GC Playoffs - Exclusive Interview with... LGCT Super Grand Prix contender Frank Schuttert
Frank Schuttert had just one chance to qualify for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix, the prestigious 16 contender showdown taking place at the GC Playoffs in Prague this December. Not only that, he had to beat a formidable line up of the world’s very best international horses and riders, including World Number 1 and hero Harrie Smolders. And all in front of a home crowd. So... No pressure.
But he nailed it. Dutch talent Frank is one of the youngest challengers for the LGCT Super Grand Prix this Saturday, where he will compete with his LGCT Grand Prix of Valkenswaard winning stallion Chianti's Champion in the high profile competition. Quietly determined, always looking to learn and focused on his one clear goal for the end of this year, Frank will be one to watch as the gloves come off at the O2 Arena in the Czech capital of Prague. We caught up with #TheOneShotWonder to hear more about his thoughts on the forthcoming fight…
Now the dust has settled following your LGCT Grand Prix of Valkenswaard win, just relive that moment for us - what went through your mind and how special was it?
It was very special first of all because it was my only Global of the year, and only the second I’ve ever done so far [in my career]. I did Valkenswaard five years ago, so a lot has changed in the system and I came with no expectations. I did it as my last big show before WEG, which was one of my main goals this season, but of course when you are there and in front of your home crowd you try everything. And everything worked out in that moment - we won!
That’s one of your biggest wins to date…
Yes for sure - it was my first CSI5* Grand Prix win, so definitely my best win so far. I’m lucky enough to have had many nice moments, especially when I was a young rider, to become European Champion and won several smaller Grand Prix, but this was my first 5* win - and [in my country] in Valkenswaard. If you see the rider list - it’s crazy to see how many good riders were there.
And that’s something we wanted to talk about - you were up against the best of the best at LGCT Valkenswaard, we don’t even need to name them. How satisfying was it to make your mark and prove you can beat all of them on your day?
It means a lot. You could also feel the next day how important it was, that win. I had to do a lot of interviews for TV and magazines, and also the week after. So you really feel how important a win like that is. It changed a lot [for me], I’m qualified for [the GC Playoffs] in Prague, which was another main goal for the end of the season. It may also help me to get into a GCL team for next year… There were many things that came out of that result.
You said that in your live winning interview also - is that a key aim for you, to be in a GCL team next year?
I really want to try that. I know it’s a lot of jumping, and a lot of shows but I’m in a very good place here with Jos Lansink and he has many good horses for me so I think now it’s time and we are ready to do it. I follow every Global Tour itself, as every time it’s very good sport, so I love to see it and try to learn from it. And I think it’s very good that we have something new like GCL, something different. I think it’s fun for example that you see John Whitaker - he’s been in this sport so long and you can see videos from maybe 40 years ago, and you see him riding now for GCL in a team jersey and in a place like Miami Beach. I think it’s very fun to see how it’s changed, and I think it’s very good that the sport is still growing and getting better and better.
Who would be in your dream team then? It could be anyone, that’s the beauty of GCL, it’s not confined to country only…
There are a few really good teams - I think Valkenswaard United is very good and has done well the past few years. Plus it’s Dutch. I also think the team in the lead now [London Knights] has done very well. I would love to be in a team that also goes for the title - I’m a bit of a team player, always was, and I played a lot of soccer when I was younger. I would like to be in a team with people who [have the same mentality]. I did a few Nations Cups in my younger years and also with the seniors - I always went for the team result. I hope I can be in one!
You’re selling yourself well! Is there one rider who you particularly look up to?
I’ve been very lucky to be in a team with great Dutch riders such as Harrie Smolders or Jeroen Dubbeldam - both very different but I learned a lot from them. So to pick someone from another country I would say I have been at many shows with Marcus Ehning and I learn a lot from him, he shows how good he is every time. I was lucky enough to beat him in Valkenswaard and I know that’s not going to happen too often which makes it even more special, but it would be an honour to be in a team with someone like him.
The GC Playoffs and Prague then, and the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix… Again, it’s something new but it’s going to be extremely exciting. There’s 16 of you and it’s a stellar and slightly formidable line up, have you got a game plan?
I’m really going to focus on it. My first goal of the year was WEG, and so my next is [the Playoffs] for sure. We decided to give my horse [Chianti's Champion] a little break and he has been out in the field and every day hacking out into the forest. In the last couple of weeks we built him up again with some smaller shows and now Prague - we’ll give everything to be our best.
You had one chance to qualify - which you nailed - and you’ll have one chance to win the LGCT Super Grand Prix… Maybe that’s your strategy? All the pressure, no second chances?
Haha, I have a 100% score right now! I don’t know if it’s realistic to win it, but ok there are only 16 in the class - on one hand that’s not many, but on the other they are all very, very good riders and for sure they’ll bring their best horses as there’s a lot of prize money and honour attached to winning the first [LGCT Super Grand Prix]. There will be a lot of publicity about it - it’s a very, very big moment of the year so I’ll try to be on my best [form] and try to enjoy the moment as it’s not going to happy every year that you qualify for something like that. I will give it a go and see how far we get.
I want to beat them all in the end - I have a lot of respect for them all, and I’ll try to learn still from them. But hopefully after Valkenswaard they will act the same with me and I’ll try to show the world once more what I can do.
Tell us about Chianti's Champion then, he’s a bit of a cool dude. What makes him so special in your eyes?
I’ve had him now for two and a half years, he was eight years old and didn’t have so much experience. But from the start he found everything very easy - we built him up slowly, and now he’s ten years old so still relatively young. We’ve had many nice moments, and he’s at his best when it gets very big and difficult - he always gives that little bit extra and that’s why he’s so special. And he will always be special to me as he’s the first horse I won a CSI5* Grand Prix on, and hopefully I can keep him for a long time.
And if you could describe him and his personality, he sounds like a fighter, what would say his characteristics are?
He is, as you said, quite cool in his head - he’s not very easily impressed by his surroundings, and whichever ring he goes to, indoor or outdoor, he is always the same. He’s still a stallion and can have quite a lot of character every now and again, so you have to find a way. He has to listen to me, but he is still quite young so it’s good that he still has that blood and fight in him.
As a combination and for people who might want to back you for the LGCT Super Grand Prix, what would you say your greatest strengths are?
I can also stay quiet. I’m also not so quickly impressed so together we are very calm. And it means if he has moments I can help him get through it - in the end he’s still young so I need to stay quiet in moments like that.
Last question and it’s a tough one… Describe in one word how you’re feeling about the LGCT Super Grand Prix.