Tribute: Dr Wilfried Bechtolsheimer
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While the sport still comes to terms with the sad loss of Dr Wilfried Bechtolsheimer, we asked a number of the sport’s personalities to reflect on the person he was and the extensive legacy he leaves behind.
An orthodontist by trade, Wilfried moved with Ursula to the UK from Germany to raise a family. They were childhood sweethearts from a small village who went on to make an idyllic corner of Gloucestershire their own and quickly embraced all things British. Wilfried even changed nationality and proudly wore the Union flag at the 1995 European Championships before his focus turned towards developing Laura into one of the sport’s leading medallists in Britain.
He took everything in life with great humour and humility and always acted with great integrity. His passing leaves a huge void across the sport in Britain but as a close family, our thoughts are with Ursula, Laura and others. Rest in peace, Wilfried.
Jennie Loriston-Clarke MBE, BD President, Chair 2007 - 2013
Wilfried Bechtolsheimer was quite simply a tremendous supporter of British dressage. He’ll certainly be mourned the world over and is a huge loss to dressage. He fielded so many excellent ideas to improve the sport and the management behind it, he always had my full respect. His generous nature, extensive knowledge and ability to guide and lead will always stick with me.
It was an honour to ride with him in the 1995 European Championship team and while we didn’t trouble the medallists, I remember he was a fantastic team member.
The Bechtolsheimers were the most generous and enthusiastic hosts, Wilfried and Ursula were a terrific partnership. A good number of our Junior and Young Rider teams benefited from wonderful hospitality which sent them to Championships in great style and with a winning mindset. This carried on as Laura’s career developed and I’ve no doubt that the foundations they laid then were essential towards establishing Britain one as of the most respected nations in the world now. Their support and legacy has helped put riders on the podium and improve our standing.
He had an air of authority with a certain kindness, he was someone we all respected and held in the highest possible regard. He will certainly be sadly missed. The thoughts of us all are with Ursula, Felix, Götz, Till, Laura and the family.
Desi Dillingham MBE, BD Vice President, Chair 1996 - 2007
BD lucked out when one family Bechtolsheimer arrived in this country in the early 80s. Horses were already their passion but a training clinic with Ian Woodhead lured Laura into dressage and the rest is history. The B’s have been the quiet driving force behind BD for the last 30 years and a better friend no one could ever ask for in Wilfried!
Their association has done everything for our sport, the help of world renowned trainers such as Harry Boldt, Klaus Balkenhol, recognising the talent that was Carl, encouraging riders, financial support of shows to open new horizons for the sport. ‘Dr B’ was loved, admired, had the most wonderful sense of humour and made our journey to glory so much fun. Through the laughter of the good times and through the tears of sadness we say goodbye – he will never be forgotten.
Carl Hester MBE
Without the support of Wilfried, and Ursula, I wouldn’t be where I am. They gave me my break when I needed it most. I couldn’t see a way forward but their help and support put me on track. It wasn’t just a job, it was everything Wilfried taught you - life lessons which I still hold dear now. His training and management ethos has also stuck with me throughout my career – horses only work four days per week, field turnout, giving them time – all part of letting horses develop and be happy.
He taught me how to be generous and I knew that I wanted to do for others what they’d done for me and I now see that helping others to achieve gives every bit as much enjoyment as what you get from doing it yourself. He’ll be very much missed by us all.
Stephen Clarke, FEI 5* judge and former BD Judges Director
We are all so sad to lose ‘Dr B’. His dedication and input into our sport over so many years is beyond measure! My thoughts are now with his family at this sad time.
Richard Waygood MBE, Performance Director, former Dressage Performance Manager
No one within the dressage world would not have been touched at some point by Wilfried’s professionalism and generosity. During the nine years I worked as Performance Manager, I was blown away by Wilfried’s exemplary manner and conduct - he was a true gentleman. He was an inspirational figure who has supported Team GBR and British Dressage through thick and thin. In simple terms, he was one of the good guys who will be sorely missed.
Lara Butler, Bechtolsheimer stable rider
It still doesn’t feel real. My career wouldn’t be what it is today without his support and Ursula’s. He’s coached and trained me for over ten years and he’s shaped me into the rider and competitor I now am. I’ll be forever grateful and I’ll continue to develop from the way he inspired us. I remember early on in my time with the Bechtolsheimers him saying ‘Lara, horses are like children, you need great patience and you must love them in the same way’ and until I had Jack, I guess I never really appreciated that but it’s helped me to be a mum too. His philosophy revolved around giving horses the best environment possible to thrive and achieve. Every horse always is given the time needed to fulfil their potential, never rushed or hurried.
He made every member of staff feel like part of the family, a really special bond, he wasn’t just an employer. He’d take us under his wing and support us in life, not just horses and always had time to talk, rare kindness in this day and age. He simply made everyone feel special.
A memorial service will be held in Gloucestershire later this year.