Rolex Round Table at The Dutch Masters

The round table at The Dutch Masters was joined by the Rolex Grand Slam live contender [Martin Fuchs] and the winner of CHIO Aachen 2021 [Daniel Deusser].

Rolex testimonee Martin Fuchs (SUI) sits for a portrait after the Rolex Round Table in the Rider’s Lounge

Daniel, you have been a member of the Rolex family since December, how did you feel when they asked you to join?
Daniel Deusser:
To be honest, I felt very honoured. I have always looked up to Rolex and the athletes that are part of the family of Testimonees. It is a group of the most talented athletes in the world so to be a part of it is very special. Rolex has done so much for our sport and has brought our sport to another level, the Rolex shows are the biggest shows in the world and as a brand, it is very important for our sport. To be a Testimonee and a part of that Rolex family is a great honour.

If you had to describe the Rolex family, what are the things that stand out?
Daniel Deusser:
It is a very warm and friendly atmosphere in one way, but it is also very professional in our discipline.

Martin, you are the live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam, how does it feel coming into The Dutch Masters looking for that second Rolex Grand Slam Major win in a row?
Martin Fuchs:
Well to be at one of the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors is always a special feeling, obviously, it is made even more special being the live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. It is my first really big test this year, CHI Geneva was a few months ago. It is wonderful to be at this very beautiful indoor show and I am really excited for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday.

Can you tell us who you are riding and what your thoughts and preparations are ahead of the Rolex Grand Prix tomorrow?
Martin Fuchs:
I will be riding Connor Jei in the Rolex Grand Prix. He was with me in Doha for the past two weeks and was really good there. He has done a small class here to warm up for the Rolex Grand Prix and I think he is in great shape. We haven’t done so many big indoor shows yet together, but he has been good in all that we have done. He is not the easiest horse, so if it gets very technical we might have a few problems, and it takes a lot of concentration and focus from me as a rider to give him the best shot, but he has a lot of good qualities and is a very special horse.

How do you cope with pressure when competing, especially with the live contender position on your shoulders?
Martin Fuchs:
The pressure is always on, even when you are not the live contender. When you are competing at one of the Majors, you want to perform at your best, you give everything you can. You prepare everything, especially for this one show months ahead, so the pressure is not very different. If you end up being in the jump-off it gives you a little extra push and motivation that you really want to make it two in a row.

Daniel, you won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen in 2021, if you do win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday you will get a bonus. Is the bonus playing on your mind at all?
Daniel Deusser:
Yes, as you said already, for sure if I win here it is going to be a nice bonus but apart from that, I would win one of the Rolex Grand Slam Majors. That is why we are here, we want to win that Rolex Grand Prix. Of course, the bonus would be extra nice, but I am looking forward to the competition anyway. I will ride Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z on Sunday, he is actually very handy in the indoor arenas. He had a little break last year but has shown in the last couple of weeks that he is in good shape. He jumped very well in the big class last night, so I am honestly very confident about tomorrow. If I don’t make any major mistakes, I think the horse will try his best and we will definitely have a chance.

Daniel, after every social media post you write “the best is yet to come”. You have won CHIO Aachen, you were World No.1, you have a beautiful daughter, what would the best be?
Daniel Deusser:
I think in general in our sport, the older you get, the more experienced you get in everything. Your horses get more experienced, your relationship with the horse gets better and better, the more you are together, the more you compete together. I think in our sport you learn more, the more experience you have. I don’t know exactly what is coming, I hope much more. First of all, I wish that we stay healthy and that my journey keeps on going like it has the last couple of years. I believe we can always learn more, learn from our experiences and grow more in our sport and I think I can get better.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has started a new campaign “Commitment of a Lifetime” – what kind of commitment do you need from your team? You are now competing on two continents, how do you make that work?
Daniel Deusser:

Yes, as you mentioned, it’s a big commitment doing this sport, you with your partner, your horse, have to work together every day for weeks and for years, actually for nearly a lifetime, and you need that same commitment from your whole team around you. It’s so important to have a very good groom, who knows the horses, travels with the horses and dedicates their life towards the horses and towards you as a rider, and the same with the people at home working with you – whether it’s stable staff or staff in the office, I think it’s very important that if you take someone in your team, that they want to do it for a long time or even a lifetime.

