Ahead of CHI Geneva next week (10-13 December), the world number one talks about his experiences since his Grand Slam triumph in September, his top horse Hello Sanctos and why his employees always complain about him after Christmas
Your Rolex Grand Slam victory was three months ago. How have things been since then?
It’s been pretty busy really, it’s a very full calendar year now. It was such a high at the time; but I tried to very quickly get back into my work and focus on the remainder of the season. The team and I are now looking forward to 2016.
When you look back to 13 September — the day you won the Rolex Grand Slam — which moment springs to mind first?
The moment of realisation, when I knew I’d done it. It was a goal that I’d dreamt about and so to finally do it; after all the build-up, was a real mix of emotions. It’s obviously something that I’ll never forget.
At the press conference after the Spruce Meadows Masters, you said you would need time to take it all in and that you still couldn’t believe that you had won. When was the moment, when you really realised that you had claimed the Grand Slam title?
There are still times when I can’t believe what’s happened. I suppose it was just settling back in to everyday life and people asking me about it and congratulating me, that was when it was really sinking in. It’s just a great feeling in the back of your mind all the time, but in this game you have to keep looking ahead.
What is so special about next week’s CHI Geneva for you?
Palexpo is a fantastic arena, which is great to ride in for both the riders and the horses and the atmosphere in the ring on Rolex Grand Prix day is a really special feeling. It really is one of my favourite shows of the year and I’m really looking forward to going again this year.
The world number one showjumper hopes to scoop the Rolex Grand Slam at Spruce Meadows this weekend with Hello Sanctos
What is your goal this year? Will you be bringing your top horse, Hello Sanctos, to the CHI Geneva with you?
Yes, Sanctos will be making the trip over with me and I’m sure he’ll love the event as always. As for my goals, I just try to focus on the job at hand, but I will most certainly be trying to win the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix, both of which will be extremely difficult classes to win again, but I’m still extremely hungry for more success in Geneva.
What about Sanctos? Is he in good form at the moment?
Sanctos had a well-earned rest after our Grand Slam victory, but in the meantime he’s been back on the competition circuit again. At his last competition before Geneva, in Doha in mid-November, he jumped well, but we both made a couple of silly mistakes. But I always feel very confident with him, he is an incredible horse and he loves winning as much as I do.
Who are, in your opinion, the favourites to win the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva?
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson with Casall and Kent Farrington with Voyeur are both in great form at the moment. If these two pairs compete they will without doubt be among the favourites. But to be honest, there are so many good combinations around just now. I think anyone who qualifies for the Grand Prix can win it, that’s what makes our sport so unique.
What is on your sporting agenda after Geneva?
It’s all eyes on Olympia Horse Show in London in terms of my immediate focus, as it is taking place the week after. But 2016 looks like a full calendar year again, so each horse will have different goals to aim for.
Is there enough time in your busy diary for a short Christmas break?
There’s not much time for holidays in this game, but I really enjoy being at home for Christmas. I like to send all my staff home and I do the horses which I really enjoy. However the girls always complain that it takes them a bit longer to muck the horses out when they come back. It is very hard for me to keep up the standard they all set in my yard. It makes me appreciate them even more when they return!