Isabell Werth – talking with the World’s Number One

A conversation with Christopher Hector

It was great to meet up with Isabell Werth at the Frankfurt horse show, as always, Isabell has her own views on most everything…

Was the highlight – and lowlight – of this year, the WEG in Tryon? You got to win, but you didn’t get the chance to ride your Freestyle…
“To be honest, what I got there, that’s more important than one more medal. It was so fantastic to come back with Bella and to have two competitions at Tryon. I have to say we had some difficult things there, some bad organization and decisions, but the sport itself, it was fantastic, and the facilities, the stables, the ground, the footing, that was really top. The horses were great – the Special was so exciting, it was really the Special, not the freestyle, a classical competition, and that is important. We had a great atmosphere.”

“Of course is was a shame no freestyle, and I couldn’t understand the FEI why they couldn’t organize 15 horses a day earlier or a day later, but that’s done and it makes no sense to discuss it any more.”

Fantastic to come back with Bella at Tryon – digiShots images

And Bella, how was she when she came home – all good?
“She was really fit, fit for the next competition, and I am really happy that she is ready for top competition. Now we have a little break after Stuttgart, and in the new year we will start with the outdoor season. I don’t want to go to the indoor shows because they make her too motivated, she’s still really really hot, and she feels really more relaxed when she can go outside, so this is the plan, to start in the outdoor shows in May.”

The choice, Emilio? Image Rebecca Ashton

Or Weihegold? Image Dirk Caremans

Who will you take to the World Cup final in Göteborg?
“Weihegold or Emilio, you never know if something can go wrong, so with two choices, this is my goal.”

Descolari, really talented – photo Kenneth Braddick

Your young horse that you had here at Frankfurt, Descolari, how far can he go?
“I’m sure he will become a really nice Grand Prix horse. It was really a short trip to get here with him, just one show to qualify him. He has been two-and-a-half years in our stable and in that time he has been to five or six shows. He did a fantastic job here, and he has been sold to a young girl, a junior rider, and I will help her to bring him to Grand Prix and we’ll see if we can bring him to the Louisdor next year. He is really really talented and I really like him because he is so cute and elegant.”

Isabell and Flamboyant winning the Burg-Pokal in 2017

Those young riders must love you, because the horse you won the Burg-Pokal with last year, QC Flamboyant OLD was sold to a junior rider, Valentina Pistner and the combination has been very successful…
“Yes, he was the best one at the Junior European Championships with three silver medals. It worked very well, it was super to see.”

Valentina Pistner and Flamboyant, life after the Burg-Pokal

You are a young rider horse producer now…
“I try my best, we have to bring them up, and then they should go on and be successful. I had the luck to have an experienced horse to come into the sport, and I think it is the same for all young riders and juniors, when they have a horse that helps them to get experience and to teach them, that is really a great help.”

Isabell and her first trainer, Dr Schulten-Baumer

Competing with Madras, the professor

You were so lucky, Dr Schulten-Baumer put you on his son’s horse….
“Weingart and Madras. I rode my first ‘S’ with Madras, he was like a professor for me.”

Do you have another superstar coming, something for Paris and the 2024 Games?
Isabell is laughing – “We will see, I don’t think about Paris…”

The stallion, Belantis, exciting to bring him out Grand Prix

I bet you do…
“No, no, no, but I am really excited to bring Belantis in the Grand Prix next year. I had a bit of a problem, I had so many shows with the other horses, now he needs a few shows to come into the sport.

Superb, ‘really brilliant’

Then I have a really brilliant seven-year-old mare for next year, Superb. She is by Surprice, Surprice is Sir Donnerhall / Prince Thatch xx. She is Donautanz / Raphael on the mother side. She is really brilliant, I am lucky to have young ones to bring up into the sport.”

You are the mare specialist now….
“Ya, but I do not look for the sex, it is not interesting for me, just I see the horse, and I like the horse and think this is my horse or not? The next thing is the breeding or the sex.”

