Autorin: Veronika Conen, CEO Sportsfreund-Studios
Dear Marleen, Please introduce yourself and your horse(s) briefly:
Where are you from, how long have you been riding?
I come from the beautiful Wertheim/Sachsenhausen in the lovely Tauber Valley. I started riding when I was six years old. I wanted to join the local club for big horses, but it was full. An acquaintance suggested a small Icelandic horse farm where I could start lessons and stay until something was available with the big horses. But as it is, once you start with the Isis, you stay there. Soon we had our own horses.
I grew up in Kreuzwertheim on the Main in Lower Franconia. When I was 12, we moved to die Lindenhöhe with six Icelandic horses, and today we have between 50 and 60 horses in our stable.
Who was your first horse? Tell us about him or her.
My first horse was Fannar frà Isafold, called Fàni. A beautiful Isabell gelding with whom I could get into any kind of mischief. And did. At a course, a friend and I had braided dandelions into the manes of our ponies at dusk and then galloped around the track without saddle and bridle but with arms outstretched like crazy. Until the riding instructor came out and made us look like slugs.
In the summer I used to fetch him from the field with helmet and bridle and we would canter back to the stable. The other direction was less clever, there he pulled his head down to eat and I flew off him - the only time. Fáni had very little tolt. Toölt - 3 metres toölt - trot out - parry through - toölt again.
Our first competition was the DJIM 2000 in Wurz. At that time you didn't need a qualification. We had no idea about competitions. Fáni and I started in V5 and T7 and were terribly bad. I cried terribly because I was always last. Under protest I kept saying "Fáni is still the very best horse in the world". He was my heart and taught me a lot of patience.
Two years later I got Geysir. He had a lot of tölt and everything was much easier. After a year I realised that I preferred riding Geysir in the meantime. So we decided to sell Fani so that he could be number one again somewhere else. He found a great place as a therapy horse where he could help many many people. We get a photo of him every year. He is 30 years old today.
Who are your horses today and can you characterise them in a few words?
I have many different horses, but the most important are the two to which we dedicated a blanket each.
Helgi vom Berghof
He's the best, just the very best at everything. The exceptional stallion inspires with his spectacular trot, for which he received grade 10 several times in 2018. His offsprings are also very promising. He owns the first blanket of our collaboration - turquoise with noble silver perfectly fitting for a gray dun.
Fagri-Blakkur frà Nedra-Ási
Fagri is my haven of peace. He's always been so incredibly polite, reasonable, and mature. When I'm not in a good mood or tired, I grab the Fagri and enjoy just cleaning it up and making it even prettier than it already is. Then I'll feel better. I can just hang out with him. It might not run that cool, but it's still fun.
For me, Fagri is not necessarily just about sport and work, it is also my hobby. Even if he is a really great horse with an amazing gait quality. When I ride it, it feels like my favorite hobby.
What is the difference to Helgi?
Helgi is much more of a job because, as a stallion, he is supposed to have mares and has to prove himself. Fagri doesn't have to convince anyone, just me, and he already does that by giving me a sweet look.
What does working with the horses mean to you?
Working with horses means everything to me. My whole life consists of work and everything around the horse. When I'm not at the stable, it's terrible. I feel like I'm missing something, it's like an addiction. I can't be away for a day. Holidays are ok, but when I'm asked if we want to do something, for a day or half a day, I hesitate...
I love oiling hooves, washing horses, cleaning and generally making sure the yard is in order. When it's crap weather at the weekend, I tidy up the tack room and sort everything. At home in my flat it's unfortunately not so tidy! The work here and all the other stuff is much more valuable than the show riding - that's fun, but my enjoyment and content are the days at the stables.
Actually, I was determined to learn something sensible after school. But when I looked at the catalogue of courses, I found everything uninteresting. I'm not a good learner. I don't have to start anything that doesn't interest me, then I won't make it anyway. That much was clear to me. The horses after all! I find my personal "home" in working and dealing with them.
What are your goals with your horses?
My general goal is a harmonious cooperation and a mutual feeling of well-being at work.
My concrete goal is the World Cup with Helgi. I am already much further along with him than with the other horses. My goal for them is that they become better and better, or really great. There is a lot of hope in them.
With Fagri, one goal from a sporting point of view is to reach LK1. He doesn't have it yet, but I believe in him. (They reached LK1 in 2021) In terms of riding, I always want to harmonize with him and I wish that we continue to love each other. And get even better together. The "problem" is, I'm so happy with him, so grateful, that to be honest, I hardly have any goals. This may stand in the way of faster success. If he were a trained horse, he would certainly have progressed. Of course I want to be great at sports with Fagri - today I practiced circus tricks with him, he can now scratch on command!! Fagri just brings out the wendy girl in me.
How do you describe your work with the horses?
With every horse it's a new task, whether it's a trained horse or a young horse. Difficult horses are nice challenges in between, but it is also wonderful with easy ones where everything works.
I am very precise at work. In the arena, I look in the mirror every round to see how my seat is and correct myself all the time. I am very ambitious, not only in terms of sport, but to constantly get better. I want to perfect everything. I am quite strict with myself.
I am also strict with the horses, but I want to be fair. I wouldn't ask a young horse to do a perfect croup leg as long as it hasn't understood the leg correctly yet. I try to adapt the exercises to the horse, its age, its physical possibilities, but then I want them to be correct. Even if they think it's stupid for a moment. For me, 2-3 steps are enough on the first day, then it's already good. The next day it might be five steps. I like to give the horses time.
I have a lot of patience, sometimes maybe too much, especially in the transition from young horse to riding horse. It's very difficult for me, especially with my own, to see when the point is there and then to demand accordingly. Fagri, for example, always gave so much more than he was actually trained for. It was a difficult step for me to finally accept that and tell him that we have to do the exercises more correctly from now on.
How do you structure your training, do you always have a plan in mind?
In my daily training I usually have a plan. It depends on the previous training. However, the horses tend to throw a spanner in the works. Then the plan doesn't work out and it gets thrown out again.
A good training can look very different. Either we dedicate ourselves to a problem that can be solved during the work. Or we repeat exercises that are so well established that they are always simple and easy to recall. Or we work on new lessons.
Do you have role models?
That's a stupid question like from a friendship book.
I don't have any direct role models. I certainly look up to some people for certain skills, not just equestrian. I admire self-confidence and structure, for example.
The other way round: I know how I don't want to be, how I don't want to train my horses, how I don't want to teach. But don't ask me for names now!
Basically, I just like to figure everything out myself and do my own thing.
Which horse would you take to the desert island?
Oh, that's a mean thing to decide. I love all my horses, each one is so unique and I didn't want to miss any of them. So, may I please take all seven or preferably more to the island?
What insider tip can you give our readers?
Love your horses and show it to them, they will give it back to you. Always have the ambition to become better. I don't mean sporting success, but everyday things like patience, riding skills and trust.