A “little flea” jumps her way into the world elite
Jana Wargers has been renowned as a sensitive and talented rider with an affinity for training young horses for a long time. Together with her gelding, Limbridge, the 31-year-old made her breakthrough onto the top international sport scene last year. An interview with the German show-jumper, who has chosen Ashford Farm in Belgium as her professional home.
Jana Wargers, we were just allowed to take a look around Ashford Farm. It is fantastic here. What makes a workplace like this so special?
I have been here in Belgium for two years now. The possibilities I am offered here are simply incredibly good. I am very grateful for everything I am allowed to experience here. The entire team supports me and Enda Carrol makes sure that we have really great horses to ride. All of this is what makes the sport actually possible for me. And the most important thing: We have loads of fun every day.
A totally normal day in the life of Jana Wargers. What is that like?
I normally get to the stables at 7.30 a.m. and then I take my time to ride the first four horses. It is very important to me to address each single horse individually – even though one has many horses to look after. The whole team always spends the lunchbreak together, we eat together, discuss everything and laugh a lot. Then, I climb back into the saddle again until 5 p.m.
And after that? How do you spend your evenings off?
If it fits in timewise, I like to drive to Germany to see my partner and my family – I miss them all very much here in Belgium. If that is not possible, I relax on the sofa watching a good film or I meet up with friends. Then, life doesn’t revolve purely around horses for a change.
Where does your love for horses come from? You are not from a family of riders…
That is right. My older sister took me to the stables with her one day. And directly after coming into contact with horses the first time, it was clear to me that these animals are something very special for me. From then on I wanted to spend every spare minute with them.
You were already successful at advanced level at the age of 15 and you completed an apprenticeship as a professional rider after school. Did you ever have a plan B?
No, I didn’t – even though my mother always told me that I should learn something sensible first. But that was never an option for me and I haven’t regretted this decision for one single moment right through to this very day. Working together with these special animals fascinates me every day again and again.
Your friends gave you the nickname “little flea”. Where does that come from?
Yes, that is something that is going to accompany me for the rest of my life. The nickname originates from when I training with Kurt Holz, he taught me the ropes and I rode for him for a very long time. I was simply very small and thin as a young girl. Which is how the word “riding flea” came about, which was abbreviated to “flea” at first and then “little flea” – so actually I had a few nicknames. But in the meantime I actually answer quite well to Jana (laughs).
You have a special talent for bringing young horses into the sport. Why does this fascinate you?
Older, experienced horses know their business. In this case, my primary task is to maintain their condition and motivation. Training young horses on the other hand is always a very exciting journey. It is a fabulous feeling being able to experience how they take the next step, learn something new and continually improve. That is also something that makes my work so fascinating every day.
Your current partner in success in the ring is Limbridge. What makes him special?
I think Limbridge is one of those horses that one only has once in a lifetime. He is something extremely special for me. His character, his fighting spirit, his strong will and his attitude are simply exceptional. I have had the honour of riding him for one and a half years now. We took a bit of time to get used to each other at first, but in the meantime the bond between us is very strong, we know each other inside out. Limbridge is my absolute favourite.
You ride him with a bitless bridle when competing. One doesn’t see that all too often…
Yes, that is correct. And actually I didn’t get on too well with it at the start. But Limbridge simply showed me that he feels much more comfortable without a bit. Which is why there was no reason for me to change that. And I know meanwhile how I have to handle it. My role in the ring is actually just to show him the way. And then I am allowed to accompany him when he flies over the fences. That is an incredible feeling.
Together with Limbridge you reached the ranks of the world elite in a flash. What was that experience like for you?
Quite honestly, it took me by surprise myself. I have been involved in this sport for a few years already. But when you get a horse like Limbridge, things can happen very quickly all of a sudden. With a sports partner like him, I now have the opportunity to experience the big shows. That fascinates me each time over and over again.
In 2022, you were not only the best woman at the World Championships in Herning after coming ninth, you were also a member of the victorious Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup team at the CHIO Aachen…
Yes, they were without doubt the most fantastic moments, I have experienced so far in my career. If anyone had told me that it would happen beforehand, I would have probably shook my head in disbelief. These victories are dreams come true for me.
What goes through one’s head when one rides into the Main Stadium in Aachen and knows that 40,000 pairs of eyes are following one’s every move?
The atmosphere there is simply unique. So the level of tension is correspondingly high. When the crowd applauds, one feels that this moment here is something very special. And the immense cheering prompted me to start concentrating very hard. Because in moments like that one really wants to put in a top performance.
You have already experienced what it feels like to win in Aachen. Is riding to victory in the Rolex Grand Prix a dream you would like to fulfil one day?
Yes, of course. The Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen is still on my to-do list. It is of course written in the stars as to whether I will ever pull this feat off. But it is without doubt a goal I have set myself. So, we will give it another shot again this year.
And beyond that? Do you have another sporting dream?
Yes, the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Of course, it is a long road ahead and a lot can happen beforehand. But I am convinced that it is conceivable and realistic with a horse like Limbridge.