The first “Horse Race with Voluntary Subscription”, the first gallop race according to the British model was held at the “Große Heide” in Aachen-Brand on July 15, 1821, the people of Aachen lost their hearts to the equestrian sport. Even back then, around 900 visitors streamed in to experience the highlight of Aachen’s spa season. However, in 1896, Aachen’s racing association discontinued the popular event. This was due to external circumstances, i.e. the construction of a new railway line through parts of the race course, which meant that there was no longer an appropriate setting for attractive races. The idea of the “Laurensberger Rennverein” is born. Following the tradition of the racing events in Brand, the proposal of Arnold Deden, the Honorary Mayor, to ground the association falls on fertile ground among the farmers in the vicinity. At this point of time Laurensberg is still an independent municipality in front of the gates of Aachen.
All good things come in threes. After its foundation as “Laurensberger Rennverein ” the association was renamed “Renn-Verein Laurensberg-Richterich” in March 1921, after a number of farmers from Richterich had become members. It isn’t until June 15th, 1923 – three years before its first entry in the register of associations on June 26th, 1926 – that the “Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein” is given its final name, because in the meantime over half of the members come from Aachen.
After joining the “Rhenish Tournament Committee” 1924, the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein immediately starts to concentrate on the beginning of the equestrian sport in the form that we know it today. On July 13th, it holds its first “Riding & Driving Tournament, in combination with flat and hurdle races”. Up until this point in time – as the name suggests – the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein had exclusively organised horse races. The emphasis lay on hurdle and flat racing, followed by trotting and draught horse racing.
It is to be the last tournament until 1946, riders from 19 nations compete against each other. Up until the year 1939 tournaments had been staged at the Soers every year. The “Nations’ Cup” – at the time the most important international competition – remained in Aachen until 1946 and wasn’t relocated to Berlin as feared. Without any euphemism it is safe to say that the tournament in Aachen was able to confirm its standing in the German and international world of equestrian sport; not least with the support of the National Socialist rulers.
Already on the second attempt in 1947, the association succeeds in finding its way back to international format. Riders from England, Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands travel to the Soers with 440 horses, where they contest in six competitions – among them once again the “Grand Prix of Aachen”, which is won by Prinz zu Salm (GER) with Garant.
“Muss i denn zum Städele hinaus” – this traditional song is played annually since 1953 when the CHIO comes to a close with a lap of honour of all athletes in the big Main Stadium. Since 1953, the athletes are accompanied by 40,000 spectators on the grandstands that wave their white handkerchiefs to the tune of the music – in gratitude for the performances given and as a symbol of hope that everyone will return again in the coming year. This tradition is introduced by stadium speaker, Dr. Kurt Sonanini, who spontaneously animates the audience during the final lap of honour: “Pull out your handkerchiefs and wave, lest they are clean!” The tradition has been held up since 1953 and is regularly even broadcast on TV.
The Worldchampionships of Jumping in Aachen 1956 and the CHIO afterwards is the largest equestrian sport event in the world with 200,000 spectators and 14 nations. The top riders of the era travel to the Soers with only their best horses for the event that spans ten days in total. The crowd’s favourite, Hans Günter Winkler, can’t compete. He had sustained a groin injury during the Olympic Games in Stockholm and can’t compete in Aachen, although he had been able to claim individual and team gold in Sweden with Halla. The 1956 World Championship title goes to the Italian rider Raimondo d’Inzeo with Merano. Winner of the Grand Prix of Aachen is the Spanish rider, Francisco Goyoaga.
In 1958 the international championships are held once again at the traditional showgrounds of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein. After the riders had contested for the World Championship medals in show-jumping at the Soers in 1956, the goal is now – for the second time in history of the equestrian sport – to claim the European Championships title. The victory goes to Fritz Thiedemann riding Meteor. Hans Günter Winkler, who had won in Rotterdam the year before, wins the title of Vice European Champion.
Shortly before the Olympic Games in Rome the CHIO 1960 is primarily the dress rehearsal. Riders from 21 nations travel to Aachen to test their Olympic form for the last time in the pouring rain, cheered on by 175,000 spectators; among others in the Prize of Europe, which Alwin Schockemöhle wins. In general the German riders dominate the “24th International Dressage, Jumping & Driving Tournament”. In addition to Schockemöhle, especially the dressage rider Harry Boldt and the four-in-hand driver, Ludwig Kathmann, are the medal-winning favourites for Rome.
