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Andreas Kreuzer – on facing that inner mirror, jumping in cold water and moving five steps forwards

Monday, 30 January 2017
Interviews

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Andreas Kreuzer pictured with Stalido and Calvilot. All photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

“I think it is good to get in front of my inner mirror once in a while, to ask myself where I am and what I’m doing,” says 26-year-old Andreas Kreuzer. “There are for sure times when I face that mirror, that I am very proud about what I have build up. I also believe that the people working with me and supporting me reflect me as well, so I’m very proud that they do. But of course, there are also times when I’m thinking ’Oh gosh Andreas, now it is time to pull yourself together and give some more’. I think that both these sides are important. To just make yourself feel bad is as wrong as thinking that you can do it all and don’t have to improve.”

This ability to face himself – and reflect in an unsentimental way – has certainly served the young German rider well. Last year, Kreuzer took the step back into the top sport – becoming German Champions as well as delivering consistent results on the Longines Global Champions Tour-circuit. Despite the success, Kreuzer remains with his feet firmly on the ground and credits those around him rather than taking centre stage himself.

Kreuzer grew up with horses around him, as his parents had a small pony riding school at home as well as doing a little breeding. “So, automatically I got in contact with horses and started to ride. Pretty soon I realized it was really fun,” Andreas says about how it all began.

As a boy, Andreas also played football which meant that sometimes he had to chose between the two sports. Often, Sundays ended up being the day of big decisions: Whether to go to a horse show or to a football match. In the end, Andreas went for the riding and dropped the football. ”I made the decision just out of a feeling and never thought so much about it, and I think it was the right one,” Andreas smiles.

Andreas grew up in Marienheide in Germany, and stayed with his parents until he was 18. ”I was lucky to get my first mentor at the age of 8. It was Volker Kämper that started to support me at such a young age, and he gave me ponies and later on horses to ride. Volker also made sure I had the right equipment, and went with me to shows. He did everything for me and supported me with the whole package. In our last year together that support took me to the European Championships for juniors. I was so lucky to have him as my supporter.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Andreas Kreuzer with Calvilot during the Longines Global Champions Tour Final in Doha last autumn.

Almost on the day of his 18th-birthday, Andreas moved to Mühlen to start working for Paul Schockemöhle. “I did my education to be a licensed rider there for two years, and then I was employed for another two years,” Andreas explains and continues: “When I look back, that was a very important time for me with all the experience I got.”

However, it was not an easy beginning for Andreas coming from a small stable where he was the one to look up to. “I was the one who had had the chance to ride internationally, and was kind of the best in the stable so to say. Then I went to Schockemöhle’s stable and was suddenly one of many riders that rode ok, but still had very much to learn. That was a new experience for me, and in the beginning I had quite some problems dealing with that. But, of course it was a very important lesson to learn which I am still thinking of often. It really shows that it is not just up to your riding, it is also very much about everything around – to have a good team and great horses and out of that be able to make the difference.”

“After a little at Schockemöhle’s I pulled myself together. I invested a lot of time and hard work to improve myself in order to move forwards. I started off as stable jockey for Joy and Jasmine Chen, and after not so long I also got some own horses to compete. It was most of all through Norbert Nuxoll – who is a trainer at Schockemöhle’s. He really supported me and pushed me. Then it all moved on, and I was really lucky that I got the right horses at the right time and could work my way up.”

Together with Atlantus and Chacco-Blue, Andreas got the chance to compete at some of the biggest shows in the world. ”It was amazing to be able to get that experience at such a young age, and I really think that starting at Schockemöhle was the best thing that could have happened to me at that time.”

Chacco-Blue was the horse Andreas had the most success with during his time working for Schockemöhle, and it comes as no surprise that this one was something extra-ordinary. “Chacco-Blue was a very special horse, also in a non-competitive way. I mean, what he did for me in the ring is just incredible but his character was just amazing. Chacco-Blue was so kind and intelligent in the stable and so easy to deal with. That is rare for any high-level horse, and especially with him being a breeding stallion. In the ring he was such a fighter with a lot of adrenalin and a phenomenal mental instinct to always do his best. Chacco-Blue was just a very special horse in every way.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Andreas Kreuzer with the legendary Chacco-Blue.

In 2011 Andreas ended third in the prestigious Aachen Grand Prix riding the legendary stallion, but unfortunately the year after Chacco-Blue passed away at the age of 14. “My grandma died the same week, so for that reason I was luckily home with my parents when it happened. It was just after the German Championships. I decided not to jump in the final there even though he was clear in the second qualification. I couldn’t explain it then and I can’t explain it now, but he felt different. The feeling was not the same as I normally had on him, so even though the final was very important I decided not to ride. And the Tuesday after he died. It was horrible, and everything went so quick,” Andreas says when speaking about Chacco-Blue’s sudden death that later was discovered to be due to Borreliosis.

