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That Special Bond – with Ninna Leonoff: “I took care of Constantin from the day he arrived until he passed away”

Saturday, 02 May 2020
That Special Bond

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Markus Beerbaum’s long-time groom Ninna Leonoff. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



We continue our popular series ‘That Special Bond’, this time around moving on to speak with the grooms. Here, Markus Beerbaum’s long-time groom Ninna Leonoff tells about the horse she had the best connection with, which horse she misses the most and which one has been the most difficult to get to know. 


The Special One

Photos © private collection “Constantin is my all-time favourite," Ninna tells. Photos © private collection.

“Constantin is my all-time favourite. Constantin came to us when he was six and I took care of him from he arrived until the very last day. He passed away last summer, at the age of 25. He was like a big, gentle giant – like a huge dog. Constantin was so kind, and I could do anything with him. On Mondays – after a show – I just took him with the head collar without saddle and went for a ride. In Wellington, I went trail riding with just the head collar on. He would never take a wrong step or spook. Constantin always tried his best to please everyone. 

We did a lot of shows together; we were in Las Vegas, Malaysia – all over the world. One of the highlights was when he went to the top in the winning round in Aachen in 2005. At shows he could get a bit nervous and it was very cute with this big horse hiding behind my back. He wouldn’t do anything wrong, but at the vet-check he could get very excited and start walking on his hind legs so I always used a longe line. In Aachen, Markus did the vet-check himself and he went with a fancy chain instead of the longe line – that ended with Constantin taking a few laps on his own around Aachen…

In 2009, Constantin retired from the sport and Markus kind of gave him to me to ride at home. When he was 18, I stopped riding him and he and Shutterfly went in the field together before they joined the other oldies. 

It was the saddest, but also a very special moment when he passed away at the end of last summer. I could be there for him to the very end, and he went to his final sleep in my lap.” 

Hardest to Get to Know

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Markus Beerbaum with Cool Hand Luke. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“It took us a long time figuring out what Cool Hand Luke needed; how much work he needed before a class and what kind of program we should have for him. He was either too fresh or too tired. He had such a sweet personality in the stable, but could get quite naughty when asked to work. He could spin on a penny and you would fall off. 

We did figure him out though and he started to perform way better. At shows I normally took him out in the head collar first thing in the morning to check his mood and if Markus needed to ride him before the class or not. If he looked chilled and happy, it was normally enough to get longed one time more before the class, but if he was spooky and wild he needed some proper work.”

Missing the Most

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Leena is enjoying the field at Michaels-Beerbaum's yard. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“I miss Leena, and I wish we could have a second version of her. She was so fun with such a personality. Leena is still here, enjoying life in the field. With all our oldies, Birga Griese is doing a splendid job taking care of them. 

Leena I also took on Monday hacks without a saddle, but with her I needed the bridle as she was quite feisty. She was actually really hot to ride, and the longer you rode her, the crazier she would get. So, when she was showing a lot, she mostly got longed and spent her days in between in the paddock at home. Leena could also have a really stubborn personality, like with the open water – she didn’t want to jump it! But when she was in her winning mood, no one could beat her.

Leena was always a bit of a loner and liked her distance, but at shows she got totally attached to whatever horse I had with. So, I used to hand-walk her together with the other horse, and Leena would always follow. If I didn’t take her with, she totally freaked out. One year we went to Toronto and we got there a week before the show started, so it was only my two horses there. Luckily the nice stable crew held her in the training area when I was riding the other one, since I couldn’t leave her alone in the stable. 

The show in Toronto is one I will never forget. When we arrived, all our luggage was gone – all the tack for the horses and all my clothes. Eric Lamaze and Ian Millar were so nice and lent me blankets and tack for the horses and the organizers lent me money so I could buy some clothes – my credit card didn’t work in Canada… The first trunk arrived two hours before the first class and luckily it was the trunk with the saddle and the show tack. The second trunk we found three months later in Amsterdam; it had been all over the world.”


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