Goodbye, “Dr B”: Passing of respected dressage figure Wilfried Bechtolsheimer

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Wilfried Bechtolsheimer.
Wilfried Bechtolsheimer. © Laura Bechtolsheimer Dressage

Renowned British dressage rider, trainer and mentor Wilfried Bechtolsheimer has died at the age of 71.

A family funeral is being held today in Ascona, Switzerland, and details for a memorial service in Gloucestershire will be announced later in the year.

German-born Wilfried Bechtolsheimer, or “Dr B” as many fondly called him, was a well-respected figure in the world of dressage. He married Ursula Laura Kipp and in the early 1980s relocated to England where they set up their pride and joy, Eastington Stud, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire. It was the idyllic location to raise a family and Felix, Götz, Till and Laura soon filled the property with memories.

“His deep passion for our sport and his love of all creatures, but horses in particular, were at the heart of his artful horsemanship which touched so many of us and will continue to inspire,” a statement from the British Equestrian Federation said.

As a rider he was skilful and sympathetic and he was a great pupil but even more so a teacher. Always keen to support up and coming talent, he is widely credited for launching the career of Carl Hester. In three and a half years under Wilfried’s guidance, Carl made his senior debut in 1990 and then to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Such was Dr B’s generosity, he gave Carl the ride on his most prized horse, the licensed Oldenburg stallion Giorgione the first horse he trained himself to Grand Prix. ‘Gino’ gave Carl his first National Champion title and Olympic experience, putting him on the map.

In 1994, Wilfried took the ride back, going on to represent Britain at the 1995 European Championships and standing reserve for the Atlanta Olympics a year later. Gino retired to stud and died in 2012, just shy of his 31st birthday.

Mistral Højris and Laura Bechtolsheimer Tomlinson.
Mistral Højris and Laura Bechtolsheimer Tomlinson. (File image)

Laura was the only Bechtolsheimer sibling to follow in Wilfried’s footsteps in making a professional career from dressage. It was Gino who gave her a taste for piaffe and passage as a youngster. Wilfried mentored Laura and was instrumental in her development as one of Britain’s leading dressage riders. Success in the youth teams was followed quickly by medals at senior level, all under Wilfried’s close guidance, they worked together almost by telepathy. With Mistral Hojris, Laura found success but it didn’t come easily as ‘Alf’ was a tricky horse to train but to turn a horse some said was unrideable to an Olympic, World and European medallist was testament to Wilfried’s patient and sympathetic training methods, which Laura continues to champion, along with the other British riders.

Since 2010, Lara Butler has been part of the Eastington Stud team and Wilfried and Ursula have supported her as mentors and owners, helping her to achieve her ambitions. Success with Rubin al Asad and their homebred Kristjan with Lara riding has given almost as much pride as Laura’s own achievements.

“Dr Bechtolsheimer was generous with his time, knowledge and insight. For four decades, he was one of British dressage’s biggest supporters and all in the sport owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. He will be much missed but always held in high esteem and remembered with great fondness.”

British Dressage Chief Executive Jason Brautigam said Bechtolsheimer had done so much for British Dressage over the years it was hard to overstate his contribution to the sport.

“Everyone at BD is desperately sad to hear this awful news. Wilfried was hugely respected and very highly regarded by everyone in the dressage community, his immense technical knowledge and expertise was second to none.

“There have also been so many examples of his incredible generosity in supporting BD, often without public recognition, in his quietly modest and unassuming way. The sport certainly wouldn’t be where it is today without Dr Bechtolsheimer’s substantial influence and input.  Our thoughts and condolences go out to Ursula, Laura and all of his family at this difficult time.”

Dr. Wilfried Otto Bechtolsheimer (14 October 1948 – 8 April 2020) is survived by his wife Ursula Laura; his children Felix with wife Geraldine, Götz with wife Alida, Till with wife Julia, and Laura with husband Mark Tomlinson; and grandchildren Annalisa, Amélie, Wilfred, Lukas and Hanni.

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