German Para Team Coach Silke Fütterer-Sommer Sees Masterplan Succeed in Riesenbeck

Mon, 01/01/2024 - 09:24
After five years Germany is back on the team podium in para dressage. New team trainer Silke Futterer-Sommer on the right :: Photo ©

-- Text by Susanne Strubel - Photo © Hippofoto - Silke Rottermann

Germany's para dressage team won the silver medal at the 2013 European Para Dressage Championships in Riesenbeck last September – the first team medal for Germany since it won bronze at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, USA.

The master plan orchestrated by Silke Fütterer-Sommer, the new German national coach, has come to fruition. Part of their success may be attributed to the electrifying performances in front of a home crowd.  She said; "There is simply a bit more personal touch to it, which gives one or the other a bit more self-confidence."

All four riders on the German team achieved personal bests in the Grand Prix A test, further emphasising the significance of their success for the Para Dressage discipline in Germany. Fütterer-Sommer believes that this achievement should garner more attention within Germany, asserting that success is the key to raising the profile of Para Dressage.

"I think in Germany this should simply be seen even more. But of course that also goes hand in hand with success, and so doing well here is quite important because it's the main way we can draw attention to ourselves", she said.

Silke Fütterer-Sommer has been deeply involved in supporting and guiding the riders and their horses since she assumed her role as national coach. She herself is a Grand Prix trainer and learned the trade from old masters like Willi Schultheis.  

Her approach to training rider and horse is not fundamentally different from training able-bodied riders, focusing on the development of the rider-horse partnership. However, she acknowledges the need for flexibility and adaptation due to the physical constraints of para-riders, ensuring that each rider's training is tailored to their individual needs.

"The 'para-idea' is not so much in the foreground for me when I'm in the arena. I try to go by the guidelines and continue to develop the rider-horse pair. Of course, sometimes we or I have to develop other ideas, because a physical possibility may not be there then. It's individualised to the athlete."

Futterer pats Nautika
In her quest for excellence, Fütterer-Sommer often tests her training methods by riding horses herself, experimenting with different techniques and observing how the horses respond. This hands-on approach allows her to fine-tune her coaching strategies and better understand the needs of both riders and horses.

"When a rider says to me 'Watch out Silke, but I can't do that right now,' that's when I say 'ok, then we'll come up with something else."

Looking ahead to the Paralympics in Paris in 2024, Fütterer-Sommer and the team management, led by team boss Nico Hörmann, are already formulating plans to secure a medal. With one rider returning from maternity leave and others developing younger horses, the team has promising options. Fütterer-Sommer's goal is to have a strong lineup of top-tier rider-horse pairs to compete in Paris.

Nico stated, "we have a lot of plans for Paris. Here in Riesenbeck this is now the first milestone for us, now we will continue to work. It is of course always the desire to get a medal." It's very important for Silke to have "two handfuls of really good pairs, so that we can then go to Paris with the best there."

As the national coach Fütterer-Sommer is mindful of the potential challenges that can arise, including horse injuries and health fluctuations among riders. She emphasizes the importance of having a deep and versatile team to provide flexibility in such situations. Rider health is also a priority, with comprehensive medical support available to ensure their well-being.

"Riders are well supported in terms of medical care”, Fütterer-Sommer said. "But I've found that riders release forces on horses that are often not actually possible, according to medical reports."

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