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Former US National Coach and Trainer Legend

Klaus Balkenhol

Klaus Balkenhol is a highly skilled horse trainer who has achieved great success in the sport, including winning Olympic gold medals and training top riders. He emphasizes training horses in partnership and according to classical teachings.


Klaus Balkenhol's credo is to train horses in partnership according to the classical teachings. In doing so, he is guided by the scale of training. His successes testify to his great skill in horse training: he won Olympic team gold twice in the 1990s, and as national coach of the U.S. dressage team he achieved olympic team bronze in 2004. He also brought individual riders such as his daughter Anabel Balkenhol, FEI Dressage World Cup Final winner Helen Langehanenberg, Danish international Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and the British Olympic gold medallist rider Laura Tomlinson to the top of the world. For his achievements, he received numerous awards worldwide and the prestigious appointment of “Riding Master” (Reitmeister) in Germany. "The whole work with a horse should be a game, should remain a game, the more successful it will be. It does require a lot of patience and you shouldn't take it so seriously," says Klaus Balkenhol about his attitude to horse training. And this despite the fact that horses have always been working partners for him.

Klaus Balkenhol first mounted sheep and bulls as a child

Klaus Balkenhol was born on St. Nicholas Day, 1939, at Gut Ross in western Germany. His father worked there as an administrator and also bred horses. Even as a child, he was fascinated by all farm animals; he first practiced riding on sheep and bulls. Later, he saddled up on his parents' farm horses. He rode dressage, eventing and jumping under the watchful eye of Paul Stecken, among others, who also coached German Eventing star Ingrid Klimke and dressage legend Dr. Reiner Klimke. After leaving high school, Klaus Balkenhol completed an agricultural apprenticeship. However, the future as a farmer was uncertain at this time so he joined the police force. After working his way up to captain of the Mounted Police of the City of Düsseldorf, he was able to combine his passion with his profession.

In 1977 Klaus Balkenhol picked up the phone and called the German Equestrian Federation. He wanted to ride his service horse, Rabauke, at a dressage clinic. Klaus Balkenhol had taught the gelding the most difficult high school movements by himself. The unknown policeman was allowed to participate and the incredible journey began. At the clinic, the national coach at the time, Willi Schultheiss, saw Klaus Balkenhol riding and was thrilled: "I count Klaus Balkenhol and his Rabauke among the eight best pairs in Germany!" The national trainer wrote a letter to the Department of the Interior and requested that Klaus Balkenhol be henceforth sponsored by the Equestrian Federation and allowed to participate in international competitions with his service horse. Success was not long in coming: in 1979 Rabauke was the most successful horse in the world dressage rankings. Klaus Balkenhol was accepted into the Olympic squad.

With the police horse Goldstern to Olympic victory

Klaus Balkenhol discovering his most popular horse Goldstern was pure coincidence. In 1981, he saw the lanky gelding in the remote department of the Cologne Riding School and recognized his extraordinary potential for dressage. Klaus Balkenhol patiently built up the Westphalian through small-step dressage work in which he paid the greatest attention to cultivating the basic gaits. Unfortunately, the gelding's extremely difficult temperament stood in the way of quick successes in the arena. He managed to get Goldstern on his side and in 1991 the breakthrough came: within just two years the pair became German champions, European vice-champions and won team gold as well as individual bronze at the Olympic Games in Barcelona. The string of successes did not stop with other horses they had trained themselves.

"The art of horsemanship consists of educating great effect through very fine signals." Klaus Balkenhol wants to publicize this approach of fair and correct horse training worldwide and point out grievances in dressage sport. To achieve this, he founded the association Xenophon e.V., the Society for the Preservation and Promotion of Classical Equestrian Culture, in 2006, with several other like-minded people.

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Klaus Balkenhol

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