Baloubet du Rouet dies at age 28

Baloubet du Rouet has died. He had many successes, and one memorable slip up at the 2000 Sydney Games, when he was expected by most experts to take out the Gold Medal. 

The stop at Sydney

Aachen in 2005

Las Vegas, and a win in 2004

He had many wins and placings throughout his career, and has go on to be an influential sire. Read more:

2nd PS-Online.Auction

In a press release the Paul Schockemöhle team has announced that they are “launching the second round online for top quality foals.”

The release reads:

Top price for Balina Blue

60,000 euros for the Big Star daughter, Balina Blue, 51,000 euros for the Vitalis son, Vuitton – these are the top prices of the top quality foals that were sold during the first PS Online foal auction. And all the while the foals were enjoying their youth at home with their mothers. The premiere of the PS-Online.Auction was a complete success for everyone involved. And now, exactly two months later, we are moving on to the second round: from 17 to 27 August the second PS Online foal auction will take place.

Vuitton – one of the stars of the first on-line auction

The PS team has once again put together a selection of 25 foals and the stallions of the Schockemöhle stud farm are exclusively the sires we are proud to stand. “We were surprised by the tremendous success of the Premiere but we are entirely convinced by the concept”, explains Paul Schockemöhle, “and also the feedback that we received immediately after the Premiere from breeders and clients looking for foals was so positive that we started to put together a second selection”. And smiling happily, ‘PS’ adds: “And the second collection is definitely not worse than the first.”

No top quality foal collection would be complete without him: For example, Cornet Obolensky produced a colt, who was born at Lewitz stud farm at the end of May and who goes back to Baloubet du Rouet on the dam side. The secret star of the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and five-star champion Presley Boy belongs to the top sires list and the Olympic Champion Big Star is this time represented by his son Big Easy. In the dressage collection, a very chic colt by the champion stallion and star producer Bordeaux can be found, as well as a dark bay son of the exquisite foal producer Foundation –  only two of the exceptional up-and-coming talents…

You can see the foals now on – in videos, with photos and descriptions, their pedigree and veterinary inspection certificate. Whoever would like to bid can register in a few clicks and submit a bid. The bidder will be informed via email or text (optional), when he is the highest bidder or if someone else has submitted a higher bid.

Don’t miss it: The Online auction ends on 27th August!

(source PS press release)

IAH rider of the month – Simone Pearce

Ten for trot for Casablanca!

For Simone Pearce, the last couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster. Twenty-six year old Simone starred at the World Young Dressage Horse Championships in Holland, scoring 10s on both her horses – riding the five-year-old mare, Casablanca, Simone was 4th in both the Qualifier and the Final, on the six-year-old gelding. Feodoro, she was 1st in the Qualifier and 7th in the Final.

Feodoro wins the Six Year old Qualifier

In an earlier interview, Simone described her base, Helgstrand Dressage in Denmark, as you drive to the end of the earth and then keep on driving, I asked her, what does it do to your head, one week you are starring at a Worlds, the next, going around a 60 x 20 in the middle of nowhere…

Simone laughs a lot!

“It’s definitely from one world to another, but on the other hand, I’m used to it now, it’s the lifestyle we live.”

There’s no come down?

“Yeah, especially when you live so far away from any sort of society, you definitely get a little bit flat, but at the same time, I’m setting new goals and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”

I got the impression from the social media that there might have been a little retail therapy done between Holland and Denmark…

That crazy laugh is happening again: “But of course! You cannot have any success or failure without supporting it with retail therapy.”

What are the new goals you have set yourself?

“Now I have my Grand Prix horse, Wladimir, and I go to Germany next month to do my next international show with him, and I have the Danish Championships coming up with both the young horses, and then I’m really starting to think about next season – where I want to be, what I want to do? And what I have to do to get there…”

There has been a bit of shock horror, Casablanca has been sold – but that’s the life of a professional rider isn’t it?

“All the good horses that I have had have been sold and it usually comes after a big success. Sadly the two, go hand-in-hand.”

Do you have a cunning plan to break this cycle and keep a really good horse for yourself?

“I have an idea, but unfortunately not a plan in motion at the moment. I’m always trying and hoping, never stopping fighting to make that a possibility, a really good horse that I get to compete at the top!”

Meet the Saddleworld Horse of the Month

Mary Hanna’s latest star, Calanta has been going from strength to strength resulting in a personal best at Deauville last month with a 72.2% in the Grand Prix. Rebecca Ashton caught up with Mary to talk about her exciting mare.

“I found her through Matyi Marissinik, a Dutch horse dealer. I’ve been dealing with her for years. She’s very good at what she does and she knew exactly what I wanted. Calanta was not an expensive horse at all. I’m always shopping with a limited budget so if I want a good horse, I have to find something that maybe has a few issues or one that people have overlooked and I have to try and make something out of it. That’s how it works. Otherwise I have to go and buy a foal or a younger one, like Gerry (Gerion, the youngster Brianna Burgess presented at the World Young Horse Championships in Ermelo), we bought him as a three year old.

“I look at the horses purely from the point of view of can they be Grand Prix horses? Often those who don’t show much in the lower classes turn out to be quite different once you get them to Grand Prix. That was the case with Calanta. It was her potential to sit and collect and the bending of the joints. She had a very good hind leg from the start. And the trainability, of course, they’re the things I look for.

“She’s come up quite quickly. I bought her two years ago from Holland when she was eight years old. At that point she was about Elementary with a couple of flying changes, but she was late with the changes on the right. She had a few other issues as well like no extended trot, but she was one of those horses that give you an amazing feeling when you sit on them. The first ride I had on her I felt I could correct a few things that were problems. I could also feel in the trot that she could be easily trained to do good piaffe/ passage although she didn’t have any at the time.

“I kept training her here in Europe with Patrik (Kittel) for a time and then I took her back to Australia. She just kept developing and developing. Everything I asked of her she did really well. The first tests I started her in were Medium/ Advanced. We did have a few issues at the start because she would get overawed at competitions as she hadn’t done any, so we had to work through that a little bit.

“She has just made an incredible improvement in the last six months, her learning curve just accelerated. As soon as I started to focus on the Grand Prix….she just loved to do it. She does have an incredible natural talent for piaffe/ passage, and that’s just getting better and better. The pirouettes had been a little bit of an issue on one side, she’s a bit weaker on one side, so I’ve had to develop those things. She’s now become very strong in herself, and has developed her muscles in a good way, and has become more even on both sides. As she’s become more through, and straight, the work has just fallen into place.

“We came back to Europe in April and she did her first international competition ever at Compiegne in May. She was early in the draw, but did a very, very nice test for any horse, let alone one who was doing their first Grand Prix internationally. They were marking quite tough in that test so she only got 67.96%, but I was so happy, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

“Then we went to Roosendaal and she developed even more and scored well over 70%, and that was a much more difficult show in terms of atmosphere; there were flags and all sorts of distractions. She dealt with that environment really, really well. I remember in the prize giving, she was doing piaffe and passage with her knees to her chin and someone said to me, “Has your horse not done many presentations?”. That was her first one!

“I rode in the clinic with Charlotte (Dujardin) when she was at Boneo Park earlier in the year and she helped me a lot with how to deal with distracting situations that you find at big shows. She pointed out to me that I had the horse a little bit behind my leg and that when I got into these situations where the horse is a little bit nervous and frightened, that I had to get the horse more in front of the leg. That’s often not your instinct when things are going a bit pear shaped. However I discovered that’s exactly what I have to do. I have to be very positive and have her really going, not to ride backwards but to be very forward, very positive and not to pull back on the reins. If I do those things then she very quickly comes around.

“Deauville was fantastic. She got the PB there in the Grand Prix. Once again, it was a bit more polished, a bit more precise in the riding of the test. After that, it was probably a little bit of a mistake, but I took her to Crozet. It was a bit close to Deauville without enough recovery time and it was very, very hot. We got the hottest part of the day and it wasn’t her fault, it was probably mine, I was having a bit of brain meltdown and I think my timing wasn’t as good as it could have been so there were a few uncharacteristic mistakes.

“Patrik just loves this horse, he has since the moment he saw her, so it’s a very good relationship with him, me and the horse working well together. You must have a horse that your trainer likes and gets on with as well. It’s a very positive training situation. If I ever need help, he can get on and have a feel of her for me. If I have a moment where I feel a bit lost, he believes in me and the horse together, and that’s very uplifting and positive. You really need that.

“We’ve just stuck to our training system and Patrik’s helped me get more collected. When I‘m riding on my own sometimes I can get her a little bit long and on the front legs. Patrik’s got me to get her more sitting on the hindleg. He’s very strict with the details, making sure I maintain the straightness, thoroughness and collection and to ride the test in a much more precise and polished way. When I ride on my own, I tend to not ride the detail of the test so well, and I lose the straightness. This is the reason you need your coach there all the time or else those little things slip.

“Calanta is just the most loveable horse and beautiful to handle. She’s never in a bad mood, she never says no, she never doesn’t want to do it, but wants to please you every single day. Everybody who handles her just falls in love with her because she’s just the kindest, sweetest, most affectionate horse. There’s not a mean bone in her. That’s all part of the joy of it. We call her Princess in the stable because she’s so careful, she’d never stand on you, she’d never push you, she’s just a beautiful soul.

“I did an embryo transfer with her and I got the most beautiful foal by De Niro. It’s absolutely stunning and looks identical to her in type and colour. It’s a beautiful big foal with lovely, straight legs. It seems to have very nice movement from what we can tell for now… it’s just a yearling. It’s growing up very nicely in the paddocks at home. I’ll be about 110 by the time it’s grown, but I do intend to ride it! My golf’s not good enough for a career change! I definitely want to get a couple more embryos out of Calanta because she’s so special.

“I’m staying in Europe for now. I think it’s too dangerous to travel the horses back and forward. I lost Limbo after Athens with all the travel. I just love these horses so much and I thought I can’t do that to them; in my heart I just couldn’t. The risk was too great, so we thought we’d stay.”




Isabell Werth – on the Ups, the Downs, and what lies ahead

An interview with Christopher Hector

Photos: Roz Neave, Jacques Toffi, Kenneth Braddick and archives

 When I interviewed you at Aachen in 1991, did you think you would still be competing here, twenty five years later?

