Marius Voigt-Logistik: the horse that took an amateur to win Olympic gold *H&H Plus*

  • Marius Voigt-Logistik’s consistency and desire to do right across country took his amateur rider to eventing’s peak. Pippa Roome remembers him

    TOP-CLASS horse sport becomes more professional every year, with riders, trainers and team staff striving for the marginal gains which will win medals, prize money and funding.

    But for five years through the middle of the 2000s, a brilliant German dentist and his genuine grey horse galloped through the professional ranks, putting in one excellent performance after another, snaffling up medals and eventually reigning supreme when they claimed the individual gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

    Much of the charm of the Hinrich Romeike and Marius Voigt-Logistik story is down to Hinrich’s personality – every time he spoke about his horse, his admiration was palpable.

    “The horse gets recognition now and I always wanted people to see how lovely he is,” he said in an interview after his Olympic double golds in 2008. “I like to have him in the spotlight. Of course I made him, but for me he is the star.”

    Hinrich made everyone laugh, too. Like many Germans, he speaks excellent English, but the joy of a non-native speaker is that rather than resorting to cliches, they find unique ways to express themselves.

    At Aachen in 2008, he remarked of his cross-country: “Marius seems to work like a machine – he sniffs the track and goes off like he’s after a fox. You could tie a mechanical ape on his back and I’m sure he would do it.”

    German eventing rider Hinrich Romeike compets on his horse Marius in the eventing cross country run at the equestrian arena of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, China, 11 August 2008. JOCHEN LUEBKE |

    The son and grandson of dentists, Hinrich never wanted to be a full-time rider, saying: “For me, it’s the best hobby, but I wouldn’t want to do it professionally. If you do that, you have to cope with owners, and I like to be independent. I own my horse and I don’t have to ask anybody about anything.”

    Maybe it was because of Hinrich’s amateur status that few named him as a favourite going into the 2008 Olympics, despite his consistent results during the previous five years. He remembers that H&H flagged up the pair with a feature during the build-up – a sign, perhaps, that other media hadn’t highlighted them.

    Maybe also Hinrich’s affable nature hid the steely ambition at his core. A quick way to make this happy man angry is to mention the loss of the German gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, after Bettina Hoy went through the start line twice and the case ended up at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

    In that 2008 interview, he said: “It’s still my opinion that it was wrong for the French, British and Americans to protest. That’s not what sportsmen do, because obviously our team was the best. We wanted to show we can do it. So winning the team gold in Hong Kong was a big relief.

    “Individual gold was unbelievable. Think about it – Olympic individual champion – poof! I dreamt of it, but I never expected it. Normally in big things I am fifth.”

    When I interviewed Hinrich in July 2008, I asked him about the rumour that he had forged a template of his Athens medal to keep before he gave it back.

    “I have heard another rumour that I made a template and gave back the template,” he replied with a secretive smile. “All I can say is I’m a dentist and I can work on templates very, very well.”

    How the partnership began

    MARIUS was bred by Hans-Werner Ritters – who also bred Ludger Beerbaum’s 1992 Olympic showjumping individual gold medallist Classic Touch – and his son Jens, a friend of Hinrich’s. The rider first saw him at a Holstein breeders’ association event, where the young horses performed a few jumps and a little dressage, and a test rider – the Olympian Marina Köhncke (née Loheit) in Marius’s case – assessed them.

    “I was stunned by Marius’ canter and he stood and moved like a king,” recalls Hinrich. “I asked my friend the price and it was too much for me. This was the beginning of April, so I said to Jens that if he hadn’t sold the horse before my birthday on 26 May, my present would be for him to let me ride him once.

    “So I went to his yard that day, rode the horse and we had a drink. Then I forgot about the horse, but the next winter we were talking on the night train on the way back from skiing. Jens said the horse was sold, but came back because his new rider fell from him twice.”

    Hinrich ended up taking the horse on a two-week trial, but phoned after three days to say he would keep the horse, no matter what the cost. His trot wasn’t impressive but he was a “giant galloper”.

    “He was like a thoroughbred with a big head and he had a very kind character, he was always interested, always ears pricked when there was something to do,” says Hinrich, who also fell off Marius in those early days. “He was just bucking at a bird or something – I don’t think he wanted to throw me off. He’d come back sniffing, like he was apologising.”

    2E9H2JB Germany's Hinrich Romeike on her horse 'Marius Voigt Logistik' during the Cross Country competition of the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, on August 26, 2006. Photo by Edwin Cook/Cameleon/ABACAPRESS.COM

    Named after a popular German singer Marius Müller Westernhagen – “when Marius was at his breeders’ he was hairy and had skinny legs, just like the singer,” Hinrich explains – the horse’s name carried the suffix Voigt-Logistik “just for fun” because Hinrich’s father-in-law runs a lorry transportation business of the same name. At the Olympics was he known simply as Marius because commercial links within horses’ names are not allowed at the Games.

    Hinrich knew he had a potential superstar and invested in intensive training with 1988 Olympics showjumping bronze medallist Karsten Huck and renowned dressage trainer Georg Otto Heyser.

    “I said to them I didn’t want to reach the top and find I’d left something out two or three years earlier,” he says.

    Hinrich was also aware through his career that Marius had a slightly weak back – he is a big horse, with high withers, and his back legs are some three or four inches shorter than his forelegs. To combat this, Hinrich rode him a lot in rising trot, cantered him in a light seat and worked over poles on the floor to strengthen his back.

