It’s not long until the top eight teams from Thursday night’s qualifier – Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, USA, France, Germany and Canada – enter the showjumping ring to battle it out for the much coveted title of LONGINES FEI Nations Cup Jumping Champions 2017, and the prize fund of €1.25M. But how much do we know about the riders on these teams, beyond their performance in the showjumping ring? Read on to learn some fun facts about some of the riders competing in tonight’s Nations Cup Jumping Final…
One thing that seems to be common among these showjumpers is their passion for sport, with some of them playing multiple sports growing up – and ultimately having to choose just one to pursue. For some, this was easy – Lauren Hough (USA) was an ice-skater for many years growing up, however her mother told her she couldn’t do both, and the decision to pursue showjumping was an easy one for her. Also nimble on the ice was Henrik Von Eckerman (SWE), who played Ice Hockey for a few years, before deciding to focus solely on showjumping.
For other riders, showjumping was not necessarily their first choice – Jur Vrieling (NED) was more interested in football as a child, despite growing up around horses. Until, that is, he realised that he could actually do quite well in showjumping! “I wanted more and more. I wanted to be better. In football you could only get points and my sister came home from riding with cups and trophies.”
A theme certainly starts to emerge here, with football being a big passion of many showjumpers. At the age of sixteen, Jur’s teammate, Harrie Smolders (NED) had to choose between playing football or showjumping, and as he already had a few horses from owners, he chose showjumping. “My soccer trainer always told me I could make money with soccer, but I didn’t really believe him”. Thankfully he didn’t, and his decision paid off, as Harrie now sits at World #6 in the LONGINES rankings!
Not always smooth sailing
Another rider who has a dual love for football and showjumping is Marcus Ehning (GER). Marcus could be forgiven for preferring football to showjumping growing up, as he once received a special award for completing a showjumping course after falling off his horse three times!
One man who could certainly empathise with Marcus is Martin Fuchs (SUI), as he notes one of his most embarrassing moments as falling off during an award ceremony in Galgenen in 2011. At least he made it to the prize giving!
For riders at the top of their sport, we assume that they all have specific routines that they follow prior to a competition, but how many of these routines are influenced by superstitions? McLain Ward (USA), nicknamed “The Kid”, and World #3 in the LONGINES rankings, notes that he has to wear a new tie pin every day, and always puts his left boot on first.
Eric Lamaze (CAN) is no different – “I follow a routine when putting on my boots, my clothes and my spurs. I always do it the same way”.
Kevin Staut (FRA), World #4 in the LONGINES rankings, focuses on the horse rather than himself – stroking it five times on each side of its neck before competing.
When asked if he had any superstitions, Steve Guerdat (SUI) said that he used to have a ritual of wearing the same belt at every show, and putting the same boot on first, until he started riding his top horse Nino des Buissonnets – then he realised it didn’t matter what he did, the horse would still put out an amazing performance, and so his superstitions were no more.
If this showjumping thing doesn’t work out…
With these riders sitting at the top of their sport, it’s unlikely they’ll ever need to think about an alternative career – but if they did, what might those careers be?
Peder Fredricson (SWE) is a talented painter, and he has a number of his own equestrian paintings hanging on the walls of his home in Sweden.
Eric Lamaze (CAN) has a keen interest (and talent for) remodelling and reselling houses, and has been known to look for inspiration for his next big project on a long flight by reading home magazines.
Pieter Devos (BEL) when asked what he would be if he were not a professional rider: “In a complete other branch I would 100% be in my parents company. It is a Fruit business and export. Perhaps not the kind of answer you expect”. (Noelle Floyd, Oct 2013)
Tiffany Foster (CAN) could potentially pursue an alternative career in acting, having appeared in TV ads for children’s toy companies Polly Pocket and The Littlest Petshop when she was a girl, in order to pay for her riding lessons.
The good news is, these showjumpers will not be pursuing alternative careers tonight – they will all be entering the showjumping ring in Real Club de Polo, Barcelona, with their team-mates, hoping to do their nation proud and return home as Nations Cup Champions.
Jumping action starts at 9pm local time (CET) or 8pm GMT – tune in on FEI TV!