Longines Masters Of Hong Kong 2019: Jacqueline Siu On The Sport Of Dressage
When equestrian Jacqueline Siu realised in August last year that she had won the individual gold medal in dressage at the Jakarta Asian Games, tears of joy streamed down her beaming face.
It was not only the Hong Kong native’s first victory at an Asian Games, but it was also the first equestrian gold for Hong Kong. “It was an incredible feeling. For a very long time it had been something I’d dreamed but was not really sure if it would ever happen to me,” she says.
“I felt immense pride not just for myself and my ride, Jockey Club Fuerst on Tour, but for everyone who had helped me.”
Now based in the Cotswolds, England, Jacqueline will be returning to Hong Kong with her mount in February for the Asian leg of the Longines Masters.
“We will be performing our medal-winning freestyle, and I cannot wait to show him to the people of Hong Kong,” she says. “He’s such a beautiful horse with a wonderful character, and I’m sure everybody will fall in love with him. He’s a bit of a show-off, really.”
For some, it takes a whole lifetime to figure out what they want to do with their lives, but Jacqueline discovered her passion when she was just a toddler. “I’ve been fascinated by horses since I was three years old. I will never forget Johnny, the first horse I ever rode.”
The 35-year-old says her parents cultivated her passion and enrolled her in riding lessons at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Beas River Equestrian Centre. “After that first riding lesson, I was hooked. Riding was something unique, a chance to build a friendship with this creature so big and strong.”
Jacqueline continued lessons at the centre until her family moved to the UK when she was 10. There she joined the Garth Hunt branch of the Pony Club in Berkshire and started training more seriously.
“At first I enjoyed all the activities: jumping, cross country. But then I had a ride on a very naughty little pony called Munchkin. He was very uncooperative and often refused to jump or would run off with me and buck me off, so I had to focus on flat work [basic movements] to get better control, which led me to basic dressage.”
Dressage, the pinnacle of horse training, requires the horse and rider to perform memorised movements, such as a passage (a cadence trot in place), a pirouette (a 360-degree turn in place) and a half-pass (a diagonal movement). It’s a beautiful sport to watch, thanks to the choreography to music and the partnership between the rider and the horse.
“The more I practised and improved, the more I grew to love dressage, and then I started to follow it closely,” she says.
At the age of 14, Jacqueline began working with a professional trainer and entering competitions. The big catalyst came after university, when she began to train full-time and compete at a senior level. She moved to the Netherlands to work with one of the greatest dressage riders of all time, Anky van Grunsven.
Van Grunsven “had already won two individual Olympic golds [in 2000 and 2004] and would go on to win a third [in 2008],” says Jacqueline. “This was monumental in my development; I learned and experienced so much, and saw first hand what it took to be the best in the world.”
To excel in this sport, it’s as much about Jacqueline’s relationship with her horse as her own skill. “Athleticism and trainability are key attributes of a Grand Prix dressage horse. I’ve worked with so many horses over the years, but if I could choose, I would prefer a horse with good natural energy and enthusiasm; this is essential for the top level of the sport.”
Jacqueline has demonstrated a natural ability to work with mounts that others might find difficult. “When I was around 17, my trainers noticed I seemed to be able to improve the performance of horses that were not necessarily the most talented. I realised then that training horses for competition was something I enjoyed and was good at.”
Though it may look effortless, dressage is not for the faint-hearted. “You’re not only dealing with yourself as a rider, but also an animal with their own mind that weighs 600 or 700 kilos.”
Over the years, Jacqueline has had to overcome many setbacks. “Horses are living beings. They can also be affected by illness and need daily attention,” she says. “I’ve had horses get injured, faced injuries of my own, and even lost a horse to cancer. I’ve had moments where my heart has been broken, my body has been broken, and during those tough times you question yourself, whether you can keep going.”
For Jacqueline, such setbacks have fuelled her determination to be one of the best dressage riders in the world. “I’ve had many people supporting me along the way, encouraging me to get back in the saddle where I belong.”
As she trots from one success to the next, Jacqueline sets the bar ever higher. “I have more dreams to chase.
Obviously, I would love to represent Hong Kong at the Olympic Games, something that has never been done before in the sport of dressage. This sport is my passion; it’s my life. I am stronger than ever before and ready to continue the ride.”
The Longines Hong Kong Masters takes place at AsiaWorld-Expo from February 15 to 17.
See also: Longines Masters 2019 Returns In February