From her quirky grand prix partner to her massive social media following, find out more about Danish dressage star Cathrine Dufour
1. She’s from an unhorsey family — and started out aged five at a riding school
“We met [her future trainer] Rune Willem at the riding school, and kept asking him to give us just one lesson,” remembers Cathrine. “He was like, ‘a pony rider? No thank you’ but we kept asking until he gave in, and then he was stuck with us. My parents weren’t horsey but were very supportive, and had faith Rune would guide us in the right way.”
2. Her European bronze medallist Atterupgaards Cassidy took her from juniors to the Olympics
Cathrine first saw the Caprimond son at the young horse championships in Denmark, but wasn’t that impressed. But when his sale to someone else fell through, Cathrine finally went to view him.
“I still wasn’t crazy mad about him, but he was good and quick in the gaits and had a good temper,” she says. “Rune said he was a young riders medal horse, and he was right.”
Together, she and Cassidy won 11 European championship medals in junior and young rider ranks.
3. She nearly gave up training Cassidy to grand prix
“He just couldn’t get piaffe — it was one big mess,” she recalls. “It took him a year to teach him that it was ok to trot on the spot; he just didn’t understand, and I was about to give up. Then we did some training with Kyra Kyrklund and that was the turning point.”
4. One of Cassidy’s quirks has meant she had to avoid most World Cup qualifiers
“If Cassidy can see himself or another horse on a big screen he can’t cope,” Cathrine explains. “We were second-last at our senior international grand prix debut and after that I took the TV from my apartment and put it in his stable. He was so frightened but he’s getting better now. It’s why I haven’t really done the World Cup [circuit] — I have text organisers to ask if there’s going to be a livestream in the arena.”
5. She takes her own fitness very seriously
“I used to have back problems from previous falls, but improving my fitness has helped a lot,” says Cathrine, who focuses on overall strength and conditioning as well as cardiovascular fitness in her gym sessions. “You wouldn’t meet a serious rider in Denmark now who’s not working out — we have perfect nutrition and training in place for our horses, so we can’t have riders who are eating McDonalds and lying on the couch! It’s a generation thing.”
6. She started a degree in leisure and sports management but quit when she was selected for the Rio Olympics
“I might go back to university one day — I like using my brain, and it would be useful to my company, Dufour Dressage, to have more knowledge to develop the business. It’s not enough to just be able to ride to have longevity in this sport.”
7. The breeding of her horses doesn’t concern her
“I don’t look closely at the breeding; I don’t care about it at all. If you buy foals you have to go on their breeding, but even then I look more at the foal itself,” she says. “It’s all about the feeling a horse gives you — I like mine to be really hot — as a horse can have the best bloodlines, but nothing else.”
8. Her idol is Isabell Werth
“She’s been at the top for forever and she’s so inspiring. Her horses are quite normal really at the beginning, then suddenly they’re doing grand prix for 80% — how does she do it? She’s shown the world it’s possible with quite a normal horse and that’s the biggest motivator for me.”
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9. She has more than 120,000 Instagram followers
“When I was younger what I really needed was someone like Isabell interacting, posting videos, sharing their ups and downs, but nobody was doing that,” she says. “I want to share my journey, show people what it takes, welcome them into this crazy world.”
Don’t miss this week’s dressage special of Horse & Hound magazine (22 March 2018), complete with our interview with Cathrine Durfour and our at home visit to Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin’s yard