Young Grand Prix horses – breath of fresh air…

story – Christopher Hector

photos – Roslyn Neave and K H Frieler

The Louisdor-Preis is a wonderful idea, a class for 8 to 10 year old Grand Prix horses, a bridge across the chasm between Prix St George and full-on Grand Prix. The actual Grand Prix earlier in the day was a reminder that all big tour dressage in Germany is not wonderful. It was more a collection of horses whose careers had stalled when problems became ingrained habits, let’s pass over it quickly and breath the fresh air of the Louisdor-Preis, established by gold medal Olympian, Lisilot Lisenhoff, in honour of her first horse, Louisdor.

Geraldine and Ingrid Klimke

Right from the start the freshness of youth was on glorious display with Ingrid Klimke and her mare, SAP Geraldine (Fürst Grandios / Tolstoi), the elegant chestnut mare is – as you might expect – very correct and she was trying hard not to let the atmosphere get to her. Score 73.372.

Sandiego and Carola Koppelmann

Next out Sandiego (Sancisco / Davignon) and Carola Koppelmann, the Grand Prix horses might have looked stressy, but ten-year-old Sandiego looks like he’s having fun. Okay there is the odd problem, but I’m having fun too watching this class. Score 70.302.

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It’s not just young horses but there are some younger riders on display, like the latest PSI stable jockey, Frederic Wandres on another ten year old, the chestnut gelding, Duke of Britain (Dimaggio / Rubinstein). It’s another sweet test with excellent piaffe basics for a 71.93%.

Emilio and Nina Rathjens

The grey Hanoverian gelding, Emilio (Earl / Dynamo) is ridden by what looks like a very small child, Nina Rathjens. Sure it gets a bit tight and short in the neck at times, but the passage is very impressive and the ones come up easy-peasey. 69.209

Dorothee Schneider and Faustus

Dorothee Schneider seems to have the knack of finding class horses, and Faustus (Falsterbo / Forrest xx) is a quality machine – an expansive mover the gelding is soft to the ground, and has the lovely rhythmic basis of piaffe even if it doesn’t always happen. Fabulous trot half pass. The knowledgeable crowd cheers, the judges do their thing with a 72.535.

Anja Plönzke and Tannenhof’s Fahrenheit

Anja Plönzke’s Tannenhof’s Fahrenheit (Fidertanz / De Niro) is another with great half pass, and a wonderful trot. The stallion has grasped the concept of piaffe, it’s just a bit hard. Another refreshing test. 72. 535.

When Heiner Schiergen’s Carlos (Carabas / Weltmeyer) freaks out on the atmosphere, the judges let him spend five minutes working the horse down and into a more relaxed frame of mind. The crowd cheers the horsemanship.

next comes the winner of this leg of the class

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl’s Trakehner mare, TSF Dalera BB (Easy Game / Handryk) is truly a superstar in the making. Very feminine and Trakehner in the best possible way, elegant and electric but with the rider. She is one of the few that has master the transition from her very nice piaffe to her excellent piaffe. Open expressive twos and she nails the ones. Lovely and with 77.093% they take the lead.

Ingrid Klimke and Franziskus

Can Ingrid Klimke and her stallion, Franziskus (Fidertanz / Alabaster) grab the lead back? The stallion’s strengths are obvious, he has power and scope to burn, but he looks a little tense in the big hall and he is another that finds the piaffe to passage transition a total mystery. The canter work and the changes are excellent, but he doesn’t quite have the magic of the Trakehner mare today. Score 74.233 and into second place.

Jessica is not surprisingly over the top with enthusiasm for Dalera:

“We’ve been together for two and a half years. She’s amazing, she actually has no weakness. She is very elegant, she has such a good character, she wants to give her very best and she wants to perform, even though she hasn’t got enough experience yet. She hasn’t seen such as atmosphere as this very often before – maybe two times, it’s very special for her because she is green in this sport and very young.”

What was she doing when you got her?

“She was on medium level and she struggled a little with the flying changes. It took me one year and then she did the one tempis. It’s a question of trust, especially with mares, they have to be on your side, they need to fight for you, I think we have a very good partnership, and she trusts me.”

She looks like she could go anywhere…

“It feels like there is no limit, she’s really cool – I got goose bumps in my ride today!”

Me too.

The Burg-Pokal Winners – what happened to them?

Words – Christopher Hector

Photos – Roslyn Neave, Kenneth Braddick and archives

The very first winner, in 1992, was the darling of German dressage at the time, Nicole Uphoff. She was riding Sir Lennox (by the Thoroughbred, Shogun out of a mare by the Grande son, Glander). The Germans were desperate to find a horse to replace the great Rembrandt, whose career had come to a sorry end at the Atlanta Games, when, left out of the team, Nicole claimed the right to ride as the reigning Gold Medalist, and then proved the selectors were right, the bay gelding was a shadow of his former glory and finished in 14th. Sir Lennox initially looked promising, with two 2nds at the München-Riem CDI in 1996, but the bubble burst the next year when he finished 12th in the GP and 15th in the Special at Aachen and the search went on for something Nicole could ride…

Sir Lennox – not the answer…

The next year’s winner, Ehrengold (Ehrensold / Rheingold) competed Grand Prix but it was a less than stellar career with Klaus Balkenhol.

In 1994, Martina Hannöver took first place on Rubinstein (Rosenkavalier / Angelo xx) and the pair went on to almost win a place in the German team for Atlanta. While he was always rideable Rubinstein, was never a great mover:

Martina remembered it well: “You had to motivate him pretty good to look something special. Rubinstein and me, the special thing was the harmony, that’s what dressage means, and that’s what came over – the harmony.”

He was never a big mover?

“Never, never, but when he was going without mistakes, he had a super walk, he did super super pirouettes, super transitions, so that is what Rubinstein was.”

You had to manufacture an extended trot?

“Yes… we were happy with a 7, at least we didn’t try for an 8. That mark came out of canter – medium canter with flying change, and we got another eight with the transition to walk and the walk pirouette. I learnt with this horse to take a risk when it makes sense, and when it doesn’t, to just accept what you get, and not ask for more and make things worse because you’ve got the horse tense.”

Martina lost the ride and Rubinstein went to Heike Kemmer, and the magic was lost. Nicole Uphoff rode the horse for a season, but she could not get Rubinstein motoring again – his weaknesses, the lack of power and scope, particularly in the trot, were glaringly apparent.

Still he was a very popular stallion, siring 90 licensed sons, but alas none of them amounted to much. His most successful competitor was Relevant, who we will meet later…

next Isabell Werth wins her first Burg-Pokal

1995 and the amazing Isabel Werth took the first of her three Nürnberger Burg-Pokal trophies, this time riding Aurelius FRH. Aurelius was sold by Dr Schulten-Baumer to Madeleine Winter-Schulze.  He was then ridden at Grand Prix level both by Mrs Winter-Schulze herself and also by Karin Rehbein.  He was by Acapulco out of a Cavalier mother.

Isabel won it again the next year, this time riding, Giorgio by Graf Lehndorf out of a Wendulan (Wendekreis) mare. He was the winner of the Otto Lörke prize the following year, and was then sold to Nicki Barrett in England.

A real star – Chacomo

Then came 1997 and Chacomo, and at last a real Grand Prix star with Alexandra Simons-de Ridder. The gelding’s breeding was all Holsteiner, by Calypso I out of a Marmor mare, and just 26% ‘blood’. The horse was discovered by Alexandra’s husband, Ton, in a friend’s barn, he had been a birthday present to his wife, and was not for sale. Twelve months later, the wife was about to become mother, and Ton moved quickly to buy the horse. Sadly, after being one of the stars of the German dressage team at the Sydney Games, Chacomo became sick, and died.

Relevant and Lisa Wilcox star at the WEG in Jerez

The next year, Nicole Uphoff was once again in the winner’s box, this time on the Rubinstein son, Relevant (by Rubinstein out of a mare by the Gotthard son, Goldlöwe). Nicole left the Vorwerk Stud, and the ride went to the American Lisa Wilcox, and the handsome chestnut went on to a fine competition career – team silver and individual 5th in the Freestyle at the Jerez WEG, and 2nd in the Freestyle in the Open Europeans of 2003. After the dispersal of the Vorwerk stud, he stood in England until his death earlier this year, but was not very popular and sired nothing of note.

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In 1999, the winner was another Holsteiner, Cockney (Caretino / Corso) ridden by Nadine Capellmann. Again, although the gelding made it to Grand Prix, he was never a star, and was sold as a thirteen-year-old to a young rider.

The class was won in 2000 by yet another from the marshes, Miss Holstein (Romino / Corso – dam sire two years running!) ridden by Karin Rehbein. The horse was being prepared for Grand Prix in 2002, when a dispute between owner and trainer, put an end to all that.

In 2001, it was Heike Kemmer and Bonaparte (Bon Bonaparte / Consul). The pair went on to win the Otto Lörke prize for the best up-and-coming young Grand Prix horse in 2002, and was named Hanoverian of the Year. They won team gold at the Athens Games, the 2005 Euros and the 2006 WEG. Their moment of glory was at Hong Kong, where they won team gold and an individual bronze, even if it wasn’t a vintage year for dressage.

The next year it was Wahajama-UNICEF (Warkant / Acapulco) with Ann-Kathrin Linsenhof. The mare had been a young horse star with Holga Finken, winning the World 5 year old title. She had a reasonably successful Grand Prix career with Ann-Kathrin – sixth in a world cup final in 2006 and wins at Dortmund.

Wahajama and Holga Finken

Karin Rehbein was back winning in 2003, this time with Cherie (Don Primero / Lanthan) who had won a world young horse title two years earlier. The pair were competing well at Prix St Georges level, when the owner, removed her two horses and Cherie’s career came to an end. It was more or less the end for Karin Rehbein, but she will always be remembered for her partnership with Cherie’s grand-sire, Donnerhall.

