Book Review: Four legs move my soul. By Isabell Werth and Evi Simeoni

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.

This is a photo I took of Isabell Werth giving a Masterclass at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington Florida

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Micheline Dallaire says:

    Where can we purchase this book. I’m from Quebec City Canada. I had the privelige to see Isabell at the WEG in Tyron 2018. What a thrill…and I would enjoy reading her biography. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I ordered my copy from an independent bookstore near where I live in Ontario. They ordered it for me. If you have a store near you you could ask them to get one for you. Or try Amazon.

      Like

  2. JD says:

    Looking forward to reading this book. Thanks, Anne!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are most welcome I hope you will find it as interesting as I did.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. David says:

    The champagne spray, indeed that’s the glamour of the sport. The work to reach that point is enormous. My daughters, they worked hard for theirs at Saratoga. A lot of long hours on saddle, off saddle. Watching videos, sorting through photos on every bit of detail. But, it only happens when everything aligns just right.

    While the attention was on Elizabeth winning all 15 of her starts at Saratoga, Deborah and Tara rode equally as well. They were a fraction of fraction behind Elizabeth, and Elizabeth knew she would have to be on the top of her game riding against them, and everyone else. What most overlooked was their 15, 1-2-3 finishes.

    Laura Graves (USA), watch out for her. If anyone from North America has a chance to break into the top ranks of dressage, it is her. The daughters attended a clinic she gave a couple years back in NC. Solid, solid rider.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Laura Graves is indeed a rider to be watched. My concern with her is that she retired, Verdades, her number one horse before Covid hit. And I have not seen her with another up and coming horse. She should be showing at horse at the level below GP; the Intermediare 1 and Prix St. George but I have not seen her doing that in Florida. She needs a good sponsor like Isabell has to get her some good younger horses to be bringing along.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. David says:

        Unfortunately, getting a sponsor is the other part of the work the public does not see. You have to schmooze people, at the mixers, a bit to get sponsorships to keep riding at the high levels.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Alli Farkas says:

    I’ve always wondered what she really thought of rollkur. I know during those intense years of competition with the Dutch she used it but never heard anything about it for the last few years. Will have to visit Amazon’s book section today!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      She is an outspoken woman. She tells it as she has found it to work on her horses and each of them is treated as individuals. You will find the book interesting I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Judy says:

    So glad to see this review. Adding to my Wish List.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. dprastka says:

    Great review! I’ll put this on my list of must reads. Thank you so much for sharing! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is my pleasure Diana!

      Liked by 1 person

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