In an interview with Rolex Grand Slam, Belgian rider Olivier Philippaerts admits that he will select fewer 5* competitions to compete in. Read the interview below.
What are your plans for the rest of 2021 and what would you ultimately like to achieve?
I would like to win another 5* with Legend [H&M Legend of Love]. She’s a great horse, and I’ve had her for a long time. She’s been unbelievable for me, the amount of success and the number of good rounds we’ve had has been really incredible. Even last week – she’s 15 now – she still tries to give her best each week at every show. So, at some point throughout 2021, I’d love to achieve another 5* Grand Prix with her, so hopefully that is something we’ll be able to do.
What are your plans for 2021?
Last year was obviously a massive setback, but this year, we’ve started on the right track. I went to Oliva Nova in January to prepare the horses for the season. Then came Doha, and recently I have been getting ready for The Dutch Masters. We’re looking forward to the season, and we fully believe that this season is going to be fantastic, and that it will be yet another step forward for everyone involved. There are lots of competitions coming up, including a few Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors and of course the Tokyo Games, which we’re all trying our best to get to. So, these are the main targets for the year, and right now I’m trying to put together the best programmes possible to achieve our goals.
Which horses are you most excited to be competing with this year?
I’m very lucky at the moment, I’ve got a couple of very nice horses. I have some experienced horses like Legend of Love, and Extra [H&M Extra], who I’ve had for a couple of years. I’ve also got a new horse, called Blue Diamond [Le Blue Diamond V't Ruytershof], who jumped his first 5* Grand Prix last week in Doha, which I was very happy about. I really believe that this could be a horse that can compete consistently at 5* level, I’m really looking forward to this year, and to trying to get him to compete at the top of the sport.
How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?
I think it’s been an incredible success that Rolex has brought the Grand Slam into our sport. This is the best way for us to compare our sport with, for example, tennis. Everybody in the world recognises the Grand Slams as the biggest events of the year, so to be able to translate that across to our sport in order to explain to someone who is not in the horse world what the Grand Slams are, it gives our sport an extra boost. As a rider, those shows are the most important of the year, and as true athletes and competitors, we strive to have those wins on our list of accomplishments.
Do you have a favourite out of the Majors, is there one that stands out as the competition that you really want to win?
Of course, everyone has their favourites. Spruce Meadows is always going to be very special to me, as when I won there, it was a truly unique moment. On the other hand, Aachen is incredible, it’s close to my home, I’ve been going there for a long time, my father competed there so many times and I’ve also competed there, so those two shows are the most important of the year to me.
What have you learnt over the course of the last year, about yourself? And what positives can you take from what’s been a very unusual and tricky year?
I think the biggest difference was that the year before we competed in so many competitions, perhaps too many. It’s great that there are so many 5* competitions, as this gives everybody a better chance of winning, but from a personal perspective, I think from now on I’ll select fewer 5* competitions to compete in. This will give me the opportunity to go to these shows, and really focus on those specific competitions. Sometimes, due to the sheer number of competitions, we’re competing week in week out, and flying back and forth across the world, which maybe is slightly excessive. Over the last year, I’ve learnt that it would be better to focus on a smaller number of shows, to try and arrive ready, with the right horses.
Also, I think when you have so little time, like I did, unknowingly, you make small errors that you don’t see. Now that we’ve all been at home, we’ve been able to reorganise ourselves, so that everything is set up for the coming season. We try to buy young horses and bring them through to the top level, so we’ve tried to create a good, solid structure to enable this, so that even when I’m away at shows, we still have a good opportunity to find the best young horses. Time in this sport moves so fast, so it’s imperative that we have horses for the future.
Source: Rolex Grand Slam