Princess Nathalie Sayn-Wittgenstein in action on the final day of competitions at Al Shaqab Arena in Doha yesterday.
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Princess Nathalie Sayn-Wittgenstein feels age is no bar for anyone wanting to go far ahead in dressage but the tall Dane says sound equine education at a young age and a sense of history could ease the journey to the top for budding riders.
“I think if you had good education and if you pick up the right lessons, then you can make it big,” Princess Nathalie said in an interview yesterday.
“You still have to have the good luck to make it big. You got to have a good horse. The horse education at the Grand Prix level takes about five years,” Princess Nathalie added.
“You break the horses in three years and then in time they should come up in Grand Prix level. Then it takes 2-3 years for them to learn all the routines,” the 39-year-old explained.
Excerpts from a detailed chat with the champion dressage rider:
Question: Does this get any easier at your age?
Answer: I think in dressage you can ride even in old age. I think the oldest from Denmark was 75-76 and still riding. She was there at the London Olympics. We have seen riders above 70. So this is a sport you can compete in for a very long time. You have to have a firm foothold in your beat.
Question: Does fitness matter in this sport?
Answer: I mean we do look after fitness. Nowadays all sports require top fitness levels. Riding is definitely a sport that requires good fitness.
Question: How do you balance your role as a mother and as top dressage rider?
Answer: Let’s call it multi-tasking (laughs). I have a very good set-up at home. Everything is very organised. But everything has to come together for me to be in competition. If something comes out of balance then you have to organise your day differently. I have very good organisation at home.
Question: What are your long-time goals?
Answer: This year I am only going to shows like this (the one in Doha). I will plan a summer holiday and then start thinking of European events and the Olympic Games.
Question: Were you satisfied with your performance at London Olympics?
Answer: I was very satisfied. Absolutely. I did make small mistakes but that happens. Yeah, I still think I did a really good job.
Question: Do you feel this region has a future in this sport?
Answer: I think so. If you look the facilities - for example what Al Shaqab has put up here. I really think there is a future. Dressage and show jumping, these are two different sports. You got to have really good horses and in dressage the combination has to go together. You can go out and buy a super horse and get on and do it - but it doesn’t work that way. It really has to come to a level of harmony and understanding. It is like your dancing partner. If you don’t gel with your dancing partner then you look inharmonious. Same in dressage.
Question: How long does it take for a rider to reach the top level?
Answer: I think if you had good education and if you pick up the right lessons, then you can make it big. You got to have a good horse. The horse education at the Grand Prix level takes about five years. You break the horses in three years and then in time they should come up in Grand Prix level. Then it takes 2-3 years for them to learn all the routines.
Question: So basically education and sense of history of this sport is vital for a young rider?
Answer: Absolutely. Horsemanship teaches you to know how to work your body in the correct way.
Question: Will we see you next year?
Answer: I will come back to Al Shaqab for sure (laughs). I am not sure about the horse but I will come back to Qatar.