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New chapter for Heidi Mulari after 17 years with Steve Guerdat

Tuesday, 22 March 2022
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. “When Steve left for Switzerland, he actually didn’t have a plan so he gave me some money and said ‘Please, don’t take another job, I will figure something out’ and went off to find a solution," Heidi says about the beginning of her adventure with Guerdat. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

After 22 years as a groom in the middle of Europe, 17 of them with Olympic Champion and former world no. one Steve Guerdat, Heidi Mulari is moving back to her home country Finland. 

Heidi met Steve when she was 22, during the time both of them worked at Stal Tops in Valkenswaard, the Netherlands. When Steve left Stal Tops, he asked Heidi to join him. “It is scary how fast time flies, it is like we just left Holland but it is already 17 years ago,” Heidi says. “When Steve left for Switzerland, he actually didn’t have a plan so he gave me some money and said ‘Please, don’t take another job, I will figure something out’ and went off to find a solution. It didn’t take long before he was employed by the Notz-family and I moved there to join him. The Notz-family helped Steve out, and we stayed there for about a year.”

Following a year with the Notz-family, Steve’s father Phillipp Guerdat introduced his son to Yves G. Piaget who offered Steve to ride his horses. “That is when it all started. Steve got Jalisca Solier, Tresor and Ferrari to ride and we moved to the stable of Urs Schwarzenbach. It was Schwarzenbach who bought Nino des Buissonnets, Nasa as well as Campalo and gave Steve the ride,” Heidi tells.  

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. "I don’t think Jalisca was meant to do such big things, but her heart was huge,” Heidi says about her all-time favourite Jalisca. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Steve stayed at Schwarzenbach’s stable for ten years, before he bought his own place in Elgg in 2017. “It is very difficult to buy something in Switzerland, but Steve managed and it was like ‘your own place, your own rules’. It was fantastic. We really started our journey in Switzerland with nothing, and I’ve been there to experience it all,” Heidi tells.

Ups and downs

Looking back at the 17 years with Steve, Heidi has many highlights to choose from – however, there are three that stand out. “The most special memory I have is the first World Cup win with Jalisca,” Heidi says with love in her voice. “That is something I will never forget, and it still makes me cry. It was such a big thing. We really came from nothing; the summer prior, Steve was struggling to survive in 1.30m national classes with the horses he had – then he got Jalisca and won the World Cup in Geneva. I don’t think Jalisca was meant to do such big things, but her heart was huge.”

“Another highlight was of course when Nino won the Olympic gold medal in London back in 2012. To win an Olympic gold medal doesn’t happen every day, so that was for sure very special. I always had a love-hate relationship with Nino, but I always admired what he did. The beginning was not easy with him though… At the first show with Steve, Nino stopped on fence number one,” Heidi says with a smile. “Nino is now retired and is living his best life in Normandy, France. I was there last summer to visit him and he hasn’t changed a bit. He loves it there, just being a horse in a herd with retired colleagues. The horses can be outside day and night for ten months a year. When I was there, we took him out of the field for the blacksmith and he was screaming the whole way in the trailer. Finally, back on the field, he took off and I could not catch him again to say goodbye,” Heidi laughs.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. "To win an Olympic gold medal doesn’t happen every day, so that was for sure very special," Heidi says about the individual gold medal at the London Olympics with Nino and Steve. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Another special moment for me was when Venard de Cerisy won the Rolex Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows last year. I always liked Venard, and Steve also believed in him from the beginning,” Heidi tells. “Venard is very special, difficult to get on and is also scared of other horses. Anthony, our home rider, used to laugh at me when I said that Venard one day would do the championships – but in the end he did, even though he was a bit unlucky in Tokyo.”

Working with horses for so many years, Heidi has also experienced some difficult times. “The worst was when Jalisca broke her leg shortly after she was retired. She never got the retirement she deserved, and we didn’t get any babies out of her,” Heidi says. 

“The contamination case in 2015 was also a difficult time for us, but luckily we quickly found the source of it in the food we had been feeding and other riders feeding the same food had similar issues. However, this is something that will always follow the rider – even though neither Steve or I could have done anything different to prevent it from happening. I still remember when Steve called me about it, I thought my heart was going to stop – it was such a shock!”

From show groom to home groom

Heidi used to work as Steve’s show groom, but after years of travelling she decided to change and stay at home instead. When Emma Uusi-Simola joined the team, she took over as show groom. “It was quite a change to go from show groom to home groom and suddenly be able to lay on the couch on a Wednesday evening instead of jumping in the truck,” Heidi laughs.

However, Heidi has still stepped in as a show groom every now and then. “Even after Emma came to work for Steve, I still wanted to go to Calgary. I love that show and if it was one show I would do every year that would be the one,” Heidi smiles. “Everything works so well there; people are nice, and the surroundings are beautiful. Calgary is something special.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for WoSJ. “Even after Emma came to work for Steve, I still wanted to go to Calgary. I love that show and if it was one show I would do every year that would be the one,” Heidi smiles. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

After working together for 17 years, Heidi has gotten to know Steve very well. “The Finish mentality works very well with Steve, as you have to be quite strong mentally to work with him. That being said, Steve has a really big heart and if something happened to me, I could always ask him for help. And there is no doubt that if I would ever need help it in the future, he would still be there to help me out.”

Let the horses be horses

“Try to keep it as simple as possible,” is Heidi’s advice when it comes to taking care of the horses. “Don’t make a fuss about it and let the horses be horses. Of course, if there is an issue you have to go that extra mile. Try to keep the routines the same and especially when the horses are traveling a lot, I think it is important to make the routines as much like at home as possible. It has been cool that Steve and I are on the same page in this regard; we both like the horses to go in the field and to the forest as much as possible – I couldn’t have worked this long for him if he wasn’t.”

“I got good basics back in Finland and over the years I have learned so much, and still I learn every day with every new horse I meet. However, I always try to focus on my own work and I’m not the one staring at what others are doing. For sure grooming has changed over the years and today everything is so high-tech and fancy,” Heidi smiles. 

New chapter

“I don’t really know why I’m leaving. Many of the older grooms have moved back to Finland and they are doing great. The Covid-19 pandemic also made me think a bit. I would really like to have a place on my own and now I’m looking for houses every day,” Heidi laughs. “I will still work with horses though, and it would have been difficult to work somewhere else in Europe after such a long time with Steve. Now I will work with Petra Heikkinen, who just bought a stable in Finland; I think that can be a win-win situation for both of us. I’m really looking forward to it.”

“The work as a groom is so consuming and it takes any spare time you might have away from you. It might be strange to suddenly have time for myself and for doing normal stuff. I hope I will use my time cleverly though; meet my old friends and socialise a bit more. For sure I will miss my current job  – we always miss the good things and time makes all the good memories golden,” Heidi closes off.

 

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



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