A few days ago it was announced that Pieter Devos will retire his Espoir (by Surcouf de Revel) at the age of 17. In an emotional video he tells how he and the gelding became a team and about that one competition he still regrets. "Espoir is the living proof that everything is possible if you know your horse well and believe in him," Devos says.
"I still remember the moment I saw Espoir for the first time," Devos starts. I did everything I could to buy or ride him," he laughs. "When I ride a horse I have to click right away and with Espoir I had that from the moment I saw him for the first time. His owner, Bart Vandecasteele, was a bit of a struggle in the beginning. I had already spoken to him a few times about Espoir, but he did not immediately bite. The only thing I could do at that moment was to wait patiently," laughs Devos.
Bart Vandecasteele, who is still co-owner of the gelding, confirms this: "I remember Pieter jumping off his horse in Chantilly to see Espoir jumping. He immediately asked if the horse was for sale, to which I replied 'not today'. I wanted to give my rider the chance to ride the Belgian Championships with him at that moment. So I told Pieter that I wanted to wait for the BK and that we could sit down together afterwards".
And so it happened: "I had seen Espoir jumping during the BK final and I was still in love with him," says Devos. "At that moment Bart came to me and said that he was ready to work together and sit around the table. All I could think at that moment was 'YES'," Devos smiles. "I had been waiting for 1,5 years for that horse and that was the beginning of our story. From the first moment I got in the saddle I felt Espoir was very special. He was extremely careful, which also meant that he could be very tense and stressed. So I took the time to get to know him before we stepped up to the highest level."
"Our first big success was at the Grand Prix of Liege, I think at the time it was a CSI4* Grand Prix," Devos continued. "I honestly didn't expect us to put in such a great performance so soon. The Grand Prix of Liege was the real launch of our career. That year I started at the European Championships in Gothenburg. What he did there was really incredible. I still remembered the moment he stumbled after number six, a high, wide oxer. I was almost on the ground and Espoir was on his knees but he immediately jumped back up and acted as if nothing had happened. That showed his fighting spirit. Most horses would have given up at that moment but he kept going and could even keep the zero. Afterwards, I wondered how he had done that. He really wanted to jump clear and finish. His mentality was extremely good".
"Whether I have any regrets? Yes," Devos confessed. "I have regrets about his last big Grand Prix, which is the one in Geneva in 2019. We were able to keep the zero in the basic course and had to start as one of the last combinations in the jump-off. I knew at that moment that it would probably be one of his last Grand Prix' at the highest level and so I really wanted to win. Not necessarily for me, but Espoir really deserved to win there. I wanted to prove us as a combination one more time. Therefore I decided to go for it. On the last obstacle, he fell a little to the right, so he got a jumping fault. I should have kept him a bit more to the left. I still think it's a pity that we didn't succeed", concludes Devos.
Source: Devos Stables