Vita / Greatest Achievements

    Klaus Balkenhol was born on December 6, 1939. His parents were farmers; the family lived at Gut Ross, where the father worked as a factor and also bred horses. After school, Klaus became an apprentice on the family farm. In the evenings he took training lessons in dressage, jumping and eventing at the local riding club, riding the same horses he worked with on the field during the day. But agriculture was facing massive changes at the time, and so he decided to start a second apprenticeship with the police force.

    Rabauke: The Story Begins

    In the late seventies, the Polizeihauptmeister grabbed the phone and dialled the number of the German FN in Warendorf. Little did he know that this would be the beginning of a rather unique career. Klaus Balkenhol, unknown dressage afficionado with the Düsseldorf police, wished to be invited to a clinic with his police horse Rabauke. More out of generosity that out of conviction, they allowed the Rhinelander to travel to Warendorf. But what a suprise when presented his horse there – National Coach Willi Schultheiß was enthusiastic. „I count Klaus Balkenhol and his Rabauzke among the best eight pairs in Germany!“ The rest is history – one day in Warendorf catapulted the police captain from anonymity to the top.
    Even though Klaus Balkenhol had loved horses and riding all his life, it would never have occurred to him to dream of an international career in the saddle. He had picked a career with the police since that allowed him to combine his hobby with his profession. He learned the basics of dressage more or less by himself, without supervision through the FN. Without sponsors and without trainers he taught Rabauke, whom he got in 1971, all the movements as an autodidact. „I learned most of it from watching others and from books.“
    Rabauke, who had cost 4.000 Deutschmarks as a two-and-a-half year old, was known to be a sickly horse when Klaus Balkenhol „discovered“ him while the horse was being shod. „This horse and no other, I told myself“, recalls Balkenhol. Rabauke, according to Schultheiß „the ideal type of a dressage horse“, did normal police duty together with Balkenhol until in 1977, Schultheiß wrote a letter to the ministry of the interior. This paved the way not only to some grant money from the FN but it also allowed the pair to ride its first international competitions (competing for police horses was strictly regulated by office rules). Now Klaus Balkenhol could prove his talent in public.
    He didn't have to wait long for success. In 1979 he and Rabauke became German Dressage Vice Champions and won second place at the Dressage Derby. This paved the way to the German A Team. But during the Olympic trials in Balve Rabauke injured himself so badly that he could no longer compete in dressage. But he did continue his duty as a police horse until on May 8, 1985 minister Schnoor retired him officially at age seventeen. He spent the rest of his life with his pony pal Muskatnuss at a farm near Münster and died at almost thirty.

    Goldstern: Another Era Begins

    In 1981, Klaus Balkenhol accompanied his superior, Werner Vatter, to look at some young horses at the Cologne riding school. They both agreed that Goldstern had a lot of quality. „He may be a small horse, but he has what it takes to be a great one.“ So Goldstern was bought for 6.700 Deutschmarks and joined the police force in Düsseldorf. Despite intensive training, the first compeitions with Goldstern were disappointments, „since he didn't really have an easy temperament“. But Klaus Balkenhol didn't give up on Goldstern and kept training him patiently – until Goldstern „thanked“ his rider by winning increasingly important competitions. In 1989, the duo won its first Grand Prix tests, and now Balkenhol knew that he was on the right way. They became Vice Champions in Mannheim in 1990, and finally won their first national title one year later in Münster. Their second German Champion's title in 1992 was almost a footnote, because they were nominated for the Olympic team. They won Team Gold in Barcelona and Individual Bronze. Over night, the sympathetic rider with the police uniform became the talk of the town.
Back in Düsseldorf, honors and awards were heaped upon them. President Richard von Weizsäcker awarded Klaus Balkenhol with the „Silver Laurel“, and he was received by chancellor Helmut Kohl. Their success continued. In 1993, Balkenhol and Goldstern won Team Gold at the European Championships in Lipica and they became German Champions. 1994, Team Gold and Individual Silver at the World Equestrian Games in The Hague. 1995, European Team Gold in Mondorf, German Champions. 1996, they won Olympic Team Gold again in Atlanta and became sixth in the individual ranking. This was their last year on the international stage. In 1999, police commissar Klaus Balkenhol presented Goldstern for the last time in front of an enthusiastic audience at the Equitana in Essen.

