Balagur: For­ever Young

This Olympic vet­eran turned dres­sage school­mas­ter seems to have found the foun­tain of youth.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Silke Rot­ter­mann

This Olympic vet­eran turned dres­sage school­mas­ter seems to have found the foun­tain of youth.

At al­most 28 years of age, the rus­sian-bred Orlov Trot­ter, Balagur, is still go­ing strong. af­ter hav­ing been a trot­ter and then a po­lice horse in rus­sia, he started a third ca­reer in the dres­sage arena at the ad­vanced age of 11. rid­den by rus­sia’s alexan­dra ko­relova, he suc­cess­fully rep­re­sented the coun­try no less than nine times at international cham­pi­onships be­tween 2002 and 2009. Trained by the late ger­man dres­sage trainer ge­org Theodorescu, the small, fiery stal­lion im­proved steadily with age and peaked with an in­di­vid­ual sixth place at the 2008 Olympic games in Hong kong at the age of 18.

Balagur of­fi­cially re­tired from com­pe­ti­tion at the age of 19, but he has con­tin­ued as a school­mas­ter. So what has been the source of his foun­tain of youth that ap­par­ently keeps him for­ever young? Mon­ica Theodorescu, ger­many’s na­tional dres­sage coach and daugh­ter of Balagur’s trainer, has cared for the stal­lion ever since he re­tired from the sport eight years ago. When asked what the se­cret is be­hind Balagur’s abil­ity to main­tain his youth­ful na­ture, Mon­ica says, “he sim­ply loves what he does.”

in fact, Balagur has an ex­tra­or­di­nary in­trin­sic mo­ti­va­tion to work and show the dres­sage “tricks.” When he was younger and still com­pet­ing, there was never a sin­gle day where he had to be asked to work. His unique re­la­tion­ship with ge­org, “for whom he did most of what he did and whose praise made him proud” says Mon­ica, en­abled Balagur to go far be­yond what seemed pos­si­ble for this rather small rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a breed not in­tended to ex­cel in the dres­sage arena, but to race in front of a sulky. This breed was founded in the 18th cen­tury in

rus­sia and is said to be in­tel­li­gent, sturdy and blessed with good health.

While Balagur al­ready en­joyed his daily train­ing, he ab­so­lutely cel­e­brated each time he went to a show. “He loved to show off in front of an au­di­ence,” Mon­ica re­marked. “The more peo­ple watched him, the bet­ter for Balagur.” His love for the sport did not cease in the course of al­most a decade, in which the strong-willed stal­lion started un­der the rus­sian flag. On the con­trary, Balagur ac­tu­ally achieved his best re­sults in his 18th year, plac­ing third at the holy show-grounds of aachen and sixth at the Olympic games in Hong kong.

The ap­par­ently good genes and a late en­try in the high­est level of dres­sage sport con­trib­uted to his good health, which en­ables Balagur to re­main fit and sound un­til this very day. How­ever, there are other rea­sons that shouldn’t be over­looked. first and fore­most, is the fact that Balagur’s very spe­cial equine per­son­al­ity had been hugely respected and con­sid­ered in what­ever he was asked to do.

Balagur never en­coun­tered any phys­i­cal or men­tal over­load, as he was trained af­ter the clas­si­cal prin­ci­ples, which have shown to im­prove horses and keep them healthy for cen­turies. This is also valid for the num­ber of starts he did each year, even though he was more or less an “only-horse” for alexan­dra at that time.

re­spect­ing the in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter of a horse also means that not ev­ery ath­lete en­joys the same kind of re­tire­ment. Balagur was sup­posed to be kept in train­ing a few more years af­ter his re­tire­ment and then move on to a quiet life in the field, as was the rou­tine for the rest of the horses of the Theodorescu fam­ily. But the opin­ion­ated grey had other ideas and has never been taken out of train­ing to this very day.

“When, in about 2012, we wanted Balagur to make the tran­si­tion from rid­ing-horse life to a field-horse life, he showed us very clearly that he had a very low opin­ion of this,” Mon­ica re­ported. While Balagur taught some of Mon­ica’s stu­dents how a cor­rect pi­affe, pas­sage or other high school move­ments feel, his train­ing work­load has grad­u­ally di­min­ished dur­ing more re­cent years. But he still has a lot of fun show­ing the move­ments that made him world-fa­mous and with which he earned the la­bel of the “danc­ing horse.”

dur­ing my visit in late Oc­to­ber 201W, Balagur im­me­di­ately re­acted to the noise of the shut­ter of my cam­era, pricked his ears and started to pi­affe like in his best days. He did not show one stiff step of trot, ei­ther. The 2W-year-old was still as sound as a bell.

in fe­bru­ary 201W, Balagur had to move sta­bles when Mon­ica sold her fa­cil­ity, lin­den­hof, and sta­bled her horses at the Olympic cen­ter in Waren­dorf in­stead. Balagur didn’t mind the least and, ever since, en­joys the oc­ca­sional hus­tle and bus­tle of this big yard. “dur­ing the Bun­de­scham­pi­onat in Septem­ber, Balagur was very ex­cited,” Mon­ica laughed.

While Balagur’s legs still do not show much wear and are as clean as 1U years ago, his feed­ing regime had to be ad­justed to his ad­vanced age. “about two years ago, we started feed­ing soaked hay cubes and a spe­cial mash for se­nior horses sev­eral times a day,” Mon­ica said. Balagur, like many other old horses, strug­gles to chew hay prop­erly.

His health con­tin­ues to be ex­cep­tional, and al­though he does have a few melanoma that are typ­i­cal for older greys, they do not seem to bother him.

Balagur is ex­er­cised by da­nia Mat­tal­iano, who has in­ten­sively taken care of her fa­mous charge for about three years now. He con­tin­ues to have a rather low opin­ion about be­ing turned out in one of the fields be­hind the sta­ble where Mon­ica’s horses en­joy some daily free­dom. in­stead, Balagur con­tin­ues be­ing hand-walked in the af­ter­noon on the ex­ten­sive grounds of the Olympic cen­ter at the edge of the woods.

This wise horse, whose 28th birth­day is fast ap­proach­ing, and who had a wild life like prob­a­bly none other on the international scene, is the liv­ing ex­am­ple that the sport at the high­est level does not nec­es­sar­ily end with horse full of health is­sues. in con­trary, clas­si­cal train­ing and a rea­son­able num­ber of starts over the years, given a cer­tain pos­i­tive ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion, keeps horses healthy and fit to play for a long time. even more im­por­tantly, Balagur has main­tained his same, im­pres­sive per­son­al­ity in the big dres­sage are­nas all over the world be­cause his peo­ple have al­ways respected his unique char­ac­ter and in­di­vid­ual needs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.