Belgian rider Jerome Guery has been on a very fast track of success lately. Since April, to be exact, when he had the good fortune to ride through the ingate for the first time with Papillon Z, a 13-year-old Zangersheide stallion (Perhaps x Cleopatra) owned by Yves Woitrin. Papillon had shifted through the stables of several riders, including that of fellow Belgian Gregory Whatlet, but without many five star starts and a general reputation of being a slightly “ordinary” horse, it was clear that the stallion had yet to come into his own.
Not so with Guery, who quickly found the kind of success with Papillon that was anything but ordinary. We caught up with Guery after his most recent victory, a stunning win in the Knokke Hippique Grand Prix Porsche CSI5* on his home turf in Knokke Hippique, Belgium. Find out more about the instant connection Guery found with Papillon, and why this pair is one to keep an eye on for the coming season:
Q: How did your partnership with Papillon Z come about?
A: The horse was with Gregory Whatlet, but he was the not the first horse for Gregory, he was more like the fifth horse and I knew that Gregory would like to stop to ride him because it perhaps wasn’t the best place for the horse to be on the string.
The owner called me after that and asked if I was interested to ride him, and I said said yes, why not, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to get on with him or do a better job than Gregory, who he is one of the best riders in the world.
I had no impression of the horse before he came to me, but I was happy to receive him, as I had only a nice eight-year-old, and no big horse in my barn at the time.
He is the first horse who came to me with the age and experience for the big classes.
I had a really, really nice horse before, but after I had a very good result, directly I sold the horse. This is the first one I have that I can perhaps keep a little bit longer, as I would like to know what I can do at this level. With a horse like him I can do this.
Q: How did you get on with Papillon, and get to know him?
A: I had heard a lot of things about the horse, but when he arrived, directly there was something special between us that I cannot explain. I felt it was my horse, I don’t know why. I did a few jumps and I said to my groom, ‘wow this is a good horse!’ He’s careful and the way he likes to go in the canter, his movement, is really my type to ride. That’s why I was happy with him.
Q: What was the objective in moving him to your stables?
A: At the beginning, the horse came to my place because the owner wanted to sell him. He knows I make a good business last year and ok, we didn’t know exactly that the horse would come so good. Now, with these results it is little different and I have to speak to him, to know exactly the plan for the future. I would like to keep the horse going for longer now.
Q: Those results were significant, can you talk about them a little?
A: Yes, directly in my first show with him, the connection between us was there, and in our first show we finished fourth in the three star grand prix. Two weeks after that was Lummen. I had a feeling that the horse was ready to go with me to make something in Lummen, so I called the organizer and asked them to make a spot for me if they could. Then the first day at Lummen he won the qualifier and the grand prix also.
Lummen was a nice victory because it was not my idea when I arrived there to win, and I was just going there to try to do well. After the first round one I felt good that we were clear, but for the jumpoff I felt that our connection was good, but not completely perfect.
The horse was not coming with me exactly how I wanted him to, but I fought for the class and rode the jumpoff with a little stress. I was very happy to win the class, but still I wanted to find an even better connection with the horse.
Q: And in Knokke, did you find that connection?
A: Yes it was completely different in Knokke, the connection it just got better and better. Between Lummen and Knokke we went to Sopot and were double clear in the Nations Cup. And the connection there was super, so my plan was to go to Knokke to make something also. I knew I would like really do to something special in Knokke because it was in my country and it was a nice show
It was a better victory for me in Knokke because the connection was 100% there. And also the public was so excited, and was so behind me, that was also a motivation for me.
Q: How did you feel going into the jumpoff; did you feel you had a chance to win?
A: You saw the riders I rode against, they are the best in the world: Steve Guerdat with Nino, and Michael Whitaker – I saw the 13 riders in the jumpoff and I said ok it will be difficult to win this class, but I will try. When I saw Michael was so fast I thought, I can’t ride faster than him. If I can ride faster than him I will have to be by having one less in the last line, and I will have to push all I can. So that’s what I did, eight strides instead of nine.
Q: What is he like in the stables at home?
A: Well now, I think he knows that he’s the king of the stable. It’s really quiet there, but he looks around at all the other horses and he knows. We have a private paddock for him and that’s why I think he
Q: And what’s the program like for Papillon, day to day?
A: Every morning, he starts with the walk machine. And after that I work him on the flat, and in the afternoon he likes often to go for two hours outside in his paddock. I don’t jump with him at home because he knows his job, and he doesn’t like so much to work at home. Instead we outside, in the forest when the weather is good. He doesn’t like to work at home.
Q: Do you have anyone who helps you from the ground or who you work with?
A: Yes, I have a dressage teacher who I work with, and sometimes when I need help I ask Philipp Lejeune.
Before, I took my experience with different, really nice teachers and riders, such as Nelson Pessoa when I was young, and also Henk Nooren. Ok, I don’t have my own type so much, but when I ride I keep a few information with different riders and teachers.