Happy birthday Madeleine Winter-Schulze
Germany’s most famous equestrian sport sponsor is celebrating her 80th birthday on June 28th. When we visited Madeleine Winter-Schulze at her yard in Wedemark, not far from Hanover, she revealed to us why she still isn’t thinking about retiring yet and intends to continue travelling the world with her horses.
“Oh, that was such an unforgettable moment,” stated Madeleine Winter-Schulze. She is stood in her indoor school in Mellendorf, surrounded by photos that have been given to her from employees and friends over the years. There are over 50 such photos decorating the walls next to the school perimeter, which outline the journey through her life. Underneath the framed pictures, there are beloved memories of her deceased husband, Dieter, snapshots of her first attempts at riding in the Grunewald in Berlin and reminders of her major sporting achievements. And one of these such moments happened at the CHIO Aachen in 1988, when Madeleine headed the field in the lap of honour of the Grand Prix. “Being celebrated as the winner in this fantastic stadium, was something very special,” she recalls and laughing she explained that she had actually not wanted to take part because the competition was so tough. “But everyone told me, you simply have to ride in Aachen once. So, that’s what I did and actually won, finishing ahead of Reiner Klimke and Sven Rothenberger.”
And of course the picture gallery also includes photos of those horses that belong to Madeleine, which travel the globe with “their jockeys”, as she affectionately calls her riders, speeding from victory to victory. She has been supporting Isabell Werth since 2001, she has been working together with Ludger Beerbaum a few years longer than that. And wherever her horses happen to be in the world, Madeleine is stood at the entrance gate egging them on. “I know that I annoy the stewards a bit because I am not actually allowed to stand there,” she grinned. “But I like to be as close as possible. “Standing up on the VIP Stand, living it up, only putting the canapés down briefly to applaud, is not her style. Instead, she shows full commit, runs around in the stable tent, stands at the side of the warm-up arena, accompanies the rider into the dressage arena or to the ring and waits for them when they ride out. Where she cheers loudly – and consoles them if things didn’t run as smoothly as planned: “I know what one feels like in such moments. Then, I do everything to support my riders and build their confidence back up. They should never have the feeling that I am angry,” the lady from Berlin stated and the listener senses how important that is for her.
A life with horses
When she analyses the performances of her horses, Madeleine knows exactly what she is talking about. Her father, Eduard Winter, laid the foundation for her riding career as well as for her sponsoring activities. Her father’s name is famous to anyone, who is familiar with the economic history of Berlin in the 1950s. Winter was the city’s “Car King” of the era before the wall was built. Among others, he sold American, luxury cars. He also owned several companies, including a Coca-Cola factory. In his free time, he used to hack out in Grunewald. Madeleine was nine years old, when her father put her on a horse the first time. “Then, in 1958 I competed in my first Junior classes and I won straight away,” she recalled. “My father was delighted and said I should continue with my riding career.” She soon had her first horse; it was called Coca-Cola after her father’s company. At the time, Madeleine trained with Ines von Badewitz, later with Herbert Rehbein. At the age of 18 she took part in the German Dressage Championships for the first time – and won: “The other horses were actually much better than Coca-Cola. But in the Final with a change of horses, we left everyone trailing behind.”
When he went into his well-deserved retirement, Madeleine changed disciplines for a while. “At the time, we only had jumping horses in our yard,” was how she explained her sudden interest in jumping. Indeed she succeeded in pulling off the feat of claiming the German Championship title in this discipline too – no less than two times, in 1969 with Patellas and in 1975 with Da Capo. In 1978 she left Berlin and together with her husband-to-be Dietrich “Dieter” Schulze, a professional show-jumper, moved to the yard of the World Champion, Hartwig Steenken, who died far too early. The couple gradually extended the yard in line with their needs. From her new base, Madeleine started collecting ribbons in the dressage arena again. According to the statistics, she notched up over 500 victories, also at the German Dressage Derby in Hamburg in the years 1983 and 1986.
