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Richard Vogel: “I see winning as the result of a whole process”

Tuesday, 03 November 2020
Interview

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping
During 2020, Germany's Richard Vogel has rocketed up the world rankings after recording one international win after the other. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

While most of us would like to forget 2020, it has been a year to remember for Richard Vogel who has rocketed up the world rankings after recording one international win after the other. In September, the young German picked up three wins as well as three top-five placings at CSI3* Aachen International Jumping and won the CSI3* Grand Prix in Lier with Floyo VDL. In October, he won the CSI2* Grand Prix in Oliva with Diego. The results have shot the relatively unknown Vogel up the Longines Ranking from spot nr. 1043 to 422.

Born into an equestrian family, Vogel dropped out of school to pursue a career as a professional rider and set up his own stable after two-and-a-half-years working in Riesenbeck for German legend Ludger Beerbaum. Today, Vogel runs a business together with David Will and the two are based in Dagobertshausen – Nicola Pohl’s stables – an hour north of Frankfurt.

World of Showjumping met the 23-year-old to learn more about the challenges of setting up on his own, what he learned from Beerbaum during his time in Riesenbeck and how Hugo Simon has helped him widen his view.

Vogel has been surrounded by horses all his life. “My grandpa was breeding horses and my uncle Richard Grom is a good rider. I have learned – and still learn – a lot from him. My mom was also into horses and she got me to ride, she was with me every day and gave me lessons,” Vogel tells.  

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.
"I can handle pressure, it makes me more focused – both in sport and business," Vogel says. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

After his mother’s early passing, Richard continued riding on his own. “I somehow was more into horses than my brother – who maybe had more talent than me – and I continued on my own. I recorded videos and sent them to my uncle, who worked in Pfungstadt. I would spend all my holidays there with him – and that is how I first met David, at the time he was working there for Dietmar Gugler,” Vogel tells.  

“School was not my thing,” Vogel smiles. “I preferred to help my grandpa at the farm. One year before graduation, I came up with the idea of dropping out. While everyone was against it, I was stubborn, stopped school and went to work for Bernd Herbert in Viernheim. After two years there, I moved to Riesenbeck and started working for Ludger Beerbaum.”

Things only work if you work; this you learn very fast in Riesenbeck

In Riesenbeck, Vogel learned the importance of hard work and developed an eye for detail. “The more you work, the luckier you get – I believe in that. Things only work if you work; this you learn very fast in Riesenbeck,” Vogel recalls. “Just hanging around will bring you nowhere. You can win the Grand Prix on Sunday, but Monday morning you are back to work. I think that is how it should be, and it is the only way to get forward in this sport. The time I was at Ludger’s was when my riding developed the most. You can’t set a price on what I learned there, it was invaluable. It was not that Ludger was standing on the ground teaching me every day – you got better by simply being there, seeing them, copying them. I learned so much; I would do it again any day.”

“My goal was always to be on my own and run my own business,” Vogel explains about his decision to leave Riesenbeck. “I had my mind made up, even though everyone told me it was a bad decision – as with stopping school. In the beginning, I rented 11 boxes from Bernd Herbert and started with four horses and no groom. Then I had a few more horses, then a groom for half a day, then more. In the end, I had 17 horses, one rider and two grooms – before I moved to Dagoberthausen and joined forces with David. Bernd Herbert has been a huge support for me during all these years, from my apprentice days with him until today,” Vogel continues. ”He has been like a second father to me, I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for him.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
Vogel has joined forces with his compatriot David Will, and is now based at Dagoberthausen – Nicola Pohl’s stables – an hour north of Frankfurt. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Now, Vogel is based in Dagoberthausen and runs a business with David Will. “The facilities there are great, I could not wish for anything better and my horses feel happy and at home,” Vogel tells. “We are renting 26 boxes, it is a good number for the two of us,” Will – who also trains Nicola Pohl – explains. “We are very lucky with horses at the moment, with many older ones that are ready to do international shows.”

“Together, we have two bigger goals: We want to come up and be successful in the sport, while also running a business,” Vogel explains. “Sometimes it is hard to combine. We don’t have a sponsor and are not employed by anyone, so we need to keep the financial aspect in our minds at all times. However, with David, we balance each other out very well; there are things David is way better with than I am, and vice versa. I am realistic when it comes to my sporting goals. Everyone knows that without a good horse, even the best rider is nothing.”

Everyone knows that without a good horse, even the best rider is nothing

At first, Vogel was reluctant to Will’s idea of a co-operation. “I knew how hard it could be to pay my own bills, and I did not want to pay his too,” Vogel smiles. “I was happy with how my own business was running, I was on my own for nearly two years. I was lucky with a few things – I think you have to be.”

