World of Showjumping
Menu

This week

Coming weeks

CSI4*/ CSI2* Grimaud
France

CSI2* Opglabbeek
Belgium

CSI2* Bonheiden
Belgium

CSI2* Traverse City
USA

CSI2* Tryon
USA

CSI2* Vilamoura
Portugal

CSI2* Royan
France

CSI2* Ste Cecile
France

CSI2* San Giovanni in ...
Italy

Jasmine Chen: "I knew that every ride, every distance, every fence counted"

Thursday, 18 June 2020
Interview

Photo © Hippo Foto / Dirk Caremans Last year, Taiwan’s Jasmine Chen reached a life goal when she topped the Olympic Ranking for South East Asia and Oceania, securing an individual ticket for Tokyo. "I was lucky that Ninyon is a horse that I have a long partnership with," Chen says about the horse that helped her. Photo © Hippo Foto / Dirk Caremans.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Last year, Taiwan’s Jasmine Chen reached a life goal when she topped the Olympic Ranking for South East Asia and Oceania, securing an individual ticket for Tokyo for her country. From her native Taiwan to Schockemöhle Stables in Mühlen to Sotheby’s in New York and Hong Kong, 30-year-old Chen’s story is anything but ordinary.

Growing up in Taiwan, where equestrian sports are far from established, Chen started riding for fun with her siblings. “After a few years my dad – who is super competitive – said that if we were to do a sport, we should strive to compete and be the best. He asked around to find the best stable and training system in the world, and the name Schockemöhle came up. I think I was eleven when he sent us to Germany for a summer camp. The first time we went to Mühlen, we were jumping 60 cm classes and my dad told them; ‘I want my children to go to the Asian Games, and hopefully to the Olympics’ – and they were all laughing,” Chen tells.

For the next twelve years, Chen and her siblings spent their summers in Germany. “We were training every day and my dad invested a lot in horses for us,” Chen recalls. “As we kept competing, the results got better. In 2006, we went to the Asian Games in Qatar and I won a silver medal.”

“My father played a big role in planning everything, especially when we were younger,” Chen continues – pointing out her dad as the most influential person in her equestrian career. “For him, it has always been about championships; the Asian Games, the World Equestrian Games, the Olympics... He pushed us a lot, but in the end the results show that it really helped. My father is a machine in every sense of the word; he has this relentless drive and an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. We were always told to give 120% in whatever we do, because we will only achieve 80% of it. Having that force behind you can sometimes be tiring, but in the long run I believe it has made all the difference. He has pushed me further.”

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson
“I think setting goals and achieving them are what all athletes work for and what motivate us; the harder you work, the more reward you feel," Chen says – here at the World Equestrian Games in 2018. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

While Chen’s siblings eventually stopped riding, she kept on going – even throughout her time in college – and represented Taiwan at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010. “I went to UPenn in Philadelphia, and had a crazy schedule,” Chen explains. “I had classes from nine to one and when I was finished I would take the train from the middle of the city out to the countryside. I was riding at Kevin Babington’s at the time and just the commute would take three hours.” 

As being an equestrian athlete was not considered an actual career move in Chen’s environment, she stopped riding completely in 2012 and moved to New York where she started working at Sotheby’s – perhaps the most famous auction house in the world. “I agreed with my father’s reasoning, and decided to keep riding as a hobby,” Chen recalls.

Chen quickly discovered that doing showjumping and working for one of the world’s largest auction houses were not that far apart. “For me, Sotheby’s combines culture and commerce. Fine art and sport horses are highly similar in that in both worlds we are essentially marketing and trading “products” which are all unique – and which can be extremely valuable,” Chen explains. “Also, the prices can change from one day to the next depending on so many factors at play, which makes the marketplace tricky but thrilling – there is a lot speculation, you need to take risks. At Sotheby’s a big part of my job is to sell art, building relationships with clients so I can anticipate their wishes and desires in buying and selling. Because of this I can do most of my job remotely, which I really love. Furthermore, my parents always collected art, and I grew up surrounded by it. At university, I studied art history – simply out of fun, since back then I wanted to be a professional rider.”

Photo © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen
From her native Taiwan to Schockemöhle Stables in Mühlen to Sotheby’s in New York and Hong Kong, 30-year-old Chen’s story is anything but ordinary. Photo © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen.