In addition to her sporting achievements, extensive voluntary and social commitment are what distinguished Madeleine. She gives a lot, simply because she enjoys doing it. Without much ado: “The Eduard-Winter Foundation helps socially underprivileged youths in Berlin,” the holder of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany states soberly. “Papa would have liked that. “Beyond that she was the active spokeswoman for the Dressage Committee of the German Olympic Equestrian Committee (DOKR) as well as Chef d’Équipe at numerous Dressage Championships of all age groups. Under her direction, the German dressage riders won more than 40 medals at international championships. She has been a member of the board of the German Equestrian Association (FN) since 1997, as a representative of top sport she was also a member of the board of the DOKR. The Golden Red Cross with Diamonds” the highest FN distinction, which she was awarded with for her untiring passion for horses and her loyalty, has a place of honour in her living room: “Not because I like showing off with it, but simply because I like looking at it.”
Madeleine is well-liked, is a welcome guest everywhere. And not merely because she does so much for the German equestrian sport, but also because she is simply a person with a very warm heart. She doesn’t say that herself, others say it about her. “If she wasn’t already there, she would simply have to be born. I don’t know anyone, who is so committed – and who demands so little in return,” explained the six-time Olympic gold medallist, Isabell Werth, who has had an extremely close relationship to her sponsor for years that is characterised by unshakable, blind trust. “Madeleine ensured that I was able to carry on competing at top level and that I still can.” Madeleine on the other hand gives these compliments back in a special, modest way: “When my husband died 13 years ago, Isabell and Ludger were there for me. That really helped me. We are like a family.”
That also applies vice versa. It is just a two hour drive from Ludger Beerbaum’s residence in Riesenbeck to Wedemark, where Madeleine has meanwhile been living for over 40 years. It is much further to Isabell Werth in Rheinberg. “Isabell rings every evening. So we can discuss all the news. I regularly drive down and stay with her for a few days and watch her ride my horses. I have my own room there and at Ludgers,” explained Madeleine, whose commitment stretches far beyond the dressage and jumping sport in the meantime. She also supported Ingrid Klimke, when her top horse Butts Abraxxas went up for sale. She helps the para dressage rider, Hanne Brenner, supports Beerbaum’s riders Philipp Weishaupt and Christian Kukuk as well as the dressage trainer, Karin Rehbein. “I have the means, so I help,” is how she sums it up in a nutshell. “It brings me joy because it is brotherly love and the joy you give returns to your heart.”
Equine paradise for young and old
And not only the riders can count on her support, Madeleine also upholds close ties to her long-standing employees at her yard. “They are part of the inventory,” she laughed and is talking about Pawel Jurkowski, who has been riding her jumping horses for 30 years and Ines Bormann, who has been responsible for backing the horses and their dressage schooling since 2004. Madeleine also manages the horse breeding with the two of them, which was a lifetime passion of her late husband. “’Own-bred horses are a force,” the equestrian expert, who is present every time a foal is born, joked and added with a laugh: “Of course that is not always true. We keep on buying young horses too.” A few years ago she built a spacious loose box on an adjacent meadow for the young horses, which not only serves as a feeding location, but which also offers the horses protection against bad weather in the winter.
The well-being of her horses is a matter close to Madeleine’s heart. That is why when her successful horses retire they always return to her in Mellendorf – if they don’t remain by their riders after their careers such as Goldfever or Satchmo. For example, that is where the team European Champion Gotha and the winner of the Nations Cup in Aachen in 2016, Casello, are out at grass in a contented group of oldies. The victories they have all notched up for their owner are countless in the meantime. And thanks to the younger generations, the number rises constantly. It is time for Madeleine to pack her suitcases again soon. She is travelling to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. And a new photo will no doubt also arise in the Japanese metropolis that will in future also decorate the walls of her riding school at home.