Interview with Christopher Bartle

We’re delighted to bring you an interview with Christopher Bartle. Christopher teaches and trains riders at the Yorkshire Riding Centre (YRC), around the UK and across Europe and has competed internationally in both Dressage and Three Day Eventing. He is currently National Coach to the German Olympic Three Day Event Team - winners of Team and Individual Gold medals at the Beijing  and London Olympics and Michael Jung, Individual World, European and Olympic Champion

This interview first appeared on the Yorkshire Riding Centre blog and we thank them for their permission to reproduce it here


Q. Unfortunately, no flies were available to sit on walls during negotiations (for the continuation of the role as National Coach to the German Olympic Three Day Event Team). Presumably, however, both parties were keen to continue this partnership. How hard was it to decide to stick with the hugely successful, double gold winning Olympic team?

A. It was and always has been strange to be coaching another Nation’s team and so competing against GB especially having ridden for GB both in Dressage at the LA Olympics and then in Eventing at the Europeans in ’97. However having coached the German team now for 12 years, I have built up a very strong working relationship with the Team, especially my Coach colleagues such as Performance Manager Hans Melzer and the rest of the back up team. Of course also the riders, some of whom e.g. Ingrid Klimke who have been on the team since I started. So it would have been hard to leave them and in the circumstances the only coaching position with another team that would have tempted me would have been with the Brits but there was no vacancy there as Yogi Breisner had decided after all to continue after London.

      The victorious German team at London 2012                        Photo: Kit Houghton/FEI

Q. What precisely does your role as Coach entail? Are you a Selector? Do you coach all aspects of the Event – Dressage, Cross-country & Show Jumping?

 A. I made it clear right from the start that I did not want to be a Selector as well as Coach. I don’t think that the riders would be as relaxed with me if they thought I was a Selector. When I was first approached to coach the German team, I was asked to be overall coach and so I work with all the riders in all aspects. However, I did say to the riders right at the start,that they should all have home trainers especially for Dressage and Show Jumping and that I would want to work in partnership with those trainers. I love it when the riders come with their home trainers to official training and also to the Championships if possible. It makes my job much easier.


Q. You held a lecture and a demo last February on your “Rules for Cross Country Riding” and are planning to run them again this February. Are these rules based on principles that you have always held or have they evolved over your years of riding and training?

 A. Training is always evolutionary. So I have developed these “Rules” over many years of riding and training. They were set out in a very structured way especially for my German squad at the end of 2010 when I thought that we had thrown away a chance to win a team medal at the Worlds in Lexington by breaking some of these rules. So now after each cross-country, I review the rider's performance in relation to these rules. (Details of the 2013 Lecture and Demonstration on February 27th here and March 1st here)

      Demonstration at YRC

Q. They say that it is tough at the top and that once you are there, the only way is down! Do you plan to continue with your training and selection process on the basis that “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” or do you feel that you need to change things in order to keep on improving?

 A. Actually there is an alternative to down and that is to go further up!! We won 3 Medals in London but there is one more there to be won. You are right in one sense, we have to keep the elements that work but the sport never stands still. We have to keep trying to bring on new horses and riders and continue to work to improve all aspects of the sport. We can’t be at all complacent or smug, our competitors will not be sitting back.


Q. The conditions in Rio will be very different from London. Is that something that you are already thinking about or will you concentrate solely on the Europeans next year and then the Worlds in 2014 and then think about Rio?

A. You are right, the ideal horse especially for the cross-country may well be different given the climate, the travel as well as a different course designer. But next year’s Europeans in Malmo, Sweden will be a stepping stone to the next big one, which are the Worlds in Haras du Pin, France in 2014. There will be a test event in Rio in 2015 and so we will definitely be sending horses there and trying to find out as much as possible about the venue even before then.


Q. Your young horse “Ike” is now 5 years old and did a few competitions last season. How is he going and what are you working on at the moment?

A. Ike (Ikonic II - pictured below)) arrived as a 4 year old in March 2011 and I have enjoyed being able to personally work with him and ride him most of the time. During the summer because of the Olympics and the pressure of competitions that I had to attend, I gave the ride on Ike to Niklas Bschorer for the Burghley Young Event Horse classes and then in a couple of BE100s. He qualified for the Burghley Final and was really good in his first official events. Now after a holiday he is back in work again and I am riding him again. The emphasis now is his dressage but enjoying every nice weather day to get around the countryside. Whether he gets a chance to go hunting this season is doubtful due to the wet weather but that remains a hope. Nik will ride him again in events next spring.


Q. Any rider (current or past) whose cross country style you particularly admire?

A. I use William Fox-Pitt (below), Andrew Nicholson and Nicola Wilson as British role models and my German team from London were all brilliant cross-country.


Q. What do you admire about the German “set up”?

A. What works very well for me, is the relationship that I have not just with the riders but with their home trainers. The riders are very open to being trained and love to be pushed. The facilities that I have available to me in Warendorf are excellent for winter training and then during the season I encourage them to come over to the UK and use the YRC as a training base to be able to get more competition experience over here.


Q. Are there any exciting combinations on the horizon that you would like to give the kiss of death to by mentioning here?

A. One of the real positives about the German “set up” is the Perspektiv Gruppe which is the equivalent of the British Potential Squad. The small group of riders who are part of the PG are based at Warendorf and have the opportunity to work with some of the best Dressage and Jumping Trainers. I come in contact with them fairly early on and then during their second or third year on the scheme, they have the opportunity to come and base with me here at YRC and train and compete in the UK. Sandra Auffarth was one of those. Her horse Opgun Louvo with whom she won individual bronze in London (below) jumped his first cross-country fences here at YRC when she spent her time here. I think one or two of these riders could be seen as part of the team for Rio.


Q. If you could change anything about eventing, what would it be?

 A. Actually I would not want to change anything. I think that the balance between the demands of the 3 phases of the sport is about right. The Dressage requirements at the 3 & 4 Star level are nearly at the limit of what I think an event horse can fairly be asked. They have to gallop and have the stamina required for the Cross-country plus the power and accuracy for the Show Jumping. It is the best all round test of the skill of the rider and trainer as well as the horse. My biggest concern would be if the demands of the cross-country were reduced in favour of more emphasis on the dressage or show jumping. The cross country should still be a test of stamina, fitness and horsemanship as well as the skill of the rider and training of the horse for the more technical questions.


And finally, the most important questions of all .....................

 Q. What price to go on I'm a Celebrity......?

A. You could not pay me enough!!!


Q. Strictly or X Factor?

A. If I was in solitary in prison, I’d watch X Factor!


To find out more about Christopher or the facilities and training available at the Yorkshire Riding Centre, visit the website at

      The outdoor facilities at YRC

Photos courtesy YRC, and Rozalia Szatanik