You have had some incredible moments here at CHIO Aachen; do you still get a buzz when you arrive here?
Yes, I must say that when I arrived at the show Thursday, I got a little teary eyed because I have so many great memories here, and there’s so much emotion. The highest point in my riding career occurred at this venue. There were also some low points in between, where I had to be motivated to come back from disappointment and defeat – there was just so much emotion. It’s a wonderful place and it still makes my heart go pitter-patter.
You’ve achieved some phenomenal successes in the sport; do you now feel a responsibility to give something back and help nurture the next generation of show jumping talent?
Yes. I’m at a different point in my life now, showing less and training more, and I’m very happy to do that because I feel as though I can give something back to the sport, particularly young riders, and particularly women. I think I’ve paved the way for women in this sport, showing them that anything is possible, including being number one in the world, as a woman. And to also make the German team, as a woman, which was dominated by males before I came along. It’s very rewarding for me to be at a different point in my life now and to give something back.
We hear a lot that the Aachen crowd supports riders, whether they win or not. What makes the crowd here so special?
It’s a very special feeling when you walk into the arena and there are 40,000 people clapping for you, all crossing their fingers and wishing you the best. This motivates every rider. It’s an incredible experience to ride here, but to win here in this atmosphere in front of this spectator field is indescribable, it gives you the goosebumps.
Away from show jumping, which other sports are you passionate about? Have you experienced any other major championships?
I’m a great spectator of tennis, but not a great player! Not a great golfer, either, but I’m better at it than I am at tennis. I enjoy watching both of those sports at the top level, and I even had the pleasure of going to Wimbledon, as a Rolex Testimonee, and had the opportunity to meet other Rolex Testimonees. But on the side, I try to improve my golf game.
Do you believe any of your young horses have the potential to become future Grand Prix stars?
We have a few really nice, young horses at the moment. I currently have a horse, who I’m riding, who I’ve been bringing along called I’m Blue, and I think he’s definitely going to make it to Grand Prix level.
How about your students – do any have the potential to be future superstars?
Oh yes – I have some great students at the moment. I have a couple of American students, who are very motivated, just like I was. I have a couple of Chinese students, as well. But my best student is, of course, my daughter, who is motivated and has big dreams, although she’s only 12-years-old, but it’s fun for me to watch her aspire to do great things in the sport.
As you’ve just said, your daughter, Brianne, is a very talented show jumper. Do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is inspiring other young talent to pursue careers in the sport?
I think the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has been a major turning point for the equestrian world. All of a sudden we had Rolex come in, which put a new aspiration, even a pinnacle, on the sport, which other sports, such as tennis and golf have. We finally got to a point where we’re on a similar level with some great sports. It’s been a major achievement, and it’s inspired a lot of people to try and achieve the Rolex dream.
Source: Press Release from Rolex Grand Slam
Photo: © Rolex / Ashley Neuhof