Victoria Max-Theurer Making Success of Change

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Victoria Max-Theurer and Wolfram Wittig during a recent visit to the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

A year ago, Victoria Max-Theurer formed a new partnership with German trainer Wolfram Wittig after a lifetime of a trusting and exclusive coaching relationship with her parents in what could have been a tough change for Austria’s top dressage rider with a record of three Olympics by the age of 26.

“Nothing better could have happened to me, my family and my horses,” she told dressage-news.com in an interview during her first ever visit to the United States and marking the first anniversary of training with Wolfram who counts Germany’s Isabell Werth among the riders whom he has helped.

With a new horse in her string to give her three Grand Prix mounts–all three in the top 35 in the International Equestrian Federation world rankings, the highest in 10th place–she has a busy year planned between competitions and working in her family’s railroad equipment manufacturing plant that exports to the world.

What she describes as “a really good year” included competing her top horse, Augustin OLD at the summer Olympics in London, placing 13th amongst the top 50 combinations in the world and being named the “most successful dressage rider” at the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen. Germany, the globe’s premier horse show.

Vici, as she is known, has an effervescent enthusiasm for life that extends beyond her riding and is infectious. The changes have led to what appears to be heightened confidence from an already impressive resumé from successes with her stable of horses.

She posted a succession of personal best results with Augustin, the 13-year-old Oldenburg stallion (August der Starke x Weinrubina x Rohdiamant) with Freestyle scores well above 80 per cent. Since starting Augustin at Grand Prix in 2007, the pair have competed at the 2009 and 2011 European Championships as well as the Olympics last year. But she skipped the World Equestrian Games in Kentucxky in 2010 after the horse underwent an operation for colic.

Victoria Max-Theurer riding Augustin at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Eichendorff, who has been her Grand Prix backup mount since starting at the top level the same year as Augustin, is now 15 years old. Vici and the Westfalen stallion (Ehrentusch x Florence x Ferragamo) posted their best ever results at the end of 2012.

And Blind Date, the 11-year-old Hanoverian mare that she began competing last June after the horse was trained and ridden by Brigitte Wittig, Wolfram’s wife, has posted four victories and four second places in eight starts since then. Blind Date is from the Wittig-owned stallion Breitling W.

Then, there’s Della Cavalleria, the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare (Diamond Hit x Revue x Rubistein I) that Vici has competed eight times for six victories in the past 10 months.

“It has been a really good year,” Vici said, recalling that she talked to dressage-news.com in Frankfurt in December, 2011, at a time when her father had been her primary trainer along with her mother, Sissy, who won the gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and competed at the Los Angeles and Barcelona Games. a record of three Olympics now matched by her daughter.

“At that time my dad was the only one to ever teach me, my mother as well, but mostly my dad,” she said. “For me, it was the only thing I knew. It was a bit strange for me to imagine there would be someone other than my dad standing behind me, teaching me. It had always been like that for almost 20 years.”

When her father wanted to spend less time coaching and more time collecting antiques in retirement, she said, “all of us decided it would be really good to work with Wolfram. He was our first choice. We are very lucky he decided to do it.

“Nothing better could have happened to me, my family amd my horses.”

There was no list of prospective trainers, she said, but she and her family enjoyed Wolfram’s way of working–“he’s an expert in everything he does, focused on details. It was just a feeling all of us had. We’ve been very lucky and very happy he does it.

“It’s a great partnership that’s already paid off.

“It’s fun working… it’s just fun, and also a lot of fun for my horses.”

Equally important to the training, she said, is that Wolfram is on the same wavelength with her father, and when the German trainer is at their home the whole team spends a lot of time together.

“Nothing better could have happened,” she said, “my father is so relaxed, he just has fun, totally relaxed.”

Vici said the success of 2012 would be hard to beat after achieving her goal of getting into the Freestyle for the individual Final at the London Games.

Victoria Max-Theurer and Blind Date at the 2012 German Masters in Stuttgart. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

She is qualified for the European Championships at Herning, Denmark, in August but before then is planning outdoor shows beginning with Horses and Dreams in Hagen, Germany, in April ensuring she is at the top of her game.

“I can enter the new season quite relaxed because there’s no pressure,” she said.

After the Europeans, her next goals are the world championships in Normandy, France in 2014 and then the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, which would be her fourth Olympiad.

The World Cup has not been a factor in her career so far, but that may change for the 2013/2014 season now that she has three Grand Prix horses.

Although she splts her time between riding and working at the family business, “at the moment I cannot think of life without horses. I really have fun. There have been some moments when it’s hard, not easy, and you have ups and downs. That’s normal.”

Asked whether she ever felt she had achieved so much, she might turn to other interests, Vici said: “I don’t think of quitting, definitely not. I’m happy with what I do.”

She learned so much from her parents, she said, but is getting new impressions, new ideas from Wolfram that makes what she has been taught to click.

“He is very patient and very fair to the horses,” she said. “That’s what my family always wanted. The style of riding is very similar.

“It is really important to me to trust and rely on a person It was true with my dad and my mom and it is the same with Woflram. He stands behind me.”

Victoria Max-Theurer and Eichendorff. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com