Show Jumping

How to Think Like an Athlete (and a Horseman) Steve Guerdat-Style

©FEI/Liz Gregg

Two-time World Cup champion and self-confessed media phobe Steve Guerdat (SUI) leads after Round I of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Aboard Alamo, the reigning world number one narrowly topped of a field of 33 after posting the quickest fault-free round of the day—61.28 seconds—over the Santiago Varela-designed track. Less than two hundredths of a second separate the top three. Belgium’s Pieter Devos and Apart sit in second on the leaderboard with a time of 61.31 seconds and Olivier Philippaerts and H&M Legend of Love, third in 61.43 seconds.

But what separated Guerdat in the press conference was his winning mindset. Just about every soft spoken statement from the 36-year-old Olympic gold medalist was a lesson in keeping a clear head and putting your horse first.

Let’s review:

Guerdat: “I’m very happy because the horse jumped good and I thought I could have a very fast round without taking too much out of the horse.”

Take away: Invest your energy wisely.

Guerdat: “I don’t know that horse going fast as well as some of my other horses so I just tried to stay quick and focused on my plan and what I wanted to do.”

Take away: Focus on the variables within your control.

Guerdat: “I didn’t look too much at what the others were doing because there were a few options that I just couldn’t do with [Alamo] and his stride.”

Take away: Make a plan based on your horse’s strengths.

Guerdat: “I knew what I wanted to do … and stuck to my plan.”

Take away: Believe in your plan.

Guerdat: “It worked out quite well, so I am happy.”

Take away: Actively reflect on your performance.

Not surprisingly, the Swiss rider has an equally thoughtful approach to managing his horses, which we can also learn from. Asked about why he chose to bring Alamo to the World Cup Final instead of his top mount, Bianca, he replied the following:

Guerdat: “It wasn’t such an easy decision. After Geneva last year, my horses Alamo and Bianca jumped really good. I gave them a long break, eight weeks not jumping at all, just having a very easy time enjoying.”

Take away: Respect your horse’s needs.

Guerdat: “I thought I’m going to make the two horses ready for the Final. They have the same preparation, they went to [a show] only jumping 1.25 classes, very easy for them, for two weeks. And one jumped the big class in s’Hertogenbosch and one the big class in Paris. I thought after that I decide.”

Take away: Train and then test your training.

Guerdat: “Bianca is my number one choice for the [Olympic] Games next year, so I thought on the way she doesn’t have to do every single championship. I thought if I have a small chance with Alamo, I’ll take it because he felt so good through all the preparation and especially in Paris. I thought I’d go for him.”

Take away: Always remember your purpose.

Wise words, Steve.