Germany’s Christian Ahlmann is a regular face on the international showjumping scene. He was in Rio with the magnificent Dutch warmblood (KWPN) horse Taloubet Z.
But far from being a fire-breathing stallion, Christian says he is “really quiet, almost too quiet”.
“Just walking around, you wouldn’t think he had so much blood [energy and fiestiness] in the ring. He is a breeding stallion, but the most brave breeding stallion in the world. You could take him in to your bed if you wanted. He’s such a nice horse.
“To start, in the ring, he is on the border of almost too much blood; but in the stable you can’t see it. In the ring he comes alive.”
Now 41, Christian has been riding Taloubet for seven years — although as a youngster Christian’s first love was for football before he found riding.
Although Taloubet was always talented, the son of Galoubet A used ot have a fear of water jumps.
“I took him home from a show and he didn’t want to jump the water and he didn’t want to jump the fences around the water,” says Christian. “So we had a hard time with that. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to jump it, but he was a bit scared and didn’t want to get close.
They worked long and hard to overcome the horse’s fear, starting with baby steps.
“We started from 20cm onwards, and from the moment he felt safe it was OK. It took a while, and luckily we got on the team.”
The German equestrian teams are some of the most successful medal-producers for their nation across all sports. And in Rio they were sniffing out medals too.
“Taloubet’s in great shape, really concentrated, really fresh,” he goes on.
Christian is in the mix zone in Rio, talking to journalists under the punishing sun after jumping in the main arena. How does he feel about the courses?
“The first day was a very good course,” says the lanky German. “We had no big problems in the course and I really hope I can keep it like that. But I didn’t expect so many clears — lots of horses jumped it very well.
As everyone knows, it’s millimetres that makes or breaks a combination in showjumping.
“One fault can make a huge difference,” he continues. “Talou is an amazing horse, with so much power and a lot — a lot — of scope. It is my job to get the power out of him in sport. Now we have the control and the confidence for a lot of years, but we had a hard time to start, so that makes it more special now.”
The German team went on to take bronze after a jump-off with Canada.