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Cathrin Gutmann – Transatlantic Equestrian

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34 – October, 2014

 by Susan Winslow


Cathrin Gutmann exudes positive energy. When you see her competing in Hunter Under Saddle, she presents a picture of elegance and poise, clad in tasteful show outfits that complement her top Quarter Horse contenders. But there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to this young, energetic mother and competitor. She is a true Renaissance woman, whether she is playing with her adorable three year-old daughter, Emilie, competing with her string of blue-blooded Quarter Horses, or immersing herself in the extensive restoration of Gut Jaidhof, the historic family seat in Austria.

Having been married for almost four years to investment banker Baron Guntard Gutmann, Cathrin’s story seems like a tale from a Disney movie. She met the dashing Baron Guntard when she was 19 years old and was smitten from the start. A courtship followed, and despite a twenty-year age difference, they are a strong couple, sharing a love of their daughter, their pug, Lui, horses, the outdoors, and their historic land holdings at Gut Jaidhof. Though she’s still in her twenties, this busy, thoroughly modern woman deftly juggles the role of being Baronen Cathrin with motherhood, the restoration of the vast, 6,500-acre estate, and competing with American Quarter Horses at the elite level in both the U.S. and Europe.

Cathrin is linked through marriage to one of the most interesting and historically influential families in Europe. Baron Guntard Gutmann’s family has ancestral ties to the powerful Rothschild banking empire. The Gutmann family made their fortune in coal and steel before fleeing to South America during the Nazi genocide in Europe. Cathrin explains, “Because my husband’s family is Jewish, the Nazis seized their 35,000 acre estate that had been in the family since the mid-1800s. They also confiscated the family’s steel mills, which employed over 80,000 people. The Nazis used the steel mills to produce tanks and armor during World War II and turned Gut Jaidhof into a training camp. My husband’s family was forced to flee to South America to save their lives.”

The Gutmann family survived the war and shortly thereafter began to reclaim their family holdings in Austria. “Because Austria was split four ways after the war, the section that held Gut Jaidhof and the steel mill had been claimed by Russia,” Cathrin says. “In 1947, after the war, Baron Wolfgang von Gutmann had to actually buy back the family property that was taken from them. The family has been able to retain about 6,500 of the original 35,000 acres. Because the steel mill had been nationalized, the family could not get it back from Russia.” A few years ago, Cathrin’s husband inherited the estate from his aunt, and the couple embarked on a major effort to restore the property to its former grandeur. “My husband’s aunt deeded the family castle to the Catholic Church, and we have been working very hard to do a historically sensitive restoration to the rest of the property including the manor house, out-buildings, and barns,” Cathrin says. “There were many families that lost everything to the Nazis, so we were fortunate to get this beautiful property back.”

Cathrin describes the physical and emotional effort needed to take on such a daunting project. “There were still many ghosts from the Nazi occupation on the estate,” she says. “For example, there is a beautiful riding hall that was built at Gut Jaidhof in the 1800s. It has big, soaring windows and tons of natural light, but the Nazis had built a second floor across the riding arena and turned it into a training center. When we inherited the property, it was a very dark place, both physically and historically. I knew we had to change that and cleanse the estate of the Nazi influences.”

Thus far, the couple has completed a meticulous restoration of the manor house, original riding hall, added a separate modern 30×60-meter indoor arena, and converted and updated some of the existing barns. A smaller barn houses Cathrin’s multiple champion Quarter Horses and a sprawling Tudor-style barn houses boarding horses and an 11-stall equine medical and rehabilitation clinic, The Salutory. “Equine rehabilitation is not yet as advanced in Europe as it is in the United States, so I’m very excited to have The Salutary here as a tenant,” Cathrin says. “They do amazing work.” The clinic, which opened in March of 2014, offers lameness diagnostics, biomechanics, physiotherapy, and rehabilitation.

Although she currently lives in the splendor of the magnificent Gut Jaidhof mansion, Cathrin is a down-to-earth, modern young woman who didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her mother works in a community office and her father, who passed away in 2011, was a forester. While her husband, Guntard, grew up immersed in the equestrian lifestyle, Cathrin’s family was decidedly un-horsey. “My parents didn’t ride, but I was obsessed with horses since I can remember,” she recalls. “I was so determined to ride that my parents started me in riding lessons at the age of four. My husband has had many years of experience in dressage, which is the foundation for all riders in Austria. I started out in that discipline, too. When I was a teenager, a friend of mine introduced me to Quarter Horses and western riding, and I knew it was for me.”

“I loved Reining, and when I first started out, I had no interest in Hunter Under Saddle or Western Pleasure at all. I loved the speed and skill of Reining, but, as I learned more about Hunter Under Saddle, I started to appreciate the effort for perfection of movement and the beauty of the bigger Hunter Under Saddle Quarter Horses. It has become my main focus. I had ridden Warmbloods for most of my youth, and while I appreciate their strength and beauty, to me, they don’t come close to the Quarter Horse for movement, elegance, and a good brain. The Quarter Horse has such a good mind, a strong body, and pleasing conformation. The way they are built – I think they are just the most beautiful horses in the world.” She continues, “A Quarter Horse that is well-trained in Hunter Under Saddle also has a snap and elegance to its movement that no other breed can offer. They are also very trainable, and their movement can be so beautifully exact. That’s what I strive for with my horses.”

Cathrin has been very successful with her horses, Onlyafraid In The Dark, A Natural Sensation, Blue Couture, and a two-year-old she purchased at the 2011 All-American Quarter Horse Congress, Al Be Graceful. Cathrin is certainly in the business of growing her breeding and sales program, but there are a few special horses she will never part with. “Al Be Graceful was a champion in Hunter Under Saddle as a three-year-old, and she had a great show year in 2011. She is one of my favorite horses. She, Blue Couture, Onlyafraid In The Dark, and A Natural Sensation will have a home with me forever.”

