“All young horses should be able to jump, or at least step over an obstacle in the terrain, regardless of their discipline, believes the Norwegian eventing rider Hans Bauer, who emphasizes versatile training as essential in all types of horses. Not only for the sake of durability but also for the horse’s mental well-being.
Text by Therese Alhaug. Photo by Lena Saugen
The Norwegian eventing rider Hans Bauer, 51, plays several roles in the world of eventing — as a coach, course designer, technical delegate, and judge. He’s currently Norway’s best and likely its oldest active eventing rider. With two European Championships, three Nordic Championship medals, and seven golds in the Norwegian Championships, he’s quite the achiever. Almost making it to the Tokyo Olympics, he missed the mark by just one point.
The chestnut gelding, Præstegårdens Leopold, has been his companion for the last ten years. At 17 years of age, Leopold and Hans recently clinched the Norwegian Championship once again and secured a silver medal in the Nordic Championship. “Leopold is in better shape than ever,” exclaimed the enthusiastic eventing rider after the second championship medal of the summer.
Producing a good horse is about making a versatile horse, where the technical aspects pose challenges to both horse and rider. This shift calls for a well-rounded rider.Hans Bauer
Eventing – a demanding sport
It’s an early Saturday morning. Hans prefers to schedule his training sessions in the mornings:
“I find that everything accomplished before 12 is of the highest quality; that’s when I’m at my peak,” says the Norwegian rider, who juggles his equestrian pursuits with a full-time role in the family’s clothing business.
Eventing is often likened to the equestrian version of a triathlon due to its three distinct phases: Dressage, Jumping, and Cross Country. Originating from fox-hunting traditions in the 19th century, it evolved into a military-dominant sport in the 20th century.
When riding in different terrain, small fibres are crushed and build up, reinforcing tendons and ligaments. Besides, hilly terrain improves the horse’s balance and body control.Hans Bauer
Good condition, strength, harmony, and athleticism are crucial for success in eventing; and a good dose of courage. “The sport demands it, and the body must keep up, says Hans, who often sees himself out skiing or running next to riding.
Hans believes in a varied and rigorous training plan for both the horse and rider. “Variety in training is essential for the horses’ physical and mental durability,” he says, explaining that he never practices the same exercise for more than two consecutive days, as he believes a horse ridden solely within an arena may become bored over time. His training week combines trail rides, dressage, jumping, and conditioning training.
“We take the young horses on the trailer and drive to different places to train, and to give them as many impressions as possible. This way, a casual walk along the road at home becomes effortless.
Every young horse should be capable of jumping a small log in the terrain, regardless of their specific training discipline, or at least be able to step over one,” he says, once again highlighting the importance of exposing horses to various experiences to promote mental well-being and foster confidence. He adds: “Besides, all horses are happy when they get to gallop freely. It’s good for their balance, psyche, and muscles.”
A good eventing horse should be capable of jumping 1.40m and performing dressage at Medium level, but it must also embody bravery.Hans Bauer
Hans’s companion, Præstegårdens Leopold, initially arrived at his stable as a young dressage horse seeking training following an injury. Their connection was swift, and Leopold has been under Hans’s ownership ever since.
He tells us he approaches the training of all horses with an eventing perspective: “Durability is key, regardless of their intended use,” he says, describing how he incorporates weekly trail rides through hilly terrain to fortify hooves, joints, tendons, and muscles.
“When riding in different terrain, small fibres are crushed and build up, reinforcing tendons and ligaments. Besides, hilly terrain improves the horse’s balance and body control,” he explains.
Body control is undoubtedly crucial for the eventing horse, which must be able to move both uphill and downhill, often at high speed. But according to Hans, riding out doesn’t necessarily equate to a day off: “When hacking out, even on long reins, I still remain fully engaged in the ride,” he says, expressing his growing concern about riders using their phones while on horseback.
Now and then
The experienced eventing rider started his riding career at Steinseth Riding Center outside Oslo, where an established eventing environment existed. Back then, eventing competitions were held in the ‘old format’ lasting over three days, including steeplechase and hacking out on roads and tracks, in addition to today’s three tests. Since then, eventing has undergone significant changes. According to Hans, it’s no longer enough for an eventing horse to be merely fearless.
“A good eventing horse should be capable of jumping 1m40 and performing dressage at Medium level, but it must also embody bravery,” he says. “In fact, a top-notch eventing horse continues to progress each week and is still developing, he explains, underscoring the ongoing mental work involved.”
According to Hans, producing a good eventing horse is about making a versatile horse, where the technical aspects pose challenges to both horse and rider. “This shift calls for a well-rounded rider, ” he says.
Variety in training is essential for the horses’ physical and mental durability. I never practice the same exercise for more than two consecutive days.Hans Bauer
Highlighting the significance of dressage across all disciplines today, Hans points to show jumping icons Jens and Peder Fredricson, who train under dressage expert Kyra Kyrklund. “As the demands of the sport keep growing, you cannot skip the essential dressage work,” he says.
In addition to mastering showjumping, dressage, and trail skills, conditioning work is essential in eventing. “This typically involves driving to a suitable location once a week in search of the best footing,” he explaines.
To Hans, everything revolves around finding the optimal way to keep the horse sound and fit. Maintenance and service are equally crucial: “You need a skilled farrier & veterinarian, and good trainers. “And if something goes wrong, he says, I won’t just sit and wait. I’d rather drive a few hours than wait two days for a vet to show up.”
Like father, like son
In the midst of their busy lives, the Bauer family is deeply involved with horses. Seventeen-year-old Hans Oliver is stepping into his father’s shoes, while Hans’ wife manages logistics, PR, and stable work and lends a hand with the dressage work.
2023 saw both father and son securing gold medals in the Norwegian Championships, Hans earning a silver in the Nordic Championship, and Hans Oliver being qualified for the European Championships with his 14 year old partner, Jappeloup.
“We work as team collagues,” says Hans Oliver, happy to be able to train alongside his father.
When being asked asking how he mentally motivates his horse, Hans Oliver says:
“Positive feedback! I get happy myself by praising the horse! In my opinion some riders can be a bit too tough on their horses. It doesn’t work for me this way, at least not for my horses. You have to be a bit psychological.”
Hans Oliver expresses his gratitude for his introduction to the sport, not only in terms of having the opportunity to grow up alongside his father, but also in terms of his access to some great trainers: “One of my trainers, Lillian Grepne, unlike many, focused equally on theory – covering aspects like physiology, care, and feeding – in addition to riding. This approach has stayed with me over the years, providing me with a deeper understanding of the horse’s overall health, he explains before hurrying off to his weekend job, tossing a question in the air on his way out: “Dad, could you throw some carrots into Jappeloup’s paddock before you leave?”
I get happy myself by praising the horse! In my opinion some riders can be a bit too tough on their horses. It doesn’t work for me this way, at least not for my horses. You have to be a bit psychological.Hans Oliver Bauer
The horse comes first – always
It comes with a cost, both with horses and travels to major competitions at a level not commonly found in Norway. At the same time, there’s a vulnerability with having only one horse, but with good management and a solid training plan, the two Bauer riders have proven it’s possible to keep a horse in good shape at this level throughout the years.
The family lives and breathes for the sport, and according to Hans, the horse takes precedence over everything else.
“It’s just the way it is,” he says, affectionately patting the 17-year-old Leopold on the neck. “I am very fond of him. Very, very fond of him,” he concludes.