Hanne Brenner: My Equestrian Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Paralympic dressage champion Hanne Brenner shares how her life with horses has been impacted by the spread of the virus.

This is a unique and challenging time for everyone around the world. For our equestrian community, COVID-19 has cancelled shows, postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and closed barns, which prevents many of us from riding or even seeing our beloved horses. Perhaps it’s that last bit that hits the hardest. To help all of us get through this scary and unprecedented time, we’ve asked our Dressage Today friends from around the globe to share with us how they’re coping so we can be reminded that we’re all in this together. We’ll hear from friends in Germany, Belgium, Portugal, the United Kingdom and beyond and hope this encourages you to share with the DT family your secrets to getting through this difficult time. We hope everyone is safe and healthy. Much love from all of us at Dressage Today. Click here to find all of the articles within the series so far. In this article, we hear from Hanne Brenner of Germany.

Now it is two weeks that I am home. And really completely at home. We are very lucky to live here on our small farm with our horses, dogs and cats and because of that have absolutely no training restrictions. My trainer Dorte Christensen is also my life partner, so she can continue to train me.

Hanne Brenner and Dorte Christensen (Photo by Uta Helkenberg for FN press Germany)

Of course we had a very precise competition schedule for this year, but it has totally vanished. But to be honest we have truly bigger problems on the globe currently than a few shows that do not take place. We become humble in this “new world” unknown to us all.

Hanne and Women of the World, Hanne’s Paralympic champion who died two years ago. (Photo by Silke Rottermann)
Hanne and the late Women of the World (Photo by Silke Rottermann)

Our normal routine has improved regarding riding. Because usually I am working during the day in Mainz, now I am off work and can devote this time to my horses. We have our training goals and, for example, work on movements that had not so much been the focus so far. For example, the flying changes, which are not required in Para dressage. And our horses then not only have to learn the flying changes, but also my different way of applying the aids. This is not always easy for a horse.

Belissima M (see photo) understands it better and better. But she also trains my position. To execute the change she needs my support and therefore I have to concentrate that I really remain sitting, then it works.

Hanne Brenner smiles with Belissima M. The photo was taken at the Olympic center in Warendorf where the last federal training for the Para riders took place before the lockdown. (Photo by Uta Helkenberg for FN press Germany)

It is a strange, but also a nice feeling to have no pressure to present the horse in top form at the next federal training or the next show. Now we can experiment one or the other thing and see if it improves the throughness and expression. This is the main topic with Belissima whom we call “Lissy“. She is now 10 and has developed fantastically over the past year. It took her a long time to build up strength and to gain trust and self-confidence. It is nice for us to see how she is more and more enjoying her own movements and shows the horse we initially saw in her at the beginning.

We already hoped last year to get to the European championships in Rotterdam. But due to the death of my brother I was unable to attend the last and decisive selection trial and only became first reserve. But Dorte and I just kept working and training toward our next big goal: Tokyo.

Now Lissy is really peaking, she presented herself very well in the federal trainings, which took place before the lockdown in Germany and we honestly had hoped to be on the team this year. For that reason we regret that the Paralympics will not take place as planned. But there was really no other solution! And while we riders can train in most cases like usual, in other disciplines it is impossible. And then the danger of all involved to get infected and the problem of a lack of qualifications. There were simply no conditions to let the Olympics and Paralympics go ahead as planned.

This means now: Continue training and improve step by step. Then we will have a realistic chance to present ourselves well in the trials next year. One thing is for sure—Belissima is a fantastic horse who I enjoy tremendously every single day. We are very grateful to her breeder Peter Moskopp that he entrusted this horse to us.

Now we hope that this virus gets stopped in one way or the other and that the globe can calm down. It’ll not be the same afterwards. Maybe we also learn a bit from this experience. Learn what is really important in life: That we have our friends, family and our animals.

To read more articles with Hanne Brenner, please see here.

Hannelore “Hanne” Brenner competed in three-day eventing until a rotational fall in the 1980s left her with an incomplete paraplegia. Brenner restarted riding as a hobby soon after, but it took her a few years to pick it up as a competition sport in the 1990s. Brenner is a multiple World Champion and European Champion and a four-time Paralympic gold medalist in Grade III. Her most successful horse is the Hanoverian mare Women of the World with whom she won individual gold, silver in the freestyle and team bronze at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Brenner lives in the south of Germany and has a yard with her trainer, Dorte Christensen. 






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