At the end of this post three things should be obvious:
- Why retail giant H&M decided to dip its toe into equestrian sponsorship.
- That dressage and show jumping are not so different.
- Why IFLHorses really needs to hire a photographer.
I was surprised when I heard that H&M was sponsoring a couple of riders from Belgium – a duo often referred to as the Philippaerts twins. I knew that name, given that it is a family who has been in equestrian sport for quite a long time now, but I wasn’t familiar with the younger generation, Nicola and Olivier. But then I had a chance to meet them when I traveled with a student of mine to The Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Ontario, Canada last November. Any mystery as to why H&M would want to sponsor these particular equestrians was cleared up when I found myself staring up at two tall young men with tousled hair and the kind of big brown eyes usually seen on soap operas.
After, we watched the twins school their horses in the warm-up ring while I fumbled with the fancy-pants camera I had borrowed to take some photos. I had underestimated how complicated this camera would be, being used to the point-and-shoot, idiot-proof type. I gave up and decided to use my phone. One of the twins (I’m not sure who is who), was walking his horse, talking to another rider during his walk warm-up. I pointed my phone at him as he walked by and I was shocked when he leaned down in front of the other rider and flashed a toothpaste commercial smile at me. What a great photo that would have been! But alas my big fat thumb was over the lens so you can only see part of a rider’s leg and none of the chiseled features of the young man smiling at me.
After the walk warm-up, my student and I watched him school half pass, leg yield, haunches-in, shoulder-in, medium and collected counter, and flying changes. It was impressive. If you think about it, there is no real difference between a dressage rider having to lengthen the canter and then collect at the end of a diagonal and a jumper rider having to collect to a tall, skinny vertical and lengthen to a wide oxer. The difference is just a matter of degrees….and judging. Show jumpers have gravity as their judge, while dressage riders have humans in blazers and sensible shoes.
After he was finished and had left the ring, we walked back through the barn. When we saw him holding his horse talking to his groom, my student suddenly went rogue. She walked up to him and chatted for a bit before coming back.
“What on earth did you say to him?” I asked.
“I said my dressage coach was impressed with his schooling.”
“Oh good Lord.”
I was mortified.
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Thank you very much. I hope it works.'”
And judging by your show record thus far, Mr. Philippaerts, I would say it is working indeed.