By: Karim Mekawi, Egypt
In the show jumping world, only very few have come close enough in comparison with this sophisticated yet humble gentleman known now as the "German Gun" who studied whole-sale and foreign trade management and grew up to become a global show jumping phenomenon.
He is not just the hat trick- winner of the World Cup title on three very different mounts, a team Gold Olympian, former number one show jumper in the world or even the winner of the overall Global Champions Tour rankings a couple of years ago. He is much, much more than that, managing to grab the wins of almost every medal there is. He is truly, and purely a margin setter of his own.
To non- equestrians, Marcus Ehning can be best described as the "Lionel Messi" of the show jumping world with an inexhaustible knack for style, position, control & exceptional skill achieving what is great and beyond. Looking closely, his head is cool, adjusted and deadly accurate with his movement and position in the saddle, feasting a lot of envious eyes on his miles of style & unrivalled perfection.
How did this man manage to acquire such harmony in his riding? We do not know, but all we know is that he's done some great things in the past, and will surely remain a refined artist with bags of scope to continue to succeed and impress for decades to come.
The German icon himself has given us the honor of this interview where I got the chance to ask him about his past, his medals, horses and views on the sport in our region.
Marcus, let us start by asking how your life was as a young rider and who built you up to become who you are today?
"My family has supported me my entire life and made it possible for me to start riding. As a pony rider I was trained by Lutz Merkel and as a junior and young rider I was trained by Fritz Ligges. Recently it is Henk Nooren that I train with, he's one of the most sought after trainers in Europe."
Now let's move onto fame and glory. When did you start realising that the publicity and exposure you were getting was so much that you had to keep both feet on the ground?
"After winning the Gold at the Sydney Olympics! There was a lot of publicity. I have always been realistic, though. Even when I was young we did not celebrate the wins exuberantly or were too disappointed with bad rounds."
Unlike most riders who have one or two top horses, you have six and maybe even seven of those. How do you decide which horses go to which shows?
"I make a general plan of which horse will go to which show that is coming up in the next 1-2 months. It depends on how many horses I can bring to the show, what the classes are, what the conditions are at the shows, like the size of the ring/warm-up ring or even if the horses have to get there by plane or just a truck ride. Closer to the show I will then make adjustments if necessary."
Speaking of your horses, you used to ride the legendary stallion Sandro Boy and now you ride his daughter. How different /similar are they?
"They are very similar actually. Both Sandro Boy and Sabrina are beautiful, sensitive and very careful horses. I started riding Sandro Boy only when he was already 10 and he had to quickly move up to jump the big classes. We started with Sabrina much earlier and after my brother Johannes showed her in the classes for young horses, I started riding and showing her as a 7 year old."
Noltes Küchengirl seems quite an unorthodox but special horse. What's behind that?
"Küche is a lot of scope, she is a big mare who is able to jump the biggest and most complicated classes there are... And win! Her natural ability to jump is very powerful."
We have realised how differently you ride Copin Van de Broy than Gregory Wathelet. How did that transformation come about?
"I have a very different body from that of Gregory's. That means I have to ride Copin differently - but I think he suits me!"
What about Plot Blue? What is one thing most people don't know about him?
"He is very energetic, alert and so eager to start working to the extent that as soon as his bridle is on his head he starts walking."
If I'm not mistaken, you, Meredith, Rodrigo and Austrian Hugo Simon are the only riders who won the World Cup Final three times, but even more special is that you did it each time on a different horse. That must be like three cherries on a cake. How did it feel after the third time?
"Each time was different actually and special in its very own way. The third time, however, with Plot I was lucky and won after Pius and Ludger had unfortunate faults in the last round."
Which of your young or upcoming horses will make it to serious grand prix levels one day?
"My hope is for every young horse that I ride to make it to the top level. Every horse develops at a different speed; it is not always easy to predict which horse will get there. The most promising of my upcoming horses would definitely be Cornado NRW who is by Marco's horse Cornet Obolensky."
Which top horse have you tried before but did not suit you and why?
(Laughs) "WelI, I have never had that happen to me, so I can't tell you ..."
More and more Arab riders are becoming highly involved in the top sport. Why do you think this is happening now? And which Arab rider catches your attention?
"The sport of show jumping has become more visible in the Arab countries as more and more high level competitions are held there. The more popular it becomes the more money is spent on horses and riders' training. I have to add that I respect Kamal Bahamdan as a person very much."
Last but not least, which horse from the past or present leaves a royal touch in Marcus Ehning's heart?
"I have fond memories of many of my former horses and enjoy my current horses very much. The horse that started my international career in earnest was For Pleasure, he will always have a special place in my heart."