Once again Aachen offers the ideal setting for a special competition. During the CHIO the European Dressage Championship title is awarded for the first time ever. The number of entries is correspondingly high. At the end of the Championships Dr. Reiner Klimke emerges as the first European Dressage Champion of all time. Furthermore, together with Josef Neckermann and Harry Boldt and under the direction of the Chef d’Equipe, Kurt Capellmann, he also wins the team classification. The team members from the USSR secure themselves the title of Vice European Champions.
Similar to the European Dressage Championships in 1967, the CHIO Aachen 1970 offers the perfect setting for staging the second Dressage World Championships. However, this time Germany has to make do with second place behind the USSR in both the team and individual classifications: Elena Petushkova becomes the first female World Champion. She rides Pepel to victory, narrowly beating the German rider, Liselott Linsenhoff with Piaff. Four years previously the gold medal went to the German rider, Dr. Josef Neckermann.
The Aachener Reitturnier GmbH is founded in 1975 in the continual effort to further professionalise the tournament. With immediate effect the company is responsible for the marketing activities of the CHIO.
In 1973 the Marathon is reintegrated into the CHIO programme, in order to enhance the selection of driving competitions that had been in place since the 1940s. Up until 1974 the roads and tracks initially ran through the Soers. In 1975 the Marathon is relocated to the Forest of Aachen, where up until 2006 the four-in-hand driving competition establishes itself as a popular event that attracts around 25,000 spectators every year. However, the club takes a further step in the direction of the expansion of the entire showgrounds by purchasing the land of Gut Heumesser at Soerser Weg. Up until 1992 the traditional showgrounds encompass a surface area of 24 hectares.
For the first time in the history of the tournament, the World Jumping Championships are not staged during the CHIO 1878, which entails high organizational effort. In addition to the financing of the construction measures, i.e. the Albert-Vahle Arena (Albert Vahle, president of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein 1968-1982) or the restructuring of the course service, above all the footing in the jumping stadium causes a lot of headaches. After heavy rainfall during the CHIO, the grass in the arena looks like a muddy field. At the Farewell to the Nations ceremony on 2.7.1978, nobody can imagine that the World Championships can be staged in this stadium just six weeks later. Miraculously, with the assistance of countless volunteers and a horticulture company, the chief grounds man Josef Zillekens actually manages to get the arena back into shape for the World Championships. Nothing can prevent the 53 riders from competing now. The German show-jumper, Gert Wiltfang, wins individual gold. He redeems the honor of the German team that is so used to collecting medals, but which “only” manages to take fifth place overall in front of its home crowd.
During the CHIO Aachen 1983 the dressage riders compete for the title of European Champion for the eleventh time in total with Aachen being the venue for the third time. The German squad puts in a top performance in front of the home crowd: Team gold goes to Dr. Uwe Schulten-Baumer, Dr. Reiner Klimke, Uwe Sauer and Herbert Krug. In the individual classification, Dr. Reiner Klimke secures himself the silver medal with Ahlerich ahead of his team colleague, Herbert Krug. The gold medal goes to the Danish rider Anne-Grethe Jensen and Marzog.
Up until 1985/1986 the Judges’ Tower is rebuilt next to the entrance on the east side of the Main Stadium. From now on the administration, members of the press, judges and the commentator are accommodated in the Judges’ Tower. The tribunes and stables are refurbished and with the roof on the west-side-tribune the modernization is completed for now. Everything is ready for the World Championships in jumping in 1986.
In 1986 it is laid down in the regulations of the Fédération Equestre International (FEI) that no country is allowed to stage a World Championships twice in succession. For this reason the last World Championships (1982) were held in Ireland despite the Germans having won the title. Nevertheless, since a German rider also took the victory in Ireland, the Jumping World Championships return to Aachen again in 1986, to the country of the reigning World Champion, Norbert Koof. The fact that the World Championships are staged in Aachen leads to a change in location for the official tournament of the Federal Republic of Germany (CHIO). For the first time the CHIO venue is Donaueschingen. The FEI had previously stipulated that in this case the CHIO and the World Championships would have to be held separately. In front of their home crowd the German riders don’t manage to demonstrate their best form during the World Championships. The German riders don’t succeed in winning any medals in either the team or individual classifications.
