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Bonnie Rombach Photography

Bonnie Rombach Photography


My Ties to The Soers 
By Bonnie Rombach

In 1957 I joined the Hoofers Riding Club as a student at the University of Wisconsin, USA. A fellow Hoofer was a student from Germany who wowed us with film of Hans Günter Winkler and Halla winning the 1955 World Jumping Championship in the Soers. 

Once out on my own I could no longer deny my first love. I bought an airline ticket, packed my bags, and told my family "I'll be back." The Landes Reit-u. Fahrschule in Wuelfrath, Rhineland near Dusseldorf under the tutelage of Albert Brandl was where I landed. The next few years were filled with intense learning and wonderful friendships. The staff was an international melting pot with members coming from as far away as Australia and Iceland. 

The CHIO at Aachen was an event to which we all looked forward. It was such a thrill to be there, to actually watch Hans Günter Winkler conquer those huge jumps on that magnificent green carpet. It was awe inspiring to sit on the bleachers of the dressage arena and watch such greats as Josef Neckerman and Harry Boldt demonstrate what dressage was all about. On what is now the parking lot, four-in-hands, driven by masters such as Imri Abonyi from Hungary or Zygmunt Walliszeweski from Poland, executed obstacles with a skill and speed that edged on the impossible. I was in horse heaven. 

I married a colleague who had opened a riding school on Soerserweg across the street from the world's most renowned horse show. During the CHIO we provided stabling for the Polish and Hungarian driving teams. A huge honour for our teenage riding students was performing a quadrille on the hallowed grounds of the jumping field during an international dog show. I knew that I would never ride well enough to compete on that field, but to be congratulated as director of the quadrille, to receive a bouquet of flowers and to be escorted to the VIP box was just as unforgettable. 

Moments that remain burned in my memory: Reiner Klimke on "Dux" winning his first European Championship and momentarily sitting near me on the wooden bleachers with tears in his eyes; Christine Stückelberger warming up on her mammoth gelding "Granat" and almost landing in the dirt from his exuberance; and the Russian, Elena Petuschkova, on her handsome black stallion "Pepal" with his unusual braids winning the World title. 

Later we moved to Canada, but our daughter, Helen, never lost her ties to her birthplace in the Soers. After working for the 1986 World Dressage Championships in Ontario, Helen returned to Aachen and joined the staff of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein. She eventually took the reins as the Coordinator of the FEI World Equestrian Games Aachen 2006. 

A labour of love for me was doing the English translation for the centennial book of the ALRV. Having been absent from the CHIO for 18 years, I returned for the celebration in 1998. My heart was in my throat as I again walked through the entrance and breathed in the unique atmosphere of the "World Equestrian Festival." As I greeted Anton Fischer, I swelled with pride when he thanked me for having come to Aachen in the first place and having produced such an amazing daughter. 

My life may have followed an entirely different course if Hans Günter Winkler hadn't had such an impressive win more than 50 years earlier.




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