Fredy Knie, the former director of Switzerland's traditional family circus, turns 80 today. It was his exceptional riding skills, and the non-violent training methods he used on his horses, that put the Knie Circus on the international map.
Knie was born in Geneva on May 29 1920, and by the age of four was performing as an acrobat in the circus ring. At eight years of age, he was already showing signs of becoming an accomplished horseman, and within two years he was winning show-jumping competitions at a European level. What brought him widespread acclaim was his ability to perform intricate stunts on stallions that he rode without saddles or bridles.
Like all the members of the show-biz family, Knie completed his entire formal education. In 1945, with his brother Rolf, he took over the management of the family circus. Together, he and Rolf created the children's zoo in Rapperswil in 1962.
Knie wrapped up his career in 1985 at the age of 65. A career that helped make Knie the household name that it is in Switzerland, both in and out of the circus ring.
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