In recent weeks you read on Hippomundo about the World Championships of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. This showed that many horses find their way to the international (top) sport via the World Championships. But how easy is it as a rider to know how good your horse is? Hippomundo spoke to Gregory Wathelet:
Last year Gregory Wathelet became Belgian Champion of the 7-year-old horses; one week later he won team gold at the European Showjumping Championship in Rotterdam. That alone is admirable, but how can you combine a European Championship and a Belgian Championship in your planning? “I think it is important to feel the horses effectively, to work with them and thus to further train them to hopefully GP level, so I like to make time for the BC Young Horses,” Wathelet explains.
Still at that age it remains difficult to estimate whether you are jumping a future GP horse or not, even for someone with the experience of Wathelet. “Even at the age of 7 it is indeed difficult to say effectively whether a horse will be able to jump a GP or not. Everyone dreams and hopes for that real winner and at the age of 7 you can already feel much more than when they are 5 or 6 years old. But the most important thing is the attitude of a horse. Of course they have to have quality, but what they can jump effectively depends on their mindset. MJT Nevados, for example, became world champion as a 7-year-old, but at the time I was not convinced whether he had the last scope to jump a really big class. And last year we were 4 years further and he earns team gold at the European Championship.” (laughs).
Wathelet won the BC last year with a horse bred by his father Hubert. “Argentina de la Marchette was indeed bred by my father, but we have owned her together since she was 2 years old. She is a daughter of Acajou de la Marchette, who was also born with us. My father has always bred a bit, but that was rather small-scale and in fairness those were also more normal horses. About 7-8 years ago we started to focus a bit more on breeding by, among other things, using better mares – something that is very important today I think. I now also have the necessary infrastructure and pastures that you need for this and since about 3 years we have been breeding a little more, about 5 to 6 foals per year. And I think that’s enough. ”
When we come back to Argentina it turns out that things were not always smooth sailing in the past. “Argentina is a very light-footed and careful horse, but as a 4- and 5-year-old she was actually very difficult and she actually had too much quality to jump the classes for the young horses. At the time we mainly worked her at home. As a 6-year-old she started participating in competitions, but even then we took our time. She then jumped many classes at 1.00m, 1.10m and 1.20m level, just to gain experience.
Since the beginning of last year I took the reins over myself, but actually she was not ready to jump at her level then either. For example, during the Sunshine Tour in Spain I rode her out of competition with the 6-year-old horses every week. A few months before the BC we grown to a higher level, fortunately, but I have to keep doing it step by step. In Dinard, for example, she jumped very well in the classes for 7-year-old horses, but the week in preparation for the BC I just jumped a round in the 1.10m. It’s a matter of starting them with a good feeling in Gesves. ”
A month after the BC, the World Championships were scheduled for Argentina and it turned out that Wathelet had estimated his horse well in terms of experience. “I was unsure whether Argentina was ready for the World Championships, I felt it was a bit early. The first day we received four penalties, the second day we won the qualifier for 7-year-olds. It earned us a spot in the grand finale, but her sensitivity and inexperience played a part in that final. That was shit, but it happened and nothing can be done about it. A month later I took her to Vilamoura so that she could gain some experience in a tour again and she immediately started with a 9th place. For me, she is really a horse for the future, we will see what it brings!”