BY ERIN GILMORE
Sifting through my photos from yesterday’s grand finale of the Saut Hermès CSI5* in Paris, I set out looking for the shot that illustrates the main thing that I always want to convey to people about horse shows in France: the energy. It wasn’t hard. Every shot, especially of the grand prix winner Simon Delestre, makes the shouts of the packed venue echo in my ears again. I can feel the beat of 1,000 feet pounding the stands in celebration. I can hear the whir of about 50 camera shutters as the press swarm into the warmup arena and surround the winning pair after a 13-horse jump off.
These sensations are commonplace at horse shows in Europe but they will never get old to American ears. In addition to the panache that Hermès Sellier brings to this event year after year, the simple popularity of show jumping in France makes grand prix classes like this a major sporting event.
And now, we will miss this excellent event for a couple of seasons. The Grand Palais, a historical venue that has stood sentry on the River Siene within shouting distance of the Eiffel Tower, will close down for several years while a renovation project takes place. It made this year’s event that much more special, for everyone in attendance.
Each year the group who organizes Le Saut Hermès must say a special prayer that the cards fall into place for one of their partner riders to win the finale Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. It doesn’t always happen, but on Sunday, March 24, that’s exactly how the day unfolded. A big jump off after a challenging Round 1 meant that there were no guarantees, and for Frenchman Simon Delestre, who won this very same grand prix one year ago, it almost seemed too much to hope for that he might lead the victory gallop again.
Simon Delestre is sponsored by Hermès, which means that he was wearing his Hermès helmet, holding Hermès reins, sitting in a Hermès saddle. . . you get the picture. His horse is even named Hermès Ryan. And all that Hermès good karma worked in his favor when he jumped clear and fastest in the jump off. Topped by a freshly earned orange Hermès cooler, Simon circled the arena while the audience cheered him on.
And the energy! Did I mention it? Be sure to make yourself a note for March of 2024, when this surreal show returns to Paris. You’ve got to feel it for yourself, but until then, enjoy the pictures!