Don’t count out the veteran. He’s got a nice young horse and plenty of determination.
Hugo Simon might be 65, but he certainly hasn’t slowed down at all.
Speed was going to be the key when 17 riders qualified for the jump-off in the Euro Mercedes Wiesenthal Grand Prix at the Vienna CSI, Nov. 10-13 in Vienna, Austria.
Among those to jump off were the 2007 FEI World Cup Final winners Beat Mändli with Ideo du Thot and the current leaders and title defenders of the Riders Tour, local hero Thomas Frühmann and The Sixth Sense.
But Simon proved up to the challenge. As the 11th starter in the jump-off, he put in a clean round in 32.36 seconds.
He’s only been riding Ukinda, a 10-year-old, Belgian mare by Emilion, for four months. And the day before, he’d been less successful with her and found himself in the sand of the arena.
“I wanted to do just a practice round and did not give very clear aids,” Simon said. “So Ukinda said, ‘If you do not tell me you want to jump, I do not want to jump either.’ I must be very careful since she reacts very easily to the half-halts. But, we have still to get more used to each other.”
But the next night they were in perfect sync and secured victory with a furious jump-off round, besting Mändli by fractions of a second.
“I took one stride less than Beat to the last fence. The mare has a big stride and is very fast. I have lost some classes at the last fence, but I have also won some, like this one,” Simon said.
With a nice young mare like Ukinda, Simon isn’t thinking about retirement.
“As long as I have fun competing, I will continue to do so. Finally, I have just built up two young horses, with which I can also participate successfully in top international shows,” he said.
“I have slowed down my other professional activities, so I have more time for riding now. But, I have to work harder now to be successful. I must invest more time in riding and working with the horses. Each morning I go swimming at 6 o’clock to keep me fit,” he added.
Simon won three FEI World Cup Finals (1979, ’96 and ’97) and won silver with the Austrian team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
After the retirement of his legendary mount E.T. FRH, in 2004, Simon didn’t really intend to participate in any international championships, but he might change his mind.
“I want to ride the shows I like to ride and do not want to be forced to ride in any particular show under pressure. But, if I have a world-class mount, maybe I would again compete in the Olympic Games. Let’s see how Ukinda develops over the indoor season.
And, maybe the sponsor Simon will buy the rider Hugo another top mount,” he added with a wink.
Frühmann won the grand prix at Vienna in 1989, ’90 and ’91 with his famous ride Grandeur. But Vienna-born Frühmann tried just a bit too hard to win this year on The Sixth Sense. In the jump-off, he
took the turn to the second-to-last fence too short, so that The Sixth Sense had no chance to jump and refused. Frühmann decided to retire.