There are certain competitors who even the very best riders in the world would prefer never followed them in a jump-off, and France’s Julien Épaillard is undoubtedly one of them.

Known for leaving out strides where it seems there are none left to leave out, Épaillard posts consistently impressive jump-off times, often many tenths of a second faster than his next-closest competitor. This Sunday in London, Épaillard was true to form aboard the 10-year-old Selle Français mare Toupie de la Rogue in the Olympia leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping, where he beat out hometown hero (and last year’s victor) Scott Brash and Ursula Xll with 0.43 seconds to spare.

Twenty-one riders had gone before a clear round could be found on Olympic course designer Guillaume Jorge’s imposing first-round track, which proved challenging even to an elite field that included six of the world’s top-10-ranked showjumpers. So, against such odds, just what is Épaillard’s secret to success?  “It was a very difficult course, very technical—you needed scope but also great control,” the French rider explained.

As easy as that! Here are 12 more things you may not know about one of the world’s most talented speed riders: 

  1. Julien credits his parents, who owned an equestrian center in Cherbourg, Normandy, for introducing him to the sport.
  2. At age 12, he was named Franch Champion. In 1998, Épaillard won individual gold at the Young Riders European Championships in Austria with Si Tu Viens.
  3. As a young man, Épaillard trained with French Olympic show jumper Hubert Bourdy.
  4. Julien won his first, major international win at age 21 at the La Baule CSIO5* in 1998 with Arpège Pierreville.
  5. Épaillard is only the second Frenchman in history to win the Olympia leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping.
  6. Julien’s wife, Susana Garcia, is also a rider and has competed for Spain at the international level. The couple has two children and resides in Lisieux, France.
  7. Julien is well known for his speed and top-ranked riders including Lorenzo de Luca and Scott Brash have all given credit where credit was due. “I know Julien well and I knew how fast he would go, so fair play to him,” Brash said following Julien’s victory at Olympia.
  8. Épaillard says his homebred stallion Usual Suspect d’Auge can be difficult, and he sometimes has to get creative in order to help him settle in at shows. The pair won the €300,000 Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Paris in July after tying for first in a six-bar class the day before, which Épaillard says he used to get Usual Suspect d’Auge accustomed to the atmosphere. Clearly, it worked!
  9. Épaillard has only been competing Toupie de la Rogue since April, when he took over the mare from French rider Michel Hecart.
  10. The pair won their first CSI5* class together at Jumping International du Chateau de Versailles last May.
  11. Épaillard is currently ranked 35th in the world on the Longines Rankings. With this victory, he sits 9th in the Longines FEI World Cup™  Jumping Western European League standings with five legs to go before the final in Paris in April.
  12. Julien says that the first step to being a good rider is love and respect for the horse. The second is patience.

-Photo credits: Thomas Reiner; Erin Gilmore; ©Revolution Sports.