Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum is back in the tack and winning after giving birth to a daughter last February. She’s agreed to periodic interviews about her life during the Rolex World Cup season. Read her thoughts about becoming a mother and winning a team gold medal at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Q. Tell us about your Christmas holiday?
A. My daughter and I went to stay with my family in the USA for Christmas. In typical American fashion we had an enormous Christmas tree decorated with all sorts or ribbons, balls and lights. My daughter (Brianne Victoria) thought it was the greatest thing she had ever seen. I wasn’t sure how much she would be able to appreciate Christmas because she is only 10 months old. But she loved all her presents, and, of course, all the attention!
Back in Germany, the winter snow that much of Europe had endured made things like travelling and getting the horses out of the stables a little bit inconvenient. But growing up in California, I didn’t see much snow. So it is always a winter wonderland for me.
Q. What about your Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Starts At Stuttgart and Geneva?
A. I was delighted with my Masters win with Shutterfly in Stuttgart, Germany, 2010. I must add that it was his fifth Mercedes in a row in Stuttgart (three Grand Prix wins and two Masters!). It was just a great win considering that Shutterfly is now 18 years old! His birthday was last week, and it seems that he gets more birthday cards from fans than I do.
The Masters in Stuttgart was an outstanding event at such a traditional show. It has always been a very difficult class to qualify for making it that much more special. It was a great accomplishment to beat Marcus Ehning on his World Championship horse, Plot Blue, in front of a big crowd, in a very fast jump-off. The World Cup in Stuttgart didn’t, unfortunately, go as well. But I still could go home with a new Mercedes!
In Geneva, Switzerland, I was happy with a fourth-placed finish on Shutterfly in the Rolex FEI World Cup™. It was another extremely fast jump-off with some of the best horses in the world including Olympic champion, Hickstead. It made for a satisfying finish to my great year. It was my goal to qualify for the World Cup Final by the end of 2010, and this has helped to minimize the pressure on me going into 2011.
Q. What are your thoughts for the London Olympic Games in 2012?
A. Germany’s remarkable team win at the WEG means that the team is qualified for the London 2012 Olympics. But because the team isn’t pre-selected, places on the team will be based entirely on merit and form over the coming year. So I have to keep performing. A goal of mine is to make the selection.
I also have to be realistic that my two best horses are getting a little old for that championship (London 2012). I have a young horse who shows tremendous potential, and I hope she will develop accordingly. London 2012 is a long way away, but it’s my goal. An Olympic medal is the one thing missing from my résumé. If my mare progresses like she has been doing, then I certainly think she could be a contender for London. Part of the sport is to develop young horses and that is my next task.
Q. How are Shutterfly and Checkmate these days?
A. I’ve had my old guys (Shutterfly and Checkmate) going well this season, which has made me so proud. To come back from Christmas vacation and find them both so fresh is enormously pleasing. Shutterfly and Checkmate’s one-and-only groom, Anu, who has taken care of them for more than 10 years, rode them over the Christmas holidays and kept me informed as to how they were doing. I came home, and they were in great shape! It’s been a rewarding accomplishment to keep these two wonderful horses going for so long.
Shutterfly, in particular, has really become a rock star! Crowds have given him standing ovations in Verona, Italy, in the Rolex FEI World Cup and in Stuttgart for his win in the Masters. He’s just had an incredible career, which has spanned such a long period of time. I would quite happily call him show jumping’s best ever. I don’t think there would be many who would disagree with that. As far as prize money is concerned, there are few that come near. His consistency, his ability, his quickness, and his wonderful attitude make him an exception in our sport. It’s fun to bring him to shows and see how excited people are to see him. He’s a celebrity. It’s a great, great honor to be his rider. I am just filled with joy every time I get to ride him and enjoy him.
Q. How have your shows in 2011 shows gone so far? How are you preparing for the Rolex FEI World Cup Final in Leipzig, Germany?
A. At my first show in 2011, in Basel, Switzerland, I have to admit that I felt a little rusty from my Christmas vacation. I plan to ride at Zurich, Switzerland, for the Rolex FEI World Cup and hope that goes better. Then I am excited to go to California to show for six weeks and prepare some of my younger horses for future events. This is the first time I have shown in my home state in over 20 years! I will give my old guys a well-deserved break and then show them at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, to prepare for the Rolex FEI World Cup Final.
As far as the competition is concerned, Kevin Staut is in great form, along with Christian Ahlmann, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, and the not-to-be-forgotten defending Rolex FEI World Cup Champion, Marcus Ehning. But there are so many great riders and horses at the moment that the race for the World Cup crown is wide open this year. It is shaping up to be a great competition and will certainly be interesting. I still feel the women riders are very strong and are constantly knocking on the door, aggravating our male colleagues! Pénélope (Leprevost) showed her strength at the WEG, and Jessica (Küerten) continues her great form, having had a impressive result in Mechelen, Belgium, with a win on one of her youngsters.
Markus and I are delighted to have a number of young students at the moment. That has given us a new focus for 2011—to develop people who are the future of show jumping. Training provides us with an opportunity to give something back to this great sport.
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, 40, was born in the United States but moved to Germany in 1991 and married Markus Beerbaum in 1998. She rides for Germany and holds team and individual bronze medals from the 2006 Aachen, Germany, World Equestrian Games as well as team gold from the 2010 WEG. She is a three-time World Cup winner and is a Rolex equestrian sports Testimonee.