Ben Ebeling Pursuing German Citizenship to Spend More Time Training in Europe With Goal of Making USA Team for 2022 World Championships
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Sept. 13, 2021
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Ben Ebeling competing on American Nations Cup teams in Europe is seeking German citizenship so he can spend more time training with the goal of making the USA team for the 2022 world championships.
The 21-year-old Californian, son of the German-born Jan Ebeling who rode Rafalca for the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics, competes on Illuster van de Kampert this week on the American team at the World Equestrian Festival CDIO5* Nations Cup in Aachen, Germany the world’s most prestigious horse show.
Ben is also taking a year off from pursuing an international marketing degree at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh to devote full time to dressage and his training with Christoph Koschel at his Hagen, Germany base. Christoph was on the German team with Donnperignon that won bronze at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and silver at the 2011 European Championships.
Ben describes his view of training in Germany:
“I love being in Germany and the training is really great. It’s very inspirational to be here at the European Championships in Hagen with all these fantastic riders. Of course, you see fantastic riders in the States but I also get to see European riders and what they’re doing—even to watch them in the warmup arena is inspiring.”
Ben is based with his parents in Moorpark, California north of Los Angeles. He has competed at Wellington’s winter-long Global Dressage Festival since 2018. The same year he rode Behlinger in the Young Riders team competition at Hagen as well as at other European shows. After the 2019 Wellington circuit, he again rode both Behlinger and Illuster on the European Young Rider tour. The 2020 competition schedule was disrupted by coronavirus.
By this year, Ben and Illuster, or “Big Dog” as the 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding is nicknamed, had moved to Big Tour. At the U.S. Olympic team “observation” event Ben and Illuster placed seventh in the Grand Prix Special behind the four top combinations selected to go to Tokyo where America earned an historic silver.
The pair came to Europe following a successful Global Dressage Festival winter circuit in Wellington, Florida to compete on the senior tour and continue training with Christoph Koschel who is based at Hagen where the European Championships were staged. The amount of time he can spend in Europe is limited by law.
He competed Illuster, owned by his mother, Amy Roberts Ebeling and Sasha Cutter, on the U.S. team at the Rotterdam CDIO5* Nations Cup that was the rider’s first European senior competition. Last week, the pair performed their first individual senior competition at the Hagen CDI3*.
“I grew up here watching my Dad when he came over,” Ben explained. “My Dad is full German, I’m half German. I’ve spent a lot of time in Germany and still have some family here and a lot of friends from the European Young Rider tours.
“In the US I can see Steffen (Peters) and Sabine (Schut-Kery) ride their horses and it’s really cool to see their philosophies and their different feels for their horses utilized in training. Here you can also sit a couple of feet away from Monica (Theodorescu, German team coach) if she’s training Jessie (von Bredow-Werndl) and be able to see what they’re working on and how they fix problems with the world No. 1 horse. I think it’s the best of both worlds—being in Wellington and seeing all those professionals there and being able to come to Europe and see, maybe not differences, but expand your field of view.
“I say expand field of view as in you’re exposed to a lot more riding here from a lot of different riders than you would see in the States and you can almost discern the different styles of riding… and for me because I see the Americans all the time so I can see the difference between these riding styles.”
In addition to training with Christoph Koschel in Germany, he has had coaching and advice from former U.S. team rider and top ranked judge Gary Rockwell as well as six-time Olympian and former U.S. team coach Robert Dover.
Ben thinks the U.S. is “doing a really great job of starting to nurture the youth and get them to a highly competitive stage early in their careers” such as the European Young Rider tours.
In Germany, however, horse sports are part of the culture, whether it’s show jumping, dressage or eventing. A couple of weeks ago he went to the Bundeschampionate, the German young horse championships, and found “unbelievable” the number of spectators despite coronavirus restrictions.
“You wouldn’t necessarily see that in the States,” he said (This correspondent having covered young horse championships on both sides of the Atlantic can attest to the gaping differences in spectator interest.)
“I think being a part of the culture is a big part of why the Germans are so successful,” Ben said. “They start early with ponies, and have many great trainers; of course there are great trainers in the States, but I think it’s highlighted in Germany and Europe in general.”
After this week’s Nations Cup, Ben is scheduled to return to California to stay through shows at Thermal then head to Wellington for the Global Dressage Festival and its newly elevated level of competitions beyond what have already made the Florida circuit the premier center of top sport in the Americas,
“For the next year,” he said, “I’m really training to try to make the world championship team for the U.S. and leave open the possibility of the World Cup.
“In the future I just want to ride at the highest level I can, not necessarily making teams but just being able to ride at the highest level I’m able to and if that winds up in a team environment then that’s great. I love the horses and I love training. I‘m not sure what the future holds but if I keep riding at a high level somehow I’ll get to where I want to go. Regardless of what anyone else thinks that I might be young, I’m really ready to take this on. I know I can.”
Would he ever want to ride for Germany?
“Oh, no, no! I’m American born through and through!”