Memories of Klaus Fraessdorf

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thank you to all who have sent in so many great stories and tributes to Klaus Fraessdorf. We have also heard from many who have loved reading them. I know they have also brought smiles for his family and those close to him. As the stories keep coming in, we will continue to add them to this page!

Please be sure to send us your story to share with his family and the dressage world.

Klaus Fraessdorf set an example and was instrumental in the birth and growth of American Dressage. Be ready to laugh, cry, and learn. It sometimes seems as if only after a person is gone we realize the true extent of their contributions.

Read Klaus's obituary

Memories of Klaus Fraessdorf

Jennifer “J-Ho” Symon
As the Hospitality Chair for many years at Dressage at Saratoga, I had the distinct pleasure of working with Klaus.  From inclement weather, to ill-tempered competitors and exhausted volunteers, I could always count on Klaus to get us through and have a few laughs to boot! 

My last name at the time began with an “H” and he would fondly refer to me as “J-Ho”.  From anyone else, I would find that utterly insulting – but from Klaus I somehow accepted it with pride.  Hearing it called over the two-way radios had a fun ring and would make me smile.  Speaking of radios, Klaus was always good for providing verbal entertainment over the channels and had an uncanny way of knowing when someone may have been using the powder room…

Finally, one year he needed to drop off his car for a repair (the infamous white Grand Marquis) and asked if I could take him over to the dealership and drive him back.  Well, I inadvertently went the wrong way and we ended up getting caught up in a Memorial Day parade for over an hour.  I know he was annoyed, but he stoically held it together.  Instead, he saved it for later and would remind me on occasion – for years J!

Thanks for all the fun times, I’m going to miss you Klaus Fraessdorf!!

Janne Rumbough
For so many years to come there will be an empty space where Klaus was walking with so many of his gifts..
I was lucky to meet Maria and Klaus in the early 1976 and with their hard work, we have the Florida Dressage circuit and the great BLUE BOOK! When I think of Klaus, I have a big smile. His "Stupid blonde jokes" we always tried to give Klaus some new and better one, but it never happened, he loved the "Stupid ones"! It is wonderful to read everyone's Memories of Klaus! All the stories are SO Klaus- We will miss you Klaus and we always told you, you where very lucky to have Maria! I send my condolences to Maria, Kerstin and Family.
All my love Janne

Kristina Birkmayer

I have many fond memories of Klaus and Maria at Saratoga.  I spent a lot of time chatting with him while he patrolled in his cart. He often hassled me over my big hat.  I had the privilege of riding in front of him there in 2006.  My first test for him was quite literally the last ride of the day.  I had a fairly large cheering section who had, I think, already been at the adult beverages, and they were quite vocal at the end of my ride.  I rode up to the booth and apologized, saying they had probably been imbibing.  Klaus had a huge grin and that twinkle and said "and you haven't yet?"  I was hoping that the ride didn't look as though I had, but I guess not as I won the class.  Later that same weekend I rode for him again and went off course.  As I swung back around I apologized and said "senior moment".  He laughed and said "ya, ya!" in that sing-song accent and waved me on.  I just smiled through the rest of the test. 

In August I managed my first recognized show, and was fortunate enough to have Sandra Trussell, a "product" of the Klaus and Maria system as my secretary.  We spoke of him numerous times over the summer. I don't think anyone ever realizes just how many lives they touch while they're here, but the lives Klaus and Maria have touched would fill volumes.  I am saddened that I'll no longer see him tooling around the grounds.  My sincere condolences to Maria and his children and grandchildren, who, of course, feel the loss most keenly.  We were all so lucky to have had him here, and he will be greatly missed.

The Man with Many Hats - Kate Fenstermaker Conner
From the first time I met him Mr. Fraessdorf was my teacher.  Mom and I would walk to the stable once a week for my riding lesson on Sundance.  He shared his love of horses and showed me that falling off was a fact of life.  He taught me that when I fell (which I did plenty of), all I had to do was dust myself off and get back in the saddle.     

Not long thereafter, he became a father figure.  Along with Mrs. F, they raised a bunch of horsey girls, right along side of their own kids.  They gave us responsibilities and had high expectations for each of us.  I was the luckiest of all, because this is where I found my very best friend, Kerstin. 

