"A big part of what happens in there takes place in the rider's head".

September 8. 2023

"A big part of what happens in there takes place in the rider's head".

Frederic Wandres, 36, silver medalist with the team at the FEI European Dressage Championships 2023 in Riesenbeck, was never part of a junior squad. His parents had nothing to do with horses and could not afford to make their son expensive to ride.

Frederic Wandres' path to the top of the world began on the lunge line on a school horse that belonged to a rural riding stable in his native Baden-Württemberg. He grew up in Kehl on the Rhine between Karlsruhe and Freiburg. At elementary school age, he teamed up with some friends who wanted to learn to ride. In the end, Frederic was the only one who stuck with it. And how. "I was more in the stable than at home," he smiles. His parents didn't mind, on the contrary. They supported him to the best of their ability. At 15, Frederic got his first horse of his own, a three-year-old half-Arabian out of an Almé dam named Calypso W. Not exactly the pedigree that calls for the big arena. But Frederic and Calypso got together and competed in novice class dressage and show jumping competitions. However, their show jumping career came to an early end in the first obstacle of the first elementary class show jumping test for young horses. There both were in it and Frederic swore: Now only dressage. And Calypso had to join in. A more expensive, more suitable horse was not in the budget.

But Wandres Senior did everything in his power to give his son good lessons, for example with Bertin Pötter, the national trainer at the time, and Lone Jörgensen, the Danish champion rider. Wandres also did an internship with team Olympic champion Ulla Salzgeber through the mediation of his father. But despite all their understanding for their son's enthusiasm when it came to choosing a career, his parents insisted on their point of view: first a high school diploma and then an apprenticeship. He ended up as an industrial clerk. But after that, the way was clear. Horses also became the focus of Wandres' professional life. He began his training at the Kasselmann farm in Hagen and stayed there afterwards. After six years, he moved to the Bonhomme stud farm just outside Berlin. "I felt I had to sow my wild oats again," Wandres said. There, he showed a young Fiderdance, now an international Grand Prix success with several riders, in his first young horse competitions, won the Dutch Pavo Cup (equivalent to the Bundeschampionat) with Grey Flanell and was there when Cadeau Noir made his way to Werder. But Bonhomme's focus at the time was different from Frederic's, who wanted to advance athletically. One day, he received a call from Bianca Kasselmann asking if he could imagine coming back. Frederic could. And within half a year he had collected enough S victories to be allowed to receive his Golden Riding Badge. At some point, a little chestnut gelding named Duke of Britain came into his life.

All thanks to Duke

"Duke was a door opener," Wandres says today. When the two met, Dimaggio was riding at advanced level. Step by step, they worked their way up to S*** level, tried an Intermédiaire II once, and were finally ready to consider a start in a Louisdor Prize qualifier. That they finally finished fifth in the final in Frankfurt with the comment from 5* judge Dr. Dietrich Plewa that the then ten-year-old chestnut showed a "classic piaffe" was a milestone in their career. It culminated in team bronze at the 2022 World Championships in Herning. "Without Duke, I certainly wouldn't be here today," Wandres says. But he also owes a great debt of gratitude to the owners, the Kasselmann family. After all, they maintain a sales stable and Duke of Britain was or is not only talented, but also rideable. Such horses are in demand. In the beginning there were also interested parties. But it never worked out and in the end it was agreed that Duke could stay.

What lasts a long time ...

Next to him, Wandres built up the horse with which he is competing here in Riesenbeck: the Oldenburg gelding Bluetooth. He was a well-known horse that had already had various prominent riders. Wandres was not one hundred percent convinced by him. "But after riding him for the first time, it was clear to me: there's a lot more to him than I ever thought." It was a stroke of luck for both of them. They started at 70 percent in Grand Prix and slowly worked their way up. They spend most of the winter months in Florida. "It's great for trying things out - figuring out the right ride-off time, etc.," Wandres said. "Plus, it gives us time to spend more time with the horses, which need it," Wandres says. That has done Bluetooth good. So has the intensive work with national trainer Monica Theodorescu, who helps Wandres work with his horses at least every two weeks in Hagen, not only with the championship horses but also with the youngsters. Wandres has also grown from this in terms of riding. Theodorescu is extremely convinced of the two: "She says that at home, especially the piaffe-passage work is close to the optimum," says Wandres. And, "We want to have the 8 in front of the decimal point at some point." The national trainer also considers that realistic. He himself wants to keep the ball rather flat there. "I don't know if we can do it. But I know that if you set limits for yourself, then you have them in your head. So I think it's possible. A lot of what happens in there is in the rider's head."