Victoria Max-Theurer’s “Hobby” Takes Her to Third Olymics at Age of 26
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
When Victoria Max-Theurer rides Augustin OLD into the dressage arena it will be her third Olympics by the age of 26, amazing success for the Austrian who is in the top ranks of the sport at the sme time she treats it as a “hobby” while learning her family’s business.
Victoria’s success on the 12-year-old Oldenburg stallion (August der Starke x Weinrubina x Rohdiamant) is in the numbers. She has competed Augustin in five events this year, including the musical freestyle at three of them and each time broke the 80 per cent barrier, including at the World Equestrian Festival CDIO in Aachen, Germany.
Also at Aachen, which is to horse sports what Wimbledon is to tennis, where she rode her backup Grand Prix horse, Eichendorff, in the CDI4* as well as the recently acquired nine-year-old Oldenburg mare Della Cavalleria OLD in the small tour, she was named the most successful dressage rider based on combined results.
Vici, as she is popularly known, was the first of two individuals from Austria to be selected for Olympic dressage that begins Thursday at historic Greenwich Park with a panoramic view of the London skyline.
Although it is eight years on from her first Olympics in Athens in 2004 as an 18-year-old, she has lost none of the exuberance of competing her horses that explodes with a full force fist pump when she knows it has gone well.
Like many horse crazed kids, Vici started riding early, on her first pony at age 2–“I fell off quite often; that’s what you do with Shetland ponies.”
Then in 2003, she skipped the entire Young Rider division and joined the senior ranks, taking the Oldenburg gelding (Feiner Stern x Odienne) to the Europeans in Hickstead, England.
She won a ticket on Austria’s team for the Olympics in Athens at the age of 18 when most top riders her age are striving to make the Young Rider World Cup or continental championships.
“If somebody had asked me one year before if I thought that could happen, I would have said ‘crazy’,” she recalled.
Then came the World Equestrian Games in Aachen and a year later at the European Championships again and she qualified for her second Olympics.
The 2008 Games was the championship swan song for Falcao who was 16 years old by then and had been Vici’s equine partner for 12 years, bringing Vici to the attention of the dressage elite.
“Suddenly you’re there,” she said, “and you don’t know how it happened, it happened so fast.”
A year before the 2008 Games, she began competing Augustin at Grand Prix–five shows in 2007, only two the next year.
In 2009, with Falcao’s retirement from top level competition, Augustin became her top Grand Prix mount and carried her to the European Championships at Windsor, England, where she finished fifth in all three Grand Prix classes, an achievement that is memorable as it was the year of Dutch dominance with Edward Gal and Totilas, Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival, Anky van Grunsven and Salinero and the coming of age of Great Britain’s dressage led by Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris. Until these Olympics, the Europeans at Windsor are rated as perhaps the greatest dressage competition ever, with only the USA’s Steffen Peters and Ravel absent.
Disappointment came the next year when Augustin was still suffering the after effects of a serious colic and rather than put the horse through the stress of a transatlantic flight, diferent feed and water and an unfamiliar environment Vici withdrew from the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.
Since then, the pair have coming back better than ever.
A Grand Prix at Aachen just a month before the Olympics finishing third with a score within a whisker of 78 per cent.
Wth new trainer Wolfram Wittig of Germany, for several years the coach of Isabell Werth, she has continued development to the top that her father has guided her on since childhood. Now, her father wants to spend more time on other pursuits he is passionate about.
The years she was trained by her father and with her mother on hand, it was horses “at lunch, at breakfast, after dinner–it’s the same topic, you talk about it all day long. On the one hand it is not very easy because you can never do something else or think something else. you never get a break.
“On the other hand it is very positive. You know there is someone who wants you to be successful not just the trainer who gets money for it, but the parents who really want to help you with their full commitment. That is a very positive thing although it’s not always easy because it is more personal than somebody else with whom you are not so close.”
The business created by her grandfather who still runs it of building railroad maintenance equipment sold all over the world is, in Vici’s words, “loud and dusty… a real business.”
“It’s totally different to horses,” she said, “but also very interesting and very satisfying.”
She spend three full days a week at the business, learning different aspects, riding in the morning before heading off to work or at night when she gets home.
“For me it’s very important because I’m not someone who wants to focus on just one thing,” she said. “I want to have something else to do.”
“I went to commercial college so technical things are not always easy for me. But I learn, I try.”
Victoria is very much a homebody who not only does not like to travel but also “hates packing my luggage.” As many major horse competitions outside Austria are a 10-hour drive, her ompetition schedule puts her on the road a lot.
“I like staying at home. I like my home, I like my family, I like my horses. I have to do it for the shows, but I hate packing luggage. I don’t need to be in New York or Hong Kong or India or somewhere like that. I’m happy with my horses and at home.”
When she’s not working or riding, she likes to veg out on the couch or spend time with friends.
If she had to make a choice between horses and the family business?
“If I don’t do the business, iI can’t have the riding. You have to afford it. I’m not somebody who has young horses and trains them up and then sells them. That would not be a business for me because it is so hard for me to give a horse away because you get used to each other and become a friend. To sell them, I couldn’t do that.
“If we did not have the family business I could not afford the things I do. That’s why it’s my hobby.
“I want to do it as long as I have fun with it. I try to get more and more into the business but I still keep on riding, not as a professional. I’m happy with it and I want to keep doing it a long as it is fun.
“You never know what is going to happen tomorrow. You have good days, you have bad days but as long as the good days are more than the bad days then it’s fun.”