Anyone getting involved in international dressage sport among the top contenders often has a similar background, viz. a career that is pursued via pony, junior and young rider sport right up to Grand Prix level. With Bernadette everything took a different turn. The native of Düsseldorf and daughter of the star architect Walter Brune was, by all means, infected by the horse virus at an early age, and her mother, Barbara Behlau, did in fact ride horses as an event rider. And in particular her grandfather Herbert Behlau, who received the Golden Riding Award, infected his granddaughter and already instructed the young Bernadette at the harness every Thursday from the age of three. However, a high-performance horse did not yet come into the picture for a long time.

When Bernadette moved, as a seven-year old, to Monaco after her parents separated, where her mother got a new job, the world came to an end for the young lady who was crazy about horses. It was one thing to exchange nature for the big city, but then it even transpired that there were no suitable training facilities in the South of France. Bernadette attempted, with suitable trained horses and “wannabe show jumpers”, to somehow make it to tournaments. For that was her great ambition. At the age of 13 her opportunity finally came – and, at the age of 14, she was already qualified for the French amateur championship. However, as a German, she was excluded from participation. So Bernadette continued to successfully ride in the countryside at “M” (medium) level.


Now the great sport begins!

When the “expatriate” was able to return to her beloved Germany after sitting her  novice (A)-levels, she pursued her great goal: to train as a stablehand, with a focus on riding. Her “instructors”: Dietmar Laufhütte, Renate Dahmen, Helena Weinberg and Holger Hetzel. Thanks to her former – meanwhile deceased – trainer Eric Wauters, she rapidly made her way to the major international tournaments, beginning, inter alia, in Mechelen, Düsseldorf, Monaco, Munich-Riem, Eindhoven, on the Sunshine Tour, and in Arezzo or Berlin. Following her spell with Eric Wauters, Bernadette trained under further instructors, including Nobert Koof, Gert Meyer, Stefano Nogara, Dirk Hafemeister and Michel Robert. She especially remembers the last two very well. “I learnt the most from Dirk and Michel. On the one hand, the stringent German school of providing correct assistance, on the other hand the French lightness, which has a great deal to do with the balance of the horse.”

She was not yet on the point of considering that all the tips given to her in this period could be important, even for a career in dressage. After ten years in international show jumping sport, however, with 142 medium (M) and advanced (S) placements and wins (even in two advanced level jumping tests), there was an unexpected change. Bernadette’s back was injured so badly at the tournament in Saint Tropez that the doctors said: “Jumping is a thing of the past!” - an incision in the life of the rider which was initially not easy for her to put up with.

“Organise a tournament - me?”

However, Bernadette did not stick her head in the sand for very long. Instead, she found a stable in Vidauban at the French Riviera which she developed and made into a tournament Mecca. Following her back operation, in 2007 she organised her first national tournament, one year later a CSI3* already followed. Already at the very first edition of the tournament, show jumping experts such as Rodgrigo Pessoa, Edwina Tops-Alexander, Steve Guerdat, Kevin Staut and Schröder-Brüder attended. Later there were dressage tournaments, which were very well received. Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro rode their first Grand Prix here – and the German champion rider Fabienne Lütkemeier celebrated her international Grand Prix debut. In 2015, Bernadette arranged a CDI5* in Vidauban for the second time, a national prize tournament for the third time, and, as a high point, she organised the European Championships for Dressage for Juniors and Young Riders in July.