Elvis and Nadine Capellmann

Nadine Capellmann won the title in 2004 on Elvis VA (Espri / Garibaldi) with a still record score of 81.17%. The pair went Grand Prix the following year, and the year after that were in the German team at the Aachen WEG. They again won team gold at the Beijing Games, and the Hanoverian gelding was retired in 2012.

Monica and Whisper

In 2005, it was Monica Theodorescu and Whisper (Welt Hit I / Weltstar). The pair won the Otto Lörke in 2007, and that same year won team silver at the Europeans. Whisper finished his career in style, winning the Grand Prix of Aachen in 2012, his final year of competition.

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Comic Hilltop FRH (Come On / Platon) competed at the Bundeschampionate and the World Young Horse champs with Ingrid Klimke, before he won the Nürnberger Burg-Pokal, with Carola Koppelmann. The pair went on to place 9th in the Grand Prix at Bremen, before the stallion ended his days standing at stud in Italy.

Augustin and Victoria Max-Theurer

In 2007, Victoria Max-Theurer took the prize the following year riding the magnificent stallion, Augustin OLD. The stallion was bred by Victoria’s mother, Sissy, by a stallion she purchased, August der Starke (Argentinus / Landadel) out of a Rohdiamant mare. The pair has won lots of Grand Prix in Austria and in the Max-Theurer’s new home in Cappeln. Augustin OLD was 8th in the Grand Prix and 6th in the Special and the Freestyle at the 2014 WEG.

Third win for Isabel, this time with El Santo

2008 and it is Isabell Werth’s third victory, this time with El Santo NRW (Ehrentusch / Rhythmus). The Westfalien gelding has won over €75,000 which is a lot for a dressage horse, and competed in three World Cup finals, a 6th at Las Vegas, a 5th at Lyon and a 4th at den Bosch. He started his Grand Prix career in 2010, with a win at München-Riem.

Blind Date and Victoria Max-Theurer 

Brigitte Wittig and Blind Date won in 2009. The mare is by Breitling W, a Grand Prix performer with Brigitte’s husband, Wolfram, and out of a Donnerhall mare. Brigitte and Blind Date won their first Grand Prix in 2011 in Luxembourg. They won the Grand Prix and the Special at Bremen in 2012, but by June, she was being ridden by Victoria Max-Theurer. Since then the pair have won over 30 Grand Prix.

Rassolini and Kathrin Meyer zu Strohen

Next year it was Kathrin Meyer zu Strohen riding Rassolini (by the Rubinstein son, Rubioso N out of a Silvano N mare). The previous year, Kathrin had ridden the stallion into 4th place in the world six year old champs. He was purchased for German born, American dressage trainer, Jan Ebeling to ride. The pair placed 1st at the Del Mar CDI-W in 2015, and this year were 3rd in the Grand Prix and Freestyle at the same competition.

2011 and Carola Koppelmann is back in the winner’s circle, this time with Desperado OLD (Dressage Royal / Rouletto). The horse had already won a world five-year-old title with Nadine Plaster, but in 2011 was purchased for Carola. They competed at Grand Prix level in two shows in 2013, in Munich they were third in the Grand Prix and second in the Special. That was the last time they competed, and in 2017 came the news that the gelding had died.

Burlington FRH and Charlott-Maria Schürmann

The next winner is one of my personal favorites, Charlott-Maria Schürmann with Burlington FRH, another by the fabulous Breitling out of a Rohdiamant mare. Charlott-Maria was only 19 at the time of her win, and since then has been gradually moving up the German dressage ranks with placings at most of the top German shows. Can a spot in the German team be all that far away?

Do Burg-Pokal winners go on? Well yes, Weihegold and Isabel

The 2013 winner is an out-and-out star, Weihegold (Don Schufro / Sandro Hit) then ridden by Beatrice Buchwald. Beatrice’s boss, Isabell Werth took over the ride at the beginning of 2016 for a first at Amsterdam CDI-W, and since then, the pair have won over 20 times, including firsts at this year’s Europeans and World Cup Final, and last year’s Olympic Games! The mare has won €389,125 thus far in her amazing career.

2014 winner, Samba King is by Sandro King (Sandro Hit / Calypso I) and out of a Lancet mare. He was purchased for Franziska Eisemann-Rath and she competed the gelding in young horse classes in 2014. Pregnant with her first child, she handed the ride to husband Matthias, who rode him to victory in Frankfurt. At Jerez in 2016, the pair won an Intermediate A, since then, seemingly, the horse has not competed.

Santiago and Dorothee Schneider

The 2015 winner also seems to have disappeared – Santiago (Stedinger / Dacaprio) carried Dorothee Schneider to a decisive victory, but since then, the last recorded performance was a 2nd in the Prix St Georges in Aachen in July 2016.


Isabel Freese and Vitalis

Last year victory went to Isabel Freese and her ride, the Dutch bred stallion, Vitalis (Vivaldi / D-Day). They went closest to equaling Elvis’ 81.17% with a score of 79.22%. Vitalis has certainly had a checkered career. He first came to notice at the 2009 Westfalien licensing, where he was crowned reserve champion, and leased by the State Stud in Warendorf to stand for the next two years, covering a huge number of mares. In 2011 he was put into training with Hans Peter Minderhoud to prepare for the KWPN licensing – where the commission rejected him. He appeared in the Five-year-old World Championships with Hans Peter’s stable jockey Marieke van der Putten for an 18th place, and the following year with his new owner, Danish born, American based rich person, Charlotte Jorst. In September 2015, he was sold back to Germany, to Paul Schockemöhle, which is why he is now ridden by PSI stable rider, Isabel Freese. The pair had two wins at Inter 1 Freestyle and Prix St Georges, at Ermelo, last year, since then, nothing.

The finalists over the years have gone on to win eight Olympic gold medals, five silver and four bronze. We’ve seen what the winners did, but finalists who went on to glory include: Farbenfroh, Beauvalais, Diva Royal, Desperados FRH, Damon Hill NRW and Showtime FRH. Finalists went on to win 129 medals at international and national championships, and Burg Pokal graduates include Picoolino, Renoir, Warum nicht FRH, Sterntaler-Unicef, D’Agostino FRH and Bella Rose. Oh yes, and they picked up twelve European championship gold medals, nine silver and eight bronze. Wow!

In passing, it’s interesting that while our role of honour features a number of mares, none of them seem to have produced star progeny – unlike the famous jumping mares. Perhaps the most successful was Wahajama, who produced a Fürst Romancier mare, Funky Valentine who had one placing in an A level test, and Thiago, a premium stallion in Baden Wurttemberg. You might hazard a guess that there were a fair few embryos floating about…

Nothing from Fabienne or Wansuela Suerte but after finishing 34th with Victoria at the Europeans, Blind Date may well be headed for her mother’s brood mare band.

Weihegold has a number of offspring by stallions like Sir Donnerhall and Totilas that are receiving rave reviews. She has produced state premium mares and mare show winners, but time will tell if any of these make it to the Big Sport.

Okay so we’ve looked at the winners, and perhaps we have detected a move towards more successful horses in the more recent finals – but what about the depth. Let’s look at the 2014 Nurnberger Burgpokal finalists: Isabel Bache – Riverdance; Bianca Baum – Holly; Kathleen Keller – Desperados; Charlott-Maria Schürmann – Edward; Esther Maruhn – Wilson Pickett; Matthias Alexander Rath – Samba King; Wibke Bruns – Wiener Classic; Therese Nilshagen – Dante Weltino OLD; Matthias Alexander Rath – Danönchen; Emma Kanerva – Capo; Tessa Frank – Fürst Nymphenburg; Oliver Oelrich – Floriscount; Hartwig Burfeind – Lapagenos; Juliane Brunkhorst – Rom; Dorothee Schneider – Kiss Me; Isabell Werth – Emilio.

Another star, Dante Weltino

There’s a couple of obvious Grand Prix stars in that lot. Dante Weltino (Danone / Welt Hit II) was one of the new stars to shine at the recent Europeans with Swede, Therese Nilshagen, while Isabell Werth’s Emilio (Ehrenpreis NRW / Cacir aa) has won Grand Prix at Lyon, Aachen, s’Hertogenbosch, Göteborg, Geneva, Fritzens, München-Riem, Stuttgart and Perl.

And another – Emilio

But what about the rest?

Riverdance (Rascalino / Alabaster) won two small tour tests at Aachen in 2014, and then nothing comes up. Holly (His Highness / Walt Disney) was one of a squad of expensive horses purchased by Sara Marburg, who made her fortune with an internet hosting company. Ridden by Yeliz Marburg, Holly’s best placing in 2017 was a 2nd in an Inter I at München-Reim. German B team rider, Kathleen Keller has had small tour success with Desperados (Danone / Werther) but their most recent result was a pair of 1sts at Inter I and Prix St Georges, at Compiegne in May 2016. Charlott-Maria Schürmann’s Edward (Embassy / Fabriano) had considerable success in Young Rider classes – the pair were members of the German silver medal winning team at the 2013 Young Riders Euro Champs – but he seems to have disappeared after qualifying for the 2014 Nürnberger Burg-Pokal. Charlott-Maria continues to star with her Nürnberger winner, Burlington.

Esther Maruhn’s Wilson Pickett (Wolkentanz / Ravallo) won a short Grand Prix this year, then went back to competing – with success – at S level. We have already discussed Samba King, what about Wibke Bruns and Wiener Classic (Sandro Hit / Weltmeyer)? The FEI records some small tour placings, including a win at Cappeln, in 2014, nothing after that.

Danönchen (Danone / Rohdiamant) won an Inter I with Matthias at Hagen in 2015, since then he has been ridden with great success in Junior competition by Liselott Marie Linsenhoff (Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff / Klaus Martin Rath).

Emma Kanerva’s Capo seems to have disappeared, while the two Florencio sons, Fürst Nymphenburg (De Niro) and Floriscount (Donnerhall) seem to have decided – like their sire – to rest on their Young Horse laurels.