In 2016, with a blooming art career, Chen got back on a horse while visiting Europe in the summer, and realized she wanted to resume her equestrian goals. “In general, I love being around animals, I love this life of combining exercise, outdoors, sport – and a lot of my friends are in this world,” she explains about the reasons behind her return to the horse-back.

In 2019, Chen moved on to ride full time alongside working for Sotheby’s remotely. “I am very goal orientated, and the Olympics have always been a dream,” she smiles. “One day I told my dad ‘I have tried three times, and have failed three times – this is my life dream’. Given that I was doing well with my art career, my dad agreed. Seeing that the next Olympics would be in Tokyo it also meant something special to my family, we go there a lot and have many friends there. So last year I was given a chance to take a full shot at the Olympic qualification and took a sabbatical.”

“I knew I had to give a 100% focus to be able to qualify,” Chen says. “I started the year in Dubai, where I had two horses planned, but one got lame. For the rest of the year, I planned my shows in Europe picking those that were suited for my horse Ninyon. Obviously, I showed as much as possible, but without burning him out. My vision to collect enough points for Olympic qualification was that it was a marathon, not a sprint – I had 12 months to get it done. By November last year, I felt as if I was more or less ‘safe’ – I was far ahead of the others in my group.”

“The whole year was really difficult,” Chen continues. “A lot of the time I felt like I was suffocating. Having a bad show and seeing other riders post about their great results made me feel as if I was drowning in anxiety. But in a way, it really helped when going into the ring – I had a lot more pressure. I knew that every ride, every distance, every fence counted. Sometimes, without having a clear goal, it is easy to create excuses for yourself and you might end up not trying so hard. I think I fought a lot harder because of the Olympic qualification and the ranking points. I was lucky that Ninyon is a horse that I have a long partnership with – we were ready to take on challenges and our performances peaked in a trial year.”

Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson
"My vision to collect enough points for Olympic qualification was that it was a marathon, not a sprint – I had 12 months to get it done," Chen tells about how she planned her 2019-schedule in order to qualify for Tokyo. Photo © World of Showjumping by Jenny Abrahamsson.

“Now I am getting used to the idea, but in December, when I knew I had done it – it was a really magical feeling,” Chen tells about the emotions after securing qualification. “I think setting goals and achieving them are what all athletes work for and what motivate us; the harder you work, the more reward you feel. I tried for Beijing, London and Rio – and I failed three times. That is 12 years of trying, so making it to Tokyo – which is so close to home – means a lot.”

Chen sees both pros and cons when it comes to the new Olympic format. “I think the motivation behind it is to add diversity into the scene. I agree that quantity might come at cost of quality – but it is like college admission; they want diversity of every kind,” Chen says. “I like the element of having more nationalities, but I have doubts about the individuals going first and the teams after. Before, the speed class was followed by the team competition, and there was a natural progression in height. Whereas now, I don’t know how they are going to build the courses? However, given the temperature and climate in Tokyo it is only an advantage for my horse to jump two rounds instead of four.”

With two possible horses aimed for the Olympics, Chen hopes that the postponement of the Tokyo Games will work in her favor. “I think it is important to always know your weaknesses and make your plans with that insight,” she says. “Due to the postponement, I get one more year to ride and train and do what I love. I have started to watch as many videos from past Olympics as possible and I have downloaded all the course plans to study. There are elements in Olympic courses that you don’t often find in normal shows; for example, there are a lot more triple bars,
combinations with water trays, spooky walls and big open water jumps. In this sport, there are so many factors that are out of our control so I try to do what I can to prepare myself and eliminate as many elements of surprise as possible. I know I need to practice the water, and I have bought spooky fences to use when training at home. Ideally, in my build up towards Tokyo, I plan to do shows that mimic the venue that is expected there – which means a relatively squarish arena with a stadium around it.”

While the Olympic Games have been Chen’s long-time goal, there is a lot more that motivates her. “Day to day, what motivates me is to work on a horse so that you improve and grow together, to find that moment when human and nature come together. The best feelings I’ve had in my life have been on horses or surfboards. On horseback it is about finding understanding and harmony with the horse so you become one, their power become yours. Similarly in surfing you are trying to catch and enter a wave at the right moment so that you harness the power of the ocean at its maximum. These are glorious moments in time which I wish I could freeze and live in forever.” 

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

 

This photo has been added to your cart !

Your shopping cart »
This website is using cookies for statistics, site optimization and retargeting purposes. You consent to our cookies if you continue to use this website. Read more here.