Martin Fuchs:

Yes, obviously it’s very important to have the right people around you. I think I’m very fortunate that my family is so involved in my riding and in my career – my parents help me a lot to make sure everything is running smoothly, so I don’t have to worry about that and can fully focus on the shows when I am there. I have a very good team around me with a great groom, Sean Vard, who has been with me for a long time, which also helps because he plans everything himself so I can just show up at the competition and I know my horses have had the best care. I was with Sean at the Sunshine Tour for five weeks, but everyone at home and my parents have been taking care of my horses, like The Sinner, I have not ridden him a lot in the last seven weeks, but I can come home, ride him a couple of times and come to the show and he’s in such good shape that he can win a big class like last night. That is obviously for me as rider, really great to have people around me like that.

Can you both tell me a little bit more about the horses you will ride in the Rolex Grand Prix?

Martin Fuchs:

I’m going to be riding Connor Jei, he’s 11-years-old, I’ve had him for slightly over a year, he has a lot of quality, he is very careful, a lot of scope – he is still lacking a bit in rideability, but his special qualities he has, he makes up for it in the ring. He’s a big horse, very sensitive, a lot of blood, and when he got to my stable, he was a bit shy, a bit special and now he is much nicer and more friendly and is getting more confidence and trust.

Daniel Deusser:

Scuderia Tobago is actually a little bit the opposite of Martin’s. When you see him here in the warm-up it’s not that spectacular, but he knows exactly what he needs to do and he saves his energy in the warm-up. He’s a very clever horse, he knows exactly where the poles are in the ring, his body is very handy for a sport horse, he has a very big heart and finds the scope. In the past, he has shown that he is capable of jumping in all sorts of arenas, inside and outside, but compared to other horses I have ridden before he is very good inside, but as you said, he has been second in the Rolex Grand Prix at Aachen too. If I make it to the jump-off, I need to ride very well and I need a bit of luck, the course maybe need to suit me a bit better than other horses, but in general, I have a very good partner we definitely have a chance to compete tomorrow.

What is your process for finding your next Grand Prix horses after these that you are competing here? What do you look for in a young horse?

Daniel Deusser:

We are always looking for young talented horses because the older ones sooner or later will need a rest. At the end of the day what you really need is a very good mentality, and you can’t always see until they are seven or eight. Horses often jump the four, five and six-year-old classes comfortably, but we are looking for clever horses rather than just scope. What we actually need when they are nine or ten, is the mentality that they want to win and understand what is required and that they maybe search a little bit for the lines in the ring – this is difficult to teach – we can do all the exercises to help the quality and technique of the jump, but really you don’t see whether the horse will be capable of winning a Major until a bit later on. Of course, you hope these horses will one day win a Rolex Grand Prix, but it’s very difficult to find. The way to produce one of these superstars is very very long, that is why we need such a team around us. It’s a very complex process, and in the end, is also combined with a bit of luck!

Martin Fuchs:

Yes, we are always looking for good young horses. I am in the lucky situation that I have very good owners that are supporting me and allowing me to buy nice young horses, and sometimes slightly older horses, so it’s always a long process between buying a young horse and ending up with a Grand Prix horse. Often you think that you have a really good one, but then it doesn’t end up at a 5* show, because those horses are so rare. You need to have some luck and need to be confident in your decision and quick with the decisions because sometimes a new good horse shows up and everybody is interested in it, so you need to have the courage to take the risk in purchasing the horse and hope it will end up jumping a 5* Grand Prix.

What is the story behind each of your Rolex timepieces?

Daniel Deusser:

The story behind my Rolex timepiece, I was a little bit in love when I saw it first, it was online, but straight away I thought it was a very elegant and nice looking watch, and what I really thought was important and what really convinced me, when I saw it, is the Oysterflex bracelet, especially for the sport that we are doing. With the Oysterflex bracelet, it sits very well, you hardly feel it around your wrist and I have to say; I am in love with it!

Martin Fuchs:

I have been wearing my Rolex timepiece for a couple of years now and every time I put it on I really enjoy wearing it – you can wear it for a nice dinner out, but you can also wear it on the horse, which is important for us since most of the time we are on a horse. I enjoy looking at it on the pictures, you can always recognise from far away that it’s a Rolex.

What do you think is the greatest lesson you have learnt so far in your career?

Daniel Deusser:

This is very difficult. I still remember when I was working for Franke Sloothaak that he taught me that you need to have patience. At that time as a young rider, you are really motivated and you really want to do what your idols – Franke for me at that time, Ludger Beerbaum, John Whitaker – you really want to do what they do. I got a little bit frustrated sometimes as it wasn’t working out how he showed it to me. He always said you need to have a lot of patience. At that time I didn’t really understand about it, but now nearly 20 years later it always comes back to the same point and I realise that if you have a lot of patience, you give your horse time to develop and grow up, you will get to that point that you want to achieve and that always comes up in my mind. It’s a very good lesson to have patience.

