Defending champion Steve Guerdat of Switzerland has already won the Longines Jumping World Cup™ three times in his impressive career. He talks about his expectations for the 2022 final in Leipzig, Germany this week…..
How are the preparations for this year’s finals?
“My horse (Victorio de Frutards) has been feeling good, for a few weeks now he seems to be in the right place and I’m glad I started and that I did my job before I got here and made it look its best.
I took him to Arezzo (Italy) for just two weeks to train. I had 15 horses and was planning to go back in the second week to ride him home but I thought it would be best to take him and I was glad I did because it was so fun to ride and train there and I just gave him a few jumps to keep fit. When he came home last Friday I jumped on him a bit on Monday and now we’re here.”
What are your horse’s strengths?
“It’s a very different horse than I thought when I got it! He’s been very successful at a two star level with a French rider and I think he could be a very good second horse, a fast horse, so he had to try and win in the 1.45m but I was surprised it wasn’t easy Doing jumps when I was going fast but he had a lot more range than I expected so it was the opposite of what I thought he was very careful and he didn’t We didn’t have that much range so it took us a while to get to know each other and he needed more experience in Higher hops but since then it has been very successful.
But I still had a hard time getting him ‘on the day’ he won a grand prix I wasn’t expecting to win, jumps great, then the next week he didn’t jump very well and still wins. And then he jumps super fast but he has four fouls, eight fouls, I can’t say in advance how it would be. So I’m glad he’s feeling good now, but I’d be lying if I said I’m 100% confident this week.”
This is the 14th World Cup Final – Bored?
“No, not at all. For me, the World Cup Final was always something I looked forward to, since I was very young. The World Cup competitions throughout the winter were the highlight and then the World Cup Final. When I was a kid it was a dream to do this, now that Being a part of it today, I feel so lucky to be doing what I dreamed of doing as a kid!”
Winning three titles with three different horses…how cool is that?
“I don’t like to look back, but when I do, I feel even more regret that I lost two wins with my best horse, Nino. I was in the jump twice to win and I got second with him both of them should win when I look back, I don’t think about the three ( Wins), I think of the two I missed! But I’m here this week and I’m as excited as the first! “
Did becoming a father change anything?
“Of course this changes things, I have a lot of responsibilities now because I have my daughter to take care of. Life after baby is not the same. Sometimes I feel bad for saying that but I think I have a lot of wonderful horses. They had such a strong bond with them, I felt like I was a father before!” It’s different, but you have to take care of them, thinking about them day and night as I do with my child now.”
What did you learn from riding a victorio?
“When I got him I had high expectations and then kind of lost that hope, but then I didn’t think – I need to find a way to understand him, to be more patient with him and not have to get angry because he made a mistake but learn how to be a better rider and understand him better. It wasn’t his flaws, I just didn’t understand him the right way. It taught me not to be stubborn, but to be more open to how we ride and interact differently so that we understand each other better. “
What sets the competition in Leipzig apart again?
“The first thing special is that when I think of Leipzig, I see myself winning my first big test, I was 16 and I won a car, I couldn’t drive it! I beat Marcus Ening, Hugo Simon, Ludger Bierbaum starting. It’s a great memory. This competition has a lot to do with it! From history and of course I think of Christian Ahlmann and Talupt (winners in Leipzig in 2011).”
What are your goals for the coming days?
“I have to deal with a new situation a little bit. I’d be lying if I said I came here above my ability and with 100% confidence. I’m at a low point right now, great horses are coming, but they’re still very young, so I’m a little late.”
I’ve had a lot of horses in Spain and Italy trying to build the next generation of horses and I think they are very promising but if you look at my results from the last four to six months, they haven’t been great. It’s not easy because as much as I love driving, I also want to win. So there have been many short Sunday evenings with little sleep, and thinking about how to improve and change, it’s a new situation. I’m ready to fight and I’m going to take it day in and day out and ride as best I can and see what it brings.”
Do you feel a lot of pressure?
“No, I’m happy to be here and to be involved, it’s really exciting! The World Cup has always been a great thing for me and still is. It’s not a matter of pressure, it’s a matter of confidence not 100% with me at the moment, I need to ride better. From what I’ve done in the past few months, Victorio has won five stars in Grand Prix races so I know he can do it, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I hope I’ve made them all by now!”
Who is your favorite to win the title this year?
Martin Fox (Switzerland), Harry Smulders (Ned), and Maclean Ward (USA).
You’ve always said that Briton John Whitaker (champion in 1990 and 1991) is your idol, what do you like the most about him?
He keeps it as simple as possible. It’s like John doesn’t know what he’s doing, he just sits there and makes it work. He speaks the same language as a horse and that’s the best thing you can get into our sport. It’s better than winning.”
How would you describe your relationship with Victorio?
“It’s a bit complicated for me, and it might be easier for someone else. That’s why it never gets boring because you keep learning and every day it teaches me something new with every show. It’s like with people, sometimes a match comes in and sometimes it doesn’t match Never and sometimes it matches 70% or 80% I don’t think I’ll ever match it 100% but we meet well enough to be successful A lot of horses haven’t won five grand prix with five stars in their careers, but he did it for me so it really gave me a lot” .
What can a horse expect when Steve Guerdat rides it?
“Concentration. The main thing for me when I’m training someone is, once you’re on the horse, you have to be 110% focused and focus on him. Because you decided to take him out of his meadow and put him on a saddle and now give him even the least you can do is be with him.” 100% and focus so we don’t do jumping jacks or exercises because you weren’t focused. I don’t like to exaggerate things, I don’t think I push my horses much, and I try to be very focused when I ride them, out of respect for them.”
Source: FEI. press release
Photo: © Tomas Holcbecher