Michael Jung, the Champion par excellence
He is in the Olympus of Eventing riders: since he came onto the scene, he has left an indelible mark wit his every step.
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Reigning Team World Champion and individual silver, Caen 2014, riding his very brave Fischerrocana; individual Olympic Champion and reigning team champion in 2012 at the London Olympics, individual World Champion, Lexington, 2012, titles which he won with his stellar champion Sam; and still, the reigning European individual and team champion, Malmoe, 2013 riding Halunke, double gold medal also won at the 2010 European Championships in Luhmuehlen with his trusted Sam. And these are just some of the latest from a long list of achievements to which are added all the other medals and the numerous victories of the most important CIC and CCI in the world. We are talking about the German Michael Jung, a rider somewhat out of the ordinary, unreachable, that at the age of 33 years (he was born on 31st July 1982 in Bad Soden am Taunus, Germany) fully earned the title of Olympus of Eventing riders.
Eventing has always been traditionally the prerogative of the British and New Zealanders, who held in their hands the sceptre of victories undisturbed for decades. Champions who have written the history of full events in recent decades such as Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson, Andrew and Bettina Hoy, Mary King and so many others... until the young German came on the scene between 2008 and 2009, with Germany finally challenging the giants of Eventing.
His affirmation in the competition is not only linked to his talent, to his will and to the rigorous training acquired through the teachings of his father Joachim but also to a very professional vision of his sporting activity. Michael Jung, in fact, to train his horses and himself in a ‘complete’ manner regularly rides in show jumping and dressage events, in both the disciplines at Grand Prix level. In fact, at his stable there are not only eventing horses but also those for dressage and show jumping.
Especially during the winter, when the eventing season is at a standstill, he participates in show jumping and dressage competitions. In addition, at his stable, the Reit-Schule Jung located in Horb am Neckar in Baden- Wurttemberg, he devotes a great deal of time to the training and development of young horses in the three disciplines. Having several horses to ride in a competition helps to keep emotions under control, to create a routine of fundamental importance to enter the competitions of the largest events. Also, having so many horses in the stable means Michael doesn't need to rely on just the one horse but instead he has several top-level horses. "The current eventing formula involves the three tests, dressage, show jumping and cross-country, on the same technical level;
this implies a very thorough preparation of the horses in all three disciplines. We must deepen their technical skills in both on the flat work and in jumping, equal to those of the professionals of the disciplines” explains Michael. This says a lot about his attitude and foresight... You don't in fact become at the same time, Olympic, World and European champions by chance or because you're lucky enough to find good horses... Sam, in fact, at the start was not an easy horse at all from which you could expect a similar sporting career...
Michael Jung began to ride as a child under the watchful and expert eye of his father Joachim Jung who ran stables on the edge of the Black Forest in Germany, and who in turn was also an eventing rider. From his father the promising Michael received the basics of correct riding and the main principles of flat work, a starting point for any sport. Michael therefore grew up with very clear ideas on the training of horses, giving absolute priority to flat work. "Only after working correctly on flats you can tackle the work on jump, always starting with small and simple progressive jumps. When you have done a good work in jumping you can try cross-country obstacles. This progression applies both to horses and to riders with consistent rigour and discipline until a horse feel safe with obstacles, he won't be ready to jump in the country. You must take risk by rushing. Horses are under our responsibility and we must always act with respect, progression and caution" says Michael.
"Ever since I was a child my father taught me everything about horses. I didn't devote myself to a particular discipline, I simply dedicated myself to horses – says Michael – riding in the three disciplines: jumping, dressage and eventing, this has always been the prerogative of our stable. I prefer the outdoors, working in the countryside. Around our stables, there are rolling hills, which are very useful for the fitness of the horses, where we have placed a number of obstacles in the countryside to teach horses the technique to perform the cross-country jumps and to approach competitions in safely. We must always act with the horses, never against them. A very important aspect for horses is having fun, enjoying play.
Horses must approach everything with confidence, without fear and without effort, either physical or psychological. They must always fit and at ease in any situation. The hours spent in the paddock and the rest breaks are crucial for their psycho-physical freshness".
Sam is the star of the Jung house not only because of the results achieved but also because of his characteristics of a true champion. The career of Sam and Michael began in 2009 and from then on they became a pairing par excellence or this decade in Eventing competitions. "Sam is clever, he has great skill and is very sensitive - says Michael- At first it was quite a challenge especially in dressage because the gaits weren't special.
His short, compact physique made him very rigid and this required particular work of lengthening and extension. When a horse learns to elongate and distend its physique, widening its strides, moving its whole body, it softens and becomes flexible and loose. It's easy to then shorten it and collect it.
When Sam achieved a good balance, the rest came naturally because he has truly exceptional jumping qualities!". But today Sam isn't Michael's only star... "At the Weg of Caen Sam was supposed to be competing but he wasn't in top form, so I replaced him with Fisherrocana, a mare with exceptional talent, a big heart and a big head but she didn't yet have the necessary experience to deal with a similar test. The cross was also very difficult because of the soil made heavy from the constant rains and unevenness. Yet the horse started off safely and confidently, she listened to me carefully. She demonstrated courage and an incredible head. I rode her lightly with barely two fingers, she knew what to do. I was really surprised... an exceptional talent. "
Seeing him participating in the world cross of Lexington with Sam and at Caen with Fiscerrocana was a unique experience for those who know the Eventing world. Jung rode on ‘the tip of his saddle and his fingers' handling all the difficulties of the course with skill and transmitting to his horses safety and a desire to do well. No hesitation, no strong action, never sitting in the saddle, always and only ever in complete harmony.
An example of true horsemanship. Michael keeps his emotions in check, his concentration is full, only he and his horse, with which he is in constant communication, every hundredth of a second. This is what makes him a Champion par excellence.