To know Edwina Tops-Alexander is to know the very highest level of show jumping. Recognized around the world as a two-time Olympic veteran and Global Champions Tour Series Champion, she has achieved more in her 40 years than most riders can hope to accomplish in a lifetime. She is an international superstar who in 2006 became the first Australian rider in history to qualify for the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany (she in the individual top four.)
She’s a dedicated rider who’s been blessed with a long and successful partnership with the legendary Cevo Itot du Chateau, still going strong at 18 years of age. She’s one half of a power-couple partnership, the other half being her husband, the Dutch horse dealer, trainer, show producer and driving force behind the Global Champions Tour, Jan Tops.
In recent years, she’s become one of the few riders to achieve crossover recognition, due to her sponsorship by Gucci. With her blond hair and striking features, she is a fitting muse for the house of Gucci, which designed an exclusive equestrian wardrobe just for her. She in turn named one of her horses “Guccio” in honor of the iconic brand.
Edwina Tops-Alexander is many things, including humble, approachable, and gracious. When Horse & Style asked to pick her brain on subjects ranging from her earliest mentor to where she spends her down time, she was happy to comply.
Horse & Style: Describe what motivated you to work your way up from the bottom when you arrived in Europe for the first time in 1998.
Edwina Tops-Alexander: I saw how professional the sport was when I arrived and I was fascinated by it. I realized that I had a long way to go and that I had so much to learn. It was a big challenge, but I love challenges.
H&S: Who or what was most influential on the early part of your career in Australia?
EA: I had a trainer who was a real horseman, who showed me a different side of understanding the character of horses. His name was John McCraeth and he taught me so much. He always said I would get to the Olympics, and I wanted him to see me there one day. He was the first person who gave me confidence in myself. I was about 14 when I met him and his kids rode, but were never very keen so I think he was happy to share his knowledge with me.
H&S: Do you keep close ties with your family at home in Australia?
EA: Yes I speak to my parents a lot and they visit me at least once a year. Luckily there is a lot of live streaming so they can follow everything.
H&S: With yours and Jan’s business at Valkenswaard and your show schedule, how do you find any down time for yourself?
EA: We actually live in Monaco but travel a lot as I compete about 48 weekends a year. When we are in Monaco, it is my time to relax because there are no horses around us. I enjoy eating out and being in a city. Although Monaco is small it reminds me a lot of Sydney with the weather so I’m very fortunate.
H&S: How would you describe the relationship between you and Jan?
EA: We are very fortunate that we understand each other very well and we share the same passion. We both love what we do and we are very lucky to have each other.
H&S: In many ways, Cevo Itot du Chateau has been the horse that helped you become a star. How do you feel about your run with him?
EA: I’m extremely lucky that I found a perfect match in my career. Not many riders ever have had a horse like this and without Itot and the management from Jan I wouldn’t ever have had this success. Itot has a very positive attitude and he loves competing and therefore we fit very well together. We have a very special relationship and it started from the first day I rode him. There is a lot of trust and respect on both sides.
H&S: What qualities do you look for when shopping for your next prospect?
EA: Good attitude, sharpness at the fence and elasticity of the body.
H&S: What would you count as your greatest achievement thus far?
EA: Winning the Global Champions Tour Series, two years in a row.
H&S: Tell us how the sponsorship with Gucci came about. What does their support mean to you?
EA: I met Frida through Charlotte Casiraghi, who I competed with in some team events, and then Gucci approached me. They were looking for a professional rider. I’m very fortunate to have a luxury brand supporting me, and to bring some glamour back into our sport is fantastic. Gucci has strong equestrian roots and I think it’s fantastic that they are becoming more involved in the sport.
H&S: How would you describe your style out of the saddle?
EA: Sporty, classic and comfortable. I love fashion but I don’t necessarily follow the trends. I think as you get to know yourself, you find a style that you’re comfortable with, and I’ve learnt that when you feel good you look good.
H&S: What are your goals for the next 20 years?
EA: I wish I knew myself!! Of course I would like to win many grand prix, and to be healthy and enjoy life. Staying positive is the key to my success so whatever I’m doing, if I enjoy it I will always be happy.
This article was originally published in the Feb/Mar 2014 issue of Horse & Style Magazine. CLICK HERE to read the entire issue online!
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