A dark horse on the international show jumping circuit is about to come into the light. It’s nestled at the trisection of three European nations that are not known as show jumping superpowers—at least, not yet. It bills itself as “Europe’s biggest and modern sports centre”, and with the futuristic name of X-BIONIC® SPHERE, it seems that this equestrian center in Šamorín, Slovakia is more than worthy of the hype.
Mario Hoffman, whose passion lies in the discipline of endurance, was behind the conception of the facility, which lies close to Vienna, Austria and features no less than eight arenas—three grass, three sand, and two indoors—and an oversize galloping track nearly two kilometers around. Horse comfort is engineered down to the last detail, with large, permanent stalls and an impossibility for horses to step on concrete, as interlocking rubber bricks pave all pathways.
So yes, while Slovakia doesn’t immediately come to mind as a show jumping superpower, mark 2017 as the year that conception will change. Event Director Denis Monticolo, who has had a hand in show jumping events in Italy, Spain and France, and who currently organizes the glamorous Longines Athina Onassis Horse Show in Saint-Tropez, France, is now at the head of organization for X-BIONIC® SPHERE’s show jumping season.
X-BIONIC® SPHERE made headlines in December when it emerged as the sole official candidate of the 2017 World Equestrian Games, after the withdrawal of Lexington, Kentucky. And it seems that Šamorín is more than ready to step up to the plate; it has so far hosted successful CSI and CSIO competitions, and last summer held the Longines FEI World Endurance Championship.
This year, the venue will host the FEI European Championship for Young Riders, Juniors and Children, a major event on the European calendar, and a chance for the venue to prove itself worthy of hosting a large-scale championship such as WEG.
When American rider Lisa Goldman was selected to ride on the 2016 USEF Developing Riders tour last summer, she found herself competing in Šamorín in the CSIO3* FEI Nations Cup. Goldman, an Illinois native who rode a red-hot win streak through 2015 and 2016, spent the week at Šamorín, and could not have been more impressed.
“Just about everything you could think of for a horse show, they had. I walked in and I have never been to a facility that was more thought out for horses. If I had to pick one place to go back to in Europe it would be Slovakia.”
The day before FEI competition started, Goldman took the opportunity to explore the venue aboard her longtime partner, Centurion B. She crossed a small bridge over a creek, and found herself on the shores of the Danube River with room to ride and perfect summer weather.
She was there to compete, and so a peaceful hack in open space was an unexpected bonus. As she looked back at the X-BIONIC® SPHERE, she had to pinch herself.
“It was the most amazing place I’ve ever been,” she said.
Goldman can easily envision Šamorín as host of the 2022 WEG, or even an Olympics. Her horse was comfortable in oversize stalls, and she was impressed with what she found to be the best footing she rode on during her European tour.
“If you can, go to Šamorín,” she said. “I’ve never been on better footing, or a better grass field.
As of now, Goldman is one of just a few American riders who have competed at Šamorín, but that is likely to change this coming summer. €700,000 in prize money and 13 ranking classes will be on offer during the X-BIONIC® SUMMER TOUR, when CSI4* competition comes to Šamorín for two weeks this July. At the end of August, the CSIO3* of Slovakia returns; the X-BIONIC® INDOOR MASTER CSI4* is slated for November. In 2018, both the X-BIONIC® SUMMER TOUR and X-BIONIC® INDOOR MASTER will be rated CSI5*.
In addition to the equestrian facilities, a hotel connected to the venue, with a vast menu of amenities from a modern gym, to a cinema, bars, restaurants and a children’s playground come together to create the feel of a resort village.