Up close & personal with Steve Guerdat

He's got the x-facto(Image: F Patroni)
He’s got the x-factor (Image: F Patroni)

Steve Guerdat has an impressive list of achievements and he is only 34. He has won the last two World Cups and is keen to be Olympic Champion again – he’s already looking ominous after today’s polished clear round.

He won the individual gold medal at London in 2012 on the horse he is riding at Rio, Nino de Buissonnets. If the pair are successful, then Steve will be the first jumper to win back-to-back gold medals in Olympic history. Steve won a bronze team medal as part of the Swiss team at Beijing where he finished 9th individually. He also rode at Athens were he finished in 50th place individually, with the Swiss team fifth.

Steve and ‘Nino’ looked great today. Steve is a beautiful rider, and didn’t fail to impress with today’s performance. He’s also a bit of a looker, one of those people who may look really good in photographs, but in real life, there is just that extra x-factor you can’t see in photos. While impressing the journalists, he also confessed to some nerves today.

Steve Guerdat and Nino Des Buissonnets - on track for another gold but it's early days yet! (Image; Libby Law)
Steve Guerdat and Nino Des Buissonnets – on track for another gold but it’s early days yet! (Image; Libby Law)

“I was a little bit nervous myself because in the warm-up yesterday, most of the horses were nervous, but Nino also did feel a little bit tense, which he hasn’t felt in months.”

He put this down to the fences. “It is a little bit different here, I don’t think it is because of the ring, but more because of the fences, which are a little bit more massive than what we are used to seeing, especially on a sand arena.”

“Today was a tough course. It is always a little bit difficult on the first day, a little bit more difficult with Nino; I wasn’t sure how he was going to respond to it. So that was the first thing that made me really happy. Of course he jumped great, but he felt very confident and very happy jumping. He felt fresh and powerful right to the last jump.

Just a bit of scope! Steve Guerdat and Nino Des Buissonnets Image: Libby Law)
Just a bit of scope! Steve Guerdat and Nino Des Buissonnets (Image: Libby Law)

“There is nothing to win today, you can just lose it. I think for me and especially for the horse it was good, it gives us a little confidence going into the real thing.”

As to the trot-up, where the horse was put on hold, Steve wasn’t really worried. He has been there before. “To be honest with you, nothing really was going through my mind because everything is different with that horse. His way of moving is – not under the saddle; he moves absolutely normal under the saddle – but he has a very funny way of moving in the hand. The vets who know him, they know that is his way of going. But every time I get to a place where the vets don’t know him, like here in South America, it is a funny way of moving so they prefer to check, which is what we ask them – so I can’t complain about that; it is just their job. They check to see that it is not a problem, it is not an injury or something that is painful to him. It is just his way of moving and they checked it and I knew there was nothing wrong with the horse, it is just his way. I don’t like it, because it just brings a little more stress, but it is something that I am kind of used to and it is just how the horse is.”

Steve Guerdat and Nino at the first horse inspection (Image: Libby Law)
Steve Guerdat and Nino at the first horse inspection (Image: Libby Law)

Steve Guerdat was born on June 10, 1982. He is the youngest of two sons of Philippe Guerdat, the famous former show jumper and Chef d’Equipe for France. Horses were soon featuring in his life, and it wasn’t long before he was in the Swiss Juniors team. He went on to work for former show jumper and coach Beat Mändli, who taught him about life as a professional rider and about international shows. He is now based near Zurich, and is coached by Thomas Fuchs.