Helsinki Horse show






For the 30th anniversary of Helsinki Horse Show, the winning combination could not have been more fitting in the final trial – the Longines World Cup – as three Swiss came in the first three places and Finland’s top rider joined the tour of honours.


By Camilla Alfthan


Snow flakes were falling down from the skies as the horses walked from their stables at the Olympic Stadium to the Ice Hall a few steps away. For the second leg of the Longines World Cup riders had travelled all the way to Helsinki to compete in the northernmost leg of the cup.

A place, which the creators of the event described as “an impossibly far away, high up in the north” which each October becomes the center for the world’s best riders.

For the 30th anniversary, Tom Gordin hosted the show in an intimate ice hockey ring which riders described as their favourite venue in the history of the Helsinki Horse show – even if it was a challenge due to its narrow size.

As the days passed on, the horses got used to the place – the star of them all was Steve Guerdat’s 13-year old selle francais, Nino des Buissonnets; the horse with which he won individual gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games.


The pair made the fastest jump off of the world cup closely followed by hus Swiss compatriots, Pius Schwizer and Martin Fuchs while Finland’s top rider, Anna-Julia Kontio, joined the celebrations in a faultless 10th place.


As the eternal number two in the qualifiers, Guerdat was more than happy for the win.

“It feels a lot better than the second place which I was getting used to as I as I in the past four years I was second I think seven or eight times not even close to winning. So I’m delighted with this win – and I could not have dreamed of a better second and third place with two Swiss,” he smiled as he went on the reflect on his super horse, Nino des Buissonnets.


Three members of the Gulliksen family

 1-2-3 – Johan-Sebastian, Geir and Victoria Gulliksen all competed in the World Cup in Helsinki.  Photo Camilla Alfthan


“I think you all saw him. He jumped unbeliveably, and he felt really good last week already. When he’s like this I feel that nothing can happen and it gives a lot of confidence. The jump off was good as I didn’t take too much risk, he’s such a big horse that it is very difficult to charge. I think he showed his class today – that he really belongs to one of the best horses of the world and maybe of history. I’m just so proud and I feel so lucky to have such a horse,” said Guerdat whose main challenge was steering Nino de Buissonets around the small arena (30 x 60 meter) where the course designer Frédéric Cottier had put in brand new, lighter fences.


“Nino des Buissonnets belongs to one of the best horses of the world – and maybe history.”


“I think the arena was a little bit smaller than the course designer had expected. The first day was not so nice, probably because its a new place and the riders and the horses had to get used to it day by day, and thats what happened. Today we saw a very good competition which was not too hard on the horses. The jump off was really exiting – that’s what we all expect for the good of the sport so I want to thank the organisers and the course designer for a really good job,” said Guerdat who shared his victory with his close friends.


“Me and Pius have been riding a long time in the same team so we know each other well. We can ask one another if we need something which is not so often. I train with Martin and I know his father, Thomas; he’s my trainer, so we work together, and I like to have his opinion when I walk the horse and to know how it’s going in the warm up. It gives confidence to have a good rider who gives me advise and who is also a great friend. It all helps a lot.”


Pius Schwizer had a young eight year old, Sixtine de Vains – a horse he was very happy with just as the victory of the three Swiss.

“Switzerland is a small country so we just need a small arena to win,“ he joked as Guerdat was translating his Schwitzer deutch.


For runner up, Martin Fuchs, who was riding  his ten year old home bred Holsteiner, PSG Future, a lot was about psychology.


“When Steve was in the lead I knew that one of the Swiss guys would win. And then he took the first place which really motivated me to try to beat him. I couldn’t do that but for sure this helped me go in the second place.

I took all the risks when I saw he had the lead and I’m happy with my second place.

It’s been a really nice week for me. The last two years I was in Helsinki a lot so its really a good feeling for me,” said Fuchs who’s been dating Finland’s leading show jumper, Anna-Julia Kontio for the past three years.


The two always work very closely together.


“I was lucky that I had a late start today and that she was first to go in the jump when I was 15th so I helped her in the warm up and and the went to watch her in the arena. When I was finished I went to my horse – I knew she’d be in a nice place when she had two clear rounds. It gave me confidence to attack.”


“I feel like Steve that the course designer needed a few days to get used to the arena, and during two days we didn’t have too much luck. Today and yesterday was the best – at first I thought it was too tight but then it all worked out.


The ambiance was really special as the audience is so close to you. When you go through the finish line you really are in a witches pot, that’s really exiting for us riders,” said Fuchs.


“The ambiance was really special as the audience is so close to you – you really are in a witches pot.” 


The Finns were always great sportsmen – whether it’s winter sports, athletics or Formula One. In 1952 they even hosted the Olympic Games – the year Lis Hartel wrote history when she defied her polio to win silver in dressage when the discipline was open to women for the very first time.


For the Helsinki Horse over 250 riders had enrolled to the event where you could even gamble on the outcome of the biggest classes – a initiative created by the betting association of Finland’s thriving trotting industry. The event itself had 400,000 euro of prize money.


This year’s € 100 000 UB Grand Prix winner was the 30th of it’s kind. The first ever winner was Ireland´s Paul Darragh with Carrols Ballycullen. In the 2014 edition Martin Fuchs and his 10 year old bay gelding PSG Future crossed the finish line first, followed by Bart Bles (Lord Sandro) and Henrik von Eckermann (Crespo PKZ).


“This was my first five-star GP win and only the second GP in my whole career. It’s great to have won it here, in what is almost my second home country. Since the beginning, I have had really nice horses and good training from my parents. Several horse-owners and sponsors support me, not to forget my girlfriend, she is a big part of my success. We always try to help each other and push each other further, “ said the 22-year old.


One of the keys behind the success of the Helsinki Horse Show is that it keeps renewing itself.
A new type of dressage competition, Knock-Out, was launched in 2013 and invented by organisers Tom Gordin and Tom Biaudet, where competitors eliminate their adversaries, round by round, until the finale where two riders enter the arena at the same time, and complete movements in synchronized harmony until the winner is selected.


“It started as a crazy dream. Could Europe’s best riders be lured all the way to little Finland? Now the show has become an established brand, and for the past two years we have had more sponsor money than ever before,” said Gordin whose country counts over 10,000 competing riders. Five years ago he added amateur riders to the show which turned out to be a great attraction to the audience.

“Each year we develop something new and take advise from the riders in order to make the event even better,” said Gordin who invited everyone to hand in their wishes for next year show.


The 2015 edition of the Helsinki Horse Show is scheduled for October  22 – 25th.


Swiss bliss

 1-2-3 –  three Swiss came first in the World Cup – Steve Guerdat (center) on Nino des Buissonnets, Martin Fuchs on PSG Future and Pius Schwizer on Sixtine de Vains. Photo Camilla Alfthan