to go so I will be able to watch the course and see. When you look at the starting list everyone is bringing their best horses so it will be a really exciting class." 

Can you tell us about your watch?

"It is a Rolex Daytona, I really like it! I remember when I got to choose it, I was very proud to have my first Rolex. I knew straight away that this was the watch I wanted. It is very comfortable with the Oyster Flex strap, I use it everyday day and I ride in it. It is very practical, and I think it looks very cool. I will wear the watch all weekend, in all my classes. I actually only have one Rolex watch; the Rolex watches that I have won I have given to my owners as a special thank you for their support."

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