Riders’ stories: Simon Delestre, a matter of feeling

He was just a boy when he won the Rome CSIO Nations Cup with the French team in 2006… Simon Delestre is now one of France’s top riders and one of the team’s pillars of strength.

How has your riding changed since you started to compete? You have a special style and are one of the best riders in the world, how did it all develop?

I think that to a certain extent I always managed to have one good horse after another in my career. I think I have already been through the most difficult and best part of my job, so when one achieves that sort of status in life, it also helps you be better and always remain at the highest level. Being with the best riders every weekend also improves one’s performance a lot.

Now that one of your superstars is ready to enjoy his retirement…

I am really happy because I can retire Ryan des Hayettes following a great win in Monaco. That’s what I really wanted for him; leaving through the main gates because he is a superstar and deserved it. He managed to win this class as a 17-year-old and we are all really happy for him as well as for me, finishing on a big win like that. I was really worried about the end of his career,  because one thinks that one must retire horses before it’s too late and now instead we have finished with a great victory and he finished his career as a champion.  He was perfectly fit and sound, like a real rock star, so that was the best I could offer him because he also gave me so much throughout his life and I am really happy for him.


n Copyright: T.Reiner

What can you tell us about Jolly Jumper, your horse sired by the great Hickstead. Is he a really special horse?

Yes, Jolly Jumper and Hickstead share a number of similar characteristics I think. But I also believe he is a top horse because this year, his first at the highest level of jumping, he has now competed in his 7th Nations Cup rounds with six clear rounds. That’s really not normal, so these are not just empty words to explain he is a genius and portray the quality of this horse; he really is fantastic. I just try and help him and he does all the rest.

b ©M.Trap

A lot of your horses finished their career aged 17 or 16, so what do you do to keep them safe and have long show jumping careers?

I always try to look after them as best I can and make sure to ask things of them when I feel they are ready and not push them too hard. That was very important – not necessarily with Cayman because we bought him he was already a 9-year-old – but I normally prefer have younger horses and I don’t want them to jump championships, but just a couple of show as 5-year-olds, a couple when they are 6, a little bit more at 7. By the time they are 8-year-olds I like to really ask a little more, but not too much. So, I think a great deal about how I can keep them fit, keep them in my stables just playing around and learn to work well on the flat as well as being physically fit. This because together with all my staff I know exactly what their stronger and weaker points are and just focus on constantly improving them, but not jumping difficult courses. Then when they are physically ready, I think one can move forwards and can ask more of them when they are really strong and ready for it. It is above all an important matter of feeling with all my horses.