He is a four-time gold medalist at the Olympic Games, 133-time Nations Cup rider, winner of twelve medals at European Championships – and now President of the Organising Committee for the Longines FEI Jumping European Championship 2021 in his home town of Riesenbeck. A function that Ludger Beerbaum would never have dreamt of ten years ago.Shortly before the start of the biggest tournament to date at his equestrian facility Riesenbeck International, he has “brief” time between two appointments to answer a few questions.
What is more exciting for you, riding an international championship or organising one?
Ludger Beerbaum: Er (pause) always the riding. With a tournament organisation on this scale, the responsibility rests on many shoulders. The pressure and tension is also distributed among the team. As a rider, I am left to my own devices. My horse and me – that’s all there is. I alone have to decide what to do.
What is the difficulty for the organising team to handle this biggest event so far?
L.B.: A big challenge is that we are doing something like this as a team for the first time. Riesenbeck International has only existed for six years, we have increased from event to event. First with international Indoors events, then with national championships for the youth, the German Championships of four-in-hand-driving, then the German Championships – without spectators – in show jumping. And now the European Championships. We have built up a routine and many things. But the size of the upcoming event and also the compliance with predefined standards, that is a real challenge.
Actually, there should not be a European Championship this year because the Tokyo Olympic Games had to be postponed to 2021. The riders, the International Jumping Riders Club, in which you have been playing an important role for years, and the EEF (European Equestrian Federation) had the idea to hold this event despite the Olympics. After the awarding to Riesenbeck, everything then had to happen very quickly…
Yes, that is the real difficulty for us. While the previous hosts had more than three years to prepare the Championships, we didn’t even have one year. It was really sporting to get to where we are now. Corona made it even more difficult. There were many rules to follow. But we worked with partners who supported us really well. So far, there has already been a very trusting cooperation at the Longines World Equestrian Academy, now also as the main sponsor of the European Championships.
Compromises were made. In the end, everyone pulled together.
As a rider at major events, you were used to setting the tone among your colleagues, the media called you “the leading wolf”. What does it look like when you work with craftsmen, authorities and volunteers? Do you also set the tone there, or is tact and sensitivity required?
I think that with increasing age and experience – also thanks to decades of partnership with many different horses – which have taught me that things don’t always go forward, but that you also have to take a step back sometimes in order to ultimately achieve goals, I have achieved the necessary tact. In the places where this was not the case – and admittedly there were some – I have the support of excellent staff.
We start in seven days. Have you had any sleepless nights?
What are you looking forward to?
L.B.: To a hopefully beautiful event with a good atmosphere, where horse and rider feel comfortable and give their best. I hope that the spectators see good sport and are enthusiastic.
What are you afraid of?
L.B.: That the weather is not good all the time. If it’s adverse for a day, we can take it.
This last question – which you usually hate – has to be asked: Who will be European champion?
L.B.: It’s very difficult to say in advance. Because even favourites often stumble. But when it comes to who is the top favourite, it is Peder Fredericson from Sweden.
Which team will win?
L.B.: The Swedish team. However, there are still a few teams that have something to make up, such as the Swiss or the Germans. And the Belgians, who came third in Tokyo, also have a good chance.