Hartwig Burfeind’s Lapagenos and Juliane Brunkhorst’s Rom seem to have disappeared, while Dorothee Schneider’s Kiss Me (Kaiserkult / Sandro Hit) won an Inter I in September of last year.

What does that tell us? That Herbert Rehbein’s observation that when you get to Prix St Georges, Grand Prix seems to be just over the valley – trouble is to get there you have to climb a mountain range, still rings true. It also proves that the Nürnberger Burg-Pokal is a very useful tool for bringing along the next generation of Grand Prix stars…

Read our report of the first round of the 2017 final…

To find out more about the Nürnberger Burg-Pokal equestrian program just click










Dressage delights at the Nürnberger Burg-Pokal

Christopher Hector reports – Roslyn Neave took the photos

First out and off to a great start –  Bodyguard and Matthias Bouten

So here we are in the great Festhalle in Frankfurt for the first round of the famous Nürnberger Burg-Pokal, Germany’s show case for up-and-coming small tour horses. But the scores from this class won’t count for the final, and given that master trainer, Wolfram Wittig has three of his students in the final, it probably won’t even decide the order of the draw for the final on Saturday. Still, I’m glad to be here…

The first horse out is Bodyguard (by a previous Burg-Pokal winner, Burlington and out of a Pik L mare) ridden by Matthias Bouten. The compact chestnut stallion has a wonderful hind end, and is being ridden tactfully and quietly, shown by the lovely relaxed stretch in the walk. Matthias rides Bodyguard up into the collected walk without losing losing self carriage and the length of neck. The canter is a trifle forehandy to start, and the demi pirouettes look hard work, the flying changes are modest but improve for the tempi changes. Sitting where I am, I am perhaps the only person in the hall to be able to give a definitive judgement on the straightness of the threes, and these are pretty good. Nice to see the rider drop the reins as the horse walks relaxed from the arena. It’s an all-German judging team: Katrine Würst, Dieter Schüle, Dietrich Plewa, Evi Eisenhardt and Peter Holler – but this does not mean that they are uniform in their assessment – right from the start, the discrepancies show. Würst has the horse on 74, Plewa, 73, the rest on 70ish for a final score of 71.707.

The spectator judging is pretty well spot-on with a 72, but you suspect any move to save money by letting the crowd judge could result in a bit of crowd stacking by the wealthier stables…

Hubertus Schmidt giving Escolar a look at the arena

Last night I watched some of the training, and marveled at Hubertus Schmidt’s ability to maintain a beautiful long frame for Escolar (Estobar NRW / Fürst Piccolo) in all the movements, and of course, the lack of jamming in front lets the horse’s great natural movement flow through the body. The cadence is still there for the test. Huge reaching half passes, maintaining that lovely frame. There is a little, well actually quite a big whoopsy in the walk pirouettes, some un-asked for piaffe, and a threat to spin before Hubertus gets the big bay stallion motoring again. Great demi pirouettes in the canter, big expressive flying changes, incredibly big canter, and great canter half passes.

What a canter!

Except for that moment in the walk pirouettes it has been a brilliant test, but no, they decide to kill it, two 9ths, two 10ths, with only Dietrich Plewa having the guts to place the horse 4th on his score card with a 74.63 – the others are 70, and sub-70. Not great judging in a class for younger horses… Escolar ends up 70.22% lucky it won’t affect the final.

And the trot is not too bad!

It is nice to see the judges stomp on some nastily spectacular riding by Marcus Hermes on Abegglen FH, by the Dutch sire, Ampére out of a Carabas mare and ridden à la Hollandaise, front legs waving, hind legs trailing. They finish on 68.22% right out of the placings.

No score for ‘spectacular’ – Abegglen and Marcus Hermes

Kyra Wulferding is a supremely tactful and elegant rider, her  compact mare, Soiree d’Amour (San Amour / Latimer) is almost too short.

Kyra Wulferding and Soiree d’Amour

The frame gets better – longer – when Kyra opens up the trot, and the rhythm has been like a metronome. A lovely long engaged walk and nicely back for super half pirouettes. The canter keeps that rhythm and is oh so light to the ground. Big expressive changes, two lovely square halts on the final centre line, the score is a bit mean, especially the score from Dr Schüle who has the mare on a 67, the rest hand out 72 to 74s, but they will still finish in lowly 7th place behind a few tests that were a bit dodgy.

Helen Langehanenberg and Brisbane

Next in, Helen Langehanenberg on Brisbane (Belissimo / Fürst Heinrich) – the mare carries the Hanoverian brand and is the old fashioned Hanoverian colour, orange with lots of bling. The work is accurate and tidy, without showing that special something, and Helen’s half halts are sometimes more like quadruple halts, still the judges know that cute blonde hair (done in the style created by Rosemarie Springer) when they see it. Scores range from 76 to 73 but they will finish the day in third place on a 75.122%.

more Hannoverians to come

Foundation and Matthais Rath

Foundation (Fidertanz / De Vito) and Matthias Alexander Rath. There is no denying that this is a magnificent stallion, currently, I am led to believe, the most popular in Germany, but there is also no denying that Matthias has wide, busy, pram hands, as in when you use your hands to push a pram, which I have seen Matthias doing, but it would be wrong to blame his hands on his first born.

The stallion does some very nice things, it’s just that the test lacks a bit of harmony and flow. The judges like it well enough: second on a 73.54% with Evi Eisenhardt, down to 7th with 70.98 from Dieter Schüle, then finally finish fourth on 73.707%.

next Isabell Werth

Starring yet again, Isabel and Flamboyant

It’s the Isabell Werth show, and once again this extraordinary rider delights and amazes, this time with QC Flamboyant OLD – Fidertanz again, out of a De Niro mare. The frame is just on the edge of being too tight but of course, the half pass is dazzling, as is the huge, unhurried trot diagonal, beautiful stately collected walk, great demi pirouettes, and the frame for the canter is super, as are the canter demi pirouettes.

Great big trot along the long side ALL the way to the subtle, and on the spot, transition. Fabulous canter work, great changes and a super final centre line. Isabell drops the rein and strolls from the arena, remarking as she exits, and in English, ‘not too bad…’

Isabel Freese’s Fürst Levantino (Fürst Romancier / Sandro Hit) is another compact horse, and neatly, professionally ridden, but the Grand Dame of Dressage is a tough act to follow. Still they will finish the day in 5th place on 73.049 with scores ranging from 76.34 and 3rd from Peter Holler to 10th and 71.83 from Dietrich Plewa.

Isabel Freese and Fürst Levantino

Another professional test from Matthias Bouten this time with Quantum Vis MW (Quaterback / Gloster), especially in the canter work when Matthias was able to show off the canter Quantum inherited from his sire.

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Matthias Bouten and Quantum Vis MW

He’s an imposing cut of a horse and the judges loved the test – three had him third, one fourth, and one (Peter Holler) had him winning. Final score 75.439 and second place.

The class may have no real significance, still we have the full on German presentation ceremony and the scene has been set for a great final, though you might not be wise to bet against Isabell cleaning up for a fourth time.

We look at the history of the Burg-Pokal and find some amazing horses…

There’s plenty of ‘F’ line stallions available from International Horse Breeders, plus many more of the bloodlines of the top horses in this story – go to

NEW and EXCLUSIVE: George Morris – It’s simple, it’s just not easy

“My birthday is not far in the future, and you are an old and generous friend…”

This report is from George Morris’s clinic at Mt White, January 2017

Words – Christopher Hector and Photos – Roslyn Neave and archives
Opening pic – George Morris demonstrates on Vicki Roycroft’s Dynamite Bay, and he  suggests that she might give the stallion to him!

It was wonderful to spend a few days over the New Year break, sitting in Vicki Roycroft’s shady paddock watching the World’s Number One jumping coach in action with an all star line up of riders and horses…

There are a few regulars in the group – Chris Chugg has long been a devotee, and his partner, Gabi Kuna has been a regular of recent years, with spectacular results. Amanda Madigan who has worked for many years at Diamond B, and who is now the top stable jockey there, is another regular, while Tom McDermott has rejoined the fold.

Tallara – stylish and correct 

Dave Cameron is a more recent convert, and this time his partner, Tallara Barwick, is showing what a stylish and correct rider she is.

George Morris is the most quotable of trainers, and he leads with: ‘Riding is very simple, however, it is not easy…’

George and Gabi Kuna’s Flaire

George says that he has been encouraging his long time pupil and assistant, Chris Kappler to read the great nineteenth century German master, Waldemar Seunig, although he suspects that he, George, has got more out of the study course than Chris. And what is the message of Seunig? ‘Riding is a question of balance, riding a horse in balance.’

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Sadly, George has one rider who’d  best go un-named, who is the perfect example of the reverse, even in walk, he is in the back of his saddle, collapsing his weight onto the poor horse’s back:

“That is an example of excessive sitting back. There is so much weight in the seat that there is none left for the heels, which are our anchor to the horse. Sitting behind the horse jeopardizes leg contact, leg control. Modern riders have forgotten the lesson of weight distribution and as a consequence, balance has been forgotten.”

 Tom McDermott demonstrates balance on Diamont

“Lean forward with your back slightly hollow, slightly out of the saddle with your weight in your heels, then sink back, don’t plop back, sink – the horse’s back is very fragile.”

From this point on, you notice the good students using this technique to re-adjust their balance every time they go into walk…

“What I am teaching is the light school of riding, the school exemplified by Bill Steinkraus. If you look at the jump off in Rio, then five of the six riders in the jump off – Peder Fredricson, Nick Skelton, Steve Guerdat, Kent Farrington, and the most forward of them all, Eric Lamaze – are from that light school.”

