Which Grand Prix victory is the most fulfilling?
As the number of tours increase, winning titles are forgotten or mixed up as quickly as a new week of competition begins. While winning a Grand Prix at any level is satisfying, aren't we losing track of ourselves with these identical titles? Is there more to savor by winning a Grand Prix at a single date event, and keeping your title until the next edition? This is our question of the month!
To answer this question, we asked Belgium’s Cindy van der Straten, who no longer travels for tours, France’s Nicolas Delmotte, who is regularly ranked on the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour or during the weekends in Grimaud, as well as the newcomer to the big leagues, Arnaud Doem.
Cindy van der Straten
Belgian rider Cindy van der Straten, who regularly competes on the Global Champions Tour circuit, starts by confiding that she doesn’t like to participate in tours. "I find that we lose that drive. When I went, the first week I was eager to compete and then, as the weeks went by, I lost that desire, like a feeling of being at home. I didn't have the same level of concentration. I also find that you can feel that the horses get into a routine. Every time you change venues, you get that euphoria of entering a new arena and trying to win. So I favor single date competitions, and also for more personal reasons, as I want to see my son as much as possible."
From her point of view, "…winning a Grand Prix during the year, wherever it is, is already very good! A Grand Prix is a Grand Prix, the level and the prize pool are the same everywhere. For riders competing at a higher level than me, I think that the importance is above all the regularity, to go clear and place at any event."
Let's continue our tour with the French rider competing for a place at the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer, Nicolas Delmotte. The winner of the CSI3* Grand Prix in Oliva who also placed fourth in the 4* in Grimaud responds: "Each Grand Prix victory is important, whether it is on a tour or in a competition that takes place only once a year. If the rider wins, it's because they deserved it. Today, whatever the level, and even more so at the 5* level, winning has become very difficult. The competition is tough especially when you see the technicality of the courses and the speed needed to be within the time."
He is regularly present at the beginning of the year to get his horses back on track, and he explains why he appreciates this concept. "I always try to be positive and encourage the organizers. The tour system is good because you can take a lot of horses, and they are often held at beautiful sites. Whether a win happens there or elsewhere, on paper it’s a victory. However, you cannot compare the feeling you get when we are for example, on the Grimaud arena which organizes CSI’s of different levels regularly, to an arena like Spruce Meadows, Aachen, and La Baule, which are names that are out of the ordinary. These are legendary venues that we only ride at once a year, where all riders dream of winning the Grand Prix."
Although he isn’t yet 30 years old, the native of Mons has made his entry into the big leagues by making his debut at the five-star level and in a few stages ofn the World Cup circuit. Arnaud Doem is more moderate than our other two interviewees, and points out the usefulness of both formulas: "Obviously, winning a competition that takes place just once a year makes things more special. We also see that the public and sponsor’s interest is much greater. It motivates you as a rider and you compete in and practice this sport to experience these things. Now, you can also appreciate the big structures whether they are used for tours, or facilities that host many competitions per year. In Belgium, facilities like Sentower Park, Azelhof, and Peelbergen in Holland have really made the business grow. For that alone, it's a good thing they are there. Beyond that, repeated competitions in these kinds of facilities can quickly become life-sized training sessions rather than competitions, but at least they exist. We also saw that during more difficult periods, we were happy to be able to count on these kinds of facilities because they were the only ones able to organize competitions and we were all very happy to go there. These facilities kept our sport afloat."
Photo credit: Sportfot.com. Written in collaboration with Julien Counet.