Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour Living the Dream as She Heads to World Championships on Vamos Amigos Favorite for Gold

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A standing ovation for Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour on Vamos Amigos at the CDIO5* in Aachen, Germany a month before the world championships. © 2022 Ken Braddick/DRESSAGE-NEWS.com

Aug. 1, 2022

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

When Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour rides Vamos Amigos at the world championships next weekend it won’t just be Danes rooting for success for the hometown star but dressage fans around the world and even Olympians from some other nations with finger’s crossed behind their backs that it is Cathrine’s time.

At the age of  30, Cathrine embodies much of what the dressage world wants in a champion as expressed by so many to dressage-news.com–her riding skills, love and understanding of her equestrian partners that led her to become one of the world’s best from a family with no background in horses and little money.

And appreciating her peers, expressing amazement that Isabell Werth can remain motivated to pursue success after so many years as a superstar, and the impact of Jessica von Bredow-Werndl’s “soft, nice riding” and talking a lot about horse welfare.

The sincere appreciation for the owners of her horses, of  Nathalie zu Sayn Wittgenstein and Kyra Kyrklund who fly in from their homes outside Denmark to provide training and support.

Perhaps most of all of her wife, Rasmine, and the team that enables them to teach up to 70 lessons a week as well as develop horses for other owners and for sale to pay the bills.

Cathrine is No. 2 in the world on Bohemian, her Tokyo Olympic mount, and No. 6 on Vamos Amigos as of the end of June that she will ride on Denmark’s team at the world championships in Herning, Denmark beginning Saturday with two days of Grand Prix to decide national honors.

The Grand Prix Special for individual medals is scheduled for Monday and the Grand Prix Freestyle on Wednesday also for medals will wrap up the championships staged once every four years.

Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour on Cassidy at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. © Ken Braddick/DRESSAGE-NEWS.com

During the championships, Cassidy will be retired at the age of 19 after a career on which she was ridden by Cathrine in the Europeans as a junior 15 years ago, a second junior championships a year later then European Young Rider champion in both 2012 and 2013.

Cathrine and Cassidy were on Denmark’s team at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro three years later.

“In 2016 that was somehow really fantastic because I was just thrown into it,” Cathrine recalled. “Everything was so new it was just a dream to even do the jump to the Grand Prix level.”

Now, she has the 12-year-old Westfalen gelding Bohemian that was her Tokyo Olympic mount and Vamos Amigos, the 10-year-old Westfalen gelding, that she rode at the 2022 World Cup Final and is heading to the world championships.

“I could never have imagined that I would be sitting here with two super Grand Prix horses,” she said.

Her success in having two great Grand Prix horses after Cassidy she describes as being “super lucky” with owners. Her parents kept Cassidy with Cathrine though there were “huge offers.” The Zinglersen family of Abildgaard Equestrian that owns Bohemian and England’s Pidgely family that owns Vamos Amigos and “buys crazy nice horses and allows me to educate them.”

Although the effort of maintaining the training business as well as competing at top sport is “crazy hard work,” Nathalie and Kyra is “a super, super skilled trainer team.” Nathalie, a two-time Olympian for Denmark, based in Germany and Kyra a veteran of five Olympics for Finland in England,  are “fantastic ladies that want to help every way they can to develop my riding skills.

“I feel really lucky that they want to fly up but with the whole way they care about me and horses and the team–it’s like family. It’s really unique. I’m just so thankful.”

Nathalie zu Zayn-Wittgenstein, Cathrine-Laudrup-Dufour and Kyra Kyrklund at a championships. © 2021 Ken Braddick/DRESSAGE-NEWS.com

How does Cathrine manage financially?

“It’s a tough game,” she said. “I’ve been lucky for a few years to have help from a Danish fund that has provided money to Danish sports people.

“The rest of it is just bloody hard work. Horses in training, selling horses, having students and clinics to keep everything running.”

She starts work at 6:30 a.m. and mostly finish 6:30 to 7 pm then starts training herself, six days a week. Her days “off” are often at a horse show or working on social media to market her business.

“The aim, the dream, would be to take one or two days off a week to chill down because it is tough also body-wise,” she said. “It’s tough riding so many horses and running around. For me it’s not cool to work so much, for me it would be cool to work less, to able to relax and enjoy what we’ve already achieved.”

Her reward:

“Every ride I have, every time I go up the centerline, every time I start and the horses feel nice it’s just a gift in itself. The horses offer their lives to us. They are of course, a little bit forced into it, but I try to do everything I can to make them love it, to love their life, to offer themselves every single day to do whatever I ask them to do.”

The three Grand Prix boys she has now have different mind sets that she has to deal with.

“Cassidy is the one you can look in the eye and say, ‘Cassidy, this is the day…’ and you know he will offer you everything he can, and a tad more.

“With Bohemian you have to say ‘Today, it’s just for fun. Let’s see whatever comes into your mind.’ He’s like, ‘hmm, well OK.’ If he gets the idea then I say that’s a good idea, we’ll take that one.

“Then Vamos, he’s so polite. He’s like, ‘sorry I’m here.’ He’s a really hot one and I have to say, ‘stay with me.’

“I really feel what they feel and I know them as persons. It sounds silly but when you spend that much time with horses you do get to know them really, really well. And I love them to bits.

“They are so funny and they have their own crazy personalities, just like their rider… crazy horses for a crazy rider.

“I like them odd. I believe that when from a young age you can you fix this one that’s a little bit crazy. I’ve done it my whole life and then that’s what you become good at and what you fancy. It’s super fun.”

Cathrine Dufour at her first World Cup Final, riding Vamos Amigos at Leipzig, Germany in April 2022. © 2022 Ken Braddick/DRESSAGE-NEWS.com

Despite her success in the competition arena, “I’m not doing the sport for the competitions. I’m more doing the competitions because I sort of have to, to be fair.

“I love my every day. I love the training with the horses. I love having Kyra and Nathalie at the yard training. I love doing things with my wife.

“I love the everyday more than the competition.

“Of course, I’d love to go to Paris (2024 Olympics) but it’s more that my main goal is to produce horses and find young good horses that match me and I can bring up.

“Of course, I want to win the Olympic Games one day but long term term it’s more that me and Rasmine make a really nice stable back home where she and I can ride some horses we love to ride every single day and maintain my partnership with Nathalie and Kyra.

“That is what I most look forward to, when they come to the yard, more than going to Aachen or the worlds. It is fun but it’s going away from the team. I love my team so if I could bring my team every single time then it would be a different story.

“When we went to Leipzig (World Cup Final in April) together that was fantastic because then we were in it together in a different way and I really like that.

“I love my job, I love my every day This is for me living the life. Maybe I could have less students and ride maybe seven horses instead nine. I’d love to have time to be a little more of a family.”

Cathrine credits Jessica von Bredow-Werndl,pregnant with her second child so skipping these championships, for helping put dressage “in a good place” with her riding and talking about horse welfare.

“I want to do that myself,” she said. “We are moving in the right direction. The media is going crazy about many things but to be fair we have to speak our opinions because we are doing everything we can for our horses and that’s the story that needs to be told.

“If we could we would carry them around, we want to do everything for them every single day. So it’s very important that Jessica comes out with that message. It’s a pity the focus is on the negative but it’s also up to ourselves to show the sport and to advertise the sport as we want it to be.

“So we can only help each other to show the best sport, to try to show the best riding we are capable. I don’t think we can do anything more but telling the good stories all the time and trying to kill the bad stories.”