Twenty-six-year-old Laura Bechtolsheimer is based at her parents? competition yard in Gloucestershire, England.
At the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG), she achieved her personal best scores riding Mistral Hojris (stable name: Alf). The pair posted 82.51 percent in the Grand Prix, 81.71 percent in the Grand Prix Special and 85.35 percent in the Grand Prix Freestyle.This gave Laura and Alf three individual silver medals just behind the celebrated Edward Gal and Totilas.
Laura trains primarily with her father, Dr. Wilfried Bechtolsheimer. Klaus Balkenhol also teaches her several times a month and before major shows. Dr. Bechtolsheimer and Balkenhol have the same philosophy?to ride in a way that is good for the horse physically and fair to him mentally. Harmony is the goal.
Dr. Bechtolsheimer studied with Harry Boldt, Herbert Rehbein and Klaus Balkenhol. In his eventing days, he also learned a lot from event rider Sheila Wilcox. He was born in Germany and trained as an orthodontist but later became a successful businessman. In 1986, the family moved to the United Kingdom. He became a British citizen in 1995 and represented the UK at the European Championships. He has successfully trained horses and riders to the international championship level in eventing and dressage.
Laura calls her horse Alf "a big, friendly giant." Standing an imposing 17.2 hands, the 16-year-old Danish Warmblood (by Michellino) was bred by Betty Ramussen in Denmark and then trained to Prix St. Georges by Danish rider Hasse Hoffmann before being sold to Laura and her parents.
Alf?s training sessions are in the morning. Later in the day, he either goes on a water treadmill, is longed over cavalletti or Laura takes him on a hack. A few times a week, they canter on the track so he stays fit and keen. Alf is afraid of bunnies, noises he can't identify and the wash stall when there is leftover shampoo on the floor. He hates being clipped, but he loves his daily grooming session, his magnetic rug and being around his admirers.
Laura says Alf is loyal and trusting of the people he knows, and she appreciates his generosity. Their best test was the Grand Prix at last year?s WEG in Kentucky.
?It couldn?t have gone better," she recalls. "I have never been so proud. Alf focused 100 percent on me. It's very special when a horse gives you everything.?
A graduate of the UK?s Bristol University, where she studied philosophy and politics, Laura feels ?massively lucky? to have such supportive parents and be able to enjoy and make the most of her opportunities. She and Alf are focusing on the European Championships and then the 2012 Olympics.
?To win a medal in London would be a dream come true,? she says. Read Laura?s blog at www.horsehero.com.