“Not really,” Isabell chuckles, “I was not so focused on it, more on my studies, and then I planned to start my profession as a lawyer and I expected that I wouldn’t have time to compete, and that I would change my focus and my priorities. But then life plays out in different ways. There came the decision, what happens with our farm? What should I do? And then I had the luck to make my hobby and my passion into my profession. Luckily I am still here – and in good shape!”

Aachen, 1991, with the beautiful Fabienne

In the line-up at Aachen in 1991 

It hasn’t always been in such a good shape, you’ve had wonderful times at the top, but then some not so wonderful times, and you’ve always managed…

“To come back again… but this is the life of an athlete, you can’t stay on top the whole time – you will have your ups and downs. The challenge is always to come back after a down. All the time I was in a very comfortable position with great horses, not always with a championship horse, but always with horses where I could stay on a good international level, in the top ten or top fifteen, and always with very talented young horses coming up, so you never lost the motivation.”

But I can think of the year when you couldn’t finish the test at the German Selection trial on Satchmo, and two years later you were back with him winning a medal at the Beijing Games…

“But these moments give you the background that you can come back, that it is possible, that you have to keep on going and find a solution, to find the key for each horse. There is no horse without some problem, without some ups and downs, and the goal is to find a key and not to give up – if this one doesn’t work, we have to find another one. This is what I really love to do, and why I am still here at Aachen, I really love to improve and build up horses into the Grand Prix sport. To get a vision of a young horse, to think it through, this one could come up to a top Grand Prix level, and then to go through the difficulties, through the years, four or five years to bring them up. This is what I really love in the sport, this is what makes it timeless.”

Gigolo, the partnership won Individual Silver and team Gold Sydney, Individual and Team Gold Atlanta, Silver and Team Gold at Barcelona, and Individual and Team Gold
at Rome WEG in 1998


Warum Nicht – World Cup final winner, 2007

Do you have a set of criteria for a horse that you will take on? Because a lot of your horses look very different, when you went from Warum Nicht to El Santo, a journalist friend said, Isabell’s gone from riding a Giraffe to a Hippopotamus…

 El Santo – 5th in the World Cup Lyon, 6th in Las Vegas

“It’s always with each horse the first view: it’s elasticity, the basic, the movement, the trot, the canter, the walk, then you have to think how it could look after a while, after the gymnastic – how can I build up the muscles? Take Don Johnson, he needed five, six years, before he was really safe in his muscles, before I changed his body. This takes time. Of course it is easier if you have a horse like Weihegold, a horse without this kind of problem. The first choice is to sit on, and get a feeling on the horse and then you can imagine how it could be in the after years.”

You must have seen something in Don Johnson that made it worth those years of training…

“When I saw him the first time standing next to the trailer, I thought how in the hell should this work? And then I saw him moving and I said, wow this horse has no bones in his body, he was so elastic. Okay, he was quite naughty, but I was thinking if I can bring the muscles in the right way, then he can become a pretty horse and a really good athlete because his mind and his elasticity were really great. It needed in the end, two years longer than it would with a horse without this kind of body, but the end result gives you a lot of self-confidence, you are really satisfied with yourself and with the horse. Look at the 2015 Europeans, to finish the Freestyle in the fourth place, it was like winning with this horse because I was so proud that that this horse could improve until he was in the top five in the world, that was great for me. It was a good result for me as a trainer and a rider.”

Don Johnson – 4th in Euros at Aachen, 2015

The support team, Madeline Winter-Schulze, and coach, Monica Theodorescu

When you started training it was with Dr Schulten-Baumer, and I think he was one of the first to bring in ideas from jumping training, of lengthening and shortening, or working on the gymnastics…

“Dr Schulten-Baumer is for sure the person that gave me the basic, and the chance to learn his way of training, to learn how to improve horses and build them up to Grand Prix. For sixteen years I worked and trained with him, and for sure I wouldn’t be sitting here without him. Now it’s about sixteen years that I have been doing it by myself, of course with help, especially from Madeline Winter-Schulze.”

“Two times I have had great luck in my life, the first time was with Dr Schulten-Baumer, and then Madeline – without both of them, I wouldn’t stay in the sport – but after Dr Schulten-Baumer, I had to prove myself, that I could do it by myself. To learn to analyse by myself, to improve the horses by myself. It needed a few years before I got the feeling, okay now you feel at home and safe with no-one sitting next to you.”

Wolfram – giving confidence (photo Jacques Toffi)

“Then I had a few years with Wolfram Wittig, he gave me the confidence. It was not that he should tell me how to do a change, it was more that there was someone sitting next to me, behind me, saying a little more here, a little more there. What I needed was someone to help me be myself.”

Another influence, Jose Garcia Mena – riding Norte at the Caen WEG

“Step by step I learned what can I do better, where are the weakest points. I’ve learned to work together with Jose Garcia Mena for the problems in piaffe for Ernie (El Santo). He gives me new ideas, he gives me a new impulse from someone who can do it better than me. That was the beginning of the partnership and the training and the work with Jose, but all the horses, my staff, my whole stable, could learn from this partnership and that was a very important step forward.”

El Santo competes at Frankfurt

Are you riding a little differently since Monica Theodorescu became the team coach?

“Maybe not differently, but it is a very confident and close partnership because we know each other so well. She knows how I am and I know how she is, and we both know what it is to go in the big arena. She can really feel all the different situations in the warming up arena, so we really work together. With her as coach I feel really happy and comfortable and it gives you the special thing on top to have a person next to you, and behind you, who exactly knows how it works.”

Emilio at Aachen – got it right in the Special (photo – Kenneth Braddick)

“You never stop learning, like what happened to me on Wednesday. Emilio was in really good shape, and this year he has had only really good competitions, with close to 70%, and here at Aachen I made this really stupid mistake in the warming up, he was a bit upset outside with the atmosphere so he came in over the point. I was really angry with myself that I couldn’t present the horse in the way I should – so I really hope I can do a better job this evening.” (She did, taking out the Special with a score of 78.275)

“Twenty five years in the sport, I don’t know how many horses, and you always have to be open to learn, to work by yourself, and make it better. Monica really helps me with this.”

When Dr Schulten-Baumer’s teachings came out, they were a little controversial, the horses were very deep and round – but it wasn’t Rolkur was it?

“Definitely not Rolkur, it was of course, low and deep, and it always depended on the horse. Hannes (Warum Nicht) was a horse that from his body really need to come low in the neck, otherwise he was like you said, a bit of a giraffe.

Hannes, warming up around the arena low and deep

I really had to form him low and deep. He was always a bit spooky so it only took two seconds for him to come up from a very nice round neck to a too uphill giraffe, so that was really a challenge to always keep him in the right attitude.”

The team – ‘Der Doktor’, Gigolo, and Isabell

Satchmo – good

Satchmo in Hong Kong – not so good… (photo – Kenneth Braddick)

“But you look at Satchmo, he required completely different riding, with Satchmo it was always a challenge to control his temperament. There was a time of about two years when he really became panicky, he was afraid, and I couldn’t find a key to calm him down, to give him confidence. We were really trying all the ways we knew – with less work, with more work, easy work, harder work, everything you normally do when you are looking for a solution. Then we found he had a problem in his eye, after the operation, there was only one situation, unfortunately at the Beijing Games, where he was really upset about the screen and was once more scared in the competition.

Satchmo, always a challenge 

But never after, and never before did he have this problem after the eye operation. What I am saying is don’t give up, try all kinds of solutions. I don’t want to find a solution in the medicine cupboard, but sometimes you have a medical problem.”

Bella Rose, and more Bella Rose

and more

It must have been an awfully sad moment to lose Bella Rose as a competition horse through injury…

“Of course, the best horse ever, my dream horse. We’ll see, hopefully we can bring her back. This is our big hope but you never know. It’s too early to dream but there’s a chance, and I hope that I get this feeling once more.”

Just as you didn’t expect to be here twenty-six years later when I first interviewed you, how many years have you been riding in Bates saddles?

“More than thirty years. It started in 1987 I think.”

How did an Australian company get in touch with a German rider?

“It came from the German distributor, Waldhausen, he had the Bates and Wintec saddles. We bought a Wintec saddle for a horse of ours, then he saw this, and said, we should do this in partnership. We talked with Ron Bates and now it is a friendship, it’s not just a business arrangement any more, it’s really great to have such a long partnership with a sponsor.”

The latest star – Weihegold

Team Gold and Individual Silver at Rio with Weihegold


Dr Uwe Schulten-Baumer – an interview with Christian Thiess


Dr Uwe Schulten-Baumer Senior is one of the most successful dressage trainers in the world. He has trained very few pupils and prefers ‘quality’ work to the mass activity of other instructors and trainers. He can afford to do this, because he does not have to make a living from his equestrian activities. He is a graduate in Engineering (hence the doctorate).

Dr Schulten-Baumer trained his son, Dr Uwe Schulten-Baumer Junior, to the top in international competition back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, riding Schlibowitz and Madras. Madras was also ridden successfully at international level by his daughter Alexa (and then went on to give Isabell Werth her first taste of the big time!)

Uwe Schulten-Baumer Junior and Madras

Dr Schulten-Baumer trained Pia Laus to victory for Germany at the European Young Riders, and then, after she adopted her mother’s Italian citizenship, into tenth place at the World Championships in Stockholm in 1990.

He was the trainer who brought Nicole Uphoff and Rembrandt to top international competition, but unfortunately they parted after a personality clash, just a few weeks before the 1988 Olympic Games. The result of his work was obvious, Nicole won the Gold medal in grand style, and just after the Olympics Dr Schulten-Baumer told the international press: “I have another star coming, a lot more talented than Nicole, she is Isabell Werth.”

Isabell just 18 then, rode his pretty difficult, but talented, Hanoverian, Weingart, in the gold medal winning German Team at the 1989 European Championships. In March 1991, at the big CDIO in Dortmund, Isabell won the Grand Prix Special with the seven year old Hanoverian, Gigolo, beating Sven Rothenberger on Ideaal and Nicole Uphoff on Rembrandt.

