“My life has been built around the horse” Michel Darioly interview
For more than 25 years, Michel Darioly has been organizing horse shows in the Cantons of Valais and Vaud and in France. During 19 years under his direction, until Summer 2022, the Verbier International Showjumping Competition has acquired a reputation that attracts the elite of world riders. A consummate networker, he has developed a firm friendship with Véronique, Patrick and Michael Fellay, of the VFP real estate agency, loyal sponsor of the competition. At almost 60 years of age, the man who was named “businessman of the year” in 2011 has lost none of his energy.
Have horses always been a passion?
I’ve been working with horses since I was 15 when I got kicked out of school. At the time, two things interested me, horses and girls, neither of which was compatible with my studies. I was lucky to have farming parents who owned a large farm and horses. I started to take an interest in horse shows and to participate as a junior while working on the farm. Quite quickly, I bought the stables and their facilities from my family. A few years later, I built a new arena and took over a horse business that belonged to my father. At the same time, more than 25 years ago, I began organizing horse shows and this became my main activity. First Sion, then Crans-Montana, after which I took over the Verbier event. I also ran Villars for five years as well as the first year of the Megève competition.
It is now 29 years that I have been managing the riding school in the city of Sion and this summer I sold the one in Martigny which belonged to me. I also gave lessons and trained riders, but now I only coach my 13-year-old daughter, Lou.
What place does the horse occupy in your life?
The horse has always been the at the heart of my life. Respect for, knowledge and love of the horse are essential. This has been the basis of my whole life. Obviously, it has to be developed within a practical, business environment. It brings a lot of happiness, but also some disappointments. I love horses, talking to and caressing them, and I have the impression that when I touch them they calm down and so do I.
The competition event and the teaching followed which were very important, together with the whole commercial side involving identifying suitable horses, working with them and finally selling them.
How was the Verbier Showjumping Competition born?
It was founded more than 27 years ago by two enthusiasts, Cédric Bruchez and his sister Sophie, who first made the competition famous. It was subsequently managed by Sylvain Théodoloz for six years, a period during which he was to build his reputation. Then my committee and I took it over for the next 19 years. Today, the event has grown enormously with a budget of 1.2 million and now ranking as an international competition.
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