Martin Fuchs:

For me, it definitely was when I had a refusal with Clooney in the Rolex Grand Prix at Aachen at the last fence, when I was very close to winning this prestigious class. I put a lot of thought into why this had happened and I understood that I had to give him more confidence and make him trust me, almost blindly, and after this day I started to think more with the horse and put myself into the horse’s mind, to think what I could have done differently to give him the confidence to make him jump this last fence, and that is one of the greatest lessons in my career so far.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years’ time?

Martin Fuchs:

This is a difficult question, obviously, it’s not something I have thought too much about, I’m just trying to enjoy what I am doing now. I don’t think I’ll still be competing when I am 50-years-old, but I’m not making any promises and as I said, I just want to enjoy what I am doing right now – I have a lot of nice horses and have good people around me, so I am just taking it show by show and day by day.

Daniel Deusser:

Yes, this is a very difficult question, I haven’t really made plans for the next 20 years, I hope to be able to compete for a couple more years, as long as I feel fit and healthy and after that I really want to try to give something back to the sport. With the good memories and good experiences with the sport, I want to be able to give to younger generations in the sport. In which way I can do that, I haven’t worked out yet, but that is definitely my goal in the future.

If you could give one tip now to young riders, what would you say?

Daniel Deusser:

Probably patience, but I would have to think about how they would believe me because I didn’t really believe in it 20-years-ago, but it’s definitely something you have to know in our sport. You have to understand the animal, the horse, and to understand how he learns takes a lot of time, and we human beings sometimes have to change the way you work to fit in with the horse. Patience is definitely a big learning for me.

Martin Fuchs:

I would say the same lesson that I have learnt; just to work with your horse and give your horse confidence, to try to understand your horse better so you can form a partnership, a team.

Who do you think will be the rider to watch tomorrow in the Rolex Grand Prix?

Martin Fuchs:

We are going to have 40 riders in the Rolex Grand Prix who could all win. That is definitely something that has changed in the last decade, that all the 40 are able to win a class like that, so it’s very interesting and will be a top-class tomorrow and I cannot say one name.

Daniel Deusser:

Basically, the same answer. It’s like looking for young horses, maybe we can all find a horse that could jump a 5* Grand Prix, but really winning, being the fastest one in the jump-off, it’s that fraction of a second that makes the difference. It depends on how the course is built, which qualities does one horse have to suit that, we have a lot of combinations who could win, but we don’t know who will have the right qualities tomorrow.

How do you plan your year?

Martin Fuchs:

When you start planning a year, you pick out the four Rolex Majors and the Championships, and then you try to figure out which horse suits best for which show and which arena, and then you make a plan a few months ahead to pick the right shows to make sure you are at your best for those four Rolex Majors.

Daniel Deusser:

To add to that, I can only say that you have to look a little bit at what kind of horses you have also. For example, we have two Rolex Majors inside and two outside, so maybe one horse suits inside better, the others better on the big grass arenas outside, so we have to consider this.

What is the ‘magic’ that you do in your preparation for the Rolex Grand Prix? Do you prepare differently to any other class?

Daniel Deusser:

I try not to do anything differently than I would usually do. Of course, you have to focus, it’s something a little bit special, you are aiming for this Rolex Grand Prix win, so it’s in your mind, but you cannot teach the horse anything more in the warm-up. You are really just warming the horse up, the rest you should have practised in the last couple of weeks, or month before, so the most important thing for me is not to do too much. Of course, you are more tense, more focussed on a Rolex Grand Prix, especially now with the return of the public, which is totally different to when it is behind closed doors when you could relax and you were totally by yourself. But you should be just focused on what you are doing and should not do anything different to what you usually do when you have a win.

Martin Fuchs:

I also try to keep everything very similar to normal classes or shows. You don’t want your horse to be nervous by doing something new and obviously what we have been doing so far has worked out, so you don’t want to change anything. When you walk the course for a Rolex Grand Prix I am extra focussed and I put more time into walking the jump-off than I do for other classes – I think that’s the main difference. For the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva, a walked the jump-off course many times and looked at all the possibilities of how to find the fastest way and how to leave out strides, and this is my main difference to a normal competition.

Do you do something special before you compete or have any superstitions?

Daniel Deusser:

Not really, but if I have a lot of time, I prefer to just have a nap in the afternoon. But that’s more when the classes are late in the evening and you have nothing to do in the day, instead of sitting there wasting your time and thinking about what you did not do before and try to change anything. But on a big day like tomorrow, I don’t do anything special.

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