Hats off to Harrie Smolders: How the 2017 Champion Became an LGCT Millionaire

Harrie Smolders at LGCT Paris 2017. Ph. ©Erin Gilmore for NF

With his tall build and quiet, measured way of calculating a course, Harrie Smolders made a steady march of the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour season, not always headlining, but always, always staying within striking distance.

In this way, the 37-year-old Dutch rider became the champion of the world’s richest show jumping series, making each performance count and every result add up. He is the first rider to earn enough ranking points to lock in the overall championship title before the final leg even took place; his win became official at LGCT Rome, the 14 leg of the series, in September.

Consistency counts over the 15 stages of the LGCT, and in 2017, Smolders competed in 14 out of the 15 LGCT legs (missing just Monaco.) He earned LGCT ranking points in 13 of those legs. His reward?

A total in season earned prize money of €805,236.00. And that is before his bonus for being the LGCT Champion was added on. With that sum of €294,500.00, Smolders’ take home pay on the LGCT circuit this year is a whopping €1,099,736.00.

Smolders’ least profitable LGCT stop was Mexico City, where he earned just €1,890, and his most profitable show was Chantilly, where he won €99,000 for 1st place in the LGCT Grand Prix. During the 12 other weekends he spent on the LGCT circuit, he averaged a take home pay of €55,000 per show.

The LGCT receives its fair share of criticism for feeding into the elitism culture in show jumping, but if you can get in the door as a hardworking professional rider, the potential rewards are life changing. Smolders, a longtime rider for Axel Verlooy’s EuroHorse in Belgium, is humble and quick to acknowledge that the victory was not his alone.

Emerald N.O.P., one of Smolders top mounts. Ph. ©Erin Gilmore for NF

“This clarifies that it’s not just the riding skills you require, you need a lot more these days — a whole team around you, enough horsepower, good management and horsemanship, so it all comes together,” Smolders commented. “With 15 different shows and different circumstances, you cannot do it alone, so this is a success for my whole team.”

That team, of course, also includes the most essential partner: the horse. Smolders’ string of horses put in their own sweat equity and many thousands of air miles throughout the year, and his two top horses shouldered the burden equally:

The 13-year-old Zangersheide stallion Don VHP (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire) competed in six LGCT legs (Shanghai, Madrid, Hamburg, Paris, Rome, Doha.)

The 13-year-old BWP stallion Emerald N.O.P. (Diamant de Semilly x Carthago Z) also competed in six LGCT legs (Mexico City, Miami Beach, Cannes, Chantilly, London, Valkenswaard.)

Smolders campaigned his second string horses heavily as well, with the 12-year-old Holsteiner stallion Capital Colnardo (Colman x Coronado) competing in nine LGCT legs, and 13-year-old KWPN gelding Zinius (Nabab de Reve x Kannan) jumping on eight LGCT legs. Other horses that Smolders competed on the 2017 LGCT included Cas 2, Corrada, and Hos D’O.

It all added up and—side benefit? The Longines FEI ranking points that Smolders earned on the LGCT circuit helped him rise to No. 6 in the world on the ranking list. Hats off to you, Harrie, for none of it comes easy.

Smolders victory gallops as the 2017 LGCT Series Champion in Doha, Qatar, on November 11, 2017. Ph. ©Stefano Grasso/LGCT

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