Inside the Rolex Grand Slam: Live Contender Interview with Daniel Deusser

Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM. Photo by Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof

Edited Press Release

After nearly two years of waiting, the highly anticipated CHI Geneva returns from 9-12 December, representing the fourth and final Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the year. The show will host an impressive number of world-class horse and rider combinations, including all of the current top 10-ranked riders, 17 of the current top 20, as well as featuring seven Rolex Testimonees. The show will celebrate its 60th edition, as well as the 20th anniversary of the IJRC Rolex Top 10 Final. As ever, CHI Geneva will be a truly international affair, with those riders competing representing 16 nations, and the home nation boasting a squad of 19.

After his remarkable maiden victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen in September, Live Contender and current world number two, Daniel Deusser has confirmed his talented mare Killer Queen VDM will travel to the Swiss capital in his quest to continue his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey. CHI Geneva, the pinnacle of the international indoor show jumping calendar for top riders, will once again provide one of the toughest tests in the sport when it culminates with the Rolex Grand Prix, which requires the highest level of talent and horsemanship in order to be crowned champion.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

Current world number one, Peder Fredricson from Sweden, looks incredibly competitive and the one to watch heading into the final Major of the year. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Team champion has strength in depth in his talented team of horses, and will be the rider to beat in the Geneva Arena in front of the Palexpo’s knowledgeable crowds.

Fredricson’s compatriot, Henrik von Eckermann, played an integral role in Sweden’s Olympic success in Japan this summer. Currently ranked number two in the world, von Eckermann, who recently won the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona aboard his trusted partner, King Edward, will be aiming to add a Major win at CHI Geneva to his superb year.

Reigning Olympic Individual gold medallist, Ben Maher, will take his magnificently gifted gelding, Explosion W, to CHI Geneva. Winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at Royal Windsor Horse Show in May this year, the Briton will be looking to round off an exceptional 12 months with a win at 2021’s final Rolex Grand Slam Major

The first and only rider to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, British rider Scott Brash will be looking to reclaim his CHI Geneva Rolex Grand Prix crown. Acutely aware of the intricacies and nuances required to win a Major, Brash will be sure bring his top horses to CHI Geneva in his bid to once againget his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey underway.

One of the home crowd’s favourites, and winner of the last edition of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva in 2019, Rolex Testimonee Martin Fuchs will be looking to retain his title aboard his European Championships Team gold and Individual silver medal-winning partner, Leone Jei. The striking grey looks to have the innate talent and jumping abilities required to succeed in this challenging test.

Fans will also be delighted to welcome back fellow Swiss Rolex Testimonee and Fuchs’ teammate , Steve Guerdat. After his spectacular win in this year’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in September aboard Venard de Cerisy, Guerdat will be looking to claim his second Major of the 2021 season.

Kent Farrington, a previous Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final winner and Rolex Grand Prix winner in 2017 at CHI Geneva, knows what it takes to win in this prestigious indoor arena and will be looking to continue his success at the venue. The American Rolex Testimonee will be joined by fellow compatriots Laura Kraut and Jessica Springsteen, who have both had numerous successes this year including a Team win in the Nations Cup at the CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival.

Hear from Deusser

What have you been up to since winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen in September?

I was very busy the first couple weeks after winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. It is something very special to win and very different to winning another Grand Prix. A lot of people wanted to do interviews and photo shoots with me; I really enjoyed the whole experience. But unfortunately, the horses don’t know that I have won one of the best Grands Prix in the world, so we got back to reality quite quickly.

As a German, to win at CHIO Aachen was amazing. Aachen is so special to me, and the crowd is fully supporting you. When you come into the arena it is very loud, but the moment the bell goes, it is silent in the stadium – it is a very special feeling. 

You’re the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender – what’s your strategy building up to CHI Geneva?

I am definitely taking Killer Queen VDM to compete in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. She is my best horse at the moment; however, I would not say she is a traditional indoor season horse. But she jumped in the Grand Prix at CHI Geneva two years ago, so she knows the arena. At the beginning of the week of CHI Geneva I will jump her in a class and see how she feels and decide whether she needs to jump in a bigger class before the Rolex Grand Prix. I will make my decisions according to how she feels in the build-up the class.

Which other horses will you take to CHI Geneva, and which of your young horses are you really excited about?