    From Rider to Coach

    From 1996 to 2000, Klaus Balkenhol coached the German equipe to two Olympic Team Gold medals. In 2001, he became national coach of the US equipe and held that office until 2008. Balkenhol: „We had already been friends with many American riders for years. It was the riders who wanted me.“ At the World Equestrian Games in Jerez de la Frontera/Spain, his team won Silver and two years later Bronze at the Olympic Games in Athens, a success they were able to repeat in 2006 at the legendary WEG in Aachen.
    In addition to that, Klaus Balkenhol was long-time coach to Nadine Capellmann, who became double World Champion in Jerez in 2002 with Farbenfroh and rode Elvis to an unparallelled result of 81% in the 2004 Burgpokal finale. He has also been Laura Bechtolsheimer's coach and mentor for years. Together with her parents, he celebrated her three silver medals at the 2010 WEG in Kentucky and Team Gold and Individual Bronze at the 2011 European Championships in Rotterdam. Young German talent Kirsten Sieber is another one of his students.
    But of course his daughter Anabel's success in the saddle of the difficult Dablino is one of his greatest masterpieces. Together, the two of them formed Dablino from a disturbed youngster into an international dressage star whose success is a shining example for Balkenhol's credo that of course horses trained according to the classical principles can be successful on the highest level.

Greatest Achievements as a Rider

with Rabauke:
1979: German Vice Champion
1988: European Champion of the Police Riders 

with Goldstern:
1990: German Vice Champion
1991: Team Gold and Individual Silver at the European Championships,
German Champion
1992: Team Gold and Individual Bronze, Olympic Games Barcelona 
German Champion
1993: Team Gold at the European Championships,
German Champion
1994: Team Gold and Individual Silver, WEG The Hague
1995: Team Gold at the European Championships,
German Champion
1996: Team Gold and Individual 6th place, Olympic Games Barcelona 

Plus about 90 national and international Grand Prix victories and placings with Goldstern, Ehrengold, Laudatio, Gracioso und Garcon from 1993 to 1996.

Greatest Achievements as a Coach

National Coach Germany:
European Championships 1997 (Verden): Team and Individual Gold, Individual Bronze
European Championships 1999 (Arnhem, NED): Team Gold, Individual Silver
World Equestrian Games 1998 (Rome, ITA): Team and Individual Gold, Individual Bronze
Olympic Games 2000 (Sydney, AUS): Team Gold, Individual Silver and Bronze

US Coach:
WEG 2002 (Jerez de la Frontera/ESP): Team Silver
Olympic Games 2004 (Athen/GRE): Team Bronze
WEG 2006 (Aachen): Team Bronze

Coaching Individual Riders:
Bundeschampionat 1996: Nadine Capellmann & Farbenfroh, Champion 6-yr-old Dressage Horses
WEG 2002 (Jerez de la Frontera/ESP): Double Gold for Nadine Capellmann & Farbenfroh
Nürnberger Burgpokal 2004: 81% and record victory for Nadine Capellmann & Elvis
2009: MedienCup victory and Otto-Lörke-Preis for Anabel Balkenhol & Dablino
WEG 2010 (Lexington/USA): Team, Special and Freestyle Silver for Laura Bechtolsheimer/GBR, Team Bronze for Anabel Balkenhol & Dablino
European Championships 2011 (Rotterdam/NED): Team Gold and Individual Bronze for Laura Bechtolsheimer/GBR, Team Silver for Helen Langehanenberg & Damon Hill