Swiss rider Martin Fuchs is only 29, but already has seven championship medals to his name and the world number two has just become the live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping after a sensational victory on home turf in the Geneva grand prix.
Luigi Baleri, the owner of his recently retired top horse Clooney 51, recalls how Martin showed immense talent in the saddle from a very young age. Luigi, a car dealer, became friends with Martin’s Olympian father Thomas Fuchs, who was also his banker at the time.
“I bought a horse from Thomas,” says Luigi. “I continued riding a bit, but I was working and riding at the same time. Thomas is like this, if you buy a horse from him, you train with him!
“One day I was in training with Thomas, and he asked me to do five strides between two obstacles, but I couldn’t do it, so he said that even a child was able to do it. I didn’t believe him, so he brings a kid to show me. Obviously that kid succeeded, so I said, ‘he might be lucky’, so he tried again and he did it brilliantly. Then he told me ‘I can do it 10 times if you want’ – that kid was Martin Fuchs. It’s at that exact moment that I said to myself that I need to buy a horse not for myself, but for him.”
Soon after, Martin left for the Youth Olympic Games in Greece with one of Luigi’s horses.
“When he came back, he said to me, ‘It was fantastic, but you have to buy a horse that is more efficient if we want to be competitive’,” remembers Luigi. “From there, we started to do a lot of competitions together. The competitions followed one another, and the purchases of horses followed one another. I bought one more, then another, and so on. This is the start of my collaboration with Martin.”
‘So much passion goes into caring for the horses’
“I trust him with the horses more than anyone. I really like this process because I can rely on the Fuchs family because they are the best in their domain,” says Luigi.
Martin has gone on to be crowned the 2019 European champion and won team gold with the Swiss team in 2021. He won individual silver medals at the 2018 world championships and the 2021 Europeans, he finished runner-up in the 2019 World Cup Final and has won some of the richest grands prix in the world.
Martin was thrilled to win the Rolex grand prix at the CHI Geneva for the second time in succession, this time with the nine-year-old grey Leone Jei.
“CHI Geneva is not just special for me, all the riders feel really welcome here, but obviously as a Swiss rider, the support of the home crowd and the fans is huge,” he says, crediting also his team. “In showjumping and horse riding in general, you really need a huge team around you, that can help you with everything. So much work, time and passion goes into caring for the horses. I am very lucky with my family, as they are so supportive. I have a lot of good people around me and a good team, who all take great care of the horses at home to ensure they feel their best. This allows me to be able to solely focus on the sport and when I am at the shows, it means I do not worry about anything at home.”
Luigi says that one of his proudest moments as an owner came at the 2019 Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva when Martin won the grand prix with Clooney 51, thus having their first tilt at the Rolex Grand Slam.
“I am lucky enough to have won a medal in almost all championships and Majors, so for that reason it is impossible to choose,” he stresses though. “I like to say that the last win is always the best win, because it pushes you to get another one. I am always proud to see Martin win, from a regional championship to the top level of our sport.”
Martin will be focusing on World Cup shows for the rest of the winter and you’ll see him in action at this week’s London International Horse Show.
“We have some really nice World Cup shows coming up and they are very exciting and traditional shows that I like to go to,” he says. “My goal is to build-up some of my younger horses and prepare them for the bigger classes so that I can develop some new horses for grand prix level.”
On next year’s bid to claim the Rolex Grand Slam, Martin says: “For riders, the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping is the most special and unique competition that there is because it brings together the best four shows in the world into one series, and it is a dream to win one of them.
“All riders work extremely hard to one day win one of the Rolex Grand Slam Majors,” adds Martin, saying that he also enjoys watching the tennis equivalent – Wimbledon in particular.
With thanks to Rolex Grand Slam.
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