In 1997 the CHIO is strongly characterised by the European Championships in jumping that are scheduled a few weeks later in Mannheim. Consequently, the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein invites several Championship judges to Aachen in preparation for the important sporting event. Furthermore, the Federal President, Roman Herzog, visits the Soers on the occasion of the 60th CHIO anniversary. Together with 216,000 stadium visitors, in his capacity as patron of the sport competitions, some of which are designed as trials for the European Jumping Championships in Mannheim, where a few weeks later Germany takes two European Championship titles. The British John Whitaker is the winner of the Grand Prix of Aachen with Virtual Village Welham.
In 1998 100 years have passed since the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein was founded. Reason enough to turn this years CHIO from August 11th-16th into a special occasion. After all, Aachen’s event is the largest and, alongside championship events, the most significant tournament in the world. To commemorate this “round birthday” a “100 Year Party” with an “Open Day” is held on the Sunday before the actual tournament. The 90-minute Opening Ceremony on Tuesday and the 90-minute “100 Year Gala” on the event’s Saturday are two further highlights of the CHIO in the year 1998. Or “gifts to the tournament visitors”, as General Manager of the ALRV, Frank Kempermann, puts it.
Following tradition, the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein kicks off the new century with additional innovations. The infrastructure of the showgrounds is extended with the new construction of the Deutsche Bank Stadium for dressage, which is inaugurated for the horses and riders in 1999. The “Garden Eden” project, the aim of which is to beautify the grounds, is initiated. The international “Silver Camera” media award in honour of the best equestrian sport photo of the year is awarded for the first time. The “Soers Sunday” is another important addition to the program. After the positive response to the “Open Day”, which was held for the first time in 1998, visitors are allowed open access to the showgrounds on the Sunday before the official show week, which means the CHIO fans can enter the Soers two days earlier.
At the beginning of the new century, dressage came under intense criticism because it was considered to be not transparent enough and too boring for the spectators. In reaction to this the Deutsche Bank Stadium is equipped with a headset system. In this way the spectators are offered an expert commentary on each performance. The aim is to break down the judging system that is often viewed to be extremely arbitrary and make the appraisal of the individual exercises more understandable for the spectators. Moreover, the comparison between one’s own opinion and that of the expert is an added attraction.
For the first time in the history of the tournament the CHIO 2001 presents a partner country. Spain gets the ball rolling under the motto “Viva España”, presenting itself and its horses at the Soers in colourful and informative show performances. The award ceremony of two media prizes henceforth is a further adaption of the supporting program: As well as the “Silver Camera”, an international photo award introduced by the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein e.V. (ALRV) in 1999, the “Silver Horse” of the German Association of Riders and Drivers (DRFV) is awarded in Aachen from 2001 onwards. This media prize was launched in 1986 by the President of the DRFV at the time, Kurt Capellmann, who came from Aachen. The prize pays tribute to excellent contributions in equestrian sport journalism in the categories print, TV and radio.
In line with Aachen’s special geographical feature – being located at the interface of the border triangle – Holland presents itself as the second partner country of the CHIO in 2002. The performances of Durch Royal carriages form a particular highlight, which the spectators are partly able to watch from the newly renovated AachenMünchener grandstand. Aachen continues on its way to securing its special standing as an organiser of international championships. Together with the German Equestrian Federation (FN), Aachen puts in a tender to become the venue for the 2006 World Equestrian Games and wins the bid in the autumn. The planning of the “2006 FEI World Equestrian Games” begins immediately. It is to be the first World Championships at one venue, where all seven equestrian sport disciplines are represented.
For the third year in succession the CHIO Aachen is hallmarked by its partner country. In 2003 Hungary sends its daring hussars from the Puszta to the Soers and they impress the spectators with action-packed performances, such as the “Hungarian Post”. As a tranquil contrast, the “Horse & Symphony” concert celebrates its premiere. Henceforth, the Aachen Symphony Orchestra holds a concert evening in the Deutsche Bank Stadium every year before the CHIO begins, wih impressive, floodlit equestrian performances being presented to the sounds of the orchestra. Also the club introduces the logo for the World Equestrian Games 2006 at the traditional Opening Ceremony of the CHIO 2003: the horse’s head design comprising of seven different coloured strokes. A few years later, this logo is also to become the official CHIO logo after the WEG 2006.
