Thursday, Apr. 18, 2024

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum Adds To Her Resume At Balve

The show jumping star rides Checkmate to a new title in the German Show Jumping Championships.

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum had already won the ladies’ division of the German Show Jumping Championships twice, so this year, she decided to try something new and compete in the men’s division.

“It was my dream to win the German Championships in the men’s division. This title had been missing in my collection,” Michaels-Beerbaum said.
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The show jumping star rides Checkmate to a new title in the German Show Jumping Championships.

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum had already won the ladies’ division of the German Show Jumping Championships twice, so this year, she decided to try something new and compete in the men’s division.

“It was my dream to win the German Championships in the men’s division. This title had been missing in my collection,” Michaels-Beerbaum said.

And in a bid to prove that she has two horses capable of representing Germany at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong, Michaels-Beerbaum rode Checkmate to the win. “Checkmate isn’t far behind Shutterfly,” Michaels-Beerbaum said.

Shutterfly is the headliner star of Michaels-Beerbaum’s string—two-time FEI World Cup Final winner and her ride for the individual bronze at the 2006 World Equestrian Games (Germany).

“I’m very proud of Checkmate,” she continued. “Compared to Shutterfly, Checkmate is the more difficult horse, but he has incredible ability. For some time I tried to ride him more under control, the typical German way, but we did not get very well along with each other like that. I have to leave him his head as he wants. With his immense jumping capability he almost always gets well over the fence.”

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The Hanoverian gelding stands often in Shutterfly’s shadow but replaced him at the 2005 European Championships (Italy), in which Germany won team gold and placed fifth at the 2006 FEI World Cup Final (Malaysia).

Though the German Show Jumping Championships weren’t an official Olympic trial, course designer Frank Rothenberger built four rounds that tested riders and horses at the highest level. “This had been really a course of Olympic dimensions,” said Michaels-Beerbaum, who was the only rider to jump clear in all four rounds.

Four combinations jumped double-clear in the two rounds of the first leg: Michaels-Beerbaum, Ludger Beerbaum with Coupe de Coeur, Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst aboard Lord Luis, and Mario Stevens aboard MacKinley.

But none of them could match that performance in the second two rounds except Michaels-Beerbaum.

In Michaels-Beerbaum’s absence, the ladies’ championships gold and silver were decided after Eva Bitter aboard Argelith’s Niels and Pia-Luise Aufreht aboard MBC Sandy jumped three clear rounds each. While Bitter had a fast time in the jump-off, Aufreht had a rail at the second fence to place second.

The win helped Bitter’s mood, dimmed by the injury of her top horse, Stakkato, “At the moment three of my five top horses are hurt. I had had some moments when I was pretty down. To win this title now is a new motivation for me to go on,” she said. 

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Why The Men’s Championship?

It might seem odd that Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum competed and won in the men’s division of the German Show Jumping Championships, but it does make sense.

The division of the championships into men’s and ladies’ sections started decades ago as an attempt to encourage female show jumpers in Germany, since the sport was dominated by men. About 10 years ago, Helena Weinberg became the first woman to compete in the men’s division—she did so because the men’s division was a selection trial for international championships. In 1998 she was the first female rider to be nominated for a German international championship team; she was the reserve rider for the 1998 World Equestrian Games.

There is a difference in difficulty in the two divisions. The ladies’ championship consists of three rounds over slightly lower, less technical courses. The men’s championship is four rounds at international championship level. A female rider who wants to prove her worth at the international level and be considered for a championship team can compete in the men’s championship. The ladies’ championship has become a highlight of the season for female show jumpers who aren’t in contention to be part in a German squad for an international championship.

The male riders don’t mind the head-to-head competition. Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst joked that next year he wants to compete in the ladies’ championships and wants to become the national champion of the female riders, claiming equal rights for men and women!

Birgit Popp

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