The jump was swapped for the dressage saddle

But then there was more she wanted than to organise tournaments. It is true that there was no return for her to the show jumping course, but, with a slight limitation in the right leg, she could still do dressage riding – the sport which Bernadette had always considered a challenge. “Previously I always thought, ‘You are not good enough for that!,” explained the stud farm operator. “I had always liked dressage so much, but I never imagined that I could go dressage riding myself.” Slowly Bernadette began to approach the new sport. She had, through a dealer, received a De Niro progeny for breaking in, with which she initially attended some training courses, in order to later on, successfully, ride the first tournaments. After three years she rode the first Inter II. Acclaimed trainers, such as Jan Bemelmans, then Anky van Grunsven, and Udo Lange, did, however, take Bernadette’s riding to new heights. In 2011 the former show jumper attended her first Grand Prix with Valeron (Sandro Hit)/Houston. At the end of 2014 the first CDI5* in Salzburg was on the cards, and, in 2015, with Spirit of the Age OLD, even the first Prize of the Nations. At her third Prize of the Nations tournament in Vidauban on her own site, her face became even more radiant upon winning the Prize of the Nations with Team Germany.

Afer six years of novice (A) level dressage tests she made an entrance in Grand Prix sport – impressive! Virtually 100 advanced (S) placings can be found on her success list, which includes 20 wins, all of which at international level. Then there were another 40 national advanced (S) level placings in France, which included 15 Grand Prix achievements. “Previously, dressage was my hobby and jumping my profession”, says Bernadette with a smile. “Today it is the other way round.”

Breeding – a passion

2016: Winner of the Prize of the Nations, CDI 4* Grand Prix Win, DRV B team appointment, 2 World Cup upper-tier ranking positions, in Lyons and Stuttgart, many upper-tier ranking positions at the tournaments in Hagen, Hamburg, Wiesbaden, Rotterdam, Münster, Perl, Saumur, Stuttgart ....

Besides riding and organising tournaments, Bernadette is meanwhile also an enthusiastic breeder, mainly of Oldenburg horses. Everything began ten years ago with the purchase of the stable in Vidauban, when the previous owners left behind a trotter mare. Bernadette had the latter mated with Calido, and a successful jumping mare was born. At the same time, the rider, who lives in France and Germany, supplemented her breeding by two foals targeted for dressage, a Florencio/Sandro Hit daughter and one from De Niro/Rubinstein. Whereas the daughter of Florencio completed her mare performance test with a grade of 8.2, the daughter of De Niro with her second foal from Totilas achieved a record sum of € 40,000 at the Oldenburg auction. Bernadette is currently pleased to have 10 mares and around 20 horses being raised, although the first progeny targeted for dressage has already found its way into sport. Bernadette also demonstrates a very good instinct in her choice of foals that she buys. For example, the horse lover discovered on Facebook a three-day old son of Totilas/Krack C/Ferro, a stallion foal. She bought it, raised it in the Weser marsh, and, when, as a two-year old, it came to the Oldenburg stallion licensing, they found out that the mother’s sire came from the Negro line, i.e. the sire of Valegro. Totilas and Valegro united in one horse. The name was then obvious: Tolegro! Already in its first year, the beautiful young stallion was introduced to 165 mares from all over the world – from Iceland or Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

However, the native of Düsseldorf, who, after her time in Vidauban, is now running the Brune Stud Farm in the Oldenburg area, has even more interests and tasks in her life. Since many horse-related products do not work as they were intended to, she quickly developed her own line: Equivida. Shampoos, creams, products to improve the horse’s coat, and other products with natural ingredients and great scents, offer optimum care for the horse. “I would like, if possible, to have and offer everything from a single source, because then I know that it is as perfect as I would like to have it,” explains Bernadette. It is then scarcely any longer astonishing that she also cultivates her own wine in France, which is offered at the tournaments that take place on her own site, as well as being offered in exclusive restaurants.

But that is still not all: Bernadette not only continues to develop her own performance in the saddle, she also likes to do coaching herself, primarily the juniors. The 13-year-old Ukrainian girl Anastasia Pavelko won five out of six children’s tests in Vidauban with over 70% under her instruction.

And if Bernadette is looking for some relaxation, she likes to reach for her camera, go for a ride on her bicycle or cut videos. Her very varied interests also include a passion for diving and sailing, however sometimes the day would have to have more than 24 hours for Bernadette ...

DRV “B” team
Bernadette Brune

Read article