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Roger-Yves Bost: Watch, take in… and keep you own personality

Interview by Laetitia Bataille and Nelly Valère


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Roger-Yves Bost is currently number 13 on the Rolex Ranking List. More and more people are talking about him given his unusual style, his increasing wins and exceptional talent for speed classes.
This French rider, known by his diminutive name “Bosty”, is extremely popular on the international show jumping circuit and is currently one of the stars of equestrian sport.
He gave Cheval Savoir an exclusive interview.

The shortened name of “Bosty” was given to him at birth by his father and has become the name everyone uses from commentators, journalists to horse owners in his stables.

Roger-Yves Bost
Roger-Yves Bost, the upcoming French Show-jumping star ! © Sportfot/GCT

The year of 2012 was particularly good for Bosty and on his 47th birthday in October he won the Grand Prix World Cup round in Helsinki. A few days later he won more Equita Masters at Lyon, and then was 3rd in the 5 star Grand Prix in Vienna. He finished 5th in the Grand Prix at the final of World Champions in Abu Dabi and was again 5th in the World Top Ten competition in Geneva. These victories do not include his numerous wins in speed classes that are his speciality and that engender wild enthusiasm in the crowds.
He gave Cheval Savoir an exclusive interview.

Interview

We visited him at his stables of Brulys situated in Seine and Marne where he received us between two working sessions on the enormous outside school of pale sand. There were riders everywhere, some doing flatwork, some jumping and all accompanied by vibrant music coming from loudspeakers. Bosty rode an owner’s mare for a short time and then returned to his students to watch one going over a difficult upright fence and then to another student from whom he took the horse…

I try and change a horse’s routine in order keep him alert, motivated and not bored

Cheval Savoir: How do you train your horses to top level?

Roger-Yves Bost: I hack them out! (Laughs) Yes, I’m serious. I’m lucky to have a wonderful exercise ground, the Fontainebleau forest, with good sandy going as well as slopes that help enormously to muscle-up horses and get them balanced naturally without forcing them.
For example, Idéal de la Loge practically never jumped at home – he knows his job. Before a big competition I usually jump some small fences just to get the horse's joints moving. That’s all. Otherwise it is just flatwork.

Roger-Yves Bost
A picture taken in Bosty’s stables, near Paris. © L.Bataille

C.S. You have wonderful installations – and for more novice horses I imagine that you use them …

R.-Y.B. Yes, but I use the inside or outside school as little as possible. It bores the horses; plus I try and change their routine (we have several) for variety in order keep the horse alert, motivated and not bored. This is why I split up the work a lot. When I’m riding, the horse is not always working – during work he must go forward from the leg and then I give him a break. I want the horses to be happy. I also like them to be just a little pleased to see me when I arrive in the stable yard!

C.S. In the forest you do shoulder-in using the side of the path as a guide? (Laughs)

R.-Y.B. I do everything, half-halts, rein-back, shortening, lengthening strides in different paces … I also trot for long periods and I make use of the gentle up or downhill slopes in order to muscle them up. Last week I had a mare whose abdominal muscles were contracted; after three quarters of an hour of work using the up and downhill slopes her muscles were relaxed as was her attitude.

Roger-Yves Bost
“I like to feel they’re happy to see me…” © L.Bataille

C.S. What happens with the young horses? I assume you don’t lunge them in the forest?

R.-Y.B. (Laughs) No. In any case I don’t lunge very much. It bores me and the horses. On the other hand, I like to free school the horses without tack.

C.S. You let them buck?

R.-Y.B. Well yes! I don’t mind - not too much of course! I let them play a little but it must just be limited.

C.S. When you do lunge, what do you use: a bridle, a cavesson?

R.-Y.B. Bridle or head collar. I like lunging in a simple headcollar.

C.S. Since we’re talking about harness, for competitions you often use a martingale…

R.-Y.B. Yes, I like the traditional running martingale – not the standing martingale. I use it to bring the horse’s hocks under him. I also use draw reins for schooling which help to channel them. They are attached at either side and high up on the girth. I leave them loose for most of the time.

C.S. What advantage do you see in them?

R.-Y.B. They help to make the horse supple and they limit the silliness when they play the fool. Draw reins reduce the time needed to relax the horse so they save time. They are also useful when asking for lateral flexion of the neck – it’s a means to have a quick guide.

Roger-Yves Bost teaching
Roger-Yves Bost teaching
Roger-Yves Bost teaching relaxation of the jaw to a student. In the photograph we see clearly that the horse has relaxed his jaw and is bent at the poll. © L.Bataille

N.V. We’re speaking about flexion… we’re following the ideas of Baucher? We saw you teaching relaxation of the lower jaw…

R.-Y.B. I worked a lot with Jean d’Orgeix.

C.S. We see that as well in your students in the suppleness of their arms and wrists…

R.-Y.B. I’ve always been inspired by other riders especially the Englishmen, John Whitaker and Nick Skelton…

Roger-Yves Bost
Bosty in the Global Champions Tour in Valencia. © Sportfot/GCT

C.S. Your style over the jumps is unusual. It keeps the spectators in suspense during the round! (Laughs) Your gestures have used up a lot of ink: not a classical style but effective because you win…

R.-Y.B. My position is not by choice. It’s without doubt because I come from a horsy family, I rode without restraint at home when I was young, on ponies and horses and a lot of the time bareback or without stirrups. I had abductors like concrete! I jumped all day some 8 to 10 horses. When I came home from school, I jumped: 5 minutes of flatwork then off, I jumped and jumped. It is without doubt how I developed this unrestrained style, a little removed from the academic setting.

C.S. You’re sometimes criticised on this subject… does it bother you?

