Grégory Cottard started riding as an amateur rider, following in the footsteps of his uncle who owned an equestrian centre. The bitten then becomes an instructor, and then travels the tracks as a professional rider.
The graal comes for him in 2013 when he is crowned champion of France with his mare of head (and especially of heart) that he gave birth to, Pepyt des Elfs.
He gave us a few minutes of his time to tell us about his passion; meeting a rider as courageous as he was down-to-earth.
“I’ll advise as I go along.”
HP: When’s the recovery?
G.C: I will resume the season to Royan where I will be present for two weeks, before leaving again for two weeks at the Villeneuve-Loubet Tour. For the horses team, I try to make two lots with several head horses and younger horses in order to go out as much as possible in competition.
HP: What work has been done to start the season?
G.C: The horses were resting after the Longines Master in Paris (from 30th November to 3rd December) which marked the 2017 season. From about one month, I slowly put them back to work, training them for example with a few cavaletti jumps. In the last few weeks, with frost and bad weather, working outdoors was not easy to organize. In the end, Royan will be a contest for me a first warm-up round to get back into the rhythm of the competitions.
HP: What are your goals?
G.C: We’re going to start slowly on 2*, 3* CSIs to move towards the 5* and why not CSIOs or Nations Cups. After that it will depend on my horses, me and then on other riders too! (laughs) I don’t really have any specific objectives, I’ll advise as I go along.
“I’m even better than when I was twenty!”
HP: Grégory Cottard often rhymes with balance, why?
G.C: It is true that I do a long and daily work on my balance that has an impact on my riding position. It is important to be aware of the movements we make and the repercussions they can have on our animal.
The rider’s attitude gives information to the horse and if you want a good dialogue, you have to behave.
To do this, I work with a sports coach, who helped me to soothe my back pain, before setting up balance exercises through biomechanics (editor’s note: interpretation of how the mechanics of the human body works). We also emphasize the movements of the pelvis and shoulder blades that directly influence our balance.
HP: You mentioned back pain, what about it?
G.C: Three years ago yes, I had big problems with my back, I had to restructure my entire pelvis; now I’m fine, I’m even better than when I was twenty! (laughs)
HP: In the end, your coach is an integral part of your sporting career today.
G.C: Yes it’s true, we’ve been working together for three years now and everything is going very well, it helps me a lot to evolve. We meet once or twice a week in the gym to work on different exercises, such as cardio with for example bicycle sessions.
Moreover, since we don’t know the equestrian world at all, we work together from photos and videos to develop my placement, my position. So we can say that he is my ally every day.
HP: Is this notion of equilibrium also valid for horses?
G.C: Yes, the notion of balance is very important in horses. This is also a daily job that I do with them. For example, a lot of work on double tracks, a series of cavaletti or small courses that allow us to control the equilibrium of the horse as soon as we receive the obstacle.
“I feel like in my pajamas!”
HP: What made you a Horse Pilot ambassador?
G.C: Undeniably comfort, one feels good in clothes, one is free to move as one wishes, whether in jackets or shirts. We can freely follow the movements of our frames.
In fact, the team has been able to modernize the riding apparel sector; there is a real change from the uncomfortable outfits that could have been worn a few years ago.
I became ambassador some time after my title of French Champion ; now I am in Horse Pilot from morning to evening and I feel like in my pajamas! (laughs) (editor’s note: Gregory Cottard also evokes, just as Cedric Angot did, unequalled comfort; pyjamas, a sector to consider?). They propose products for our safety.
HP: When you talk about safety, you mean the airbag jacket?
G.C: Yes, I will now be wearing this product. For this season, I decided to wear an airbag in order to have a safety system that complements my helmet.
Professional riders are sometimes still too relaxed about their protections; habits that should nevertheless become more democratic. It is better to wear a helmet and an airbag and not to be stopped because of a bad fall. Wearing an equestrian air jacket it’s not a question of fear, but just common sense, I think.
© photos : Dans la foulée / Alexandre Lourenço (pictures 1, 2 et 4) – Séverine Moronval photographe (pictures 3).