    The pair were best of the Germans in 15th at their first Europeans in 2003 and attended the next five championships – an extraordinary record. The only time Marius didn’t finish a championship was when he was withdrawn after suffering a stifle injury across country at the 2007 Europeans.

    Marius at Badminton

    FOR Hinrich, who spent a year at boarding school in Dorset when he was 16, to compete at Badminton was a “big dream”.

    “If you are a showjumper you want to compete in Aachen, when you are an eventer you want to compete at Badminton,” he says. “I just wanted to do it once. I went to Badminton the year before to get an impression and I was impressed. The course was like, ‘wow’, and there were hundreds of thousands of spectators. There is no competition in Germany or championships like that.”

    Third after dressage, Hinrich held his place with a fast cross-country round in which Marius showed his generosity in a dodgy moment at the Colt Pond.

    “I turned him like a lawnmower and I don’t know how, but he managed to get over the rail,” he said in a hilarious press conference which few present will have forgotten.

    Two showjumps down dropped the pair to sixth.

    “They were the most expensive poles in my life – I could have been second,” said Hinrich. “But I was very happy. It is always a good memory and I love thinking about it.”

    The silver horses given to the top 12 at Badminton were modelled on the three on the main Mitsubishi trophy and awarded in rotation – the year that Hinrich competed, it was the showjumping horse, “which is lovely, because that is what I did sh*t!” he exclaims.

    BADMINTON, ENGLAND - MAY 05: Hinrich Romeike of Germany on Marius Voigt-Logistik exits the lake during the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials on May 5, 2007 in Badminton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

    A brilliant cross-country horse

    MARIUS was best known for his brilliant cross-country performances. Chris Bartle, German team trainer throughout Hinrich and Marius’s career, recalls that Hinrich was frustrated by his 16 time-faults in the pouring rain at the 2005 Europeans.

    “Afterwards we talked about how we could make sure Hini always went inside the time in future and our strategy was to save two seconds per fence,” says Chris. “He had such a partnership with the horse he was able to save time at every fence by riding the tightest line, coming to every fence in a rhythm and leaving it to Marius to do his job without interfering.”

    Hinrich adds: “He was so brave and you could ride him into fences at high speed and he would never be spooky in the cross-country, which he would be when walking and trotting.

    “There were faster horses than him, but very fast horses need a braking distance of 100 yards before the fence; with Marius, your prep point was 10 metres before the jump. Other horses went like hell, but Marius was like a good diesel engine and you didn’t have to cost speed or power in braking and accelerating.”

    Also, Marius “had a very strong conscience”, as he strived to go between the flags.

    “He never gives up and he is never frightened,” said Hinrich in 2008. “Even when he hurts himself, he doesn’t become shy, he just says, ‘That was a sh*tty jump, let’s do it better next time.’”

    Unusual fitness work

    Chris remembers: “Hini and Marius were nothing without each other; it’s all about the partnership. When you first set eyes on Marius, you didn’t see him as an Olympic gold medallist. He was a workmanlike type, with a good jumping technique, but he wasn’t an out-and-out jumper. The fact Hini produced clear rounds at the critical moments was because of the training they put in together.

    “It’s very flat where Hini lives, so I was always suggesting new ways of conditioning the horses. Hini came up with two, the first of which was that he’d trot and canter round a large pond on his property, with water up to the horse’s chest.

    “He’d also put a harness round Marius’s neck and shoulders and he’d pull a carpet round the field, with weights on top of it. On one occasion when I visited, the weights consisted of his two sons, who were hanging on for dear life. It was a particularly wet day – Hini was riding in shorts and the boys were wearing wax coats and goggles because of the mud and grass coming up in their faces.

    “For Athens, I appointed Hini the Kaleun Romeike – the Lieutenant Commander in English. He came to squad training with a CD of music from the film Das Boot about the submarine. The first bit of music is the preparation, the second the attack, the third the celebration on the way back to port.

    “Athens was like that – we prepared, attacked and celebrated, but then the submarine was blown out of the water because we lost the medal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It was uncanny how the story mirrored the film and Hini stayed on in Athens fighting the case after everyone else went home. Four years later, our U-boat came up from the bottom of the sea.”

    Golden glory in Hong Kong

    IN Hong Kong, Hinrich and Marius were seventh after dressage. No one made the time across country and their 12.8 time-faults was the third fastest round of the day, so they rose to pole position. Marius did not have an impeccable showjumping record and Hinrich told himself not to be disappointed the next day. But four faults in the team barrage helped the Germans to gold and a final clear sealed individual honours.

    “When we finished, I had to be dope tested – I had to pee and I couldn’t,” remembers Hinrich. “I had to drink two or three litres of water with this harsh doctor looking at me.

    “Finally I came back to the hotel where this mega party was going on. It was 3am and everyone was waiting for me. We had a killing party until 7am.”

    Hinrich says his amateur status meant his fellow competitors could be particularly wholehearted in their delight: “My win didn’t take anything from anybody else. I’m not a professional – it didn’t mean I would get more horses or whatever. They all knew I just had this one horse, a stunning team, but the result would change nothing.”

    Marius was 14 in Hong Kong and didn’t recover from a tendon injury after that in time to return to competing. Now aged 27, he is retired with Hinrich.

    On 1 April this year, Hinrich was voted chairman of the German Holstein breeders’ association, at whose event he first saw Marius.

    “He not only took me to the moon and back, he took me to the throne of the Holstein breeders’ association too,” he smiles.


    This exclusive feature, which forms part of the Horse & Hound Legends series, can also be read in the magazine, on sale date 1 July 2021

    More from Horse & Hound’s Legends series: