Martin Fuchs may be one of the youngest European Champions there has ever been, but it’s not like he hasn’t been around for a while. When he was just a teen and the World Equestrian Games were taking place in Lexington, Kentucky, Martin was winning individual gold at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Since then, hardly a year has gone by that did not include a medal of some colour. To date, the tally is 12 medals in 12 years of international championships; perhaps not overly surprising, since the name Fuchs is synonymous with Swiss show jumping. His father, Thomas, competed at the Barcelona Olympics, his mother, Renata, was an elite show jumper, and his uncle Markus represented Switzerland at five Olympics. This particular Fuchs, leading contender for the FEI’s Athlete of the Year, hopes to emulate his great friend and teammate Steve Guerdat and become the first Fuchs to win an Olympic gold.
How many generations of your family have been involved with horses?
My grandfather built everything for the Fuchs family. He was a farmer originally, then he bought a few horses, started a riding school and began dealing horses. All four of his kids, my father and uncle and their sisters, were riding and competing quite successfully from a young age.
I was always at the stables as a kid and when I was seven I rode in my first little competition on a pony called Cleopatra. When I started riding, my parents sent me to another riding school because it was always so busy with horses and crowded at ours and they wanted me to enjoy being on ponies with other kids and playing hide-and-seek.
Can you identify a turning point in your career?
No. From the very beginning I never considered doing anything else. I never considered quitting at any time or wanting to do anything else, although I did go to college and get a business degree.
I imagine life must be pretty hectic – what’s a typical week like?
I ride four to six horses from eight until ten in the morning on Mondays, and in the afternoons I try to get some rest, get organized and unpack from the previous week’s show. Tuesday mostly it’s the same, although I’ll concentrate mainly on jumping the horses. In the afternoon I’ll get ready for the next show and try and get a massage if I can. On Wednesday I’ll ride in the morning before leaving for the airport and the next show where I will be until Sunday night. Fortunately, I have great back-up at home. My mom runs the office, books the flights, does the paperwork, and my dad is in the stables looking after the horses, so when I go to shows I don’t have to worry about what’s happening at home. He has it under control, which saves me time and energy.
What’s your setup?
We have indoor and outdoor schools, and plenty of grass and sand paddocks. My favourite part is our big derby field. It’s huge. I love it. We have stabling for 32 horses and I have 12 in my string. I have a rider working for me – Matias Alvaro – so for example he’ll take two or three horses to a show while I’m with two at another.
Has anything changed since becoming European Champion?
I get a lot more phone calls! More people seem to be interested in me. I get a lot of interview requests, not only from equestrian media, but from lifestyle magazines. Swiss TV has already been over to the stables twice.
How come you know Steve Guerdat so well?
When I was small I knew of him and I was always a fan of his. When Steve moved back to Switzerland after riding for Stal Tops in the Netherlands, he started training with my dad. Both my parents helped him a lot. When he was in Zurich he didn’t know anyone and spent a lot of time at our farm and had a lot of meals with us. He’s part of the family. His stable is only five miles away from ours.
How would you describe yourself?
Outgoing, open-minded, but focused on the big targets. I think I am a bit calculating, I think a lot about stuff, what the odds and the risks are. Actually, maybe strategize is a better word.
How would you describe Clooney?
He’s definitely one of a kind in his ability and talent and what he does week after week. He’s not motivated at home, but when he knows it’s important, he wants to be the best at what he does. He loves competing and attention. He can be very jealous; he likes to be the star attraction. I’ve never had a horse, and I have had some very good ones, that has been as consistent and as special as Clooney. We found him in Germany when he was seven. My best friend called me and said there was a horse his girlfriend was riding that he thought would be a good fit for me. I loved him from the videos. We bought him right away, even though after five minutes he was on his back legs, rearing. I looked at my dad and he said, “Great – the good horses are all a bit special!” The first time I took him for a ride at home he threw me off. The thing was, he didn’t go for hacks when he was young, so he didn’t know what was going on. Once he got used to it, he didn’t put a foot wrong. Still, you need to give him confidence in a new situation because he is very sensitive and nervous and can get intimidated. I moved stables three years ago and it was all new and we went out on a hack and even though he wasn’t as bad as he was when he was seven, you could definitely say we had some adventures!
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Cabo on the Baja Penninsula in Mexico. I spent my last two New Year’s Eves there, which was amazing. I’m going there on vacation with my girlfriend, Paris, and my brother in ten days – it’s beautiful and has great weather and amazing food.
Where would you most like to go that you haven’t been?
South Africa, Hawaii, Australia – I love beaches and nature. When I drive through Switzerland I think how lucky I was to be born in this amazing country with all the green and so much colour. When I go to a show I will take an evening off and just walk around the city or walk along the beach. I was in New York for the first time this year and I spent hours and hours exploring the city. It was very exciting.
If you were cast away on a desert island and were allowed to bring one luxury item, what would you bring?
If my phone was a luxury item, that’s what I would bring. That’s all I would need for entertainment.
Do you have a health and fitness regimen?
I don’t go to the gym, but I walk and I do a lot of stretching.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I’m not the healthiest eater. I’m not into vegetables. I never used to eat salads or fish, but since I met Paris, she has helped me to change my diet from just carbs and meat. So, in answer to your question, I used to eat a lot of things that were bad for me but I liked. I suppose I am guilty of using my phone a lot. I am on it all the time. I check the news, look at videos, watch things, send messages. Paris is jumping in Italy today so I am just about to watch her on the livestream.
Can you recommend a movie or TV series that you recently enjoyed?
I’m watching Suits but my all-time favorite is Breaking Bad. I liked the movie Bohemian Rhapsody and got quite into the music.
If you were having a dinner party and could invite a couple of celebrity guests, living or dead, who would you invite?
David Beckham (I’m a fan of sports and he’s a cool guy) and Bode Miller, I really like him. He’s one of the greatest downhill skiers of all time.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in life?
I don’t think there is one. I feel like there are so many small things to become the person or rider you want to be. I definitely think it is important to know that it isn’t all about winning. You can also be happy even if you don’t make the most money, just enjoying what you are doing. I still get very upset when I don’t win, so it’s a lesson that I’m learning.
If a genie were to give you three wishes,what would you wish for?
Health, a family of my own, and happiness.
Money or medals?
Medals. They are unique; you can win prize money every week, but only I am the European Champion for the next two years.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Do you have a burning ambition?
No, I wouldn’t say so, other than, obviously, to become the Olympic Champion – but it’s so rare and unique a title that I’m not going to hang my career on it.