International Star to Design at Takapoto
For French course designer Michel Ismalun, it is truly a dream come true to be heading to Takapoto Estate Show Jumping this year.
A writer, trainer and former rider, Michel has designed the world over, including as part of the team for the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2014 in his home country, but until now, New Zealand had never made the list . . . not through lack of wanting though.
However, four years ago he met Takapoto show director Jaime Tiller when she was riding and he was designing at Angelstone in Canada. “I guess she enjoyed my tracks,” says Michel. “I will thank her forever for inviting me to Takapoto.”
Angelstone is considered Canada’s fastest growing equestrian showjumping competition venue and annually hosts up to a thousand of North America’s top horses over its five week competition.
It is but one of the many places Michel has designed. Also on the list are Wellington in Florida, where he is heading into his 11th consecutive year, The Durban Shongweni Club for a seventh year of World Cup qualifiers, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco, Kuwait, Portugal, Switzerland, Lebanon and more. He started his course designing journey in 1993, moving to level 2 in 2006 and level 3 in 2010.
Working alongside his now business partner Frederic Cottier at WEG in Caen is one of his greatest moments. The two had worked together at La Baule CSIO for more than a decade and for Caen made all the jumps. “They were very successful and made the buzz,” he says.
Frederic and Michel make and sell jumps through their business ISCO.
He is thoroughly looking forward to his trip Down Under. “New Zealand is the furthest place from France,” he says. “It is a dream for me and my wife to come.” Michel’s wife Damaris will be judging at the show while Michel designs the courses in both the Bellevue Main Arena and APL Sand Arena 1.
“Course designing is a great achievement. It is the mixing of teaching and riding, taking some of each. When you build, you have a chance of creating a good and nice sport and you feel really happy about that,” says Michel. “My way of building is making courses hard for riders and easy for the horses. The best rider must win, but not the best horse – well, except for the young horses maybe. My job will be to make riders and horses improve and become much better at the end of the second week.”
But his attention is not just on horses and riders. “I am always trying to make everybody happy with my work . . . from organisers to trainers, spectators and the media. Making a super competition is a real challenge.”