Top horse returns from injury to target Paris Olympics: ‘He’s full of himself’

  • Franziskus FRH will make a comeback this year, having had surgery for a hairline fracture last summer. Ingrid Klimke will target her dressage world team bronze medallist at selection for the German team for the Paris Olympics.

    “Franziskus is back, he’s in good shape and full of himself. He did cavaletti and jumps the other day and he was fresh, bucking in a nice way and showed he’s ready to perform again” said Ingrid at a talk at Wellington Riding on Friday (1 March).

    The German rider’s competition comeback plans for Franziskus FRH include Aachen, at the end of March, and Hagen.

    “I hope he’ll be the same as he always is and I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.

    Ingrid said she had suggested to the 16-year-old’s owner Wilhelm Holkenbrink that he is not used for breeding until after selection this year, but he said that he is a breeding stallion first and a sport horse second, so will continue his breeding duties.

    Ingrid said Franziskus is “real macho” in his character.

    “As soon as there are other stallions in the barn, he makes sure they are far away from him. He puts his ears back in his mane to demonstrate he’s the only one, the others are really afraid of him,” she said.

    She said that as a young horse he was “quite a wild man”.

    “I only got him at the age of five and everyone was a bit afraid of him – me too!” she admitted. “I saw him once with the girl who rode him before me, he entered a dressage ring for young horses. She had to salute and go right-handed, but he trotted out of the ring and off to where his horsebox was. She tried to stop, turn and he was totally doing his thing, what he wanted.

    “To begin with it was hard for me to explain what I wanted and there were moments when I said, ‘Do I want to keep going? Is there any chance he’ll respect me or listen to my aids?’ That went on until he was nine or 10, but by the time he was 13 I thought he’d make it, but it was a long journey.”

    Ingrid said she realised the most important thing was always to be thinking five or six seconds ahead and predicting what might distract Franziskus.

    She explained her tactics: “If he took off and was bucking, it was too late, I couldn’t stop him, but if I felt it, I could go the other direction or send him forward when he thought he could take off.

    “If I feel he’s in that mood I’ll do things that relax him, mediums or changes, and try to make him a bit proud of himself.”

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