He had now become a second father to me.  Kerstin and I spent as many hours as possible together, in school, at the barn, and between our houses.  Much of our playtime was dedicated to our Breyer horses – and the accessories we had created for them.  I enjoyed many delicious meals at the Fraessdorf’s table – a tradition I have had the pleasure of sharing with my own family to this day.

As I got older, I was given even more responsibilities, like cleaning stalls, feeding the horses, and teaching lessons.  Now, he was my boss.  He taught me that my actions had a direct impact on those around me – especially the horses.  (They relied on me for their every need.)  Now that I am a mother and a teacher this has become even more apparent.  It is something I try to instill in every child I encounter.

When I was 15, my mother and I had the opportunity to travel to Germany with the Fraessdorfs on a horse-buying trip.  Now he was our tour guide.  We spent many hours laughing, as we drove through the beautiful countryside, taking one of his infamous “short-cuts”.   Kerstin and I got to ride many fancy horses and even got to bring a few back to the states with us.  He taught me that dreams really do come true.

Later that year, he helped me make the hardest decision of my life.  Herbie, my young quarter horse, had gotten terribly sick.  After a week of trying everything to save him, Mr. F sat me down and helped me understand that I was the only one that could help Herbie.  I needed to let him go – have him put down.  Since I was only 15, he took my horse and stayed with him until the end.  Many years later, I did this for a student of my own and learned just how difficult it had to have been for him.  He was my rock.

When Kerstin and Patrick were married in Washington, Andy and I had the privilege of joining the proud parents of the bride.  It was a wonderful vacation for us, as I got to share my new family (Andy) with my second family.  My husband and Klaus had become instant friends.  They could sit for hours discussing just about anything.  Again, we spent a lot of time simply laughing – reminiscing.

Now that I live in Pennsylvania, we visit our Florida families each Christmas.  Our son, Jac, has acquired a third set of grandparents, Oma and Opa.  Being a junior dinosaur expert, he has a special affinity to Opa and his fossil collection.  He recently mentioned Opa’s Woolly Mammoth tooth as we walked through the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  He asked if Opa had ever seen these fossils and thought he would enjoy them.   

As I look back over the past 30 years, I know that I am the person I am today because of his influence.  I feel blessed to have had the chance to know such an amazing man.  I thank him for all of the lessons he taught me (and many others just like me).  God bless you Mr. Fraessdorf, teacher, dad, Klaus, friend, Opa.  I will never forgot you and all you have been to me…    

Bob and Lisa Braren
We fondly remember Klaus coming through the barns of Clarcona in his classic car at the crack of dawn playing his German marches welcoming everyone and saying "good morning."  His endless supply of blond jokes were always a hoot!  Once, we took him to a German restaurant and he was so happily playing his harmonica, the other patrons thought he was the hired musician! The dressage world has lost a wonderful professional and friend.  We will miss him.

Jane Rodd
I was helping the client I was training warm up at Dressage at Saratoga, NY when her leg fell off!  Well, it didn't actually fall off because it was inside her breeches and boot, but it came unattached. Paddy is a 70 plus year old lady who has had a prosthesis since age 6. Klaus to the rescue... he immediately joined the search for an Allen Key and was the one who procured one, assisted Paddy in fixing her leg back in place and encouraged her to get back on and compete.  We will certainly not forget him!

Kate Poulin
I showed for the first time at Claracona when I was 10 years old. I have been to every show since. He was always picking on Gwen and Me. His blonde jokes, his vintage car, polka music at horse shows and his witty personality will be missed!

Simone Williams
I don't really have a story, but Klaus always made an impression on me.  Klaus's love and genuine enthusiasm for Dressage, the riders and the horses was always apparent.  He was a kind and genuine man and I will miss him.  I wish to extend condolences to his family and friends.

