11 September 2017

With only 1 year to go until the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, and his sights firmly set on there, we caught up with German Dressage star Sönke Rothenberger to hear his thoughts on his horses, his family, his career, and everything in between.

Why riding?


What draws the 22 year old Sönke to horseriding is "that you get to work together in a partnership with your horse over many years, until something special is created which allows you to compete at the highest level with your friend and partner."


And that sentiment isn’t just limited to dressage either. During his teenage years, Sönke spent quite some time in the Jumping ring – so why the switch back to dressage?


“I got the chance to ride Cosmo, so that’s why I switched back. It’s not a decision against jumping or for dressage. I just really like good horses, so for now I’m doing dressage but maybe in future it will be jumping again!



“Cosmo is a special character. He’s full of emotions, full of power. He’s super intelligent. That’s why he learned everything so fast and why he does everything with such charisma.


“I wouldn’t say he was easy, but of course he’s such a good horse and brings so much talent that it’s easier than a horse you have to really ride to bring out talent.


“The difficult part is keeping him happy and learning to lead him in the right direction and see how much he can give you back – when he gave back what we thought was the best he could do we had to really praise him and give him treats so he knows that what he’s doing is really good. He’s really energetic but he has a great character and that’s so important because it’s the aura and the charisma he has, so I’m happy he has that character.”


Cosmo and Sönke are also one of only five horse and rider combinations to score above 90%, and with the 4th best score ever!



Cosmo is a special character. He’s full of emotions, full of power. He’s super intelligent.
FEI World Equestrian Games™

His passion for riding and horses is clear to even the most clueless onlooker.

When he was faced with the question of what he would do if he wasn’t a rider, Sönke seemed nonplussed. “I guess I’d just be a normal student studying business, like I am now….but I’d meet up with my friends more, probably.”


What is immediately apparent to anyone who chats to this young man is that everything is about the horse.


His dedication to and respect for the horses that he calls his best friends is the stuff that books are made of, and he’s always quick to remind you that his success is only half his. In fact, we have a sneaking suspicion that if Sönke could split his medals down the middle, you’d find the second half proudly displayed around Cosmo’s neck at their next competition.


It’s an incredibly refreshing outlook, and his love for the partnership might be the secret ingredient in his recipe for success.


What are the plans going forward? Sönke already has a team Olympic gold, a team European gold and an individual European silver under his belt, so surely he must be starting to turn his mind towards individual placings?


With the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games on the horizon, most of us would expect to see Sönke and Cosmo putting in an appearance, and possibly even contesting the individual medals. Although Tokyo seems like a very distant dream right now, we all know that training dressage horses is a marathon and not a sprint, so Sönke is definitely thinking long term.



“I knew from the first day I sat on Cosmo that he was capable of doing anything. He was the youngest horse at Rio so it was nice that we were ready. This year he was a bit older but still at only 10 it was amazing for me that he achieved such high marks. Of course the FEI World Equestrian Games is on my mind and that’s the biggest goal for 2018.


“The long term goal of course is Tokyo because I actually think that in Tokyo Cosmo will have reached the peak of his potential.”


Sönke adds, “The biggest dream though is to have all three Rothenbergers (Sönke and his two sisters) on a senior championship team. It’s very difficult because we depend on the horses, and we all have to be fit, and be at the same level at the same time. I don’t know if it will stay just a dream, but that’s definitely something we want to achieve as a family!”


On top of that, Sönke says he has two nine year olds at his yard who he thinks have a lot of potential and could be good upcoming horses for him. “I don’t know if they’ll accomplish what Cosmo has but the potential is there, so we’ll see what the future brings,” he says. We suspect he’s being modest and that we’ll see Sönke on more than one horse at GP over the coming few years!


“The FEI World Equestrian Games is on my mind and that’s the biggest goal for 2018.”

We also wanted to know the secret behind Germany constantly producing such good dressage riders. Sönke says the secret lies in the breeders and the studbooks who have constantly ensured that there is access to great horses for the German riders.


As well as that, he says that there are a lot of trainers who had huge success and are now willing to pass on all their knowledge to the younger generations, so they inherit and get the benefit of all of their experience.  Especially when those trainers are your parents!


His passion for riding and horses is clear to even the most clueless onlooker,It certainly seems that Sönke is absorbing all of that knowledge and putting it into practice. Our advice? Memorise this young face carefully, because it may just be the future of German dressage.




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