The Men Behind the Voices Longines Masters of Los Angeles Barbara Pinnella Max von Zimmerman I f you attend horse shows in the States, Canada, or Europe it is almost certain that you would recognize the voices of Matt Millin, Max von Zimmerman, and Davin Malmqvist. But if you passed by them outside of the venue you might not recognize them on sight or really know anything about them. All of these men had a background in horses when they were younger, but they are quite diversified in most other things. Here is a closer look at these men behind the voices. Matt Millin – United Kingdom Red Horse. Photograph by Alden Corringain Media Matt has been involved with horses since he was seven years of age. It is the only thing he has ever done. He used to ride himself, and made the transition from ponies to horses. “That is going back quite a few years. To be honest, I wasn’t that good, but when I stopped riding I still wanted to be involved in the sport in some way. So I went to my brother who runs a small place back in the U.K. He put on some little shows, and I started doing a bit of judging and commentating.” Things took off for him from there. He began to work larger shows as a commentator, and became a judge in the U.K. in 1990. By 2005 he was an FEI judge. Continued on page 80 Page 34 TCE Nov/Dec 2015 www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com
The Men Behind the Voices Longines Masters of Los Angeles Barbara Pinnella  Max von Zimmerman  I  f you attend horse shows...
Matt Millen (left) and Davin Malmqvist (right). Photo by Alden Corrigan
Matt Millen  left  and Davin Malmqvist  right . Photo by Alden Corrigan
Matt Millen’s wife Amanda Jane and DJ at 1.70m in six bar. Arena UK Show Centre. “How I got into the international circuit was working among one of the best commentators in the world, Andréjacques Le Goupil from France – brilliant commentator! I worked with him for some shows that Alan Beaumont organizes in the U.K. “EEM went to André-jacques and needed an Englishspeaking commentator for Paris. They needed someone who’s lively and knowledgeable, and André-jacques said very kindly, ‘I know just the man.’ And along with Alan Beaumont’s recommendation, that’s how I joined the team here. I’ve grown with them. I did Paris every show since, both L.A. shows, and both the Hong Kong shows.” Working with this team has given Matt many more opportunities to work in almost every country. And while it is true that he is on the road a lot, he and his wife Amanda also have a couple of horses, both seven-year-olds that they are trying to keep and show. Commentating is Millin’s main job, but he and Amanda have another business. It is called Find Me The Right Horse. “We find horses for people literally all over the world. It is all done by video, and it is all done by the power of Facebook. And we have customers here in the States as well. Of course we stand behind everything we sell. You can’t have a company named Find Me The Right Horse if you send a donkey, you know,” he laughed. “Seriously, we interviewed so many horses and got so many great stories about them, and then when we saw them they were rubbish. I said, ‘This has got to stop. There has got to Page 36 TCE Nov/Dec 2015 Matt Millen interviewing Bertram Allen be somebody somewhere who will do the service.’ Then I said, ‘Well, why don’t we do it?’ That’s how that worked.” Matt is selective about which shows he works. He doesn’t want to do 30 or 40 weekends abroad. “I’m happy with the 12 or 15 that I do, and that’s enough for me, because back home I’m also the mentor judge for our National Federation. So I train the judges there, and I do all their exams and put them up through the grades, hopefully see them at the international level as well. I get a good boost from that, taking the guys I’ve trained, you know? “But I am very lucky,” he continued. “I get to work all over the world in many different cultures. America has a more exciting audience, with the glitz and glamour; you go to Hong Kong and its like, ‘If you ask me to applaud, I will applaud, if you ask me to sit still, I will sit still.’ And then of course you got to Scotland, and that’s different world all together,” he laughed. “But the best thing for me isn’t really a particular venue; it’s when we have a really good class. Like in Hong Kong, when John won. I’ve known John since I was a little boy, and to have the privilege of being the commentator and call him home on his biggest ever financial win – that was amazing!” Another thing he really enjoys is getting to see a young rider move up the ranks and be successful. He remembers Scott Brash when Scott was probably 12 or 13 at the little shows in Scotland. He and his father would come with their ponies. www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com
Matt Millen   s wife Amanda Jane and DJ at 1.70m in six bar. Arena UK Show Centre.     How I got into the international ci...
