Show jumping on the Champs Élysées? Mais oui!
Six years ago, Hermès brought horses back to the heart of the French capital. For three days Paris comes alive under the great glass roof of the Grand Palais. The Grand Palais was designed back in 1900, for the Universal Exhibition. As well as the equestrian competitions, visitors can discover other aspects of horsemanship by strolling through the gloriously decorated galleries. There is the saddlery workshop where Hermès craftsmen share their passion for their craft and their love of fine work; a specialised bookshop, a photo studio and, a mini-farm where hosts and animal behaviour experts offer educational activities.
The seventh Saut Hermès opened on March 18 for the first of three days of top-level competition. Forty CSI 5* riders, the highest international show jumping level, and 20 riders aged under 25 took part on the first day under the glass nave of the Grand Palais.
In the opening class, the Prix du Grand Palais (CSI5*, 1.45m) the Swiss rider Pius Schwizer got off to a winning start on his 10-year-old gelding Leonard de la Ferme. The world number 24 rode the fastest of the 14 clear rounds, finishing with a time of 26.48, less than a second ahead of the world championship silver medallist Patrice Delaveau, riding Carijno*HDC.
“I felt really great,” said Pius Schwizer. “Leonard de la Ferme is a horse that is naturally fast over the ground and a very good jumper. He was a little nervous in the arena, but very obedient. I’m really happy! Now, the aim is to qualify for the class on Saturday, the Saut Hermès, with my second horse, Chellatus.”
British rider Laura Renwick (37th in the world rankings) was the third to finish under 28 seconds on MHS Washington. On a course designed by the renowned German Franck Rothenberger, she finished ahead of one of the Hermès partner riders, the Swiss Romain Duguet on Twentytwo des Biches, who won the Grand Prix in 2015. There is a video of some of the event available here.
‘Les Talents Hermès’ is a competition that opens the Grand Palais’ arena to young up-and-coming internationals. Twenty riders aged under 25 and representing ten countries rode in the first ‘Talents’ class of the weekend: a course with 1.40m obstacles over two phases.
The Dutch rider Charlotte Verhagen won this with flying colours on her 11-year-old gelding Abache HL. Having already competed last year, they were the only combination to ride a perfect round under 30 seconds, posting a time of 27.53. Neither the American Catherine Pasmore on Z Canta, (clear round in 30.59) nor Alexander Potthoff on Quinara 27 (clear round in 31.39) came close to the performance of the 23-year-old Charlotte. “It was an excellent course for the first day of competition,” she said. “It wasn’t too big. I have a great horse, who was really comfortable in the arena. He was with me last year, so he knows the competition already. Riding under the glass nave is just amazing. It really is magnificent!”
The Prix Hermès Sellier, a speed class with 1.50m obstacles, rounded off the first day in spectacular style. Cheered on by a large crowd, Bertram Allen posted the fastest time in 50.71. Wearing number 3 and riding his stallion Romanov, the 20-year-old young Irish star was untouchable. None of the other 33 riders managed to better his time, not even the reigning European and World Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam. Riding Carusso LS La Silla for the first time in CSI 5*, the Dutch rider crossed the finish line in 52.75, just one tenth of a second ahead of Jessica Mendoza who took the last place on the podium. The 19-year-old British rider, who took part in the Talents Hermès last year, was riding her mare Spirit T.
“I’m over the moon,” said Bertram Allen. “I won this class last year with Romanov, so it looks like he enjoys it! He is 18 now, but he is still performing really well. I hope he’ll be in the same kind of form for the Grand Prix Hermès on Sunday. I’m using my other horse, Quiet Easy 4, for the mixed-pairs class tomorrow evening.”
This is a qualifying class for Saturday’s Saut Hermès which is contested by mixed pairs made up of the ten best male and ten best female riders over the first day. Since there were only 10 female riders in the Prix Hermès Sellier on Friday, they are all qualified for the event.