A Day in the Life with Nicole Uphoff: "Cappeln, My Salvation"

Sun, 12/26/1999 - 00:00
A Walk on the Premises
Nicole Uphoff at the 1993 Equitana :: Photo © Astrid Appels

It's 6 am and the alarm clock rings. After a quick breakfast Nicole Uphoff heads off for Gestut Vorwerk in Cappeln, Germany. The sky is still covered in dusk as she drives up Macrostrasse, a gorgeous chestnut tree avenue that leads to her new sanctuary. On the right of the barn's enterance hall a special grooming area has been constructed, on the left Stall Rembrandt is settled. A four box stable, which Nicole reserved for the horses she brouth with her from Warendorf.

Australian groom Lynda Mackie already tacked up the first mount. At 7.30 am Nicole places herself in the saddle. On most occassions she rides the young horses first, like the 4 year old Rubino S. Besides her own horses the "Vorwerk horses" need to be trained: Borbet Rubinstein, Relevant and the Trakehner Friedensfurst. For a while Nicole has also ridden Regal Dancer, a five year old Rubinstein stallion which she showed at the World Championships in Arnhem. Lisa Wilcox, Regal Dancer's and one of Vorwerk's steady riders, already combined with Royal Diamond for the championships, so Nicole took over the reins of the bay Rubinstein descendant; a smart choice as the combination placed fifth at the championships. Everybody helps each other, tips and questions are cast through the arena from one rider to another and even ground crew members Petra Becker and Ferdinand Krogmann comment on flying changes, half passes and piaffes. "Willing to help" is the first concept Nicole learnt in Cappeln, when she's asked the difference between Cappeln and Warendorf. "Everybody acts natural. When there is a problem, we find a solution immediately. In Warendorf I had to worry about everything myself, a had to answer many phone calls for small, unimportant things. The working atmosphere is so much nicer here."

There is no lack of professional guidiance at Vorwerk: once a week Chef d'Equipe Klaus Balkenhol comes to Cappeln. Under his supervision Borbet Rubinstein performs his Grand Prix movements. Accurate riding is required because inattentions pop up so easily in training. Relevant and Friedensfurst are about to hit Grand Prix level, thus tempi changes every single stride, piaffe and passage are much practised. While Relevant is being trained, Rembrandt enjoys his days of retirement. His daily turnout in the pasture is one of his favorite activities. 

Nicole Uphoff on Relevant in Aachen
Lunch bell rings at 12 am. In Hedwig Vorwerk's kitchen potatoe panecakes are being served, Nicole's favorite dish. After lunch she normally rides another horse or her students show up for their lessons. "In the afternoon I do some desk work. I answer letters, which used to be done by my father, and a friend assists me to answer fan mail."

Working with breeding stallions gave Nicole a reponsible feeling. "Stallions have to show well to get many breedings and this responsability motivates me to do my best. Rembrandt did well, even when I wasn't completely focused, and that's not the case with these stallions. I have to be there 100% and support them during the ride." The Oldeburger country made Nicole as happy as a king, even though she didn't go to Vorwerk with high expectations. "I had some good horses but not real stars to make it to the top again. I lost my 'appetite' for riding and the proposel to come to Vorwerk lit me up. The horses I got offered are really fun to ride and they are excellent competition mounts. With Relevant I became the Small Tour (PSG-Inter I) winner at Aachen, while Friedensfurst qualified for the Nurnberg Burgpokal finals. I enjoy riding again; Cappeln is my salvation. My dream goal is the Olympic Games in Sydney. Of course Syndey is a dream. If I get qualified I would be the happiest woman of earth, if not, I'm not the unhappiest woman of earth."

Text by Jan Toenjes 
translated by Astrid Appels 
Images copyrighted Werner Ernst (cover), Astrid Appels and Mary Phelps