In 2019, Axel Steiner was inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame. Here is his induction speech, given by USDF President Lisa Gorretta.
I don’t think I can recall a time when Axel Steiner was not a part of the dressage scene. Really. Think about it.
Axel was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, where he started riding when he was nine years old. He and his brother, Uwe, were the sons of an officer who was long listed to represent Germany for the ill-fated 1940 Olympic Games, and who died in World War II. Axel chose to come to the US when he was 19, after earning his German silver riding medal, while Uwe went on to be the head rider at the famed Von Neindorf school in Karlsruhe, before emigrating to the United States several years later. While Uwe rode at Neindorf’s, Axel rode at the German Riding school in Warendorf, where at 16 years old, he stayed working in a military hotel in preparation of his immigration to the United States.
In 1961 at 19 years old, Axel joined the United States Air Force.
During the time he was stationed in San Antonio, Texas, he began what was to become his lifelong passion of teaching and sharing his knowledge of dressage. It was during this time that he competed, not just on his own horses but, on the horses from the US Modern Pentathlon team.
Seven years later, in 1968, Axel received his first judging credentials. Twenty years later in 1988, Axel received his FEI-O designation (now FEI 5*), which was the same year he retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel.
During those twenty years, Axel filled them by being a founding member of USDF as well as one of the first faculty members of the USDF L Program. As an original member of the Dressage Foundation, in 1998, he was responsible for planting the seed money for what was to become the Edgar Hotz Fund for Judges. As a result, this endowment spurred the Dressage Foundation to declare that Judge’s Education would be a primary pursuit of the foundation.
The Edgar Hotz Judges Education Fund
Twenty years goes by in the twinkle of an eye.
Typical Axel, during those decades, he was involved wherever he could find dressage people. He served on the USEF Dressage Committee for 25 years and several sub committees such as Test Writing and Judges Education. He was a frequent moderator for -what was then called – the AHSA Judges Forums and also served on the AHSA Board of Directors. He helped Jack Kimball get dressage shows established in Florida, which, who could have predicted that those would one day become the center of the US dressage universe?
Axel has judged in 35 countries from shows in remote equestrian outposts to the World Cup Finals, Pan Am, and Olympic Games.
He has shared his judging and teaching insights with the Chronicle of the Horse, Dressage Today, USDF Connection, his own internet blog and written forwards to several books.
Although the FEI demanded mandatory retirement of FEI judges after age 70, Axel was able to extend the deadline a few years. He was not going down without a fight! In 2013, Axel returned to his hometown of Weisbaden to judge the CDI 4* for the very first time and lamented for his last foreign FEI competition. There, he and his brother Uwe, reunited for the last time in a tribute to their mother, visiting their childhood home and Von Neindorff’s riding school. Dressage and horses had brought their family full circle.
While remaining active as a clinician and National judge, Axel has reinvented himself.
How, you may ask? We all know that Axel likes to talk. And, he does it so very well.
Axel’s new look was born from his 1996 stint as technical advisor in the broadcast booth for NBC at the Atlanta Olympics, as well as his many narrations for USDF videos. As the color commentator for the World Cups in Las Vegas and Olympic Selection Trials in Gladstone as well as most recently the CDIs in California, Axel has garnered a loyal following both internationally and in the US. He is often referred to as “The Voice of Dressage”.
When I first met Axel, I thought he was a serious kind of guy. But then I learned. I know he has a sense of humor and I know he likes to dance, which shows sometimes in his teaching.
Once, in the 1990’s at NAYRC, the Region 2 Team tested his sense of humor. Axel came through with flying colors while wearing a grass skirt as “Don Ho and his Hula Girl”.
However, indisputably, the one he dances with best and shows the most laughter is with his wife, Terri Miller.
Terri Miller, by the way, is an icon in her own right – Terri is an artist and earned her creds as a well-known horse show photographer, who, just recently won the inaugural 2019 Silver Camera Award at Aachen.
Axel has a son, a daughter, and three grandchildren. He and Terri married in 2000 and have been living happily ever after in Lake San Marcos, California.
It is my pleasure to invite Axel Steiner to be one of our 2019 USDF Hall of Fame Inductees.