“Dr. B,” Wilfried Otto Bechtolsheimer, Major Supporter of British Dressage, Dies at Age 71

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Dr. Wilfried Bechtolsheimer and wife, Ursula, watching daugher, Laura, warm up ahead of world championship ride for Great Britain. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

April 9, 2020

“Dr. B,” Wilfried Otto Bechtolsheimer, a decades-long supporter of British dressage and father of Olympic dressage gold medalist, Laura, has died at the age of 71.

The death of “Dr. B,” as he was known throughout the horse world, was announced by British Dressage that described him as having a “deep passion for our sport and his love of all creatures, but horses in particular, were at the heart of his artful horsemanship which touched so many of us and will continue to inspire.”

The German-born Dr. Bechtolsheimer was well-respected as a rider, trainer and mentor. He married Ursula and in the early 1980’s relocated to England where they set up Eastington Stud, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire.

He was a rider but became best known as a teacher and supporter, and widely credited for launching the career of Carl Hester.

In 3 1/2 years under Wilfried’s guidance, Carl made his senior debut in 1990 and then to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. He gave Carl the ride on his most prized horse, the licensed Oldenburg stallion Giorgione the first horse he trained himself to Grand Prix. ‘Gino’ gave Carl his first national champion title and Olympic experience, putting him on the map.

In 1994, Wilfried took the ride back, going on to represent Britain at the 1995 European Championships and reserve for the Atlanta Olympics a year later. Gino retired to stud and passed away in 2012, just shy of his 31st birthday.

Laura was the only Bechtolsheimer sibling to follow in Wilfried’s footsteps in making a professional career from dressage. It was Gino who gave her a taste for piaffe and passage as a youngster.

He was instrumental in development of Laura as one of Britain’s leading dressage riders. Success in youth teams was followed by medals at senior level. With Mistral Hojris, Laura earned Olympic, world and European medals.

Since 2010, Lara Butler has been part of the Eastington Stud team. Wilfried and Ursula supported her as mentors and owners, helping her to achieve success with Rubin al Asad and their homebred Kristjan.

Carl Hester said from his Gloucestershire home he had “just huge sadness, a very kind and gentle person that was generous and kind and obviously special to me as someone who gave me my first opportunity. But he always supported British Dressage and will be missed by all that met him.”

Jason Brautigam, Chief Executive at British Dressage, said: “Everyone at BD is desperately sad to hear this awful news. Dr Bechtolsheimer has done so much for British Dressage over the years it is hard to overstate his contribution to our sport. Wilfried was hugely respected and very highly regarded by everyone in the dressage community, his immense technical knowledge and expertise was second to none. There have also been so many examples of his incredible generosity in supporting BD, often without public recognition, in his quietly modest and unassuming way. The sport certainly wouldn’t be where it is today without Dr Bechtolsheimer’s substantial influence and input. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Ursula, Laura and all of his family at this difficult time.”

He is survived by his wife Ursula Laura; his children Felix with wife Geraldine, Götz with wife
Alida, Till with wife Julia and Laura with husband Mark; and grandchildren Annalisa, Amélie,
Wilfred, Lukas and Hanni.

A funeral for the family will be held on Saturday in Ascona, Switzerland. Details for a memorial service in Gloucestershire will be announced later.