I have not fully decided yet, Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z had a bit of time off during the summer, as he was injured, but he came back for a couple of shows. He did not jump in the biggest classes over the summer, so I will take him to a show this weekend and see how he feels in a bigger class and then decide whether to take him to Geneva. He will either go as my second or third horse, I will see after this week.

I have two really nice young horses – they are both very exciting prospects for the future. One is a nine-year-old, called Mr. Jones [Scuderia 1918 Mr. Jones], we bought him two years ago as a seven-year-old. We have very big hopes for him for the next couple of years. However, due to COVID-19, he lost a year of experience, as he did not do very many shows, so he is a very young nine-year-old. The second horse is called In Time and I have never actually taken this horse to a show myself. One of our Stephex riders has competed him in the young horse classes, he is only eight but I think I might take him to Geneva. I would like to get some experience on him and get to learn more about each other. I think he has a lot of potential.

The arena at CHI Geneva is quite different to CHIO Aachen, how do you prepare for this?

I haven’t changed anything specifically, but of course coming into the indoor season we train different distances and lines than for the outdoor season. For example, in the indoor season you see a lot of three- or four-stride distances, which outdoor you hardly ever see in a big ring like Aachen, for example. That is something you have to train, but in general most of our horses are well educated and old enough with good experience that you do that one or two times before the indoor season and that is enough. It is more of a fitness programme and they only see the big fences during the shows.

You have a great team behind you, how important is that in order to achieve great success?

Without a good team you cannot be successful, you need a good team that travels with you, one that looks after the horses at home and in the office. To have success when I am travelling almost every weekend, you need to have a big team of people and horses around you and they all need to fit together and work together. The sport is now so complicated and close together, and I travel so much that my team at home is just as important as my athlete in the saddle.

Sean Lynch is my main groom and has worked for me for around seven years. I trust him one hundred per cent, which is very important when he is travelling with our top horses. He does everything with the horses, and he is a very important person in my career. My success would be impossible without him. He loves the horses, it can be a 24-hour job, if something happens to one of them, he is there for them and he is so dedicated to them.

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

As the Live Contender, I hope that I win the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva and then I can aim to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Even if I do not win in Geneva, I will still aim to win a Rolex Grand Prix next year. Apart from Scott [Brash], no one has won two or three in a row, so it is definitely a goal for the next couple years.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

Of course, winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen was a goal that I had for many years, really ever since I was a child. Very close to that success I have to put winning the World Cup Final with my former horse Cornet d’Amour. He was a horse that brought me on to the international stage, and I had my first experiences of championships and success. It is a moment that I put at the same level as winning the Rolex Grand Prix.

Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting ‘Majors’ do you love watching, and which is your favourite and why?

I am a very sporty person, so I love to watch any sport. My three favourites apart from show jumping are tennis, soccer, and Formula One. It is very difficult for me to choose just one sport that I love to watch the most. I don’t really have a favourite football team, but a couple of years ago my friend got me really into Borussia Dortmund. I went to see them a couple of times when they were playing in the Champions League. The atmosphere there is incredible, and it is a great sport.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career? Is there one rider you idolise?

When I was a child and I went to the big shows to watch the world’s best show jumpers, there were only two combinations that I really loved to watch. One was John Whitaker and Milton on the other was Franke Sloothaak and Walzerkönig. I was very lucky a couple of years later that I got the opportunity to work for Franke Sloothaak for four and a half years and I’m still in contact with him. Even though he lives far away from me, he is still a major support to me and gives me advice over the phone. He watches all of my rounds, and I must admit he is a huge part to my success.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

There is just something in me that likes to go a step further and likes to win. As show jumpers, we go to a lot of shows, and there are usually a lot of competitors in the classes, with only ever one winner. So, you do not win all the time, being second or third is not a drama, but when you don’t win you will always re-live the round and wonder what you could have done better. Even though you don’t always win, the motivation on a Monday morning is always there. I learn from what could have gone better, and I see each show as more experience, so that when I go to the next show I will do better.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

First of all, you need experience. You cannot compete at your best when you are young, you must grow up and learn from your experiences. I think the most important thing is patience. This was something that I learnt from Franke [Sloothaak]. He was very quiet and cool on the horse, even if the horse had been very difficult during the week, and he was very patient with it and they always jumped well in the shows. If you are too young and too motivated it can be very difficult. I think it is very important to just be patient and learn from your mistakes in the past. You need to get the basics right, both for yourself as rider and your horse, in order to be successful.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you take with you?

If I leave my house without my phone, my watch and my wallet I feel very empty – so I would have to say those three items.