Humanitarian, philosopher, activist, and equestrian icon. French show jumper Kevin Staut is all of the above. He takes his role in the industry seriously (he was the first athlete to be appointed to the FEI executive board) and has a social conscience to match. He’s written books (Le Cavalier D’Acier) and has had books written about him (L’elegance de la Liberte). Alongside his duties as president of the International Jumping Riders Club, the committed long-time Just World International ambassador has travelled to impoverished communities in Guatemala and Cambodia to see for himself how the charity provides education, nutrition, and healthcare to underprivileged children.
Of course there’s also the day job. Six years ago, the 2009 European champion partnered with teammate Patrice Delaveau and horse owners Emmanuèle and Armand Perron-Pette of Haras des Coudrettes to build a five-star stable and a collaboration based on what they call the five fundamental values of performance sport: Passion, Excellence, Performance, Ethics, and Perseverance. From their ultra-modern base, Haras de la Forge near Deauville, Normandy, the JumpFive team compete, train, and coach. The breeding arm of the enterprise continues nearby at Haras des Coudrettes and most of Staut’s horses carry the suffix HDC. It’s a slick operation, but Staut is keen to remind us that at its heart is a deep and abiding love for the horse.
Can you give us an idea of what your life is like on a daily basis?
My life is quite hectic, but that is a choice. The nature of the sport requires a lot of time and effort, and in various directions. The days I am not at a competition, I am in my stables very early in the morning to observe all my horses, to know how they are feeling. Then I will work them on the flat or gallop them. Afterwards they will go out to the paddock for their well-being.
Together with my groom on the days of competition, we work the horses a little in the same way and then the week begins again.
How did you get your start in horses?
We were not a horsey family, but coming to live in Normandy I was surrounded by horses, to my great pleasure. At first it was a love for the animal and little by little it became a strong desire to ride the animal! My mom started riding because she wanted to better know the universe of horses. My grandparents wanted the same for me; they saw my happiness. It made me think that by entering this world, I could never leave it. That proved to be true, for it is still the same today.
Can you identify a turning point in your career?
My ‘trip’ really began when I became European champion and then a year later, vice world champion with the team. Those were big clicks in my career and made me want more and more. The bar was raised and I was encouraged to aim higher and try to get to the top.
Were there sacrifices made along the way?
It has never been a sacrifice for me. I love this world too much and ever more the need to promote the horse, my companion, my friend.
Tell us something that would surprise people about you.
I think the surprise would come if I ever changed my habits, like if I arrived after 6 a.m. to my stables or I took a real vacation.
Horsepower and an ultra-competitive nature aside, is there another ingredient that gives you an edge?
Some people think that I am a wolf, that I like to fight to win; that it is necessary to have this desire for competition, for the dream to be “perfect” always. But actually I have always been, and remain, a great sentimentalist about my horses.
How would you describe yourself?
I am someone who is very focused and concentrated in my work, but I am also a dreamer who likes to read and to listen. I have gained wisdom; that does not mean that I am wise. I think I am a great perfectionist!
If life hadn’t taken you where it has, is there another profession that you would have pursued?
I would have liked to race cars.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
I really love Normandy, not just because of the horses, but because it’s my region and the heart of my family.
Where would you most like to go that you haven’t been?
Why not Mongolia? After all, it is the country with the most horses per capita in the world.
When and where did you last go on vacation?
I couldn’t tell you exactly. I don’t like to go on vacation except for three or four days. Perhaps it was skiing.
Do you have a health and fitness regimen?
I try to make an effort to feel good in my body. I do not have a specific diet; maybe less meat than before and a lot of fruits and vegetables.
Can you recommend a book or movie from the last year?
Origin by Dan Brown.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Perhaps a glass of a really old and good red wine. (Ed. Spoken like a true Frenchman!)
You’re having a dinner party and can choose four guests, living or dead. Who would you invite?
Gandhi for his philosophy. French comedian and actor Coluche for his humour. Nadal because he is such a good tennis player and still number one. Meryl Streep for her perfect talent as an actress (and Ernest Hemingway for my mom’s pleasure!).
Money or medals, which is more important to you?
Medals with a team.
Do you have a burning ambition?
My ambition is to stay a good rider with really good horses for a long time.
If you had a life lesson to share with us, what would it be?
Keep the dreams. The day when I have no more I will stop …
If a genie were to give you three wishes, what would you wish for?
Good horses, medals, and dreams!