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Olympia, Badminton, Burghley, Windsor would simply not exist without sponsorship just as professional riders could not live without their support. We are extremely lucky to have some huge and high-end brands involved with equestrian brands so we thought it high time we celebrated one who has been involved in Eventing, Showjumping, Dressage for many years. They are also sponsors of the recent CHI in Geneva which attracts the best showjumpers in the world.
Rolex is synonymous with equestrian sport at the highest level. As well as sponsoring a number of individuals such as showjumpers Scott Brash, Rodrigo Pessoa, Steve Guerdat and Kent Farrington, Plus World Number One dressage rider Isabel Werth and event rider Zara Tindall; they are responsible for offering some of the richest prizes in the sport. The Rolex Grand Slam in both Showjumping and Eventing is one of the most lucrative and best-known accolades a rider can achieve. A true test of horsemanship and steely nerves, it’s the one they all want to claim. Last week was one of Rolex's title shows- the CHI Geneva.
This year, the show welcomed 40 of the best riders in the world to compete in the main class, the Rolex Grand Prix, the final Major of the year in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Fittingly, Geneva is the home city of the Swiss watchmaker and The Rolex Grand Prix is, staged in the Palexpo Arena. The 22-year partnership between Rolex and the CHI Geneva demonstrates Rolex’s commitment to supporting equestrian sport worldwide. Having been named the best show jumping event on nine occasions, CHI Geneva has a long and distinguished equestrian heritage and Rolex has been a proud sponsor since 1996.
It was a victory for Germany’s Marcus Ehning riding Pret A Tout, repeating his success from CHIO Aachen where he won the Rolex Grand Prix in July earlier this year. Second place went to Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat riding Albfüehren’s Bianca and third place went to Irish rider Darragh Kenny riding Balou du Reventon. Britain’s Scott Brash and Ben Maher finished 6thand 7thresepectively.
Over 42,500 fans gathered over the four days for the CHI. With a packed arena delighting in a thrilling two-stage Rolex Grand Prix competition between the world’s elite. Scott Brash was the first rider to go clear, later joined by Steve Guerdat and USA’s Kent Farrington in the line-up of riders going through to the jump-off. The Swiss crowd erupted into applause as one of their home favourites, Guerdat went clear, sailing around the challenging course.
With 11 clears in the first round, the equestrian fans were enraptured as they waited for what promised to be a breath-taking jump-off, with three Rolex Testimonees, the world number one and a previous Major winner included in the line-up. Whilst all riders gave it everything, it was Marcus Ehning who prevailed with a precision performance demonstrating his exquisite horsemanship and sporting skills.
Supported by Rolex since 2013, the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is the most prestigious competition within equestrianism, it is also one of the toughest feats to achieve. It requires precision and excellence from every horse and rider partnership. All four Majors within the competition have a rich equestrian history and focus on delivering elite-level sport. This demonstration of commitment along with a passion for excellence reflect Rolex's values and make each a perfect partner for the Swiss watchmaker.
The world’s equestrian elite will now look to The Dutch Masters, the first Major of 2019, where Ehning will be travelling as the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender.
11th November 2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War One. Also known as the Great War, it remains one of the largest, deadliest conflicts in history with an estimated sixteen million people dying as a direct result of the war. Whilst we remember the men and women who fell this Sunday, we might also spare a thought for the eight million horses and countless donkeys and mules who died whilst serving the war effort.
These animals died not just from shellfire but also suffering painful deaths from wounds, starvation, thirst, exhaustion, disease and exposure to terrible weather and appalling conditions from freezing mud on the Western Front to the oppressive heat of Tunisia, Eritrea and Burma.
At the start of the war, the British Army had 25,000 horses but a further 115,000 were purchased under the Horse Mobilisation Scheme. Over the course of the war, between 500 and 1000 horses were shipped to Europe every day for the British Army alone.
Initially, most of these horses were used as cavalry horses as they had been for thousands of years. But their vulnerability to modern machine gun and artillery fire meant their role changed to transporting troops and ammunition. At the start of the war, military vehicles were relatively new inventions and prone to problems, which meant horses and mules were more reliable, cheaper forms of transport.
Many of these animals were used to transport ammunition and supplies to the troops as well as the sizeable field guns. It would take six to 12 horses to pull each gun. Sources also show that Dummy horses were sometimes used to deceive the enemy into misreading the location of troops.
