THE future has never been brighter for Irish dressage”. This is the opinion from someone who should know - Grand Prix dressage rider Sorrell Klatzko.
“I’ve seen a huge change in attitude to dressage in the last few years. It is no longer considered the thing you do if you are too scared to jump. I see people in the sport now who have incredible talent and great feel for the horse. This is a very exciting time to be involved in dressage.
“The international success enjoyed by our fabulous team of ladies, their qualification for the Olympics and Judy Reynolds’ achievements on the world stage has all meant that there is a real buzz around the sport.
“I have no doubt that with the way Ireland works, its ability and reputation for producing fantastic riders and horses, that it is only a matter of time before we, as a nation, will be a force to be reckoned with at an international level,” said Klatzko.
Based at JAG Equestrian, Sorrell lives close to the yard in Co Kildare with her partner Alex Kinsella and their three children.
“I was born in Wales, my father is from South Africa and my late mother was Swiss, she rode well herself and was the one who taught me in the beginning.
“She bought a 12.2hh Welsh Mountain pony foal to keep her horse company when she was six months pregnant and ‘Jupiter’, as he became known, gave me my first introduction to riding.
“We moved to Kent when I was five years old and I later joined the East Kent Hunt Pony Club where I got my first taste of competitive riding. We were lucky to have great instructors in the club, including William Fox-Pitt, and I did all my Pony Club exams right up to ‘A’,” Klatzo explained.
“On finishing secondary school, I went to Jennie Loriston Clarke as a student to prepare for my A test. I was meant to be there for a few months and I ended up staying for my whole gap year.
“I got my A test with honours in 1999 and I had been bitten by the bug. My time spent with Jennie, during which I saw 25 foals born as well as competing at dressage and eventing, convinced me that a life working with horses was the one for me.
“I abandoned my plans to study veterinary in favour of music with a view to planning my freestyle to music tests. I managed to get a place in the University of South Hampton which kept me close to Jennie’s yard so I could still work there.
“In my second year I was awarded an Elite Sports Scholarship. It was the first time one had been given for Equestrianism. There are just two or three sports scholarships awarded each year from about 30,000 students, so I feel incredibly lucky to have received it.
“My competition success at that time was why I came to the attention of the panel and that was mostly down to the results I had achieved on Jennie’s stallion Liberator which she very generously let me compete in the young rider classes,” she added.
Travelled the world
Sorrell continued: “Because of the scholarship I was able to travel all over the world competing on borrowed horses. This culminated in taking part in the Student World Championships in Tokyo in 2004. I think the university sports federation events are a good test for riders, because it really shows riding ability and not just who owns the best horse.
Before graduating from university, Sorrell had spent a year working for Ferdi Eilberg in Bermingham.
"I went to train with Hubertus Schmidt in Germany on one horse and he gave me a lot of help on his own and then I trained my own horses after each day. While in Germany, I met Alex (Kinsella) and fell in love. His family owned Donacomper Riding School so he had grown up with horses and used to event himself.
“These days he has a ‘proper job’ but it helps that he understands and supports me in this horsey life. His family are also great support, all my foals and the youngsters that aren’t in work are kept at his mother’s place in Warrenstown.
“We came home in 2006 and based ourselves in Dollanstown. At that time I produced several horses and sold them on, including RF Demeter who I had until he was seven before selling him to The Netherlands where he went on to three-star level in eventing before being sold again, this time to Marilyn Little in the USA.
“Erlentanz was another one I produced up to seven years old, he went on to be sold and enjoy a fantastic career including competing at Grand Prix Special level with Charlotte Dujardin.
“The first horse I bought myself was a three-year-old mare named Highlight (Hohenstein – Blueberry Hill), I brought her all the way up through the grades to Grand Prix Special Level.
“Our Grand Prix victory at the National Championships last April was a bittersweet one. It was our last outing together as I leased her to a young rider but, on the bright side, I’m looking forward to watching her help one of the next generation of riders succeed.
“Another positive is that I have her first foal by Zanzibar and have high hopes that she will have inherited her mother’s talent.
“Her four-year-old son, Gladiator (by Sir Sansibar) has just been backed and he is showing great potential. And I’m riding an Irish thoroughbred called Gold Game, owned by Kristine Kopetz.
“Another one I have that I’m very excited about is the five-year-old Khalfani. He is owned by Andrea O’Brien and is showing great paces. He is doing his first show this weekend,” said the rider.
Links with breeders
Klatzko has a unique agreement with breeders which allows her to keep progressing in the sport.
“I believe in order for someone like me to have top-top horsepower, the best way is to form relationships with breeders and an informed understanding of breeding.
“For me, this means I can handpick my foals from breeders I trust. I have established relationships with a small breeder in Holland named Orlanda Dragmann and one in Germany, Gudrun Isenbeck-Geue, and we have quite a unique agreement.
“I bring the horses I think will be good over here to Ireland, either as foals or yearlings and produce them when they are ready. The breeder retains 50% of the ownership but doesn’t pay me anything, and I get 50% of the ownership but haven’t handed over any money for the youngster. This type of agreement only works if there is complete trust on both sides.
“I consider myself lucky to have a great team to help me. In addition to Alex, I also have Miles Cash and his partner Christina who back the youngsters for me. I also teach pony rider Isabella Murray, a very talented rider, and I’m excited to help her reach her goals.
“I enjoy teaching and try to fit it in with family life and my own horses, so that normally only leaves the evenings, as well as a day clinic every month or so. It’s a busy life but I’m delighted to be a part of the ever growing popularity of the sport I love.”