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Steve Guerdat: “The results shouldn’t be what drives you”

Sunday, 10 March 2024
CSI5* The Dutch Masters 2024

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof. Steve Guerdat at The Dutch Masters 2024. Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof.

At the 2024-edition of The Dutch Masters in 's-Hertogenbosch, representatives of the media were invited to meet two of the most successful riders of their generations; Rolex Testimonees Steve Guerdat and Jeroen Dubbeldam. 

Guerdat – 2012 Olympic Champion, a three-time winner of the FEI World Cup™ Final, 2023 European Champion, as well as the winner of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final 2023 at CHI Geneva – has won four Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors; the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva three times and the CPKC ‘International’ Grand Prix, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament. Dubbeldam is one of only two riders in the world to have been crowned Olympic, World and European Champion. He is also a previous Major winner, in the pre-Rolex Grand Slam era, at both CHIO Aachen in 2001 and the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament in 2010.

Every victory is very special

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof. On Saturday morning at the 2024-edition of The Dutch Masters, representatives of the media were invited to meet Rolex Testimonees Steve Guerdat and Jeroen Dubbeldam. Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof.

“It’s a very difficult question,” Guerdat said when asked about a personal highlight in his career. “I’m very lucky to have met some amazing horses during my career and to have had great success with many of them. I don’t like to pick one moment or one special victory, because that’s what’s nice about the sport – every victory is very special. The last one always seems the nicest because it’s the closest so you remember it more, but every win is very different, some are a little bit more sentimental, so I couldn’t pick one. I don’t really like to look back, I like to look forward. I still have goals I’d like to achieve and that’s what motivates me rather than looking back.”

“It’s a cliché to give the same answer as Steve, but it is very similar,” Dubbeldam echoed his Swiss colleague. “If I have to pick something then I would say my Olympic title is probably the one that has meant the most to my career. If I have to pick one that I enjoyed the most, it was probably the World Equestrian Games in Caen in 2014 – the rotation of horses that day and riding the four best horses in the world was a real gift to me – I really enjoyed that moment, and of course to win was extra special. If I look back at the one where I was at my best with my horse, that was at Aachen in 2015 at the European Championships where I felt that my horse was unbeatable. He gave me a feeling there that we could have carried on jumping all week and no one would have beaten him. If you get that feeling from your horse – SFN Zenith N.O.P. in this case – then that gives you so much mental strength and confidence.” 

“One of the main reasons is that I enjoy it, and that is important, but I also think it’s important to give something back to the sport because the sport has given so much to me,” Dubbeldam said about his current role in the sport as he focuses more on training than competing himself. “If we can help young people, giving the right example of how to deal with the sport and how to work with horses, then I think that is great. I hope there are many more top riders who give back in this way as I think it’s important.” 

Loving what you do is key 

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof. “The only thing that drives me is how much I love riding and how much I love spending my time with horses,” Guerdat said. Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof.

Reflecting on the key to their success, both Guerdat and Dubbeldam pointed out how their driving force is not a title but a love for what they do. “The only thing that drives me is how much I love riding and how much I love spending my time with horses,” Guerdat said. “It’s a sport where you lose so much, probably more than in any other sport. The results shouldn’t be what drives you, it’s not the right motivation, it’s more what’s around it and being around the horses and the love of the horse and of the sport. I love my way of living, I love my life and everything it brings me around the sport, and that’s for sure what motivates me. After a bad week I come home and on the Monday morning I see my family and I see the horses in the yard and it brings a smile to my face and motivation to keep on fighting. In my case, this is probably what has allowed me to be successful over the years.”

“In this way, Steve and I are very similar,” Dubbeldam weighed in. “Our biggest strength is that we don’t need top sport to love what we are doing – that is key. If there is any reason we are not at the top of the sport, we still love what we do, which is working with horses and that is our biggest strength.” 

Building special bonds 

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ. “Our biggest strength is that we don’t need top sport to love what we are doing," Jeroen Dubbeldam said. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Both Guerdat and Dubbeldam reflected on the importance of creating a close connection with the horses you have. “Building a relationship with my horses is not something that I do because I believe that it will bring me success, it’s just my way of living,” Guerdat said. “The horses are fully part of my life and they are as important as my family. This is just my way of living and I couldn’t live without that. The strongest relationship I had with a horse was probably Jalisca Solier, because she’s the one who brought me back and opened many doors for me in my career – if I hadn’t ridden her, I probably wouldn’t have had the same life and same career as I have had, so she is the one that has meant the most to me.”

