Bryan Balsiger, Swiss precision 2/4
What was your first encounter with Clouzot de Lassus?
B.B.: I had just finished my diploma when I heard that Olivier de Coulon was looking for a rider. Olivier's daughter, Sarah, had decided to stop riding and go back to school. That's when our partnership began, in 2016. Olivier de Coulon's beautiful facilities, Ecurie des Verdets, are in St-Blaise, about fifteen minutes drive from our family’s stables. At first, there was just Clouzot de Lassus (by Ugano Sitte and Tenor Manciais), who was 8 years old at the time, and Ornett de Galeste with whom I participated at the CHI in Geneva at the end of 2016. We gradually grew to 3, 4 then 5 horses, and now there are 8 competition horses based in Saint-Blaise. We currently have a very good team, with Clouzot of course, but we also have Jenkins Ter Doorn (Numero Uno), AK's Courage (Chepetto) and Dubai du Bois Pinchet (Kashmir van Schuttershof), the latest arrival, who has already been performing with Martin Fuchs. I am so grateful to Olivier de Coulon for the confidence he has shown in me.
Mélusine Guiblin-Miché, Olivier de Coulon and Bryan Balsiger, with Jenkins and Clouzot
How was your debut with Clouzot?
B.B.: Olivier de Coulon found him when he was 6 - when no one wanted him. But from the start, he believed in that horse. Clouzot was 8 when I first rode him. As soon as I got in the saddle, I realized that he had a particular balance, which I had to get used to. Despite this, he has always been very a very consistent jumper. So, we were quickly jumping the 140 and 145cm classes. At the age of 8, he won all three events in the Swiss Team Trophy Final (events reserved for the next generation of riders in Switzerland). But in 2017 our ascent was most obvious, with our title in the European Young Riders Championship. It’s been an unforgettable year for us. My European Young Riders Champion title also opened the doors to the CHI in Geneva where I took 16th place in the Rolex Grand Prix in December 2017.
Bryan Balsiger and Clouzot at the CHI Geneva
Clouzot really has a special canter. How have you managed this?
B.B.: I had to get used to it, because it's not easy to tackle an obstacle in a canter like that, and he’s sometimes even in cross-canter. At home, we try to work on flying changes. It took a really long time for him to understand and do it regularly. However, now, when I'm on course, I’ve realized that I have to leave him alone, because it’s not a problem for him when he’s jumping. It bothers him more if I try to correct or force him into the standard mold. So, I try to let him jump as is, that's how he does best.
Your way of riding is very discreet. Where did you get this style from?
B.B.: Probably from my dad. He has always told me since I was a kid that I had to ride by feel and let the horse jump. So, I try to get to know my horse as best I can. Of course, every horse is different, and I try to do my best to let them express their personality. I try to be as calm as possible in the saddle and give them time to jump. My goal is for them to want to jump in their own way, without forcing them to change.
Bryan Balsiger and Clouzot at work with a beautiful view on Lake Neuchâtel
During the 2016-2017 winter, you spent six months at Thomas Fuchs’. What did you learn there?
B.B.: I learned a certain discipline there. I had already been able to benefit from his know-how during the next generation internships, as he was training us. We already got along well but having the chance to work with Thomas and Martin Fuchs every day allowed me to discover other exercises and ways of working. I learned to see my horses in a different way. It was very rewarding. I had between 4 and 6 of my own horses at Thomas', including some of Olivier de Coulon's.
Olivier de Coulon, owner of Clouzot and Bryan Balsiger's stars, keeps a focussed eye on his horses
As Thomas Fuchs is also the Swiss team coach, do you still interact with him regularly?
B.B.: Yes. If I have a question about a line or a course detail, I can always talk to him and he likes to come and watch the horses in the warm-up. He's a very important person to have on a team. When you get to the elite level, having someone on the team who has so much experience over these big courses really is an asset.
But your father remains your No.1 coach, right?
B.B.: Yes. It's important to have someone who's always by your side. You can't always see and monitor everything, so it's paramount to have a person you trust. Besides, he's my father, we get along very well, and I've always trained with him, so we know each other by heart. We’re really lucky to share this as a family. It hasn’t always been easy, but I know I can completely trust him. I really need his expertise in competitions.
To be continued tomorrow...