The legendary German showjumper Ludger Beerbaum bowed out of team competition at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona last week (24 September) marking the end of a momentous era for the sport. Ludger rode in his first senior championship in 1987 and over the intervening 29 years won an astounding 12 gold medals for his country — including four Olympic crowns — as well as five silvers and six bronze medals. As the master horseman takes a step back from team duties to concentrate on other equine avenues, we take a look back at some of his greatest achievements and revel in eight very good reasons why Ludger is a genius in the saddle.
1. He’s ice cool
Pressure — what pressure? You don’t become world number one without a certain resilience to the tensions of competitive sport and Ludger always appears ice cool — even when he wins.
2. He’s a master in the saddle
Watching Ludger in the ring is akin to a showjumping masterclass — his natural affinity and poise in the saddle is something we would all like to emulate and it’s helped him to win trophies all over the world. He’s also fearless — at the 1992 Olympics, he jumped-off on Classic Touch at a full gallop because his rein had broken and at the age of 15 in a horse fall he broke five ribs and spent a week in a coma. He had a third of his lung removed and it took him six months to train himself to breathe properly again.
3. He’s conquered Europe a phenomenal six times
Ludger has lined up to represent Germany at 11 European championships, winning gold six times — the final of which came with Gotha FRH (pictured) as part of the triumphant team in Madrid in 2011
4. He’s Germany’s golden hero
Riding at his seventh Olympics in Rio this year, Ludger and Casello (pictured) helped the German team secure a bronze medal, adding to his three team gold medals he’s collected and the individual title he won on Classic Touch in 1992. The honour of being German flagbearer was bestowed upon Ludger at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Games in Athens.
5. He finds and produces the most brilliant horses
Sadly most of us will never know what it feels like to ride a horse of the calibre of Ratina Z, Chaman, Goldfever or the ever consistent Chiara (pictured), but Ludger has formed long and brilliant associations with so many talented equines. He can also seemingly bring out the best in any horse — at the 1988 Olympics, he helped his team win gold on a catch ride called The Freak.
6. He’s head and shoulders above his rivals
Standing at 6ft2in tall he literally is head and shoulders above the competition as one of the tallest riders on the circuit. However, Ludger’s CV is almost unrivalled in its list of accolades and achievements. The hugely popular and respected rider can boast of wins at nearly every major grand prix, including the historic CN International at Spruce Meadows and he’s a three-time winner of the legendary Aachen grand prix in his home country: “It’s a special feeling to enter the ring in front of your home crowd,” he says.
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7. He knows how to spray champagne in style
It’s a prerequisite for any successful showjumper to be able to a) pop a champagne cork effortlessly b) spray it in the general direction of your rivals and c) duck / leg it before your own dry cleaning bill escalates. Ludger nails it every time.
8. And finally…. He bowed out with the best farewell
Ludger, 53, bowed out of team competition in stupendous style at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup final in Barcelona at the end of September, having helped his country to a glorious win. The venue was the scene of his individual Olympic gold in 1992 and a fitting stage for the final curtain call on his team career. It truly was a night to remember for a wonderful rider we’ll never forget.