I started riding when I was three years old but spent a large part of my early years hitting the floor rather than staying in the saddle. I was always a little more ambitious about jumping than my ponies! Finally I took over my brother’s 13.2 (Tom) on whom I enjoyed lots of success eventing. During my teens dressage began to replace my eventing dreams and at 14, I won a pony team silver medal at the Europeans. Since then I have been on a British championship team every year throughout juniors, young riders and then seniors - for the first time with Douglas Dorsey in 2006 (at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen).
Ian Woodhead was my biggest influence from ponies through to juniors. He taught me the basics of dressage and a healthy but fun competitive attitude. My under 21 career continued with Markus Gribbe who trained me in the step up to Grand Prix. My biggest successes and the start of very high scores came with the help of Klaus Balkenhol and the newly established partnership with my father (who is now my trainer).
Although 2008 saw me through some serious ups and downs I learned heaps as a rider and as an individual. I kept my motivation and ambition and worked hard with my two Grand Prix horses, Mistral Hojris (Alf) and Andretti H (Andy). I have a great support crew at home and awesome horses to work with, including a string of youngsters to bring on!
2009 was the breakthrough year for me and Alf. It started with a personal best and new British record in Den Bosch, Holland, where we also beat Anky van Grunsven on Painted Black for the first time. We went on to score wins in Hagen, Germany, and then achieved a new personal best and British record in Lingen in Germany.
The year continued with a career high at the European Championships 2009 where, on home ground, we won team silver and I won individual bronze in the Grand Prix Special. I achieved personal best scores and GB records in all three tests. The experience was beyond words! Alf was a superstar. Alf and I concluded our 2009 season by winning the Grand Prix (another personal best and a further British record) and the Grand Prix Special at Stuttgart. The latter was the "German Masters" and I am the only Brit to have ever won that! We finished 2009 ranked 6th in the world - what a season, I couldn't have dreamed of more!
2010 started well with two more personal bests on Alf in Amsterdam in the Grand Prix and the Kur, finishing second behind Totilas. This was followed by two wins on Alf (beating Isabell Werth and Satchmo) and a win and a second place on Andy at Lingen. I had a fantastic show at Aachen, where Alf was placed third behind Totilas and Parzival in the Grand Prix and the Special, and Andy won the CDI Kur. In addition Team GB finished third behind Holland and Germany so it was a great all round performance. Andy continued to improve and finished second in the Grand Prix at the Hickstead World Dressage Masters, and third in the Kur.
2010 continued to be incredible with 3 Silver Medals, 2 individual and 1 team, won at WEG in Kentucky! Later on in the year at Olympia, with Alf still on top form, I went on to win the Grand Prix with a score of 82.936%, setting a new British Record and beating my own previous record of 82.511%. Alf and I were the first Brits to win the Reema Acra FEI World Cup. All round 2010 was a truly fantastic year!
In 2011, I was ranked world number 2 and number 1 in Britian. I was also part of the historic gold medal winning British team at the Europeans Champsionships, and took individual bronze too. It was fantastic to top off a crazy year with another National Championship title with Andy and then to finally win the World Cup Qualifier at my favourite show, Olympia. I won the Grand Prix there in 2010 but I had never won the Freestyle. It was an important win to finish the year off for Alf and me!
2012 was all about the Olympics and the dreams that go with that. I fulfilled my dream of winning Olympic gold with Team GB who made history at London, as this was actually the first ever Olympic medal won by the British. I also won individual bronze which was completely awesome! Since then, on a personal note, I got married in Switzerland to my long-term boyfriend, international polo player Mark Tomlinson. It was an awesome occasion! I am now competing under my married name of 'Tomlinson' which is a bit weird but at least it's easier for the commentators than Bechtolsheimer!
After our wedding, I focused on the younger horses in 2013 and got them started on their competitive careers and Alf retired in front of a wonderful home crowd at Olympia in December. He is very happy in light work at home and enjoying his new life. This year will bring new challenges as Mark and I become parents in the summer. I have some exciting horses at home and am looking forward to the next chapter.