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From youngster to international Grand Prix horse: Victorio Des Frotards

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Steve Guerdat with Victorio Des Frotards. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen



With Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat in the saddle, the 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding Victorio Des Frotards (Barbarian x Prince Ig’or) has taken the five-star circuit by storm. The relatively new pair won both the CSI5* 1.60m Grand Prix as well as the CSI5* 1.60m World Cup in Basel this January, and just a few weeks later they continued their winning ways when topping the CSI5* 1.60m World Cup in Bordeaux.  

Before Guerdat took over the reins in May 2019, Victorio Des Frotards was ridden by Raphael Goehrs. “I bought him from a friend of mine when he was 6-years-old,” Goehrs tells. “I still remember the first time I saw him jumping at a show, going around the course in a really slow tempo. I thought that he looked like a horse that needs to go fast to be good – and that is how I am as a rider. Every time I go to the ring, I turn short, I keep the pace up. Victorio was a great horse already when I bought him, and we had a lot of success together. Nine out of ten times we entered the ring, he would jump clear and we won many classes,” Goehrs says. “He has a particular body and some might find this a problem; he is tall but narrow – but for me that worked well.”

“Victorio is special,” Goehrs continues. “He is a very clever horse and has scope enough, even if he has his own style of jumping. The way I rode Victorio was very natural. When you trust him, he can be very fast in the ring. For me, he is a genius with a big personality. I mostly rode him outside in the woods and never jumped a lot at home. I never had to teach him how to jump, he knew what to do – even if he jumped in his own way. He might not have looked amazing, but he jumped clear all the time.”  

“I wanted to try to make the step up to five-star level with him, but could not really get into those shows. However, I knew the horse would be able to do that,” Goehrs tells.

“I think Steve is the best match for Victorio,” Goehrs says. “I follow them all the time. However, at the beginning it was hard, because the results were not as good as expected. Nevertheless, I was sure that Victorio was a horse to win very big classes with. After London, I texted Steve to say I am sure they are almost there. And finally, two weeks later they won in Basel! I think they understand each other now. To me, it is no surprise that they are winning a lot now; when Victorio is clear, he is faster than others. I am very happy to see how Steve allows Victorio to do things in his own way as this is how he is at his best.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "He looked like a typical French horse – a fighter,” Guerdat says about his first impression of Victorio Des Frotards. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

To begin with, it was Victorio’s impressive record of results with Goehrs that caught Guerdat’s eye. “He had been very successful in France, and looked like a typical French horse – a fighter,” Guerdat tells. “When looking for horses, we always tend to look for the perfect jump, horses that are nice to ride but Victorio was a lot of the opposite to that. However, he always won,” Steve smiles.

“Sometimes, the qualities we look for in the horses are not really what is needed in the ring. At the end of the day, everyone wants a winner. I followed Victorio for about one year, and he had consistently good results with lots of wins and placings. Together with two friends of mine, I ended up buying him without really trying him that much – we knew what he could do. However, we did not expect him to jump Grand Prix classes. We thought he would be a nice competitive horse for 1.50m level. We wanted to have a horse to win with on his own level, and depending on the results decide if we would keep him or sell him.”

“When I jumped him at home, and at our first few shows, I had a good feeling,” Guerdat tells about the beginning with Victorio. ”However, when I tried to be competitive with him, he started to knock fences down. I felt that the jump was easy, but he was just not fighting for me – I could not figure him out. Strange enough, there were rounds where I thought he was jumping bad and we would be clear, and when I thought he was jumping good we had fences down.”

“I could really not understand what was happening,” Guerdat smiles. “The funniest part is that when we first bought him, we were convinced of him being a really careful horse with not so much scope but for a moment I started to think that maybe he is really scopey but not so careful,” Guerdat says. “He gave me a lot of grey hairs in the beginning, I thought there was something wrong. When I now think back, he just lacked the last experience at the higher level. I believe I just had to give him time and gather some mileage together.”

Their first big win in Basel confirmed to Guerdat that the pair was on the right track. “Just to see what would happen, I took Victorio to Basel. He won the Grand Prix on Friday, after a very good first round and a very bad jump-off. I rode horrible, but the horse was really fighting for me and this gave me confidence. Finally, I felt that I could let him do his job and be how he is. Now I am not trying to have too much control anymore, or have everything looking nice. I just ride him and enjoy him and try to win classes, and that is how he seems to like it,” Guerdat smiles.

Guerdat is crystal clear on what makes Victorio such a winner. “His head,” Steve says. “He is a fighter, it is all in his head. My experience is that French horses often are like that; they have a fantastic mind-set. If you get them on your side, they will do everything for you and this is what Victorio is now doing for me. He might not win every five-star Grand Prix in the world, but I think he still has a lot to show.”

“What he has done, feels amazing,” Guerdat continues. “Again, this shows why passion is very important when working with horses. If you want to do things fast, it never works out. Like with Victorio, I just kept on trying and now it really feels like he is with me. It might not look great, but we are winning,” Guerdat explains. “Even if everything is not perfect, but your horse is 100% with you, wants to clear the fences and play the game and enjoy their job – for me, that is the best feeling.”


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