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Daniel Deusser: “The best is yet to come”

Tuesday, 20 July 2021
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.
In June 2021, Germany’s Daniel Deusser passed Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat on the Longines Ranking, taking over as the world’s leading rider. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping


 

In June 2021, Germany’s Daniel Deusser passed Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat on the Longines Ranking, taking over as the world’s leading rider. The 39-year-old German, who has topped the world ranking twice before – in 2015 and 2017 – has for the past nine years worked for Stephan Conter’s Stephex Stables. World of Showjumping met up with Deusser at his home base in Wolvertem, Belgium, and discovered that he is a man who believes that the best is yet to come.

Two men on a mission with a vision

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
When Deusser first started at Stephex Stables, Stephan Conter had a vision: He wanted his rider to be at the very top of the world. That mission has been accomplished. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

When Deusser first started at Stephex Stables, Stephan Conter had a vision: He wanted his rider to be at the very top of the world. “We had to find the right horses though, and along the way not all of them lived up to our hopes and expectations. But, together we kept fighting,” Deusser tells. “For me, the most important thing is that we were always there; maybe not as number one, but two, five or ten – which showed me that we were on the right way and that we should continue in the same direction.”

 


The goal from here on is to keep the motivation and try to produce new, young horses for the bigger sport


 

Having reached the top of the world ranking for the third time during his time at Stephex Stables, gives Deusser a good feeling. “It means that the way we have worked over the last years was right,” he says. “Many elements have to come together, and you need to be lucky as well. Still, if you are ranked number one, it means you did better than the rest; your system cannot be wrong. However, being number one is only one achievement – I think even more important is to keep on going like this in the years to come. We can’t get higher on the ranking, so the goal from here on is to keep the motivation and try to produce new, young horses for the bigger sport.”

Without the right horses, reaching the top is not possible

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.
“The horses are the most important thing. Without them, it is impossible,” Deusser says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Being world no. one is an achievement Deusser is proud of, but he is the first to admit that it all comes down to having the right string of horses. “The horses are the most important thing. Without them, it is impossible,” Deusser says.

With horses like Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z, Killer Queen VDM, Calisto Blue and Jasmien vd Bischop in his current string of horses, Deusser considers himself blessed. “I have been in the lucky position to have horses like these – all of them have jumped five-star Grand Prix classes with me,” he says. “If you only have one Grand Prix horse, even if you win every weekend, it is not possible to reach the top. You definitely need three Grand Prix horses – maybe not three on five-star level, but horses that can jump at least on three-star level, supporting the five-star horses. Of course, you can be lucky, if you have one horse that is a super star. But in general, finding more than one horse is a part of the game if you want to reach the top.”

 


We have had many horses passing the stable – but I can count the really good ones on one hand


 

Deusser believes that the horses’ characters play a huge part in how successful they become. “In my opinion, this is why there are only a handful of real top horses in the sport,” he says. “It is more or less the same horses that win the most prestigious classes. During my nine years here at Stephex, we have had many horses passing the stable – but I can count the really good ones on one hand: Killer Queen, Tobago, First Class and Cornet d’Amour. To find a horse that has the will, the capacity and the mind that is needed to fight and win is really difficult.”

Working for the future

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.
“While we all need that perfect horse, I believe that as a rider you always learn a bit more with each of them – also from the failures," Deusser says. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Deusser and his team at Stephex are continuously working to find the next super star. “You need young horses coming up so that you have the possibility to stay at the top of the sport,” Deusser says. “Good horses are hard to find, they don’t run around for you to choose. In the end, you have to make them yourself. It is a long process though and it can stretch over many years. Additionally, it is always a gamble.”

“In this sport, you have to be motivated to repeat that process,” Deusser continues. “As a competitive rider, you are always hungry and you want to win – but sometimes you need to be patient and wait, perhaps months or even years, until the horse is ready.”

 


In this sport, you have to be motivated to repeat that process


 

“To do the top sport and to eventually get results, the horses have to mature enough in their minds as well. For this, you also need shows – you don’t make a horse by only working at home. You have certain situations in the ring where the horse needs to learn to think in the way of its rider, and these moments can only be experienced in a competition – you cannot train this at home,” Deusser says. “While we all need that perfect horse, I believe that as a rider you always learn a bit more with each of them – also from the failures.”

