Exclusive: Marcus Ehning Interview (Part 1)

Cornado NRW
Credit : Scoopdyga

Tuesday 29 November - 17h18 | Yeelen Ravier (translated by Ian Clayton)

Exclusive: Marcus Ehning Interview (Part 1)

Part One of Grand Prix's exclusive interview with German show jumping icon Marcus Ehning, most recently winner of this weekend's €155,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping in Madrid, Spain. Nicknamed ‘the Centaur’ for his near-perfect riding and balanced approach to the sport, Marcus Ehning has had a 2016 full of twists and turns. After some excellent results, notably with Prêt à Tout, Comme Il Faut 5 and Funky Fred, the German rider had to pull out of this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio twenty-four hours before he was scheduled to compete as a result of an injury to his horse Cornado NRW. But from the base of his fantastic home stables, the 42-year-old champion bounced back in full force with wins at the CSI 4* and CSI 5* Grands Prix of Münster and Vienna, before offering the Nations Cup to the Mannschaft in Barcelona at the end of September, all the while launching an assault on the World Cup qualifying circuit. Toward the end of October, the reserved, taciturn rider sat down with Grand Prix magazine at the Lyon Horse Show in France for a revealing interview.

 - Exclusive: Marcus Ehning Interview (Part 1)

Credit : FEI/Richard Juilliart

Grand Prix: How are you doing these days?
Marcus Ehning: I feel very good, thanks! Everything is going pretty well for me at the moment.

G.P.: How do you feel about your outdoor season this year?
M.E.: I’ve had a great year, even if I was not able to compete at the Olympic Games due to the injury to Coronado NRW ((Westph, Cornet Obolensky x Acobat I).  That’s the only blemish on this year. But concerning everything else, I have had a quite a few good results, which have really been satisfying for me.

G.P.: Which one did you savour the most?
M.E.: It’s hard to rank them, but if I were to single out one I would say the global final of the Nations Cup, at the end of September in Barcelona. 

G.P.: You beat Nick Skelton and Big Star (KWPN, Quick Star x Nimmerdor) there after an amazing jump-off on Prêt à Tout (Hiram Chambertin x Stew Boy). This Selle Français reached the top level quite quickly. What are your thoughts on his progress?
M.E.: He really surprised me as I didn’t think he would be so competitive so quickly. Given that I’ve only been riding him for a year [Prêt à Tout was previously with the young rider Kaya Lüthi — editor’s note], what he accomplished, mainly in outdoor competition [indoors, he nonetheless finished fourth at the Saut Hermès Grand Prix CSI 5* and won the consolation final of the World Cup Grand Prix — editor’s note] is clearly incredible. I hope he’ll keep going in this way and we’ll get more great results!

G.P.: Was his victory in the Grand Prix of the Madrid CSI 5* a breakthrough, in your mind?
M.E.: Honestly, no, because I didn’t need that victory to tell me that Prêt à Tout was an excellent horse. Two weeks prior to that, we had already finished fourth in the CSI 5* Grand Prix in Hamburg with the fastest jump-off time. Without one very dumb fault, we could have won that Grand Prix, which remains one of the most difficult of the outdoor season.

G.P.: Your horse Comme Il Faut 5 (Westph, by Cornet Obolensky and Ratina Z by Ramiro Z), winner of the Grands Prix CSI 5* of Vienna and CSI 3* of Paderborn, seems to be pretty convincing — fast, with a lot of endurance. Will he be your next main horse? 
M.E.: He has been competing at the CSI 5* level for two years now. He has been more and more consistent and has been getting really good results. I am very happy to have him in my stables. He’s undoubtedly an excellent horse. That being said, today a high-level rider can’t just depend on one top horse! We have to rely on a large group of quality horses to hope to be competitive every weekend. That’s why I never depend on just one top mount. 

G.P.: Given his origins, it would have been hard for Comme Il Faut to go unnoticed, especially by German fans!
M.E.:  As a rider, his lineage doesn’t mean much to me. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to remember that his father and mother competed so successfully for Germany! I also ride several descendants of For Pleasure [Marcus Ehning’s great stallion at the start of his career, Olympic team Champion at the Sydney Olympics and two-time European team Champion at Hickstead in 1999 and Donaueschingen in 2003, where Ehning also won the individual bronze medal — editor’s note] who were born in our stables. And that feels even more symbolic for me. Riding horses born in my own stables makes me very happy, all the more so as they are good!

G.P.: In that vein, Funky Fred (Westph) is the first horse that springs to mind — the son of For Pleasure and Panama (Rhein, Pilot), your former mare at the Grand Prix level. He also had a great 2016 with a double-clear at the Nations Cup in Rotterdam, a second place at the Oslo World Cup Grand Prix, a victory in the Queen’s Cup at the CSIO 5* in Barcelona and several honourable mentions. How far will he go?
M.E.: His potential is very interesting. He has progressed a lot in recent seasons. I am quite proud of his career and of his behaviour. As I mentioned, the fact of having ridden his parents and then overseeing his birth makes my family all the more happy with his results.  

