ACHIEVE THE BEST PERFORMANCES
Jos Kumps has been a coach for over forty years. Behind a very composed attitude we can unveil the thread of an existence that is much more than just a career: a chosen way life, a strength of character that leads to excellence and a maturity that has been crafted day after day.
At the beginning though, nothing seemed to predetermine his destiny of becoming an outstanding horseman. So why has he chosen a life close to horses? He did not come from an environment, or from a family involved in equestrian sports, so it was a deliberate choice. “I was 11 years old when it all started” he says in his composed manner. And he immediately felt the passion. He had to find his own way in riding and when he came to age he went to the U.K. for two years and enrolled in a training program. When he returned to Belgium he decided to become a freelance coach-rider, evolving very quickly in the most prestigious private stables. “I had the chance very early to work with high level riders from many different countries”, he says.
Day after day
« My motivations have changed nowadays and they are not the same they were ten, twenty or forty years ago”. So, what is the guiding thread of such a career? What are the principles that continue to rule his code of conduct? He doesn’t compete himself, so it’s all the backstage work that forges this passion that time has shaped. In fact, he continues to ride every day, 4 hours, 8 hours, sometimes 10 hours a day… “Riding up to ten horses a day at my age and when we have done that for such a long time wouldn’t be possible without pleasure and satisfaction”. And this pleasure, this satisfaction come no doubt from a sense of mastery. “It’s a sort of continuous research, of autonomy, that do not need approval from others.” When the adrenaline of competition does not feed the passion, or set the rhythm of the fences anymore, it is the pure pleasure of mastery for itself that fully radiates. “It’s not about the show anymore, but it is very fulfilling.”
Bring out the talent
And make it express itself in the best way possible, this is what this renowned coach stands for, always pushing exigency to its paragon. Based at the Ecuries d’Ecaussinnes but also working anywhere in the world where he is required, Jos Kumps splits his time between coaching and his work with the horses: teaching other riders and heading masterclasses on one side, and riding and preparing his client’s horses on the other. He also helps his two sons who are responsible for a string of horses belonging to clients. “I have clients I don’t coach, but only work with their horses”. And what about the masterclasses? With high level riders, he says, it is not formal classes. “We work on a different level, but with an approach that can still help them technically.” With self-modesty, he justifies his contribution with his long experience. “It’s because I am twice their age and I am used to it”, he smiles, insisting on the importance of training that allows both the rider and the horse to overcome all difficulties and obstacles.
When you ask Jos Kumps to speak about horses, he mentions their character and above all, their memory: « They remember everything that has happened! » Does he manage to rewrite the effect that a bad experience can have on a horse? “We try to do that by using various approaches; we play the card of experience” he says, as if he could see all this mastery he is talking about like images scrolling before his eyes. “We actually become more and more humble with time and we make it simple”. Is he delivering us the real sense of discipline? “Discipline is not a difficult, restrictive and dusty concept that discourages young people. It is something that we choose with free will and we decide to bend down to every day.” And here is the true mirror effect: you can lie to yourself, but a horse does not lie. “It’s a reality check” he insists. In horse riding we speak about aids: what we do with our legs, hands, voice and weight to “help” the horse do what is required, whether it is dressage or show jumping. “When we have a difficulty, it’s about knowing what we are doing that is not helping the horse. We have probably made a wrong choice or have been too ambitious. In this case, we need to either lower our requirements or increase the horse’s capability. Sometimes we need both.”
« Discipline means having the free will to come face to face every day not only with your horse, but also with yourself »
The positive fear
" I’m someone who is very much afraid of horses », says Jos Kumps surprisingly, “but not in a negative way”. I know what they can do and when I’m coaching I pay attention to all details, because sometimes a horse may rush and kick you and a rider can have his spur touch the horse where it shouldn’t."
For Jos Kimps, who is essentially a show jumping coach, gymnastics with the horse is something very important. “For me a show jumping course can be compared to a circuit in a gym. The horse can be considered as an athlete, because it needs to jump, go right, go left, everything needs to be very symmetrical. A huge part of these gymnastics is destined to improve this symmetry and increase straightness. In the beginning, a foul is not symmetric, it needs to be trained. This is very important and rather subtle. You must take things from the beginning to avoid problems in the future, but you need to be patient because it takes time. A rider is like an architect. He makes the horse work in a way that will develop certain muscles, but not so much the others”.
“THE HORSE IS A TRUE ALARM SYSTEM THANKS TO A VERY WIDE FIELD OF VISION AND A WELL-DEVELOPED SENSE OF SMELL.”