“He’d jump and he’d fall off at the fifth fence and his dad would say, ‘Hey, get back on, you’re going again!’ Then he might get to fence eight. And look at him now, he’s number one in the world! He and Hannah, they’re such a good team. I get a big boost seeing where he was to where he is now.” The hardest part of Matt’s job? He feels it is just keeping everybody happy, but he does an excellent job of doing that. Millin is very conscious of the fact that there are a lot of people in his sport that don’t get recognized. He believes the owners need a lot more recognition in the sport. “When you hear me commentate I always mention the owners. The top riders in the world rely on these owners to give them a living. I also don’t think the grooms get enough recognition. We have a young horse series in the U.K., and I always sponsor groom prizes, so every winner gets a bottle of champagne courtesy of me. It’s just nice to bring them in the ring as well.” He is also aware that all of the sponsors are so very important. “Look at the millions of dollars that Longines has put in, in various series, not only here. Where would we be without them? They have got to be the VIPs, they’ve got to. But I think they are, because they come back year after year.” For his preparation, Matt writes everything down. “I can say what big things someone has won, but I don’t know what he did last week, so I put it all on paper. The internet is great for looking up that kind of thing.” Millin said that the Director of EEM, Christophe Ameeuw is great to work with. If he is happy he will come and tell him, and if not he will say so. That makes it so much easier. “This has been a good team for me, and these guys have really put me on the map.” Max von Zimmermann – United States Max grew up around horses. His parents and sister were trainers. He rode very briefly as a child, but he was always on the working end of the show circuit. “I started doing jump crew when I was a kid traveling around with my parents when they rode. When I was 17 or 18 I started doing in-gates at the horse shows. I did that for about 10 years or so, and then one year and somebody said that they needed another announcer in the Grand Prix field so they pulled me in. “What really hooked me into the sport of showjumping was working with Linda Allen at the 96 games in Atlanta and seeing the best in the world, just like what we are watching here at the Longines LA Masters” Max von Zimmerman and his wife Dani Max was enjoying only having his announcing duties at the Longines Masters. Usually he is announcing as well as judging at a lot of the events, so this is a rare treat for him. And he is thrilled to see this level of competition. “To see this caliber of horses here is fantastic. Seventeen Olympians gathered in one spot – it’s just an amazing feat and an amazing event.” But he has announced other big competitions as well. He has announced the million dollar class in Thermal for quite a few years, one of the 2012 Olympic qualifiers in Del Mar, and probably 50 or 60 World Cup qualifiers over the years. He has also announced many medal finals up and down the West coast. One of his favorite shows is unfortunately no longer in existence, and that was the Hood River Classic in Oregon. It was at the base of Mount Hood. “It was, spectator-wise, just a beautiful, beautiful event to go to.” His preparation for commentating involves a lot of research. At the Longines Masters, since the West coast is his home, Max is very familiar with the horses from this area. “For the number of riders that we have out here it’s very easy, because I see them all the time. Usually I am a part of their results and what they do. But for the East coast and European riders that are here, there are multiple websites used to gather information. We put together a little book on the riders and we organize that, so when the riders come www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com TCE Nov/Dec 2015 Page 37
   He   d jump and he   d fall off at the fifth fence and his dad would say,    Hey, get back on, you   re going again    ...
