‘He made my dreams come true’: farewell to one of England’s most influential horsemen

  • “One of England’s most influential horsemen” has died peacefully at home at the age of 83.

    Rider, producer and trainer Dietmar Ackermann, the husband of British Showjumping chef d’equipe Di Lampard, died at Spring Farm, Rutland, on 13 November.

    Mr Ackerman was born in Haynau, Germany in 1940. His affection for horses was apparent at an early age.

    His family owned a brewery and during the bombing of his home town, he was found by his mother in a stable with one of the brewery’s draft horses. As a child, he travelled alone by train across East Germany to spend the summer holidays with his uncle and it was there he learned to ride, bareback, on the farm horses.

    As a teenager he trained at a state stud in Graditz near Torgau in Saxony. He enrolled at university to study veterinary science but did not complete his studies, deciding instead to escape from east to west Berlin. He moved to West Germany, where he met his first wife, Sue, and started his family, and after a time in Belgium, he arrived in England in 1960, earning his living training horses. England was his home for the next 63 years, until the end of his life, and he was very proud when, in early 2023, he became a British citizen.

    Mr Ackermann established his first equestrian centre, High Fen, near Bures in Suffolk. He was a natural rider and produced numerous high-class young horses, for showjumping and eventing. The way he worked the horses was an art, and sitting on horses after Dietmar’s training was a major learning experience for riders. They could feel what they needed to achieve while they were learning. The forward responsiveness, suppleness, balance and good mouths he achieved on many horses was his trademark. This was a true gift that attracted owners and many pupils to High Fen, which soon became a well-established international training centre welcoming pupils from around the world. It was an amazing achievement for a young man in his 20s.

    In about 1970 he moved with his family to Heybridge in Essex and rode for Cecil Williams. A few years later he was invited by Cecil to join him at North Luffenham Hall in a partnership producing international showjumpers. One horse was Beau Supreme, who at seven in 1972 recorded a world record price when sold to the Netherlands.

    Mr Ackermann moved to Uppingham, and at the yard he established with Jack Mapleson at Harringworth, he produced a string of horses with whom Sally Mapleson achieved success.

    In 1976, Dietmar found the ideal land in Rutland to make his family home and develop his business. He bought 11 acres, with planning permission, from Robin Leyland. Very soon an American-style indoor school with stabling was built, followed by a bungalow. Over the years, starting even before the bungalow was constructed, he planted trees, shrubs and bulbs. He had a love of nature that can be traced back to the time he spent as a child on his uncle’s farm, as well as time spent accompanying a forester, a family friend, at work.

    Mr Ackermann gradually increased the Spring Farm acreage and the place flourished into an establishment that educated and launched many young people into prominent areas of the horse world, including the Lloyds Bank young instructor of the year, leading showjumper of the year, judges, and head grooms who are supporting many professional riders today.

    He produced horses over many decades. Eventing and showjumping horses were exported to compete in Olympic Games and various championships, and clients came back time and time again. He enjoyed the support of friends, family, and investors as he found promising horses.

    In 1989, Dietmar’s future wife Di Lampard joined him at Spring Farm.

    “My career took off. We delighted in the arrival of our son Henry and married. He made my dreams come true in more ways than one. I couldn’t have achieved all that I have without his love and backing,” said Di.

    Dietmar loved to welcome his family at Spring Farm, including his older children, his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and relatives from Germany. Over the years, there were many, many other visitors to Spring Farm. He was a generous and welcoming host to all and took great pride in showing them around the property and telling them about the latest developments.

    Dietmar is survived by his wife Di, daughter Katrin, sons Roderick and Henry, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...