Show jumper Kevin Staut: “My goal is to become number 1 again”

8 min.

Kevin Staut is one of France’s most prominent riders. In his already long and successful career he has won Individual European Gold, two World Championship Team Silvers and a European Team Silver. On top of that he was nr. 1 on the FEI jumping ranking list for 11 months straight during 2010-11. Here he talks about working his way back to the top, dealing with the challenges of the pandemic and why the respect for the horse must come before anything else in the equestrian sport.

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It has been quite a rollercoaster for Kevin Staut over the last decade. Going from being number 1 in the world to slipping out of the top 10 and then struggling to get back. But he is hopeful and determined that the future looks bright with good things to come.

“Well, the thing is, that we often say that the ranking list is more of an invitation system for the riders for the shows, than anything else – but also that the only place that counts is the number one,” Kevin explains.

“Right now, there is large group of really good riders. They have good systems, good owners, in a large part of the equestrian world – from the breeders to the top level. So, all of us really have to work hard and improve our own system in order to continue to stay at the top. Most important for my though is that I am a fan of the sport. I am passionate about the horses, have been since the beginning and that hasn’t changed at all. I really enjoy what I do, and I am pleased that I can continue to have a good team around me. So yes, it’s okay to out of top 10, but I am working on becoming number one again.”

Kevin Staut waving. Competition on a brown horse with pink planket. The horse is walking slow. audience are looking. Rolex watch. Pink flowers.
Photo: Elisabeth Guillou

Finding the positive during hard times

One of the real challenges in getting back on top has of course been the pandemic. With a vast majority of the shows being cancelled in 2020 and many more in beginning of 2021, it was difficult to get the process going. But at least during 2021 a light was lit at the end of the tunnel. So, the question remains, did anything good come out of this long downtime?

“When the corona came, I realized how addicted I am to the sport,” Kevin recalls. “But also, that I really like the daily routines of waking up and riding the horses. So, it was also a time where I could focus on the technical part, take time with my horses, without having a specific goal like a final at a competition or reaching the top ten.

In that sense it has been a time where I could find a different relationship with my horses, find more peace, and focus on basic things. There were many people who couldn’t even leave their houses, couldn’t go to work but for us we were working every day at what we do and caring about the animals. From that point of view, we were the lucky ones in the society. I don’t hope that it will come back like this too many times, but you have to find something positive in a situation like that.”

Patience brings pleasure

This way of approaching a challenging situation or obstacles in general characterizes Kevin Staut in general. He seems like the type of person for whom the glass is always half full – not half empty. And he is capable of finding joy in all parts of an equestrian lifestyle. Whether it be the sport or pleasure part.

“I can’t really give you a percentage between the two. But I think it is an interesting topic to talk about horses, sport, and pleasure, because it emphasizes very well what it is that we do. Patience is definitely a big part of it, and patience brings you pleasure by nature. It’s not about coming first or last. The pleasure is always there for the ones that are really passionate. 

I would have to say that it is half and half. You can always find pleasure even when your horses are doing bad at shows. You are constantly improving and maybe they just weren’t ready for this, or maybe you weren’t riding well. But the pleasure is still there. The results will go up and down and you have to accept it in every sport, but especially in our sport, because we are working with horses. So, you know that there will never be a linear statistical result.”

Always respect the horse

For Kevin it’s important for riders to keep in mind that they are very lucky to do what they do and that they should enjoy it – and especially the younger ones who are coming up. In his opinion they must be good horsemen first and then they can think about riding and competing. 

“It´s really the pleasure of being with the horse that is the most important part. You don’t need much motivation because being with the horses is a motivation in itself. It’s good vibes all the time and you can share it with your team, the grooms, the owners, and your family. So, it’s a lifestyle,” Kevin stresses knowing very well that this way of life is often being scrutinized by animal rights groups, who are very concerned regarding equestrian sport in general. 

“We have to make sure that we show the best side of the sport and that what we do is first and foremost based on the respect of the horse. And not just to show it but actually live by it. And this is where patience comes back in, it brings you this natural respect. You cannot be passionate if you brake certain rules just for the sake of a competition. So, the first rule is to respect the horses.”

From gold medal winner to uncertainty

It is no secret that France used to be a great showjumping nation when you look at results from the past. The country’s riders did really well at the Olympics in Rio in 2016 where they won team gold, but from there on they have struggled to create or keep the dynamic to be able to continue at that level. And seen from Kevin’s point of view France is still at a low point. They are still not quite back.

“We were a big nation who is going through rough times, but we will be back. We are working really hard on it,” Kevin explains.

“We have some super good riders and a really good system, but at this moment we have a problem with keeping the good horses in the country. Most of them are getting sold and going to foreign countries, and it is difficult to find the right new owners. Of course, the horses being sold is not only negative, because it’s also a business and what keeps our system healthy. But with that said, you cannot just sell and never buy.”

Which brings Kevin back to the fact that in the end it’s all about the horses. If a country doesn’t have enough good horses, it will not be able to move forward. 

“It doesn’t matter how you ride or how strong you are. We have many good riders now with lots of experience. The federation is a great help, they are doing a great job. And maybe that can help create a path to new owners, because naturally we all want to get back to the top of the sport, and in order to do that, we need to have good horses for our riders.”

“I don’t give up easily.

I really love what I do

Kevin Staut

In spite of everything

The way Kevin speaks of the challenges France and he himself has been facing, it aligns well with the actually meaning of the phrase “Malgré Tout”, which is French and means “In spite of everything”. 

“Definitely, yes. You still keep going in spite of everything,” he admits with a smile.

“I don’t give up easily. I really love what I do, and I also want to become better and better. You cannot be blind to this situation we are in. You have to acknowledge that we have to fight really hard to stay at this level. And if it continues the way it has so far, and we don’t create a new system and get new horses it will be difficult. That’s the reality. You have to look at it and analyze it – if you want to make plans for the future. Not just for a few years but for a longer period.”

So, the big question remains – what is actually Kevin’s goal? Will he be happy just to be part of the circuit and get a few good results here and there? Or is he looking for more?

“Well, you know, in our sport there has been no one over the last ten years, who didn’t deserve to be at the top. Like now Peder Fredricson for example. It shows that you can be good with different horses and be a good manager as well because you don’t go just for the points everywhere. You have strategy that you follow. And yes, for me that is a goal – to come back and be the best. To have good horses, a good set up with great owners. To balance everything.”

Kevin staut close up with a blue polo shirt and tie. Wearing a helmet and smiling. Green background.

KEVIN STAUT

Born: 15. November 1980.

Lives in Pennedepie, France.

Career:

  • Began riding aged 10 as his mother was a competitive showjumper
  • 1996. Began training with Michel Hécart where he was exposed to top quality horses
  • 2000. Won a Young Rider European Championship Gold medal and moved to work for Hubert Bourdy
  • 2002. Set up Ecurie Kevin Staut, using the stables that his grandfather had built at his weekend property

Selected results: 

2009 European Champion 

2010 World Team Silver medalist 

2010-2011 nr. 1 on FEI jumping ranking list for 11 months

2011 European Team Silver medalist 

2012 Competed in the London Olympics 

2016 Olympic Team Gold medalist in Rio

2017 Winner of the Top Ten of Genève

2019 LGCT Paris Grand Prix Bronze medalist

2019 Winner of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup

2021 Rome, Circo Massimo, CSI5*, First place with Iliade Kdw Z

2021 Berlin, CSI5*, First place with Iliade Kdw Z

2022 Opglabbeek, CSI2* Third place with Bond Jamesbond De Hay

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