Life had to go on for Andreas, even after losing his super star and best fried. After four years at Schockemöhle Andreas moved on to Otto Becker’s stable. ”It was important for me to get a new experience from a different and smaller stable. I wanted it to be possible to work a bit more on my own and to make more of an individual plan for every horse. I still kept my connection to Schockemöhle as he owned some of the horses, and I still trained a bit for Norbert Nuxoll when Otto was travelling a lot. I was there for two years, and it was a really good time where I learned a lot that took me forward and made me stronger.”

After two years Andreas got to the point where he wanted to try something new, and he stopped working for Becker without having a plan for the future. ”I got some offers from the US, Netherlands and Belgium, but I also got phone calls from horse owners that said they were willing to support me if I decided to start up something on my own. So even though I was scared of starting my own business, and really had respect for it, I jumped in the cold water and did it. I thought I could always go back to be employed if it wouldn’t work out. Now I’m very happy I did it, even though the beginning was very difficult.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Andreas is now based at the beautiful Hof Meyer zu Bexten, Germany.

Andreas was first at Franke Shloothaak’s former stables which just had new owners – renting twelve boxes. ”I had a fantastic time there with an amazing family. But, then at the beginning of 2016 I decided to redo my business a little and needed more boxes which was not possible there. So that is how I ended up here in Hof Meyer zu Bexten, which I'm very happy about.”

The reason Andreas wanted to restructure his business was that he had trouble to bring all his twelve horses to shows. It was almost impossible to have them all showing at the right amount of shows. ”So, I restructured my business and now my focus is on my eight top horses. The horses that are not ready for five-star shows are ridden by another rider. At the moment we have twenty horses here, and six people working including myself. It was important for me to be able to cover it all, not just the top horses but also the promising up-and-coming horses. And I want us to be able to do a good job with all horses for the owners that support me. That is why I decided to go bigger, and employ more people so that we could do the best for every horse.”

This strategy turned out to be a good one, and 2016 certainly proved to be a good year for Kreuzer. ”To win the German Championship with Calvilot really meant a lot. We went there with big expectations, since he was –  and is – in a really good shape and I knew that if I didn’t screw up we had a good chance. Then we got a stupid fault in the first round, and for me it meant that the championship was kind of over. So in the final on Sunday I didn’t ride to become the champion, I jumped it as it was a good class to show myself for future shows. But for each round I noticed that I got closer and closer to the top - and in the end I was the winner. It really meant a lot for the whole team that every day give their best for the horses and for me. I think it is good for everyone when you get such a high light and such a proof that you are on the right way.”

It was through David Will’s boss Dietmar Gugler that Andreas got a spot on one of the Global Champion League teams. ”It was just a coincident that he called me, and I saw my chance. Luckily enough, my sponsor thought it was a good idea and made it possible for me to go through with it. It has really been a great thing for me and it has brought, especially my 9-year-olds, five steps forward.”

"It is always really good sport at these shows, and still I was able to be in the top in some classes which shows me that I am on the right way even though it is still a lot I have to work on. But it is nice to see that it is not too far away and it gives me huge motivation to keep working.”

The horses in Andreas’ stable are mostly seven years and older, but he is working on finding some younger horses to have something to build for the future. “I think, in the long run, it is really important to find good youngsters that you can give a proper education and bring up in the sport.”

For some of the upcoming youngsters, Andreas will not only be their rider but also their breeder. Although a hobby, Kreuzer has four mares that he breeds from and the offspring are growing up quickly. “The oldest are four now, and I think I have some really good ones among them. But I’m not very objective,” Andreas laughs. ”I’m not the one going for the top stallions on the rankings, I’m more the one trying new and younger stallions. I think very highly of my mares, and I believe they will give their qualities on to the offspring so I’m happy to try new stallions.”

To have such strong belief in his mares and in their offspring seem typical for Andreas: He seems to be the kind of person that choses to enhance the positive sides rather than the negative.

Probably, this ability to single out the good things is what has helped Andreas to where he is today. “There were times when I thought I could do it all, but the problem in our sport is that it is not just up to us as riders. As a rider you depend on so many things around you: Good horses that are well trained, a good team and that everything around you is managed in the right way. It is vital that the team takes care of the horses in a way that makes them feel their best, and that gives the rider the possibility to focus on the riding and not everything else. I am in the lucky position to have such a team, which I am very grateful for. I also have the right horses, but it doesn’t make me better or worse as a rider. It motivates me to get better though,” Andreas reflects.

He might be young, but he already knows the name of the game. As we close off our conversation, Andreas smiles and says: “At this point I am really happy, and I look forward to the future. However, I know there will be times – as it is for everybody – where it doesn’t go as good now and when I don’t have the kind of horses that I have now. But, then I can look back to what I am experiencing now and that will give me the power to continue.”

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