A Week of 'Firsts' at WEG for Daniel Bluman and Nicola Philippaerts

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lright, so there were some issues last week at the World Equestrian Games. Endurance fell apart, the dressage freestyle was canceled, and Hurricane Florence dropped a bit of water on the Tryon International Equestrian Center. But, it's a new week with new disciplines - namely, show jumping - and we're ready for the action to begin.

At a place in their career when they can still count on big ‘firsts’, rising stars Daniel Bluman and Nicola Philippaerts are ready to show their strengths at the World Equestrian Games - Nicola with his WEG debut, and Daniel representing Israel for the first time in such a capacity.

Though this isn't technically Daniel Bluman's first WEG rodeo - he rode for Colombia at the World Equestrian Games in 2010 and 2014 - this week marks a major turning point in his career, now officially representing Israel in all international competition. To prepare, you'll probably find Daniel catching up on zzz's. "I like to [get enough] sleep," he shares. "When I go to horse shows and don’t have many things to take care of between classes, I’ll sleep, watch movies, or read. You have to find your routine." (I recommend Daniel get as much sleep as he can now: he and wife Ariel are expecting their first child in October. Mazel tov!)

But more than anything, maintaining sanity comes down to establishing a program that works for him. "Routine is very, very important," he says. "Through the years I’ve tried to tweak it do what best works for me in my mind and for me to stay fresh. I feel it’s very important to stay fresh. If you get mentally tired, your performance isn’t going to be as good as it can be."

For WEG newbie Nicola, his approach is to take a hint from his mount H&M Chilli Willi and quite literally chill out. "You get used to it by doing it. We show every single week," says the 25-year-old Belgian. "Every single show you have to focus so you get used to it. Once you get on your horse, you really try to focus on how it feels and how he is, and then you look around and it happens."


Photo by Judith Pijlman

Don't mistake his relaxation for under preparation. Nicola, like Daniel, is well aware of what it takes to perform at this level. "You need to be on top of your game every single week," he acknowledges. "All of the five-star shows these days are all very hard. There are no easy classes anymore in the big shows." WEG, of course, is no different.

Though both young men have been traversing the globe for horse shows this year, they are, above all, grateful to be doing what they do. "I mean, we do what we like, we make a job out of it, but it’s really nice that you can do what you like every day," shares Nicola. "I’m happy with the traveling and everything. When it goes well, take it."

Photo by Andreas Pollak

Daniel has been bouncing between his bases in Florida, New York, and Belgium, but he knows that things might change once the baby comes, conveniently waiting for a due date just after the World Games (thanks, baby Bluman!). "If I have to show a little bit less, as long as I’m able to train the horses, be around the horses, and ride every day – if I don’t compete every weekend, it’s still going to be fine for me," he says about fatherhood. "Having a family is something I always planned to do and I know the life we lead is a little bit difficult sometimes. I’m sure that this isn’t going to be an inconvenience. I think it’s going to boost me to achieve greater things."

Feature photo by Andreas Pollak

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Written by Kate Kosnoff

Kate Kosnoff is an equestrian journalist, blogger and photographer. When she isn’t working, Kate can usually be found sipping green tea, scrolling through Twitter, or petting her horses—sometimes a combination of the three. She is based in Indiana and can often be spotted in jumper rings across the Midwest and Florida aboard her strawberry roan, Waffle.