Isabell Werth’s Lifetime Search for “THE One”
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
FRITZENS, Austria, July 4, 2016-When Isabell Werth enters the dressage arena next month for her fifth Olympics, she could become the most decorated equestrian in the 104-year history of the Games.
One more medal to add to the eight she already holds, the same number as the late great Reiner Klimke, and that would put her on a par with Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands. Two medals in Rio de Janeiro will make history for the rider who will be 47 years old by the opening ceremony and the mother of a son. Frederick, born in 2009.
Gigolo that Isabell rode in Barcelona in 1992 for team gold and individual silver, taking both golds in Atlanta in 1996 and gold and silver in Sydney in 2000 holds the record for the most medals won by a horse.
Whether Isabell takes Weihegold OLD or Emilio, a year younger, won’t be decided until the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen, Germany in two weeks.
Weihegold, a black Oldenburg mare at 11 years old will be on Germany’s team in the Nations Cup most likely along with world No. 1 Kristina Bröring-Sprehe on Desperados FRH, Dorothee Schneider on Showtime and Sönke Rothenberger on Cosmo. Emilio is a Westfalen gelding a year younger at 10 that she will ride in the companion CDI4*.
The horses will decide for themselves in the arena, or as she put it to dressage-news.com, “I will try my best with both of them. I am so lucky to have two great horses–a very pretty and elegant mare and a dynamic super athlete so it is really good.”
The depth of talent in her barn is shown by the fact that Weihegold and Emilio were available to replace Bella Rose, her 2014 World Games mount, and Don Johnson as Isabell’s top Olympic prospects when both had not recovered in time from injuries.
The lineup of horses available to Isabell is amazing but it didn’t happen just because she is such a talented rider.
Isabell’s “passion” for finding and developing horses was nurtured by “Der Doktor” Uwe Schulten Baumer, her trainer with Gigolo and other championship horses, has produced a stable full of Grand Prix horses, and more on the way up.
One for the future is Belantis, a German Sport Horse (DSP) and just seven years old that Isabell competed at Small Tour at this spectacularly beautiful Austrian Alpine show grounds in the gray stallion’s first CDI. For spectators and the media the experience was jaw-dropping. Beatrice Buchwald, Isabell’s assistant, rode Belantis to reserve six-year-old World Young Horse Champion in 2015.
Madeleine Winter-Schultze who buys the horses for Isabell told dressage-news.com she has reached agreement with the breeders of Belantis who own 50 per cent to buy the horse outright next year to assure the ride for Isabell.
Madeleine also owns horses ridden by Ludger Beerbaum and closely follows his jumping performances on her smartphone when she is with Isabell at a show.
Asked about the obvious closeness with Isabell who described Madeleine as “wonderful,” she said: “It’s even more wonderful for me. She’s a wonderful girl. For me she is like my family.” .
“It’s a very very big passion,” Isabell said of being on the lookout for talented horses. “When I started training with Dr. Shulten Baumer we both had the same passion for horses. I really love not only to bring up horses but to look for young ones, to see and compare to find the good ones. And now with Madeleine by my side it’s such a luxury situation.
“When I see a horse that I think is super–and we have so many great horses now, the selection, the breeding became better and better year by year…
“The first thing is to find them, the second thing is to get them and the third thing is that they are healthy. So there are a lot of things. And then the last thing is you can build them up in four, five, six years.
“This is my life, this is what I really love to do–at the end to show them and compete them this is the topping on the cake.”
How does she find a succession of horses that has kept Isabell at or near the top of the sport for more than a quarter-century, since her first championship, the Europeans in 1989?
“With open eyes.” she replied, “you have to look for them.
“With Belantis, I was at the same show. I liked the horse. For me it was a lucky situation to see the horse and the lucky situation was the stud said, ‘yes we would like to bring the horse to you to train and compete him’. That was one horse.
“The next one was at an auction last year where we found a super three-year-old.”
Isabell said she looks for “good ones” not only “THE One.” She names El Santo, Don Johnson and Warum Nicht, as good ones that kept her highly visible in top sport.
“Riding is not only Bella Rose, Belantis, Don Johnson or Weihegold or Emilio… there are a lot of horses in between”
Don Johnson, though, is what Isabell says “more for me as a rider, a great development to bring him to the top.
“I think you have to work, then you deserve a top horse.
“If I would wait only for THE One then I would have an empty stable.”
THE One for Isabell is Bella Rose, the Westfalen mare that was second individually to Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro in the team competition at the 2014 World Games. The hard-as-concrete footing was identified as causing a problem for Bella Rose as well as many other horses. After competing at Stuttgart, Germany four months later Bella Rose has not appeared in a competition since.
The emotional connection with Bella Rose can bring Isabell to tears.
Asked about the mare, now 12 years old, Isabell replies: “I have the hope I can bring her back next year in the sport. It looks very, very good. It was a hard time for me, but it was a hard time for everybody because we didn’t know what was wrong.
“I hope that we know it now and that we can fix it. You never know. It’s too early to say, too early to talk about what might have been the cause of the problem.”
You have a herd of other horse, though?
“Yes, but this horse is The One.”