Wellington, Fla. – May 2, 2018 – After competing in Europe in 2017, international Grand Prix competitor and trainer of Cherry Knoll Farm’s quality dressage horses, Todd Flettrich, had his eyes set on a successful season at the 2018 Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF). He competed against top Grand Prix riders in Germany on Cherry Knoll Farm’s Romario, a 12-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding by Blue Hors Romanov, and had big plans for the gelding. Little did he know that instead of riding down centerline, he would be fighting for his life.
In late November 2017, Flettrich, a USDF bronze, silver and gold medalist, suffered a life threatening heart attack. After many extensive health procedures, he began the slow recovery process to get back in the saddle by the end of the year.
“After the initial shock of what happened, I could not immediately think about pushing myself too hard to bounce back too quickly,” Flettrich said. “I had to settle down and understand that everything would be OK. With the team around me, I had to come to terms with taking a step back and keeping things in perspective. It was upsetting for us as we had such a super season in Europe and everything was coming together great with Romario, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s fine.”
Flettrich represented the United States at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, aboard Cherry Knoll Farm’s Otto. The pair also won multiple CDI-W competitions together and rode in the prestigious CDIO5* in Aachen, Germany, in 2010. In 2012, Flettrich qualified with Otto as an alternate for the London Olympic U.S. dressage team.
Though he has yet to compete in 2018, Flettrich has returned to the tack, staying active at home training Cherry Knoll Farm’s world-class dressage horses and coaching longtime student Margaret Duprey. Flettrich joined Duprey’s farm in 2006 and contributes her support as a key factor in his recovery.
“It takes a village and it’s important to have people around you who support you, not only through your best moments, but also when you are feeling down,” Flettrich explained. “I am so fortunate to have had Margaret through this stressful time in my life. When you’re feeling down, having people to help you work through the tough moments is so crucial. It’s a support network that can make a huge difference and help you get through the storm.”
“I’ve lived vicariously through Margaret the past few months when she’s going down the centerline and I’m proud of the success she’s had in the ring,” Flettrich said. “Looking forward, now it’s time to prepare for the summer season.
“Things happen for a reason they say, and it’s true,” continued Flettrich. “Now, it’s Margaret’s time to shine and we’ll do it together. It’s about the team of people you have around you – that’s what has gotten me through this. I’m so fortunate because we still have two horses that are ready to go. They’re not quite show fit yet, but they’re healthy and making good progress in their training. We’re working to get ready to bounce back.”
As the team prepares for their summer schedule, Flettrich has reflected on how this experience has shaped his perspective of training.
“Once I could tell myself that it was just a setback, and that even Olympians have these, I was able to overcome it and push through,” he concluded. “Though you may only hear about the wins and blue ribbons, every rider has had their struggles and setbacks. Equestrians can relate to horses going lame or getting injured, but oftentimes riders themselves may also have health issues – it does happen. It just takes time and luck and you have to stay on course with a great support network at your side.”