To every thing there is a season. For Swedish rider Henrik von Eckermann, last year was a winning one.
To be fair though, his previous three haven’t exactly been shabby. Aboard the 14-year-old Belgian warmblood gelding, King Edward, the 42-year-old Olympic team gold medalist from Tokyo in 2020, individual and team gold medalist at the World Championships in Herning in 2022, and FEI Jumping World Cup Final champion in Omaha and European’s team champion in 2023 has accomplished a show jumping checklist that few in the sport could hope to revival.
By the numbers, his 2023 season was by far his best to date. But don’t expect von Eckermann to be putting on airs.
The former rider for Ludger Beerbaum’s stable is well known for putting his horses first, and credits his six-year partnership with Tovek’s Mary Lou, beginning in 2016, with helping him to make his name in the sport. Though he’s currently maintained the world no. 1 spot in the Longines Rankings for more than 19 consecutive months, von Eckermann can still be found visiting with his retired horses (including Mary Lou), and lunging King Edward, himself, before a big class.
“We are just trying to keep [King Edward] mentally happy and physically in the best shape he can be. In the [championships] I have a system that I follow: I just lunge him. I never ride him before,” von Eckermann said following his World Cup Final win in April of last year.
“I know him very well and I trust him. It makes the difference between a really good horse and a superstar, like he is.”
It’s a program that’s not only proven successful, but very, very lucrative for von Eckermann and team. According to Jumpr App, in 2023, alone, the Swedish rider climbed 59 podiums and accumulated €2,311,542—that’s nearly €263,000 more than the next highest-earning rider of the year, Julien Epaillard of France, at €2,198,599.
It’s little wonder when you consider that von Eckermann, as a rider, jumped clear 50% of the time across all horses and heights in 2023.
He owes a portion of that success to his year-long partnership with Dzara Dorchival, the 11-year-old Selle Français mare who finished sixth with von Eckermann (just ahead of King Edward) in the 2023 FEI ranking for horse and rider combinations.
The 1.50m-155m specialist boasts an overall clear round percentage of 61.8%, and, during her six rounds with von Eckermann this year at 1.55m, the pair both jumped clear and finished in the top-10 at 83%. In 13 rounds at 1.50m, they’re clear at 77% and in the top-10 79% of the time.
But von Eckermann is equally skillful at 1.60m, where he closed out his season with impressive placings aboard the 11-year-old KWPN mare, Iliana. Among them: a win in the Coupe de Genève at CHI Geneva, and a second place in the World Cup class at CSI5*-W in Mechelen, Belgium. Of their 21 rounds together at 1.60m, Iliana jumps clear at 38%, but finishes in the top-10 56% of the time.
That’s more than promising, but not quite as successful as her barnmate, Glamour Girl. Just slightly older and wiser at 13 years of age, the KWPN mare and von Eckermann climbed 10 podiums and earned seven wins to Iliana’s nine podiums and five wins, respectively. At 1.60m, Glamour Girl is clear at 50% and finishes in the top-10 70% of the time.
In mare power, alone, von Eckermann should count himself lucky. Yet when it comes to impressive victories in equally impressive venues, it’s hard for any horse to top the aptly-named chestnut pegasus that is King Edward.
In 2023, von Eckermann and the gelding jumped clear at 59% in 22 rounds at 1.60m, finishing in the top-10 74% of the time. Together, they earned five wins and nearly €1.3 million in prize money—by far their most lucrative season to date. In fact, that prize money sum is significantly higher than the 2023 earnings of Dzara Dorchival, Iliana, and Glamour Girl combined.
That’s a lot of numbers and even more words to say that 2023 was indeed a very good time to be Henrik von Eckermann. The best part? The pragmatic Swede recognizes he’s at the top of his game—and he isn’t squandering a minute of it.
“I really try to hold on to the moments,” he said in Omaha last year. “It’s good to sit down and be thankful for what we have, because it’s not going to be forever. I just try to enjoy it.”