Making history yet again, Henrik von Eckermann takes his lead in the Longines Rankings to new heights!

The last 18 months have been nothing short of magical for Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann. He has not only competed at the highest level in the most important arenas around the world, but his partnership with King Edward has taken the 41-year-old rider to the top spot of every major podium the sport has to offer.

From Olympic Team Gold in Tokyo in 2021, to individual and team gold at the FEI Jumping World Championship 2022 in Herning (DEN), and now the ultimate indoor title with his recent win at the  Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals a few weeks ago in Omaha (USA), von Eckermann is setting the bar very high.

These outstanding performances have been integral to not only getting to the top spot of the Longines Rankings, to claim the white armband that only the number one can wear, but also generating an impressive lead. A lead which he has held since August 2022, when he dethroned Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, and has been further enhanced with frequent top three finishes with his other horses, such as Iliana, Calizi and Glamour Girl.

But the last update of the Longines Rankings (No. 268) shows just how dominant von Eckermann has been in the last 9 months. He is the number one with 3598 points, while Julien Epaillard remains in second, with 3005 points. That difference of 593 points between the top two athletes in the world is the widest gap registered in the last 14 years*.

These months have been an incredible experience for von Eckermann. “When I got the bracelet {Longines n1. armband}, my first thought was I really wanted to make sure I’m not the athlete that holds the top spot for the shortest period of time. I really wanted to stay on a little bit and not just give it away the next month. Afterwards, with the success we’ve had, I thought it would be nice to be number one for one year. So now, with this margin, that could be a goal, that could be possible. So I’m very happy about that,” explained the Swede.

The “500 points club”

While this gap of 593 points between first and second is the largest ever, there are two other athletes that have reached the number 1 of the Longines Rankings with a gap of more than 500 points. The first to achieve it was Britain’s Scott Brash, who did it twice, back in 2014, when he held the number one position with 561 points over compatriot Ben Maher, and 550 points over Ludger Beerbaum (GER) for just the one month.

The second athlete to break the 500-point barrier was Harrie Smolders (NED) in 2018, surpassing Brash’s achievement. The Dutchman was number 1 with 3388 points, while Peder Fredricson had 2826, a gap of 562 points. Five years later, von Eckermann has now joined the “500 points club”. His advantage of 593 points over Epaillard does beg the question if a whole new category – the “600 points club” – is on the horizon.

A Brilliant Partnership

None of the above could be explained without his sidekick, King Edward. The 13-year-old gelding came into von Eckermann’s life through his wife, Janika Sprunger (SUI), who acquired the gelding from a Belgian amateur rider. They started competing together in 2019.

With a height of 1.65 meters - relatively small for a Jumping Horse- King Edward has shown he’s up to any challenge. Even though Henrik von Eckermann has competed with five other horses over the last year, King Edward is the one for the big occasions.

“King Edward is first of all an exceptional horse”, says von Eckermann. But a brilliant horse is not enough to reach the top. “It’s the daily work, what we do. We work with the horses every day and for me the most important thing is I always try to listen to the horse, what it tells me”.

But Henrik also highlights the importance of his other horses and why it’s key to remain at the top of the Longines Rankings. “I have a fantastic group of horses now. Of course there’s King Edward, but the other horses are also doing a fantastic job. Like Glamour Girl winning three big classes in two shows. Going back to the ranking, that’s what makes the difference”.

No success without a plan

Von Eckermann is convinced that every-day work is the key to success. “I can’t talk to the horses, but that’s why it’s so important to be there every day and spend as much time as possible with the horses, to learn what they are trying to tell us, so we can find a balance between not doing too much and not doing too little," he says.

You need a good plan because in the end, even if they have great quality, if you want to have long-term success, you really have to listen to what the horse tells you. That's why it's important to keep working with them every day and to know your horse inside and out."

Added pressure?

For many, walking into a competition as the number one could bring extra pressure to perform at the best level, but that's not the case for the Swede. "The bracelet {Longines n1. armband} doesn't bring extra pressure. I try to enjoy the moment. I know this moment will not last forever. I always put pressure on myself when I go in the ring. I want to do the best ride that I can for the horse, to be able to be satisfied when I go out, knowing that I did everything that I could."

Paris 2024 on the horizon

So, what's next for Henrik von Eckermann? The answer is quite simple: the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The individual Olympic gold medal is the only one missing from his cabinet. "Of course, the next big, big goal is Paris. For King Edward, the big goal is the Olympics, even if it's a long time still, and many things can happen. But with more than one year to go, there's plenty to keep myself busy with. For the moment, I'm a little bit between indoor-outdoor, so I have to feel how the horses are on the grass to try to make the best plan for my horses. In the next few weeks, I will see a little bit what could fit my horses."

You can check the full Longines Rankings here

* The FEI Database only contains Jumping World Rankings from the last 14 years.

Photo caption: Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) and King Edward at the ECCO FEI World Championships 2022 in Herning (DEN) - FEI / Leanjo de Koster

FEI Press Release