Bill Steinkraus – pioneer of the school of light riding

“The modern horse with lots of Thoroughbred doesn’t tolerate a backwards seat – that’s why race jockeys are so forward. The importance of a forward seat is not how far out of the saddle you are, but the forward inclination of your body to lighten the horse’s back. You can sink and sit deeper, but don’t sit back. Watch how light Nick Skelton rides, he always did, all of Ted Edgar’s students did.”

“Replace the word ‘sit’ with the word ‘sink’ – don’t sit back. Worry about heels down, not sit down.”

“If you think your heels are down – I want them further down. When the heel is down it engages the bicep muscle of your calf and you have a powerful grip.”

Poor Gabi Kuna kept committing the unforgivable sin of letting her stirrup slide from the position where the outside bar was slightly in front of the inside bar: “Fix the stirrup iron Gabi. It is driving me crazy, the outside bar should be closer to the toe. That stirrup has a life of its own. What keeps the stirrup in place? Weight in the heel. The stirrup slips and slides because she is not spending enough time out of the saddle.”

Gabi gets her stirrup position corrected

Contact comes next

It’s not just about the seat, it is also about contact:

“Shorten your reins. Why? Because the quality of the contact depends on a straight line to the horse’s mouth. When you shorten the reins, raise and close your hands, it de-contracts the horse’s mouth. Some people like to use those white rubbery ‘happy’ bits – the problem is not the bit, it is the contact. I find with the happy mouth bits, the horses don’t respect them, they are always a little heavy.”

George is putting the theory into action, riding Dave Cameron’s mare, Conquista. The initial attempts to get the mare round look so ungainly, but George is not one to compromise:

“You see, I don’t lower my hands. I maintain a straight line, elbow to mouth and teach the horse when I raise my hands, she must lower her head. For the de-contraction to work the horse must keep going forward or all you are doing is slowing the horse down. When she softens and stretches, I soften and give.”

“An educated hand resists the horse’s mouth in exact proportion to the resistance of the horse’s mouth.”

And yes she does, sort of. She certainly looks more interested in the world, it’s a reminder that when horses are ridden logically, their expression goes from dumb to attentive.

Conquista tries a few little leaps in the air, and George chuckles. “Oh no, don’t try that little trick! She has to accept my seat and hand. ACCEPT.”

As always George’s training session begins with lateral work, shoulder fore, the first position, haunches fore, second position: “Supple your horse behind the saddle. You ride these horses that feel like boards.”

Seunig on Flying Changes:

There are many ‘recipes’ for making it easier to exercise the flying change of lead at the gallop. Transitions from one curved line tot another, serpentines, or the counter-gallop in which we suddenly shift controls once we have reached the corner – all provide an opportunity for acquainting the horse with the new phase sequence… We are in no hurry to exercise the flying change and begin it only when the horse lets us know that it is ready for it, think that the straight road is the safest and best in the truest sense of the word.

Riding the horse across the hall, we increase its collection at an active gallop, with careful even loading on all four legs, which may become a shoulder-fore position in certain circumstances. If we begin to use the reins to effect the shift at approximately the middle of the hall and then change the position of our legs, our seat controls will have completed the change before the new change points have been reached without our having to call upon the horse for an greater flexion, such as is required when changing from one circle to another. If we made any such call, there would always be the danger that the horse would learn the trick of throwing its weight about. This would not only interfere with the correct execution of the single flying change, but also result in insurmountable difficulties during later instruction in several successive changes of lead. Once this warped turning during the change of lead has become a habit, the greatest patience and a long period of time are required before we can correct this basic fault, which always results in a horse being over-bent and holding back… The rider’s change of seat must always occur in such a way that it is unnoticeable to a spectator. A mounted horse must convey the impression that horse and rider are cast in one piece and inspired by the same will.

– from Horsemanship: A comprehensive Book on Training the Horse and Its Rider by Waldemar Seunig


Like Seunig, George wants his changes straight. “I hate this habit of pulling the front of the horse in the flying change – make the changes with your legs. Straightness is a virtue, if the horse is not straight it doesn’t have to work, it doesn’t have to collect. Make the horse straight with a bend round the inside leg, make the horse straight with shoulder fore.”

“Make the horse straight with shoulder fore,” – Gabi and Cera Cassiago 

“Calm, forward, straight. You can’t make a horse straight, that is not forward. When the horse is straight, the flying changes comes easily.”

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All power – the Cassall son, Dynamite Bay, and Vicki Roycroft

“I hate these horses that are light in the croup, they kick up behind or swish their tail in the change – it’s a resistance to the legs and seat, a very serious resistance to the driving aids. You see it in dressage, horses that win medals that swish their tails in the changes, they shouldn’t get a mark over 6, tail swishing is a serious resistance to the legs.”

“Rider have such a habit of pulling on the inside rein in the change, that’s why the horses get very light behind, and very short in the change.”

“After the change turn in the opposite direction, in counter canter. I love that exercise, it fixes the horse with a crooked change, quickly.”

“When I train flying changes initially, I sit very deep so he doesn’t learn to toss me out of the saddle.”

Seunig on the jumping seat:

Nowadays we have overcome the obsession that we must help the horse to surmount obstacles by applying various active ‘controls’ and that we can help it maintain a wrongly understood balance by employing rein and weight controls. These controls are even more problematical, since all they do is place a disturbing load on the horse’s hindquarters and prevent its neck from acting as a balancing rod. The best assistance we can render a horse in jumping will always be to enable it to surmount obstacles suitably, but the only way in which we can do this is by means of our quiet, adapting, relieving jumping seat..

– from Horsemanship: A comprehensive Book on Training the Horse and Its Rider by Waldemar Seunig

“We should read the old books because competition breeds a lot of false information. It breeds artificiality, it breeds exaggeration. That is why we love Beezie (Madden) because she is very simple. When she rides it looks very easy and very classical.”

When she rides it looks easy… Beezie Madden and Authentic

“Today is the time of the cheap read, read the old books — How to Groom a Horse. In the next generation that knowledge will be extinct. We will have lost the horse care, the stable management, I love the old, simple, good horse management that proceeds riding. Then you can’t ever learn enough dressage and that precedes jumping, and it all meshes together. It’s what Charlotte (Dujardin), Michi (Jung) and Nick (Skelton) are, they all meticulous, detailed horsemen – it’s all detail, all detail. In modern jumping circles, 10% are interested in dressage – the rest are just fascinated by gadgets.”

“Watch Nick Skelton jump a horse, no one has ever jumped a horse better, and the jump is always natural, not artificial.”

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“Grow tall, don’t slouch, but relax and stretch your spine, and slightly raise your hand, that drives the horse under behind.”

Of course, every transition had to be perfect:

“Sink, stretch, inside leg, outside rein, and stop. That’s a mantra for every downward transition. Every downward transition perfects the half halt. You don’t have to have a driving leg for the downward transition, you need a sustaining leg.”

“Once your horse is at the desired pace, your legs are passive on his side. You don’t need as much leg to lengthen the stride as you do to shorten the stride.”

Tallara Barwick at the desired pace

The Swiss star, Thomas Fuchs comments in George’s autobiography that he was puzzled because George was always cantering his horse on the ‘wrong’ leg, when he became a pupil, Thomas like all the others, found he too was spending a lot of time on the ‘wrong’ leg.

“One of the beauties of canter work is teaching collected canter. The only purpose of counter canter is to collect the canter, to shorten the horse’s back.”

Seunig on counter canter

“The counter canter becomes especially valuable when the horse’s shoulders are carefully guided, the forehand always being turned towards the wall ahead of the inside hind foot. The inside hind leg near the wall can be better controlled and supervised in the false gallop than in the corresponding simple gallop. This will naturally have a favourable effect on the activity of the outside hind foot and thus improve the horse’s entire posture.”

– from Horsemanship: A comprehensive Book on Training the Horse and Its Rider by Waldemar Seunig

Back to trot and the cavalettis come into play. “When you ride through the cavalettis you regulate the impulsion and straightness with your hand, and you learn contact.”

George Morris doesn’t just teach with his voice, he has an extraordinary ability to construct fences and combinations of fences that teach the horse, each fence had been placed with an accuracy of millimetres, and woe betide the course assistant who didn’t get it right.

Tom with Diamont over the triple bar, she’s learning to be clever…

“We have a triple bar, six to a vertical, six to a plank, and two to an oxer. The second fence teaches the horse to be clever, it is very instructive to the horse. Let him hit, don’t make him hit, let him hit. The best teacher of the horse is the horse – he is his own best trainer. If a horse raps, never lose your temper or use a lot of leg or spur, rapping the fence is enough punishment for the horse.”

Now George is prepared to allow the rider to get back, but only if the horse needs it. “Perhaps the first time over a new jump, get behind, that makes for a stronger position. There are four seats: dressage – deep and upright; riding seat, two or three holes shorter; jumping seat – which goes up a hole for every extra foot in height; racing seat, the most forward of them all.”

It must be said at this point that I am puzzled by Tom McDermott and his recently acquired Diamont (the imported Selle Français mare, previously owned by Savannah Hopkins). To my mind, the horse is in an awful, jammed up in front frame, but Tom as always sits so elegantly and effectively, and uses his legs and body correctly, and George says ‘Good Tom.’

Next day, George answers the question. He will ride Diamont, “another U-necked one”, but George quickly sets about lengthening the mare’s frame. He has had the double bridle removed and is riding the mare in a snaffle. Suddenly the outline has changed, George hands her back to Tom – “tell me if you can feel the difference.” “I can.” Point made.

George moves on to his second group of riders but to tell the truth, a fair number of them have already ridden in the first group.

Gabi is riding a beautiful Dutch mare, Flaire – George likes her, but wants Gabi to “push her to the verticals, get her a bit quicker over the jump.”

And Amanda Madigan is riding the Diamond B stallion, Baluga, George says: “He gets so high over the triple, that makes me hold my breath. Do you get in trouble with him hanging up?”


“Just rest your stick on him.”

“The stick can get that confidence in a horse.”

