Monday, May. 27, 2024

Behind The Stall Door With: Bluetooth OLD

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Bluetooth OLD and Frederic Wandres look the picture of elegance and perfection in the dressage arena. Last winter, however, it was a very different story when Wandres decided to celebrate their first five-star win in the International Arena at the WEF showground by going on a trail ride. 

“A day after the prize-giving for the five-star, I say, ‘Oh come on, we do something nice,’ ” Wandres recalled. “We hacked out—and we ended up in the canal.”

Wandres says that Bluetooth—who has shipped all over and shown in dressage arenas worldwide—does not spook, buck or generally misbehave. That day he hacked out alone on Bluetooth from his Wellington barn on long reins. “Then he saw something,” recalled Wandres. “He stopped  and I felt his heartbeat through his saddle. He turned around and we fell in the canal.”

Submerged in canal water up to Wandres’ waist, Bluetooth got them out with a reaction that Wandres thinks he may have learned from one of his former riders, eventing and dressage double-threat Ingrid Klimke. 

It’s hard to imagine this picture of elegance—Frederic Wandres and Bluetooth OLD celebrating their fifth win of the 2023 Adequan Global Dressage Festival season Feb. 9 in the Havensafe Farm CDI-W Grand Prix for the freestyle—standing sopping wet in a canal. Mollie Bailey Photo

“In one jump he got out, did a big [spin], and then we went home,” he said. “If we had not made it out, I think he would have been afraid to be in there.” 

They arrived back to the barn unharmed but quite a different picture than the elegant one so well known to dressage fans: “I was wet up to here,” Wandres said, pointing to his chest, “covered in muck and stinking, and everyone was like, ‘Where have you been?’ ”

Their impromptu mud bath didn’t deter the pair from returning to Wellington this year, however, and with spectacular results. Wandres and the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Bordeaux 28—Lorena, Riccione), owned by Hof Kasselmann, were unbeaten in all six Grand Prix classes they entered during the 2023 Adequan Global Dressage Festival, to currently sit No. 12 in the FEI Dressage World Rankings for horses. In two years and a dozen classes at AGDF, the pair have won 11 and finished second just once.

We went behind the stall door with the king of AGDF to find out more about this horse who prefers his routine to celebratory trail rides.

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Frederic Wandres with Bluetooth OLD, relaxing in Wellington, Fla., before flying home to Hagen, Germany after the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Sarah Eakin Photo

Wandres first laid eyes on Bluetooth as a 3-year-old at the PSI auction but never considered then that would ride the horse eventually. “I was never thinking about it that one day he could be my Grand Prix horse,” he said. 

Bluetooth competed in the FEI World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses (the Netherlands) as a 6-year-old. Wandres kept tabs on the horse as he developed, but never expected to end up riding him.

 “He was always a super elegant horse and a good mover, but I never could see it coming that he’d end up in our barn for me as a Grand Prix horse. That was something that couldn’t be real,” he said. When, two years ago, he was offered the ride on the gelding, he jumped at the opportunity—but also realized the expectations that came with such a horse. 

“I was asked if I would like to ride him, and for sure it’s a nice horse, but always with a horse which [was] with other riders before— and Ingrid Klimke is not a ‘no name,’ you know, and also other international riders—it’s not so easy to continue this history. So there was a little pressure. But I was like, maybe… let’s see.”

Bluetooth likes his routine, which includes a ride, a handwork and paddock time every day during competition season.

Years later, Wandres first rode Bluetooth and was immediately impressed. “From the first ride on him I was like ‘Oh yeah,” he recalled. “I was very happy. The first feeling was way better than I expected.”

“Even then it took us time to get together to start to do a test, but the first feeling is always the best impression you can get. And it was very good.”

Their first international competition together, in Mannheim (Germany) in April 2021, was also the gelding’s FEI Grand Prix debut. They finished seventh there in strong company, and scored their first international Grand Prix win at their next show.

Wandres and his team leave the WiFi puns up to headline writers and show announcers. In the barn, Bluetooth is just Bluetooth. 

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“He doesn’t really have a nickname,” Wandres said.

Just two dudes hanging out in Wellington, Fla., and relaxing in the sunshine, as far away as possible from the town’s canals. Sarah Eakin Photo

Wandres and his partner Lars Ligus took some time to figure out what worked best for Bluetooth. 

“He is sensitive,” Wandres said. “He needs everything to be settled; he needs a routine. It took us a while until we, together, figured out how the routine should be for him. The most important thing for him is that nothing happens the week before a show. Sometimes in the training, you try to see what you can improve. You cannot do that before a show, you need to have everything secure and safe so that he feels comfortable.”

The atmosphere at Wandres’ home barn in Hagen, Germany, helped prepare Bluetooth for all the buzz and excitement at the showgrounds. has helped Bluetooth’s indifference to distractions when showing.

“There is so much going on; it’s a little bit like a horse show every day,” Wandres said. “So many horses, so many people, trucks and flags and tents. So the horses are used to it. Everything that you can imagine is there.”

Bluetooth usually gets out three times each day during his competition season: Once to be ridden by Wandres, once for a hand-walk and once in the paddock.

Bluetooth doesn’t need carrot stretches; he’s created his own regular stretching routine that he does after being groomed and before getting tacked up.

“He has this daily thing he does, before the saddle gets on,” Wandres said. “I don’t know if he knows it, but after brushing he does his own stretch. [He] stretches like a cat, on his own. That’s very cool.”

Bluetooth’s travel buddy is another Grand Prix horse Wandres brought to Florida, Hot Hit OLD. “They have bonded and become addicted to each other,” Wandres says. “Hot Hit will not fly without him.” 

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