In 2004, two years after winning the bid to stage the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, the construction work at the traditional showgrounds begins. By 2006 the Aachen Soers is to become the most modern equestrian sports facility in the world. In this connection a new riders’ stand, a veterinarian centre and a new judges’ tower are to be built by August 2005. Thanks to its oval shape and the new CHIO logo on the roof, the latter quickly becomes the trademark of the Soers. In addition the stables are expanded further and cross-country courses for the eventing, endurance and four-in-hand driving disciplines are created.
For the first time in August 2005 the CHIO Aachen takes place at the showgrounds that have already been prepared for the upcoming WEG 2006. The partner country Austria mesmerises the crowds with its performances from the Spanish Riding SchoolSchool and with concerts by the Vienna Boys Choir. In total 336,300 spectators pour into the Soers during the week of the tournament to get in the right mood for the big championships taking place the following year. The German show-jumper, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, wins the Grand Prix of Aachen with Shutterfly. After the CHIO the footing in the main stadium is completely renewed. Test events in eventing and endurance are held on the newly created cross-country courses at the Soers.
Due to the imminent World Equestrian Games, the CHIO Aachen 2006 is scheduled in May with an abbreviated format. Framework events such as the “Horse & Symphony” and “Soers Sunday” are omitted from the programme in favour of the vaulting competitions that are integrated for the first time. The German show-jumpers and dressage riders complete the dress rehearsal successively. Both teams win the respective Nations Cup in front of their home crowd. Marcus Ehning wins the Grand Prix of Aachen with Noltes Küchengirl. Nadine Capellmann wins the Deutsche Bank Prize with Elvis. Immediately after the CHIO, the final construction measures commence: Floodlight masts are erected in the Main Stadium, the Deutsche Bank Stadium is roofed temporarily. Temporary grandstands and a fixed judges’ house are erected in Stadium 2.
On August 20th, Germany’s second largest sporting event of the decade begins: The FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen. In total, 16 World Championship titles in seven equestrian sport disciplines are awarded by the Fédération Equestre International (FEI). 773 equestrian athletes from 61 nations travel to the Soers with 852 horses. At the end of the event Germany is at the top of the medal table: The German riders claim six gold medals, one silver and four bronze, including team gold in the dressage, eventing, driving and vaulting. Over the 14 days of the World Equestrian Games, the competitions of the disciplines jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting and reining are watched live by around 576,000 spectators in mostly sold-out stadiums and 1.6 billion TV viewers tune in.
After the huge success of the 2006 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Aachen, eventing and vaulting are added to the three traditional CHIO disciplines jumping, dressage and driving in 2007. Furthermore, the sporting programme is enhanced with floodlit competitions such as the Mercedes-Benz Prize in the main arena, the Nations’ Cup on Thursday evening. The marathon of the four-in-hand drivers is relocated from the forest of Aachen to the cross-country course at the Soers. The modifications go down very well and attract in total 338,500 spectators to the event, whose partner country in 2007 is Portugal. Furthermore, the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein e.V. (ALRV) opens its new CHIO Museum at its offices.
For the first time in over 40 years, the CHIOAachen 2008 is held over a period of ten days. The event kicks off with the vaulters on the first weekend of the tournament. The jumping, dressage, eventing and driving competitions follow on the Tuesday. Overall 357,250 spectators enjoy the CHIO live on site. The German show jumpers and dressage riders win their respective Nation Cups. In the “new” disciplines, three Germans take their place at the top of the winners’ rostrum: Nicola Ströh and Kai Vorberg in vaulting and Frank Ostholt in eventing. Driving is the only discipline that Germany doesn’t win; here they are pipped at the post by the team from the Netherlands.
Against the background of the biggest doping scandal in the history of the equestrian sport, the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein adopts a clear position for a clean and transparent sport. Tolerance of manipulating substances: Zero! Regardless of the reactions of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and the German National Equestrian Federation (FN), the organisers of the CHIO Aachen 2009 extend their anti-doping campaign immensely: Of the approximately 450 horses competing, every eighth is blood tested by the independent controllers of the MCP (Medical Control Programme). The horses’ legs are inspected for signs of manipulation using a thermography camera. The “Horse Watch Service” and 42 stewards monitor the well-being of the horses at the warm-up areas and in the stables 24 hours a day. Changes that don’t only register positive reactions from the 358,900 tournament visitors in 2009.
