These days, many thousands more of us have attended a Longines Masters CSI5* international show jumping event by EEM in Europe, Asia or America, than have visited a stable by the name of Ecurie d’Ecaussinnes.
But to truly understand one, is to see the other, and I was able to put the pieces together in the rolling country outside of Brussels, Belgium.
Twenty years ago, Christophe Ammeuw and his wife, Fernanda formed their horse dealing and training business at a modest stables at the top of a hill near the Belgian town of Ecaussinnes. Their concentration on developing and breeding top level horses was a successful one from the outset, and provided the foundation in the horse world for what would come next.
“I have built everything from scratch, and crafted my vision one step at a time,” Christophe says. “Travelling is part of my life and it is not a coincidence if our signature is ‘We Ride the World’ as I spend most of my life abroad. But Ecaussinnes is the only place I call home.”
As anyone who knows Christophe can attest, his visionary spirit is constantly tugging him toward that next step. From 2004-2010, he organized his first horse shows, the Audi Brussel Masters. In 2009, the first Paris Masters was born, setting his show management company EEM on its current path.
“Everything comes from here,” Fernanda says. “Our passion is here, we live it every day.”
It all started, all of it, at Ecurie d’Ecaussinnes. The stable is the kind of place that grew by steps, with the original barn added to block by block. A grass/sand arena at the top of the property is dotted with Longines Masters jump standards, a subtle indication of the property owners’ pursuits. Lucy Davis has rented one of the original barns as her summer base. The Ammeuws live next to the original barn in a nice house that overlooks the newest addition—totally modern barns built just four years ago. Not only is it also full for the summer, with Eric Lamaze’s Torrey Pines program, are based it is the full-time global headquarters of EEM.
For the EEM staff, their everyday office is far from a corporate business building. Instead, their lounge looks out across a beautiful indoor arena, and during the summer months seeing Lamaze’s Olympic medal winning partner Fine Lady out the window is a normal sight.
If you didn’t know what you were looking for, it might be possible to overlook this stables as any normal operation—if it weren’t for the art, that is. Dramatic sculptures dot the landscape of the facility, indicating another of the Ammeuws’ passions, and one that was, much like the stables, added to piece by piece. A stone alligator encased in wire mesh hides next to identical ponds next to the new outdoor arena. A groom hand grazes a horse next to a larger than life, colorful equine statue placed in the center of a field. I spot the cubist style rearing horse, familiar from the Longines Masters Series. All throughout the property, its impossible not to stop and take in statues of all kinds, including a nearly life-size elephant at the top of the drive.
Again, many of you will know Fernanda Ammeuw, who is nearly always in the prizegiving photos at all three editions of the Longines Masters Series. But today, she is a horsewoman through and through as she comes out of the house bundled up in a scarf and jacket, eager to show why not only the operations, but the passion of the Masters are here.
Fernanda welcomes students to Ecaussinnes from around the world who wish to step up their level. The Ecaussinnes Academy offers a totally custom, popular program, with World Top Coaches such Jos Kumps, and international elite riders Scott Brash, Gregory Wathelet, Maikel Van Der Vleuten and Philippe Rozier.
Whether a rider wants to come over to lease a horse and ride for a week, or stay for several months and compete, she finds great joy in making it happen.
As the success of the Longines Masters is in great part due to the details, so it is at Ecaussinnes, where small details add up to a beautiful home base for many different pursuits.