When your goal is to ride at the highest level of equestrian sport, it’s wise to align yourself with those who have earned the sport’s highest accolades. For young Canadian show jumping rider Wesley Newlands, that has meant drawing on the talent and expertise of two former FEI World Cup champions – first the United States’ Beezie Madden and now Germany’s Daniel Deusser.
And while young riders seeking the guidance of top trainers is not uncommon, what makes Newlands unique – aside from her degree in fashion marketing from the Art Institute of Toronto, among other things – is that she has the distinction of being Deusser’s first student.
Having spent more than two years training with Madden and getting her first taste of international show jumping competition, Newlands, 28, has crossed the Atlantic to ride full-time under Deusser’s tutelage. Currently ranked among the top ten riders in the world, Deusser is based at Stephex Stables in Belgium. It is there that Newlands is now calling home, as she immerses herself fully in the sport.
Deusser’s training and attention to detail is already proving to be highly beneficial for Newlands. Less than three months into her new program, she has earned top results on the Longines Global Champions Tour on mounts including Wieminka B and Evita van de Veldbalie, a mare previously ridden by Deusser and competed by fellow Stephex Stables rider Lorenzo de Luca at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.
We caught up with Newlands to learn more about her background and what it’s like training with the 2014 World Cup Champion in Belgium.
Q: Let’s start by looking back at the beginning of your career. How did you first get started with riding and what was your early riding background?
A: My mom had grown up riding and thought it would be something fun for me and my siblings to do together. I was the only one who really liked it and stuck with it. My parents are probably happy about that now! I didn’t start showing seriously until my last year as a junior. I was a hunter rider and was really focused on that. Having won the Amateur-Owner title two years in a row at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, I moved to the United States to further my hunter career and to win the big indoor circuit shows. Luckily, my family is very supportive of my riding even though none of them ride anymore.
Q: Before training with Daniel you had another incredible opportunity in training with Beezie and John Madden for two years. How did you grow as a rider during your time with the Maddens?
A: When I first moved to the Maddens I will still doing hunters. Beezie coached me at my final hunter show at Devon, and we won the Amateur Owner 18-35 stake class with a 90. I was mostly competing nationally when I went to the Maddens, and while I was with them, I started to compete internationally, travelling to Europe and Spruce Meadows. I was never based at the Madden’s farm in Cazenovia, New York, so while I trained with them, I learned how to prepare and manage my own horses. John and Beezie are very good at making plans for the horses; they are thought-out and methodical. They helped me a lot with the mental aspect of the sport. There are many ups and downs in this sport, and to be able to persevere and fight for it is how you become a better rider. I am grateful for everything that John and Beezie taught me.
Q: You now have the unique distinction of being Daniel Deusser’s first, and currently only, student. How did that opportunity come about?
A: When I was in Europe last summer, I needed help for two days at the Knokke Hippique horse show in Belgium. Daniel’s groom, Sean, arranged for Daniel to train me for the horse show. I really enjoyed his training since one of my horses (Evita van de Veldbalie) was a former ride of his. I asked if he would mind if I tagged along to shows with him last summer and then, this winter, we made the arrangements for me to train with him full-time.
Q: You first made the move from Canada to the United States to ride with the Maddens, and now you’ve made the move to Europe. What has that been like?
A: It’s been amazing so far. I love living in Europe, and it’s so nice to have a ‘home’ base. Last year, I was based in Holland for six months with Johan Heins. This year I am based at Stephex Stables in Wolvertem, Belgium. I have rented a house on the farm, and I love being able to visit my horses all the time. In Europe, I get to go and compete at a new horse show every week. It’s such an incredible experience to see so many different cities and countries that I’ve never been to before. I feel that being in Europe, going to so many shows, and being able to watch amazing riders compete each week helps me to grow as a rider. In Europe, the shows are from Wednesday to Sunday so it’s nice to be able to go back to Stephex and unwind and ride my other horses before taking off for the next show.
Q: What do you enjoy or appreciate most about Daniel’s training style and training with him at Stephex?
A: Daniel is an unbelievable rider and trainer. To be able to learn from him has been amazing. He has such natural feel and talent on a horse. Daniel knows my horses really well and he also rides them. To be able to watch and learn from what he does with them has helped my riding a lot. He gives me a lot of confidence in the ring and is always helping me to try to improve my horses in and out of the ring. He’s also very competitive.
Q: Talk a little bit about the horses that you have now, specifically Evita van de Veldbalie, Geisha van Orshof, and Wieminka B.
A: Evita van de Veldbalie was a horse we bought in the fall of 2014. She is a horse that has all the experience in the world and was a former ride for Daniel. Evita was purchased to help me learn to jump bigger tracks and to help take my riding to the next level. I love competing on her because she always tries her hardest. I know when I walk into a new ring or a big class that she wants to succeed.
Geisha van Orshof was another horse that we bought from Stephex horse last fall and was a former ride of Lorenzo de Luca. Johan Heins, who was helping me last summer, had watched the horse all season and thought it would be a good match. Geisha is an opinionated mare and can be a little tricky to flat as she does not like other horses to be near her. I am still developing a partnership with her; I find it can take a while with mares.
I have had Wieminka B the longest. We bought her in 2013 from Patricia Griffith. ‘Minka’ is so much fun to ride and compete on. She loves her job and gets very excited when she is at a show. Her favorite thing is food, as you can tell by her stomach! ‘Minka’ was bought to be one of my high amateur-owner jumpers, and I’ve been able to move her up and jump her in FEI classes. She is a horse that I can always depend on.
Q: Between training at home and being on the road to a new show almost every week, life must be pretty hectic. How do you unwind?
A: I like to work out with a trainer and try to get to the gym three to four times a week to help de-stress.
Q: What are your riding goals for the rest of this year and beyond?
A: My goal for this year is to become a more consistent rider on all my horses and, hopefully, to be able to jump some five-star shows this summer and fall. My ultimate goal is to represent Canada in Nations’ Cup competition and be the best rider that I can be.
-Emily Riden/Starting Gate Communications