The Kühner Cloud
Making his way into the top ten of the world ranking list was not always easy. Today, Max Kühner is a successful entrepreneur, he has his own yard and a Major victory in the Rolex Grand Slam up his sleeve – and he has a horse-loving family that stands behind him.
Relaxed, the gelding stretches his head out of the window, his eyes half shut, his bay coat shining in the sun. The blossoming flowers that decorate the spacious balcony directly above him are the only thing that offer a bit of shad on this hot, summer day. Max Kühner is sat in the garden round the corner. Kühner is living out his dream here in Hadorf, just a stone’s throw away from Lake Starnberg: A life under one roof together with his family and horses. His family is made up of his wife Liv and their three daughters Julie, Grace and Maxie. His horses, alongside experienced show-jumpers like Chardonnay, are many promising youngsters. And this bay gelding called, Elektric Blue, who is chilling in the sun totally relaxed – secretly waiting to catch the attention of his rider. The two of them have known each other for seven years, form a team with the same joint cloud, as Max Kühner describes the blind trust between rider and horse, which takes years to develop.
It all started in 2014 with a few jumps while the horse was being free schooled. It sufficed to awaken Max Kühner’s hopes of having found a talent for the really big tasks. “Blue has unlimited potential. Jumping simply comes easy to him,” the 47-year-old stated about his sports partner, who brought him the Major victory in the Rolex Grand Slam in April in s’Hertogenbosch. This triumph is not only Kühner’s biggest achievement in his career to-date, it is also confirmation of his training concept. Because Elektric Blue also followed the same path to becoming a victorious Grand Prix horse that Kühner has chosen for all of his youngsters: An interplay between challenge and relaxation. “We get the horses used to their tasks in a playful manner while they are still young and always offer them long phases at grass in-between,” is how the man from Munich, who has been competing for Austria since 2015, describes his concept. “Experience has shown that they not only return to their original form quickly afterwards, but at the same time they also mature mentally.”
Elektric Blue still has the demand of wanting variety today too. Because as talented as the ten-year-old may be, this is what is required to keep him in good spirits. “He gets bored very quickly. That is why we endeavour to keep his motivation high.” The facilities in Hadorf offer everything needed for the purpose. On the 15 hectares with many vast meadows and weather-proof paddocks there is plenty of place to relax, an indoor school, a sand arena and the racing track offer ideal training options. Additionally, there is a huge grass jumping arena, which is Max Kühner’s pride and joy. It is decorated with replicas of traditional obstacles from the world’s most famous arenas – including also the double water combination of the CHIO Aachen. “The course at the Soers was my inspiration. We have tried to give the horses here a few impressions of it. It really helps them cope with the big arenas better later, when it comes down to it,” Kühner explained, whilst his daughters, Julie and Grace, are romping around on a self-built play area in the background – jumping course style it goes without saying. They have carved and painted the obstacles themselves, it even includes an embedded trampoline.
But the two girls already also cut a clean figure in the saddle. After just a few years of hard work and practice, Julie has been riding different ponies and horses at national and international shows since 2019. This spring, the 11-year-old was able to crown her young career by claiming the victory in the National Pony Jumping Championships. “My children are already much more advanced than I was at their age,” Max Kühner stated, who himself comes from a family that only practised equestrian sports as a hobby. “Of course, that makes fighting your way to the top much more difficult.” A feat he did indeed master: He was already awarded the Golden Riding Badge at the age of 18, shortly afterwards he was appointed a member of the German Young Riders squad. Parallel to that he also laid the foundation for his professional career by passing his higher education leaving certificate and a degree in Economics. In addition to competing, he is namely also the owner of two companies. “I always knew that I wanted to become a professional rider,” he reported. Over the years, he then realised how cost-intensive the sport is. “That’s the reason for the combination”, which requires very meticulous time management. “I ride the first horse at 6 o’clock in the morning.” He usually doesn’t ride the last one until late in the evening, in-between that he is busy in the office.
How he relaxes between all his shows and work? Well, one can go to bed relaxed, when one has manged to complete so many tasks during the day,” said Max Kühner, adding with a grin: “Having nothing to do, is simply not me.” Accordingly, he is currently planning the expansion of his yard. An event hall with a glazed judges’ tower, stables, apartments for the employees as well as a building for a veterinary clinic are to be constructed. Max Kühner can rely on the full support of his wife, Liv. The native Dane, who was also a highly successful dressage rider, takes care of many tasks. For instance, when he is travelling, she perfects the flat work with his jumping horses. The two of them met – where else than at a show in Denmark. Last year, the birth of their third daughter made their joint bliss perfect. “My family is the base in my life, which I always return to. After every success, after every failure,” Max stated. “There may only be a few of them, but these are extremely important days, which give me strength for the turbulent life I lead.”
It is a life he loves. “As a family we share all of the ups and downs that this sport brings with it,” explained Max Kühner and the glow in his eyes reveals how much this fulfils him. And how proud each individual victory makes him. When he was listed under the top ten in the world ranking list for the first time in July, it was a reason for the Kühners to celebrate. “For many people it is merely a number in a list,” he said. “But for me it is a childhood dream come true.” But he certainly won’t be resting on his laurels. His show calendar, in which the CHIO is also listed in italics, is far too full for that. He will be particularly focusing on the Rolex Grand Prix there. He will immerse himself in the joint cloud again with Elektric Blue on Sunday afternoon so he can call up the perfect performance in that moment it all comes down to. That would be fantastic! “Of course, we have a plan. We’ll have to wait and see if we can put it into practice,” said Max Kühner, knowing that his family will be there for him – regardless of the outcome. And Elektric Blue will return to his stable in Hadorf after the CHIO Aachen too, relax, put his head out of the window and let the sun fall on his coat.