Australian show jumper Edwina Alexander is preparing for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and she’s agreed to a series of interviews and updates. Read about how her experiences on the Global Champions Tour and her thoughts on this year’s WEG.
Q. How have the past few months gone?
A. Cevo Itot du Château has recovered well from his slight injury, and we have both been very busy over the last couple of months on the Global Champions Tour and have competed in Cannes, France, (where I won with Itot, and was the only rider with three clear rounds), Monte Carlo, Monaco, Estoril, Portugal, and Chantilly, France. In Chantilly I came third and was beaten by two ladies—Laura Kraut of the United States and Pénélope Leprevost of France. He really feels back to his normal self, which is great, and he’s been jumping extremely well.
I went to the Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco where we stayed with some friends and had a spectacular view as the cars came out of the tunnel. It was great to see a fellow Aussie (Mark Webber) win, although it was disappointing that the National Anthem was played a day late and not in Hamburg!
After the GCT round in Turin, Italy, I went to Wiesbaden in Germany where I had a really good show. On the first day I was second with Socrates (Cevo Socrates), and my young horse, Kisby (he’s an 8-year-old), was second in the young horses. The following day I won the final of the youngster tour, and Socrates was fourth in one of the other classes. Zorro rode in the grand prix and he was clear, but he just got a little bit green in the jump-off and he had a couple down, which was a shame.
Q. What are your plans coming up to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games?
A. Itot will have a month’s break after finishing up the GCT. He feels in really great shape and has been jumping well.
I’ve received an email from my Federation (Equestrian Australia) confirming that I am on the team for the WEG, and they also confirmed that if I have another horse that qualifies, then I am able to take it as well. I’m pretty set up for WEG, and I don’t really want to take another horse if it’s not 100 percent ready.
I recently sold four of my horses, including two that had qualified for WEG. On the back of those sales I just received a new 8-year-old (Ciske Van Overis) that has already qualified; she was seventh in the Grand Prix in Hamburg, Germany, with Guy Williams, and fifth with me in La Coruña, Spain. It’s not my plan to take her to WEG, but she will be a back-up in the meantime while Itot is doing his preparations.
Overall, I’m looking forward to going to WEG, and I fully appreciate how tough a competition it is. I personally think that WEG is the most difficult championship that we have in comparison to the Olympics, as I feel that it takes a lot more out of the horse.
Q. Tell us about the 2006 WEG In Aachen.
A. I have some fond memories of the World Equestrian Games in Aachen in 2006, above all finishing in the top four. My goal then was to get into the top 25, so I thought I did pretty well to get to that point. My Federation is a very strong supporter of whichever program and direction I choose, but at the same time I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. Everyone has their aim and their goal, so I’ll try to do my best this year, and my goal is to finish in the top four again.
It’s very important to create a good program for your horse afterwards as the championships take a lot out of them; they have to be very fit as we found out after the last WEG in Aachen.
Q. What up-and-coming horses do you have?
A. I was able to concentrate on some younger horses while Itot had some time off. Kisby has stood out from the rest and has been very impressive; I’ve had her for four shows, and she’s only had one fence down overall, and in every class that I’ve had her in she’s been placed—I’m very happy with that horse. I don’t know if she’ll ever be as good as Itot, but she’ll definitely be a very good second horse. We’ve both clicked really fast, and it seems to be a good fit.
I think Ciske Van Overis could be a very interesting new horse for me. She was in Cannes with me, and I also took her to a small three-star show in San Remo, Italy, so all-in-all a great new addition to the team.
Q. Tell us about your behind-the-scenes team.
A. Getting my horses to and from shows and deciding which ones need to go to which show is very much down to Jan Tops and I, and it can be quite an episode!
We’ve got a permanent full-time vet based in Holland who will check all of the horses before they travel on to shows, or before they travel back to Stal Tops in Holland. We have an osteopath, but he is required only when there is an urgent need for him, and he’s based in Switzerland.
I have one groom who is always with Itot and another groom who travels around and does bits and pieces with the rest of the horses. Finally, I have a third groom at Stal Tops who will look after my other horses while I am away travelling, which is a lot of the time!
Q. What is the importance of the Rolex Rankings in your schedule?
A. I’ve been concentrating on spacing out my time and have been resting whenever possible over the last couple of months, making sure that I don’t do too much. The real aim has been to focus on the big competitions, but to get results we have to pay special attention to the horses. We have to be sure that they get enough electrolytes and don’t get dehydrated, which is all too easy in the heat. It’s a balancing act of not doing too much, but enough!
It’s very important for me to get enough good results to stay in the top 10 of the Rolex Rankings during the month of August as that’s when the decisions are made with regards to pre-qualifications for the Rolex FEI World Cup Series, so my focus, apart from on the WEG, is going to be very much on that.
Q. How do you feel about traveling to the United States for the WEG?
A. My horses are used to travelling and are incredibly fit, so I don’t see this being a problem. They are booked to go and will arrive in Kentucky a week before the competition starts, which I think is plenty of time for them to acclimatize. The travelling aspect won’t be a problem, and funnily enough it will actually involve less travelling than if they were to go to somewhere like Portugal, within Europe.
Q. What do you think of Australia’s WEG chances?
A. I think Australia has a pretty good team and that this year is absolutely our strongest ever; we have two other strong riders (Chris Chugg and James Patterson Robinson) and their horses, and the fourth partnership will be selected following competitions in Hachenburg, Germany, and Paderborn, Germany.
I would like to think that realistically we could finish in the first five, and of course a medal would be fantastic. However, for me it is difficult to think of WEG as a team competition. I have to focus on myself, and I know that might sound a little bit selfish but that’s how it is, and how it’s been since I’ve been competing in Europe, especially over the last five or six years.
Edwina Alexander, 36, left Australia for Belgium in 1998 with the goal of becoming a top show jumper. She competed at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain, in 2002 and rose to prominence in 2006 when she finished fourth aboard Isovlas Pialotta against the best horses and riders in the world at the WEG in Aachen, Germany. She placed ninth at the 2008 Olympic Games. She is currently based at Jan Tops’ Staltops in Valkenswaard, the Netherlands. She is a friend of Rolex and will continue to send updates on her journey to the WEG.