No nosebands, no martingales: meet the five-star rider ‘keeping things simple’

  • French showjumper Grégory Cottard, 44, has been enjoying a winning streak recently, most notably winning the five-star grand prix at Bordeaux, France, with the striking mare Cocaine Du Val (Mylord Carthago HN x Si Tu Viens). But what really caught the eye during their winning performance was the tack Grégory was using – or rather lack of it.

    Cocaine jumps 1.60m tracks without a martingale, or even a noseband, something that stems from her rider’s natural approach to the sport. Grégory holds “balance and well-being” high on his list of priorities when it comes to riding and managing his string of sport horses.

    “I ride all my horses with a simple bridle – it’s all about horsemanship,” says the Frenchman, who works a lot on his position in the saddle, also using dressage as a training tool with all his horses. “I do a lot of research to find the perfect bridle and bit for my horses and as long as you train to communicate well with your horse, you can keep it simple. It’s a matter of understanding each other in the most efficient way.”

    Grégory goes to great lengths to understand his horses and he believes it works both ways.

    “I know my horses understand me through my emotions and body language,” he explains. “I should be able to do the same.”

    He says “it is important to be aware of the movements we make and the repercussions they can have on our animals” – it’s all about having “a good dialogue” with your horse, he stresses, which can only come from a well-behaved horse. He works with a sports coach, who uses balance exercises through biomechanics to help his riding, while Gregory uses sequences of cavalleti or small jumps to work on the balance of his horses.

    Gregory Cottard riding Cocaine Du Val

    Gregory Cottard riding Cocaine Du Val. Image courtesy Jumping Bordeaux.

    Grégory has been riding since a young age and turned professional when he was 16, training with various yards in his native France. In his early 20s, he began to achieve notable success in national classes before stepping up to top international level a few years later.

    As well as Cocaine Du Val, whom he’s been riding for just over two years, Grégory’s other top horse is the 12-year-old grey mare Bibici, a recent winner of the Longines rankings class at Zangersheide and his partner on French teams, including at last year’s World Showjumping Championships. Bibici has had her martingale and noseband dispensed with now, too. Their big aim for 2023 is the European Championships in Italy and the rider is also longlisted for the Paris Olympics next year.

    His victory in Bordeaux with Cocaine was secured as the only double clear of the competition and marked his first grand prix success at the top level.

    “I just recently decided to count on Cocaine for the bigger classes,” he explained, having previously used her for speed classes. “She has always been quick and easy to ride but today she was top, top, top.”

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