Kathy Daly
I have many memories of Klaus but the first that came to mind was from a show where he was serving as the TD. It was pouring rain and I was warming up a client's horse for a training level class. He was watching us go around the ring so I smiled and said hello. On the next trip round, he called me over. Rules on bits had recently been changed and he wanted to check the width of my horse's bit. I asked if he could wait until after the class (it was raining after all) but he insisted because if we waited I could be eliminated. I had to send a groom back to the barn for a halter and we stood in the shelter of an overhang from a mobile tack store trailer. The bit was fine and I went on to win my class.  Another time, he was judging and, after my halt and salute, he climbed out of the judge's box to congratulate me on getting a "10" on a movement. A character like Klaus will be greatly missed.

Martha L. Moore
Although I did not know him well, I found myself joking with him in the show office at a competition in April. He was the TD, it was Friday evening, and most in the barns had their horses settled and were having happy hour. I invited him to the barn to join us and he told me that, while he no longer drank, when he did he always drank vodka. "I figure it is clear so my liver won't see it!"

Anne Gribbons
For years to come, dressage riders , trainers, judges and officials will feel a void on the show grounds. Klaus Fraessdorf has been a huge presence on the Florida and National Show circuit for as long as I can remember, serving the sport in many capacities. Klaus was a judge and a Technical Delegate, but most of all he was THE show manager supreme. He wore many hats, and all of them well.

Jeanne Schiebel
I have many fond memories of Klaus.  He even inspired me to write a biography on him that was published in Dressage Today Magazine about 10 years ago.  I started taking lessons from Klaus about 25 years ago.  I had been riding since I was 5, however all my experience had been riding hunter jumpers.  I was just out of college and a school teacher in Orlando.  Even though Klaus knew I couldn’t afford a warm blood or to show in recognized shows, he still took me on as a student and imparted much knowledge to me.  He allowed me to take lessons on his horses and come out and practice between lessons.  When I bought a crazy tb./x racehorse, he just shook his head.  He made an exception in his barn rules and allowed me to pasture board at his barn, so I could afford to still ride there.  I had the honor of working at the shows he managed, which also helped me to afford lessons and board.  I learned so much from him that when I moved away from Orlando to Lakeland, I was able to start my own dressage GMO, become a riding instructor and manage dressage shows for our new dressage club.  When I teach my students (who are mostly little 4-H kids) I find myself quoting the same instructions that Klaus used to give me.  I try to emulate his strong work ethic and correctness of the dressage discipline.  The last time I saw Klaus, he was judging at the Tampa Fair Grounds.  I was with my niece, who has also ridden with Klaus.  He was on a break and just chatting with the scribe.  We came up to the side of the ring and were waving to him and calling him over to talk to us.  He smiled and looked at the scribe and said a few things (while pointing at us) before coming over.  We laughed, because we knew he was saying something like, “I’m so handsome that the women at these shows just won’t leave me alone!”  When he came over, he was so happy to see us and couldn’t wait to tell us all about his grandchildren.  His whole face lit up, when he described them to us.  Klaus will always have a special place in my heart.

Robert Dover

I was very saddened to hear of the death of my friend, Klaus Fraessdorf, who succumbed to cancer yesterday, after a long and hard-fought battle. Klaus was many things to many people and one of those was absolutely not a “weakling”!

I met Klaus 38 years ago when my family moved from the Bahamas to Florida. A young teenager with a 3rd level horse which I also evented and Pony Clubbed, Klaus introduced himself to me and we became pals. Klaus ran a dressage stables in the Orlando area and I would see him when out competing. My family decided to move to Atlanta and, once there in training with  Elisabeth Lewis, I decided to sell my horse, Somerset Son. Now a 4thlevel horse, when Klaus heard “Sonny” was for sale, he called  and ended up purchasing him from me. From that day forward, Klaus has played an enormous role in my career and that of countless dressage enthusiasts. Yes, he taught and trained for many years, but then he began organizing  competitions klaus1and, along with his wonderful wife, Maria, running shows including many CDI’s, Olympic and World Championship qualifiers and even Final Selection Trials.

Now, when it came to rules, Klaus was a pain in the ass sometimes, but sadly, he was always right, even when we were sure he could not have been. And when it came to complaining about one thing or another, as I could do with the best of them, Klaus would listen (unless he saw me coming first and found a way to jump into his golfcart and get away :) )and try his best to find a solution. Without Klaus, the Florida circuit would never have happened as it has, and American Dressage sport would be decades behind. I will miss seeing him at the ring and having to endure one of his corny jokes which he never ran short on.

