Reiner February 2012 : Page 168

Rudi Kronsteiner is the first NRHA Professional, based in Europe, to reach the Million Dollar Rider milestone. MILLION DOLLAR RIDER ANDREA BONAGA

Million Dollar Rider

Simona Diale

Rudi Kronsteiner is the first NRHA Professional, based in Europe, to reach the Million Dollar Rider milestone.



IN THE BEGINNING OF 2011, I TOLD MY WIFE, STEFFI, that my goal was one and one only: by the end of the show season I had to reach the NRHA Million Dollar Rider status–and I wanted to do it showing in Europe. We both knew that this meant spending very little time at home. It was worth it and, as always, my wife was there to support me!"

Rudi Kronsteiner, is the first European NRHA Professional, based in Europe, to have reached the Million Dollar Rider milestone. Before him, Italy's Andrea Fappani had joined the elite group; however, most of his earnings were collected in the U.S.

The Long Walk

Rudi's first NRHA paycheck worth $1,167 arrived in 1997, in Wiekersdorf, Austria, where he placed second in the ancillary NRHA-approved open class riding Mr Rietta Jac. The following three years were relatively quiet, but once the Century turned, so did his luck. In less than five years, Rudi made his name known in the show pen and was quickly becoming one of Europe's "riders-to-look-out-for."

In 2005, Rudi was the first European to lead the NRHA Top Ten Open rankings claiming the NRHA Open World Championship that year with Heidi Wallner's stallion Chex Enterprise (Be Aech Enterprise x Poco Sweet Chex) between the reins. In 2007, riding Chic N Roost (Gallo Del Cielo x Dun Maid By Chic), at the time owned by Priscilla Jacquard, and in 2009 riding Star Spangled Whiz (Topsail Whiz x Sheza Shady Slider) for Fabrizio Bevilaqua, Rudi did it again.

The Man

Rudi was born on March 9, 1973 in Steiwr, Austria. At age 10 his attention was all for the girls; and plenty of them rode in a barn close to where he lived. That's where he decided he would go so that he could meet them. Of course, this meant wearing jodhpurs and riding in an English saddle.

"I started off with the hunters and jumpers and showed a little, but it wasn't what I really wanted to do. Then, one day, by chance, I encountered my very first reining horse, Shades Of Wonder, and I told myself that those were the horses I wanted to ride. I was overwhelmed and fascinated by these 'American' horses. Everything about them fascinated me, the control, the speed, their cool. So, I moved on to trail, western riding and western pleasure horses, but I knew what I wanted was to become a reiner," recalled Rudi."At the time there weren't many opportunities in Europe to ride with professionals and I realized that if I wanted to make my dream come true; the only solution was that of going to the U.S. to learn the tricks of the trade. I was fortunate enough to meet Randy Paul, who at the time had come to Austria to host a clinic. I asked him if I could go work for him and he accepted immediately. Randy made me understand what Reining was all about and I am so grateful for all his help. When I went back to Austria I met the man who would be fundamental to my career; Alessandro Foscari. He gave me some of his horses to ride and show, trusting me completely. It was my beginning. Foscari gave me the opportunity to experiment with these horses. I would spend hours studying their actions and reactions and this helped me one hell of a lot. I will always be grateful to him. He believed in me and trusted me completely and when he passed away a few years back, it was a very sad moment for me."

To date, Kronsteiner's achievements in the pen are history just as those he achieved in his home country. In 2008, he was recognized by the Austrian Equestrian Sports Federation (FENA) with the Gold Medal of Honor and in 2010, he was awarded the Silver Medal of Honor by the State of Austria. Kronsteiner's NRHA Lifetime Earnings are currently $1,076,604.

Rudi and his wife Steffi live in Freystadt, Germany, along with their son Luca (8), a football enthusiast and player, where they operate RK Performance Horses.

During his career, the 38-year-old Austrian rider based in Germany, has won every European major event at least once. He has represented his country in all three editions of the FEI World Equestrian Games since 2002, the year in which the sport of Reining was introduced as a full-medal sport. He is also a three-time FEI World Reining Masters champion. Yet, the road to success has not always been an easy one to travel: "Dealing with the pressure showing involves has always been my main problem, especially so after I started winning. I truly have to give my wife Steffi credit for always having been by my side and helping me get over the pre-show panic. I have changed a lot in these past years. I have matured and have learned to deal both with the pressure and with the people around me. When it comes down to my horses and my work, it's as if I were in a tunnel. My goal is that of focusing on the light at the end of that tunnel and getting there without looking at what is around me. It's the same thing when it's show time, but we all know that there is so much involved, so many variables, that it doesn't always work out the way we would like it to."

This year it did though. He started off 2011 boasting a little over $821,000 and he wanted it to work out so that by the end of the year that number would be a little over a million.

"The year took off well. Our first major win was the NRHA European Futurity level 4 open division, which I won thanks to Anja Deutmann's Finest Copyshot. That gave me the energy to believe in what I had set out to do. During the time hauling around the Old Continent there were ups and there were downs. When you're always on the road, away from home and from the family, times can be tough, especially as it's not always about winning. Finally, in Lyon, France, thanks to Dr. Lee Hook and to Hollywood Yankee Kid, I went over that 'money line' and made it. I wanted it to happen here in Europe and it did, even though I knew that if I didn't make it here, I had a chance to do so at the AQHA World Championship Show and at the NRHA $100,000-added Open World Championship Shootout in Oklahoma City. I gave it all I had and I cannot but thank the owners of my horses for their trust and for their respect towards my work."

Aboard Dr Lee Hook (Ray Gay Quixote x Chickadualsha) owned by Michael Kolbe's Glis Ranch, Rudi won the French.

The Horses

Rudi has shown over 100 horses in NRHA competition both in Europe and in North America. "All the horses I have had the opportunity to ride have left their mark. If I really have to name some that hold a special place I would have to say Star Spangled Whiz–I scored a 236 on him, which is the highest score ever recorded in Europe; Chic N Roost–I had him in training for seven years and during all that time we only had about 10 bad days total. But then again I would have to name Shine On Ruff, Dun It On The QT, Smart Spook, Finest Copyshot … I guess I would have to say a word for each and every one I've ridden because they all did leave me a part of them. Of course, without the owners of all the horses, I would not be where I am today. My thanks to all of them for trusting me."

Snaffle Bit Futurity level 4 open championship and also tied to win the French Futurity 3 & 4-year-old championship with the stallion. Riding Hollywood Yankee Kid (Rowdy Yankee x Sunshine Yellow Kid), for owners Heike Nixdorf and Mario Karner, he went on to win the $40,000-added Grand Prix International de Reining Open at the Italian Reining Horse Association Futurity Show and surpassed the million dollar mark–in Europe!

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