But never a stallion?
“I wouldn’t say never, but stallions are much harder. It is great to see how Daniel Bachmann and Blue Hors manage the combination, because it is really difficult to do both, and at the end if you decide just to go into the sport then it is much easier to have a gelding.”

Isabell at the Presentation at Aachen in 1991

next we talk to Isabell about staying at the top

You have been at the top of the sport for so long, but you are not sitting still, your riding keeps evolving…
“I think first of all it is because of the daily training, day by day I have seven, eight, nine horses to ride, so this is training enough, and then I try always to look around, what’s happening, to improve myself also my horses. I think it is very important as a rider not to stand and say this is the right way – each horse has his own key, his own personality, his individual way of moving, his individual character. I really try to find with each horse the best way.”

Isabell and Bella Rose at Aachen

But always within the framework of the classical principles?
“This is my goal, of course. Always the point to discuss is what is classical? We have so many discussions, we have so many books, so many teachers, so many riders, so many trainers, and everyone says, of course I am a classical rider, I’m a classical trainer, but in the end I think we have only one way and you can see the result. On the side there are some riders or trainers with more or less special ways, but I am really sure that when you are successful with different horses for the long term, it can’t be a tricky way.”

Bella Rose, a modern light moving horse

Is your way of training still basically the way of training you worked out with Dr Schulten-Baumer?
“This is the basic, but I really have to say I improved myself, and of course, we have completely different horses now. So many modern light moving horses, it has improved so much in the last twenty years. Even if you compare the horses of ten or fifteen years ago, the horses are so different.”

I think Dr Schulten-Baumer was ahead of his time, he was saying ride forward and light, he was a visionary…
“Yes and I had the luck to combine this all into my life, and learn this basic and then to go and improve on it with the horses.”

Who helps you today – are you still working with Monica?
“Yeah, Monica is always at the shows and next to me, and sometimes she is coming into my stable. When my team at home, we have each other, so that’s a good control within my team.”

You are here with three horses at Frankfurt, it’s an action packed show?
“The show is really fantastic, especially for the young horses. The Nürnberger Burg-Pokal is so established here – the people are really coming to Frankfurt for this, it’s sold out! The same for the Louisdor for the young Grand Prix horses, we had a really interesting competition, I am sure we will see those horses in the future in the international top sport – and for sure, in our team. So this is exciting, so many people coming to see the young horses, and this mixture of entertainment and sport makes this show quite special.”

next we ask Isabell about the short Grand Prix

Do you think the shows, that if dressage is properly presented, and explained, like it is at this show, there is no need for gimmicks like a short short Grand Prix?
“This short Grand Prix is for me, not the option because it is not true that we will get more TV or more spectators because we have made the test shorter. We have six minutes for the Grand Prix already, and to do it in three makes no sense, and the most important thing is that it is worse for the horses because we can’t show the horses in the way we should show them: first of all we have to show the basics, and then we have to show the Grand Prix exercises in a proper way – and in three minutes it is just rush, rush, rush, and it is more difficult then for the weaker nations than the top nations. It makes no sense at all, and I am quite sure, it can’t be the future.”

“I said, if they show me a contract for one hour premium time with the short Grand Prix, then we can discuss it, but it is nothing, just political stuff.”

But why is this happening, I have met no-one who thinks it is a good idea…
“It is just a few who think we have to do something new, and make something which in their opinion is more interesting, but I am sure it is not the truth, they are just trying to change something but what they are doing makes no sense.”

The Dressage Stadium at Aachen, no shortage of spectators here…

What are the goals now?
“Now we have a little Christmas break, this is the first big goal, to slow down a bit, then we start again and try to show all the horses in the best way we can show them.”






One thought on “Isabell Werth – talking with the World’s Number One

  1. In the 90’s she was a superstar, it’s unbelievable that she is still the No1 now with a great team of horses.
    Another great read, well done.