There will never be another Klaus Fraessdorf - he was most definitely one of a kind! He will be remembered as long as there is Dressage sport in Florida - forever!
Cheers, Klaus! RD

Mary Phelps-Hathaway
Klaus and I butted heads over the years, and I usually lost, except for this one time: It was a Selection Trials being held at Clarcona Horseman’s Park. The USET had sent banners, but the PVC pipe around the arena was like a race track and there was no place to put them. So the park bought some plywood and stapled the banners on then lashed them to the PVC. It looked like hell. As the show photographer, I was about to photograph an important selection trial with these banners framed in raw ugly plywood.

I complained to Klaus. “Can’t you just have them cut the edges so only the banner shows?” I pleaded. Klaus said the park needed to re-use the plywood after the event so they could not cut it up. I asked him how much four sheets of plywood cost, and gave the park the money to they would trim around the banners. It was pretty much my profit for the show. When I saw Klaus later, he said “Mary you were right. It gave me a headache that you were right and I had to take some aspirin."
I am sure you will be relaxing with Edgar Hotz having a drink of “wodka” while watching your services on Friday.

Tuny Page
Klaus stands out in my mind as one of the most influential people in the development of dressage in the Southeast.  He is certainly one of the core group responsible for transforming dressage competition in Florida into the top International sport that it has become.  He will be sorely missed. now the fun stuff.  I laughed out loud reading some of the other entries because they are "classic Klaus" and reminded me of just about EVERY encounter I had with him.  One story does however stand out in my mind.  I was competing at Clarcona in the early 90's  and went to Klaus to "complain about the footing"  (something I am famous for).  I told him that the arena was much too hard and asked if there was  any way he could drag deeper to loosen it.  OK...I am sure that most of you know right where this is going....With a daring twinkle in his eye and wicked little grin he looked right at me and said "honey , my equipment can go as  deep as you like" and then started roaring with did I!
I send my condolences to Maria  and family.  Thank you for sharing Klaus with all of us. Peace be with you.
Much Love, Tuny

Lisa Hylsop
I have always had a great deal of respect for Klaus because he spoke up for the things he believed in.  With Klaus it wasn't about being right, it was about doing the right thing.  It is not always easy or popular to do the right thing and for that I have the utmost respect and admiration for someone with that sort of conviction. Klaus you were missed tremendously while you fought your battle with cancer and you will be even more greatly missed in the years to come.

Jane Gennaro
When I moved to Florida, I immediately looked up a dressage barn in the area and found Klaus.  For the next several years, I found myself at his barn, riding, taking lessons and hanging out with the new friends I had made.  I bought a horse from Klaus named “Marlandus.”  He had been in Klaus’ barn and the owners were trying to sell him.  Klaus said I could ride him and get him fit for sale.  In the meantime, I fell in love with "Landus" and bought him myself.  Klaus helped me train that horse and always told me that he could “go all the way to Grand Prix if I stuck with it and kept the faith.”  I will never forget the years working with Klaus, riding Marlandus and enjoying my time at his barn.  Orlando dressage will never be the same without Klaus.  And he was right, Marlandus did go all the way. 
RIP my wonderful teacher.

Carrie Zahradnik
Once as a neophyte to dressage, my first introduction to Klaus was a stern one.  I got a glimpse of his "do it right or not at all"  philosophy.  At an early schooling show, he called me on the carpet for not having my competitor number correctly placed on my bridle.  I exclaimed "My new schoolmaster would not allow it, and I was afraid she would run off with me!"  Klaus replied "Nonsense, your mare knows her job, and she's just testing you.  Now, you fix it and ride!".  At that moment I was more afraid of Klaus than I was the mare.  Of course, HE WAS RIGHT!  Many years later at a Wellington show he complimented my ride.  Needless to say it meant a lot to me.  Now when I show a new student how to place the competitor number on the bridle I have a great Klaus story to share.

