A Life for his Horses

“When I came to Grönwohld for the first time in the summer of 1969, I immediately knew that this was the farm I had always been looking for. This was the place where I wanted to live, run a farm and breed horses when I retired – or in other words, fulfill my childhood dream.” Horses always played a large role in Otto Schulte-Frohlinde’s life – Donnerhall above all.

The Schulte-Frohlinde family, whose roots go back to the 13th century, were originally farmers. Otto Schulte-Frohlinde was born in 1916 as the third son of four siblings at his parent’s farm in Dortmund. After the war, he successfully built his company, the “Rex Mineralölgesellschaft Paul Ziegler & Co.” [a mineral oil company], with headquarters initially in the Ruhr area and later in Berlin. Along with running his company, horses always played a central role in his life.

Until 1972 Otto Schulte-Frohlinde held various positions. He was Chairman of the Berlin State Association of Riding and Driving Clubs and was also a member of the show jumping commission as well as the executive board of the German Olympic Equestrian Committee (DOKR). As early as the sixties, he had dressage horses and show jumpers that competed in sport, some of which were ridden by Bubi and Maria Günther. Bubi Günther was the man who discovered and trained Herbert Rehbein.

Warwick Rex and gold in Montreal. Otto Schulte-Frohlinde and Alwin Schockemöhle were connected by a very special equestrian partnership and bound by a deep friendship until Otto Schulte-Frohlinde’s death in 1990. The horses they jointly owned had names like “Donald Rex”, “Rex the Robber”, or “Warwick Rex”. In 1976, Alwin Schockemöhle won individual Olympic gold in Montreal with Warwick Rex on the most difficult course ever built.

Farming and horse breeding. Otto Schulte-Frohlinde’s love of farming was also a determining factor in his life. In 1964 he purchased the Artramon Farm, an agricultural operation located in the south-east of Ireland. When ownership of the farm went to his daughter, Ulrike Walderdorff, in 1990, she took over the interests of the farm and still runs it today.
In 1969, Otto Schulte-Frohlinde purchased Grönwohldhof which is located north-east of Hamburg. This was where he wanted to farm and fulfill his childhood dream – breeding horses – when he retired. At that time the farm was in a deep slumber – but the slumber of a “sleeping beauty”. His son Henrik took on the task of reawakening the farm – and it remained a large-scale construction site until 1972.

A man without a goal is like an arrow without a tip. This quotation by Sitting Bull was Otto Schulte-Frohlinde’s motto. When he had a stroke in 1972 at the age of 56 and was unable to resume his business activities in Berlin, Otto Schulte-Frohlinde set new goals and Grönwohldhof became his new home a lot sooner than originally planned.

The beginning of a success story. Fortunately, Otto Schulte-Frohlinde was able to rely on his two children, Henrik and Ulrike, during this difficult phase in his life. His daughter practically became her father’s right hand. Henrik, who knew how important horses were in his father’s life, designed a riding facility tailored entirely to his father’s needs. In the spring of 1974, ground was broken at Grönwohldhof for the indoor, the glass gable of which became its trademark. During this time, Otto Schulte-Frohlinde took over Greif Stables in Hamburg, owned by Karin Schlüter, along with her famous horse Liostro and the married couple, Herbert and Karin Rehbein. All of these efforts paid off – their father slowly recuperated and over the years Grönwohldhof became a world-famous riding centre.

Breeding and dressage with Donnerhall. With the Oldenburg dressage stallion Donnerhall (born 1981) as its locomotive, who had become a legend during his life time because of the highly desirable traits he passed on to his offspring, an insemination station was opened at Grönwohldhof during the eighties which was the first facility in Germany to receive EU recognition in 1990. The stud farm was highly esteemed all over the world as a mecca for breeding and schooling horses. In the short period of just a few years, Grönwohldhof had become a leading address for dressage training – a feat only made possible by the likes of Herbert Rehbein, a genius trainer who unfortunately passed away at the age of 50 in 1997.
Things at Grönwohldhof became more quiet after Donnerhall died in 2002. In 2012 Henrik Schulte-Frohlinde sold the riding facility to Manfred von Allwörden, a successful breeder of Holstein show jumpers, who will now write the next chapter of history at Grönwohldhof.