The German horseman’s website says it best: “Marcus Ehning is to German show jumping like the stirrup to the saddle.” The decorated equestrian boasts an Olympic gold medal, is tied for a record three World Cup Final wins with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Rodrigo Pessoa, and regularly sits near the top of the Longines Rankings (he’s currently 7th). Omaha marks a remarkable 17th consecutive World Cup Final appearance for Ehning.
Ehning began riding at 7 years old, along with his sister Kerstin, at the local riding club in Borken, Germany. His perseverance was evident from the beginning when he was tasked with showing a stubborn pony that threw him twice while on course. “It was just bad luck,” says Ehning, “but I was determined to finish.” He was honored with a special reward just for completing the class.
By 16, Ehning graduated to horses and would win the European Championships as a junior and young rider 4 out of 5 years. After completing an apprenticeship for wholesale and foreign trade management, Ehning embarked on his professional riding career.
Ehning now heads Sportpferde Ehning in Borken. Like most professional riders, Ehning attempts to balance family life, business, and a non-stop competition schedule. “I try to take enough time with each and dedicate all of myself to each at the time,” says Ehning of his juggling act, “I have good staff that I trust to handle the details so I only have to concentrate on the important aspects, but it seems there is never enough time for family.”
When it comes to his training, Ehning preaches patience and good dressage basics. It’s those fundamentals that have kept him at the pinnacle of the sport for so long. “Good basics and patience; sticking to my plan when results are not always immediate,” Ehning says are the keys to his ongoing success, adding, “Most important of all, I’ve been lucky to have amazing horses.”
Those amazing horses are lucky to find a home at Sportpferde Ehning where they lead a happy life. “Let horses be horses,” says Ehning, “which means enough turn-out, enough time outside their stables, and top care. I like all of my horses and am happy to have so many stay with me after they retire from the sport.”
Fortunate to retire at Sportpferde Ehning was For Pleasure, the famous stallion with whom Ehning won team gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. “My most special [horse] will always be For Pleasure. He was my first great successful horse.” For Pleasure competed until the ripe age of 20, when he was then retired at Ehning’s farm until his death 6 years later.
If there’s any question that Ehning values the relationships he develops with his horses, a story on his website clearly demonstrates his steadfast loyalty to his equine counterparts. When he was a boy, Marcus developed a special bond for a sales horse. An offer was made and a determined young Ehning sat vigil by her stall, lighting candles each evening until his father relented and cancelled the sale.
Ehning has competed on many greats over the years: For Pleasure, Plot Blue, Cornado NRW, Comme il Faut, Funky Fred, and numerous others. For this World Cup it’s Pret a Tout that will have his shot at making history in Omaha. Of his Omaha mount, Ehning has nothing but compliments. “He’s a clever horse with a very good mind. He’s careful and wants to please,” says Ehning, adding, “He’s very cuddly and likes people.”
For anyone attempting to rig up a World Cup bracket, it goes without saying that Ehning belongs near the top!
By Ashley Fairfield-Remeza