Thanks to my horses!

"I am grateful to my exceptional horses that allow me to compete at the highest levels...". Pius Schwizer, column of the Swiss show jumping team explains...

  • #jumping
  • #WEG
  • #olimpic games
  • #european championship
  • #swiss
  • #horses

A small nation in the heart of Europe, with a mountainous territory and therefore undoubtedly less suitable for the breeding of horses compared to the large grassy plains of France, Holland and Germany. Switzerland is a flagship in the landscape of European show jumping. In Switzerland we organise some of the most prestigious international competitions and events of the world which take place, for example, in Geneva, Zurich and Basel, to name just a few. It is home to the world's top riders. In the past, names such as Willi Melliger, Beat Maendli, Thomas and Markus Fuchs prevailed, today, to mention just one of many, there is Steve Guerdat, Olympic champion, who works together with Nino des Buissonnets, winner of the Final of the World Cup in 2015 with Paille de la Roque, Olympic Team bronze in Beijing in 2008 with Jalisca Solier and silver at the European Championships in Windsor in 2009 again with Jalisca Solier. And then there are Werner Muff, Paul Estermann, Christina Liebherr, Janika Sprungen and Jane Richard. A small group but with so many talents and skills that are receiving a lot of attention and have the backing of a federation that supports them as far as possible. Among the pillars of the Swiss team, Pius Schwizer is a representative of the professionalism that characterises this nation.

Pius Schwizer is therefore a successful rider and is always in the right place in the big events of show jumping horses and where he presents top level horses that have been well trained and with the right level of progression. In 2010 he was the number 1 in the FEI Ranking List. A serious professional, organised, with very clear ideas about the future and focused on his career: "I have a certain ability to pick the right horses and to know how to work with progression and method - says Schwizer - this has helped me to develop in my profession. It is not easy to compare yourself to the level of pairings today but I think that, regardless of the position you hold in the Ranking List, you have to have respect for the other riders and always have a degree of humility for their work. We must always keep our feet firmly on the ground and not lose sight of their goals, taking into account that sponsorship in equestrianism is not like in Formula 1 where the financial contributions for an athlete are very high. We are very far from that and as such we have to rely greatly on our own strengths. For this reason I focus a lot on young horses. I am always looking for quality horses to develop".

Young horses are therefore the main passion of Schwizer who is skilled in identifying theirs qualities, also from a breeding point of view: "To create a good horse, you first need a good mare to convey quality to the foals: heart, head, a competitive spirit, strength and physical health - says Schwizer - In this sense I don’t have a stud-book preference, I look at the lineage and then I choose a horse if I like it, if it inspires me, if it gives me positive feeling. I look for horses of all nationalities and I am assisted by ten different owners. I take the view that it is better to rely on many small-scale owners rather than only one, even if they are important. I generally take the three-year old horses. I see them jump freely and I purchase them even before they have been tamed because in this way the costs are lower. Of course, then I run the risk that, once under the saddle, they may not meet the standards that I had seen in them in the wild. Not all of them, in fact, become top level horses. Many are excellent subjects for amateurs and are valued for their level. This gives me the opportunity to continue to reinvest in new horses to look for the star players. In Switzerland there are categories reserved for horses of four, five and six years that should be easy, for training purposes. Then there are the Promotional and Super Promotional categories for the seven-year olds. The competitive spirit needs to start from eight years and not before. Before eight years I think that horses should not participate in the final of championships or similar events. At four and five years my horses participate in no more than four races a year and at these events should only be jumping informally in order to learn, to understand and to grow. Small jumps of various colours, natural jumps in the countryside and rides outdoors, and work in a progressive plan, and that gives them the foundation to build on. My horses work twice a day. There are ridden for approximately forty minutes and the second time in the ring; they are also in the paddock every day for around three hours. I am convinced that staying out of the paddock is the best thing for young horses but this also applies to all the others".

How do you become champions? "Talented young riders need to go and learn from the great champions, from the masters. In Switzerland we have some excellent examples, such as Willi Melliger, Beat Maendli and the brothers Marcus, Thomas and Markus Fuchs - explains Schwizer - and they too follow a training method that is based on simple but solid bases. My system involves simple exercises, starting from basic works on flats, focussing on accelerating and slowing down, turning and so on, following a progression that leads horses into adulthood at the right level of training. With regard to obstacles work, I work on small jumps, possibly of various shapes and colours, to accustom them and to make sure that they enjoy learning. For me the health of horses is very important, also because when they jump at top level events, the physical effort is really quite demanding. At my stables I have about eighty horses, of which about fifteen are young; each horse has its own well-planned program. Fifteen people work with me. Besides this I am at the stable only three days a week and so I have to rely on a strong and well organised team. Each of them knows exactly what to do and follow my instructions. With horses you need to demonstrate good, respectful and responsible behaviour. You need lots of passion and good intention, a desire to work and to continue to improve. Without these features, talent alone is not enough".

Pius Schwizer took part in the Olympic Games in Beijing winning bronze team medal with Noblesse M and in the Olympic Games in London 2012 with Carlina. Two editions of the World Equestrian Games, Lexington 2010 with Carlina and in Caen 2014 with Toulago. Four editions of European Championships with the victory of Team gold medal in Windsor 2009 with Ulysse. Six editions of Fei World Cup Final, winning second place in Geneva in 2010 and third place in ‘S-Hertogenbosch with Carlina. He started the new season very well achieving second place at the Grand Prix Global Champions Tour in Shanghai with Caretina de Joter and several victories and rankings in the most important show jumping events. Recently the owner of Toulago decided to take him back after two years of co-operation with Schwizer.