In the November 2020 issue of German equestrian magazine Reiter Revue a special feature is printed of top riders remembering their star horses, which suddenly and prematurely passed away.
The article features six professionals and amateurs reminiscing the sad demise of their wonder horse. Jumper Christian Ahlmann talks about Cöster, Gonnielien Rothenberger about top pony Deinhard B and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe reflects on the sudden death of Desperados FRH.
On Valentine's day, 14 February 2020, Sprehe lost her 19-year old Hanoverian stallion (by De Niro x Wolkenstein II x Matcho AA).
Desperados was the 2011 Otto Lorke Prize winner for being the best upcoming Grand Prix horse in Germany. They were anchors on the German dressage team at the 2012 Olympic Games (8th in the Kur). At the 2013 European Championships in Herning they were fifth in the Special and Kur. They won team gold and Grand Prix Special silver at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Caen, France. At the 2015 European Championships in Aachen they earned team bronze and GPS and Kur silver. At the 2016 Rio Olympics they added team gold and individual bronze to that tally. As of 2017 the stallion struggled with injuries and returned to a few CDI's, his last being the 2018 CDI Frankfurt.
"Our story did not start smoothly," Sprehe admitted to Reiter Revue. "When we bought Despi, we had to pull ourselves together. He had everything you could wish for for Grand, but he was very dominant and was used to a strong rider. It took a while, before we found the fine-tuning, but then there was a click and it was as if he could read my mind in the arena. He fought so much for me. I could always rely on him and I owe everything to him what I reached in sport."
"He was a small macho, a character horse, a fighter, he one one of those once-in-a-lifetime horses," Kristina stated. "When we built our house I immediately planned a field in the layout. I had a kitchen window from which I could have been able to see him had the accident not happened."
"I rode Despi's son Destiny at the show in Neumunster and was in a celebratory mood as he just won his first Grand Prix," Kristina reminisced. "Exactly in that moment my father received the phone call. First he didn't want to say anything, but he couldn't hide it. Despi had dropped dead on the lorry returning from stud duties. It was an aortic rupture, which was verified in the necropsy."
Sprehe continued," the news shocked me so deeply that I couldn't think of riding any more. We all went home straight away. It was horrible. His death came so unexpected, nobody had expected it because he was still so fit at 19 and we hadn't even celebrated his retirement from sport in public yet."
Sprehe thinks it was destiny that Desperados died the moment his son Destiny won. "Looking back, it feels like he waited for that, so that his son could take over the baton," she told Reiter Revue
“I never saw him again. I didn't have the stomach to look at his lifeless body," she confessed. "I want to remember him the way he was. There is a big portrait of him in my living room and I wear a bracelet, braided from the hairs of his tail. I wear it at every show. I don't know how I would have said goodbye to him, if I had the opportunity. There was so much to say."
"He wasn't cuddly at all. He was more a clown in his stall, playful and loud. We had to pad his entire stall because he could be wild. He loved food so I probably would have said goodbye with sweets he liked."
"I comfort myself with the fact that his death was quick and totally pain-free," she concluded. "I comfort myself with the fact that he lives on in his offspring and they will surely bring me much joy, but my heart belongs to him."
Read the complete interview and that other riders talking about the difficult farewell of their horses in the November 2020 issue of Reiter Revue
Photo © Dirk Caremans
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