in we have that information right at hand, if we don’t know it already. “The hardest part of my job is getting all the names right. Especially in the sport of show jumping, some of the horses’ names are very, very unusual. You have a lot of Europeanstyle names. French is my worst, unfortunately. I’m pretty good at pronunciation for most languages; I can pronounce the riders well – but French for me, that’s my nemesis.” Max really loves what he does, and gets just as much of a thrill announcing smaller events. He takes pleasure in seeing the joy that some of the kids show as he does announcing some of the big events. “These riders are used to big announcing and big events. I try very hard in my announcing style, that no matter what horse or rider comes in the ring, I try to make them feel like that is their event, and it’s all about them at that time. going,” Max continued. “Vic Carmen, the same way; they could get a crowd right up there.” Max had those announcer mentors, but he also had support from home. “Before this, my wife Dani didn’t even know this world existed,” he said. “She has been just great. And of course my parents who kind of got me into this in the first place. I’d also like to mention Dianne Johnson; she’s a manager up in the Northwest. She is the one who gave me my start, as far as doing gates. She and another manager named Peggy Fackrell were the ones who really gave me my first opportunity to be a judge and a main announcer. I will forever be grateful to both of them.” Max wants to make the rider feel good when he is announcing. But another thing he loves is new crowds. “I love announcing to the laymen. I love people who haven’t “I have learned from great announcers like Vic Carmen, been to an event before. My judging side comes out when Matt Hinton, Ned Coffin, Jeff Gilbert, Tom Gallagher, and I’m announcing where I explain what’s happening in the Mike Moran. All these guys were mentors and I’ve plucked ring. It’s very important, and for our sport to grow people little things from them to incorporate into my own style. need to know how it is judged and how it is scored. There “I like to think that I’ve been around the business so long is a lot more to it than, you go fast and clean, and you win.” and have worked with so many great people that it’s easy to Max does about 20 to 25 shows a year now, and most of do my job and incorporate my own style in with things that those he will both judge and announce. He does not feel I’ve enjoyed from them. that one takes away from the other. He believes that he is “Like Ned Coffin used to be GREAT at getting a crowd one of many people in the country that can do both jobs Page 38 TCE Nov/Dec 2015 www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com Longines Masters of LA arena. Photograph by Alden Corringain Media
in we have that information right at hand, if we don   t know it already.    The hardest part of my job is getting all the...
One big family: Davin Malmqvist, Frank Lombaers, Matt Millin, Thomas Eyckmans, Max von Zimmerman, Paul and Kristof Van Mensel very efficiently. “It’s very different in Canada and Europe – if you’re an announcer, you’re an announcer. If you’re a judge, you’re a judge. Fortunately in our country, that is one of the things that makes it nice when you have the ability to do both. That makes you in more demand to come to more shows.” “It’s been a wonderful ride, and I hope it keeps going.” as well. I hope the riders understand how much we want them to succeed.” Davin Malmqvist - Canada “Of course you remember most of the horses and riders, because you kind of get in the circuit where you see the same people. I guess it becomes a little bit less of an onpaper preparation, it’s more of remembering what they’ve done last week, for example. For me, I just try to remember small little tidbits.” As far as a favorite venue or area to announce, Davin really doesn’t have a preference. He loves doing what he does no matter where he is. He did admit that when he has time off, which is very rare, he can go a bit stir-crazy. “I started riding horses when I was eight actually. I spent two years in England, because my father was transferred. I then went back to Canada and continued riding. I did some shows at Spruce Meadows. At one of the indoor tournaments my horse had been injured, so I asked if they needed any help. I was willing to do anything. “Linda Southern told me I was announcing – I had never done that before. It was an indoor show, so it wasn’t a big tournament. I was nervous of course, but that’s how I started. Now, 23 years later, I’m still doing it.” This is Davin’s full-time job. He told us that this year he will work right around 41 horse shows. “It’s a lot of work, but I love what I do. You get to watch beautiful animals and great riders. You can watch riders come up through the ranks and develop from juniors to amateurs to professionals. You get to see the horses develop For the most part, Malmqvist works in North America, primarily on the West coast. He is not opposed to going anywhere in the world to announce, but right now he has plenty of work right where he is. Being that he mainly announces on one coast, we wondered if his preparation for an event is any less, since he is more likely to know the horse and rider teams. He has always remembered something that acclaimed course designer Leopoldo Palacios once said to him. “Leopoldo believed that the horse business is unlike any other business. In most places, if you have someone who is the weakest link you let them fail. In the horse industry, you never allow them to fail, because if they fail, the whole thing fails. “Being at shows becomes so much of your life, they are your family. For instance, this is my first time working with Matt (Millin), and it feels as if I’ve known him for decades.” www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com TCE Nov/Dec 2015 Page 39
One big family  Davin Malmqvist, Frank Lombaers, Matt Millin, Thomas Eyckmans, Max von Zimmerman, Paul and Kristof Van Men...
