Victoire NANOT: when high-level horse riding and higher education come together

Victoire NANOT is a second-year student in the Grande École Program at IÉSEG. She balances her academic life during the week with her equestrian life on the weekends. Thanks to the High-Level Athlete status granted by IÉSEG, she has a flexible schedule that allows her to juggle both lives. She participates in numerous international competitions, including the prestigious Dinard International Competition, a 5* Jumping event attended by the world’s top riders. Let’s meet this student who shares her passion and tells us what her life looks like.

How did horse riding come into your life?

Like many children, my first encounter with a horse was initiated by my mother during a pony ride when I was three years old. Surprisingly, this first contact did not ignite my passion, as I practiced many other sports until I was ten years old. For my tenth birthday, my dream came true when my father gave me my first pony, TipTop. With him, I started riding, passed my first riding levels, and participated in my first showjumping competitions. Today, he enjoys his retirement at my stables, and I can always keep an eye on this brown furball barely peeking out from the tall grass.

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Then you progressed to winning international competitions… What efforts did you have to make to achieve this?

My family context had me oscillating between Brittany and Paris. I was enrolled in school in Paris from the first grade but made regular trips to Dinard to ride my pony and practice regularly. In 2019, after moving to Dinard, I took the first major step in my equestrian life by joining a local high school to balance my studies with renewing my horse lineup and dedicating all my time to competition, supported by my coaches. This intense rhythm, managed by my parents and coaches, had me training every evening after school and competing on weekends, allowing me to progress much faster. I established this routine as a stepping stone during my high school years, aware that without it, I couldn’t combine my passion with my studies. After setting up this system, I had to make choices about the horses that would come with me in competitions. My pony retired after five years of service because he became too small for me, and honestly, competition was never his strong suit. Thus, the decision to invest in a sport horse to transition from pony to horse for my first amateur events came up. With the help of my coaches Maxence and Robin, we included Quelimane de Jaguenet and All Diam’s Flamingo, who were great teachers for me.
With my level significantly improved through intense training, I decided to sell All Diam’s, who moved to an American stable in California to start a new discipline, Hunter. After an inspiring internship with Tony Cadet, a professional in the horse riding world, we decided to invest in Bilbao de la Botte, a much more powerful horse with a strong mental fortitude, teaching me to ride the courses I currently jump in Amateur Elite (with jumps at 1.25m), explore the best competition grounds, and above all, compete at the 5* Jumping de Dinard in July 2022. He successfully took over from Quelimane, who now enjoys retirement with Tiptop after many years of sports and dedication. The story with Bilbao is special; he taught me the most and helped me progress quickly, creating a strong bond between us. He is my heart horse, the horse of my life because, despite health issues severely affecting our 2022/2023 season both physically and mentally, he fought back to support me in my personal life and in competitions. He is the dream horse for any rider, fulfilling me humanly, emotionally, and athletically.

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You then joined IÉSEG on the Paris campus. How do you manage to balance two demanding lives?

I’ve always been deeply rooted in and attached to Paris; I love the pace of my Parisian life and have always lived here. I returned from Brittany after graduating from high school to join IÉSEG after working hard to get accepted. The first months were challenging, to be honest. It took me some time to understand the academic demands, the imposed rhythms, the learning methods, and the school’s system. After a difficult start academically and with Bilbao recovering at the time, I re-motivated myself to catch up immediately. By the second semester, things improved significantly. Meanwhile, Bilbao completed its rehabilitation and resumed competition. Without the High-Level Athlete status in my first year, I managed my competition trips as best as I could, but it wasn’t always easy. Fortunately, we have many competitions in Normandy, Brittany, or the Paris region. To maintain the rhythm and my level, I requested High-Level Athlete status from IÉSEG in September 2023, granted for my second year.

Horse riding is unique as it involves another living being with real sensitivity. How do you manage your horse?

For me, the well-being of my horses comes before any sporting goal. The key is to preserve their mental and physical preparation. I am fortunate to have a very supportive sports system thanks to my coaches, Maxence and Robin, who ensure everything is precisely arranged for my horses and me. They are a great support, and without them, none of this would be possible; it’s thanks to them that I am where I am today. Again, the system around Bilbao is unique and requires meticulous care and attention due to his special diet. The addition of a new horse to my lineup, Of Passion Van Den Dael, a 10-year-old Belgian gelding, a year ago has also been a new boost for my progress. These two horses are my priority, so their daily care includes feeding them, preparing their stalls, grooming, turning them out, and maintaining their physical condition. Horses are highly sensitive animals that feel emotions and stress intensely, which is why we talk about a “couple” in this sport: the rider has a very close and intimate relationship with their horse. Ultimately, we are both high-level athletes.

What does the High-Level Athlete status bring you?

First, it brings real recognition—not only of my athletic level but also of everything this sport contributes to me as a student. The flexibility in my schedule allows me to continue my passion while also benefiting from all the skills this sport teaches me for my future professional life. I learn to manage my time better, be diligent, constantly question myself, and, of course, gain maturity. It’s essential to understand that we must adapt to our horses to ensure they have the best living conditions, not the other way around. However, the biggest lesson from competition is never to give up. Whenever I face difficult situations, whether at IÉSEG or elsewhere, I draw on the mental strength I have in competitions. This mindset allows me to keep going in all circumstances and strive for even greater success.

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High-level sports require enormous time investment and often involve making choices or sacrifices in daily life. What has that been like for you?

Being a high-level athlete is far more than just preparing, riding, winning competitions, and standing on the podium to receive medals. It requires a tremendous amount of work that no one can fully understand unless they’ve experienced it. For example, when I go to a competition, I must prepare everything, including the horses’ food (shavings, hay, grains), their equipment, and my outfit. During the competition, I take care of them from morning to night, regardless of my fatigue or motivation. Outside of competitions, daily care, training, and physical maintenance are necessary. I’m fortunate to return to Paris and have a team at the stables to care for them during the week when I’m not there. I use those few days to take a break from the hectic pace and take some time for myself. High-level sports also demand an impeccable lifestyle, so I can’t go out with friends every week, for example. Between traveling from Paris to Brittany, competitions, maintaining physical condition, and needing downtime, I must make personal life sacrifices, which can be challenging to explain to friends living a typical student life. Fortunately, I am well-supported by my parents, who are unwavering in their support of my well-being and equestrian goals. A successful athlete needs a strong support system, which I am lucky to have.

How do you see your future? What career do you aim for, and will you remain a high-level athlete?

Horse riding will always be a passion today and in the future. I will always try to allocate as much time as possible to my horses while pursuing a successful professional career. I currently have this flexibility thanks to IÉSEG, and I plan to maintain it in the future while balancing my professional success with my sport, which is the hardest part. Career-wise, I have always been drawn to fashion and dream of becoming an Artistic Director of a major fashion house. It’s my world, I love it, and it’s also why I joined IÉSEG last year: to enter the Master in Fashion Management, a double degree with Istituto Marangoni. This Master is a benchmark for success in this sector! In the meantime, I plan to do as many relevant internships in this field as possible, capitalize on extensive international experiences, and gain solid skills and knowledge to excel in a major fashion house. Simultaneously, I would like to embark on an entrepreneurial project that would eventually provide me with the flexibility I need daily.

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