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Looking back at 2020 – with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum: “It wasn’t a bad year to be in an adjustment phase”

Tuesday, 22 December 2020
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Over the next ten days, WoSJ asks chef d’equipes, grooms, riders and show organisers to look back at 2020 – a year out of the ordinary for absolutely everyone. Next up is American-German legend Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, who at the end of last year announced that she would shift her focus and spend more time on training other riders

“I am counting my lucky stars that we all have been healthy this year – my family, my parents and everybody that we know,” Michaels-Beerbaum says about 2020. “It has been a different year of course, but we have had it very, very good considering all the people around the world that have suffered from the consequences of the virus.”

“Obviously, the year has not been normal – but we have been able to live our basic lifestyle well here on our farm,” Michaels-Beerbaum says. “Even when we had the major lockdown that started in March, we were still able to go outside every day and be with the horses. We also have a small community at our stable – which is one household – so you feel safe and it does not feel like a lockdown in the same sense that it would for someone living in an apartment in the city.”

“My daughter Brianne’s school was excellent during the first lockdown. Brianne goes to the international school in Bremen, and back in March they were totally apt and prepared to go online from one day to the next,” Michaels-Beerbaum tells. “Brianne is an excellent student, so it worked really well for her. She would get up early in the morning, get on the computer first thing and do her assignments. She was very active as far as getting things done. It was fun for me to be a part of her schoolwork, which obviously I don’t get to do on a normal basis. To see her learn, and to see how bright and sharp she is – that was something I really enjoyed. I had the luxury to stay home as my work is in the stable, so I could choose my hours.”

“As far as shows were concerned, we did not go to any of the major events we were accustomed to in the past,” Michaels-Beerbaum tells. “However, we had a nice collection of smaller shows in Germany where we could bring along younger horses as well as our students. We also had some new students, so we really got to know them and their horses – and it turned out well in the end as everybody progressed nicely with their horses and their riding.”

Overall, I must say it was the best we could make out of a very bad situation.

"Did we have all the things we used to have? No. Was the business like it used to be? No. But, considering the circumstances it was pretty good,” Michaels-Beerbaum says. 

“The major drawback for me in 2020 was not being able to see my parents in America; being very far away from them and being worried every day has been hard,” Michaels-Beerbaum tells. “Waking up in the morning, the first thing I have done is to check my phone – wondering if I was going to have a text from my mum or dad with some news. Knock on wood, they have been lucky so far and stayed healthy. I feel like we are going to move forward now with a vaccine, and I will finally get to the States so I will be closer to them.” 

“While I enjoyed all my years at the top of the sport and having wonderful horses, I really do enjoy my new position in life too,” Michaels-Beerbaum says. “First of all, I just love being a mother and I love having the freedom to be with my daughter – that’s really important to me. To focus on somebody else, and to enjoy their progress has also been enjoyable for me – I really have had the time to follow up on my students and getting to know them. This year also gave me the opportunity to do all the homework with them as well as with our younger horses, rather than just going to a show and trying to compete. I got a lot of benefits this year; a proper home life, being able to be a real mother – as well as being able to train. I would not try to make less of the coronavirus because a lot of people have suffered and I feel sympathy for all of them, but I do have to say that for me it wasn’t a bad year to be in an adjustment phase.”

“I have been very content without any big shows,” Michaels-Beerbaum continues. “It will probably get harder once I have to watch an event like Aachen without competing myself though."

However, this year was kind of a cushion for me with nothing going on and made the transition to train more a bit easier.

“I think there will be a slow start to the 2021-season, probably slower than everybody wishes but with the vaccine now we see the beginning of the end,” Michaels-Beerbaum says. “Obviously, I think the indoor shows will suffer but I am hopeful for a more normal summer. I think we all have to be patient, because it’s not going to disappear overnight – but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. We will move forward from here, but it will surprise me if it moves faster rather than slower.”

“I don’t have any plans to compete at the moment,” Michaels-Beerbaum reveals. “I still ride actively, but my priority will be to help Brianne and my students. I do have a very nice 7-year-old called I’m Blue, but he will stay home from Florida, so I plan to show him again when I am back in Germany in April. He is my small flicker of light to perhaps do the top sport again one day. We’ll see how he comes along – who knows?” Michaels-Beerbaum smiles, keeping the door open for the possibility that we once again can watch her enter the ring in Aachen. 

 

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