When Norwegian eventer Hans Bauer took on his 2019 Longines FEI European Eventing Championship (28 August-1 September) ride Præstegårdens Leopold, it was only meant to be for three weeks.
“His owner at the time sent him to me when he was four as he was crazy and electric and famous for his buck — he was a very happy horse!” explains Hans, 47. “He was bred for dressage but his owner wanted to drive him — he was fine long-reining but whenever she put a trap behind him, he went mad.”
But three weeks turned into three months and that turned into 12 months, and two years later Hans found himself with a horse that was ready to go to the World ix year old Championships at Le Lion D’Angers.
“The first eventing competition I did on ‘Leo’ was an 80cm class and we had about seven refusals,” remembers Hans. “But we kept going and when we thought he could go to Le Lion, the owner suddenly realised that things were getting serious so said I could either give the horse back or buy him — so I bought him. We didn’t go to Le Lion though as I couldn’t afford it.”
Leo and Hans went on to finish in the top eight five times out of the first eight international competitions they started.
“I never rushed Leo though,” says Hans. “But one day everything clicked. I used to ride full-time but gave up in 2007 as it was too expensive. So since then, riding has been my hobby and I work instead for my family’s clothes shop business in Norway. I very much see myself as a professional amateur.”
Hans says he is completely self-funded and that he trains with German event riders Anna Siemer on the flat while at competitions and Andreas Dibowski for cross-country. He finished 50th at this year’s Europeans at Luhmühlen, scoring 36 in the dressage, and then adding one stop on the cross-country, plus some time-faults, followed by 8.4 faults in the showjumping.
“I’m not really happy with our result, but I’m not really sad about it either,” explains Hans, who was contesting his second European Championships with this horse. “It’s been a long time since Leo stopped with me across country but I was riding for a forward distance in a combination and we just didn’t get there. However, he’s not the best showjumper so I’m not disappointed with knocking two fences down.”
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He says he would love to get to Tokyo next year, but that requires a qualification, which they don’t yet have.
“There’s also quite a big event in Britain in the spring beginning with ‘B’ that I would quite like to do,” he says smiling. So keep an eye out for Hans and Leo at Badminton next year.
Check back for final stories from the Eventing European Championships in Luhmühlen later today, plus full report in next week’s Horse & Hound magazine (dated 5 September), including exclusive opinion from ground jury president Martin Plewa and Mark Phillips.