R.-Y.B. Well, it annoys me when I see my legs bent back on certain pictures, because people have always gone on about this… but otherwise, no. I have to be a little different from the others! (Laughs)

C.S. I’ve watched your rounds on video a lot, and I’m struck by the parallelism of your movements with those of the horse. I can see a real mimicry...kind of isopraxism...
For example, when the horse bends his front legs over the jump your arms are also bent, similarly your legs are bent back as the horse’s hind legs are bent when soaring over the jump. And the angles are the same!

R.-Y.B. (Smiles) I was totally unaware of all that initially. It’s true at take-off I raise my hands to encourage the horse to take-off over the jump; in fact 2 or 3 strides out from the jump I move my hands back to encourage the horse to bring his hocks underneath him and so his centre of gravity is further back. I lift up my hands for take off: it is a signal and at the same time an aid. Before, I did all this instinctively but now it is calculated. It was Jean d’Orgeix who made me analyse all this.

C.S. Before the jump you have your back arched like the horse that has engaged his hindquarters and at the moment of take off when the hind legs are stretched out yours are also fully extended in parallel with those of the horse… It’s amazing!

R.-Y.B. I try to help the horse, in any event not to hinder his maximum effort and not to bother him. I jump at the same time as him, and I’ve the feeling that I help him and that I also need to do it for myself.

These pictures of videos
These pictures of videos shows a perfect isopraxism between horse and rider… © D.R.

C.S. If you’ll allow me to continue to speak about this personal and effective gesture: over the jump you allow the horse a lot of freedom in his neck so that he can extend to a maximum…

R.-Y.B. Yes, raising the hands whilst doing flatwork is also a sign and a way to encourage stretching of the neck; that’s what happens when jumping: I raise my hands to ask the horse to take off and so stretching of the neck follows naturally the sign from my hands.

C.S. I’ve watched you a lot, during the landing phase. You straighten your upper body to have a vertical line between your shoulders, hips and legs like at the start and parallel with the front legs with a minimum angle between you and the horse’s back. You only sit down in the saddle again after the landing; you seem to slide your bottom towards the front of the saddle without landing down on the horse’s back – like on an imaginary slide. This is something you have worked on?

R.-Y.B. Absolutely not! I don’t exactly see what you mean but I know that I am often very high above the horse when going over the jump… I jump at the same time as him! So I try not to land down hard on his back: that’s normal…

Roger-Yves Bost
An image of lightness of horse and rider. Roger-Yves Bost in the GCT Gucci Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.
© Sportfot/GCT

C.S. Me, I also saw that this vertical position does not put weight on the forehand when the movement of the horse’s neck is upwards – so easing the impact of landing. Those who would criticise ought to make a better study of your videos...

R.-Y.B. People criticise because they don’t know and they don’t understand why. These movements were completely instinctive but now everything is really calculated especially after having worked with Jean d’Orgeix who made me be aware of so many things: how muscles work, how to split up the training, important technical issues such as flexion, the importance of the jaw, the way to turn short without falling onto the inside shoulder… It was Jean d’Orgeix who chose me to ride Norton – what an honour!

C.S. Why did he choose you?

R.-Y.B. He saw that I had something… that I adjusted to many difficult horses. He made me work every day for a year: he came to me and told me particularly to be myself and all along teaching me how to analyse everything; yes I know all that! Really I don’t know whether I know all and especially how to do everything well, but he showed me and explained to me everything.

C.S. That’s also a basis for your flatwork?

R.-Y.B. Yes, all flexions… The horse should relax his jaw (the mouth is very important) and his poll so that all the rest relaxes, the neck, the back etc… all this happens at the same time ; like this the horse is a little behind the hand in order to have him later in the hand.

C.S. I like in the hand and not on the hand…

R.-Y.B. Yes, Jean d’Orgeix made me understand all that. He had a good feeling for the animals.

C.S. Do you often change the bit?

R.-Y.B. In the beginning I tried quite a number but now I ride in a simple snaffle (I always do relaxation of the jaw using a simple bit) a double bridle or a pelham.

C.S. Do you use downward stretching of the neck much?

R.-Y.B. At halt, in walk and when I enter the ring but not too low as to alter the balance. But I ask for lateral movement of the neck round to touch my boot. To keep the balance that’s really important.

Roger-Yves Bost
The horse is on a long rein and going confidently. © L.Bataille

C.S. Hyperflexion (Rollkür) which at the moment is very controversial subject in the dressage world is also often used in the show jumping discipline, yes?

R.-Y.B. Not too much, but nevertheless some do: it depends on how one does the hyperflexion: if the poll remains high and the hocks remain under the body and not left behind “in the stables” as the expression goes, it can be useful for some; the Germans do this a little with an immobile neck; for me it’s more the neck free and active like the English. I watch other riders a lot at competitions particularly in the warm up arena. I prefer to do as the English riders, feel for the horse without relying on luck: one should never count on luck but act according to the horse.

C.S. Without doubt you have students who try to copy you…

R.-Y.B. It’s necessary to pay attention so that they don’t pick up the bad things; I mean by a bad thing that is specific to someone that is it works for that person and that shouldn’t be copied every time. One should know how to help the horse instinctively by feeling; when I lift a leg up over a jump it’s because I felt that it was necessary to give a little bit more to the horse in order to avoid knocking the pole down. I don’t do that each time and never without reason. Therefore don’t imitate! It’s only necessary to do it if it is a way to be with the horse in one or another difficulty. Also don’t do too much or else the horse won’t know what to do.

C.S. Here are you talking about a true mimicry with a mental link, a relationship involving both motor and emotional responses and not just a pure and simple imitation?

R.-Y.B. Of course. Me, I take something from all riders. Afterwards it has to be oneself.

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