Frederic Wandres: "A Big Part of What Happens in There Takes Place in the Rider's Head"

Sun, 10/08/2023 - 16:23
Frederic Wandres :: Photo © Astrid Appels

-- text by Susanne Strubel, edited by Eurodressage

Frederic Wandres, 36, team silver medalist at the 2023 European Dressage Championships in Riesenbeck, was never part of a junior squad. His parents had nothing to do with horses and they could not afford to buy expensive horses for their son.

From a riding school in Ländle to the Top of the World

Frederic Wandres' path to the top of the world began on the lunge line on a school horse that belonged to a rural riding stable in his native Baden-Württemberg. He grew up in Kehl on the Rhine between Karlsruhe and Freiburg. At elementary school age, he teamed up with some friends who wanted to learn to ride. In the end, Frederic was the only one who stuck with it.

"I was more in the stable than at home," he smiles. His parents didn't mind, on the contrary. They supported him to the best of their ability. At 15, Frederic got his first horse, a three-year-old half-Arabian out of an Almé dam named Calypso W. Not exactly the pedigree that calls for the big arena. But Frederic and Calypso got together and competed in novice dressage classes and show jumping competitions. However, their show jumping career came to an early end after the first obstacle of the first E-level show jumping test for young horses. There he realised and swore: Now only dressage. And Calypso had to join in. A more expensive, more suitable horse was not in the budget. 

On Fiderdance in 2013
Photo © Pics 4 Emotions - courtesy Bonhomme
But Frederic's father  did everything in his power to give his son good lessons, for example with Bertin Pötter, the national trainer at the time, and Lone Jörgensen, the Danish champion rider. He also did an internship with team Olympic champion Ulla Salzgeber through the mediation of his father. But despite their understanding for their son's enthusiasm when it came to choosing a career, his parents insisted on their point of view: first a high school diploma and then an apprenticeship. He ended up as an industrial clerk.  However after that, the way was clear: Horses would became the focus of Wandres' professional life.

Going Pro

He began his training at the Kasselmann farm in Hagen and stayed there afterwards. After six years, he moved to the Bonhomme stud farm just outside Berlin.

"I felt I had to sow my wild oats again," Wandres said. There, he showed a young Fiderdance, now an international Grand Prix success with several riders, in his first young horse competitions, he won the Dutch Pavo Cup (equivalent to the Bundeschampionat) with Grey Flanell and was there when Cadeau Noir made his way to Werder.  Unfortunately Bonhomme's focus at the time was different from Frederic's, who wanted to advance athletically.

One day, he received a call from Bianca Kasselmann asking if he could imagine coming back. Frederic could. And within half a year he had collected enough S-victories for his Golden Rider Badge. At some point, a little chestnut gelding named Duke of Britain came into his life. 

All Thanks to Duke

Duke of Britain opened doors
"Duke was a door opener," Wandres says today. When the two met, the Dimaggio x Rubinstein son was schooling advanced level. Step by step, they worked their way up to S*** level, tried an Intermédiaire II once, and were finally ready to consider a start in a Louisdor Cup qualifier. They finished fifth in the final in Frankfurt with the comment from 5* judge Dr. Dietrich Plewa that the 10-year-old chestnut showed a "classic piaffe". It was a milestone in their career, which culminated last year  in team bronze at the 2022 World Championships in Herning.

"Without Duke, I certainly wouldn't be here today," Wandres confessed. He also owes a great amount of gratitude to the owners, the Kasselmann family. After all, they maintain a sales stable and Duke of Britain is not only talented, but also rideable. Such horses are in demand. In the beginning there were also interested parties, but it never worked out and in the end it was agreed that Duke could stay.

2019 was an instrumental year in Frederic's career. He won the Hamburg Dressage Derby, the German Professional Dressage Riders Championships, and the World Young Horse Championships while at the same time his career on Duke of Britain took flight.

Bringing Horses to the Top

World Young Horse Champion on Zucchero in 2019
Next to Duke of Britain, Wandres has taken a second Grand Prix horse to the top of the world, as proven in Riesenbeck: the Oldenburg gelding Bluetooth (by Bordeaux x Riccione). He was a well-known horse that had already had various prominent riders. Wandres was not one hundred percent convinced by him at the start, but he soon realized it was a diamond in the rough.

"After riding him for the first time, it was clear to me: there's a lot more to him than I ever thought," he said. It was a stroke of luck for both of them. They started at 70 percent in Grand Prix and slowly worked their way up. They spent the winter months in Florida.  "It's great for trying things out - figuring out the right ride-off time, etc.," Wandres said. "Plus, it gives us time to spend more time with the horses, which need it."

A Fresh Input and Striving for 80

Florida did Bluetooth well and so has the intensive work with national team trainer Monica Theodorescu, who helps Wandres work with his horses at least every two weeks in Hagen, not only with the championship horses but also with the youngsters. Wandres has also grown from this in terms of riding.  Theodorescu is extremely convinced of the two.

Mental preparation at the 2022 World Championships
"She says that at home, especially the piaffe-passage work is close to the optimum," says Wandres. "We want to have the 8 in front of the decimal point at some point." Monica also considers that realistic, but he himself stays realistic.

"I don't know if we can do it. But I know that if you set limits for yourself, then you have them in your head. So I think it's possible. A lot of what happens in there is in the rider's head," Frederic concluded.

Photos © Astrid Appels - Pics 4 U

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