European Junior Gold Medalist Vivien Niemann Loving the Florida Equestrian Lifestyle
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Vivien Niemann has enjoyed more success than most riders her age as a European Junior gold medalist but growing up in the horse business operated by her father may lead to another line of work after she goes to university and gives herself a chance to fulfill her dream of making a German Olympic team.
She was going to horse shows when still in her mother’s stomach but now at 16 years of age Vivien has seen the commitment required to build a business with horses as has her father, Christoph.
For the moment, though, she is enjoying an idyllic existence spending the winter at the Wellington, Florida stables of Marco Bernal before she makes final decisions about the next stage of her life. Pursuing her dream of being on Germany’s team at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 while also studying at university is one of the goals.
“My big dream is to do the Olympics,” she said. “My dad shares that dream with me and he will be supportive as long as he can. Maybe it works out, maybe it’s just a dream. We’re fighting to make the dream come true. It’s hard to be at the top in Germany. We are realistic.”
Vivien arrived in Florida in December for a long overdue family vacation with her parents and kid brother, Chris, aged 14. The rest of the family went back to Germany while she moved in with Marco, a Pan American Games dual medalist for Colombia, and his family who are based in Wellington. Marco had been based at their farm in Germany in 2012 while endeavoring to qualify for the Olympics.
She gets to ride several horses including sharing the ride with Marco, Jr. on Maybach, a 12-year-old black Westfalen gelding (Muenchhausen x Diva x Davignon) that in 2004 at the National Horse Show in Wellington scored 78.462 per cent and has competed successfully at small tour.
“I really love it here,” she said. “The weather is nice, there are lots of nice people. It is a change from Europe to be here. In Germany you start early and finish late. Here you finish at four or five o’clock. I will have to learn how to work again when I get back.”
Vivien was at the horse show in Stuttgart, Germany before she was born, when her mother, Ilona, was pregnant. Ullrich Kasselmann of Performance Sales International was best man at her parents’ wedding. And they still own the pony she grew up riding, now aged 37.
So she was totally immersed in the equestrian lifestyle that she describes as “exciting and different every day.”
She is now performing at Young Rider level, and has already met the requirements for 2013 that she hopes is enough to keep her on the German team for the European Championships.
Vivien starts at university in Heidelberg in October.
She plans to study international business management and get a job in sports–she is a big soccer fan.
“I will not go into the horse business,” Vivien said. “I see how hard it is for my father. He started working with horses when he was 15. It’s hard to make it your business. For a girl it is harder, you do not get as much respect.”
In the meantime, though, “My parents support me as long as I can do it. They never put me under pressure. ‘As long as you’re having fun keep doing it,’ they say. I think that’s why I have so much much fun.”
“I love to work with horses, they’re alive They’re not like a football that you can put in a corner for two weeks and then come back when you want. Horses are there for you in good times and bad times, sometimes they’re better than friends. My horses are my rock after my family.”