Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” got the 9,000 spectators in the Schleyer Hall into the right mood for the emotional highlight of the 27th Stuttgart German Masters: the good-bye ceremony for Isabell Werth’s World and Olympic Champion Satchmo.
On the same date, Nov. 19, in 2005, the combination had a definitive breakthrough and established a world record for the Grand Prix in the same arena. Many of the people who were part of Satchmo’s career came to the Schleyer Hall to bid farewell to the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding: owner Madeleine Winter-Schulze, the three grooms who took care of Satchmo for the last 10 years, German team coach Holger Schmezer, his longstanding trainer Wolfram Wittig, and the manager of the Hanoverian breeding association Werner Schade.
But Werth addressed not only these people and the many others who accompanied Satchmo’s career, but also two people, who, for health reasons, weren’t able to attend this highly emotional moment: Satchmo’s breeder Albert Kampert and Uwe Schulten-Baumer Sr., who discovered Satchmo (Sao Paulo—St. Pr. Legata, Legat). Her special thanks went to Winter-Schulze, who bought Satchmo in 1999 from Schulten-Baumer.
“After two difficult years, many other horse owners would certainly have given this horse to another rider. I am grateful to Madeleine forever that she never lost her belief in me and Satchmo!” said Werth.
The story of Satchmo is an example of how patience and a determination to explore every explanation for the gelding’s erratic behavior paid off.
At the beginning of his career, Satchmo showed great talent and possibilities, but he also caused many problems in the arena and often shied. His made the German team for the 2003 European Championships at Hickstead (England), his first international championship, but he was the drop score for the team. In 2004 and 2005 Werth and Satchmo did not make the German team.
In the beginning of 2005, they discovered Satchmo was suffering from an eye-disease, in which membranes were floating in his eyes, irritating him and making him shy. After they were removed, Satchmo’s behaviour changed in the ring immediately.
He scored his first world record in November 2005, and he became World Champion in the Special in 2006 at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. He also earned team gold and the bronze medal in the freestyle.
In 2007, he won individual gold at the European Championships and took team silver and silver in the freestyle. In 2008, he became Olympic team champion and won gold in the Special as well as silver in the freestyle. His Special performance in the 2006 Aachen WEG in front of 45,000 thrilled spectators was an outstanding highlight of his career for Werth.
“To compete in your own country in front of 45,000 spectators was a very special atmosphere, a very special mood,” said Werth. “It cannot be compared with anything else.”
Even when things weren’t going well, Winter-Schulze never lost her admiration for the horse and rider.
“My late husband, Dieter, and I, we were very happy for the great moments we were able to experience through Satchmo and Isabell. Besides the successes in the competitions, it was always very special to see how much Isabell believed in this horse when he had difficulties and problems,” said Winter-Schulze. “Dieter always said if Isabell believes in this horse, it will turn out OK. So we all three kept believing in him, and finally, after he had eye-surgery, his great career started off.
“We bought him as the first horse for Isabell, and a short time after she moved to our place with the horses,” she continued. “Then I was able to ride him myself sometimes. But you do not even have to see him move to feel this very special radiance he has. Just to see him stand and look around is something very special. He touches the hearts of everyone even without moving. And, he is such a darling in the barn."
Werth said farewell to Satchmo with a splendid freestyle performance, in which he showed off all his radiance, brilliance and elasticity and emphasized what his rider had said the day before.
“Actually, ‘Satchi’ is so fit that I asked myself why I’m saying farewell to him now and not competing him for another year. But, the decision is the right one,” said Werth. “Satchmo doesn’t deserve not to be No. 1 anymore. Besides his many titles and medals in national and international championships, he has won 75 Grand Prix classes, the last one in the German Classics at Hanover in October this year with above 82 percent in the freestyle. It doesn’t matter if I can add three or four more victories to this list. To look at it realistically, at shows where the world’s top horses compete, he only has a chance to be fourth or fifth today. To compete him at shows with easier competition so he would win some more Grand Prix is not something I want to do!”
Werth will continue to ride Satchmo at home for now. “He wouldn’t understand it if I didn’t,” she said.
“I guess that Satchmo will stay all the rest of his life on Isabell’s farm,” said Winter-Schulze. “She has a very special relationship with him, and she has kept all the other pensioners with her. She has ideal conditions at her place so they can go in the fields there.”