CHI Geneva

Interview with Alexandra Amar

amar Photobujard

Alexandra Amar already has CHIG 2021 in her sights!

 

The young rider from the Vaud had been awarded a precious wild card for the Geneva International Horse show for finishing second in the CSI U25 Grand Prix of Chevenez in October. When the 2020 show was cancelled, she revised her winter plans and moved to Spain where competitions are still taking place. An interview with this talented rider who splits her time between her horses and law studies, with tenacity, hard work and humility.

Interview by Sophia Urban

Alexandra already knows the Geneva International Horse Show (CHIG) well. She can’t remember having missed one! She has in the past asked for autographs, but this year she should have been on the other side, warming up her horses with them and competing in the main arena at Palexpo. “Getting a wild card is something else, awesome. Like finding the Grail! I’d always had the impression that it was an impossible dream.” This rider who won the precious ticket at Chevenez is full of superlatives. But her joy was short-lived. “I knew the CHIG might be cancelled… I was of course disappointed, like all the riders. But I felt especially for the organisers, who fought long and hard to put it on. I wish them a 2021 edition that’s as good as ever! It is what it is, and we have to make the best of it. So I thought over my plans and decided to come to Spain for a few weeks to keep competing with my horses. The level is very high and it’s hard to get ranked, but I’m learning a lot! As for the CHIG, I’m already thinking of next year. This year’s bad news has motivated me, not to feel sorry for 2020, but to push even more for success in 2021, so I can be at Geneva in the U25 competition (Ed: for talented under-25 riders).

The Val Henry stud farm

The 20-year-old, who has her parents to thank for supporting her in her passion, has been positive. “My father has always said that nothing comes from nothing. I know I’m lucky to have them behind me.” Their support ran to managing a stud farm in Normandy to provide her with the top-level horses she needs. They took on the Val Henry stud farm in 2008, even though they had no background in equestrianism. “It’s difficult to find enough good horses once you get to a certain level, so we went into breeding them. My mother has always been mad about horses, without competing. And my father is mad about his family, so he didn’t have any choice…”, she jokes. “A professional rider is on hand. He keeps the horses until they are five, then if their potential and their character shape up they join me in Switzerland, or they’re sold. It isn’t easy to come up with an ace; if there is one in the batch, in theory it’s for me. We also trade, in particular to develop the reputation of the stud farm. One of our mares has been saddled this year by Jessica Springsteen, which is really great news.”

Alexandra is at the moment riding a mare who she saw being born, Aladina du Val Henry. “I get on better with geldings generally, but it’s great to be riding a mare out of our own stables. My best horse is Calou, who I have been riding for one season. He’s extraordinary, but very sensitive ­ he’s afraid of everything! I can’t even unzip my jacket while I’m riding him. But once in the arena, it takes a good horse to beat him. Lastly, the horse of my heart is Unpulsion de la Hart, who I’ve brought back for small tours. In spite of his age (16), he’s back to ranking in big competitions.”

Calou Photobujard

Definitely privileged, but hard-working too

“I am very grateful to my parents,” continues the young rider, “and I try to do everything as well as possible to justify their support. I get up early and go to bed late, working all the time for the horses or for university.” It’s a privileged situation which has not always been easy. “It isn’t easy to get respected in this business if you’re lucky to have such support from your parents.”

Alexandra’s life has been linked to horses ever since she could walk. She started out on ponies, then joined the Swiss team at age 15. Next year will be her last in the young riders category, with a clear objective: the European championships. “If I manage to qualify, I’ll go all out to perform superbly well. With Calou, I could get a good result.” Alexandra is not the only one with this aim, but competition remains healthy in the Swiss ranks. “We all know each other in the Swiss team, as there haven’t been too many changes since we were on ponies. We’re friends, like a big family, and I can turn to the others when I feel the need. Obviously, we’re in a competitive, individual sport, but the competition doesn’t spoil the ambiance. We’ve always had to respect the decisions of the team leaders. It is disappointing when you aren’t selected, but it spurs you on to do better next time!”

Health measures permitting, Alexandra has been training for the last two years with the Van Paesschen family. They spend two weekends a month at Bassins and support their pupil in international competitions. Also, through her membership of the Swiss Youth Academy, Alexandra can partake of the Straumann family’s generous aid, which is granted to the most talented young Swiss riders.

Remote student

The year 2020 was of course an unusual one for Alexandra. “The most difficult thing has been keeping the horses in optimal condition and ready for a restart, without competitions. I admit that staying motivated, with no goal in sight, hasn’t been easy! The only advantage has been that I’ve been able to manage my time a bit better. I’ve followed all my university courses remotely this year and I’ve been able to organise my days my own way.” Her packed days start at 8.00 am at Bassins, just a few minutes from her home, where she recently moved with her horses. “The facilities at Psaro's Horses are superb. I care a lot about the comfort of my horses, and that persuaded me to bring them here.” She rides her four horses in the morning and devotes the afternoons to her studies. “Being able to ride all my horses daily has been useful. I feel closer to them, can sense better what they need, and that’s a great help.”

And she has been reaping the rewards. Roll on 2021 and a return, hopefully, to a more normal lifestyle so we can continue to follow the career of this talented Vaudois rider.

alexandra amar Photobujard

Alexandra Amar in a nutshell

Born on 8th March 2000, lives in Begnins

Member of the Young Riders Swiss team

Her four horses are Calou (gelding, 13), Unpulsion de la Hart (gelding, 16), Aladina du Val Henry (mare, 10), Tant d’Espoir Lindenhof Z (mare, 12)

Her horses are stabled at Psaro’s Horses, Bassins

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