A new year has begun and the first competitions of 2023 are already behind us. Still, we would like to look back at last year's smashing finale, Jumping Mechelen! A motley collection of riders, both national and international and in various disciplines, gave the very best of themselves during this 40th anniversary edition. An experience that is just a little bit different for everyone, which is why we spoke to some of the top riders for the future: Belgian youth riders Seppe Wouters and Kasper De Boeck.
As youth riders at Jumping Mechelen, this unique competition may not have quite the same meaning as it does for the 'old timers'. What does this mean to you, and is this competition different from other competitions?
Seppe: "Mechelen is always very special. It's only once a year, and mom and dad also rode there once, when they were younger (laughs). I've often heard them talk about how it used to be, who they looked up to then and what they remembered about it. Then it is exciting to finally get to ride there myself. It is a competition that the whole family looks forward to and they all come to support, which makes it very nice."
Kasper: "I've been coming to Mechelen since I was little, so to be able to ride here now at international Junior level is obviously super fun. This show is also not just an indoor competition, but really a week that we look forward to hard."
What do you think of the opportunity to compete at a show like Jumping Mechelen, where the best riders in the world compete?
Seppe: "Because the show is only once a year, and you can't train there, you often don't know how your horse will react. That makes it exciting, but also gives you extra focus to do it as well as possible. You can also ride in and ride loose while all the big riders are riding. Then you really watch with big eyes and try to learn as much as you can and pay attention to the little details. Some adjustments can sometimes make the difference before you have to go into the arena."
Kasper: "Of course it is already special to be able to ride in such an impressive track, and then to be able to do it in the tracks of big top riders only makes it more special. I think it is greatly appreciated among Junior riders that Jumping Mechelen also gives us the chance to be able to ride and gain experience here."
Have you been working towards Jumping Mechelen in a particular way? What is your approach at the competition itself?
Seppe: "Because I enter the competitions with young horses, I try to put them at ease dressage-wise when breaking them in so they can enter the arena as relaxed as possible. Other than that, I haven't really trained differently than usual."
Kasper: "I always try to be as prepared as possible before every competition. The week before Mechelen, I especially rode an international indoor competition in Lier so that my horses were in the competition mood for Mechelen."
What are your ambitions still, and where do you see yourself standing in a few years?
Seppe: "I hope to learn a lot in the coming years in terms of training. When you see the control with which the great riders do their jump-offs, that's incredible. That also motivates me to keep working to hopefully achieve this later on. I think it must really be an unmatchable feeling to have the audience join you during your test, to see people watching speechless and then to see them jump straight after the finish full of joy ..."
Kasper: "I think every young rider has ambitions. I myself would like to finish my juniors career (here) in Mechelen nicely in the next two years. After that, I hope I can move up to the 2* or maybe 5* level. These ambitions also motivate me again to perform well in front of the home crowd in the Nekkerhal."