Tales from Hartpury CDI: From gold medals to giving up – and now he’s back on top *H&H Plus*

  • Nikolas Kröncke’s inter I double win at the NAF Five Star Hartpury CDI aboard the chestnut stallion Flanell were his first rides at the Gloucestershire venue since he won individual and team gold for Germany aged 15 at the Pony European Dressage Championships there in 1997.

    Riding the pony Konrad, he won each of the tests at those Europeans and, although he didn’t take home individual gold again, Nikolas won several other medals at junior and young rider level.

    Grinning despite the rain after his inter I freestyle victory at Hartpury on Sunday, Nikolas explained: “I went over to the USA to university [at Stanford], and I rode there a little bit – there was a club – but it was very different, and at some point I said to myself, ‘OK, you want to focus on studying and it doesn’t really make sense to do this half-heartedly in the USA, a million miles away from everything’. So I gave [dressage] up in 2003.

    “I had a lovely end to young riders with the 2003 Europeans [at Saumur, where the Germans won team gold], and I think I was second after Jessica [von Bredow-Werndl] at the German Championships. I was happy to draw an end to that part of my life and go and study.”

    Since graduating, Nikolas has had a career in finance, and works trading commodities for funds, and spent the three years before Covid struck in New York. In September 2019 he married German dressage rider Kathleen Keller – daughter of Dolf-Dietram Keller – and last autumn they moved to the UK. They live in the Cotswolds, and keep their horses at the Cotswold Club near Naunton.

    “Kathleen is very sneaky. She said, “‘Why don’t you come and ride a bit?’ So I ride a bit, and I have fun, and she gives me Flanell, and I fell in love with Flanell…” Nikolas said.

    The pair train with Spencer Wilton, and Nikolas continued: “Spencer will remember this – we came over [to the UK] at the end of October last year, and she said to him, ‘Perhaps we’ll get Niki to compete, just once.’ Lo and behold, she’s managing the whole process. She does things like, ‘Oh, I’ve just entered you here. You don’t have to go…’ She’s planting the seed!”

    Kathleen rode 11-year-old Flanell, who was bred by Burkhard Wahler, in Germany.

    “We were lucky enough to purchase him a while ago, and my wife graciously gave him to me – no, I don’t think she will get him back!” said Nikolas with a laugh. “He’s a super horse.”

    “I first competed again at Hunters, I think in April or May. It was fun, it was close by – I’m still working from home in the Cotswolds. It was an easy ride, it felt good, I won the prix st georges and I think I was second in the inter I there, and again my wife entered me somewhere – this time for Wellington CDI as my second show.

    “It’s hard to have expectations in dressage.The main thing is that you are happy with your ride, and you see what happens.

    “I’m obviously doing this for fun, but fingers crossed, we’re almost ready for the next step. I’ve never done a grand prix… He does everything at home; it’s just stringing it all together. We’ll see – our first baby is due in a month’s time!”

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