The rider, a stylist. A perfectionist. A show-jumper, who has been demonstrating his competence for decades. The horse, an outstanding talent. Intelligent and self-confident. Marcus Ehning and Stargold were the winning pair in the Rolex Grand Prix 2023.
Sunday afternoon. Aachen. The Main Stadium. The clock is ticking away relentlessly, whilst the last pair make their way over the course in the jump-off of the Rolex Grand Prix. 11 seconds. 12 seconds. Tick. Tock. At a fast pace, yet always under control, the horse and rider master the first obstacles. Two oxers, a vertical. Effortlessly. 18 seconds. 19 seconds. Tick. Tock. The next two oxers. They present no problem either. 29 seconds. 30 seconds. Tick. Tock. Then, the double combination. Clear. The spectators sense that they are paying witness to something spectacular. Hardly anyone in the sold-out stadium can remain seated. Loud gasps interrupt the concentrated silence that was previously only broken by the thundering hooves of the horse. Encouraging whistles accompany Marcus Ehning and his Stargold on the last line and over the final obstacle. The clock ticks one last time. Then, it stops. 45.12 seconds light up on the display in huge digits. 40,000 people go wild and break out into rhythmic applause. The rider freezes for a moment. Searching for certi-tude he looks up at the display. Then, finally, the number “1” lights up after his name – and his joy knows no limits. In the grandstand, the family jumps and celebrates. His wife Nadia and their four children hug each other. The German coach, Otto Becker, turns away briefly to – as he admitted later – wipe the odd tear of joy from his eyes.
And Marcus Ehning? He enjoys the moment. His moment. It is a wave of irrepressible joy, huge emotions and gratitude that seems to overcome him, while he visibly revels in each single centimetre on his way out of the Main Stadium. He keeps throwing his arms up into the air, stretching his helmet to-wards the skies and then keeps covering his face with his hands, al-most in disbelief. Otherwise one of the quieter members of his guild, a doer, calm and focused, on this particular afternoon the world experienced the 49-year-old rider more emotional than ever before. He had already won the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen in 2006 and 2018. Whether he was happier this time compared to the pre vious occasions? “No”, he replied to the microphones of the journalists a little later, while an almost mischievous grin that is so typical for him flitted across his face. He explained that winning in Aachen was always something very special. “But I was never the last to go in the jump-off here before. Celebrating the safe victory in this stadium together with the crowd is simply an indescribable feeling,” said the rider, who has now eternalised his name on the legendary win-ners’ board for the third time – and to top it all with three different horses.
Having their name engraved on this board – is a lifetime dream of many riders. For Marcus Ehning it is the reward for infinite endurance, a great deal of training and last, but not least the belief in his horse. “Stargold is a winner,” he says about the Oldenburg-bred stallion that he has been riding since 2019. “He loves big arenas and really does make his rider’s life easy in the ring.” Apart from the huge bucks the overzealous 12-year-old does in between the obstacles now and again perhaps. “In a certain way – and I mean it in a posi-tive sense – he is a bit of a show-off,” grinned Marcus Ehning, whilst patting the neck of his sports partner, who is wrapped in the winner’s blanket, appreciatively. “Even if he does buck sometimes, he still remains totally focussed.” Like all of his horses, Stargold reacts to the finest aids too, is always atten-tive to his rider. A rider, who thanks to his exceptional talent as a trainer always succeeds in bringing on new horses to top international level.
On the way to that goal, initially consistency and safety take absolute priority over a fast victory for Marcus Ehning. Build-ing trust is the motto he follows when working with his horses. “I think that is what distinguishes me,” the 49-year-old reflected. He seems content when he talks about his ca-reer, during the course of which his philosophy has evidently ensured him a fixed place in the ranks of the world elite long-term. Once the trustful bond to a horse has been estab-lished, he is able to exploit the potential of his sports partner to the full. Because Marcus Ehning then does what he is best at: He convinces with his performance. With his immaculate style. Experienced, safe, simply cool and impassive in the race against time. As in the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen with his Stargold.