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February 21, 2008

Free Rein With: Guilherme Jorge

In the 15 years since Guilherme Jorge started designing courses full time, he’s become one of the most sought-after course designers in the world. Jorge boasts an impressive resume that includes setting courses at the 2005 and 2007 FEI World Cup Show Jumping Finals, the 2007 Pan American Games (Brazil) and countless international competitions throughout the Americas and Europe. His upcoming assignments include designing for the Mexican Olympic Show Jumping Trials, the HITS Thermal Desert Circuit Championship (Calif.) and the Spruce Meadows National (Alta.). Jorge took time out from Brazil’s famous Carnaval to talk to the Chronicle about his thoughts on course design, family and show jumping.

Name:
Guilherme Jorge                
Home Base: Campinas, Brazil                          
Age: 40

If you hadn’t become a professional course designer, where would you be right now?
I graduated as a veterinarian and practiced as an equine vet for seven years before I became a course designer, so I’d probably be a vet.

Given the chance, which horse would you like to take a turn on?
For sure Baloubet du Rouet [Rodrigo Pessoa’s three-time World Cup-winning partner] looks like an amazing horse. And I think that the horse from the Netherlands, [Albert Zoer’s] Oki Doki is amazing. I don’t know if I’ll be able to ride him, but he’s a very, very nice horse.

What’s the biggest mistake that a rider can make when riding one of your courses?
I try to build a course that requires the horse to be in total control and the rider to be completely focused. I try to have all the jumps connected, even if they’re not in a line. So a rider would have to pay for losing concentration.

What is your drink of choice?
Beer.

What is your biggest self-indulgence?
Declining a horse show in order to stay with my family at home. I can’t afford to do it often, but I’ve been able to plan my calendar very carefully so I’m not away from home for more than three weeks.  

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
My daughter, Marina. She’ll turn 4 next month.

What one item from your wardrobe personifies you?
A pair of jeans. Whenever I’m not at a show that demands a tie or jacket or black tie like Olympia [The London International Horse Show] or Toronto [The Royal Winter Fair, Ont.] I wear jeans and a nice shirt. I have no problem wearing whatever they tell me to, but if it was up to me I’d be in jeans.

What is the best feeling in the world?
Enjoying what you do every day.

What was the last book you read?
Next by Michael Crichton.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the world today?
The gap between the rich and the poor generates a lot of problems worldwide. Shrinking that gap would make the world a much better place.

What three things are most likely to be in your refrigerator at all times?
Cheese and yogurt for my daughter, and beer for me.

What do you find the most ridiculous part of the horse world?
People abusing their horses.

What is your favorite competition venue?
If I had to pick just one, I’d have to say Spruce Meadows.

What’s the best part of your job?
Being able to be involved at the top level of the sport, the sport I started in as a rider 30 years ago. 

What was the best compliment you ever received?
The best compliment for me is watching a horse improve during a show. So whenever a rider says that his or her horse finished the show better than they started—especially if he or she wasn’t in the ribbons—I feel like I’ve done a good job.

What characteristic do you value most in a horse?
I like a horse who is focused and tries hard every time.

In a human?
Truthfulness.

Who do you think is the biggest star coming up the show jumping ranks today?
It entirely depends on who has the best horses. There are plenty of really good young riders who just don’t have a great string of horses.

In retrospect, what’s the best decision that you’ve ever made?
Focusing on course design when I could have continued as a vet. I didn’t realize how it would affect my life, traveling so much, but I’d found a way to stay at the top of the sport.

Where will you be in 10 years?
I hope to be managing a horse show facility 20 minutes from home and still travel to 15 shows a year to keep doing course design.

 
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