French grand prix show jumper, Kevin Staut, holds the No. 1 spot on the Fédération Equestre Internationale Rolex Rankings and has been the owner of that position since July 2010.
The 30-year-old rode for his country at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games aboard Silvana, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Corland—Donate, Widor), and helped bring home team silver.
He credits his mother, Françoise, for his start in horses. Staut taught himself the basics on her retired horse Apollon, and soon enough he got his first pony, Sauvageon, at age 10.
Staut, who was born near Versailles, France, burst onto the scene in 1995 when he was named French junior champion at Le Touquet. As a young rider, he was a member of the gold medal-winning Young Riders team at the 2000 European Championships in Hartpury, England.
Growing as a professional, Staut trained with grand prix show jumper Michel Hécart, Thierry Pomel, the individual and team silver medal winner at the 1998 World Equestrian Games in Rome and French national coach, Gilles Bertran de Balanda.
In 2007, he rode on his first Nations Cup team; in 2008, he won with the French team in Zagreb (Croatia) at the Nation’s Cup CSIO****. After years of respectable grand prix performances, Staut and the Selle Français stallion, Kraque Boom claimed the Alltech FEI European Jumping Championships (England) in 2009.
Staut is based near Brussels, Belgium, at Ecuries d’Ecaussinnes with the sponsorship of Xavier Marie’s Haras de Hus (Nantes, France), a privately owned stud farm that concentrates on the production of high performance dressage and show jump horses. A stellar 2010 season with Haras de Hus horses catapulted him into the top spot in the Rolex rankings. Only weeks before the World Cup Final in Leipzig, Staut agreed to answer some questions for the Chronicle.
Q. How does it feel to be No. 1 in the Rolex FEI rankings? You’ve seen eight months at the top, and it has been since 1992 that a French rider held that spot.
A. It’s really nice—motivating and gratifying as well, for myself and all the French team. But at the same time, it’s not my only priority.
Q. Tell me a little bit about your experience in Lexington, Ky., for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
A. Well, the first day was a catastrophe, and I lost all hope for an individual medal. On the other hand, it gave me great satisfaction to have contributed to our team silver medal, which was the result of a very unified and motivated group effort. Watch their team final round at WEG.
Q. How is Silvana?
A. She’s in top form. Our goal is the Rolex FEI World Cup Final in Leipzig (April 27-May 1).
Q. What goals do you have for the 2011 competitive season?
A. After the World Cup Finals, it’s the European Championships in Madrid in September and also the Super League.
Q. Where is your favorite place to show?
A. For outdoor showing, Aachen (Germany), but for indoor [showing], it’s the Paris Gucci Masters (France).
Q. For several years, the French team hasn’t seen a lot of success. What explanation can you offer for the temporary decline? To what (or to whom) do you contribute the recent success of your national team?
A. For a few years, many of the riders were concentrating on their own personal careers. So, they had lost the team spirit despite the very good results of French individual riders. Gilles de Balanda was the trigger for the revival of the French team. From 2008 he has restored faith in this team, and since Lawrence Elias and Henk Nooren also work in this way, you can feel the involvement of all the French riders in the results of Team France.
Q. What is an ideal horse for you?
A. A respectful horse with a good mind and the desire to do well.
Q. You are featured in an advertisement for Gucci. How did that come about? Are you a fan of fashion?
A. The advertisement I did for Gucci helped me to become better known to the public. It was quite fun, but it’s not my job, so for the time, that is it for my ads with Gucci. I do like fashion, and I’m interested in the new collections of the designers, but I don’t have a favorite.
Q. If you weren’t a professional show jump rider, what would you have been?
A. A Formula 1 racecar driver.
Q. What type of saddle do you prefer?
A. CWD. I have a great partnership with them, and they really listen to my suggestions about the improving the line.
Q. What is a typical day for you when you aren’t on the road?
A. I work my horses from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then I see to things that need to be done around the barn and my business for the rest of the day.
Q. What motivates you? What do you strive to achieve?
A. I am motivated by my passion for horses and my competitive nature; my desire to improve.
In a 2010 interview for the FEI, Staut said, “I hope the title I won at the European Championships in Windsor last year (2009) will not be my last, and I would like to earn the No. 1 spot in the Rolex World Rankings some day, but for me in the end it’s not all about results. What I want more than anything is to improve the way I ride so that my style is better and lighter. As a horseman I want to be as good as I can possibly be, that is my greatest ambition.”
Q. You have said that your mother was responsible for introducing you to a life with horses. Are you close to her?
A. Oh yes, yes. I really love my mother. I am really close to all of my family in general.
Q. In general, do you take vacations? If so, what is your top vacation spot?
A. The horse shows are my vacation! Luckily, I have the chance to see some of the most beautiful cities in the world while traveling to competitions.
Q. Do you have an upcoming young horse who shows a lot of promise?
A. Banda de Hus is for the moment the upcoming star of all the young horses at Haras de Hus.
Q. With which horse do you think you have the best chance of going to the 2012 Olympic Games in London?
A. It will be a play-off between Silvana de Hus, Kraque Boom, Le Prestige St Lois de Hus or Banda de Hus.
Q. How would you sum up your system of training horses?
A. I do a lot work on the flat and gymnastic work over small fences at home to not ask the horses for a lot of effort in between competitions. And most importantly, I spend a lot of time with my horses.
The Chronicle will have reporters on the scene in Germany. Coverage on www.chronofhorse.com begins on Thursday, April 28.