Teamwork makes the dream work

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
“As an international rider, you normally travel every week, so there is also a big team of people needed behind you,” Deusser says about another key factor in his success. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“You cannot do it alone,” Deusser continues when speaking about the challenge of producing top horses. “Stephan really believes in his horses. That push in the background, it motivates me to keep going and trying. Knowing that he believes in the horses, and in me, and wants to reach the top, is a good feeling.”

 


It is a very hard 24/7 job


 

“As an international rider, you normally travel every week, so there is also a big team of people needed behind you,” Deusser says about another key factor in his success. “You need a very good groom, staff managing the horses at home, an office to organize the paperwork and travels… and everyone has to work together. It is a very hard 24/7 job.”

Adapting to changes

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping
“As a rider, you never stop learning and you have to evolve,” Deusser says. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

“As a rider, you never stop learning and you have to evolve,” Deusser says. “The sport has changed. More and more people are coming into it, and to win a class is getting extremely difficult. It is not that the classes are bigger, but the competition is harder. While winning is a bit of the exception, staying constantly in the top ranks shows that you are on a good way.”

 


As a rider, you never stop learning and you have to evolve


 

“When I compare the courses today to the courses 30 years ago – when I sat on the sofa watching it on TV as a small kid – so much has changed,” Deusser says. “In the jump-offs today, riders are close to each other – it all depends on fractions of a second. If you do one stride more, you place 6th, while 30 years ago you would have been second with a round like that. With a slow, scopey horse you no longer have a chance of top result. The courses are delicate, the poles are lighter, and the breeding of the horses has changed. These days, we need bloody and sensitive horses.”

Making the German team is always an achievement

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.
“In Germany, being a part of the national team is always an achievement," Deusser says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Deusser has been a part of Germany’s A-squad on multiple occasions and riding alongside some of the legends of the sport has offered him invaluable lessons. “I always used to be the young one and it helped me a lot; I learned many things from being on the team and got a lot of confidence and experience,” he tells. “In Germany, being a part of the national team is always an achievement. When I started, Ludger Beerbaum was still part of the team, and riders like Christian Ahlmann and Marcus Ehning have been there for decades. I believe that just like us riders are trying to produce top horses, the procedure is similar to a Chef d’Equipe: They always have to see and think about the championships of the year, but also see the bigger picture. Otto Becker does a phenomenal job: He knows what is needed and gives chances to everyone who deserves it. Thanks to him, in Simone Blum we have a World Champion in Germany that only had one horse for the international sport.”

 


 I definitely aim for Tokyo


 

For Deusser, 2021 is a special year when it comes to goals. “With the Olympic Games and the Europeans coming up, I definitely aim for Tokyo,” he tells. “And I don’t want to just take part, I want to win something. That is my goal for 2021 and from there on I would like to continue with other horses at the big events coming later this year – like Aachen in September. For a German, Aachen is always a goal.”

Failure brings you forwards

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.
“I’m still very motivated to improve. As a rider, I think you can only get better the older you get," Deusser says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Dealing with disappointments and turning pitfalls into perfection is a part of the game, and something Deusser has learned to master.

“There are times that I come home from shows feeling a little bit frustrated,” he tells. “Sometimes you go to a show and you have a very good feeling; the horses are in shape and you are motivated – but you drive home on Sunday evening without having won anything. This does not necessarily mean that it was a disaster; maybe you just had one time fault, one down – small mistakes. There were many weekends where I expected more and came back home disappointed.”

 


Failure is frustrating, but only then do you start thinking about the smaller details and this brings you forward


 

“When this happens, I try to think about what is missing. Failure is frustrating, but only then do you start thinking about the smaller details and this brings you forward,” Deusser points out. “You have to ask yourself: ‘What do I have to change to not have this time fault, to not have that one pole down?’ The reasons are different from horse to horse, so you have to go into the smallest details. You have to think about what went wrong and why. It does not necessarily have to be about your riding or your equipment; maybe it is what you feed your horse, maybe your horse has to feel more motivated, you might have to change something in your weekly training. It is very individual.”

“If my weekend competing was not the best, the work I do with the horses during the week-days then gives me motivation again. I think this is the nice thing with our sport; the horses motivate us. When a horse gives me a feeling of understanding, that is as motivating as winning a class. The feeling of a horse developing and growing, of us working together, is a joy for me,” Deusser says.  

Deusser’s energy to strive for perfection seems endless. “I’m still very motivated to improve. As a rider, I think you can only get better the older you get. So, the best is yet to come – I really believe in that!”

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping.



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