“At the first fence just rest your stick on him. The great master of the whip is Ian Millar. He uses the whip liberally in competition, and he gets a better, more forward jump. The stick can get that confidence in a horse – it’s not just about training – it’s about winning.”

And Tom is warned not to take too much notice of the riding he will see in his new home in Wellington, Florida:

“Tom don’t fall into the trap of riding de jour which you will see all the time in Wellington. You are better than that – remember LEG RIDDEN, that’s the lesson of today. The fashion in riding today is not good – hand riding, the horses are broken in the neck, the highest point is the third vertebrae, not the poll. They are so obsessed with ‘the look’ – look at the horse’s legs and back, don’t get obsessed with pulling the horse’s head down.”


“Jumping riders with their gimmicks are very proud of their ‘dressage’ when it is not dressage at all.”

“There was a steward handing out yellow cards to jumper riders for Rolkur. That is to be applauded, Rolkur is so wrong. The horse’s neck is a reflection of the hind leg.”

“I was so happy for Peder Fredricson, the silver medallist at Rio. I talked to him the other day, he doesn’t use draw reins, he works his horse in a snaffle, and works from behind to the front. I said to him, you must use this time to use your success to influence other riders.”

Peder Fredricson and All In, silver at Rio, and an example to the world…

“In my day, Bert de Nemethy insisted it was 70% training at home, 30% at the show. Now it is all rankings points and prize money not schooling. If it had been like that for me, I would have been very unhappy.”

The next exercise starts with the group popping over a cavaletti before they halt in front of the little vertical.

Gabi and Cassiago 

“What’s important in this exercise is that the horse listens to the hands and in the halt, they raise the forehand and get off the shoulders.”

Next they had to halt the horse after the second fence: “This quickly educates the horse to the half halt. I don’t care where the horse’s head goes, I do care that he comes off the forehand. And when you halt, halt STRAIGHT.”

“Keep the horse straight and let him learn to back off himself. You don’t want to use so much hand that the horse doesn’t learn to use his own initiative. Keep them straight with your hands but don’t help them with your hands. Once I am sure I’ve nailed the stride, I soften and give, I let the horse used its initiative.”

Halt in front of a fence, is very very different from turning off in front of a fence: “Don’t pull off a fence. When you head to a fence you either go over, under, or through. There are only rare exceptions.”

Now George has the riders going from halt straight – no warm up – to the Swedish Oxer: “I use this to test the horse is in front of my legs. I don’t care if he twists or hangs, as long as he is brave, confident and careful. The most important thing in this system is that the horse does it for us. Look at Valegro on the last day at Rio, it looked as if the horse did it without the rider.”

 Tallara goes straight over the Swedish Oxer

“These are very good students. What is important at a clinic is that you get inside the clinician’s brain. What’s Carl (Hester) thinking? What’s Ludger (Beerbaum) thinking? Even if you learn what you don’t want to do, that’s what I often get out of a day watching at Wellington, it’s instructive because you have discarded that approach.”

“I was lucky I had very good teachers, trainers that were ahead of the world. I was inducted from the get go into the importance of flatwork, dressage. When I started, all the riders were curious about dressage – now they think they do dressage, but they don’t, their horses are short in front, and out behind.”

“As I grew older, I became more aware of the basic principles of dressage, and the first is soundness. In my country we have vets at the stables 24/7 – it’s a red flag, it tells you something is wrong. Why is the horse limping? Because it is not worked correctly. You need dressage for soundness, to build muscle, to get the horse carrying the weight on its hind legs – then you have less vet problems.”

The great thing about George Morris is that he never for one second forgets that it is not about money, or ego, or the rider’s vanity – it is a system that is based around the understanding and appreciation of that unique four-legged creature that lets it all happen – the horse.

Next we discuss the clinic with Tom McDermott

Tom McDermott – life in Florida…

You’ve been living in Florida, how do you like that?

“I really like it, it’s really my scene.”

You like a bit of glitz…

“Yep, but there’s also nice horses and things like that. Obviously a lot of it is a bit over-done, like George says, a lot of it is fake and not natural and not the right things are going on, but I like the jumping, and the rings are much nicer than you find in Australia, and the competition is a lot tougher. I went over there working for Ansgar and Ellen Holtgers – a German guy and an American woman – I took Airtime, one of my World Cup horses over there, planning to sell him. I started him in a few 1.45m classes, then we sold him quite easily. Some of the horses I rode came from Böckmanns, so I knew most of them. I got the ride on quite a good stallion, Quick Petite Folie, that was a big tricky, and he ended up being very very nice. I did my first Nations Cup on him. I had him and a very nice seven-year-old from Gilly. (Böckmann)”

“I came back to Australia to get my five year visa, I’ve got that now, then a couple of things happened here…”

Like some very nice horses to ride, Tom and Diamont…

“Everything sort of fell into place. Savannah Hopkinson has stopped riding for now to go back to school, and I bought Diamont from her. When I first came back, they said ‘can you have a ride on Chamille, the brown one… that eventuated into a couple of dinners, and they said, Sav is thinking of going back to school, one thing lead to another, and we ended up buying both the horses.”

Diamont has been successful, winning two young horse titles, Elegance de la Chamille looks seriously tricky, yet she came out of the Onassis yard, you might have thought she would be a bit more educated…

“Her heart is in the right place and she has an amazing jump, once she is in the ring, her mind switches on a bit…”

She is super determined not to put her head down, you tried, George tried…

“I think George has realised now that she is not going to do it, and George finally said, it doesn’t matter where her head is, as long as she jumps. I think she was shown as a six-year-old in Europe and then came here, and Sav did some Juniors on her and found her a little tricky, she’s a bit sharp and a bit Bolshy. I took her over and she stepped up a bit. She’d only done 1.20m, and her first show with me was the Bronze at the Polo Fields, and she was amazing there. She’s by Clinton, and she is very very nice.”

She doesn’t look like a Clinton, she’s not grey…

“She’s hot and a bit smaller and brown.”

The other mare, Diamont has always looked nice…

“She’s stepped up another level now, just maturing a bit. Sav was only doing 1.35s on her. My first show with her was the Summer Champs, and I put her in the Mini Prix there and she went really well. I think she’s got a very bright future.”

What are your plans now?

“My plan was to go straight back, but then these two horses came into play, and I think I’ll get them going a bit more – not too much longer – and then take them back to Florida.”

Do you think your riding style has changed after your time in Wellington?

“I think I’ve always had my own riding style, I’ve always gone to Europe to learn, and I’ve also had lessons here with George. As George said yesterday, do what he says to do here, but then go home and do what you feel you got out of the lessons and make your own mind up. I think going to Europe and being taught by Gilly – which is a real German style – total opposite to George, is good for my riding so I can mix both together.”

Were there any riders in particular that you were watching in Wellington?

“Obviously all the main classes, they have like 100 riders, but in there are all the top riders, like Eric Lamaze and Nick Skelton, and you obviously watch them closely. When I was other there, Laura Kraut was just bringing back Cedric, and she had him out in the metre ten ring, getting him fit again. A lot of people here think that over there they just do big classes, big classes, but you see them getting their horses fit, not saving them too much, watching them really train their horses.”

“George helped me a lot over there, introduced me to riders, and then they talk to you in the practice ring and that’s a help. My thing is that I walk the course by myself but George would come up to me and ask, do you need help?”

Will you stay in Florida over their awful summer?

“I started doing summer, I did the Fort Worth circuit, which was long but we then moved to Kentucky where I did the Omaha World Cup show where the next World Cup final is going to be held – that’s really really nice. I did quite a bit of the Kentucky circuit, it was good, it was worth it. I’ll do it all over again.”

Gabi Kuna – 2016, what a year

You had a bit of a tumultuous year in 2016?

“We have, it’s been exciting and everything went almost too well – but now we’ve come back and have another team of horses ready to go. It’s re-building time now.”

It must have been a huge wrench selling Cristalline, but you always said that sooner or later, you would get an offer you couldn’t refuse…

“At the World Cup final everyone was onto Chris after round one, the phone were very hot, but we took our time to find the right person for her. We were very adamant that she wasn’t going to just anyone. Of course it would have been lovely to see her at a five-star professional’s stable starring on the TV at all those big shows, but Adrienne Sternlicht, the girl who has purchased her, she’s a very talented young rider, she’s twenty two, she’s finished uni now. She trains with McLain Ward – so she’s got very good eyes on the ground and I think the system of theirs is really going to suit Stella. Adrienne has racked up some pretty good performances on her already, which is really nice to see. When you sell any horse, you want to sell them to a nice home but it is a bonus when they just click and go well at the shows right away, it’s a really nice feeling.”

Cristalline and Adrienne Sternlicht on the Florida circuit, going well…

And now you are riding Cassiago?

“Chris has been really generous giving me the ride on him, I’m really enjoying him, he’s a really honest, safe horse. He’s still young with a lot of miles left in him. Chris has a nice team of young horses that he is schooling, so he has given me the ride on ‘the boy’.”

Your chestnut Dutch mare, Flaire, looks very nice…

“She has surprised us, she’s only six and a little on the green side but she has just adapted to our way of riding. I’ve changed a few things around, I ride her a little more forward and a little more open in the frame than what she was ridden before and she has just found more jump, and power, and scope. She’s sweet, she’s a lovely mare like Cristalline was, there’s not a bad bone in her body, she really tries and she’s got that self-confidence as well. You kind of forget that you are riding a six-year-old. In Stella’s case you forgot you were riding a seven-year-old, or an eight-year-old at the World Cup Final. They have that self-confidence that gets them across the line, it gives them that extra spunk. I’m really lucky and I am really happy with her.”

You’ve got some very fancy babies coming, including an embryo by Big Star…

“Yes, we had a good day yesterday, we found out that Flaire had a 14 day positive embryo transfer to Big Star, that’s exciting. This season the last of our Stella foals hit the ground – we had a Cassiago colt, and an Emerald colt. The Emerald one is just phenomenal, he’s everything we wish for – we were hoping for a tall, nice colt and he’s all that!”

