Exclusive interview: BERTRAM ALLEN, L’ENFANT PRODIGE OF CAEN

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Individual Qualification during Second round Individual competition at Alltech World Equestrian Games at Stade Michel D' Ornano, Caen - France

September – Young, talented, cold-tempered and hard-willing: unbelievable for his age. Not the dreamy kind of teenager, Bertram Allen, nineteen years old, is the revelation of the World Equestrian Games 2014, held this month in Normandy. Already known in the equestrian environment and one of the six selected for the Young Riders Academy, the Irish rider performed in the Ornano Stadium as anyone of his elder and more experienced colleagues. His World Championship, seventh in the final ranking, tells us something defining about his future career. Trained by Marcus Ehning, he seems to have the same confidence and attitude on the horse.

Bertram, you and Molly Malone V seem to be a great couple, aren’t you?

Yes, sure. Molly is a ten years old mare, and I have been riding her since almost three years. She is very careful, now she is just started jumping these competitions and she is behaving well. I’m proud of her.

You seem older in the way you face the arena, as if you were not feeling pressure at all…

I’m not that kind, I’ve never been. I’m a quiet guy, I think I was born this way. I rode ponies all my life and I’m used to be in the arena and compete. I was gold individual and team silver medallist in the European Pony Championships 2010, team gold medallist in 2012 and individual silver medallist in the 2013 European Junior Championships. This year I didn’t take part in the event in order to be here in Normandy.

Was it in your plans one year ago to be in the Irish team in the World Equestrian Games?

No, absolutely. Even four months ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of that. I think that it is the result of an excellent outdoor season with Molly: we won the Grand Prix in Lummen and the Grand Prix in Dublin. This very last determined the decision to have me in.

How did you feel on the speed class entering the Ornano Stadium for the first time?

I must admit I felt a light pressure but once I got in I didn’t really care. What surprised me a lot, was that I didn’t think to stay in the lead until the very end. I thought I was not so fast, but I was wrong. I’m happy with the result, I was just focused on having a good round and it was. In the team competitions I had a fault on both rounds, but they were good too, and in the individual rounds Molly was twice clear, just a time penalty. I think it is something great to have finished my first World Championship in the seventh position with a nine penalties total score.

What was your goal for this championship?

I wanted to help my team to gain the Olympics qualification but just the first five teams could obtain it. To me what would have happened in the individual competitions was just welcome experience. And I must say it was definitely my best experience of ever.

You have been riding since you were a child in Ireland, but now you are far from home… 

Yes, I live in Germany, in Hünxe, thirty minutes drive from Düsseldorf. I should have moved there just for a few months but then I decided to stay permanently and now it is three years I’m there. In my stable I can work on my skills. I live all by myself, because my large family, dad, mum, three sisters and three brothers, all still live in Wexford, Ireland, where I grew up. Last year I finished high-school and now I’m completely devoted to horses.

You have been trained by Billy Twomey and now Marcus Ehning helps you. They are consistent trainers…

I’m lucky. Billy is one of the most influential people of my equestrian upbringing. Marcus is for sure one of the best around. I have been working with him for three years now, he lives not far from my stable.

Who is you role model? Have you a rider you love in particular?

I have never had idols. I don’t like to copy anybody. I think there are many excellent riders, as Twomey or Ehning to learn from. But, as I said, no one in particular to worship. I want to be Bertram Allen, original.

You are known for saying you want your horses to be happy. What do you mean?

I think horses must live relaxed to express their best. They must enjoy their work in the same way we have to. I ride Molly in the morning, sometimes a second time for a light flat work in the afternoon but more often I ride my horses on the open country. It is something pleasant for both horses and riders.

This year you joined the class of the first Young Riders Academy. What kind of experience is it?

I think it is something important at this point of my equestrian career. It allows me to be surrounded by experienced people. It is a very stimulating environment.

If you had to suggest something to some other young riders who want to grow in this sport, what would you tell them?

I would tell them to never give up and try, no matter what, to win when the occasion comes. They do not have to step back, ever. Our sport is a tough sport, but if you try hard you’ll have a chance.

Bertram, you performed for the first time in the Irish team on the Nations Cup in 2013. Do you prefer to compete for your team or individually?

I prefer to be in a team, even if it is more stressful. I like to be with my teammates and here in Caen I had a special feeling being together: there was a great atmosphere among us. And I believe that it helped me being more confident.

by Barbara Leoni

image: Bertram ALLEN with the IJRC Director: Eleonora Ottaviani