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The host of the 2017 German Icelandic Horse Championships swears by OTTO riding surfaces. Uli Reber, one of Germany's most successful breeders and riders of Icelandic horses, hosted the German Icelandic Horse Championships at his Lipperthof equestrian centre in Wurz (district of Neustadt an der Waldnaab) from 26 June to 2 July 2017. In the interview, he told us what makes his horses so special and why the OTTO Sport riding surface now has the blessing of the Olympics, is ideal for this small horse breed.

Mr Reber, Icelandic horses have long since discarded the cliché of pony riding, and a serious sport has grown up around them. What makes this breed so special?

On the one hand, there are the five gaits, i.e. walk, trot, canter the tölt and the flying pace, which makes riding these horses challenging and interesting at the same time. Icelandic horses are also fairly easy to keep, which is particularly important for hobby riders. The background is the origin of the animals; even the most adverse weather won’t harm them. They also live in herds, which determines their special character. They are less people-oriented, so it requires some effort to win them over. But it’s worth it. There’s a good reason why one in ten horses in Germany is an Icelander!

What is the best riding surface for these animals?

For Icelandic horses, the ground must be both firm and springy. Let's take the tölt. In this four-beat gait, one or two legs alternately support the horse, so a good footing is essential not only for optimum performance but above all for the health of the animals. 

You have also been riding and training on OTTO Sport riding surfaces for 20 years. Do they meet your high standards?

Absolutely. The OTTO PerforatedMats combined with the footing ensure perfect elasticity, and hooves don’t sink in to the surface. We have installed the surfaces in our dressage arena since 1996, they are still in top condition and none of our horses have suffered any long-term damage. We also receive positive feedback again and again from the various competition participants.

Speaking of competitions: What can fans of Icelandic horses look forward to at your centre in late June?

We - by that I mean my wife, the team and the IPZV Oberpfalz Nord e.V. (the association of German riders and breeders of Icelandic horses) are organising the German Icelandic Horse Championships this year and therefore, among others, the qualifications for the World Championships in the Netherlands. We're anticipating around 200 riders and around 7,000 spectators. There will be a lot of exciting things to see.

But you’re not just content with organising are you...

No way! My wife and I are both in the national squad, so it will be doubly exciting for us. My wife is competing with Þokki frá Efstu-Grund, the reigning World Champion in the Tölt Prize, I am riding Vág frá Höfðabakka, who holds the second highest score in the Tölt Prize achieved worldwide this year (date 15th June 2017). It would be fantastic if we could both compete in a World Championship for the first time. But we are super motivated, have great horses and the best riding surface. So we’re in with a good chance.