Bryan Balsiger, Swiss precision 4/4
Since last year, you have been a revelation at the highest level. How did this dazzling ascent go?
B.B.: The year didn't start off very well, we’ve had some bad luck: first Clouzot was sick, and we couldn't defend our Young Rider European title, then it was my turn to get injured... At the end of the summer, I was able to come back from that injury for the elite Swiss Championship. So, I was very keen to perform well during this competition. We first won the Verbier 3* Grand Prix, then the elite Swiss Champion title. I’d never won any medals at the Junior National Championships or Young Riders. But my father always told me that it was the elite level that was most important. He must have been right! After winning that title, I was asked to ride for the Swiss team at the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. Obviously, I accepted and was able to go as the fourth team member. Together with Clouzot, I achieved the best Swiss result. This Swiss Championship really opened doors for me, because I was able to join the team right away and to take part in an event like that one, for a young rider, it's an exceptional opportunity. I would also like to thank Andy Kistler and the entire Swiss team’s staff, because they take a lot of risks to get young people to take the plunge. What an incredible opportunity.
Bryan Balsiger, Olivier de Coulon and Mélusine Guiblin-Miché with Jenkins Ter Doorn (Numero Uno)
Even if you are the European Young Riders Champion, it’s still a step up to reach 5* level and the Nations Cups, right?
B.B.: Yes. The final of the European Young Riders Championships is a big course. It requires a lot of effort from these horses, but there is still a real gap between those events and elite level events.
The winning Swiss team in La Baule: Niklaus Rutschi, Bryan Balsiger, Andy Kistler, Steve Guerdat and Paul Estermann
This year, you’ve already been to La Baule and St. Gallen. Were they beautiful experiences?
B.B.: Winning the La Baule Nations Cup was really a unique moment. By way of comparison, Niklaus Rutschi, who was in the team, waited until he was 53 to win this Nations Cup: it is really exceptional to live it at my age. I came off course twice with 8 points, but my score didn't count, and I was happy with my horse. The mistakes were mine; I was a little hasty. There was clear improvement in the Grand Prix with a 4-fault round and then in St. Gallen we achieved our first clear round in a 5* Grand Prix. We narrowly missed out on the victory, but still finished in 6th place. Clouzot is progressing each time, and so am I.
ou have the chance to be around World No. 1 Steve Guerdat in all of these competitions. What does that add to the experience?
B.B.: It’s reassuring, because we all know that everyone dreams of having the World No. 1 on their team. Personally, Steve is really nice, he’s happy to give me advice and always supports me. He knows how to pass on his desire to do the right thing. He gives everything to his team. I’ve got to say, he really is my idol, someone that I’ve admired since I was a child, both on horseback and on foot. For a young rider like me starting out at this level, he’s a real inspiration. If we add Steve to Thomas Fuchs and Andy Kistler, they make a really good coaching team. In terms of cohesion and how to manage major events, they’re outstanding.
AK's Courage (Chepetto), one of Bryan Balsiger's leading horses
What are your next scheduled competitions?
B.B.: There will be Aachen, an absolute dream for every rider! I really hope I perform well for the Swiss team. Before that, I have the CSI in Lausanne, where I’m hoping for a good result. I wrote the date in my schedule a long time ago. I’ll take Clouzot and AK's Courage. At the end of the year, I’d like to defend my title as Swiss Champion at Humlikon, and my victory in the CSI 3* Grand Prix in Verbier.
Are the European Championships in Rotterdam and the Olympic Games in Tokyo somewhere on your mind?
B.B.: These are obviously dreams and objectives I have for Clouzot of course, but I’m also lucky enough to have good horses coming through. We have three 10-year-old horses just behind Clouzot (11 years old), Dubai, Jenkins and Courage. All three of them have jumped up to 155cm. By the end of the year, I hope that one of these three will be able to support Clouzot at the highest level. Then it will be up to us to work hard and have a good program in place, but we will give our all to qualify.
As a young rider, how do you see our sport evolving?
B.B.: I am convinced that Steve Guerdat is the example to follow: he favors the Nations Cups and fights for our sport rather than riding in more well-endowed events. It’s in these Nations Cups and these beautiful places, from La Baule to St. Gallen via Geneva, that the real sport takes place. There are particular atmospheres and we resonate there.