Michael Eilberg on regaining his love for competing, and the horse he thinks could be the next big thing

  • When Michael Eilberg scored three top-three small tour placings at Keysoe CDI earlier this year, it was his first international competition in four years. With his last top grand prix horse, Marakov, having taken a step back from competing in 2018, Michael has been absent from the international dressage scene for a while, but he has certainly kept busy, bringing on the next generation – horse and human.

    “I’ve had a period of downtime; we’ve started a family [with wife Maya] and rebooted the horsepower,” Michael says on episode 108 of The Horse & Hound Podcast, supported by Amerigo and their UK distributor Zebra.

    “We’ve started our own breeding programme and we have quite a depth in horsepower now, with some horses now at the age where they’re starting to do some serious stuff. Maybe by the end of this year we might be getting out at grand prix,” says Michael, who names the nine-year-old Dante Weltino x Quattro B son MSJ Dante VX as “probably my favourite”.

    “We’ve had Dante since a foal and he is a real special horse,” he says. “He can be a little insecure and in his younger years he took time to become confident in certain surroundings.

    “He did the four-year-old classes, but at the semi-final he ran out of the arena with me. As a five-year-old he qualified for the final, but then came last in it as he wouldn’t walk or halt. As a six-year-old he won the semi-final, and as a seven-year-old he won the final. As he’s gone through the years, he has got more confident and we have developed a really good bond. He trusts me now.”

    As well as being crowned 2020 seven-year-old national champion, Dante, who is owned by Michael, his father Ferdi Eilberg and Nicky Hannam, has had success at small tour level, with prix st georges and inter I wins at Keysoe and Somerford Park Premier Leagues this summer.

    “I just love riding him, as he’s one of those horses who always tries his best,” says Michael.

    “I’ve been very fortunate to have sat on some really good horses, and he gives me one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Marakov was always a lovely horse to ride, but his problem was spookiness and his conformation. I always said I wished I could have a horse who rode Marakov but wasn’t spooky, and had better conformation and paces. I think Dante could be that one.

    “He has a lot of boxes ticked when it comes to the marks available to him, which is why I rate him so much. His walk is unbelievable – he walks for a nine or 10 – and he also has extremely high talent for piaffe-passage and the pirouettes. He has enormous talent, and if he keeps his cool I think he’s going to be one of the best.”

    Michael Eilberg: ‘I’ve had a different outlook on competing’

    As well as bringing on some exciting younger horses, with other future stars including Figlio and MSJ Distinction, Michael explains that having had a break from top level competition has helped him enjoy the sport again.

    “I did a lot of top level competing when I was younger and I had quite a lot of pressure on me with horses like Woodlander Farouche and Half Moon Delphi. So I’ve really appreciated taking a breather. I had a while where I felt a bit ‘off’ competing, but over the past year I’ve had a different outlook. My inspiration comes from training horses, but I’ve got the buzz back and I’m really happy to be riding these horses and enjoying shows.”

    • Listen to more of Michael’s thoughts on episode 108 of The Horse & Hound Podcast – listen here or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.

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