Christian Ahlmann and Mandato van de Neerheide – a FEI World Cup™ Final Combination to Look Out For

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Christian Ahlmann and Mandato van de Neerheide - Photo by FEI/ Dirk Caremans

Edited Press Release

The equestrian stalwart Christian Ahlmann from Germany is set to make his eighth appearance at the prestigious Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final, a competition he triumphed in back in 2011. This time, Ahlmann will be partnered with the impressive Mandato van de Neerheide, the stallion with whom he has secured a spot in the final. As he gears up for this year’s event, Ahlmann reflects on the past year and eagerly anticipates the upcoming challenge.

Reflecting on the past year, you’ve come a long way since your accident and now placed 32nd in Longines Ranking, a remarkable achievement and a testament to your resilience and skills. Looking back at this season can you give us an overview of your season and tell us about your horses that have contributed to your success?
Christian Ahlmann: “Last year presented its challenges, and that is an understatement. With setbacks like falls resulting in fractures as well as horses being injured, there were many hurdles to overcome. It took some time to get going again, get back to top fitness, and start rising again. But now things seem to be on the right trajectory, and I am determined to keep it going this way.

However, amidst these trials, Mandato van de Neerheide emerged as a standout performer, clinching victories including the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ in Mechelen, scoring all the points required for FEI World Cup™ Final qualification”, Ahlmann shares.

“Additionally, Ottorongo Alpha Z has made significant progress, transforming from a novice to a respectable Grand Prix contender. Alexandra Thornton’s horses, Blueberry and Classic Dream, also made notable contributions, excelling in competitions in Saudi Arabia as well as other Middle Eastern destinations, with Blueberry’s being paramount in winning the League of Nations in Abu Dhabi.”
 
You secured victory at the FEI World Cup™ Final in Leipzig back in 2011. How do you plan to approach the upcoming competition in Riyadh?
Christian Ahlmann: Mandato van de Neerheide has been a cornerstone of my recent successes, he has been steadily on the rise and I believe together we have the potential to excel and aim for top spots throughout the event.
 
You’ve had the opportunity to explore Riyadh and other Middle Eastern destinations in the past. Could you share your insights and experiences regarding this region’s equestrian scene and its evolution over time?
Christian Ahlmann: My perspective on the region is undeniably positive, particularly regarding the growing number of riders. When I competed in Riyadh in December, I noticed a significant expansion in participation. Previously, internationally, we saw a limited number of top riders with strong horses competing at the highest levels, capable of winning prestigious events like the FEI League of Nations or even Olympic medals. However, this group was relatively small.

Fast forward to recent times, and this landscape has transformed dramatically. The equestrian community in the Middle East has swelled, especially at the grassroots level. More riders have joined the ranks, and this was evident during my visit to Riyadh’s shows last December. The lower-level classes saw a substantial increase in participants compared to previous years. Similarly, the shows in January’s UAE boasted starting lists that rivaled those in Europe, showcasing a very competitive equestrian scene.

This surge in participation is an incredibly positive indicator. It reflects not only the sport’s growing popularity but also the deep-rooted passion and dedication of the individuals involved. People in the region are embracing the challenges, demonstrating a genuine love for both the sport itself and the horses involved.
 
Horse riding seems to be a family affair for you, with your son and daughter also riding. What does a typical day look like in the Ahlmann household when it comes to riding and training?
Christian Ahlmann: My son Leon is 11 years old and my daughter Ella is 4 years old.  Leon has embraced riding as a regular activity, including participation in pony competitions. Balancing his school responsibilities and other commitments, he manages to ride three or four times a week. We often train together, and I take great pleasure in overseeing his progress.

Ella is also a horse fan and is regularly at the stables. She also rides on the lunge and has already ridden in competitions. Time will tell whether she will join Leon and trips to competitions will become a true family affair.
 
With Riyadh being a focal point of this season, what are your goals beyond the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final? At 49 years old and with the Big Five on the horizon later this year, are there any personal milestones you’d like to share with us?
Christian Ahlmann: This being an Olympic year, our focus naturally gravitates towards the grand stage of Paris. I am actively pursuing qualification and aiming to secure our place among the elite competitors. And of course, the FEI World Cup™ Final presents a prime opportunity to showcase our skills at the highest level of the sport, and I am fully committed to making the most of it.

So yes, our planning revolves around the FEI World Cup™ Final, after which we’ll strategize for the upcoming tournaments. The Olympic Games stand out as a major goal, and our pathway involves participating in prominent events like the Global Tour, where I’ll maintain a consistent presence. Similarly, we target select FEI League of Nations where I’m nominated, although final decisions hinge on my current form and performance trajectory.

Despite challenges faced last year, including injuries that impacted both myself and my top horse, Dominator 2000 Z, I remain committed to my sporting ambitions. Collaborative efforts with reliable partners are crucial in achieving significant milestones, and while hurdles are inevitable, we are actively addressing them with optimism.

Age is not a deterrent to my goals of excellence in riding at the highest levels. I hold onto my sporting goals not only for this year but also for the future, ensuring that age does not hinder my determination to excel and keep competing at the top level of equestrian sports.