At home with Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann
She is an athlete, entrepreneur and soon she will also be a show organiser. We visited Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann at her yard in Pinneberg, near Hamburg.
There are moments that we don’t forget our whole lives long. Magical moments that we always look back on as if they were yesterday. Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann experienced such a moment. Even today a grin spreads over the 40-year-old’s face when she talks about the last metres in the course of the Grand Prix of Aachen in the year 2011: “On approaching the last obstacle, I knew immediately that we would pull it off.” With we Janne means herself and her sports partner at the time, Cellagon Lambrasco. “He didn’t have a magnificent amount of scope, nor did he have an outstanding technique,” is how she describes the gelding, who stands only 1.6 metres high. “But he simply gave everything and a bit more over every course.”
Mrs. Meyer and her “Mops”
As was also the case at the Aachen Soers ten years ago. The photo of the two of them, showing the rider with her arms thrown up in the air while flying over the last obstacle, circulated round the globe at the time. Today, the photo not only hangs on the walls of Janne’s yard in Pinneberg, it is also the logo of the competition and horse sales business that Janne runs together with her husband, Christoph. “In this way, I kind of have Cellagon Lambrasco close by my every day,” reported Janne. For her the small gelding with his fighting spirit and warm heart is the wonder horse that one only finds once in a lifetime. And she also celebrated the biggest achievements in her career with her “Mops”, which is her nickname for him. These include claiming team gold at the World Championships in Kentucky in 2010 and at the European Championships in Madrid a year later. Meanwhile 23 years old, the Libero son is enjoying his well-deserved retirement on the expansive paddocks at her parent’s yard – incidentally together with Janne’s first international top horse, Callistro, whom she affectionately refers to as “Opa” (Grandpa).
It kicked off with Mücke
Janne visits her two oldies whenever her busy show schedule allows it. And thus, returns to the place where she started her riding career. As the daughter of two Holstein breeders, she found her way into the saddle at an early age. To be precise she was just two when her father Friederich used to hack out with her sat in front of him on the horse. “She always had amazing body control and fantastic balance,” explained her mother, Ursula. Grinning, she recalled the many worried phone calls from the neighbours, when Janne had secretly galloped over the field with the herd on the breeding mare Adante once again – without a saddle or bridle, it goes without saying. “She even climbed onto the back of our friend’s pig,” is how Ursula described her daughter’s enthusiasm for riding as a young girl. And she really had to laugh when she remembered how Janne swam through the pond on their grounds with her first pony Mücke or used her for sleigh riding or to take part in pony races. Of course, all of this hadn’t got anything to do with competition sport yet.
However, the time with Mücke shaped Janne. “I think that has remained one of my strengths up to this very day, that I strive to hold onto the joy of riding,” the 40-year-old reported. “This rubs off on the horses too. They are only ready to give their best if they enjoy the work.” And Janne even thinks the difficulties she initially had in mastering small shows with Mücke had a positive aftereffect: “I never took it for granted that something succeeds. One has to learn everything and carry on practising.” And that is exactly what she did. Janne quickly became one of the best aspiring young German show-jumpers. She already competed in her first German Championships in the Ponies classification at the age of twelve. In 2002, she celebrated her first international success, when she took the bronze medal at the Junior European Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The equestrian sport as a job (vocation)
Ambitious, but never overzealous Janne pursued her passion. Right after passing her school leaving examination, she turned self-employed – even without doing the otherwise customary apprenticeship as a professional rider. “I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone, but I myself would do it all over again,” she laughed and admitted at the same time that the course she has chosen, is not always easy. She knows that the equestrian sport is a tough business and being good at riding alone doesn’t suffice, one also has to be good at adding up. “Things don’t always run smoothly, of course. Every athlete or company is familiar with that, the three-time German Champion explained. “These are challenging times. When times are difficult one has to examine everything and see what one can improve to make things better.”
In 2016, together with her husband Christoph, the passionate hobby pilot fulfilled their dream of having their own equestrian yard. The couple have turned a former dressage centre into a paradise for show-jumpers in Pinneberg, near Hamburg. There are 42 stables, a huge sand arena, further outdoor schools, two indoor schools, a horse walker, a race track, paddocks and fields at the Waterkant Yard. “The well-being of our horses is the top priority,” said Janne and one senses: That isn’t just a cliché for her, but the everyday routine she lives. Her own day-to-day life has changed slightly over the past few years: “Even if riding is still always priority number one for me, in the meantime I have many other obligations too. There is always something that needs changing, improving or tending to – in the stables, on the grounds or in the office.”
Debut show at the Waterkant Yard
And as if that wasn’t enough work, Janne and Christoph are planning to organise the first international show at their yard this summer. “We want to offer an event that appeals to as many riders as possible, particularly this year when things have been extremely difficult for our sport due to the pandemic and many organisers had to cancel their shows,” explained Janne, who will of course also be competing with her horses in July: “I will then find out if it is a home advantage or whether it is perhaps even more difficult competing in your own arena.“ She will be saddling Büttner’s Minimax then too. The 12-year-old Cornado I descendant is her top horse at present. And who knows, perhaps he too will bring his rider a magical moment one day, like Cellagon Lambrasco did in Aachen in 2011.