German international dressage rider Valentina Pistner is one of Europe’s elite young riders. Valentina won the Kur gold medal at the 2020 European Junior Rider Championships with her horse Flamboyant who was previously owned by Isabel Werth. Prior to that she had already competed in three European Championships and claimed nine medals by the age of 17. She has recently returned from injury to help Germany win the silver medal at the 2023 European Young Rider / Under 25 Championships and also won the individual bronze medal. Read on to learn more about the ultra-talented Valentina, her ambitions and top tips for success.
Tell us about you and your horses
My name is Valentina, I’m twenty years old and I’m a German dressage rider. In September 2023, I moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to combine my riding with my studies. I am studying at the University of Amsterdam, and I hope to work in business/marketing one day.
I took my two horses Flamboyant and Sellerina.
Flamboyant (Fidertanz x De Niro) has been my partner for many years and I owe him everything. We’ve had the honour of competing at four European Championships together and winning eleven medals, including individual gold. He really is a champion (and he knows it).
Sellerina or “Sally” is our 8-year-old self-bred mare out of Sezuan x Bellissimo. I see a lot of potential in this horse and hope to train her up to U25 level and possibly Grand Prix. She’s a confident little lady with just the right amount of spice and a heart of gold.
How did your horses come into your life?
Flambi joined us in 2017 after winning the Nürnberger Burgpokal with Isabell Werth. It took a lot of confidence to take over the reins from such a special horse, but we clicked immediately. Seven months later we competed at our first European Championships in Fontainebleau and came home with three silver medals. He was ten and I was fifteen at the time.
The first time I sat on Sally was in 2021 when she was only 5 years old, and we girls had a very special partnership from the start.
When and where do you ride?
The stable in the Netherlands is outside Amsterdam and I ride about 5 times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on my university schedule.
I love to ride outdoors, but we are lucky enough to have two large indoor arenas for the winter.
How did you start riding?
I was very privileged to be born into an equestrian family. I always had my older brother to look up to and my parents who rode in their youth. My first ride was at the age of three on my brother’s first pony “Joschi”, which we never sold. Nowadays my brother has (sadly) stopped riding and together with my parents he is my biggest supporter from the sidelines. It was great growing up with horses and I think it taught me some important life lessons from a young age.
What you and your horses currently working on?
With Flamboyant, we are working to keep him supple, fit, and happy over the winter. Even though he’s about to turn 16, he’s reliving his youth and is as motivated as ever. I think it’s important to keep that energy up and focus on flat work and the basics over the winter, rather than riding more and more lines from the Prix St. Georges. I am happy to be able to take both horses to our German squad training in Warendorf on a regular basis, as there is always room for improvement, especially in the flat work.
It’s similar with Sally. We are always working on the basics and have her on soft aids. She’s a big horse whose body is still developing and it’s important for us to do things at her pace. We’ve certainly picked up some more collection, but in a playful way. She’s a clever girl who learns in no time.
What do you love about riding?
What I love about riding is that horses teach us about real life. We must be disciplined, but at the same time very flexible. We must work hard, but we also have to remember that it’s just an animal we’re working with. We learn that every day is different, and things never go as planned. Most importantly, we learn to work as a team and to build meaningful connections with our four-legged partners. Alone, we won’t be able to achieve our goals.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
It would be an incredible experience to compete in a Grand Prix with our self-bred mare, Sally. I think it would be a great achievement as a rider. Otherwise, I take things as they come.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Rarely, but when I do, it’s usually for a Nations Cup result for the team. I think it’s natural to feel a certain amount of pressure when the team is dependent on your individual results.
How do you deal with them?
I always keep in mind that the only thing that is in my control is that my horse and I can only do our best.
Do you have any rituals before competing?
My mum does my hair before all the big competitions, and I like to go over my test with my trainer.
Your Top Tip
I find visualisation very helpful before a test. I visualise every step of the test, from leaving the warm-up arena to the final halt. This gives me a sense of security.
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?
Life will continue to throw new obstacles in your path, but the only thing that matters is how you choose to overcome them.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I think it would be incredible to do an extended canter on Glamourdale.
Who is your equestrian hero?
Isabell Werth. She is a very strong personality and an incredible horsewoman.
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
Ricky Gervais, Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Adele, and my mum. I think that would be hilarious.
Favourite colour horse?
Favourite horse event?
Future Champions in Hagen
Pasta (in all forms)
Favourite way to relax?
I love reading.
The Holiday or the show Gilmore Girls
If you enjoyed meeting Valentina you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here . You can keep up with Valentina’s progress and check out her instagram page here