Beyond the horror of war, there was some animal welfare in place. Vets treated 2.5 million horses and two million of those recovered and returned to the battlefield. The British Army Veterinary Corp hospitals in France alone cared for 725,000 horses and successfully treated three-quarters of them. A typical equine hospital could treat 2,000 animals at any one time.
Well-bred horses were more likely to suffer from shell shock and be affected by the sights and sounds of battle than their less refined compatriots, who could be taught to lie down and take cover at the sound of artillery fire. Records show that one-quarter of all deaths were due to gunfire and gas; exhaustion and disease claimed the rest.
During the war, horse food was the single largest commodity shipped to the front by some countries, including Britain. The manufacturers of Quaker Oats put in a bid to supply army horses with cakes baked from oats and molasses, but this proposal was dismissed as too extravagant.
Back on the Home Front, some owners took drastic measures such as putting their animals to sleep before the army could seize them to avoid their horses facing the terrible and terrifying conditions at war. War Horses were considered of such value that is a soldier’s horse died, he was required to cut off a hoof and bring it back to his commanding officer to prove that the two had not simply become separated.
In a single day during the Battle of Verdun in 1916, 7,000 horses were killed by long-range shelling on both sides, including 97 killed by single shots from a French naval gun. Losses were particularly heavy among Clydesdale horses, which were used to haul guns.
Over the course of the Great War, Britain lost over 484,000 horses- one horse for every two men. Yet many more were left or sold off in the places they served for an even worse fate than death- a life of hard labour and torment. It was whilst living in Egypt in the 1930s that a British woman named Dorothy Brooke was struck by the number of Allied war horses and donkeys who had been sold to be workhorses in Cairo. Nearly all were emaciated, old and worn out. She wrote a letter to the Morning Post (now the Daily Telegraph), exposing this reality. It moved readers so greatly that they sent her the equivalent to £20,000 in today’s money to help end the suffering of these noble beasts.
Within three years, Brooke had purchased five thousand ex-warhorses. Most had to be humanely put down to end their suffering but they at least ended their lives more peacefully than would otherwise have been the case. In 1934, she founded the Old War Horse Memorial Hospital in Cairo with the promise of free veterinary care for all the city’s working horses and donkeys. Soon after The Brooke charity was established and has been a leading force in helping working animals and their owners in the developing world.
Last week, Horse Scout’s Ellie Kelly was in attendance at the World Horse Welfare Annual Conference in London. It is an exclusive event attended by leading figures in the world of veterinary medicine, equestrian sport, horse racing, politics, and animal welfare as well as HRH Princess Anne. The theme of the conference this year was Changing Times. Essentially how change- both good and bad, is continuing at a meteoric rate and what the future for equine welfare might hold.
The day was opened by Michael Baines, Chairman of the World Horse Welfare who had recently visited some of their projects in Cape Town and Lesotho which are jointly run with several other charities based in these parts of the world as well as other international animal charities like The Brooke and The Donkey Sanctuary. “I saw firsthand how important it is to take a holistic approach to equine welfare and, to be prepared to work with multiple stakeholders to achieve the best results,” said Michael.
Perhaps this is a lesson we can all take away generally when striving to improve not only our horses lives but also our own livelihoods and interests in the equestrian sphere. As equestrian sport, recreational riding and general horsemanship evolves and improves in some areas but declines and is devalued in others. The advent and reliance on social media for information and as a marketplace is both a vice and a virtue.
Utam Kaphle, a young professional from Nepal, spoke on the innovative work being done by Animal Nepal. As Executive Director of the charity, he has spearheaded projects to improve animal welfare in the country by working with the local communities. With the help of government institutions, Animal Nepal has helped the lives, health and education of poverty-stricken communities as well as their working animals and the large number of strays which can spread disease.
Four-time Olympic Dressage rider Richard Davison then gave some compelling arguments on what was wrong and right in the sport horse industry. “When we riders, in our quest for success and our competitive side gets the better of our horsemanship.” Rollkur, hyperflexion and nose pressure was a recurrent theme and he expressed the importance of more clarity in the rulebook and more scientific evidence to prove the effects of a tight noseband- more on this in our next blog.