Promising youngster – Gigolo

In this interview, Dr Schulten-Baumer outlines his philosophy to Christian Thiess. “I am a riding trainer as a hobby in the free time which my job as a director in the steel industry allows me. I have been involved in equestrian activity since my youth, and just after the War took part in the Grand Prix of Show jumping at Aachen. Since then I have become more and more interested in Dressage, and I translated this interest to my son, who won the Young Rider Dressage Championships. He was a member of the German team at the European Championships, several times with Schlibowitz, Madras and Feudal – horses which we have prepared. On Schlibowitz he was the silver medallist at the World Championships in Goodwood in 1978, in a very controversial judging decision, behind Christine Stückelberger riding Granat. My daughter Alexa was second in the Grand Prix at Rotterdam, with Madras.”

Do you ride your pupil’s horses?

“No. Actually I never sit on the horses of my pupils. I ride if necessary, but not as a training method. I must say that Isabell and my children are all exceptionally talented riders. They have prepared the horses by themselves under my supervision and my advice. My daughter Alexa is now married and a mother. She has shifted away, training by herself and is preparing four horses.”

In the magazine Reiter Revue International it was suggested that a woman cannot prepare a top dressage horse without the help of a man to help ride the horse. Do you agree?

“We have proved this statement incorrect. I don’t think it is true. Of course, it depends on the quality and talent of horse and of rider.”

Were you professionally trained as a trainer?

“No, I got my knowledge through experience and passion for riding. I think my strength is that I don’t have a set program in the preparation of my horses. I am very flexible and each time I am working accordingly to the particularities of each horse. I think that the most important thing is to ride the horse deep – long and low. The deep riding must be understood and be done correctly. Riders must pay attention to the fact that the hindquarters must be activated. It is not enough if the head of the horse is low. The neck and back muscles must swing, which will develop these muscles into a sort of stallion neck.”

You have taught in England, did you find it difficult since you don’t speak English?

“I do not speak fluent English, but I could transmit the necessary professional terms in an understandable way.”

What do you do in a practical lesson?

“The horse will first be ridden on the circle into the outside rein. The horse’s inside leg will cross over in front of the outside one. The same happens at the trot. The trot has to be relaxed and loose and must show from the hindquarters a light swinging movement. Then little by little, depending on the relaxing degree, the horse will be pushed together. I also do shoulder-in, half parade, until the horse gives at the poll, and engages the hind legs.”

Pia Laus and Adrett competing at Goodwood 1991

Currently you are only training two pupils – Isabell Werth and Pia Laus – why?

“I consider that concentrating 100% on one or two pupils, one can really achieve something special.”

What do you think of top riders who have no trainers, like Klaus Balkenhol?

“I think Klaus Balkenhol is, of course, a very talented rider, but I don’t think he is doing everything alone. He has first his wife who has a very critical eye on him, and second he is coming from time to time to the national trainer, Harry Boldt, who has an eye on him. Any rider, however talented and experienced they may be, needs someone to tell them how correct their riding is.”

What is the future for Isabell Werth?

“With Gigolo just eight years old, we hope to have a great horse of the future with unlimited possibilities. Gigolo was bought by my son. I took the horse over later because my son has very limited time and no time for competition – he is now working as chief doctor in a clinic.”


Isabell and Madras

How do you consider yourself as a trainer – a soft or energetic one?

“The older generation bases a lot of the training on the military training methods. I think that you have to deal with the psychological problem. You must see that you keep your rider in the direction of his capabilities. You must sometimes push a little harder, but you in the end must be able to reward the rider. I see myself as a quite patient trainer. I think it is a very important point to keep quiet so that the rider doesn’t switch off, but you activate them in the right direction.”

Do you keep your horses in work for the whole year?

“The horses are worked through the year. The advanced horses, who are established in the required movements, are only worked through relaxation. That means longer walk parts, nice round trotting, and also swinging canter. This exercise keeps the horse supple and preserves the ability to move with impulsion. Before the competition season starts, we slowly build the horses up, little by little.”

During the training sessions, do you give the horse breaks and rest periods?

“No. If you do that, they fall apart. They become too long and it is difficult to push the horse together again. Relaxation takes place only at the beginning, during the loosening phase, and again at the end of the session.”

What advice do you have for riders?

“Beginning with the horse material, it is important that the paces fulfill the requirements. A very important point is that the horse’s temperament must be well balanced, and that he doesn’t have any temperament problems. In my work I always consider it an important fact that you have to adjust your demands to the individual and psychological aspects of the horse, and that you never overload the horse’s capabilities. It is important also to get the movement you want, and are able to come to a point where you can reward and praise the horse, so that it knows that it has done right. Nothing is worse than to overburden the horse that hasn’t got any idea of what it should be doing.”



World Young Horse Dressage – a Dutch treat

story – Christopher Hector                                      photos – Roslyn Neave

Quizmaster, first out the the World Young Horse Championships 

The very first horse into the ring for the Five Year Old preliminary selection round set the tone for the 2017 World Young Dressage Horse Championships in Ermelo. The bay Hanoverian gelding, Quizmaster (by the Quaterback son, Quasar de Charry, out of a mare by Velten Third) was nice and neat, maybe he could have been a little more open in the gullet, especially for a five-year-old, but it was a very pleasant opening from Luxemberger Sascha Schulz. Trot – 8.3, walk – 9.3, canter – 8.5, submission – 8.2, prospective – 8.7, end score 8.6 and the pair will hold the lead for a while.

Score of 7.74 for Hollywood and Marjie van Kersbergen

The very next round is not so pleasant. The rider is leaning back about fifteen degrees dragging the horse’s head behind the vertical, with her hands ‘prammed’ to get a better grip. Oh yes, she’s Dutch, Marjie van Kersbergen, the mare, Hollywood, Dutch bred by Fürst Romancier out of a Johnson mare. It is a relief to see that the judges are not going to reward this sort of riding, 7.74.

Rebecca Rooke riding the Trakehner, Muschamp Royal Black, and representing Australia

A workout for Adelinde…

Really Adelinde Cornelissen doesn’t need all those gym workouts, it would seem that just riding these days is an upper body strength intensive. You pity the Gelderland stallion, Henkie (Alexandro P / Upperville), he looks so uncomfortable, so restricted in front, the muscles of his neck are frozen solid, his back so tight that the movement cannot flow and the rhythm becomes choppy, and the half halts are simply vicious. What’s the line from Xenophon about nothing forced… Scores trot – 8.5, walk – 8.2, canter – 9, submission – 8.2, prospective – 8.7. Total 8.52, there is nothing like watching dressage to turn the most dewy eyed optimist into a hardened cynic.

Nine for Revenant’s canter

Revenant (Rock Forever / Sir Donnerhall) is another five-year-old going on fifteen. The dark brown stallion is beautiful, he just doesn’t look like a five-year-old. Rudolf Widmann in the saddle is tactful enough, and the horse has a super big canter and shows our first really smooth canter / walk / canter transition. 9 for that canter and an 8.22 total.

Really that is the major Young Horse issue as I see it, particularly now with the introduction of the seven-year-old championship: the three divisions should be clearly deliniated, the judges should be looking for, and rewarding, a different outline, different qualities, and penalising horses that are being shown in a way inappropriate for their age and physical development. This might even involve tweeking the tests, to say emphasise natural paces for the five-year-old, the higher level of schooling for the six-year-olds, and the greater degree of collection for the seven-year-olds – while making sure that this class is still a young horse class, not another international Prix St Georges.

Swinging in the rain, Andreas Helgstrand and Ferrari

The last time I saw Andreas Helgstrand at a World Young Horse Champs was two years ago, when he caused widespread outrage at the roughness of his riding on the reserve champion, Fiontina, luckily her full sister, Fiontini scored higher and complete disgrace was avoided. It seems that Andreas may have learned his lesson, and with the addition of Ulf Möller to the Helgstrand camp, the riding style has undergone a largish change. Andreas is riding Ferrari OLD more like a stately BMW. The glorious brown stallion is by Foundation out of a Hotline mare, and the horse is nicely, relaxed and swinging through the body, and instead of the tail helicoptering in futile protest, it is quietly and rhythmically waving from side to side. 9.8 for trot, 8.5 walk, 9.6 canter, 9.5 submission and prospective, 9.7 for a 9.42 total and the lead.

All power, Casablanca with Simone Pearce for Australia

Simone Pearce has been working at Helgstrand Dressage for the last couple of years, and she is riding a star in Casablanca. The horse is interestingly bred – all jump on the top line: her sire Conen is by Chequille Z by Caretano, out of a mare by the Landadel son, Land Classic. Casablanca is all dressage on her dam’s side – Fidertanz, Weltmeyer, Bolero.

What a powerful mare this is, but the trot is seriously passagey – and I’ve always understood that fake passage is a young horse evasion and to be avoided. The canter is genuinely huge, and Simone is really showing with style. I must say I am a little flabbergasted when the scores come up, that passagy trot scored a 10!! Walk is 8, canter 9.5, submission 8.8, prospective 9.5, for a total of 9.16, and Simone is second behind Andreas.

Later judge Dietrich Plewa explains at the Press Conference that there is a difference between tension inspired passage-like trot, and passage-like trot that comes because the horse has such a natural talent. Sorry, no, first the young horse must go forward – I remember Kyra Kyrklund talking about riding a young Matador through the forest, and the stallion started to offer passage. No, said Kyra, we put that away for a couple of years…

You don’t have to be spectacular to be beautiful, Don Martillo and Ann-Christin Wienkamp

There is one last twist of this first go round in the shape of the glorious black stallion, Don Martillo (Don Juan de Hus / Benetton Dream) ridden with sublime tact by Ann-Christin Wienkamp. They too score a ten for trot, but the stallion’s trot is very correct, his canter and walk are expansive for a 10 for the walk and a 9.2 in the canter. He drops his neck and relaxes beautifully on the trot circle, and picks up 9.8 for submission, and 9.8 for prospective, 9.76 to finish the first day in the lead.

Donkey Boy, odd name, super trot

For some daft reason we have half the five and six year olds on day one, and the other halves on day two. It would have been much nicer to finish the fives on the first day, and the sixes on the second. As it is only the oddly named Hesselhoej Donkey Boy who is by the Donnerhall great grandson, Dancing Hit, with a Sandro Hit mother, out of a mare by the Michellino son, Milan moves up on the five-year-old standings out of the second round. The stallion is a lovely bright bay with an exquisite head, and while the rider is a little backwards thinking, the trot is super, the walk huge and the canter a delight. 9.7 for the trot, 9.8 for the walk, 9.5 for the canter, 9.5 for submission, and 9.7 for prospective, and a 9.64 total to leave them in second place going into the final.

next the 6yos


First out in  the 6 Year Olds, Quel Filou and Servero Jurado Lopez

After the first day of the six-year-old class, the very first horse to go, the gelding, Quel Filou (Quaterback / Stedinger) is sitting pretty in the first spot on a score of 9.02 (8.8 trot, 9.2 walk, 9.2 canter, submission 8.5 and prospective 9.2). The horse is ridden by Severo Jurado Lopez, who has always been a softer, more tactful rider than his boss, Andreas Helgstrand, and he shows the bay nicely.

Leading going into the Final, Australia’s Simone Pearce and Feodoro

Keeping it in the family, another Helgstrand rider, Simone Pearce rises to the occasion in the second half, riding Feodoro. The gelding is by Fürstenball out of a Rosario / Dream of Glory mare. In truth, Feodoro goes just like his dam sire, Rosario, calm and sweetly expansive. The rhythm is absolutely relentless, and while the überstreichen is a little tentative, it has been a great test. Simone collects another 10, and this time deserves it, for the walk, 8.2 for the trot, 9.2 for the canter, 8.5 for submission and 9.2 for prospective for a 9.02 to lead going into the final.

It is nice to see that Adelinde can ride more tactfully, and she shows the Totilas son, Governor STR (out of Parzival’s full-sister, Jazz / Ulft) for an 8.66 into 9th place.

Fiontini – ultimate young horse star…

I hadn’t seen a seven-year-old young horse class before, and I really like the test, the movements flow logically one to the next, giving the riders every chance to prepare. Fiontini (Fassbinder / Romanov) was a sensation when she took out the five-year-old title in 2015. At the time, I interviewed Hanne Lund, who bred both Fiontini, and her full-sister, Fiontina (who finished a controversial second, ridden appallingly by Andreas Helgstrand) out of her Romanov /Solos Carex mare, and sired by Hanne’s stallion Fassbinder (Fürst Heinrich / Caprimond). Alas Fassbinder was a stallion no more, gelded when Hanne realised she could not compete against the high profile, ‘star’ stallions. Fiontina disappeared from view, but Fiontini continued her winning ways with Severo Jurado Lopez, taking out the Six-Year-old World Title at Ermelo last year, and now lining up to make it three in a row.

Danish mare, representing Spain with Severo Lopez 

The Danish mare is representing Spain, a country she has never set foot on, and that really does pose some kind of question for the World Breeding Federation of Sport Horses Executive –  who calls the shots for the World Championship. While the charter of the World Championships clearly sets out that riders should be mounted on horses bred in their own countries, this rule is more honoured in the breach than the observance. Smart operators soon grasped the idea that if they had a rider from a country that was not likely to produce any horses to fill their quota, then they had a great chance of slipping one of their horses into the lineup using their rider’s passport to get there.

As Klaus Miesner, the chairman of the WBFSH executive committee, pointed out to me, it is not a black and white situation. “Yes, in principal we want to encourage riders to compete on horses bred in their countries, but on the other hand, we want to encourage young horses classes all over the world. So if a rider from say Korea, comes to Europe to train, and then gets the chance to compete at the championships, this is a good thing in terms of promoting the concept in Korea.”

Time to get the view from the host country – Arie Hamoen was the chair of the KWPN dressage stallions licensing committee from November 2003 to December 2012. As an official he was refreshing in his frank assessments, and retirement has not dampened his willingness to tell it like he sees it…

What are your impressions of the horses at this year’s championships?

“My first impression is that the basic rideability is better, the horses are more comfortable in the rings. This arena is more closed than in Verden but the horses are coping. It is maybe a point of attention of the breeders, and I think it is better than we have seen in the past. Okay sometimes it is hard to find the balance between talent on one hand, and rideability on the other. With young horses sometimes you have to accept it when a talented horse makes a mistake.”

Do you think it might also be because the riders are riding the horses quieter and more sympathetically?

“I think the riders know better what the judges like to see, but again you have to be careful – if you are riding ‘too friendly’ with the contact too free, then sometimes the use of the hind legs becomes not so good. The riders have to find the balance – not too free, not too short. It’s a hard balance.”

Is it a hard balance for the breeder to produce a horse that will do well in young horse classes but also go on to compete at Grand Prix?

“When you give maybe too much attention to the rideability for the young horse classes, and you lose the activity of the hind leg, then you don’t have a good selection for the top sport. We know in the Grand Prix you need power behind, but when you have too much power behind, then sometimes it is very hard to present that horse for the young horse competition. When your breeding goal is the Grand Prix, then you have to accept that for the young horse competition, sometimes the horse is over-active and maybe the harmony is not there.”

When we look at the type we see here at the young horse classes, it is not the same type we see at the top competition: Totilas, Velegro, Verdades, they are rather old fashioned…

“I think it is a point of attention with the young horse judges that sometimes they give too high marks to the horse that has a lot of balance in trot, a lot of balance in walk, but no power behind. It looks very nice now as a young horse but when you look to that point on the horizon, the Grand Prix, then in my opinion there should be more attention to the power behind. And they should be careful with the walk, I hear the judges talking about over-step in the walk for the young horses, but the riders know how difficult it is to collect that walk.”

Do you think that it is almost as if we are breeding two streams of horses, you breed to a Grand Prix stallion like De Niro or Gribaldi, and you get a good chance of a Grand Prix horse, or you breed to a horse that has never done anything but young horse classes and you get a young horse class result…

“The judges have to realise that they should ask themselves – is this a potential Grand Prix horse? I hope in the future that the young horse judges give a little more attention to the breeding goal, which is to breed a Grand Prix horse. It is hard to look at a five or six-year-old horse and say how it will go in top sport, but in my opinion there should be more attention to the power behind. And the activity and clarity in the walk, not just the over-step – over-step is one point, but the other point is activity and clearness.”

Ferdeaux, 4th in the 7yo Final with Kirsten Brouwer – GP genes

Is it important to breed to a stallion that has competed Grand Prix or has progeny that have competed Grand Prix?

“On the other hand, we also have to test the younger stallions, otherwise we will never know what they can do. Of course I like to see Grand Prix in the pedigree, take our horse, Ferdeaux who was 4th in the first round of the seven-year-olds. The father, Bordeaux is now Grand Prix and on his pedigree two Grand Prix – Krack C and Gribaldi, then comes Ferro. Ferdeaux’s oldest offspring are two-year-olds, with good results – but when you look at his pedigree you see lots of Grand Prix. Of course I can understand why the breeders want to use proven stallions, yes Grand Prix is important, but also the pedigree is important.”

“You also have to remember that sometimes the Grand Prix horse is made by the rider and not made by the genetics. When you use a Grand Prix stallion you should also pay a lot of attention to his pedigree if there are Grand Prix stallions before, then you can use the stallion, but there are Grand Prix stallions where you cannot find any Grand Prix genes in their pedigree, then stay away from those stallions. Oh you can say ‘it’s an outcross’ and ‘he works on the highest level’ but the DNA says no. You must remember with a stallion that Edward Gal is riding, the offspring are coming from the stallion, not from Edward. The problem for the breeders is that when they go to the younger stallions they look hard at the pedigree, but when they go to an older Grand Prix stallion, then they are not so careful with the pedigree. For both, the pedigree is important, that’s the warning I give to breeders.”

In Germany this year, they recognized the difference between the stallions that sire good young horse competitors, and stallions that sire open competition horses, and they made two sets of breeding values – is that a possibility with the KWPN?

“You can see it also in our index. If you see a young stallion, and his index is high, then you know his offspring are easy to handle and good in young horse competitions, but when the offspring are older, and the index goes not up, then you know, go away from that stallion. For example Jazz, he started good in his index, good not extremely high – we know they are a little bit spooky, rideability is a point of contention – but as the offspring got older, you saw so many competing in the higher levels and his index goes up and up. We are thinking and talking about the same things as the Germans.”

Looking to the future, do you see any changes in the direction of breeding in Holland?

“Yes. The breeding goal is never one point on the horizon. We have had a lot of influence from Jazz in the past and now we look more to the rideability. We didn’t forget it in the past, but good stallions have good points and points of attention. Now in our breeding goals there is a little more attention to rideability than five or ten years ago.”

Which stallions would you be looking at for the future to improve rideability?

“Some German stallions for example, Belissimo, even though some of them are hard to handle, Desperados, we need the D line. We tried with Donnerhall himself twenty five years ago in Holland, but maybe at that time it was too early, it didn’t work. With our type of horse, at that time, it didn’t work. You have to look to your mare population, but now I think the D line is more successful with our mares, I hope so.”

Are you sad that there has been no Jazz son to really stand up and say – I am the heir?

Vivaldi is coming up. The rideability is good and the first sons are knocking on the door of Grand Prix. The only problem for Vivaldi is the quality of his semen. Vivaldi’s sons are also knocking, Dream Boy for example. Vivaldi is putting the next step in the line of Jazz.”

Fourth in the 7yo Final, President’s First Apple with Patrick van de Meer. The stallion is out of a Partout mare, and by Vivaldi – will Vivaldi carry on the line of Jazz?  

Three years ago, when Fiontini appeared on the scene at the last minute to rescue the five-year-old title from the clutches of Andreas Helgstrand and her full-sister, Fiontina, we were so relieved that we were prepared to overlook certain deficiencies. Now after she has carried Severo Jurado Lopez to the triple crown – five, six and seven year old champion – you sound slightly cracked suggesting that the mare never shows throughness and softness and movement through the back, she is stuck in an outline and has progressively lost her swing as time goes bye. She scores 85.656 so what do we know?

Three-peat for Fiontini

Trakehner charm, Kipling

Truth is, we would have preferred the horse that finished third, Kipling, the sweetest Trakehner (Hofrat / Hohenstein) from Denmark, ridden correctly and sympathetically by Anne Troensgaard. The bay spooked off the track at one stage and the rider had to circle and get back on the pattern but the rest of the test was delightful. They scored 82.445. There were three Trakehners that made this final, the other two were by Hubertus Schmidt’s Grand Prix horse, Imperio.

The second place went to Sultan des Paluds (Soliman de Hus / De Niro) ridden for Holland by Kirsten Brouwer – the back was so tight, the chestnut gelding is a real leg mover. 83.515.

Sunday, final day, and the sun is shining for the Five-Year-Old final, or it is right up until the end of the class with a slightly damp presentation…

Dragon Welt and Ida-Linn Lundholm, 9th with a score of 8.72

The first horse to go, Dragon Welt represents Sweden, but is of impeccable Hanoverian breeding, by Dancier out of a Weltmeyer mare. A glorious chestnut stallion, its skin glows in the morning sun. Ridden by Ida-Linn Lundholm for Jan Brink’s Tullstorp Stables, the horse is just a bit short in front, nothing horrible but if he could open his gullet a smidgeon the movement might flow better over his back. It’s a fine test and a lovely way to start the day.

The judges are in separate boxes but can talk to each other to come to a consensus mark, with Christoph Hess at C explaining the numbers. I like this system, the judges have to give reasons and you are less likely to get one loopy score affecting the result. Christoph is his usual enthusiastic self and is happy to pay an 8.72 for this stunning debut.

Sisters Act – ‘nice to see natural movement’.

The next to shine is Sisters Act OLD (Sandro Hit / Royal Diamond) with German ace, Dorothee Schneider scoring a neat 9. The trot is cadenced without being passagy, super unhurried medium, every step identical, great canter, and fabulous transitions. Christoph reports the comment from Australian judge, Susie Hoevenaars – ‘three good natural paces’. I feel there is not sufficient distinction in what the judges are looking for in the three classes, there are horses in the five year old division who look like Grand Prix horses. What was it that Pluvinel wrote of young horses ‘being careful not to annoy him, if possible and not to rob him of his gentleness, since the horse is as the blossom is to the fruit, which once withered, never returns…’

Dorothee finishes in equal fourth with Simone Pearce and Casablanca who looks a little tense, not so passagey but just a bit tight. Christoph says “we saw elasticity, power, impulsion but not always swinging over the back.” Simone scores 9.5 for the trot, 8.8 for the walk, 9.5 for the canter, 8.3 for submission, prospective 9. What a show for Simone and she still has the six-year-old class, which she is leading, to go.

Casablanca and Simone Pearce, starring for Australia

Simone’s boss, Andreas has Ferrari a little more revved up today, but not outrageously so. This is a truly amazing mover although the rider is working hard to keep the counter canter happening. Once again, Christoph is reaching for the superlatives – “powerful, unbelievable – we like the relaxation after the test”, as Andreas circles the arena on a loose rein for the comments.

Ferrari, trot – 9.7, walk – 8.5, canter – 9.5, submission – 8.8 and 9.5 for the prospective.
A total of 9.2.

Donkey Boy delights

The delightful Donkey Boy slips into 3rd on a score of 9.1, just behind Andreas and Ferrari, but it’s a clean sweep for Don Martillo. The stallion is just an effortless mover, gravity doesn’t seem to bother him, he floats, he glides, he flows. And in Ann-Christin Wienkamp, he has a rider perfectly in tune with the horse, and respectful of his age and level of development.

Don Mantillo and  Ann-Christin Wienkamp, the Dream Team

“Judges like to use 6.5 but when we see a horse like this, we need 9s. This really is the Dream Team. What do you think the best gait was?” Christoph asks the spectators.

“The walk.”

“And the score?”

“10,” they cry in unison. And ten it is. It is 9.7 for the trot and the same for the canter. There’s a 9.5 for the submission (“This horse is being trained 100% the right way.”) and a 9.7 prospective for a total of 9.74 and Don Martillo is the champion. And what a champion.

Showing off his 10 trot, Don Mantillo

Journalism is 90% luck. Here’s the latest example, I was watching the second round of the six-year-olds. The press facilities are pretty minimal, but up the back of the little stand there is a row of seats – Photographers Only. I may not be a photographer but I am wearing a press pass, which is more than can be said for the spectators who have ignored the signs and occupied all save the last two seats in the row. I grab both since the weather at this show is wildly unpredictable and I am now loaded with lots of excess clothes, which I deposit on the second seat. That is until I see my friend Susanne Miesner scanning the stand looking for a place to sit. Here! Whereupon she introduces me to the gent in the next seat, it’s Axel Windeler, highly successful breeder of Hanoverians, and the breeder of Don Martillo. But wait, it gets better…

Proud breeder, Axel Windeler, and his 5yo Champion, Don Martillo

Not only does Axel speak excellent English, but he is also a real breeder and his connection with the leading stallion goes back four generations. He is a thinking breeder with a well worked out strategy, although that wasn’t the case when he first tried back in 1977, for the usual reason, the mare was not good enough to ride, so let’s breed with her!

Always a great idea…

“Not a great idea… I tried with the mare, but it was not very good. I tried then with another mare, and I tried over ten years and I was not so successful. I thought it over, and in 1988, I bought the great great grandmother of Don Martillo, Wennings, she was Wenzel / Shogun xx. She was from a good breeder in Verden, he had bred many show horses and auction horses, and they also had high prices. I liked his horses, they had very good movement, and they were beautiful, big and a dark colour, dark brown or black. So I bought this mare, and in the beginning it was not so good. She had two by Rubinstein, normal trot, I was not satisfied – and then I started breeding with the Anglo Arab, Matcho. The Matcho foal was very good, she was my first mare to go best of the show, three times. Matchos did not have the biggest movement, so I decided for Warkant, because Warkant gave very good movement. Then I brought that mare, Wendy For Ever, to my own stallion, Benetton Dream, and her foal, Black Pearl, to Don Juan de Hus.”

Don Juan de Hus

“In this period, 87 to 93, I bought another five mares, top mares. For example, Windrose, the vice European champion mare in Brussels. With her I had a good start, she brought my first licensed stallion, Winterprinz (by Warkant), who I sold to America for a very good price. With Windrose, who was Weltmeyer / Sender, we made a new line. Windrose with Davignon, produced Dornroschen, who bred with Rotspon produced Rotkappchen, who bred to Brentano II produced Benetton Dream.”

“Benetton Dream was champion at the Bundeschampionate in 2007.”

Botticelli by Benetton Dream from a Caprimond mare, the full sister to Cassidy who competed in the Danish Nations Cup team at Aachen. Botticelli competed for Denmark in the 5yo class at the WYH Championships

Why did you go to Brentano II?

“I liked Bolero but I came too late for him, he died before I decided for him. I decided for Brentano because there was a magazine with the top ten breeding stallions. There was Donnerhall, Rubinstein, Weltmeyer and Brentano, so when I took my mare to Brentano, I had combined all five of the top – and the result was Benetton Dream. And it was a very special offer from the State Stud at Celle, €450, so it was easy to try.”

“It was the same with Don Juan de Hus, he was €700 and payment when the foal is there, that was also a good offer. I had sold to Haras de Hus, a five-year-old horse that they took to Grand Prix, and after that we were in contact, and swapped frozen semen from my stallion Royal Classic, for semen from Don Juan, so I have several Don Juan at my home.”

“I saw Don Juan at the licensing at Münster / Hahndorf, and he was great. Trot unbelievable, canter unbelievable, walk normal. He was a good type – he was Jazz / Krack. It was a little bit luck, this stallion was from Haras de Hus, and I was already in contact with them, so you need a little luck, but he is a great horse.”

You didn’t worry about the Jazz temperament?

“No. I thought at this time, we had a mare with a very good walk and super trot, and I needed to improve a little bit that canter, and he is unbelievable in canter. Don Juan and Benetton were at the same stallion station, and sometimes they were riding both at the same time and I saw this combination and thought, this is a good idea. And now we are here…”

“As a foal Don Martillo looks very good. Then he grew up and I saw his good movement. When he was three years old, I have to give him a name, and I had read about a Thoroughbred called Martillo – that means ‘hammer’ – and I had this in my mind and said, when I have a good horse, I will call him The Hammer. Martillo in Spanish.”

The Hammer, champion 5yo

“We started when he was four years old and he was a winner but we had to give up because my rider was not good enough for him. Then I decided on Ann-Christin Wienkamp and she rode him one week before the Hanoverian Championships, and four weeks before the Bundeschampionate, and he was the winner. That was very successful.”

It is such a relief to meet a real breeder, not some rich guy who bought a mare six years ago already in foal…

Next comes the 6yo Final

It’s hard to believe that we have come to an end, the last class of these championships, the Six-Year-Old Championships. The first horse to get amongst the points was the Oldenburger stallion, Sir Skyfall OLD (Sandro Hit / K2). Correct, not exciting, but correct, and quietly ridden by Frederic Wandres for an 8 for trot, 9.5 for walk, 9.2 for canter, 8.7 for submission and 8.9 for potential, total score of 8.86.

Sir Skyfall, correct, but not exciting

On my maths, the two Totili competing here must have been conceived before the (in)famous sale to PSI when the black stallion was being offered on a very limited basis before he went to Schockemöhle and semen sold to a carefully selected couple of thousand at an outrageous price. The first in the final is Don Tamino, out of a Don Schufro mare. It’s a bit of a sweet pony, scoring 8.3 for trot, 8.4 for walk, 8.7 for canter, 7.8 for submission and 8.5 for prospective, and a 8.34 total.

Governor-Str, by Totilas, out of Parzival’s full sister

The other Totilas in the field does better, and you would think genetically that was on the odds, since Governor-Str is out of the full-sister to Parzival (Jazz / Ulft). I remember Governor from the stallion licensing in den Bosch, and he had an elegant stretchy outline – not now, he seems to operate in a permanently shortened frame. If you can live with the outline, it’s a pretty good test. There’s 9.3 for the trot, 8.8 for the walk, 9 for canter, 8.9 for submission, and a 9.3 for potential. That’s 9.06 and they are in the lead.

Worth waiting for, Lordswood Dancing Diamond and Anne-Kathrin Pohlmeier

‘Wait!’ says my incredibly well-informed German pal with a discerning eye, ‘Lordswood Dancing Diamond is coming, and he is, in my opinion, the best horse in Germany, the best I have seen.’ Better than Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose? Equal. The test doesn’t start that way, there’s an awful halt before the dark liver chestnut gelding gets into his extraordinary trot, extraordinary in its correctness. As British judge, Andrew Gardiner, who is doing the comments at C points out, “this is a very natural talent, the trot had quality and expression and super contact. Ten.” The walk was a 9.3, the canter 9.5, with the judges loving the hindleg that came right under the body. For submission, Andrew praised ‘the wonderful smooth contact, and the light forward tendency.’ 9.8, and the prospective mark? 10. A total of 9.72, and the new champion is a shining example of just how young horses should be ridden and trained. Bravo.

Dancing Diamond shows a 9.5 canter

Severo Jurado Lopez, up to third on a count back

This time it’s not over until the fat lady calls a press conference, this presser is opened by the TD confessing that they’d got it wrong. Severo Jurado Lopez and Quel Filou (Quaterback / Stedinger) had an error of course when they turned left instead of right in the walk, but when they calculated the score they got it wrong, and in truth Severo was third not sixth, with a score of 8.99. Beautiful trot, massively free shoulder – 9.8, walk, clear and marching, 8.5, canter powerful, good hind leg, 9.5. Submission, 8 and 9.4 for potential.

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Interested in breeding a dressage star? The best bloodlines in Europe are available in Australia – including most discussed here. Go to 

My pal at the Hanoverian Verband, Ludwig Christmann, tells me that earlier in the day he rang the breeder of Lordswood Dancing Diamond, Heinrich Ebeling, an older breeder from the Stadt area. Mr Ebeling was not coming to the show, he was going out for a carriage ride. Dancing Diamond is another product of a serious breeding program and his pedigree is a pantheon of the heros of Hanover: Woermann (x2), Ferdinand, Grande and Duellant with just 27.54% ‘blood’ from the great Der Löwe, and more recently from Lauries Crusador, the sire of Dancier’s dam sire, Lancier. Mr Ebeling purchased Waluga, the Hanoverian representative at the National Mare Show 1986, and bred her daughter, Waluga II by Wolkenstein II (that’s line breeding to Woermann) and then bred Waluga II to Dancier for the Champion.


Anne-Kathrin Pohlmeier is another of those perfect interviews, she cries, she bubbles, she smiles, most of all, she radiates the very special relationship she has with her horse:

“I had an amazing feeling, I felt that Lordswood Dancing Diamond was concentrated completely on me and nothing else around him, he was asking what now, what now? and everything I thought, he did. I said to myself, Anne-Kathrin now it is your job to make it right and you better ride the best you can.”

But it must have been a bit of a fright at the beginning of the test when the halt went a little wrong?

“Oh no, that was quite okay from the feeling, he was not in tension, he was only saying okay, let’s do something. Standing is boring!”

You train with Hans-Heinrich Meyer zu Strohen?

“I would never have been here if I did not have him! He has trained me with the horse since he was three-years-old. He was just broken, and I asked Hans-Heinrich if he had a little bit of time to train the horse with me, because I was thinking it’s a good one. I took the horse there, and he said, ya, I think it’s a good one. And since then, all the years, we train together.”

How did you meet the owners of the horse?

“It’s a bit of a funny story. I was riding the horse for the previous owner, and he was sold from a video to the present owners. They saw him for the first time live at the competition in Verden, at the Bundeschampionate qualifier. They asked me if I would like to ride him, and I said it would be a dream. I loved him from the first day I sat on him, I always had the idea that he was something special.”

You came here to the World Championships last year?

“That was the worst day of my life! I came to the warm up place, and they said, no it’s not allowed, only three horses before, so I went to a different place, came back, then my microphone doesn’t work. Someone changed it for me, then it fell out of my ear, then I had Hans-Heinrich in my ear, you have to go inside. No, I need thirty minutes more. So I only had twenty minutes. He needs to get used to the other horses, he needs to jog with a long neck, really deep, really slow, to make him easy and calm. You don’t have to practice the trot, it comes always.”

Do you think of yourself as a young horse specialist, or do you want to ride Grand Prix with this wonderful horse?

“I would say I am absolutely the young horse trainer, but for him, I would change my mind. Normally I love to build up the young horses, a step every day forward, sometimes ten backwards, then fifteen forwards. When you teach the horse something, that makes it so interesting for me.”

Have you ever ridden one like Dancing Diamond before?

“No and I think I will not ride a horse again with that partnership we have, sometimes I think he knows me better than I know myself, and sometimes I think I know him better than he knows himself!”

Breeding Breakdown

I suppose we could say Sandro Hit is really the patron saint (godfather?) of Young Dressage Horse classes. He was the first stallion to establish his reputation as a star at the Bundeschampionate, and then World Young Horse championships – retiring in 1999 from competition after his Six-Year-Old Titles, at the stage where stallions in the past were just beginning to forge the sort of reputation either through their own competition results, or the results of their progeny, that they needed to attract mares. On the basis of spectacular young horse successes, Sandro Hit became an instant hit – the most popular stallion in Germany and he sired an incredible number of licensed stallions. It is little surprise then that eighteen years later his line dominates the entries in the World Championships in Ermelo.

San Droneur by San Amour from a De Niro mare, for Denmark

There are twelve ‘S’ line entries in this year’s contest. Only two by Sandro Hit (Sandro Song / Ramino) himself but there are four from the son, San Amour (Plaisir d’Amour) and two Soliman de Hus (out of a Donnerhall / Alabaster mare), with individual representatives from Sancisco (Rohdiamant), Sarkozy (Weltmeyer) and the full-brothers, Sir Donnerhall I and II (out of a Donnerhall mare, although she descends on her mare line from the Frediksborg horse, a Danish breed of carriage horses).

Gerion, by Jazz and into the 6yo Final for Austalia’s Briana Burgess

The Dutch breeding star, Jazz (Cocktail / Ulster) has three of his get in the line-up, while his son, Johnson has one and there’s one by his grandsons, Bretton Woods (Johnson / De Niro) and Zizi Top (Tango / Ferro) and two from his great grandson, Apache (UB 40 / Krack C). There are two by the Jazz son, Don Juan de Hus (out of a Krack C mare) but both of them make the five-year-old final – including the champion.

The D line of Donnerhall, which dominates Grand Prix competition is not quite so overwhelming in the young horse world, but the D line still provides ten of the entrants. None by the great Donnerhall himself, but two by the recently deceased Dancier (De Niro / Lancier) and two by the German team member, Desperados FRH (De Niro / Wolkenstein II) – then one each for Damon Hill (Donnerhall / Rubinstein), Danone (De Niro / Weltmeyer), Diamo Gold (Dimaggio / Ex Libris), Don Primus (Don Primero / Sandro Hit), Don Diamond (Diamond Hit / Carolus I), Dancing Hit (by the Dressage Royal son, Uno Don Diego out of a Sandro Hit mare) and one by Don Schufro (Donnerhall / Pik Bube I).

Quaterback (Quaterman / Brandenburger) was another whose career peaked at the Bundeschampionate, in 2006 when he swept all before him to take the Three-Year-Old Stallion championship, and while there has been talk of higher level performances since then, the news had not made its way to the FEI database. Quaterback has three flag-bearers at Ermelo and his son, Quasar de Charry (out of a Wolkentanz I mare) has one.

Nymphenburg’s First Ampere (Ampere/Weltruhm)

There are three by Ampère (Rousseau / Flemmingh) and Bordeaux (United / Gribaldi).

Then there are a little clutch of descendants of the great Furioso II, through his grand son Florestan:
Fürstenball (Fürst Heinrich / Donnerhall) was himself a young horse star, and he certainly seems to be producing his share of attractive youngsters, he has three, two by Foundation (Fidertanz / De Vito), two by Fassbinder (Fürst Heinrich / Caprimond), the one each for Floricello (Florencio / Dormello), Faustinus (Fürst Heinrich / Starway), Fürst Romancier (Fürst Heinrich / Romancier), Fürst Piccolo (Fidermark / Mephistopheles)

Romanov (Rohdiamant / Grundstein II) has three to sort of keep the Rubinstein banner happening.

In the end it was the Hanoverians who claim boasting rights with two champions, with the third from the Danish Warmblood book.










Simone Pearce – final count down…

Chris Hector interviews Simone Pearce…

Roslyn Neave took the photos

Simone Pearce glows naturally, she just has that sort of personality, but after she has ridden two go rounds at a World Championship, placing fourth in the Five Year olds, and FIRST in the six year olds, then Simone is on a serious high on the night before the Finals, and the laughter is never far away…

Did you really come to the World Championships expecting to lead one, and be fourth in the other, going into the final?

“No. The simple answer is no, I did not – but I’m really grateful that I did.”

Simone and Casablanca

But you must have known you were sitting on a couple of fairly flash ponies…

“To be honest, with the young horses I don’t think you ever really know. I cannot predict the judging, but I knew I had two horses that could do really solid programs, and they were good horses and I’m really happy that the judges saw their quality.”

Do you train differently for a Young Horse class than you do for a Grand Prix?

“The Grand Prix horses I really don’t train so much. Young horses a bit more, but I don’t train that much generally, I’m a little more on the light side of training compared to the other riders, I think, just because I want to protect their health. The Grand Prix horses I’m training maybe twice a week, and then it is out on the gallop track and that sort of thing, the young ones are more like four times a week with training/training, and then they too get out on the gallop track.”

Simone and Casablanca warm up

I’ve heard that where you are based at Helgstrand is like the middle of nowhere…

“We have a saying that when you are driving to Helgstrand, you drive to the end of the earth, and then keep going.”

What’s life like at the end of the world?

“I have to say it’s quite hard living there because I’m a really social person and I really miss being close to the big city and having my friends, but when I went there it was a sacrifice I wanted to make to see where it could take me with my career.”

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What attracted you to Helgstrand?

“They have been so successful with so many riders, they have the ability to nurture people into what they want, and eventually can become, so I trusted Andreas when he called me and said ‘ I will make you successful’. You can’t argue with Andreas when he says that.”

I certainly get the impression that there has been a bit of a change in the Helgstrand Stable style… two years ago at Verden, Andreas rode in an extreme spectacular way, but when he rode the horses here at Ermelo, it was much quieter, more sympathetic…

“I can’t really say that we’ve had a thought out plan to change anything, but I can see a development in the way we ride, a little bit more of a technical test that we are aiming to ride, rather than just spectacular – of course it is fantastic when you can ride a trot for a 10. I think the riders at Helgstrand all have different styles, we are not all trained by the same person and we are not all going in the same direction, but we end up in the same place and we all came here wanting to do a good safe, technical test.”

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Roslyn saw you warm up and she said she was really impressed by the guy who warmed you in, Thomas Sigtenbjerggaard…

“In the last month I think I’ve had a big development with my riding, with the Grand Prix and the young horses. It’s my first time to consistently ride to the best of my ability, and I credit that to Thomas, because it is not really about the riding, it is about the mental state, and he is really into calm and consistent.”

Simone and Feodoro in the six-year-old class

I’ve often thought that what happens to people when they come to Europe, if they go somewhere good, it is not that someone is telling them what to do all the time, it’s because there are others riding at the same time, and they are riding well and to the max, and so you just have to make yourself better…

“It’s totally like that, at Helgstrand particularly. We have fifteen riders and they are all international level, top riders, so if you want the chance to ride the good horses, you cannot drop the ball for a second. We are not trained day-to-day, if we have a problem you can ask for help, but it is more like you say, pushing yourself rather than someone pushing you.”

What has Ulf Möller added to the recipe?

“As you can see with the test we’ve been producing, he’s definitely looking at the finer details and that’s really helped all of us. Not necessarily that he is training us specifically, but his influence has got us to think more about the fine details.”

That’s a walk for 10!

Your two horses, what about their personalities?

“They are like opposites. Casablanca, I think she is fantastic, she is a Grand Prix horse in the making, absolutely. Her trot is fantastic but her mind is absolutely amazing. We had a really rough warm up with tents flying everywhere and rain, and she was really quite scared to go in there. She came in a little bit oh my god I’m scared and she let me say, I’m okay, we’re okay, we can do this together, and she did it.”

The six year old?

“Feodoro, he’s definitely going to be a Grand Prix horse. He works with you but he also has a very strong opinion on what he would like to do at the same time. Casablanca is like, okay what do you want me to do, Feodoro’s like, yeah but I think we could do it better if we do it like this. But he’s fantastic as well, he’s really developed a lot in the past two months. I enjoy working with both of them.”

And are you going to hold it together and win the final?

“To be honest, I’m not expecting to win. I want to do again a really good, clean test, that’s my goal. Good, consistent, no mistakes…”

And win…

“That would be the icing on the cake!”


Wonderful horses in Westfalia

Christopher Hector wrote the words

Roslyn Neave and Thomas Hartwig took the photos

It’s been a tough year for the horse breeding fraternity in Westfalia. The director of the State Stud in Warendorf, Susanne Schmitt-Rimkus and two other officials of the state stud, have been suspended for 12 months while on corruption charges, but life goes on, mares are inseminated, foals born. Obviously I am not in a position to comment on the charges, but I will say that Susanne has been a friend and valued source of information ever since she was appointed.

When she was appointed in 1996 Susanne was a rarity – a VOMAN in what was very much a man’s world, when you could identify the stud director by looking for the largest person in the room. Susanne was seen as an inappropriate appointment by a feminist state minister for agriculture and there were plenty sitting back, ready to cheer when she fell. But she didn’t, under her leadership, Westfalia went from strength to strength. Admittedly she was building on the impressive legacy of her predecessor, Dr Gerd Lehmann who oversaw the transformation of the Westfalien from all-round agricultural to cutting edge modern sporthorse in his thirty years at the helm.

Still Susanne was an innovator. She actually got on and rode the horses (the mind boggles at the thought of some of the more traditional directors in the saddle) and she made sure that the State Stud stallions got out and into the competition arena. The Westfalen Week that has just finished in the last week of July  at Münster Hahndorf provided plenty of evidence of how successful Susanne has been…

Brianna and Kira Wulferding

Nowhere more so than in the six-year-old Qualifier for the Dressage at the Bundeschampionate. The winner, the Westfalen bred, Brianna, was ridden by one of Germany’s most stylish and tactful riders, Kira Wulferding. The mare is by Bvlgari, a nice mix of Westfalia, Hanover and Rheinland, by Belissimo, out of a mare by World Magic (Warkant out of a Cardinal mare, and briefly touted as Ulla Salzgeber’s next big thing after Rusty) and then out of a mare by the stallion, Susanne Rimkus dubbed her ‘milk cow’ – Florestan. Brianna is out of a mare by the best son of Rubinstein, Rohdiamant. With 8.6 Brianna and Kira  are on their way to the Bundeschampionate, which is, in truth, just half an hour down the road.

It was great to see the judging panel coming down hard on flash-and-trash, there were a couple of (un)gentleman riders who bounced their horses between spur and (hard) hand, who found that the success they had enjoyed in the past was just a fading memory. Sadly, I feel one of the nicest horses in the class, the Johnson son, Jackpot HS was collateral damage in the war on ‘spectacular’. Okay, the stallion was behind the eight ball, being ridden by a Portuguese (Antonio Do Vale) and by a Dutch sire – although his dam sire is the perfectly respectable Baden Wurttemberger, Dr Jackson (Dream of Glory / Rubinstein).

Jackpot, well not at this show….

The chestnut stallion had all his sire’s presence, and while he was spectacular, I thought it was spectacular natural, not spectacular tricked up. The judges thought he wasn’t really coming from behind with correct impulsion. Still it was sad to see a score of 7.8, .2 short of a ticket to the Bundeschampionate.

Top selling foal, by Sir Heinrich

The foal auction was another vindication of Susanne Schmitt-Rimkus’ leadership. The highest selling foal at €100,000 (to a mystery Austrian buyer, rumour has it Sissi Max Theurer) was a colt by Sir Heinrich out of an Ehrenstolz mare, and Sir Heinrich was very much Susanne’s project. When I interviewed her back in 2014, she was enthusiastic about her new star:

“The foals that have made our commission most enthusiastic, have been the foals of Sir Heinrich, a son of Sir Donnerhall from a Fürst Heinrich mother. Sir Heinrich is six years old now, and he has really really exciting foals, out of different mares. The gaits, walk, trot and canter, everything… conformation. The stallion himself is quite a small, tiny stallion, and when I bought him, the breeding commission at the licensing said, ‘oh what do you want with this pony?’ But they gave him the chance. He won the performance test, second from all over Germany, then he was vice champion at the Bundeschampionate at the age of five, and went on to the world championship. This year, he also qualified for the six-year-old championship at the Bundeschampionate, and he is the first reserve for the World Championship.”

After this interview, Sir Heinrich went to the 2014 Bundeschampionate and was the Six Year Old Champion…

Sir Heinrich and Anja Wilimzig, winners of the 2014 Bundeschampionate.
Photo: Kenneth Braddick

“I found him at the stable of Heinrich Ramsbrock. The breeder is Paul Wendeln, I think many people know him – he is a well known breeder in Oldenburg. The mother family was the winner of the German championship of breeding mares, some years ago, and it is a really good mother line. Paul Wendeln did not prepare the stallion for the licensing because he was so tiny, and Heinrich Ramsbrock saw this colt and he fell in love with him. When we came to his place to select stallions for our stud, Sir Heinrich had been there just one day. After we’d seen a lot of stallions, he said, ‘oh I have another one, I will show you’ and Sir Heinrich came in and immediately we were taken with this horse. He was cantering, he was trotting, he stood there, and we said ‘we want to buy this stallion. And at once!”

“Mr Ramsbrock was so happy that there was another person who would fall in love with this horse – he’s a very emotional person, so we could buy him for a very good price.”

And he’s crossing well over a lot of different mares…

“This is really interesting. You know in former times, when we had breeders who might have been beginners, and they didn’t know much about their mares, we could always say ‘use Florestan’, because Florestan is very safe and produced  really a high percentage of foals that were similar to Florestan. Now unfortunately Florestan is dead – okay he had a good long life – and Sir Heinrich may step into his hooves, because we again can tell the breeder, if you use this stallion for your mare, you have a very sure prediction that the foal will be in this or that conformation…”

And not small?

“No, not small. The first thing the breeders noticed when the foals were born, was, wow, they are not small!”

Colour wins the day…

Auctions are funny beasts with a logic of their own. It was comforting to see that even in Germany, there are people who will buy a horse with a second rate pedigree for lots of money, if it is a pretty colour. Thus the palomino colt, Quebec (Qaside MD / Fürst Piccolo) sold for €18,000 – way more than a score of better bred, better moving foals.

No need for ground control, I’ll take this one…

Indeed the one I liked the very best, Major Tom, went for a mere €6,000. Now I didn’t go out back to look at the foal up close, or get it walked out, or do all those things you do if you are serious about bidding, but I loved the colt on paper and was blown away when I saw him in the flesh. He is by Morricone who was the champion colt at the 2014 Oldenburg stallion licensing, selling at the auction for €755,000 to Gestüt Bonhomme after a bidding duel with Paul Schockemöhle. In June of this year, Morricone won the Bundeschampionate 5 year old qualifier – yes, at the stud where he lives – with a score of 8.2, with 8.5s for walk, canter and submission.

Morricone is by the Trakehner stallion, Millenium. In 2014 when Millenium sons won two licencings, Trakehner and Oldenburg, my pal the breeding expert (under guarantee of anomnimity) expressed the opinion:

“Millenium is not too calm, but by far not as awful as his sire, just a little cheeky, a young stallion, and he was by far the most beautiful of all the stallions at the licensing.”

“From a breeding point of view I think you need an active mare that lacks a bit of that sought after flamboyant front (face, neck, shoulder, front leg). And of course for all Warmblood breeds, it is interesting to have a stallion that has no Sandro Hit or Florestan or Donnerhall blood.”

I loved the fact that the Trakehner was balanced on Major Tom’s pedigree with Rubin-Royal and De Niro on his sire’s side, and De Niro, Rubinstein and Weltmeyer on the dam’s side, and I promise you, if I lived in Germany, he would not have gone for €6000.

Sir Elton sells for 52k, high fives from breeder, Dirk Lohmann and
Westfalien CEO, Wilken 

The hero of the first half of the dressage foal auction was another Sir Heinrich, this time out of a Foundation / Lord Lancer / Circus mare, sold for €52,000.

There were glum faces as the breeders drowned their sorrows with a schnapps or three. It was a buyer’s auction – if you’d had between 5 and 10,000 euros, you could have had your choice of a number of seriously nice foals. The trick is to have your spending limit before the auction starts, and a list of foals you want to buy. First time you bid, the breeders pals will scent Auslander dollars, and bid you up, when you quit on your pre-determined limit, they are left high and dry with the foal plus the auction fees. Do it twice and you have a good chance of being left alone on subsequent bids.