I came to admire his humor, candor and correctness. He wanted us to be the best we could be by  respecting the rules that were, after all, there for a good reason.  Like many in the sport, the sound of a harmonica brings back happy show ground memories.  It was his special way to connect, from his heart, rather than just the rule book.
Klaus and Maria were the go to team.  Thank you both for your direction, contributions and support.

Janet Foy
I will always remember the harmonica. His jokes (not always funny) and his old car which he loved and drove the judges around in all the time.  He was very generous to me when I got my "C" and needed experience at the big shows. He always invited me with great European judges and let me judge on the GP panel. He was truly generous and loving under the prickles that sometimes protected the outside!  We used to get him worked up with 'potential' rule violations to see what he would was really fun to page him to our booths with some amazing violations and see what he would do.  We FEI judges are a bit naughty!  Yet, when you did need his support as a show manager, he was right there.  I will miss Herr Klausness as I used to call him. I am sure he is in heaven getting the angels a bit more updated on the rules!

Debbielou Houdek
Working for Klaus as a scribe really set the bar as how a show should be run. He had a standard and if you did not meet it he would let you know in short order. I will miss his funny and God awful jokes, the hat with all the pins he collected over the years and that fabulous old car that he drove and I am sure terrorized people on the highway with if you were going to slow in the fast lane. I am certain that this is like many others but he always had a joke.

Pati Pierucci
In 1999 I was competing and doing a Selection Trial. I had a really good ride and right at the end of the ride I could tell one of the judges wasn’t acting right. Well Klaus met me at the gate and proceeded to tell me that they were looking into a technical thing which I of course couldn't understand because I was paralyzed with fear!!
So Klaus starting in with “well we have to wait for the outcome so let me tell you this joke....”
One led to another, by the way most of them were bad! But time passed and everything turned out just fine..
I loved his agenda of making the process relaxed and just not a big deal... he was so right!!
He will be missed....but remembered always and fondly

Claudia Tarlov
I was thinking of Klaus this summer, wondering with hope that he might be at the first winter show I attend this upcoming season. I have enjoyed Orlando greatly as a place where the staff is so friendly and supportive of a good show experience along with a friendly, relaxed competitor scene. We often seemed to deal with a ‘weather day’ but never left the show without a smile.

My first impression of Klaus was at USDF meetings, where his disciplined style often seemed quite stern. In time I found myself changing my first impression to a modified one: that he sought to produce consistent excellence. One time I wondered if he listened to my opinion as a competitor, which was quite different than his, causing a great debate. The next year I saw that he had, as the change I had been suggesting appeared in his prize list. He ruled his shows with a firmness that made me as a competitor really pay attention to the USEF rulebook. Who can forget “Two bridle numbers or elimination!” I almost did, and he reminded me not to have a “blonde moment”. As time passed, I saw more and more the fun side of Klaus. I will never forget the fabulous competitor parties at his shows, generously hosted by Katherine Groves and Quiet Oaks Farm, where Klaus would show his fun side. I can remember him driving his meticulously-cared-for car with several women on the hood during the competitors’ party. My last time with Klaus was when I was leaving the last show of the season, getting ready to return north. I went to the office to say thank you for a wonderful show season and he was standing behind the desk. He looked at me with a direct eye and smile, different than other times when he was rushing around in his many duties.
Knowing he was in a fight, I held on to that image. I will miss him.

Denise Perrotta
I wanted to share with you one of the most lasting impressions that I had of Klaus. I did not know Klaus extremely well, however I did attend quite a few shows at Clarcona that he had organized, and also rode for him at the Tampa Bay Fair grounds at least on one occasion. Klaus was always friendly, funny, and talkative to run into at horse shows. The most memorable occasion that I remember of Klaus was when I had purchased my mare a few months prior. I am pretty sure it was 2006 at the Tampa Bay Fairgrounds. It was my first outing at 2nd level. I rode into the indoor arena for my second level test, and Klaus was the judge. I went in and started doing my test. Everything was going well up into a quarter of the way in when I heard the whistle. I stopped my horse and walked to the judge, not quite sure what I had done wrong. "Young Lady," Klaus said "you are now riding at second level, you must have *much* more collection at this level!!! Turn around do that movement again!"