“I had a great relationship with Zenith – he was a very brave and honest horse but he was delicate to ride,” Dubbeldam said. “His character was very sweet and he is a lovely horse. However, if we talk about a horse who has meant the most to my career, I have to go back to De Sjiem – that’s where it all started. He had a special character. He is the one that put me on the map, but to be able to have success with him, I really had to create a special bond with him. I felt something special with him and I knew that if we could become friends, I knew we could achieve nice things. That’s what happened, it sounds romantic, but sometimes with horses you have to go that deep with them, you have to have full confidence in them and 100% trust them and then you can achieve amazing moments.” 

And special connections don’t come fast – giving each horse the time they need is essential, Guerdat highlighted. “For me it’s just natural,” he said. “You have an animal, and my job is to listen to what they want to tell me – we don’t always speak the same language, but the language that I share with them tells me how fast they want to progress, whether they want to go quicker or jump bigger. I’m just trying to listen to what my horses have to tell me and to consider their point of view and I make decisions from there. Even though we don’t speak the same language, we spend time with them and learn about them – and about yourself – every day.”

“Every day is new, so the more time you spend with them, the more you get to know how they feel and then why they feel like this,” Guerdat continued. “From there you can start to influence how they feel, and learn what you need to do for them to feel at their best. It might sound a bit complicated, but it’s actually very easy. When I sit on the horse, I try to have him thinking together with me and try to find a way to speak the same language. I know we don’t, but I try to find a way to feel my horse and to give him the confidence so that he can feel what I am expecting from him. In the back of my mind, I am trying to do what’s best for him and have him in the best possible condition. It is a relationship, that’s why the more time you spend with a horse, the better you get to know him – things always change, we as humans change, horses change and the more time we spend with them, the more we know about them and we can understand them better.” 

A decade of support 

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof. "I see a great future ahead still for this show," Dubbeldam said about The Dutch Masters. Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof.

The 2024-edition of The Dutch Masters marks the 10-year anniversary of Rolex as the main sponsor of the event, a partnership which began in 2014. “It’s very special to be competing for a home crowd, it gives a special feeling and you want to do even better than you already want to do,” Dubbeldam said about the event which for him as a Dutch rider has a special meaning.

From next year, Dubbeldam will be taking over as sport director of the event – and has big shoes to fill as he follows Frank Kemperman. “This show has been a great show for many years, even before Rolex stepped in – that’s why Rolex probably chose this show to be a partner. Since they have become a partner of the show, it’s become one of the best shows in the world and I also think it fits really well into the Rolex Grand Slam – it’s one of the Majors in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping with CHIO Aachen, CHI Geneva and the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament. There are two indoor shows, two outdoor shows – and of the two indoor shows, they are shows with some of the best facilities in the world. I see a great future ahead still for this show.” 

"For me it’s absolutely natural to compete at those shows as they are the best in the world,” Guerdat said about the fact that to this day, he is the only rider to have competed at every single Major since 2013 – counting 36. “When I select the shows I will aim towards at the beginning of the year, the Majors are up there with championships. I would be more surprised at a top rider skipping one of these shows.” 

Betting on Steve 

Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof. "If I would have to put my money on somebody to win tomorrow, then my money goes on Steve,” Dubbeldam said. Photo © Rolex/Ashley Neuhof.

"For the show it’s always nice when a local rider can win, for home crowds that’s always special for the show, that’s the nicest thing that can happen of course,” Dubbeldam said about his predictions for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix. “Me personally, I am a big fan of Steve; that’s because of his horsemanship – I love the way he is dealing with his sport and his horses, he loves what he is doing. If for a period he isn’t doing top sport he still loves what he is doing and that is his biggest strength, so that’s why I am a big fan. He listens to his horses – I’ve always had a lot of interviews in my life and they always say “you are such a good planner”, and I say it’s very strange, I never plan my season, I only listen to my horses so if my horse is ready to go there then I go there, and if not, I won’t go just because people expect me to go. That’s exactly what he’s doing and that’s why I am a big fan of him. I saw his horse [Dynamix de Belheme] jumping last night, he gave it a go to win and he got beaten by Maikel van der Vleuten who was very aggressive in the jump-off. However, the way Steve and Dynamix jumped that class and the jump-off yesterday, if I would have to put my money on somebody to win tomorrow, then my money goes on Steve.”

