Springtime in Paris is no better realized for an equestrian than under the glass-domed roof of the Grand Palais for three days in April. The combination of a structure that was designed to take one’s breath away, with the best of equestrian show jumping competition is enough to leave one starry eyed and just that – breathless.
When the Hermès atelier chose to host an event that would speak to its quintessential history as a brand for equestrians, they looked to the sport of show jumping for inspiration. After all, an Hermès jumping saddle was one of the foundation products that established the fashion house early in the 19th century, and it was from there that Hermès began to serve the equestrian market in earnest.
Within the last six years, Hermès has diligently refocused on those roots, both with the expansion of their equestrian line, and the first Saut Hermès show in 2009. Since then, Saut Hermès has become a standout event for both the brand, which uses the week to showcase its values, and for riders, to whom placing at Saut Hermès is a valued accomplishment.
For an indoor, single arena horse show, the weather plays an important part, both in shadows on the jumps, and in the dramatic atmosphere. Shifting daylight streams in through the jaw-dropping glass roof, creating a sense of movement and constant shadow play on the arena floor hundreds of feet below. Picturesque doesn’t begin to describe it.
A total of 99 riders attended the 2015 Saut Hermès CSI5*, including 25 of the world’s Longines FEI ranked world top 30. An invitation to compete at “Le Saut” is hard to come by and coveted, with just three classes per day on the schedule. An Under-25 division allowed a select group of up and coming riders to compete at the 1.40m/1.40m level, while the CSI5* classes were well up to international standard.
Shetland pony races and an equestrian performance that saw loose horses perform a host of maneuvers all played into the excitement of the €400,000 Grand Prix Hermès CSI5* finale class. 2014 winner Marcus Ehning and his Cornado were among the likely favorites to win, but it was hard to choose one rider who had a better chance over the other. Ireland’s Bertram Allen, who won the opening Prix Hermès Sellier 1.50m qualifier on Friday with Romanov, freshly-crowned World No. 1 Daniel Deusser of Germany, and just-named 2015 American Invitational champion Scott Brash contributed to the heavyweight lineup of 39 riders on the start list.
The French appreciate show jumping as much if not more than other European countries, and they showed their enthusiasm by packing into the Grand Palais. 2012 Olympic champion Steve Guerdat mentioned that not even he could procure extra tickets for friends who wished to come to the grand prix.
The Culmination of Success
But in the end, the star power fell short and as if scripted, an Hermès Partner Rider rose to the top of order to claim victory, in what was his first career CSI5* win. Romain Duget, a 35-year-old native Frenchman who now represents Switzerland, completed one of just eight clear first rounds. Upon landing from the final fence, he dipped his head and reached up with a single finger pointed in the air: number one.
He partnered with Quorida de Treho, an 11-year-old chestnut mare (Kannan x Dalais) that he bought as a nine year old. They were up against Ehning, newcomer Amy Graham, Guerdat and others in the jumpoff, but rose to the top with a time that proved to be unbeatable.
When Duget rode back into the arena for the victory ceremony, he reached to his chin and unclipped his Hermès helmet. His horse wore a Hermès bridle and saddle. He himself wore Hermès riding clothes. As he held his helmet aloft to acknowledge the crowd, here in this house of Hermès, the culmination of not only his own, but of the brand’s success was reflected in that gesture.
The dedication, the hours spent to prepare, and the passion for detail to create the best result are values that are recognized and shared by Hermès. And in that moment under the Grand Palais, we were all equestrians, celebrating the successful realization of a perfect day.