The future of Gypsy Cobs was addressed by Andrea Betteridge, founder of the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association. Andrea has spent decades obtaining and recording historic information and collecting DNA from different herds to prove the heritage of the breed and its historic bloodlines. This formed the foundation for recognition of the breed by British and European governments with member registrations from over 35 countries and the authentic breed database recognised all over the world. Overbreeding has led to the “dumping” of cobs, which the so often become welfare cases. As well as establishing the breed and educating would be breeders on the implications, Andrea has prompted other initiatives such as specialised showing classes and “Give a Cob a Job”.
Tim Collins, a former Tory MP talked about the perceived implications which Brexit will have on the equine world as well as the enthusiastic following and power that animal charities had at the present time. At this stage in political proceedings, no one really knows what will occur after Brexit. Although he highlighted the reality that nothing will happen quickly as it will take years for the UK to fully leave the EU. “The average time it takes to even join the EU takes a decade and for Estonia, it was 20 years,” he said, with a further warning. “Therefore the issues you care about in the horse world are going to carry on but you must not take our eye off the ball and assume that this is all going to be carried out in the next few months. There is nothing as long as the temporary arrangement. We may have to live with this for a very long time so don’t assume any arrangements can be fixed later. Bear in mind how immensely powerful those of you who care and campaign about animal welfare actually are. For example, the inflection point in the 2017 General election was when the Conservatives got on the wrong side of animal welfare on the ivory trade and fox-hunting and that lesson has been learned deeply in both the party main headquarters. One of the biggest issues amongst the young population is animal welfare, so you guys can be pushing on an open door.”
The next topic covered was how charities and win trust and broaden their horizons. This came from Joe Saxton who featured in the top ten of the most influential people in UK fundraising. He is also the founder of a research consultancy for charities called nfpSynergy. The main pointy to take away was that support for animal charities is well up the national order, featuring higher than charities concerning homelessness, social welfare, overseas aid, religious and environment and conservation. So we Brits remain, “a nation of animal lovers”.
The day was rounded off with a discussion panel between influential veterinary delegates who covered topics such as changes in culture, technology and the internet and social media- friend or foe to both horse owners and vets. Overweight riders and horses were also commented on as this is a welfare issue we all see too often at shows around the country.
The use of artificial aids was also addressed, where Gemma Pearson highlighted horses “limited learning capacity”. She explains: “the spur and whip refine our instructions further so we can be more precise about what we are asking. But what we need to move away from was using the whip and spur for punishment as that is what creates problems”.
The Chief Executive Roly Owers summed up the conference: “When we talk about making change we have to base it around common sense, around experience and around the evidence. The second point is the issue of value. The value of our reputation, the value of time, the value of trust and the value of horses.”
If you would like to watch the Conference in full as well as discussions from previous years, click on the link:
Jessica Springsteen is one of America’s most successful showjumpers. She has won a number of International Grand Prix and more than a million pounds in prize money. Secondary to her riding prowess, she is the daughter of Rock legend Bruce Springsteen aka “The Boss”. Whilst reporting at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final, Ellie Kelly caught up with the 26-year-old in Barcelona about horses, love life and life on the road.
You made it on to the American squad here at this prestigious team event, how did you feel about that?
I was so excited. I always wanted to come to Barcelona for the Nations Cup Final. To be picked for the team was a huge honour for me- to represent my country is always my goal.
Which horses do you have here in Barcelona and how would you describe them?
I have two horses From Rushy Marsh Farm- RMF Swinny and RMF Cecille
They are both the sweetest horses in the world; they are so cuddly and kind and have amazing attitudes. They are both so confident and brave that they make you feel so comfortable when you go in the ring, which makes it fun to ride. I love them both.
How long have you been riding them?
It’s a newer partnership with both; I started with Swinny last October and Cecille in January. With Swinny, I clicked with her right away, she’s just my ride but Cecille was a slower start but now I feel so comfortable with her at this level and we made a good partnership.
We witnessed a great win here in one of the individual classes- The Queens Cup. How would you sum up your performance?
I was so happy. Swinny jumped amazing and there was a lot in the jump off and that is where she shines. She is naturally fast so I could do extra strides in places where people had to leave them out and I was still able to be faster. She’s the kind of horse that gives you a lot of confidence and you really feel you can go in there to win.
You compete all over the world but what do you think of this event here in Barcelona?
