“It’s really the love of horses that we try to convey”

Virgine Coupérie-Eiffel is hosting the 8th year Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping from June 24 to 26, 2022 in the heart of Paris. At the end of the week, no less than 250 horses will walk the lands of the Champ de Mars with the best riders in the world competing. At the foot of the Eiffel Tower, for her, it is “the infinite individual becoming universal”.

Paris match: Former professional jockey, horse breeder, now vice president of the French equestrian federation and organizer of the Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping Tournament, what woke you up this morning?
Virginie Couperie-Eiffel: Passion ! The passion for horses drives me every day and makes me want to build this competition, but also my property in Bordeaux to breed. It is truly the love of horses that we try to convey.

So it is 8order Celebrating the Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping event, what triggered at the time to host the first edition?
We created the Gucci Master, used to be in Villepinte, and François-Henri Pinault asked me in a chat why I didn’t do it in the heart of Paris. And that’s a great idea! Furthermore, I have the memory of Jappeloup and Pierre Durand’s celebration here, in 1991, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. So I like the idea that the competition could take place here first because I come from Gustave Eiffel on my mother’s side and because on my father’s side I have always been passionate about horses. I was born with a horse, I have horse blood running through my veins. Today it is the individual infinity that has become universal. In addition, Champ de Mars was formerly a racecourse, at the end of which is a military school also marked in the equestrian tradition. This is the land of horses and getting them back to the center of town is a big challenge.

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The track was also built on the Champ de Mars’ basin, an engineering feat, right?
We had stayed at Place Joffre before, but the ephemeral Grand Palais had moved there, so we were transported to the heart of the Champ de Mars. It’s really a feat of engineering because horses are so solid, it’s impossible to just lay a floor and jump them on vacuum. Therefore it is necessary to fill the lake and place the plateau completely hard, then build a technical floor with sand for them to get points and jump.

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We are very concerned about animal welfare these days, does dancing the Eiffel show make it one of its main concerns?
This is the theme of our time. Above all, a horse’s happiness is in its knowledge of animals, knowing why the horse feels good, and how well it should feel in its body and head. I wanted to highlight it, so there’s animal communication, massage, physiotherapy, lawn walking area. They are competitive animals, in order for them to perform they have to be cuddled and comfortable. 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’s plan is to come back here

What do you think of the French drivers competing this year?
First, we are fortunate to have the reigning Olympic champion in Tokyo, Ben Maher. It’s a great field with a high-achieving French team and especially our sport’s rising star, Edward Levy, who won everything last year. Kevin Staut is the great hope for Paris 2024, who has risen to 10th in the world. But also Pénélope Leprevost, the defending champion in Rio, because we were the only medley sport at the Olympic Games.

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We recently discussed the topic of security at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Was it particularly difficult to organize this year’s diving program?
We have tightened security. The idea is to always have an event that is free and accessible to everyone, which is extremely important so that the people in the district don’t just suffer the negative effects. That’s theme #1, and I think since we’ve been here, there’s been so much security everywhere, every entrance, that the quietness of the neighborhood is much more assured than usual.

What are the future plans for the event?
Next year the project will return here but the theme is mainly about 2024 as Champ de Mars will be the Olympic venue so we will have to find another location. Then return to our home country before the military school, or continue to the current location, but make sure the DNA of the competition is here with Eiffel.

It clearly holds a special place in your eyes, what are you most proud of about this event?
The happiness that people get when coming here is to see the horses and their smiles in front of the tower. It is a symbol of joy, surprise and also overcoming oneself as it proves that anything is possible. Riding a horse is the same, on horseback anything is possible if you believe in yourself and the animal. So giving happiness is my greatest pride.

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