I did turn around and really tried much harder to get my horse more collected. I remember coming around the turn at H and seeing Klaus with his hands folded together looking at me with a very pleasant/pleased smile on his face. Oh, looking back, how I wish every judge could be that nice.....

Klaus gave me confidence in the ring, and made me feel at the beginning of my show career that the judges are not out to get you, but are trying to help you. That is something that I wish I saw more of these days.

Another instance of Klaus saving the day is when an upper level competitor that I knew went into the ring at a championship class with her horse hooves having clear polish on them. One of the ring stewards felt that was out of regulation. Thankfully, amazingly, Klaus came to the rescue and informed us that clear polish was in regulation for a championship class. It was one of the most amazing times to have the biggest stickler of rules come to the rescue when we really needed it!

Thank you Klaus for organizing great shows, and being a great judge!

Dr. Kristy Truebenbach Lund
I will never forget the party at one of the Heidelberg Cups when Klaus got in his big old car and started driving around the show ring. We all ran out and climbed on the roof (including Tina Konyot’s giant Doberman!) as he tore around the arena. There was some minor damage to the car as he discovered the next day but to this day we all blamed it on the dog!  When I first met Klaus twenty years ago when I first started showing the Florida circuit he came out and yelled at me about some lunging rule…I was very intimidated! But over the years as I got to know Klaus as he joked about my German name,

I found him to be a kind man with a heart and passion for people and dressage.

Roz Kinstler
When I was in college in Cleveland, Ohio, I taught riding at one of the larger schools of riding in the US, Red Raider Camps in Novelty, Ohio.  I met Klaus and Maria when they first came to this country; he took the position of head instructor.  Maria could barely speak English, and it was my first exposure to "German Dressage".  

After graduating college and moving away from the area, I lost track of him. Several years later, I was standing at a show at Valhalla Farms in Lake City Fla., and someone came up behind me and gave me a big hug, sure enough, there was Klaus!  I was so pleased to see him and see how his career had taken off!  I always think of him with his wonderful dry sense of humor.  I also remember how proud he was of a Buick he had purchased while in Cleveland that he still had some 15  years later.  

I'll miss seeing him at the shows and enjoying yet another clever joke or story he always seem to have at the ready. 

Miki Christophersen
How could I ever forget Klaus and his harmonica at the USDF conventions!  He often helped break up the tension from the meetings!

Mary Robinson
I remember Klaus for all the corny jokes he used to tell at the horse shows. Also, he was my first dressage instructor. He had relocated his barn near my home and I decided to return to riding after an 8 year hiatus. I initially, scoffed at dressage thinking I just want to ride and jump. He said nothing; just kept teaching me and I came around.  On day, I will never forget, I was having trouble with the horse I was riding and complained to him that the horse wouldn't do what I wanted.  I said it the horse that has a problem. In that great German accent of his, he said “Mary, the problems are always 95% rider and 5% horse.  So, it is you, not him.”

That has stuck with me ever since.  When I am having a problem, I look to myself and say what I am doing to make the horse behave this way. I sit back, think and try again to get it right.

I will miss you greatly Klaus.

Sharon Doran
I will never forget being at Clarcona Horseman's Park in the late 1980s for a dressage show.....having slept in the back of my GMC Suburban overnight to be on site early in the morning...and waking up to the sound of German Polka music coming over the show loudspeakers.

Signature Klaus F!

Allison Kavey
Last summer, I showed my client Andrea Woodner's horse, Hojbo's Ronaldo, at Windy Hollow Hunt's show in July. Klaus was the judge for the Open 1st-4 class, and after I completed my test, he stood up and came into the ring. I was certain I had been disqualified for doing something unknown but incredibly stupid, but he said that he wanted to shake my hand because he had just given me a "10" for the stretching circle. He complimented the horse, told me my training was very correct, gave me a big smile and a handshake, and returned to his box.  I was incredibly honored, especially since I had grown up reading his name on every big prize list in the country.  

He will be missed.

Birgitt Dagge
Klaus was a fun show manger, judge and TD.
I remember after the whip change (to shorten the whip) he went around the showground and measured whips and had a scissor with him to adjust to the legal length right then.  

Martha L. Moore