I love competing in Spain. Everybody is so nice here, the spectators are so enthusiastic and it’s lovely and warm.
Describe your life as a professional rider
It’s a lot of travelling and living out of a suitcase but you do get to travel to so many amazing cities and venues all around the world and that is an experience that you would never really get otherwise. It definitely doesn’t feel like a job to me. I love it and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
How many horses do you ride each day?
Right now I have nine horses and I’ll try to ride about six a day. Any more than that and I feel like I can’t give them the proper work. I’m normally at the barn all day when I’m at home because I travel so much, so it’s important to spend time with the horses and make sure everything is going well with them before I head to the next competition.
Do you ever ride and compete younger horses?
I’ve just bought a six-year-old horse but most of mine are a little bit older because I am on the road so much that I don’t really have time to train the younger ones. But I definitely think that is the way to do it- buy them a bit younger and bring them on because then you really develop a nice partnership.
How do you manage competition nerves?
When I am really nervous, I just try to remember as much as possible that I get to do what I love every day and I am so lucky to do that. I try to just enjoy the moment with my horse as much as possible and I try to feel prepared with. My horse when I am going into the ring. I remind myself “you know what you are doing, just stick to your plan and try to enjoy it” and that always helps me.
How do you spend your downtime?
There’s not much of that. Whenever I have a week off, I try to go home to see my friends and family in New York and we have a farm in New Jersey.
You are dating Italian rider Lorenzo de Luca, what the gossip on that?
I’m very lucky (big grin). It’s really nice to be in the sport with someone who really understands everything it takes. We see each other quite often. At the same show pretty much every week which is really nice.
Who are your heroes?
Growing up I used to watch Laura Kraut, who I trained with for many years. She is amazing; she’s such a fighter and can ride any type of horse. Mclain Ward and Beezie Madden are great idols we have in the US and to be at the same shows as them, you learn so much just by watching. Then to be on a team with them now is really cool.
The rider line-up for the Liverpool International Horse Show is always a star-studded one. It’s popular with the Whitakers, Harry and Peter Charles and Scott Brash is a regular. But this year, we can expect to see the whole McCoy family there. That’s AP McCoy- perhaps one of the best known and most loved jockeys of all time, plus wife Chanelle, daughter Eve and son Archie. Horse Scout’s blogger Ellie Kelly was lucky enough to interview AP and Chanelle recently and this is what they had to say…
“I was told I had to be in Liverpool by the 30th December by my daughter Eve. It just shows you how things change in your life when you start getting bossed around by your eleven-year-old daughter” says twenty times Champion Jockey, AP McCoy. Now retired from National Hunt racing, despite being one of the greatest figures in sporting history, he now finds himself “being dragged to shows and mucking out ponies!”
Eve who is an avid young showjumper and clearly a chip off the old block will be competing in the mini-major competition, together with a number of young riders competing alongside celebrity showjumpers. The mini major will feature approx. 14 pairs of kids paired up with top professionals all in fancy dress. Previous pros that have competed in this class include the very fast GB rider Matt Sampson, John Whitaker, and the UK’s leading lady rider Laura Renwick. The class will be the feature of the afternoon performance on Sunday 30th December.
“Eve is mad excited about going to Liverpool and I was told I had to be there so I’m flying back from Leopardstown especially” says AP. “She really loves competing and she’s got plenty of bottle which you can’t teach a kid. I see certain traits in her as I have- she’s not a great loser and she gets upset with herself. Even when it goes wrong or I shout at her, she comes back for more. No matter how much a parent gives their kids they can’t give them nerve and desire, that has to come from within. You can feed it and nurture it but at the end of the day it has to come from the kid.”
AP talks about the importance of having sporting idols and watching those riders in order to improve. For Eve, Nick Skelton is her hero.
“I took her and a friend up there last year and Nick and Laura Kraut gave them a riding lesson. For her, it was the best thing ever, she was more interested in him than she was in me.”
“We’ve planned the Christmas around it” says an excited Chanelle. “We have no expectations, Eve does of course. But I think it’s a brilliant experience for kids to feel the pressure of the big day when they are young. It really prepares you for the later in life and when you do go into the working world, it helps if you know those emotions already.
