“It’s really the love of the horse we’re trying to send”

Virgine Coupérie-Eiffel is organizing the Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping for the 8th year from June 24 to 26, 2022, in the heart of Paris. For a weekend, at least 250 horses will tread the land of the Champ de Mars with the best riders in the world competing. At the foot of the Eiffel Tower, for him it is “the eternal personal that has become universal”.

Paris Match: Former professional rider, horse breeder, now vice-president of the French riding federation and organizer of the Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping, what made you get up this morning?
Virginie Couperie-Eiffel: Passion! The love for horses that drives me every day and makes me want to build this competition, but also my Bordeaux breeding property. This is the love of the horse we are trying to convey.

So this is 8th anniversary of the Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping, what was the reason for organizing the first edition?
We did Gucci Master, which was previously in Villepinte, and François-Henri Pinault asked me in a conversation why I didn’t do that in central Paris. And it’s a very good idea! Also, I remember the jubilee of Jappeloup and Pierre Durand here, in 1991, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. That’s why I like the idea that the competition will be first here because I’m from Gustave Eiffel on my mother’s side and because on my father’s side it’s always been a passion for horses. I was born with horses, with horse blood flowing in my veins. Now it is the eternal personal that has become universal. In addition, the Champ de Mars was a former racecourse, which was eventually the military school also marked by the equestrian tradition. This is the land of horses and getting them back to the town center is a big challenge.

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The track was also built on top of the Champ de Mars basin, a technical feat, right?
Previously, we were at Place Joffre, but the ephemeral Grand Palais moved there, so we moved to the center of the Champ de Mars. This is truly an engineering achievement because the horses are so grounded, it is impossible to just lay a floor and jump them in a vacuum. So it was necessary to fill the pool, and put a completely hard plateau to build a technical floor with sand so they could get their marks and jump.

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Now that we are so concerned about animal welfare, does Eiffel show jumping make this one of the main concerns?
This is the theme of our time. Above all, the good of the horse is the knowledge of the animal, knowing why the horse feels good, and how well its body and head feel. I want to highlight this, so there is animal communication, massage, physiotherapist, places for walking on the grass. They are competition animals, in order for them to perform they need to be pampered and feel good. Also educate people and make it clear that horses are not motorcycles. A good rider is one who loves his horse and understands it.

Next year the plan is to come back here

What do you think of the French riders competing this year?
First we are lucky to have the reigning Olympic champion in Tokyo, Ben Maher. It’s a great field with a high-performance French team and especially the rising star of our game, Edward Levy who won it all last year. Kevin Staut is a big hope for Paris 2024 which has risen to tenth in the world. But also Pénélope Leprevost, reigning champion of Rio, because we are the only equal game in the Olympic Games.

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We recently broached the topic of the security problem at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Is it difficult to organize show jumping this year?
We tightened security. The idea is always to have an activity that is free and accessible to all, it is even more important so that the residents of the district do not suffer only from the bad parts. That was topic number 1, and I think since we’ve been here, there’s a lot of security everywhere, at every entrance, that the peace of the neighborhood is more secure than usual.

What are the future plans for the event?
Next year, the project will be back here but the topic is mainly about the year 2024 because the Champ de Mars will be an Olympic ground so we have to find another site. Then go back to our origin in front of the military school, or continue to the current site, but surely the DNA of the competition is here with Eiffel.

This is clearly a special place in your vision, what are you proud of through this event?
The joy of the people when they come here to see the horses and their smiles in front of the tower. It is a symbol of joy, surprise and also of self -excellence because it proves that everything is possible. Horseback riding is the same, on horseback everything is possible if you believe in yourself and the animal. So giving pleasure is my greatest pride.

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