4* Dressage Judge Elisabeth Max-Theurer and the Great Strides of the FEI U25 Grand Prix Division

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The progress in the sport of dressage is the U25 Grand Prix Division Championships. Advancing the sport of dressage last year, the FEI introduced its first annual European U25 Championships in the U.S. and Canada at the 2016 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival added a CDIO-U25 Division. International dressage judge for over fifteen years Elisabeth “Sissy” Max-Theurer affirmed, “These championships are a good idea for young people coming up in our sport and a good spring board to the International Grand Prix level.”

This year, the 2017 FEI U25 European Championships will be held August 30-September 3 near Salzburg in Lamprechtshausen, Austria, in Max-Theurer’s home country. Most likely, Max-Theurer will be the President of the Ground Jury for the Championships. “The U25 division has needed some time to develop. Now this group is getting stronger and stronger,” she openly added.

“The sport has been growing and improving, starting from the introduction of the musical freestyles years ago to the U25 division to what has been happening here in Florida. When it started here, there weren’t so many riders and now there are so many good ones coming here for the winter. I think this is a good chance for dressage to be more global, more open to the world.”

Essential to Judging

When asked what is of specific importance to her in being a Dressage Judge she explained, “As a dressage judge, I want to see that the riders are thinking about the horse, the fairness to the horse. It is very good in dressage and all equestrian sports that there must be good sportsmanship for the horse and that the horse is treated like a partner. This is the most important thing in order for a rider to be successful.”

About Elisabeth Max-Theurer         

 “I have always loved horses. I started with jumping and then moved into dressage.” At the young age of 23, Max-Theurer was the 1979 European Dressage Champion in Aarhus, Denmark riding Mon Cherie. A year later on Theurer, she became an Olympic champion by winning the gold medal. She also competed in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. 

Under her guidance and that of her husband, Hans Max-Theurer, Max-Theurer’s daughter, Victoria Max-Theurer rode ponies and won a total of six bronze medals at the European Championships for Junior riders in 1999, 2000 and 2001 with Agrigento and Falcao. In 2002, team and individual silver awards were added at the European Championships for Junior riders at the FEI Pratoni del Vivaro/ITA riding Falcao. She won her first Austrian State Champion title with Weinrausch and worked her way up towards the European Championships and, at age 17, was the youngest participant in Great Britain’s Hickstead. “I am always careful not to have a conflict as a judge with my daughter, so I come here to the States and also travel to the Eastern part of Europe to encourage those riders.”

The Max-Theurer family also breeds and stables horses at Achleiten Castle in Oberösterreich in upper Austria, a 12th century estate that was purchased by the family in 1982 that they painstakingly restored. It has been the setting of the annual CDI 4* Achleiten Dressage competition that takes place annually each summer in July.

The New 2017 North American U25 Grand Prix Test

A new annual CDIO-U25 Grand Prix Division competition emerged the second-to-last weekend in March at the 2017 AGDF where more than 8 riders competed. This inaugural year for the North American created CDIO U25 Nations Cup was a highlight to the usual open division rider CDIO Nations Cup. The youth riders had a chance to compete on U.S. and Canadian teams, with the USA entering two three-rider teams. Never before has the U.S. and Canada had as many U25 Grand Prix riders looking ahead to a strong future in the sport.

Max-Theurer affirmed, “These new tests are very good for the young people coming up in our sport.”

The CDIO-U25 Division Nations Cup winners are the USA and Canada at the first Annual U25 Grand Prix Nations Cup in North America at the 2017 Adequan Global Dressage Festival