It is now more than 25 years since Ludger Beerbaum made his first great appearance in the show jumping ring: At the German Junior Championships, riding Wetteifernde he just missed the title and landed in second place. It was the beginning of a great career: born in Adelebsen, Lower Saxony, Ludger has meanwhile won more than 30 national and international medals, including four times Olympic gold, and is considered to be one of the most successful show jumping riders of all times. At the German individual championships he has meanwhile stood on the winners’ rostrum a total of 14 times since 1987. It is no surprise that the Bayern-München football fan is meanwhile record German Champion with his eight titles.
Awarded the title "An Example in Sport"
Beerbaum not only leads the way on the jumping course - he also sets an example in other fields too. At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens he carried the flag for the German team. "Beerbaum represents the ideal image of a responsible athlete in control of himself, who makes the most of opportunities to influence and to decide and whose behaviour is an example to young people", is how the National Olympic Committee described why they had selected him. And at the "Sportler des Jahres 2006" television gala the successful rider was awarded a special prize because he is such a good example in sport. The jury honoured him for his many years of commitment in promoting talented young persons. Beerbaum has been attending youth competitions for many years now and frequently has talented up-and-coming young riders as guests at his yard in Riesenbeck. The most famous pupils of the four-times Olympic winner are Marco Kutscher who, with Beerbaum’s support has advanced from a young “Bereiter” to European Champion and Phillip Weishaupt – German Show Jumping Champion 2009.
He has seen the benefits of hard work for himself and the achievements it has brought in his own career: He is considered to be extremely ambitious – in fact it is strongly advisable to leave him completely in peace for a period immediately after a bad ride. On the other hand, however, there are not many other riders who are so meticulous in their preparations. Beerbaum puts enormous effort into deciding in which shows he will compete, how, when, under what conditions he will use his horses.
And in fact Beerbaum was once “discovered” himself as a young rider: At the end of the 1970s the German Trainer Hermann Schridde, who died in 1985, had already jotted down some notes about the talent and hard work of the young rider from Lower Saxony. Nevertheless the young rider also had to cope with some serious setbacks at the beginning of his career: As a 15 year-old he was actually in a coma for a whole week after falling off a horse. In 1985 Beerbaum went to the yard of Paul Schockemöhle, who had been promoting him for a number of years. Following private differences with Schockemöhle, in 1989 he moved to the yard of businessman Alexander Moksel in Buchloe. There he managed to set up a sporting counterpart to the riders’ centre in Mühlen which dominated the scene in Germany at that time. During this period he also celebrated his greatest success: In 1992 Beerbaum won the Olympic individual gold medal in Barcelona. After a short period in the “Bundesleistungszentrum Reiten” in Warendorf, Ludger Beerbaum finally set up his own yard in Riesenbeck, Westphalia.
Each of his Olympic involvements has been linked to a dramatic story
From Seoul, Barcelona, Los Angeles and Sydney Beerbaum returned home with an Olympic gold medal. And each event had its own dramatic story: At the 1988 Games in Seoul Germany’s best show jumping rider had to change - within 48 hours - to his second horse The Freak. In 1992 in the Nations’ Cup in Barcelona 1992 he was able to leap, just in time, from his mare. The bridle had broken – everything seemed to be over. But two days later he won the individual gold medal. In 1996 in Atlanta he stood, together with his team, on the top rung of the winners’ rostrum and was leading in the individual evaluation. He was not able to finally compete, however, because Ratina was injured. And in Sydney the German show jumpers were also awarded the team gold medal. Ludger Beerbaum and the stallion Goldfever had not been able to contribute, however. The poles had fallen almost en masse in both rounds of the Nations’ Cup.
The Germans also won the team gold medal in Athens in 2004. But the team were later disqualified – because Beerbaum’s horse Goldfever was tested for the forbidden substance betamethason and found to be positive. Although he defended himself vehemently against the accusation of doping, and actually proved that the substance could be traced to an ointment which had been applied to treat a small injury and had got into the horse’s bloodstream. Beerbaum accepted responsibility for the situation but made very clear that there had certainly been no intention to consciously dope his horse in order to enhance its performance.
In Hong Kong in 2008 the German quartet, of which Ludger Beerbaum was also a member, remained without a medal for the first time since 1992. In the individual jumping, which became almost insignificant on account of the doping scandals, he achieved seventh place with All Inclusive NRW.