Catch Her If You Can: Laura Klaphake’s Breakout Season

Laura Klaphake. ph: Pooya Nabei for Noelle Floyd Magazine.

This article was published in the Fall 2017 issue of NOELLE FLOYD Magazine. If you’d like to receive a hard copy of NOELLE FLOYD Magazine, visit this link. 

With her blonde hair streaming in wisps behind her, and her eyes bright with relief, the rider allowed herself to feel the emotion of a huge accomplishment as her horse galloped away from the last fence inside the low hum of CHIO Aachen. To be 23 years old, competing as a senior rider at the very center of the sport, is one thing. To jump clear in your first ever attempt at the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen—well, that’s star quality.

It’s safe to say that 2017 has been Laura Klaphake’s year. Aachen was one of her first outings as a member of the German senior team, and with that clear round—combined with many others over the course of the season—she proved to the 40,000 fans watching that she belonged there.

Klaphake is all at once like so many German riders and also a complete and total standout. And this year, amid the well-established strength of the German team, she’s become somewhat of a lightening rod.

Today, though, there’s little to hint to all that as our crew for NOELLE FLOYD/style Magazine sets up at the Klaphake family home near Hamburg, Germany. She still lives at home with her close-knit family, the horses nearby, and the shadow of the great Stal Schockemöhle even closer.

Klaphake will have to trade her riding clothes in today for an assortment of looks that our stylist has toted here from not-so-nearby Munich. But the rising talent approaches the challenge just as she approaches a course: calm, focused, and ready.

Laura Klaphake. ph: Pooya Nabei for Noelle Floyd Magazine.

Growing up here with stables all around, Klaphake has progressed in the sport by way of an interesting mix of opportunity and hard work. For more than 30 years, her father, Joseph Klaphake, has held the role of stable manager for Paul Schockemöhle’s world famous breeding, training, and sales operation. With well over a hundred show jumping and dressage horses cycling in and out of the facility—and a name that has earned instant recognition around the globe—Stal Schockemöhle has come to hold somewhat of a mythical quality in the sport.

To Klaphake, it simply feels like home. The house we are in now—where Klaphake’s mother, Gaby, is busy preparing a sweeping, characteristically German meal—is just 500 meters from Schockemöhle. The family has five, modest boxes on their own property; these are where Laura’s ponies used to live, when she was young enough to still ride ponies.

“She did quite well in the beginning with the ponies,” said Joseph. “She always worked with Gaby, my wife, and developed the same way of riding. Laura liked very much to jump so she focused more on the jumping, and now she has some really nice horses. She started with the horses when they were rising 6 years and trained them herself, along with my wife. The horses go really well for Laura. So far, she’s had good luck with the horses, and we are really happy.”

Five appearances and two gold medals at the European Championships for ponies later, the ponies transitioned to horses, and Klaphake, already used to riding over to Schockemöhle’s in the winter to use the indoor, ended up with a string of horses to ride and compete, housed in the world famous stable next door. It was actually Schockemöhle, himself, who gave Klaphake her first horse.

“Yes, it’s not normal!” Klaphake laughs, when I ask her about the opportunity she’s been graced with at Schockemöhle’s. “And I appreciate it so much that I can ride Paul’s horses. It is the best opportunity I can dream of. Paul gives me a lot of confidence; in Gothenburg, he came [to support] and is giving me some advice sometimes.”

Laura Klaphake. ph: Pooya Nabei for Noelle Floyd Magazine.

By Gothenberg, Klaphake means the 2017 FEI European Championships this past August, where she stood shoulder to shoulder with Marcus Ehning, Philipp Weishaupt, and her young colleagues, Simone Blum and Maurice Tebbel, on the German team. It was Klaphake’s first senior championships, and she finished in 17th place individually with Catch Me If You Can 21.

If Klaphake is a shooting star, it’s Catch Me who has been the rocket fuel that’s shot her to the top of the sport. The 9-year-old, bay, Oldenburg mare (Catoki x Acordplus) is owned by Schockemöhle and by a lucky twist of fate, landed on Klaphake’s roster of young horses as a 6-year-old. Joseph is the one who finds the young horses that will suit Klaphake, and in Catch Me, a perfect match was made—even if it wasn’t perfect in the beginning. Klaphake describes her early relationship with the mare as one step forward, three steps back, while Catch Me matured and progressed.

“You have a lot of ups and downs, and sometimes you think, Oh my God, what am I doing here?” Klaphake says. “To be honest, I had a feeling it might click, but I didn’t expect her to become that good. She [didn’t have] the perfect technique, and it took a while for her to improve.”

But by the time she was an 8-year-old, Catch Me was doing well in the 1.55m, and the offers to buy her came flooding in. Schockemöhle could have easily sold the mare for any large sum of money, but there she remained, on Laura’s list, and the two began to fight for each other.

They jumped together at Aachen last year, in the secondary classes, in what was the mare’s first CSI5* outing. It went well and foreshadowed what was to come: in both their classes, Klaphake and Catch Me were clear and placed within the top 10. That was, predictably, when Catch Me became a hot topic on the tongues of riders and dealers who sought out Schockemöhle for a sale.

Instead of selling, Schockemöhle kept her with Klaphake, who promptly gave Catch Me a six-month break from competing. But it was for the best of reasons…

This article was published in the Fall 2017 issue of NOELLE FLOYD Magazine. To continue reading, visit this link and flip to page 108.

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