The Longines Equestrian Beijing Masters is being staged in the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” Stadium in Beijing for the fifth time from October 23rd-25th. Ludger Beerbaum is taking on the role as one of the co-organisers again this year and will furthermore also be competing against the best riders in China together with eleven other top international riders. In an interview, Germany’s show-jumping legend explained how his involvement in the event in Beijing came about and how he is using the Beijing Masters to further promote the equestrian sport in China.
The Longines Equestrian Beijing Masters took place for the first time in 2011. You and the Aachener Reitturnier GmbH have been on board as co-organisers from the very start. How did this project come about?
After the 2008 Olympic Games, several Chinese riders and the Chinese Equestrian Association really got into the show-jumping sport. Since I was involved as a trainer in China in the run-up to the Olympic Games, it was a logical step to carry on my commitment thereafter: My motivation was the belief that the country has huge potential for the entire horse industry.
And what would be more suitable to promote the horse industry in China than an international equestrian show! However, the concept of the Beijing Masters differs considerably from the shows that we are familiar with in Europe for instance …
That’s right, because due to the quarantine regulations foreign riders are not allowed to bring their horses into China and take them out again, if they have come into contact with other horses in China. This is why the international riders compete against the national Chinese riders on borrowed horses.
Competing at a competition with foreign horses instead of with one’s own is a special challenge for the international riders. How are the horses allocated?
I know the horses and have an idea beforehand, which horse could suit which rider. The riders try out the horses on the first day, to see how well they get on with the horse they have been allocated. After that the riders come to me and we decide together, who ultimately rides which horse.
The riders are evidently satisfied with their borrowed horses, because they are keen to come back again: For example, Scott Brash, number one in the world rankings, double World and European Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam, France’s top female rider Penelope Leprevost as well as Rolf Göran Bengtsson from Sweden are taking part again this year. The top riders are still on board and the concept has remained the same too, nevertheless the Masters has changed a lot over the past years. What developments have taken place since 2011?
The equestrian sport in China as a whole has further developed over this period of time. There is more professionalism at all levels, starting with how the horses are kept, to the equipment of the horses and riders, through to the conditions at the shows and of course riding itself. In the meantime, the Masters has reached international three-star level, here too the event becomes more and more professional every year. It is still too early to be able to judge whether our concept of establishing contacts between Chinese and international riders has been successful, but the Chinese are definitely showing more interest in the show-jumping sport.
Where is the journey heading with the Beijing Masters? What is your long-term aim?
We want to build up our sport in China and establish it long-term. It is difficult to say how long it will take to achieve this goal, but with each Masters event, we take a further step forward. We want to make the show better all the time and more attractive, for both the athletes and the spectators. For instance, this year we have introduced a new competition, where different teams comprising of one international rider and two Chinese riders will compete against each other. So, one can look forward to a diversified programme, in the course of which Chinese riders and show-jumpers from all over the globe will take each other on.
For more information visit www.beijingmasters.com