Davin Malmqvist and Matt Millin. Photograph by Alden Corrigan Media The person he looked up to the most in his industry was Bill Kehler. He was considered the voice of Spruce Meadows, as well as being an announcer for the Canadian Finals Rodeo and the Calgary Stampede. He was also a member of the Calgary Stampede Hall of Fame, the Spruce Meadows Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Sadly, Kehler passed in 2003, but made a lasting impression on Malmqvist. “He was by far the best horse show announcer that I’ve ever heard, bar none. You could just tell he loved it. It wasn’t that robotic voice who was announcing merely to get a paycheck; it was ‘I love what I do.’ It was just the enthusiasm.” Davin will go from the Masters down to Del Mar for two weeks, and continue to travel, culminating with the Las Vegas National in mid-November. That will wind up his year, and then he has all of December off. He does own a house in Calgary, but doesn’t see it that much. No surprise, since he is on the road about 35 weeks a year or so. That being the case, he knows he is fortunate to have an understanding partner. “Courtney Anderson and I have been together 22 years. She is an FEI judge. She rides as well, when she has time. So also being in the industry, she can understand the times you are on the road, and the lonely times. You can go from announcing something like the Masters and give the best performance you’ve ever given, and all of sudden, you’re alone. So your spouse on the other end has to also understand that.” Paw Hug In memory of Davin Malmqvist’s wonderful chocolate labrador Hershey. It is not only the humans that road warriers miss while traveling. Page 40 TCE Nov/Dec 2015 Davin Malmqvist’s and his wife Courtney Anderson Thomas Eyckmans – Belgium Thomas Eyckmans normally works in Belgium, but we were lucky enough to have him travel to Los Angeles for the Longines Masters. While here, he was working with MaxSNDL and Klaas de Coster. It was de Coster and Frank Lombaers who were very involved in bringing Thomas to the States. Eyckmans’ job is an important one, as he is instrumental in making sure that the sound system is not only ready, but accurate for each horse and rider that enters the arena. The timing has to be perfect, both when the sound comes on, and when it is turned off. The pick of the music is also very important. “It’s wonderful working over here, as well as Hong Kong and Paris. We work with the best. It is my first time in L.A., but I have been doing the sound play for more than two years. In the last couple of years, Klaas has become deeply involved in the technical support of equestrian events. We have done all the www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com
Davin Malmqvist and Matt Millin. Photograph by Alden Corrigan Media  The person he looked up to the most in his industry w...
Thomas Eyckmans and partner Eline Borrey de Coninck winning a Silver Medal during the Belgian Championships for Young Riders Thomas Eyckmans World Championships in Belgium, and we do the Global Tour events, so we have experience with the bigger events in the horse world.” Eyckmans also has his own event company, ET Events. It is a full concept events and promotion company, and is also heavily involved in the dressage world. He is one of the co-organizers of the Belgium Championships of Dressage and the FDE International Auction for dressage foals in Belgium. Thomas did not ride horses, but his partner does. She is the international dressage rider Eline Borrey de Coninck, who also has her own dressage stable in Melle, Belgium. “She was one of the four team members who won that historic Bronze Medal for Belgium during the European Young Rider Championship in Compiegne, France a few years ago. “Now is her first year in the seniors,” he said. “It’s a little bit more difficult, but it’s a challenge and we’ll do that. We have to learn from all the steps, that’s the most important thing. But it’s fun working in the horse world, and we keep doing that.” “And,” he added proudly, “Eline is the first and only Belgium who is studying at the University CAH Villentum of Dronten, a class that specializes in equestrian business management.” Since Thomas has been involved in playing the sound for more than two years now, while that is still a challenge to get it perfect, there is one thing that has been harder for him in this, his first trip to Los Angeles. “The jet lag! Every night I wake up at 3:00 a.m., because in Belgium it is mid-day. So it’s time to eat,” he laughed. “I just want to eat, drink a cup of coffee, and then I come over to the venue.” Eyckmans does not have a favorite venue in which to work, but he does enjoy working with the same team. “Like when I work with announcer Matt Millin, I worked with him at the Knokke Hippique and Stephex. The Knokke Hippique and Stephex are really impressive events in Belgium and we really got to know each other. It’s really fun, because when he says something he knows what I will do. “It’s easy and fluid and I love that. At every competition, wherever we are in the world we see the same people. It makes the work not feel like work. And that’s really good, because in the morning we start at 7:00 and we end when the competition’s over. Then we have a meeting to discuss how everything went and what to do tomorrow. So it’s long days, but doesn’t feel the same as sitting eight hours behind a desk. “They call us crazy, but it’s a good crazy.” www.TheCompetitiveEquestrian.com TCE Nov/Dec 2015 Page 41
Thomas Eyckmans and partner Eline Borrey de Coninck winning a Silver Medal during the Belgian Championships for Young Ride...