She jumped up on the podium, where she sprayed champagne like a Formula One Champion, then she brought the bottle to her lips and took a big swig. After that she let runner-up American Laura Graves and the third-placed Britain’s Carl Hester drink before giving the bottle to all three grooms.Evi Simeoni “Four Legs Move My Soul.”
The podium, the gold, the glory, the champagne, the cheering crowds. That is the glamor! But behind that is the reality of the years of hard work, heart aches, disappointments, and sometimes dismay that are the building blocks of a top athletes life.
German dressage rider Isabell Werth is the most decorated equestrian on the planet. An Olympian in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2016 . Olympic Team Gold in all of those Games plus one Individual Gold and four Individual Silver medals. World Equestrian Games 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and again Gold medals both Team and Individual. And these victories were on a series of different horses. Then there are the European Championships and more medals. If I listed all of the victories it would take up the entire book review.
Four Legs Move My Soul is a biography by Evi Simeoni and also an autobiography as Simeoni gives Isabell Werth space to express her thoughts and memories at length. I found this to be very valuable as it meant that I knew what Isabell thought and not just Simeoni’s interpretation of events. Isabell’s thoughts on Rollkur, Totilas, Doping, it is all in there.
This book goes through the start of Isabell’s lifelong relationship with horses and chronicles her training and competition with her most important horses as well as her long term relationship with her trainer Dr. Uwe Schulten-Baumer. Isabell credits him with having given her invaluable advice and training but it was a relationship that had some major bumps . In the end they parted company. Isabell had this to say:” The sport may appear to be all elegance and class , but do not ever be too trusting or naïve, even for just one moment.”
Riders of any discipline will find this a fascinating book. Isabell was always open to trying a different approach with a horse if something was not working. She adopted the techniques of Jose Antonio Garcia Mena to help with training the piaffe. Jose’s approach was a very different one from the traditional German schooling. But she found it worked!
There have been many ups and downs in Isabell’s career; injuries to her top horse at a crucial time, getting through a doping accusation and scandal but every day just carrying on. Riding. Training. Competing. She expresses how the horses reward her.
“But, no matter how similar or not similar the feelings of human and horses may be, I can sense that my horses are happy when they have done something right. Sometimes they even seem to burst with pride, and it pleases me when they let it out. They grow with the challenges and build up confidence. I wish everyone could feel something like it at least once. “Isabell Werth
This is a book any rider would enjoy reading. I would go so far as to say that anyone, rider or not, would find it a very interesting read. It is a translation from German and there are some spots where the translation shows through but it is a minor blip.