Every year at the Masters, Rolex goes out of their way to provide the media time with Canadian superstar Eric Lamaze. This year was challenging due to scheduling issues (the whole snow thing and all), but we still got to sit down with him and talk about a few random things about him, his horses, and the sport. Sadly a barn tour wasn’t possible, but he assured us that we could catch him next year! I will warn you that I am paraphrasing, so don’t take these as direct quotes. A big thank you to Rolex for this interview!!
On Zigali and WEG:
He is a very, very good horse who is just a little short on experience. At this point, water really impresses him. When he sees the water, like with a Liverpool, he tries to overachieve it and then that changes how lines and combinations ride. This did result in some faults at WEG, but overall the other poles were primarily light rubs. He was very happy with how he handled it overall. He will be one of the horses that can really do the big championships with a little more age and mileage.
The problematic wall (at WEG):
Walls are tricky because the horses love to look at them, and with no standards or wings, it is hard to hold them into it. Whenever there is a new sort of wall at a show, there are going to be issues. It was not the photographers on the other side (this question was asked by a rather worried photographer)- the horses would not have even seen them until they were in the air.
The quick turnaround to Spruce:
The horses are used to it, and really handle it well. After spending 6 weeks in Calgary during the summer tour, this is almost like coming home for them!
On the progression of the sport:
Things are very different now than they were a decade ago. Breeders are breeding very different types of horses… we still call them warmbloods, but they are really more like thoroughbreds. The horses need to be way lighter than they used to be. Before when you went to see a horse all people would talk about is how scopey and powerful they were. Now, this really doesn’t mean anything- you need a horse that has blood, that’s really light, and that gets in the air easy- it has to be effortless. Scope isn’t determined by power anymore, but instead is how light and agile they are. Some of the best horses in the world don’t have a lot of power, but they are agile and have a lot of blood; they don’t give-up when they see a fence.
The modern horses would not have excelled a 15 years ago; Hickstead would not have done well, the material would have been too heavy for him, and the construction wrong.
The increase in prize money in the sport.
It has certainly changed the dynamics of our sport. For example, the 1.5 million dollars on the line for the CP International is phenomenal. Everyone is very excited about Sunday and went out of their way to get here. Things like the Rolex Grand Slam have changed our sport, and brought us closer to other professional sports like tennis and golf.
Also, the increase in money has done two things: the price of horses has gone up, but the business sense behind buying them, and the argument in getting owners, is that it is very possible to make a lot with a good horse that goes a long time. For example, Hickstead paid for himself 100 times over by winning. Now it is much easier to make a million dollars a year on a horse, and this horse wouldn’t even be a superstar with what is being offered. It would be a very good horse, but with a star like Hickstead, you’d be laughing all the way to the bank.
Wait… Where do horse prices come from?
A horse is worth whatever the seller is asking…. there are no rules whatsoever. Horse dealers try to stay within what is happening in the market, but a lot of horses right now are being sold through aggressive buying that sees a reluctant seller finally giving in to a sky-high price.