"I have often had great success in s’Hertogenbosch, back at the time when the FEI World Cup™ was held here I finished second, and then I was second in the Rolex Grand Prix one time, and third or fourth another time,” Guerdat said about his feeling ahead of Sunday. “Last year again I was fourth with Dynamix de Belheme. For sure it’s one that keeps driving me and motivates me to win one day, and I know I have a good chance tomorrow. I have my amazing mare Dynamix de Belheme, she is in great shape. I said before coming here that she was maybe lacking one big class – she had a break after Geneva and she only jumped five training classes in Spain – that’s why she jumped the big class last night and she was fantastic as always, so I hope she can keep up the form tomorrow. If I ride well enough and up to her level, she will give me everything, and we will see what happens in the jump-off. Obviously, we are going to have 40 starters and probably 36 or 37 of those that could be a winner – that’s why Rolex Grand Slams are so special and why they are so hard to win, but that’s also why I keep on trying to win them.” 

"It’s not really a factor,” Guerdat said when asked how big of a challenge coming from the huge indoor at CHI Geneva to the smaller arena at The Dutch Masters is. “Actually, I had a few challenges whilst I was riding outside in the build-up to coming here, so now coming back inside is an advantage. I often do that before the FEI World Cup™ Finals too – I like to get the horses ready outside on the big grass fields, so the horses feel good – it’s good for the mind, good for the head, good for the health, and also when you jump outside you get a bigger canter, so then when you come inside it’s easy to shorten the horse. When you’re indoors you’re always riding backwards, so with my way of riding you can lose the shape of the horse over the jump. I feel that I have had the right preparation for my horse in the big fields of Spain, she showed yesterday she’s ready and we will see what it brings tomorrow. Good horses and good riders, they can deal with all of the arenas and venues.”

Looking ahead 

Photo © Rolex/Tom Lovelock. "I have my amazing mare Dynamix de Belheme, she is in great shape," Guerdat said ahead of Sunday's Rolex Grand Prix. Photo © Rolex/Tom Lovelock.

“I’m actually in a very exciting moment right now as I have a great string of amazing horses coming up,” Guerdat said about his plans for the future. “It’s actually a bit difficult as I have so many horses, it takes quite a lot of time. I am going to shows a lot and I have a lot of very exciting horses, I am just trying to do my job as well as I can. I’ve been building them up at the Sunshine Tour and I am going to Arezzo again for two weeks with 12 horses in three-weeks’ time, so it’s busy, but very exciting.” 

“Actually, I can’t really, I have so many,” Guerdat smiled when asked to name a horse we should look out for in the future. “Double Jeu D’honvault is probably the one that is going to go to the FEI World Cup™ Final, Is-minka won the FEI World Cup™ Qualifier in Bordeaux and is going to jump in the Nations Cup in Ocala, then I’m going to jump the Grand Prix in Ocala with a 10-year-old called Albfuehren’s Iashin Sitte. I’m going to jump next week in Paris with a mare called Lancelotta – who has placed in her first two four-star Grands Prix – together with Looping Luna, who has already won Grands Prix and placed in FEI World Cup™ Qualifiers. I also have a stallion called Easy Star de Talma, who won his first 1.50m class in Spain recently, and I’m sure I’m missing a few, so it’s a really exciting time!”

The fact that 2024 is an Olympic year adds to the excitement. “I am very excited about Paris and I have an amazing horse,” Guerdat said about the upcoming Paris Oympics. “I am aiming my top two horses – both Dynamix de Belheme and Venard de Cerisy – to be at their peak for this time, in case I need a back-up. I have big hopes and I am trying to plan everything as well as I can around that. Sometimes I feel like a little kid, jumping up and down and getting excited – I don’t realise I’m already over 40-years-old – the excitement around these shows and championships like the Olympics really hits me. It’s very exciting looking ahead to it and I hope that I can be ready for it as I know I have a good chance with Dynamix.” 

“Obviously both my top horses have their plan, with some flexibility, running up to Paris, but the Rolex Grand Slam Majors are very much part of my schedule,” Guerdat concluded. “Dynamix will jump the first Major here at The Dutch Masters and then Venard should jump in Aachen. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will take Dynamix to Aachen, even though she was great last year and I think she has a chance to win it as she loves the ring there, but it’s just a little bit close to the Olympics. If I go to Aachen, I want to give 110% and not be worrying about the Olympics a few weeks later. Hopefully if Dynamix feels good, she will be the one for the Olympics and Venard will take over for Aachen. He also always jumps really well there; he jumped double clear in the Nations Cup for the last two years so I know he has a good chance there too. Venard will probably go to Calgary as well and Dynamix should jump the final Rolex Grand Slam of the year in Geneva.”




About Rolex 

Rolex has been a committed partner of equestrianism for almost 70 years, dating back to 1957 when pioneering British show jumper Pat Smythe became the sport’s first Testimonee.

The brand’s contribution to excellence in equestrianism encourages modernization while respecting the tradition and elegance of the sport. At the pinnacle of this ideal is the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.



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