Gerco, one of the Fantastic Four

September - Ten days and the Dutch team will enter the Barcelona arena as the World Champion. Gerco Schröder, 36 years old, is one of the four who won the gold medal for his country during the World Equestrian Games, in France, last September. Three Olympic editions, 2004, 2008 and 2012, with two bronze medals, both team and individual in London; Dutch rider of the year 2005, 2006 and 2012; national champion in 2010; bronze and gold team medal on the European Championship 2005 and 2007, and already team gold medal in the Weg in Aachen in 2006. Gerco is one of the riders who keeps staying on top of the sport in the last decade. 20th of the World ranking, the Dutchman can count on one of the best horses of the last years, London, better renamed Glock’s London, after a difficult beginning of the season. But let’s start from the first question…

Gerco, where and when did your equestrian story begin?

It’s because of my older brothers, Ben and Wim. They both rode and I was just six years old and helped on the farm. I didn’t care too much about horses, but they insisted and one day Wim pushed me to take part in a competition. I finished in third place with my first trophy. I was thrilled, and from that day on I never quit. I rode ponies until I was old enough to switch to horses. Now in our stables, my brothers and I organize small horse shows for kids and there is plenty of trophies for everybody who joins in.

What do you value the most among the moments of your career?

My best moments in my career were the first two gold medals: the one I won with my team as a junior on the 1996 European Championship in Predazzo, and the one with my senior team at the World Equestrian Games 2006 in Aachen. That was the best time ever. Now I just got my third gold in Caen, and it is something amazing, but nothing is comparable to the feeling I had in Aachen: it is unforgettable, I think it is something about the place, the atmosphere. London 2012 was fabulous too, the best Olympics I ever participated in. And along with my best moments I can’t forget to thank my horses: Berlin, Monaco, Milano VI, New Orleans, California and London.

Which do you think it is the most important thing for someone who wants to grow in this sport?

I’m firmly convinced that the key is to be surrounded by experienced people. Somebody who really can teach you, and then it is important to have always the chance to compare with others. To listen, to look: we can always improve ourselves, and learn something new. Now I have my own stable with my brothers in Tubbergen but, in the past, I was by Hans Horn, and Jos Lansink… and with them I learned a lot.

This year has been a tough one, which could have unrolled differently. Can we say it had a happy and unexpected beginning?

Yes, it was fantastic to be able to keep London with me. I really had a bad time and couldn’t tell what to expect for my future: when Eurocommerce declared bankruptcy, a settlement was reached in order for me to keep London but things were still ongoing until in April Gaston and Kathrin Glock secured the horse for me. I was so happy. London is twelve years old and we can still go far together. He’s a stallion but he has a good temperament, he’s a fighter.

Nearly a month passed from your team victory in Caen. Was that gold medal planned?

To be honest we arrived in Normandy looking for a medal. We couldn’t have hoped better than what turned out to be. It has been great. We really worked our magic and Rob (Ehrens) built an exceptional team job.

Which has been you preparation for the WEG?

London and I haven’t been on many big shows before arriving. We jumped in a few Nations Cup, in Rotterdam, Rome and Aachen. This is what the Dutch selecting system on big events is about: testing the best team on Nations Cup, always trying younger riders as well and prepare them for the future. Just with the experience and with some “team options” you can always have a choice and avoid the gap between generations. This should be the aim of the series: prepare the future riders for the next European or World Championships and Olympics.

Did you properly celebrate your team medal in Caen?

Yes, sure. But sparingly, we still had individuals to come and we needed to remain focused. As you can see, Jeroen Dubbeldam victory was a confirmation of our good job on these World Equestrian Games.

How were the courses in Caen?

I think they were fair. I enjoyed them. I must say it was definitely a good outdoor season for us, now let’s see what will happen in Barcelona. The Dutch team will be there for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final, proud to be on top of the World. This should be a nice and positive feeling to help us do our best.

What about your plans for the indoor season?

I’ll start with the World Cup up ahead. No Oslo and no Helsinki anyway, I still have to discuss it with Ehrens.

Do you know there were discussions within the Riders Club to propose a new ranking counting the couple, horse and rider? What is your opinion about the ranking?

Personally I don’t care about the ranking. I care about my horses and what fits them. I think the most important thing for a rider is to choose a program for each horse. And having more than one horse helps a lot. This is what matters to me. I can fully understand that for those who don’t have this possibility it is more difficult to be on the big shows but I believe that federations should be there for this reason, helping them to get in through the Nations Cup.

And what about wild cards?

I think it is a compromise. Jan Tops did a great job helping our sport growing, with top shows and top prize money.

Two years to Rio for the next Olympics… Are you planning to be there with London?

Why not? I hope, after the Football World Championship this year, they’ll be able to host such a big venue. And as far as I’m concerned, I’d like to be there with him: London is in great shape and if things keep going this way we can think about that. But now it is too early.

Barbara Leoni