Interview by Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping:
What have you been focusing on recently, and what are your plans and goals for 2021?
As a result of COVID-19, and due to very few competitions being held in Europe, we made the decision to go to Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival [WEF], which was incredibly busy. I was there for nearly three months, and I’ve only recently returned, so I’ll take it easy now for the next few weeks.
The plan is to then build myself and my horses up for a few FEI Jumping Nations Cup events. I will also aim for the Tokyo Games in July, and then the Rolex Grand Slam Majors at the end of the summer.
Which horses are you most excited to be competing with this year?
My two main horses are Pacino Amiro and Harley van den Bisschop. Harley is the more established horse – he lost a bit of time last year through injury, but he’s back now and he feels really strong, and hopefully he can get into a good rhythm this year.
Pacino Amiro stepped up to the highest level in Wellington at the WEF, and jumped a 5* Grand Prix, which he won, so he’s a very exciting prospect. Fingers crossed that they’ll both be on form, as if they are, then they’ll be able to jump anywhere.
How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?
It’s a fantastic series of four of the world’s very best events, which gives me and the other riders something to aim for. These shows are already the best on their own, but when you combine them, it makes them even more important and prestigious. If you talk to any rider, these are the Grands Prix we want to win every year. They’re an extra level up again from a normal 5* Grand Prix. There’s no point in aiming for these Majors and turning up unless you and your horses are in pristine shape. Winning one of them feels so special because they really do represent the top end of the sport.
In terms of my plans for the Rolex Grand Slam this year, we’ll just take things step by step, as Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and Aachen are still a long way off. Thankfully, if Harley van den Bisschop and Pacino Amiro are in good shape, they could both easily do either show. After that, we’ll start planning for Geneva.
What have you learnt over the course of the last year – about yourself and just generally – and what positives will you take?
As riders, we’re used to competing literally every weekend of the year, but in 2020 we were really restricted by what we could do. I’ve learnt a lot, but the main thing is that I’ll probably cut back on the sheer number of shows I attend. Before the pandemic, I really felt I needed to compete week in, week out. But when I was forced to take a few steps back, I had time to contemplate and study everything, and it became apparent that I really didn’t need to be pushing myself and my horses that much.
Now, I think I’ll really concentrate on the biggest 5* shows, which will also allow me to spend a few more weeks at home to keep everything in order. This will give me valuable time to focus on the sales side of the business, and also on the younger horses, who in the past I probably didn’t spend enough time with. As with everything life, it’s just a case of finding that balance and happy medium.
Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof