A Tribute to De Niro


De Niro has died

Earlier in 2017 THM asked Hanoverian Verband breeding expert, Ludwig Christmann what made De Niro such an exceptional sire:

“I think you should probably talk to the riders and trainers, I think it is the minds that they like. When I talk to Mr Sprehe about Desperados and he says the horse is always fit, even if it is 35 degrees like in Rio, he always does his job. They have the talent for collection and the higher movements, but it is the mind that makes them so special.”

Dolf-Dietram Keller had a special relationship with De Niro, here winning the German Professional Champion rider in 2001.

Here’s what he said about the stallion in 2014:

“De Niro was very trainable. He learned the one-tempi changes in only two days as a six-year-old. He did them every day from then on. We tried Piaffe and Passage very early at home. De Niro accepted the aids very well. Because of his great talent, he never really encountered stress during his entire training.”

How did Burchard Wahler find De Niro?? As usual there is a story:

When I interviewed his owner, Burkhard Wahler in 2007, he was rightly proud of his horse:

“Some people might disagree, but in my opinion, there is no son of Donnerhall as successful as De Niro. He is only 14, the oldest progeny are ten, four are already placed in Grand Prix. Twenty-four are placed in Prix St Georges and Intermediaire. The offspring last year won almost €195,000, in just one year. When you start thinking that next year there will be more horses, at a higher level, that means they will probably win even more – and the stallion is still very young. My daughter Theresa competed last year with him in Grand Prix, and she will ride him again this year.”


Mr Wahler liked the cross of Donnerhall on Akzent II:

“I love to buy the Donnerhall blood but I don’t like the very popular Donnerhall / Pik Bube cross – very heavy big horses, and I didn’t like that so much because I am from the other side, from the Trakehner side and I like more an elegant horse. I really liked De Niro, because he was out of a mare with Wiesenbaum / Akzent breeding. Akzent is through Absatz, Trakehner, Wiesenbaum is from Thoroughbred – so in my opinion, this was a very interesting bloodline.”

The story of how Burkhardt Wahler acquired De Niro is entertaining, and bears out Burkhardt’s maxim that with every stallion comes a story…

Wahler’s Klosterhof Medingen stud is in the middle of Hanoverian breeding country, but had always stood Trakehner stallions. He found the Hanoverian breeders would only visit his farm – once:

“We thought, okay we have so many Hanoverian breeders but they don’t come back – because they used our stallions to breed F1 – half Trakehner, half Hanoverian, then they go back to a Hanoverian stallion and not to a Trakehner again. We had to buy a Hanoverian stallion.”

“It was the first time I’d been to the Stallion Licensing in Verden, and in the catalogue, I had three stallions marked – and one of those three was De Niro.”

“At that time, Celle (the Hanoverian State Stud) could choose ten stallions for a certain price and it was not possible for private breeders to buy those stallions. When I looked at the stallions, there was only one I wanted to buy, that was De Niro. Then I asked Mr Jahncke, the President of the Hanoverian Association, do you think the state stud will take him? Yes. Probably he goes to Celle.”

“It’s always the same weekend with two stallion licensings – Verden has the Hanoverians, Neumünster has the Trakehners. So I left Verden and went to Neumünster. I called the next day after the freejumping – is he going to Celle? No. They thought Dr Bade didn’t take him because he is by Donnerhall, and Donnerhall was a private stallion, and he didn’t want to make private stallions popular. In this time they took Weltmeyer, Weltmeyer, Weltmeyer…. Every year twelve Weltmeyer stallions. So then I called my partner, Tönne Böckmann from the Böckmann stallion station, and I said, I am here in Neumünster, you go and buy that stallion…”

“It was in the days when they didn’t have a proper auction for the licensed stallions, just the people who are interested used go into some rooms of the Verband office and bid amongst themselves for the stallions. Paul Schockemöhle was on the phone to the Hanoverian breeding director, Dr Wilkens who was doing the deal. The price went up to 150, 170, 180 Deutschmarks – so 80/90,000 euros – and Schockemöhle asked, who’s bidding against me? Oh it doesn’t matter… No, who is it? Böckmann. I want to talk to him… Okay, Paul said, I stop now, you buy him and we can talk later. But what he didn’t know was that Böckmann already had a partner!”

“Then on Monday the telephone was ringing, Schockemöhle’s manager was ringing Böckmann wanting to know how they were going to make the arrangements for the stallion. There’s one problem, Böckmann said, I have already a partner, and you have to talk to him. Two days later Paul calls me and says, listen I stopped bidding. And I said, yes Paul that was very nice, we have been friends for a long time… but now I have him and I am not interested in having a third owner in him. You should think about it, Paul said. At the end, I had no more arguments, and I didn’t know what to say, so I said, I really can’t decide – I have to ask my wife!”

“Paul said, are you crazy? Böckmann says ‘I can’t decide, you have to ask Wahler’. Wahler says ‘I can’t decide I have to call my wife!’ At the end Böckmann and I had De Niro ourselves. We got very lucky…”

According to Mr Wahler, De Niro crosses over a wide variety of mare lines:

“We have bred a lot with Weltmeyer mares, in Oldenburg with many Rubinstein mares. Okay with the Donnerhall blood, once in a while they could be a little heavy, Donnerhall himself produced some heavy horses, that can happen – that’s why we try all the time to make sure we don’t get too heavy mares for De Niro. He makes very good dressage horses, especially with a good hindleg.”

Karin Rehbein and Donnerhall, founder of the modern D line, and sire of De Niro

In 2000 Mrs Rehbein said:

“Donnerhall was always a good horse to train. Good in the head, he was always straightforward and learnt everything really quickly. He is still fantastic, he could still go out and win right now. He was very soft. Sometimes you had to hold him a little bit through, but you have to do that with every horse.”

De Niro was a prolific producer of young horse winners, and top level Grand Prix horses

Daily Pleasure, a young horse star who went on to Grand Prix

D’Agostino and Fabienne Lutkemeir, from Young Riders all the way to Grand Prix together 

Annabel Balkenhol and Dablino, members of the German team at the 2010 WEG

Representing Spain, Beatriz Ferrer-Salat and Delgado at the European Championships and two Olympic Games

Donnerfee and Claudia Fassaert, competing for Belgium at the London Games

Australia’s Kristy Oatley and Du Soleil, World Cup representatives

Dancier, De Niro son and producer himself, now also deceased

Members of the Gold Medal Team at Rio, Kristina Böring-Sprehe with Desperados, who is also a breeding stallion

For more on De Niro

De Niro is available in Australia this season, don’t miss the chance to breed to him, contact International Horse Breeders now: www.ihb.com.au

or ring Glenis on: Phone 03 5439 7251  Mob 0427 400 357

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