BOIS LE ROI, France — Horseplay may be frowned upon within most famous families, but a number of European royals and celebrities engage in it regularly — at some of the chicest stables around.
Princess Charlotte of Monaco and other blue-blooded offspring travel to Espace Rozier in the verdant Bois Le Roi, near the Fontainebleau forest one hour south of Paris. There, Marcel Rozier, who took home the gold medal for show jumping at the 1976 Olympics and the silver at the 1968 Olympics, trains riders from across the globe in show jumping — one of the sport’s three major disciplines. “Princess Charlotte is passionate about it and very determined,” Rozier says of the royal charge.
The ringmaster notes, as he counsels an elegant rider toward a jump, that the equestrian tradition has long held a place in European countries. “France as well as Germany and the Netherlands have always had a strong horse culture,” he explains. “There are families here that have had the equestrian culture in their blood for hundreds of years.”
They’ve likely had money running through their veins too, for serious horse riding is not an inexpensive hobby. Rozier organizes an annual auction to sell trained horses, where a show-jumping champion can go for 2 million to 3 million euros ($2.4 million to $3.6 million), and elite equestrian trainers are sought after to give private lessons costing some 2,000 euros to 2,500 euros ($2,430 to $3,030) a pop.
“Some of the wealthiest people in Europe and America are involved in the sport,” says Peter Wylde, a native Bostonian who flies to France twice a month to train with Edouard de Rothschild. Wylde led the U.S. show-jumping team to the silver medal in the Olympic Games in Athens last year and now “my dance card is full,” he jokes. His stable, called Stall Lenhsen, is based outside of Roermond, the Netherlands. “I only train students who have already obtained a certain level of riding [expertise],” says Wylde, who still takes part in competitions himself.
“It’s an elite sport,” agrees Henk Nooren, show-jumping coach and trainer of the Swedish Olympic Team. Touted as one of Europe’s best equestrian trainers, Nooren purchased a new farm last winter in Clermont-Sous-Huy, Belgium. He began work on the new facilities this month.
This story first appeared in the September 1, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Nearby, in Fleurus, Belgium, the renowned Brazilian rider and winner of two gold medals and one silver medal in the Pan-American Games, Nelson Pessoa, has also set up an equestrian center, called the Haras de Ligny. He runs it with his son, Rodrigo — among the top-ranked riding professionals worldwide.
Both have worked with champions as well as celebrities such as Athina Onassis Roussel. But the trainers agree that good riding doesn’t always stem from a socialite upbringing.
For instance, Nooren grew up riding horses with his father on a farm, while Marcel Rozier learned the sport while working at a stable. “One day, I was finally given the opportunity to sit on a horse and four years later I was in the Olympic Games,” he says.