They were the final combination to take to the ring at the Ippodromo Snai San Siro in Milan, Italy and the only pair to have jumped four rounds without a single rail.

A clear would mean gold for Steve Guerdat and Dynamix de Belheme in the individual final of the FEI Jumping European Championships. A rail, silver. Any more faults and they’ve be off the podium entirely.

As the tone sounded and the collective breath-holding of a packed stadium sent a hush over the arena, Guerdat (SUI) and Dynamix picked up a gallop to the first fence. Expertly navigating Uliano Vezzani’s winding track, they were clear over the plank that ended the medal hopes of Jens Fredricson (SWE). A deep spot to the oxer of the final line, elicited a huge jumping effort from the mare, setting them up for the five strides to the combination.

With one fence to go, Guerdat held his composure and his mare off the front rail of the final oxer, then punched the air in victory as they crossed the finish line. The newly crowned 2023 FEI Jumping European Champions!

The Suisse rider thanked his mare with a kiss on the neck before thrusting his helmet in the air to a roaring crowd and ecstatic Suisse contingent.

It was a career-defining moment that will go down in history as one of many for the Suisse rider.  

At 41, Guerdat’s record is rife with medals of both the team and individual variety. He’s been the individual Olympic champion (2012) and a World Championship individual bronze medalist. He’s won the World Cup Final three times (2019, 2016, 2015) and on three different horses (Alamo, Corbinian, Albfueren’s Paille). And he’s laid claim to entire collection of team medals from a collection of championships, the Europeans (2021, 2017, 2005, 2003, 2002, 1997 and 2009), Olympics (2008), and Nations Cup Final (2022), among them.

But the title that has long eluded his incredible record is that of European individual champion.

In 13 attempts prior, with such greats as Albfueren’s Bianca, Nino des Buissonnets, and Jalisca Solier, Guerdat had never landed on a podium at the European Championships until Sunday. His best finish was nearly a quarter century ago in 1999 when he finished fourth with Mecano.

It’s hardly surprising then that the achievement hadn’t quite sunk in yet for Guerdat in the moments immediately following the class.

“I don’t really realize yet,” smiled Guerdat in the post ride interview. “I never had a medal in the individual [event] at the Europeans. I’m trying for a long time and we won the gold twice with the team.

“This year, we were not so lucky with the team. But I brought the horse of a lifetime, Dynamix, that I believe so strongly in since she [came to us at] five years old. She’s given us that already ten hundred times back. But today she was amazing. And it feels just incredible to be here as the new European champion.”

Bred by Frederic Almez and campaigned internationally by Guerdat since 2019, the 10-year-old mare has a 53% career clear round average at the 1.60m height, according to Jumpr App. In 2023, that stat jumps to 67% and with results from the toughest 5* shows in the world, including ‘s-Hertogenbosch, La Baule, Aachen, Falsterbo and Dinard.

Prior to this week, however, she was untested at the championship level. The Europeans are the mare’s first ever major championship for the Suisse team. If Guerdat had any lingering doubts heading into the Final, she’s put them to rest. Dynamix de Belheme was the only horse to jump the entire week fault-free.

“She’s still not so experienced. It’s her first championship, so I try to give her a little bit of my experience,” said Guerdat, conceding that he was feeling the pressure heading into the final round on Sunday.

“I have to say, normally I enjoy every single fence with her. Maybe in the last round I didn’t think so much about enjoying [the round] but more about focusing and then fighting and trying to bring this clear round home. Luckily, it worked out and I’m delighted!”

©FEI / Liz Gregg

It’s a moment that he’ll get to relive for some time to come. Their foot perfect performance is the lowest score in European Championship history: 0.43 faults. The title was previously held by Germany’s Meredith Michael Beerbaum and the great Shutterfly, who finished on just 1.54 faults in 2007 in Mannheim, Germany.

In a perfectly scripted final, all three of the top three jumped double clear in the individual final. Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt took the silver medal on nine-year-old Zineday, finishing on 4.31. France’s Julien Epaillard captured bronze on 4.61. Both riders collected a single rail in the second round of team competition.

As for Guerdat, it’s an Olympic medal he’s aiming Dynamix for next. The Suisse rider has made no secret that he is developing the mare for the 2024 Games.  

“I’ve said it already since last year that my main goal is to make this horse ready for the Paris Olympics,” said Guerdat.

“She’s shown now how good she is and, if I do everything right, she’s going to be one of the favorites in the Olympics next year. And it’s my job now to bring her in her best form there. And I’ll be focusing on that.”

For the immediate future though, he’ll be focused on celebrating his new title.