Jumping bred foals follow

Westfalia is home – in a spiritual sense – to of one of the world’s megastar stallions, Cornet Obolensky. Okay, he was born in Belgium, but he was the second reserve champion of the Westfalien licencing and starred at his 30 day test at Münster-Handorf – scoring the maximum 10 for loose jumping.

The Ukrainian showjumping fans, and would-be jumping horse breeders, Victor Timoschenko and Valentin Nychyporenko came to Westfalia looking for assistance to find a foundation stallion. The advice was very good, there was a Belgian bred colt, Windows van het Costerveld (by the Holsteiner jumping and breeding star, Clinton, out of a Heartbreaker mare) that topped the Westfalien stallion testing, and he was duly purchased by the Ukrainians and renamed, Cornet Obolensky.

Top price in the jumping foals, Calgary

There was a quality draft by Cornet in the sale, including the top priced jumping foal, Calgary. The colt is out of a C-Indoctro / Quite Easy I / Carthago mare with a list of successful jumpers and licensed stallions in her background. At €12,000, Calgary is dead cheap. The average price for the five by Cornet was €9600.

Atout, by A la Carte out of a Balou’s Bellini mare – €6000

Aside from Cornet, Westfalia is home to a couple of exciting younger stallions. A la Carte (Abke / Lux / Polydor) was champion of the Westfalien licensing in 2010. He won the Bundeschampionate as a seven year old with Kendra Claricia Brinkop, and this year, the pair have had good international placings in classes from 1.45 to 1.55. The average price for the three by A la Carte was €4500.

Comme il Faut in action…

When they came to Westfalia, those Ukranians were masters of the deal, not only did they walk away with arguably the best stallion in the world, they had an agreement, that he would be bred to the most famous mare in the world, Ratina Z. Comme il Faut was the result. The stallion has already placed in some of the world’s top competitions with Marcus Ehning. His colt foal, Cavallo, out of a Libero H / Don Carlos / Der Löwe xx mare, went for $9000. I’d call that a bargain.

Cavallo – a bargain…

Really you could take your pick: Kannan, Diarado, Quickly de Kreisker (best performing son of Diamant de Sémilly), Plot Blue, Quasimodo van de Molendreef, even one by the only licensed son of Hickstead – Hickstead White.

Hollywood Rock H – by Hickstead White out of a Cornado / Pilot mare – €6000!

Beautiful foals and well presented and sadly for the breeders, not expensive. The average price of the foals: 8.607 Euro (9.626 dressage foals, 6.479 show jumping foals).

I am not sure just how much trotting out mares on a triangle tells us about their ability to jump, or breed foals that will jump, still it is an opportunity to enjoy some superb horse flesh. The champion jumping bred mare was Berlinale, by Balou’s Bellini (who is by Balou du Rouet of a Lord Incipit / Calypso II mare) out of a Friedenstraum I / Dinard / Polydor mare.

Champion jumping mare, Berlinale

There were so many glorious dressage mares that it was lucky there was a highly trained panel there to judge them – I was reduced to the formula, the one with the darkest colour. The champion mare, I was prepared to dislike on the basis of her pedigree, but she was in truth an enchanting creature. Ratina B, by Rock Forever out of a Contini / Lancer III / Weinberg mare. Dr Lehmann was sitting over the other side of the arena, a keen spectator, and doubtless remembering telling the world that you needed jumping blood in dressage horses, at a time when this was very unfashionable and very ‘wrong’. Time and a look at the pedigrees of the world’s top dressage horses, proves just how right the man was.

Champion dressage mare, Ratina B, but have a look at this…

Fayola by Ingrid Klimke’s new Grand Prix horse, Franziskus, out of a Sir Donnerhall / Caprimond mare, and owned by the Family Rothenberger… now who gets the ride?

Estelle – by Escolar out of a Rock Forever I / Florestan mare, there were a number of athletic looking Escolars in the line-up, are we about to see a return of the E line?

Our thanks to all the people at the show who helped us get this story…









Leonie Bramall: Contact, Half Halts and Frame

Christopher Hector interviews Leonie Bramall

Canadian born Leonie Bramall now calls Germany and Gestüt Mühlenort home. As a young rider in western, eventing and dressage, Leonie was already something of a star in Canada, but she set her sights higher, and at the age of 18 Leonie headed for the home of dressage, Germany and the Canadian National trainer at the time, Johann Hinnemann.

Leonie and Jo and Gilbona, the Oldenburg mare that carried Leonie into the Canadian Team for the Barcelona and Atlanta Games and the WEG in Den Haag.

Leonie spent 15 years with Jo, helping train both horses and riders, and was involved with horses such as Beltain (famed now as the sire of Belissimo) and helped him to gain stallion approval on the basis of his sport successes.

Leonie competed a number of horses successfully at Grand Prix level, but was also successful with young horses, like Fosbury who won the German Five Year old championship at Verden in 1992.

With Relevant at the 1996 Bundeschampionate

Through Johann Hinnemann, Leonie spent two years training the stallions of one of the most important breeding operations in Germany, Stud Vorwerk. Leonie schooled both Relevant and Rohdiamant, qualifying Rohdiamant for the Nürnberger Burg Pokal.

Training Rhodiamant

These days Leonie is more involved in running the training / breeding / sales centre she shares with her partner, Volker Dusche. She is also in high demand and takes clinics all over the world.

Leonie is an interesting mix. On one hand she is the most intensely ‘in there’ teacher, running a minute by minute commentary throughout her lessons, but on another level, she is a sophisticated dressage thinker, and it is always great to sit down and ready when you throw her a couple of questions, like this one:

One of the real problems in dressage at any level is getting contact, while at the same time getting the horse’s neck out THERE, control without making the frame short…

“The problem is we are always trying to do something visually correct – what we are told needs to be done – and horses always have different biomechanical ways of moving. Some horses have absolutely no problem being behind the vertical and still moving through their bodies, relaxed and using their back. Some horses are really hard to get round, their necks are open. It is always the whole concept of the body, it is never about the neck.”

“It’s hard to teach riders not to fiddle with the frame. As humans we are very front-end orientated, our comfort zone is what is happening in front of us, while what is happening behind us is 70% of our riding, and only 30% is what is happening in front. Our check of reality tends to be what happens in the front end, is the horse soft in the mouth? It can be backed off the bit and soft in the mouth, and riders are happy because they have a light contact – that doesn’t mean it is working from behind. This is always a challenge, when is the horse working positively in a biomechanical way through its body, even if it is for a moment behind the vertical – that is not necessarily a bad thing, on the vertical can become a bit over-rated.”

Even looking at dressage at the top – the European Championships at Aachen for example – many of those horses were too short in front, too constricted, it does seem to be a problem…

“The thing is, if you put more pressure on behind, you are going to get more pressure on the front, it is always a fine line where the balance point comes. In creating an outline, a frame that the judges are going to be happy with, and at the same time not compromising so that there’s too much pressure in front, and not enough from behind, it is all relative. The way a horse is constructed plays a definite role. Some horses can piaffe and have the worst type of body, you think why would anyone try to turn that into a dressage horse, but biomechanically, it can piaffe – even though the silhouette is not the classical one. It is an ongoing struggle, we are all trying to find the compromise and make it work.”

There was a recent video that went round cyberspace showing some of the top modern horses doing handstand in piaffe, and then there was a clip of Liselot Linsenhoff and Piaffe – 50 years ago – piaffing, and that was so much nicer, lowered in the hindquarters, just a touch in front of the vertical, everything looked sweetly harmonious…

“What is happening is always in the eye of the beholder. There is no right and wrong, it is always about trying to find a balance and get as correct as we can.”

You’ve talked about the problem of getting students to release the outside rein…

“Not necessarily the outside rein, I’m not telling people to ride without an outside rein, what I was saying is release the pressure, not give away the outside rein. Take the pressure and soften, pressure, contact, soften. Often I am trying to get the horse to stay connected on the back end, but the next stage is when it is well connected on the back end, the challenge is to stay connected but allow the horse to use its neck a little more openly. If the horse is good behind, then when you softened the neck, you didn’t get a tipping on the forehand problem, you enhance through the forehand, which was what we are always after.”

“It is really about the half halts, the horse should go bing bing under behind, and yet the whole front end shouldn’t change – THAT’S what a half halt is.”

“I think a lot of times people are into technically having a reaction, but they don’t really understand what a half halt is. It is a challenge to really work through that, and not just end up with something that you might say, it’s better than most other people, but it is not the epitome of what we are trying to achieve.”

What’s a half halt?

“It’s a connecting, a re-cycling, of energy, which is carried on into the new forward movement. It is a constant re-cycling of energy.”

So how do I do it?

“Sending energy forward, catching it again. It is hard to explain, you have to feel it. When you are teaching you have to try and take riders to where they feel that moment. For example, when the horse is in trot, almost take it to walk and then trot it on again, without changing the neck, and making the back end do it. It’s going whoa in front, and go behind, at the same time. That’s what a piaffe is, balance the horse with the half halts, the neck stays where it is, and you keep re-charging in the back end, and the horse keeps stepping off the ground.”

It was interesting, in your clinics you use shoulder in trot, to shoulder in walk, the only other trainer I’ve seen do that is Miguel Tavora, it’s a great exercise…

“I do it all the time, it’s one of my favorite things. The rider is schooling for the longitudinal and the lateral connection at the same time, it’s very valuable. It teaches the horse to balance. With a rider who hasn’t done it before, when you ask for the transition to walk, they fall left and right, they get lateral dislodgement. They are not equal enough, they don’t have that moment of bringing the horse back and staying forward, connected into the withers, so they deviate laterally. You have to make riders aware, again, outside leg is very important in shoulder in. Someone said to me, why has no-one ever told me to use my outside leg in the shoulder in? I’ve always been told to push the quarters out to ride shoulder in. I said I don’t think that’s the right concept, try this, and she’s like oh my goodness, and she gets a really good shoulder in.”

The penny drops, another student enlightened, now on to the next lesson…

Want more – here it is…

Talking dressage with Leonie Bramall

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