Italy is the tenth partner country of the CHIO Aachen 2011. The Italian guests are involved in the show program of the event, and bring “la dolce vita” to Aachen. Especially the Opening Ceremony on Tuesday, July 12th transports the signature of “bella Italia”.
The world-famous stadium of the CHIO Aachen as a completely digital experience? The possibility of saving Janne Meyer’s autograph directly on your iPad? The organisers of the CHIO Aachen presented 2012 innovative developments for the major event. Furthermore, the traditional show grounds of the Aachen Soers can be experienced with immediate effect at www.chioaachen.de, where a digital version can be explored. The Main Stadium and the Deutsche Bank Stadium was visualised and has turned them into an application that can initially be used for ticket sales purposes. This is important, because more and more visitors are ordering their tickets online, this trend will increase further in the coming years.
What a fantastic CHIO Opening Ceremony: The World Equestrian Festival celebrated a magnificent Opening Ceremony. 2013’s CHIO partner country Denmark transformed the Opening Ceremony in an impressive and royal festival a feast for ears and eyes alike. The highlight was Princess Royal Mary of Denmarks visit, who drove into the Main Stadium together with Princess Benedikte of Denmark in the Landau Carriage of the Danish Royal Family. They waved to the enthusiastic 38,000 spectators, while escorted by the Hussar Regiment and the Danish Royal Life Guards with their affiliated music corps. Princess Benedikte, who officially opened the CHIO Aachen, was very impressed by the atmosphere in the Main Stadium: “My love for horses and my passion for the equestrian sport aroused my enthusiasm for the CHIO Aachen, the World Equestrian Festival. This equestrian show stands for top sport and a fascinating ambience.” This atmosphere was particularly noticeable during a temperamental sabre fight performed by the Hussar Regiments. They gallopped over jumps in the Main Stadium at breakneck speed swinging their sabres. Emmelie de Forest, the winner of 2013’s Eurovision Song Contest provided musical entertainment from Denmark. She performed among others her winning song “Only Teardrops” live in the Main Stadium.
It was ready in time for the CHIO Aachen 2014: The new stand in the Deutsche Bank Stadium! The building work for the new stand at the Soers commended in July 2013. Thanks to the modern construction plan drawn up by the Aachen-based architect’s office “kadawittfeldarchitektur”, a further stand was erected to close off the open side of the largest dressage arena in the world. The stand was inaugurated during the “Horse and Symphony” concert on July 11th, 2014. The new stand offers capacitiy for 1,200 spectators, which means that now 6,300 visitors per event have a fantastic view of the dressage arena. The new construction is part of an overall package of building measures for the FEI European Championships Aachen 2015, which is being realised with the support of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
For many years the German-Dutch relationship has been characterized by espacially one thing: sporting rivalry. Not only football players but also riders could write a book about it. But Germany and the partner country of the CHIO Aachen 2017 are united by much more and so the spectacular opening ceremony became a celebration with friends. This has also been proved by the opening speech by the show-jumping duo, Ludger Beerbaum and Jeroen Dubbeldam, on horseback in the midst of the representatives of the participating nations ultimately made these borders disappear altogether.
And also in sporting terms a new era begin. The Dutch Masters joined CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva in the ranks of long-standing traditional Major shows. The four equestrian Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping all have a long-standing heritage in the sport and share a unique partnership with Rolex, who is also celebrating its 60th anniversary in equestrianism in 2017.
Sometimes quiet, sometimes loud, sometimes philosophical, sometimes warlike – the Opening Ceremony at the CHIO Aachen 2018 was colourful and full of surprises!
The partner country China presented a cultural, artistic and musical extravaganza in a class of its own in front of the crowd in the sold-out Main Stadium. 40,000 spectators enjoyed the open-air, floodlit show performance while the sun was setting. Around 250 horses and 1,000 participants, including many extras turned the 90-minute official opening event of the World Equestrian Festival into a wonderful evening.