How long have you been coming to George’s clinics?

“This is my third year with George, although I watched a lot of clinics before that. Before I had Cristalline, I had Jimmy Choo and I was always a bit nervous to do one of his clinics, so I used to spectate.”

“Three years ago I grew some balls and brought five-year-old Stella to his clinic, and I’ve been coming ever since…”

Here’s Gabi and Stella in 2014 at the George Morris Clinic

He’s not as scary as people say, he’s really a pussy cat…

“Yeah, BIG pussy cat. He has just a wealth of knowledge and it is such an opportunity to be coached by someone like him – it’s a priceless addition to the rider’s bag of goodies. George’s knowledge and his eye, you take bits and pieces of what works and everything he says, does work for me.”

You get it all the time through your partner Chris Chugg, who was so strongly influenced by George when he was a young rider…

“Chris’s coaching is very similar to George’s, the theory is the same, so it is not hard to come and be coached by George because we do much the same on a daily basis. It’s really great to have him back out here.”

 Gabi and Cristalline at the Summer Showjumping in 2014

Looking back at yourself three years ago, in what areas do you think you have improved?

“It’s funny, I watched some videos of my World Cup rounds on Jimmy Choo and just to see the transformation from being on him – an off-the-track Thoroughbred who was honest, but had his own style, quirky and all the things Thoroughbreds are, to then getting a young Cristalline who as green as she was, was straight forward and simple and beautiful to ride. She educated me a lot, even though she was a young horse, and you can see a lot of style change in my riding from Jimmy to her, and as she grew older, my riding improved again, year after year. No matter what anyone says, good horses make good riders, you still have to be able to ride, but they do educate you a lot.”



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Cassiago winning at World Cup level with Gabi Kuna

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George muses on various things..

I n the clinic you were talking about training the horses to handle Frank Rothenberger and his trademark triple:

“Like all course builders, Frank has several trademarks – one of his is the triple. I’ve seen him at shows like Aachen and Falsterbo use this particular triple very often, he had it in the Europeans. The triple bar at A, two strides, 35 feet, oxer, wide, to a normal but a little bit short vertical. Or he’ll have the triple bar two strides to the vertical, then the oxer, but the triple bar always comes in first.”

Frank’s triple combination as the horse first sees it –  Mt White version designed by George.

“Funnily enough, when I jumped in Rome in 1960, the triple was the same: triple bar, puissance wall type fence, to an oxer, but it was an unjumpable distance as well, one and a half strides – even Winkler pulled out! You didn’t know until you were inside whether you were going to push for one or hold for two, and lots of horses fell.”

“If you have triple bar, oxer, vertical, then the triple bar and the oxer gets them going forward and a little flat, then they see the vertical at C, which is a little tight and they cut down on B. In all of Frank’s courses, that was always the difficult fence, the back rail of B. If you have triple bar, vertical, oxer, then if you come in too strong to the triple bar, the vertical gets flat, or if you come a little more conservatively to the triple bar, then you take the risk that the oxer can get very scopey. So there are all kinds of possibilities when you start mixing those three jumps up.”

Triple Bar



You suggested the riders set that combination up at home, and let the horse work it out…

“Yes. One year in the Nations Cup at Aachen, it was very very big – triple bar, oxer, vertical, it was the biggest I’ve seen at Aachen. Then you saw the horses that had been schooled over that combination, and the ones that weren’t.”


Three in a team – or four?

There have been a number of commentators who have spoken strongly against the FEI decision to reduce the Olympic jumping teams from four to three, what are your views?

“When I rode in the American team at the Rome Olympics, that was when they had three riders and three scores. It didn’t work, there was a greenish rider on the British team, David Barker, and his horse, Franco ran out at the triple combination and eliminated the British team. He was a friend and it really hit him psychologically – and the horse. Shortly after that they went to four riders because with two living entities like that, it is too unpredictable, and it does disadvantage the better teams. For example in Atlanta, the Germans would have been eliminated.”

“Decreasing the number in a team and increasing the number of teams, means that it opens the door for a lot of other countries – which means, they have got to accommodate that standard by lowering the standards.”

“I was talking to John Madden the other day, and I said, that’s not why I get up in the morning, all the debate about the rules. I also said to him, we are so pussy whipped by being so afraid of being ex-communicated from the Olympic Games. We are making all these sport decisions as equestrians because ooooh we are sooo scared of being kicked out of the Olympics. We are not really making sport decisions, we are making Olympic decisions. Now it is very important to be in the Olympics, the Olympics are a great carrot, but when you have to really compromise, then after each Olympics to get to the next one, you’ve got to compromise further and further to the demands of the Olympic committee, and they don’t know horses or horse sports.”

“That’s why the WEG is powerful because there we are not beholden to the Olympic Games.”

next George discusses light seat riding

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Light seat riding

It was interesting that you said five out of the six in jumpoff at Rio were forward seat riders, who was the odd man out?

“The Quatari rides well, very well, but his methodology is to be behind the movement of the horse. I’m not saying it’s wrong, it is a different methodology.”

Nick Skelton riding to Gold at Rio

But it is wrong isn’t it? Wrong for a number of reasons mostly relating to the horse…

“In principle it is not as smooth and easy for the horse. That’s why so many people over the past century have adopted the forward seat. You have to prepare the horse and school it in your dressage seat, but when you shorten your stirrups, you still have that dressage in your horse, but you are riding in a very different seat. Your stirrups are short, your leg is a little braced forward, you are out of the saddle – it is a racing seat. Jumping and racing are very close together.”

The new example for the riders to follow – Peder Fredricson

“In the late 80’s and 90’s, I taught a great deal at Flyinge, the historic Swedish national stud. In the early 90’s, Dr and Mrs Fredricson ran Flyinge, their son, Peder had just ridden in Barcelona in the Three Day event on Hilly Trip, a very wonderful, very hot Thoroughbred mare. They had a lot of dressage in their background, but the jumping dressage I taught was quite different for them in Sweden at the time.”

“I remember at the first clinic, Jens, who is now as good as his brother, Peder, Jens came to a cross rail, and didn’t see anything. Peder came to the cross rail, and being an eventer, he saw distances but he always went for the long distance being an eventer. So I have a very old and close relationship with the boys.”

“I called Peder several times after the Games to congratulate him. In Rio, I loved watching him work his horse. Jens is a little more under the radar, but they are both very good horsemen, very rounded horsemen. They breed horses, they raise horses, they break horses, they teach, they are great guys.”

Stirrup position follows

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George and the dreaded stirrup position

Why is it so important that the outside branch of the stirrup is further forward than the inside branch?

“I was taught that by Bert de Nemethy. It is written in the German manual of riding that the stirrup iron should be at right angles to the girth, so it obviously has a good mechanical reason, it is also aesthetically attractive, and it supplies better flexibility, it again is opposition – like inside leg to outside rein – and opposition gives balance. So with that diagonal, the balance is better, the support is better, the flexibility is better. I can’t look at a rider if the stirrup is not placed correctly. It hits me quick! It’s about the first thing I see.”

It could go on, as long as you keep asking the questions, the wisdom flows – George Morris, we salute you and look forward to celebrating many more of your birthdays…

Don’t miss our Birthday celebration…

Breeding world class show jumpers? Consider Diarado, he’s available in Australia from International Horse Breeders. For information on all the stallions:

George Morris – A celebration – the complete file…


 2017 Dressage Festival, Victorian State Championships December 7-10th was the scene for the first Para Equestrian Selection Qualifier for WEG 2018

2018 has heralded several changes to FEI Para Equestrian competition. Grades are now 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and the Individual Test is now Day 1, Team Test , Day 2 and Freestyle Day 3.

It was very encouraging to see 12/15 entries participating; 7 Victorians and one each from Tasmania, NSW, S.A., W.A. and QLD, with several promising new combinations, horses, pony and riders.

Grade 3    Emma Booth VIC. and Wasabi Sun -68% to 71%

Elizabeth Skinner VIC – Freedom Spyda 65%-67.9%

Grade 2   Victoria Davies NSW and Bravour M -66.9% to 70.3%

Joann Formosa VIC- Triple Trees Prince Perfect 66%-67%

Amanda Parsons and LBA Zia

Grade 4  Amanda Parsons TAS –LBA Zia 64% to 67%

Sharon Jarvis WA –Ceasy 62%-68.5%

Phoebe Roche QLD –Power Of Attorney 63.5%-63.7%

Grade 5   Matilda Carnegie VIC -Quebec 51 -61%-63%

Noella Angel SA –Mallee Jack 60%-61%

Claire Graham VIC Valentino W 62% 61% and Comtesse 59%

Grade 1 Morgan Webb-Liddle VIC –Remi Faberge 48.9%-57.6%

There was  improvement in the scores from Day 1 to Day 2, culminating in their Freestyles

FEI International Judge Alison King from Hong Kong willingly offered advice in post-test discussions with the riders.

The riders after the Freestyle presentations

Qualifier 1 at DF was a very positive start and now anyone who wants to be considered for WEG has to be at Boneo CPEDI3* January 24-27th 2018 !!! There could be 20 riders there, some with two horses.

EA WEG Selection Policy states to be considered for selection riders must have achieved 68% or above in the Individual or Team test in at least two nominated CPEDI 3* or 4* Observation events.

Target scores for each grade are Grade 1- 75.28%; Grade 2-74.42%; Grade 3 71.81%; Grade 4 71.34% and Grade 5 73.94%

The first three Australian Selection events are the Dressage Festival, Dec 2107, Boneo CPEDI* January 24-27, 2018 then Sydney CDI 3-5 May 2018.

Report written by Merrilyn Hamilton-Smith

P.EQ Selector(AUS)


Andrew Nicholson Eventing Masterclass

Rebecca Ashton catches up with the Kiwi superstar on a visit home to

New Zealand… she also took the photos

One of the stars at Equitana Auckland this year was hometown hero Andrew Nicholson. Andrew was back in his home country, with family on hand to help popping up jumps and running around as part of the support crew for his Masterclass.