With a business to run on the side of his riding, Vogel reveals that staying fully focused can be demanding. “This is one of the biggest challenges for me at the moment,” Vogel explains. “It is important to be organised and know that you have good people around you. There is much more to it now than just the riding, that makes it challenging. There is a lot to think about and you need to watch out that you are focused when you are on a horse. When you are riding, you have to be 100% focused – I am sure it makes all the difference. Little things are important. If you are not focused and just ride the horses to get them ridden, you don’t really improve them.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
“The more you work, the luckier you get – I believe in that,” Vogel tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“All my life, I have been forced to stand on my own feet,” Vogel continues when asked how he deals with the pressure of being an entrepreneur. “When I moved away from home, I still had contact with my family, but I never wanted money from them. From the very beginning, I had to pay for the shows I wanted to do myself. Most of the time I won, so it worked out. But when I had to pay for the boxes I was renting, I had to think about ways to make that money. Therefore, I did many things; for example I was selling bridles – doing all kind of stuff to keep going. Even when I was working at Ludger’s, I would drive around and look for horses after work. There are a lot of things that are in your own hands: If things go wrong, it is sometimes your own fault, but there are also things you cannot control. If you have bad luck, it can all go wrong – I have been lucky.”

“There is way more pressure when you have your own business, and have to pay your employees,” Vogel continues. “However, I can handle pressure, it makes me more focused – both in sport and business. Sometimes, you sit at home and look at your monthly costs and start to think about it – those moments can be overwhelming... It is something else than being employed and getting your money at the end of the month. However, I have never regretted setting up on my own.”

All my life, I have been forced to stand on my own feet

When it comes to trainers, Vogel has a wide network of help available. “I am really lucky to have a few owners that I can call and ask for advice. One of them is Hugo Simon, I ride two horses for him. Also, I have a horse with Ludger, and I still have good contact with him and Philipp Weishaupt. It is also super to have David on my side. It is one thing to be on the horse, but having someone on the ground can be really helpful. Also, my uncle Richard Grom helps me a lot. He is the main person for me; he knows all my horses, he knows what I struggle with, he knows me the best.”

“The contact to Hugo came when I started my own business,” Vogel explains further. “Hugo wanted to send one of his horses to Berndt, but Berndt said he had a better rider for the horse – me. Hugo did not know me, but he agreed to bring the horse and have a look at my riding. We found a common language immediately,” Vogel says with a smile. “I met Hugo at a very special time: I had just started my own business, having left Riesenbeck with Ludger’s system installed in me – which I copied and was happy with. But with getting to know Hugo, I learned another system; it was interesting to see how completely different you can do things. It has been eye-opening to explore what works on each horse. Meeting Hugo directly after my time in Riesenbeck had a huge impact on me.”

"I try to enjoy it, but I know that you cannot sit back," Vogel tells about his success. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.
"I try to enjoy it, but I know that you cannot sit back," Vogel tells about his success. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

While the impressive result list might lead one to believe that Vogel is extremely competitive, he actually isn’t – he sees the results simply as a sign of having done something right at home. “I am competitive, but I see winning as the result of a whole process,” Vogel says. “With a new horse, you are not super competitive at your first show. You have to get to know your horse and they have to get to know you. Then at one point, when you know each other, you can win. In most cases, it takes a bit of time.”

Getting to know his horses and working on the small details is what Vogel likes the most. “What I really enjoy, especially after starting my own business, is to bring along young horses and see how they develop and learn new things every week, every month. Also, every now and then they might take a step backwards, and then you have to think again – do they need more confidence, how can I get him or her better? To work with horses, to be one with your horse, that is what makes our sport so special. Just to see the development of the young horses is something that keeps me going – this part is important for me, while competing at bigger shows with older horses is something I see as having fun.”

On some start lists there is nothing in between the top riders and the pay cards – and that is not how it should be

While Vogel has had a good year, dealing with the lack of shows caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has not made life easy. “In general, I am always trying to make the best out of everything,” he says. “I believe the situation is the same for everyone in the same shoes as I am – someone without a sponsor and low on the ranking has no doubt struggled to get into shows this year. Others, who are higher on the ranking or have more money behind them get in easier. To begin with, our sport is expensive. I think we have to watch out that it doesn’t turn into a sport for only for the very wealthy people. Instead, we should make sure more people have access to it. I can understand that show organisers have to earn money, but on some start lists there is nothing in between the top riders and the pay cards – and that is not how it should be.”  

Recently, Vogel was selected to participate in the Young Rider Academy’s educational program. “I am really looking forward to the different aspects in the educational program,” he says. “I am excited to learn. I know a little about the program already, since my girlfriend Sophie Hinners was in it last year. I am happy to get this chance now.”

“Positive,” Vogel answers when asked how he in general feels about the incredible year he has had. “But I know things can change really quickly. I try to enjoy it, but I know that you cannot sit back. I always try to improve my riding, my horses, I try to do things better. That is something I learned in Riesenbeck.”

 

No reproduction withouth permission, copyright © World of Showjumping



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