Preparations for the CSI3 * tournament are currently underway at Hof Waterkant, home of team world and European champion Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann and her husband Christoph Zimmermann.
She is at home in the north and owes a lot to the shows in this region, because this is where she grew up. Now Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann and her husband Christoph Zimmermann want to give something back to sport. Christoph had had the idea of organizing a competition for a long time, but the short-term implementation of the plan was not planned in this form. Rather, it arose out of necessity after more and more shows were canceled or postponed in 2021. Especially after the already tough year 2020, the two agreed: We have to do something!
In the north in particular, more and more horse shows have been discontinued over the years. Hanover, Kiel, Bremen - none of them exist anymore. Only the Hamburg Derby and the VR Classics in Neumünster successfully hold the flag high: “We said, it's always easy to complain, but difficult to do something. And why not try it now? That was the starting shot," says Janne, and Christoph adds: "While I was sick with Corona, I had a lot of time to think. Holstein, Hamburg and Hanover used to be the motherland of show jumping, all good horses came from here, many good riders, Janne always talks about the past, when she went to Tasdorf or to Breitenburg, the best riders in Germany were there with her. That has now completely shifted, we have lost an incredible number of market shares and the breeding in the Netherlands and Belgium has become much better. They started with Opglabbeek, Peelbergen, Lier, Lanaken and Valkenswaard, where tournaments are now constantly taking place. That means we have basically lost many customers, students and riders to the greater Belgium / Netherlands area. And I've been saying to Janne for a long time that we have to do something about that!"
And that's exactly what they are doing right now, because with their CSI3 * the two are sending a clear signal that the breeds from Hanover, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein are still strong, that beautiful and important tournaments can take place here and therefore especially for the breeders and professional riders and traders to bring audiences back to the region. As a result, new sales markets develop and the connection to this breeding area is strengthened again. “We get along well ourselves” reports Christoph and continues: “We are very strong, we have good customers, the best riders in the world are our customers. But overall, I think we can all only benefit from it if the whole area is strengthened again. Maybe there will be imitators!"
What the two of them are doing there has to be copied yet, because they are not starting with a smaller international tournament, but are making their competition debut at Hof Waterkant with a real bang. A varied program awaits the spectators and riders: an internationally highly endowed youngster tour, an U25 tour, national and international jumping competitions and a foal auction fill the four days of the show venue on the north German facility. Another highlight of the tournament is certainly that Frank Rothenberger is responsible for the course construction, who is known for his exciting and challenging courses at the CHIO in Aachen, among others. The highlight is certainly the Holstein Grand Prix on Sunday, because this class gives riders the chance to get a ticket for the 2021 European Championships in Riesenbek or the 2022 World Championships in Herning, because the Holstein Grand Prix will be counted as a qualifying event. “What concerns us and me is that you go to the show and you are good, have good horses, but you have little chance of winning money back, that is, the entire cost of entry fees, travel and accommodation. This is often the case in the two-star CSI area, which we of course need because we often don't have any other competitions at all. That's why we always wanted to offer so much that every rider has the chance to win something back. Especially in the Youngster or U25 Tour! To do this, you usually have to be in the three-star category," says Christoph and Janne adds: "One of the reasons we have our eye on the three-star CSI is because we wanted a qualifier for the world championships and the European championships, so we have to you offer at least three stars!"
At a two-star level, you don't even have the opportunity to secure the minimum qualification for the Olympic Games, European or World Championships, for that you need at least the three-star level. However, there are currently relatively few tournaments, so it was extremely important for the two passionate horse people to set up this tournament on a three-star level. They want to combine international sport with young horses in order to give the riders and horses a platform. Janne also likes to think back to her own time: “I also know that from my time, as a young rider you are so grateful to be able to ride at a show in front of a big crowd. I had the chance two or three times and now we want to give this chance to other young riders too, that's why we also have the U25 tour. For us this is a matter close to our hearts. In addition, we have the amateur tour, so that our customers and students also have the possibility to get in the show ring. They in particular have been in a lot of trouble for a long time due to COVID and couldn't even go to any shows. We don't have a huge starting field, but yet it was just important to us."