The current Badminton champion provided some well-thought out flowing exercises to help improve cross country riding with a focus on the horse’s balance and rideability.

The first couple of horses demonstrating were on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of age, but showed the audience some basic exercises, designed to get both horses and riders thinking and balanced. Anna Beverley had 17-year-old 4* Australian export, Kirby Park Allofasudden, while Denise Rushbrook was on six-year-old Astek Gadzuks.

All sessions began with flat work: “Trot around like you would at home. A little deeper so you say to the horse, ‘Listen to me and don’t look at the people’. Take them out into the corners and use the space so when it comes to jumping they’ve seen the whole arena.”

“This work is very important for both the cross country and the showjumping. Keep the quarters pushing forward into the contact. The more you shut the front end, the more tense they get, however, keep a little contact and don’t be afraid to hold the rein. In cross country, you can’t afford to lose your contact.

“Now canter…forward…so they can relax. Don’t contain the power. Move it out, then bring it back again. Just a short forward, and then bring him back, just don’t shut him down straight away. Don’t think that holding them together is collection. We want to encourage them to use their power, but still be rideable. Yes, then just sit him down a bit. Can you feel how they’re happy to stretch, and the back comes up?”

Then it was on to some simple exercises that Andrew does himself for cross-country tuning. There were four jumps evenly spaced around the circle line. The jumps were all single poles between the jump wings, so if one was knocked it wasn’t a big disaster. “Don’t worry about how many strides you do, it’s about rideability. It’s what you have to do on the cross country course when you make a mess of the distance and we have to fix it. Focus on the rhythm.”

Exercise number 1, four poles on the ground on the circle line

The poles started on the ground. “It’s not so easy, is it? Look at the next pole and then the next one. Once you get two strides from the pole, there’s nothing you can do, look at the next one. Soft. He’s got four legs, he’s got to look after them. Don’t be obsessed with the one pole you’re jumping. Keep your rhythm.”

Then the poles were put up and Andrew’s wife Wiggy was in action with the rest of the ground crew, “My wife’s a good runner, isn’t she?!” quipped Andrew.

The horses were off again with Andrew helping. “It’s five strides, five strides, five strides, five strides. Take your eye off the first one when there’s nothing you can do about it. Can you see how the horses starts to relax and go even, and then you can start to see the distance? Keep calm and feel the canter. Keep the distance with your eye. You have to learn to be able to fix the distance.”

next the poles go up

The poles gradually got higher and higher before they were set alternatively low, high, low, high. “So, the distance to the little one will be more difficult now. I always find it’s easier to start the exercise with the bigger ones first, but it’s up to you.”

Denise and Astek Gadzuks

The strides from the big jump to the small jump were the trickiest and the riders were instructed to, “….do something. Look. Sit.”

To Denise, “So they’re like us, some are better one way than the other. He’s better right, so go left again.” Anna had to focus on not going fast, just to keep the same rhythm before her older horse started to relax.

After that exercise was ridden both ways a couple of times, there was a progression. There was an oxer in the middle of the circle, just off centre.

The exercise was to jump the two high verticals on the circle right and then over the oxer, then turn left and over oxer again. The riders had to sit in the saddle and balance the horses back in between the jumps, keeping a powerful but controlled canter.

Then it was time to look at two oxers and a skinny.

To Anna, “Don’t have the canter too dead. You need something to sit on, but just sit and balance. Five, six and then four strides. Keep your contact. Don’t sit up like in dressage, just sit a little behind him gently to keep him forward.” When things got a bit fast, “You don’t need to run at a jump. The jump is not going to move. You have plenty to time. Just keep the rhythm.”

Then the exercise was executed in the opposite direction. For Denise, the guide poles into the skinny were lowered. “Keep your leg on into the barrels because he’ll notice we’ve changed it. Sit on him so you can balance and turn. You stayed nice and even in the rhythm. That was very good.”

And to sum up the session, “The main thing about cross country is to be positive and controlled.”

The next session consisted of three riders to show progressively more challenging exercises. Amanda Illstone, who has ridden 2 and 3* in the UK was on her 1* horse, Verdelho; Vicky Browne-Cole rode her 2* horse Eli, and Samantha Felton rode Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ who is also 2*.

Vicky Cole-Browne and Eli

Yet again, the session began with basics on the flat and Andrew encouraged, “Don’t be scared to go up the wall and into the corners of the arena to show them everything. Don’t be frightened to ride forward a bit more. Think about the hind legs before you think about the head position.

Sam Felton and Sooty

Ride a little more forward, you don’t want to go faster but just have a bit more power. It’s not about their head down on the ground, but stretching their back and lifting their shoulder. Don’t worry if it’s not all fancy. It’s not the show ring. You’re warming up and making them more rideable. Soften in your own body as well.”

For the first jumping exercise, Andrew added two plank jumps parallel and close to the wall to work on control while riding towards and away from the wall. Why planks? “The planks, I don’t know why, they seem to be able to knock them down and not get frightened and come around again and jump them well so it works better than poles in this instance.”

 He wanted Sam to use her body more gently to turn and to really use the space, “Don’t worry if you scratch the cars! (the sparkling new sponsors’ cars were filling up the arena corners) Don’t shut the canter down too much. I think if you just sit just a little more behind, you’ll be able to turn more smoothly.”

When Amanda knocked a few, she was instructed to keep going. “Keep jumping until he gets the hang of it. It just shows you don’t have to build them big to make it difficult.” The closeness of the planks to the wall was challenging in itself.

Vicky needed just a little more oomph without speed. “Push him up so you have more in your hand, not so he’s faster, but so you have something to sit on. Take your time. Don’t lean backwards but don’t chase him either. Quiet, pop over, sit and turn.”

“If I did this at home I’d probably have six planks and have them two metres closer to the wall. They stop shooting off afterwards because they’re not sure if they’re going right or left.”

The planks were raised for the second go around.

Sam was encouraged to sit down and get her horse to respond to her weight rather than her rein, and Amanda needed to push down in her stirrups more for a more secure lower leg.

Then the vertical was added to the two planks. Jump one plank away from the wall and then to the vertical and then the second plank into the wall, like a triangle formation.

Sam was helped, “Take your time. Pop and sit. When you land from the vertical, it’s important to keep your body a little more up and wait for the turn, but still keep the horse forward and not stopping so you can keep the rhythm.”

Concluding the session, “I would do a lot of this sort of schooling at home. You’re training the rideability and the reaction time. Think about when you’re out cross country, you jump a big oxer, land, four strides to the left, jump then three strides to the right.”

A couple of 3* horses concluded the Masterclass with Chloe Phillips-Harris on Cor Jet who she’s had since a 3-year-old and Bundy Philpott and Tresca GNZ who have been together since the horse was four.

You guessed it, they started with flat work, but correct flat work with Andrew repeating the same advice, “….and don’t forget to get up against the wall so they get used to going into corners. Work the back end. You can let him come down a little in front so he can stretch and use his back.

A bit more forward in the canter so later you have something to sit down. Don’t try to ride with nothing in your hand. It needs to be quiet and steady, but you need it. Keep the hindlegs pushing. Forward and back so they accept you riding the canter strides. It’s simple, basic stuff and they need to do it when you want them to.”

The jumping exercises this time were more orientated to big competition preparation, “This is what I would do for training just before I go to a big event no matter what level. Test that you can sit and turn, without losing the stride. Teach them to land and then ride forward, so they start to take you in a very polite way.”

The girls started with a vertical to get their horses warmed up with Andrew adding the odd tip, “Don’t worry if it’s not all pretty. Jump, sit, but keep him forward,” and “as you jump, put your leg a little bit more around him so you stay secure.” If the pole was knocked down, it was important to just keep going and when the rider was bringing the horse back to the walk, Andrew wanted a good canter to walk transition with the horse on the aids so it remained listening to the rider rather than a dribble to the walk through the trot..

An oxer was then added on the opposite long side of the arena to get the horses just bowling along between jumps.

Andrew wanted Bundy to focus a little differently, “Rather than worry about the lead, just ride it forward and straight. Have a big canter and sit on it to keep it balanced. You want the horse to take you into the jump. You don’t want them to drop the bit and run with their body.”

Chloe was also asked for some refinement, “Sit against it but gently. It’s ok if you have to play and balance a little rather than having them run towards a jump upside down.”

Then the “course” got a little more interesting. Vertical on one long side, oxer on the other, full arena back to a corner, change direction, full arena second corner then centre oxer, corner, centre oxer, second corner (The corners had longer front poles). The two girls were handling things beautifully so Andrew added some changes; vertical, two oxers before two corners to the oxer and then four strides to the corner. “…so you have something in your hand to sit on” and then Andrew wanted it jumped in reverse without stopping, “…so they’re not stopping and starting so you get into some sort of rhythm and feeling.” Andrew wanted good, accurate turns to help get that consistent rhythm.

Bundy over the vertical

The last test was to have a look at the skinny: Middle oxer, corner, middle oxer, skinny, middle oxer, corner.

Chloe over the skinny with guide poles on the ground

When Tresca decided the skinny was a monster, poles were used to lead the horse into the jump, which then progressed to the poles lying on the ground. Success. Chloe needed to keep the canter powerful and balanced rather than closing the canter down as this encouraged the horse just to get faster. Yes, dressage training with speed control really is necessary!

To conclude, Andrew wanted the audience to really understand how the exercises progressed, and taught the riders how to balance the horse with their body to keep a bold canter with good rhythm, rather than making things fast, flat and chaotic or backing up and fiddling too much. They exercises also helped the horse understand how to land, and move forward and away from the jump on the first stride rather than get stuck. “Then things don’t go wrong.”

Getting insights of the behind the scenes training from greats such as Andrew really is a privilege.   His exercises flowed and never over-challenged the horses or riders.

