TOPHORSE Rider Profile–Edwina Tops-Alexander

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A lot is riding on the shoulders of Australian showjumper, Edwina Tops-Alexander. As highest ranked female showjumper in the world, there’s hopes she’ll bring home Australia’s first-ever Olympic showjumping medal. She has the horses, the talent, the experience, the drive!

“I would love to win a medal, it’s definitely on my agenda,” she said.

Born in Sydney in 1974, Edwina now lives at Valkenswaard in The Netherlands with husband Jan Tops, who won an Olympic gold showjumping team medal at the 1992 Barcelona games. Their magnificent stables, Stal Tops are set on 11 hectares surrounded by woodlands and boasts three Grand Prix fields which play host to an international event each year. Jan is in the business of buying and selling horses, which is how he and Edwina crossed paths.

Edwina and Itot du Chateau during the recent Qatar GCT (Sportfot photo). Edwina and Itot du Chateau during the recent Qatar GCT (Sportfot photo).

There are 12 employees, three riders and around 35 horses at Stal Tops, and when Edwina isn’t away (she competes 50 weekends a year), she rides five to eight horses a day.

“Some horses I ride twice a day depending on their program. I also try to run, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep.”

She’s currently working on a book about the various horses in her life; her career highlights, training tips and exercises, and her riding philosophy. She also finds time to work out three times a week, having studied at university and qualified as a fitness trainer.

None of her family are horsey.

“My next door neighbours had horses and I spent every afternoon and weekend with them watching them ride, brushing the horses and just being around them,” she said.

“One day I got on and started riding without really knowing what I was doing.”

She did odd jobs to prove to her parents how serious she was about horses.

“I got my first horse when I was eight…a four year old unbroken pinto. This probably wasn’t the best start but my ambitions were to have a horse, a blue riding coat and pierced ears, then move on to my next goal which was compete at the Olympics!”

On the winner On the winner's podium during the Global Champions tour! (Sportfot photo).

She competed successfully in Australia, but not without some ups and downs.

“When I was about 18, I got to a point where I wanted to quit after I had a horse who stopped at just about every fence.”

But she persisted and after qualifying for the World Cup, took her horse, Mr Dundee to Europe where she planned on staying with friends for six months.

“I liked showjumping a lot and thought I should go to Europe and see if I could be good enough because if I wasn’t, I’d rather put my effort into doing something else,” she said.

“I don’t like half doing things.”

The six months was extended to four years as she recognised that competing internationally was a whole new ball game, with showjumping a high-profile sport held in major cities where competitors stayed in five star accommodation that boasted their own competition arenas. Luxury indeed when compared to showjumping at Australia’s country shows where riders frequently slept in their trucks. The difference in prize money on offer was another major factor.

Edwina rode for Belgian showjump rider Ludo Philippaerts for three years before starting her own company buying and selling horses for clients in Australia.

Edwina and Pialotta during the WEG (Roger Fitzhardinge photo). Edwina and Pialotta during the WEG (Roger Fitzhardinge photo).

She represented Australia at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez riding Quelle Damme van de Heffinck, finishing in 48th place. In 2005 she moved to Stal Tops where Jan and Cees van Opstal bought a mare named Pialotta for her to ride. The mare gave Edwina her first taste of international success when they placed fourth at the 2006 World

Equestrian Games in Aachen, the first Australians to do so.

“I surprised myself, I didn’t expect that. It showed me if you really put your mind to something and believe in yourself, things can happen.”

There has been no stopping her since! She won the Global Champions Tour in 2009 and again in 2011. This prestigious showjumping competition was founded by Jan in 2006 and comprised 10 rounds of showjumping offering 300,000 euros each, which has increased to 14 events this year. Last year Edwina was the first rider to earn 1 million euros during a Global Champions Tour season.

Edwina and Itot du Chateau during an FEI World Cup event (Kit Houghton/FEI photo). Edwina and Itot du Chateau during an FEI World Cup event (Kit Houghton/FEI photo).

As defending champion, things are going well with Edwina and Itot du Chateau winning the Grand Prix at the GCT’s first 2012 event at Qatar.

While she’s the leading ranked female rider in the world, her aim is to be number one in the world, regardless of gender.

At the moment her focus is on the London Olympics where she’ll represent Australia riding Itot du Chateau. At the Beijing Olympics, she finished 7th as part of the Australian team and 9th individually with Itot.

While she’s also qualified to compete in the 2012 world Championships, she is considering riding Titus, a recent acquisition with her primary focus being on the Olympics and GCT this year.

Itot is her current star horse.

“I call him Toti, which Itot spelled backwards. He’s in super shape. This horse is really a magical little horse and I’m very fortunate to have him.

”I’m going to be focusing on preparing him for the Olympics and the Global tour and the plan is to see how he feels and how he jumps, but the tour is definitely on the priority list for this year.

”I have back-up horses in Velut and Titus. This year there are two new Global Tour venues in Vienna and Shanghai. It’s all about being consistent and I think that’s the key to winning the tour.”

In 2011, Gucci signed Edwina to a major sponsorship and she now competes wearing exclusive Gucci equestrian clothing and accessories which were specially designed for her by Gucci Creative Director, Frida Giannini and featuring the Gucci crest.

She has many up and coming horses to choose from and recently purchased a seven year old French stallion, Rackham’Jo. There’s also an eight year old grey mare named Erenice Horta who Edwina says could potentially be her next top horse. Jan and Edwina also have a strong breeding program in place, with foals (by embryo) from Pialotta…seven are currently on the ground with another seven yet to be born, all by a ‘who’s who’ of elite showjumping stallions.

Winning Olympic gold would no doubt be the pinnacle of an already stellar showjumping career…and no doubt Australian horse and sports-enthusiasts will be riding with her every step of the way!

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