One of the world’s biggest equestrian events it coming to Hong Kong this month, with Olympians and world champions among the riders taking part at the Longines Masters of Hong Kong. It will be the seventh time the event takes place in the city this month, and two new tournaments have been added for six top junior riders.
Vincent Capol is one of the two who will be representing Hong Kong at the brand new Hong Kong Jockey Club Asian Junior Challenge and the Asian Junior Grand Prix. He was crowned champion at the CSIJ Hong Kong 2018 competition in November.
The 15-year-old already has eight years’ experience in the sport. His love of horses was sparked by summer holidays spent at his grandparents’ home in rural Switzerland, where he would see horses on nearby farms. It was a particularly memorable experience for a young boy living in a concrete jungle like Hong Kong. His fondness for the animals led to riding, and later showjumping.
“As one of the few sports where a human works with an animal as a team, this is a really fascinating sport,” said Vincent. “But at the same time, working with an animal is unpredictable, which makes the sport very challenging.”
The upcoming tournaments this week will be even more demanding than usual, as it is a “borrowed horse” competition where riders are paired with random horses. Riders will only have two training sessions to get to know their assigned horse, and Vincent’s strategy is to assess his new partner quickly and try to adjust himself to it.
“Every horse is unique and I should be the one to adapt. My job is to get the horse into the right situation so they can do their job and help me get a good result,” said Vincent, who last year was named the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation’s Junior Rider of the Year 2018.
In addition to using his voice and the way he rides to pilot the horse, the German Swiss International School student says it is vital to give the horse enough time both to warm up, and to rest to bring out its best qualities during the competition.
“This is to make sure the horse is in shape, but still eager and motivated to jump,” said Vincent, who has been riding a nine-year-old mare Angel in local competitions for a year and a half.
The Year 10 student trains five to six times a week after school at the Beas River Equestrian Centre near Fanling, which affects life outside of the arena.
“My training usually ends quite late, so I must do my homework [quickly and] efficiently. It gets quite stressful around exams,” he said.
But Vincent said he feels less stressed when he remembers that showjumping is his passion, not an obligation. He is keen on sharing this enthusiasm with more people in Hong Kong, through other major international equestrian events.
“The horse-riding community in Hong Kong and all around Asia is growing rapidly,” Vincent said.
“With more prestigious events in the region, it will attract more attention to the sport and build up its popularity.”
When asked about his goals for this week’s tournaments, Vincent said he will give his all, despite the uncertainty of working with a borrowed horse, and learn from the world’s best showjumpers at the senior events.
“I’ve competed against some of the contestants before. While I can’t say for sure whether I will come out on top, because I don’t yet know which horses will be given to me, I will do my best,” he said.