Although she has worked with Italian horse trainer Karin Prevedel in the past, Cathrin is now in charge of keeping her horses legged-up and schooled at Gut Jaidhof. “I have up to six horses at home, and I have a wonderful young woman here who gets them ready for me. I also have trainers coming from the States to do clinics here, so they help me. I started my first two-year-old this year that I bred from a Blazing Hot mare that’s out of a Reserve Congress Champion Investment Asset mare, by No Doubt I’m Lazy, and it’s been a very good thing. There’s a three-year-old, Only Blue Couture, out of my mare Blue Couture and by Hot Ones Only, a three-time NSBA World Champion and multiple Futurity Champion. I have some very strong bloodlines in my breeding program. I’ve learned so much, particularly when working with mares like Blue Couture.”

She laughs when she adds, “I’ve learned that with strong mares, like Blue Couture, you have to figure them out and work with them. You can’t just go out there and kick their… well, you know. She is such a smart horse, and I think she remembers. If you make a mistake, she will let you know about it, maybe not right in that moment, but she will pay you back. At the same time, if you ask right and work with her, she is an exceptionally gifted athlete with a great mind. She is an amazing horse, and I respect that. We didn’t get an embryo out of her this year, but we will try again next year. I’m sure we will have some wonderful horses out of her in the future.”

Cathrin travels back and forth across the Atlantic to compete in both the United States and Europe. Last year, she won a European Championship on A Natural Sensation. This talented mare stepped up to the plate when Cathrin’s show mare, Al Be Graceful, was sidelined due to injury. “Guntard had been showing A Natural Sensation throughout 2013 and qualified her for the European Championship,” she says. “I didn’t want to take his horse away from him, but he graciously insisted that I compete with her, and we won! It was really cool; because it was only the second time I had ridden her within the past few years, because Guntard rode her all the time. She is an amazing horse with a great future.” Cathrin is also very excited about the road ahead for Onlyafraid In The Dark, a Western Pleasure horse that did exceptionally well at the 2014 AQHA European Championship. She earned a European Championship in Senior Western Pleasure, an AQHA Unanimous European Circuit Championship in Green Western Riding, and a bronze medal in Senior Western Riding.

Cathrin proudly reflects on the accomplishments of this gifted horse, “It was only her first time showing in Senior Western Riding, and showing one-handed, and she won the bronze medal at the European Championship with Michael Colvin. I worked really hard with her over last winter, and I taught her to change leads. She has come along so nicely, and I have sent her to the U.S. to prepare with Michael for the Congress, where I will be showing her, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Cathrin is also determined to help advance the American Quarter Horse in Europe. She smiles when she remembers her friends’ initial reaction to her husband’s switch from Warmbloods to Quarter Horses. “Guntard and his friends grew up with Warmbloods,” she says. “Now, they have all come to understand and appreciate how special these horses are. These horses have the size and strength of the Warmbloods, but such trainable minds, easygoing dispositions, and elegant movement. They are the perfect horse for people who want to enjoy riding a big, athletic horse with a really good mind. A lot of people who are tired of the tendency of Warmbloods to get too hot are starting to appreciate just what the Quarter Horse has to offer. I believe we are at the start of a real growth in Hunter Under Saddle in Europe. I’m already seeing a change from when I was younger, when horses could excel in more than one class, like Trail and Western Riding. Now, the quality of the horses has grown in Europe to the point where these disciplines are quite specialized. We don’t have the quality that there is in the States, but we are going in the right direction in Europe with quality breeding programs and increasing awareness about this sport and these amazing horses.”

Cathrin deftly balances her busy life as an international competitor, Baronen Cathrin, wife, mother, and historic restoration expert with ease. She readily shares credit for her success with the people she loves. “I couldn’t do this without my husband and my mom. Guntard is a wonderful man, who loves the horses too, and he is a great rider. My mom is amazing with Emilie, who has just started riding.” Cathrin also appreciates their friends and enjoys entertaining. “I love animals, especially our pug, Lui,” she says. “I’m not an avid hunter, but Guntard enjoys it, and he loves having hunting parties here at the estate. I enjoy entertaining and we have a great team here. Because of my show schedule with the horses, we haven’t had a family vacation in awhile, and I would like to do that. When Emilie was just a baby, I took her with me to the Congress, but now that she is a toddler, Emilie has too much energy to be at a long show. I’m balancing my show time with my mother to help with Emilie, and I’m looking ahead at perhaps showing every other year in the States. Guntard has been so supportive of the horses and showing, but we also want to have another baby, so we will see what the future brings.”

For now, she is enjoying the many gifts in her life: her husband, daughter, extended family, and restoration of Gut Jaidhof. She says, “I’m blessed and very grateful for my life. I’m excited about the future of my breeding program and making a contribution toward advancing the American Quarter Horse in Europe. I’m grateful for the help I’ve gotten along the way. I owe a lot to my trainer, Allison Clark, who taught me a lot about riding and horsemanship. She is an amazing trainer and woman, and I wouldn’t be where I am without her. I also have to thank Michael Colvin for his help and guidance, and I’m looking forward to showing with him in the U.S. with Onlyafraid In the Dark. I’m also proud to be part of restoring Gut Jaidhof in a way that honors its history and agricultural background. When people stop and tell me that their parents or grandparents worked on the estate, and what it means to them to see it coming back to its former glory, it just inspires me to keep going. I love this life.”

For more information on Cathrin, her horses, and Gut Jaidhof, visit them on Facebook.

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