Janne and Christoph want to give something back to the sport, because through various private tours in show jumping the top 25 of the world rankings have the opportunity to start a lot, but there is also a lot of "paid sport", for example riders who are among the best 50 to 100 riders of the world rankings are denied the start in a show, whereas financially very strong participants get the allowance. “There is a discrepancy for the other good riders who from the number 30 in the world hardly have any good Showgrounds to start at. That is also a matter of concern that we talk to colleagues about a lot and we always discuss how we can change that,” says Christoph. But this tournament should not only be a glimpse into the future from a sporting point of view, everything around it should also be right. In addition to outstanding competition conditions for the riders, there is another topic that is very important to both of them: “The atmosphere, actually that is exactly what defines our sport! That you cheer, that you inspire people - and not just because you faultless, but simply people who are enthusiastic about horses, want to experience horses, want to be close to the sport. I always think it's great in Hamburg (at the Hamburg Derby), for example, that you come so close to the warm-up area. You can actually do that with us. Everyone can see and understand how the horses are warmed up. That is important to us, we want to be transparent so that everyone can cheer for it from the beginning to the end,” says Janne and continues,“ I think we have to pick up the spectators again and let them get to the horse, but also for us as riders. When I speak for myself, I find it terrible to ride in front of empty ranks, because it is a completely different feeling to ride in front of people who are cheering, breeders, horse owners and young girls who keep their fingers crossed for you and maybe even more ask if you can stroke the horse - that's what makes our sport so special!"
Janne herself came to the sport that way, because she does not come from typical equestrian family. Her father started riding when he was over 30 and when he met her mother, she also started riding. Incidentally, Janne made the first jumps together with her dad, because he simply sat her on the saddle in front of him and flew with her over obstacles. So the family's enthusiasm for horses grew, and at some point they started breeding horses. However, the goal from the outset was not to breed top athletes, the original idea behind breeding was due to the enthusiasm for the nature of horses. It wasn't until Janne wanted to start jumping that the focus shifted, so that at some point the passion turned into a profession. As a result, Janne knows the path to top-class sport in a very special way and is therefore a role model for many young riders. "We want to make access to horses more palatable and also show the joy that one can experience with horses."
To set up such a tournament requires a lot of preparation, especially when you are organizing internationally, you have a lot of regulations. For example, the stable area must be completely cordoned off. Nevertheless, Janne and Christoph want to be personal, to invite people to their home and to be hosts: “We are not an agency tournament. You are our guest at our home and we live it that way. We try to design our facility in such a way that it can be used to hold a major international tournament. We have a lot of support! What is a little different with us is maybe the strength or the weakness, we decide every detail ourselves. There are a thousand small, detailed decisions, such as where the flower pot should be or whether the fence is brown or white, how the tents should look,” explains Janne and Christoph adds, “We even decide what the plates in the food area look like.” Every little detail decisions are made personally with love, which of course also costs time and nerves. "Especially from the people who help us, who sometimes just shake their heads," says Janne and laughs. But that's probably what will make the change in the end, because it is a horse show where you will be a guest on the lovingly furnished facility, in the living room of two important personalities of the equestrian sport and where the personal signature of the two is everywhere to be found.
Of course, Janne will also take part in the show herself, because equestrian sport is her core business and will continue to be expanded in the future. In the last few years in particular, the two of them have invested a lot of time, energy and financial resources in the purchase and expansion of Hof Waterkant: “In the long term, my dream is to be able to keep two or three more horses for the great sport that we don't sell , but which we keep with the help of several horse owners.” At CSI Hof Waterkant, she will compete in both the Youngster Tour and the big tour.
Hosting a CSI *** in such a short time requires a lot of strength, courage and a strong will - if someone can do it, then it has to be these two. With a strong team behind you, a facility that leaves nothing to be desired and a feeling for being a good host, the show at Hof Waterkant has the best conditions to be a great event. And with a little luck, the north will have a new tournament in the future, which riders and spectators alike can look forward to every year.