G.P.: How much do you consider yourself to be a horse breeder? 
M.E.: I really like that. To be honest, though, it’s more of a hobby than a real activity. We got involved in that because we had kept a brood mare which I had ridden in the past. We only have three or four foals born each year, which isn’t a lot. The mares and their foals are with us all year. I still am still lucky enough today to ride good stallions, and I take advantage of that to make my own breeding crosses, which I think is pretty cool!

G.P.: This year, you also competed in CSI 5* Grands Prix with Gin Chin van het Lindenhof (BWP, Chin Chin x Cali- do I), with a twelfth place at the Knokke Hippique. How do you see his potential? 
M.E.: For his first season of high-level competition, he had some good results. He has progressed enormously on different points. I hope that he will become even more competitive in the years to come. In any case, he has the ability to do so!

G.P. :  And Quid de Cordynox (Westph, Cornado I x Polydor), who we see regularly in puissance [power] events? 
M.E. : I consider him to be a bit like Gin Chin. He has been in my stables for a little over a year now. At nine years old, I still find him to be a little green for the very high level, but I think he can become a Grand Prix horse. I am giving him time to mature and will try to integrate him little by little into my group. In any case, the goal is not to make him into a power horse. The Six-Bar format is easy for him because he has a lot of strength. As I still don’t know which horse to ride in that type of competition, I can go with him as he has no difficulty jumping high!

 - Exclusive: Marcus Ehning Interview (Part 1)

Daniel Deusser, Marcus Ehning
Credit : Scoopdyga

G.P.: In your stables, are there any young horses which stand out at the moment? 
M.E.: I believe a lot in the potential of Calanda 42 (Han, Calido I x Chasseur I), an excellent eight-year-old mare who won the Youngsters final at Aix-la-Chapelle this year. I hope that she’ll live up to that potential in the future. As I really don’t want to rush her, I am taking my time, but she has already jumped several times at 1.50 m. I am very happy with her!

G.P.: How is Singular La Silla (SLS, Fergar Mail x Stakkato) doing, after his break from competition between the end of July and the end of October? What do you expect for him next?
M.E.: He is doing very well! He had a gentle return to competition at the CSI3* of Odense. This year, he has had his ups and downs. I have big hopes for him as his potential is really phenomenal. I hope we’ll have the chance to show that off, and that he will become as consistent as he was last year. 

G.P.: He had already been injured several times last year. Doesn’t it frustrate you a bit to not be able to count on a good horse? 
M.E.: No, not really. In reality, in a group, one can never have all the horses in good shape and all ready to compete at a high level. There is always one who is a little bit injured or who is having an average season. You just have to deal with it and plan the best program for each one. Things will always go better next time!

G.P.: With a bit of distance, don’t you think you rushed things a bit in competing with Singular La Silla at the World Cup final in Las Vegas last year? 
M.E.: Not at all. I simply committed a big riding error in the ‘Chasse’ [he had badly taken a double in the midst of the course, spun around and finally abandoned the course — editor’s note]. He had been jumping incredibly well, without difficulty. Having left the course during this class, I could not continue with the final. But two days later, we finished fourth in the consolation Grand Prix, so that remains nonetheless a good experience for him. I also learned more about him at that point, as it was the first time he went on a plane for example. So I don’t regret anything in this regard.

G.P.: Cornado was also injured two times last season. How did you plan your season in function of his recovery periods?
M.E.: As long as he was out of competition, there wasn’t really any plan for him. We all know, and myself more than anyone, how talented he is. I was convinced that he would come back as strong as ever. Once he had resumed competition a year ago, we did everything to get him into the best possible position for the Rio Olympic Games. Unfortunately, we were deprived of the opportunity at the last minute because of a new injury which showed up for the first time. 

Otherwise, he had a wonderful year, jumping incredibly in all the competitions he was in [winner of the Grand Prix CSI5* at Bois-le-Duc, fourth in the World Cup final in Gothenburg, at the Bordeaux World Cup Grand Prix and the Grand Prix CSIO 5* in Rome — editor’s note]. His number of clear rounds is extraordinary. I don’t think we have had more than eight points yet. And even eight points, that hasn’t happened often [only seven times in the initial rounds of major classes since February 2012 — editor’s note]. It’s pretty incredible for a horse at this level!

GP: How do you combine his two careers of athlete and breeding stallion?
ME: Actually, it’s fairly simple for him, as it is for Cordynox and Singular. Over the course of the outdoor season, we always plan a break during which they don’t jump in order that their semen can be collected in the best conditions. This suits Cornado very well. In addition, that allows him to rest regularly, which is quite beneficial. He is in high demand from breeders. And I myself have crossed him with my own brood mares. 

G.P. : Have you already seen some of his offspring out on the course? What do you think?
M.E.: Yes, I have seen some. I even have two at my stables. The oldest are nine years old. For now, from what I have seen, Cornado seems to produce very well. His sons have a pretty incredible jumping technique, practically perfect. I think that is his biggest quality. They are very promising. 

Tomorrow: Part II, including Marcus Ehning's experience at this year's Olympic Games in Rio.

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