How did you star your career in equestrian sport?
I got my first pony before I could even walk, a Shetland called Uno! My Grandparents kept Uno at their home and when I went to visit them I would always ride him, even though I hadn’t started to walk yet – I just loved it so much.
I started doing shows with Uno and soon became more ambitious and wanted to jump higher, so I moved onto a bigger pony called Luki. He was amazing at jumping 50cm, we used to win everything, however anything above that was a bit of struggle so I ended up doing quite a lot of dressage with him. But I always knew my heart was with jumping, so I then moved onto my first proper jumping pony, Toby.
When I was 10-years-old I got my super pony, Jerome, and went to five European Championships with him, I owe him so much. When I was 12-years-old I rode in my first European Championships with him and won a silver medal with the team which was incredible. He passed away two months ago aged 28, it was very sad, but he had an amazing life and I will never forget what he has done for me. After he retired he had seven years eating in the field with his friends and growing his round tummy! We all miss him greatly now.
What was it like competing in your first European Championships?
I was only 12-years-old, and I was really small, so my parents were super nervous especially as I didn’t really have any experience, but I wasn’t nervous at all as I didn’t really have any expectations and at that age I was totally fearless! I still remember my parents’ reaction when we learnt we had won the team silver medal – my mother was crying, and my father was so emotional! It’s so strange, I can still remember the course in my head and I don’t think I will ever forget it!
Who inspires you?
My parents really inspire me, without them I would never be where I am now. They train me and my mum rides for me, with my studies taking up so much time I can’t ride as much as I need to, so my mother always steps in to help! They support me at every event and have made so many sacrifices for me, I am so lucky to have them.
Which riders do you look up to?
There are a lot of riders who I really admire but I think my top two would be; Marcus Ehning and McLain Ward. For me, when I see them riding it looks effortless, they are so smooth, and you never see them fighting with the horse. They always work as a team with the horses and you can see they really understand them.
Can you tell us about your favourite horses?
Catch Me If You Can is my best horse at the moment, she is amazing. I am really lucky, all the horses I have are really good. I have quite a new one, called, Bantou Balou, he is not that experienced in the bigger classes but last week he came third in Rotterdam, so I think he is one-to-watch.
Catch Me is very funny, when I arrive onto the yard, she stretches her neck as long as she can and is always looking for sweets and doesn’t stop leaning forward until I give her treats.
What are your expectations for CHIO Aachen?
Last year at Aachen, it felt like a dream come true, the atmosphere and facilities are incredible. I am so excited to experience the thrill of the home crowd and ride in the main arena again. Although it’s always great to win, for me the main thing is that my horse is happy and jumping well. I would like to do as many clear rounds as possible and see where we end – obviously to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix would be the icing on the cake.
What are your aims for this year?
It would love to compete at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Although this is a main focus of mine, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I will talk with the Chef d’Equipe, make a plan for the horses and see how Aachen goes. Fingers crossed I make the shortlist!
What are you most looking forward to in the Rolex Grand Prix (If you qualify)?
It would be an honour to qualify for the Rolex Grand Prix, what Rolex are doing for the sport is amazing and every rider wants to win a Rolex Major. It is one of the toughest courses in the world and really challenges your partnership as horse and rider. It really tests you but also gives you the opportunity to show your skills and prove how good you are. The atmosphere is electric, and you get goose bumps when you enter the arena. It’s magical.
How does it feel to have one of the Rolex Majors in your home country?
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is what every rider wants to win, and for my home country to host one of the Majors is so special. Aachen is one of the best events in the world, as are the three other Majors that make up the Grand Slam, I hope I can win the Rolex Grand Slam one day!
Having grown up with the young riders academy, what opportunities has this given you to progress in the sport?
The Young Riders academy is a great programme and really supports the young talent within our sport. Show Jumping is expensive, and many people struggle with the funding to progress their careers. The Young Riders Academy, supported by Rolex, has given me the opportunity to combine my training sessions with my educational demands. This programme supports educational needs and training in the sport, which not many do. I think it is great for our sport and for nurturing young talent, so they can reach the peak of their careers.
Laura Klaphake (GER) & Catch Me If You Can
What is your biggest dream in equestrian sport?
Along with winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, I would love to win a medal at the Olympics one day.
When you are not riding, what are you doing?
When I am not riding I am very busy with my studies as I am currently doing my Masters. But I also love to go out with friends, I especially love BBQs! I actually used to play hand-ball for 15-years but a couple of years ago I had to stop as it was too much, and I did not have the time.
How did you find the step up into seniors?
It is really different, for the juniors you have the big competitions but nothing like the seniors. I remember watching the big events on television and admiring riders like Scott Brash and McLain Ward, thinking about how much I would love to ride at these shows one day. It is an incredible feeling to know my hard work is paying off and now I am competing against my heroes.
What is your advice for young riders hoping to start their career in showjumping?
When you are a rider you work with horses, not machines, so you really have to understand the horse. Every horse is different, and you should be a partnership, a team. You should never try to fight the horse; the horse might not understand you and it is your job to teach it and nurture it so that it does. Horses love you and you love the horses.
I would also say that is important to remember you will have ups and downs but when you have the downs you should never give up and as the highs are worth so much more than the lows.
Source: Press Release by Rolex Grand Slam
Photos: © Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton / Young Riders Academy / Petroni