Since the start of the Brussels Stephex Masters, the Stephex Events Director, Ellen van Guyse has been part of the organisation. Her deep connection to equestrian sport adds new insights to the event year after year. We had an exclusive talk with her, peeking behind the scenes of organising an event like the Brussels Stephex Masters.
How has the Brussels Stephex Masters become what it is today?
Ellen Van Guyse: “What makes the Brussels Stephex Masters one of a kind is the strong connection between equestrian sport, an impressive lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality scene. We combine all these aspects into one event. It’s not only great for riders, but also for visitors, partners, and VIP guests. We aim to be the Tomorrowland of equestrian sports. Even people who don’t have a clue about the sport are attracted to the event. That is our ultimate goal: attract a big range of audiences.”
What did you enjoy most during the preperations of this year’s event?
Ellen: “This year we were able to continue to expand our team. This allowed us to develop many new concepts. A good example are the ‘collabs’. We worked with some exclusive brands to create beautiful merchandising products and are thrilled with the final results.”
How do you manage to keep the event fresh and innovative year after year?
Ellen: “Innovation goes hand in hand with reflection. During the preparations as well as after the event, we have feedback sessions. Together with the team we discuss everything that went well, but of course also things that did not go smoothly. It is important to be critical. That is how you will make next year’s event better.”
“We broaden our horizons by observing how different events are organized. For example taking inspiration from golf tournaments, motorsportoramusicfestival.Thiswaywe can continue to attract and entertain our different audiences.”
Could you tell us about the challenges and joys of organizing such a big event?
Ellen: “I get a lot of satisfaction of organising the Stephex Events. Every year you run into unexpected issues, but all comes down to how you deal with them. I have learned to stay calm and overthink the situation. There are always solutions, especially with a good team around you. I am a perfectionist and often see many things that can be improved. But in the end all the noise disappears. During the Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon, the worries vanish, and I can really enjoy the atmosphere. I feel an incredible sense of pride towards the whole Stephex Events team, and the achieved accomplishment.”
Ken Ruysen, the Sports Director of the Stephex Events, plays a pivotal role in Ellen’s team. His fervent commitment to equestrian excellence and his unwavering dedication to pushing boundaries make him an integral part of the big success.
What are the primary objectives you aim to achieve in each edition? How do you ensure the event evolves and improves each year?
Ken Ruysen: “The well-being of the horses will always be the main objective. The riders and grooms are high on the priority list as well. Our role is to facilitate the teams for them to deliver their best performances. Each edition is reviewed with the experiences and feedback from the year before. If you keep doing what you’ve done before, you lose the competitive edge. This is only possible when you finetune the details and invest in the team behind the event. It is a corny thing to say, but I do believe that teamwork makes the dream work. Both with the professionals and our partners. We aim to share the sensation of the show with everyone. If we meet these objectives, we can improve on every edition and keep on making the Brussels Stephex Masters a highlight on the show calendar.”
Reflecting on your experience organizing, what has been the most rewarding moment for you, and what aspirations do you have for the future of this sport?
Ken: “For us as the organising Committee, it is rewarding is to see horses and riders shine and the audience enjoying the show. Seeing all our hard work turn into an amazing experience for riders and fans, that is the best part. When receiving good feedback from the riders, the audience, and partners, we are pleased. We are also very excited that we can bring the Nations Cup to Brussels this year. I believe we need to keep this unique concept going and contribute to the sport to make it even bigger. Let’s hope we can keep up the support of our loyal, amazing partners to let the event grow. All in all, I’ve been working with the Stephex Events team now for 5 years and it has been an unbelievable journey.”