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Simone Blum – a gap year turned golden

Wednesday, 21 November 2018
Interview

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson
”It has opened a lot of doors for us, this medal,” Simone Blum tells about winning gold in Tryon. All photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

The 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon ended with an unexpected victory, when the young German rider Simone Blum became the first woman since 1986 to win an individual gold medal. With her feisty chestnut mare DSP Alice, Simone made light work of the challenging championship week – and won the hearts of many showjumping fans world-wide with her big smile accompanied by Alice’s ears pricked forward at all times.

As the next indoor season is underway, and the dust of Tryon is starting to settle – we called up the new World Champion, currently ranked 80th in the Longines World Rankings, to learn more about this golden couple.

Home in the south

Simone is based near Munich in the south of Germany. ”My family has a yard there, and we have about 16 horses for me and my team,” she tells. ”We have a lot of younger horses, six-and seven-year-olds that we train and educate. My husband is focused on the younger horses, and when they are little bit better behaved and ready for bigger shows, I ride them,” Simone smiles.

”My father Jürgen was a military rider, in eventing. He rode the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996,” Simone continues. ”That is why I was born with horses and I was sitting on a pony when I was really young.”

Riding as a career was not the first option, though. Simone studied both biology and chemistry – aiming to become a teacher. Finishing her exams in the middle of 2016, she decided she wanted to take a gap year to fully focus on riding for a little while before going further with her academic plans. ”But then the 2017-season was so good that I decided to focus on riding full time,” she smiles.

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson
”She has the best attitude, and the biggest heart," Simone says about DSP Alice.

And then came Alice…

DSP Alice (Askari x Landrebell) to be precise. Simone has been riding the feisty chestnut mare for the past four years. ”We bought her at the end of her seven years and that she was a special mare, was clear for me from the first sight,” Simone recalls. ”We were a really good team right from the beginning, but we did have our ups and downs – it was not so easy with her! She was very spooky, with a lot of temperament and she was very, very wild,” Simone laughs.

”She has so many!” Simone laughs when we challenge her to name Alice’s best quality. ”She has the best attitude, and the biggest heart – and she is very, very careful,” Simone lists. ”She is always motivated and always gives her best, she loves the sport and jumping.”

”When she was an eight-year-old, we never really knew if we could find the balance with her. The balance of her still fighting in the ring, but not having too much energy.”

When Alice turned nine, the pair won the German Championships for women. ”Actually, when she was ten that was the year she became more experienced and did her first five star classes,” Simone recalls. “And from there on, it went really, really fast.”

’Going fast’ might be an understatement when you look back on just what happened. Simone and Alice won the 270,000 Euro Longines Grand Prix of Lausanne in 2017 and became German Champions – this time in the open category. In the summer of 2018, Simone and Alice were a part of the German team that took their third consecutive win in the Mercedes Benz Nations Cup at CHIO Aachen – followed by a ticket to the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. ”Every show with the team is brilliant – we have such a great team spirit,” Simone explains about her love for riding in the red German jacket. ”There is something very special about it.”

Tryon was no exception, and Simone found the combination of three young riders and the very experienced Marcus Ehning a great solution. ”We are good friends and Marcus would help us with any questions we had – every day in Tryon was great.”

Simone tells us that if she had to name someone she grew up admiring, it would have to be Marcus Ehning. ”He has always been a huge idol for me – that made the experience in Tryon even more special for me.” 

Simone says that she didn’t travel to Tryon with huge expectations. ”I wanted to gain experience and show nice rounds,” she tells. ”For me, it was an honour just being a part of the team.”

”After three clear rounds the medal with the team was a huge success and we were really happy about that,” she continues. ”Then you think for Sunday, being in the lead, maybe you wish to win a medal. But like I said, the team medal was already amazing and I kept thinking that Sunday cannot be worse for me – so I was just happy going into Sunday’s final.”

And on that Sunday Simone and DSP Alice went on to jump two flawless rounds and took the individual gold medal, writing their names down in the history books. The 29-year-old became the second woman ever to win an individual gold in showjumping – 32 years after Gail Greenough’s victory in Aachen.

Life after Tryon

Simone and her partner Hansi, who she says has played a huge role in her success, had planned to marry after the World Equestrian Games.  ”After the stress of the Championships”… Simone laughs. With the gold medal, this changed. ”All the attention and the media did not make it easy. But it all went perfect and it was a dream wedding – we had a really nice day.”

”Actually, at the moment it is a little bit more stressful than before because so many people want something from me – the media, all the press conferences, there are suddenly so many places I should visit,” Simone explains about the aftermath of Tryon. ”It is not easy to find time to ride and do my work! I have to try and find the golden middle road, I cannot do all,” she says. ”But I think it will all calm down in a few months.”

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson
Simone with her husband Hansi.

Motivation

Simone has always been passionate about the sport and very motivated, and an achievement many can only dream of has not changed that one bit. ”I loved the sport before and I still love it now,” she says with a sense of determination in her voice. ”It has opened a lot of doors for us, this medal,” she explains. ”Because in the past it was not easy to get into five star shows – now it is easier and that I am very happy about. I can have more choice on where to start now.”

That our sport has a unique way of keeping us all grounded, is certain – and it also applies to Simone. ”I know Tryon was a huge success, but I have to try again every day,” she says humbly. ”Every show you start from zero; you have to work hard for every weekend and I think you cannot forget that in this sport.”

The Longines FEI World Cup in Verona a few weeks ago was a true reminder of just that. Simone brought Alice to Italy with plans of opening their World Cup season. In the first start of the weekend, the pair stumbled inside a combination and fell. Luckily, both horse and rider escaped unharmed in the dramatic episode. ”Everything was fine afterwards,” Simone recalls. ”She jumped the 1.45m class on Saturday, but we wanted to let her rest a little bit and I think it was the right decision. She is fresh and wild now, I am very happy nothing happened.”

Goals

During the coming winter Simone plans to bring on a newer string of horses to support Alice. ”I want to ride Alice in Stuttgart and Geneva,” she tells about her plans for the autumn season. ”Then I want to ride Cool Hill 2 (Corlensky G x Al Cantino) in Stuttgart too and at the three star show in Munich.” The eight-year-old did his World Cup debut in Verona with two unlucky rails. ”I am really happy to have him by the side of Alice and I am looking forward to the future with him,” Simone says. ”Next year he is nine and I think Alice will have a good team member in him.”

When asked where Simone sees herself further on in the future, she laughs. ”That is a good question! I hope maybe with some nice horses, a small family with my husband by my side – maybe with also some success in the sport,” she reflects. ”In five years Alice will be 16, maybe around 17 or 18 it will be time for a baby for her,” she continues. ”We will see, it is not an easy question.”

With the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 being one of the goals with Alice, we would like to believe that the future holds plenty more golden moments for these two.

 

 


Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

Photos © Jenny Abrahamsson

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