Fritz and Claudine Kundrun had a front row seat to history when their horse Flim Flam helped the U.S. team to a bronze medal at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Since then, they’ve been working to replicate that success. This week, they pledged $500,000 to the U.S. Equestrian Team for dressage programs, to match $1 million to be donated by other sponsors.
The sponsorship push is being called “The Dressage Challenge” by the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation. The total money raised could send more than 20 horse-and-rider combinations to Europe to train and compete this year. Commitments of $25,000 or more made by Dec. 31 are eligible for the Challenge and may be paid over a multi-year period. The Kundruns are matching $1 for every $2 donated by other sources, up to that $500,000 mark.
“In order to get to the Olympics, we need young people to go to Europe, to compete in international competition. It’s one thing here at [the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (Fla.)] or at local shows to get experience, but that’s really where the test of a young person and the horses is being made—in Europe, against the toughest and best competition,” said Fritz. “Let’s see whether we can become again a force internationally in dressage.”
The Kundruns have a long history of involvement with the sport. Blinks worked for them for 24 years and, in addition to the Sydney Olympics, competed Flim Flam in the 1998 FEI World Equestrian Games in Rome and won team silver at the 2002 World Games in Spain.
The Kundruns currently sponsor Allison Brock, who is aiming for this year’s Pan American Games in Canada on their Hanoverian stallion Rosevelt (Rotspon—Lore, Lauries Crusader xx).
“I’m very busy with my job and work very hard, and my relaxation for my wife and I are our horses. We can afford to buy expensive horses and hire the very best trainers, and a lot of people cannot do that,” said Fritz. “Whenever I want to give up dressage and go to play billiards or something like that because I’m disappointed about the bills I have to pay and the many disappointments, then I go to Michael Barisone and talk to him for five minutes. He is full of enthusiasm, and I become a fan again. The same with Robert Dover. When I see what these guys are doing, especially Robert Dover, to bring along young people, I thought it would be a good idea to support that system.”
Though the Kundruns typically prefer to remain behind the scenes in their philanthropic efforts, Dover convinced them to step forward in the hopes that their generous pledge would incite others to contribute the matching $1 million to the USET.
“We have to make this sport a little more popular. You know, like football, baseball, horse jumping—that’s easy; you go to a stadium, and there are some horses jumping fences, and if the bar falls, it’s 4 points. Everybody understands that; it’s an exciting sport! But to watch the elegance of dressage is something even a layperson can understand. They see the harmony between rider and horse,” said Fritz. “If we find interest, we may find people of means who can do the same thing I have done: namely give some money and sponsor and help the sport.”
The Kundruns’ philanthropy extends from dressage horses to working animals in third world countries. Based in Pakistan after finishing his studies, Fritz witnessed the terrible conditions that animals faced in the city of Karachi. “I promised myself that if I had the means, I would try to make a difference. The Brooke does exactly that,” said Fritz.
He and his wife are now major donors to The Brooke, a London-based charity that seeks to better the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules. The organization educates and sends veterinarians into developing countries to help the animals’ owners care more effectively for them. The Kundruns financed The Brooke’s entry into Nepal and Ethiopia, as well as a project to bring water and shade to the marketplaces where donkeys previously stood for hours with no shelter.
The Kundruns spend half of each year at their farm in Charlottesville, Va., where Claudine also supports the Virginia Equine Welfare Society, an active rescue organization. The other six months are spent in Wellington, Fla., where Brock is currently competing Rosevelt at the ADGF.
“The rider has to dedicate himself or herself totally. Otherwise, you cannot reach the top level,” said Fritz. “Look at Laura Graves; she came out of nowhere. She had a little foal, she loved him to death, and she trained with him and brought him to, in my opinion, one of the best dressage horse-and-rider combinations anywhere in the world.”
In addition to continuing their sponsorship of the USET and the charities that are meaningful to them, the Kundruns hope to see the United States win gold at the Pan American Games and secure a spot to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
“It all sounds so beautiful, but it is filled with thorns and tears and disappointments,” said Fritz. “But you know, we have always stayed the course, and that’s what I would like to tell people to aspire to to be successful in this wonderful sport.”
To learn more about getting involved in The Dressage Challenge, please contact Bonnie Jenkins at email@example.com or (908) 234-1251.