“She’s very conscious of impressing her dad which is nice but we had to sack AP as an instructor because of that clash of personality” she laughs. “AP and I were very relaxed as to whether she was into ponies or not, it had to be something that came from her but she really loves it and she wants to be the best. It’s lovely that she is so ambitious. It must be in her DNA that she is not satisfied taking part, she wants to win.”
“Nick Skelton is her hero, she once asked me if Nick was too old for her to marry. She was so in awe of him when she went up for a lesson. She had lots of questions for him and I thought well isn’t it great that she’s got an icon like Nick rather than some social media influencer.”
Chanelle talks about the differing emotions she feels when watching her daughter show jump in comparison with watching AP race.
“Watching Eve, I feel excited. With AP it was a different emotion because with being a jump jockey, injury was very much part of the course, so you’re always worried. Watching my daughter showjumping is so enjoyable and I get quite emotional when she does well.”
Even though I don’t miss AP riding because I’m so grateful that he has retired in one piece and he doesn’t have any severe injuries but I think we would miss the buzz if we had nothing. Whereas now, there is not a nicer weekend for me where we load up the lorry and head off to show.
I was lucky enough to be reporting at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final In Barcelona last week. Not only was there great sporting action, a masterful display of horsemanship and a tantalising finish. Beyond this, there were some high profile individuals and interesting back-stories that really highlighted what a special sport this is.
Having breakfast in the hotel one morning I was sat next to Jessica Springsteen. The drop-dead gorgeous daughter of Bruce was looking very much in love with boyfriend, Italian heartthrob Lorenzo de Luca, as she ate her boiled egg. Lorenzo was later caught buying his girl a present in the shopping village.
Across the room was World No 1, Harrie with the rest of the Dutch team and World No 2 Mclain Ward, fresh from winning team gold at WEG. Mclain was over to train 19-year-old showjumping sensation; Lucy Deslauriers who was making her first big team appearance for the USA. Extraordinarily Lucy’s father Mario was also competing but for his homeland of Canada. Now 53 years of age, Mario was the youngest ever winner of a World Cup Final at the age of 19 and he and his daughter could make headlines if they both achieve their dreams of being selected for the Tokyo Olympics, for their respective Nations.
Also competing at the show were the UAE team who are rising stars. After a fascinating interview, I discovered every one of them has a full-time job and compete just a handful of horses alongside this. Jobs included a policeman, an office administrator and a camel trainer. “Football is the only professional sport but we are trying to change that” I was told.
“Never give up” was the take away message from this year’s prestigious competition. Held in the popular Real Club de Polo in Barcelona for the sixth year in a row, it was the Belgians who won the oldest jumping competition in the world and lifted the Nations Cup trophy. But it was by no means decisive and Peter Weinberg, Chef d’Equipe of the team summed up the result and in that, the very nature of equestrian sport. "We call ourselves the “Never Give Up Team” because in the middle we had two with 12 faults already but still we were fighting to the last rider, so this victory means a lot to us!"
With one of the most challenging tracks this final has seen, of the eight nations who went through to the final, just three riders jumped clear. It is hardly surprising that Course Designer Santiago Varela has been selected as course designer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The track was imposing and technical and questioned control, balance, judgement and skill, all the way around. As Varela pointed out it wasn’t about the number of faults the riders collected. “A score of 8 or 12 didn’t mean they had a bad round, horses jumped unbelievably, but the course was difficult, tough and big…and everything was connected”, he explained.
As was the case with most of the teams, the Belgians had mixed fortunes, Niels Bruynseels gave the team confidence with a superb clear from Gancia de Muze but both Pieter Devos (Claire Z) and Jos Verlooy (Caracas) each leaving three fences on the floor. However, it was the dashing Nicola Philippaerts, who saved the day with a sublime clear round on H&M Harley v. Bisschop and that sealed the deal.
Nicola said his teammates told him “everything is still possible” when he was last to go. “I just tried to ride my own class and it worked out well - today it was me that could make the clear round that would make a difference, and another time it will be one of the others”. And he had even more reason to be pleased when sharing the €100,000 bonus for double-clear performances with team-mate Bruynseels, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and Italy’s new star, Riccardo Pisani.
This was Belgium’s second win of the Longines FEI Nations Cup in Barcelona; their last came in 2015. As Chef d’Equipe Weinberg said: “it was an interesting day, first ups and then in between downs, but in the end, we won anyway so it was really great sport!”