Breeding an eventer? There’s a selection of the best stallions in the world available from International Horse Breeders, choose from stallions like Balou Pagio go to

Riding in the third dimension with Leonie Bramall

It’s very odd. Australia currently doesn’t have a dressage coach, and yet there are a number of very talented, experienced trainers, who have competed successfully themselves and produced successful students, that EA continues to ignore and who end up teaching those  who are prepared to go to the expense and work of organising the clinics. Why not subsidise our top riders to go to these clinicians?
Like Leonie Bramall who has been coming to Australian since 2010…?????

Shannan Makauskas meets Leonie Bramall at the Queensland Dressage Forum and chats to her students

Photos by Alex Makauskas

Leonie Bramall has a foundation of training in the German system, and a genuine love of horses and interest in the way they learn, Leonie produces the elements of the training scale in a positive way, and one that is successful in competition.

At the Queensland Dressage Forum more than 110 spectators, including over half of Queensland’s judges, huddled together in the indoor arena at Caboolture show grounds. Competing against the din of torrential rain, Leonie instructed several riders to execute test movements and demonstrate her approach to training.

Queensland Judge Convenor, Lesley Sullivan, said: “We decided we wanted to have an expert from overseas and we were looking at getting Leonie last year. Then Mary Seefried spoke to Jenny Gehrke who said, ‘Well I’m getting Leonie out so why don’t I coincide it for when the forum is on?’”

The atmosphere in the arena made it quite a task keeping the more hot-headed horses’ concentration. Two water tanks next to the arena were overflowing in what could have been seen as a man-made waterfall, but was instead received by the horses as a certain death threat.

Many bookings were cancelled on the day due to people either being flooded in, or concerned they would be flooded out, if they left their properties. For those who battled the weather it proved to be well-worth the trip, with Leonie’s methods producing pleasing results despite the distracting atmosphere.

Leonie addresses the judges before beginning the demonstration: “We have a rule in Germany which I think is the best thing, and that is that you have to be allowed to get the horse in the ring and settled before they ring the bell.”

“What is the harm in letting the horse and rider have a trot around? They’re all getting the same advantage. It just doesn’t make sense to me. We need to use common sense and give the horses the benefit of the doubt.”

First in, Gary and Chester

Gary Lung was first in, riding the scopey six-year-old gelding GB Winchester (Weltmeyer). The combination rode in their first clinic with Leonie a year ago: “I’ve often watched Jenny (Gehrke) ride, and I’ve watched Jayden (Brown) ride, and to me they were on the right track. I thought something’s happening here and then Jenny told me about Leonie and I went, that’s the secret. I want to have a look.”

“From day one, I think what to me was so spot on with her, is she explains things in such a way that was like, it wasn’t black or white, it was colourful. She just had this information and she will personally tell you there is something wrong, or you need to fix it, but this is how you fix it. Not like you’re crap, or you’re no good, but here is a weakness and this is how we fix it, we do this and we do this.”

Leonie makes several points while Winchester happily cruises around the arena in complete harmony with Gary: “Its not about strength or pressure, it’s about training your horse to be more sensitive and to react.”

“Don’t give your reins away in order to go forward, they need to learn to push up through the withers. Concentrate on riding from the back end forwards, and keep that circulation of energy going.”

“Keep the circulation of energy going”

Leonie aims to train the horse to be a happy athlete: “As soon as we turn a horse into a robot and it loses that sparkle in its eye, it’s dead, and doing that’s not something that interests me. We don’t want to see a horse just going through the motions.”

“If you hit them or press horses that haven’t been taught to respond they’re going to push back harder. Teach the horse not by pulling, teach them to follow signals. You touch them, tickle them and they want to follow.”

next we ask Gary what he got out of the clinic

Interviewing those who participated in the clinic prior to the Dressage forum was inspiring. Their renewed optimism and excitement about the training system was infectious and Gary Lung was bursting with ideas:

“For one she just made Chester so much straighter because I had issues with straightness with him. I had issues with him starting to sit and collect. He would do all that big flashy young horse stuff, but now we’ve stepped up a level and the pressure’s put on and that’s where she came in.”

“I love the way her whole idea is just getting the horse in front of your aids and up in the wither, she calls it the third dimension. You still ride them round but you must ride them up. I always thought you just do it in the transitions, just do plenty of transitions and the back will come up. But I didn’t realise in my downward transitions I was actually pushing the horse’s back away.”

Gary explains how he came to this realisation: “She has these Pilates bands that she uses to make you feel some different things and develop an awareness of what you’re doing with your body. It’s like a big rubber band and she’ll wrap it around different places to teach you to stretch down, it’s all about stretching into and in front of the aids.”

“It’s now a little bit like Edward Gal where they look like they’re sitting on a toilet. It’s all about the chair seat which we all use to laugh about. When she puts these bands on, you ride around trying to focus on stretching down because if you don’t the band retracts and you go ‘dong’.”

“What it does is show you is what was in the wrong position to start off, with and as soon as you take them off what happens is your legs go longer and you feel like you’re getting sucked into the saddle, it’s fantastic. So in my transitions on one hand I was lifting the back up and on the other I was pushing it away with my seat.”

Organiser, Jenny, and Gitane

Jenny shared similar advice: “In the moment of a half halt she said to, ‘Allow the back up through your pelvis, the way you’re using your stomach is great but you’re sending it through to your pelvis as well and pushing the back away. Just let it go.’”

Gary confirms: “With her it’s constantly ride it up and she’s got no tricks. It’s just like transitions, riding them up and connection.”

The riders point out Leonie’s ability to think outside the square when communicating what she wants. Jayden Brown said: “How many trainers will tell you that a good half halt is like having a pillow come up through the horse’s back and carry you along?”

“Leonie will think of a thousand ways to tell you something until she finds what makes you click.  She doesn’t just stick with the typical phrases like, more active or more hind leg. Sometimes it’s just mixing up the way the message is presented that really helps the learning process.”

Gary shared some insightful expressions from his lessons: “With your transitions she says, ‘Go up and down like a switch. It should be like turn a light on, turn a light off. Not hold a button and switch it on slowly. It’s just switch it on, switch it off.”

next Nicole Tough and Dante

It’s back to the forum with Nicole Tough riding the eye catching dapple-grey gelding Dante (De Niro) owned by Beau and Linda Dowsett. Leonie instructs Nicole to ride a 10 metre circle: “It’s important we don’t come into it and have everything fly to the outside and derail.”

Nicole and the elegant De Niro son, Dante

“Don’t give your reins away in order to go forward. They need to push up through the withers. It’s riding from the back end forwards and keeping that circulation going.”

Nicole also participated in the clinic prior to the forum with Leonie, and after the first time working with her, was teeming with new ideas: “One was in the half halts because I’ve always thought of a half halt as being half of a halt. I know it’s a reconnection of energy, but I was thinking about it more from the bottom of the hind foot up over the back and into the bridle, in a circle that way (counter-clockwise).”

“I didn’t realise in my halt halts that I was shutting him down, that it was a backward connection of energy. I always had this picture of riding the horse in a circle of energy, but Leonie changed the direction of that circle.”

“Another massive thing for me was I’m always trying to get them lighter in the contact. I’m always trying to get them off the contact so they’re not strong and she was saying, ‘No, no, no you’ve got to push them onto the contact.’ Which was a really different concept for me and it means you have to ride with a lot more energy.”

On the subject of contact, Leonie said: “People want a horse on a soft contact, but the contact is your communication. You have to have a positive pulling. The horse getting softer in the contact should be indicative of the activity from the hind legs and loading behind. Don’t throw away what you’ve created.”

“The frame of a horse is always indicative of the engagement from behind. Every horse is different, and you can’t force them all into the same frame. Everyone is always worried about where their heads are. Are they over the vertical? But what’s more important is are they in front of the leg?”

Jayden and the Hanoverian mare, Dallas

Prancing into the arena next is Jayden Brown on the imported Hanoverian, Dallas (Dacaprio/Cashman), owned by Kate and Perry Wilson. The six-year-old mare is bursting with energy and Jayden tactfully directs that into the lateral work. Leonie said:

“We need this reactive energy later, but we need to teach her to cope with it. The rules are yes she’s allowed to look, but no, she’s not to run to the inside or away from the leg.”

Leonie gives tips on riding sensitive horses in a competition atmosphere: “I would do some half halts in a shoulder-in to keep her supple without losing that static. I try to use a little flexion and shoulder-in and get the horse to follow my leg. If Jayden just holds her there with his contact we’re going to miss something down the track.”

“We want to enhance the difficult things, not hammer them. Using our skill we need to aid them to be better athletes. If they’re tense, how are they going to bend their joints? An elastic horse is a healthy horse. It’s actually not teaching them to put in more effort, it’s about teaching them to release and be more elastic so they have a bigger range of motion.”

next Jayden rides F¨ürst Friederich

Jayden and his ‘F’ line ride, Fürst Friedrich

After some wonderfully expressive laterals Jayden moves onto his next star this season, Fürst Friedrich (Fürst Piccolo/Anooschka), who he found at Leonie’s barn last year. Leonie draws on the talented combination to demonstrate the medium work: “Flying changes do not get better by doing millions of changes. We need to go back to increasing the quality of the jump and collection in the canter.”

Leonie works on collecting the canter: “Ride with the quarters in down the long side. Now do some transitions on the circle, now a working pirouette. You don’t teach them to collect by sitting them down and blocking them. You’re extending and collecting. Closing the horse, but keeping the joint’s mobility.”

Leonie points out some common mistakes: “People get so stuck on getting the change that they forget about the rest of it. That’s not the point of the exercise, you have to keep the quality of the pace. The horse should be up in front of you in the wither and you’re getting sucked into the seat. There’s a big difference between being up from the underside of the neck and being up over the wither.”

“Enhance the rhythm with half halts before the change. You have to do your homework and set yourself up for success. Because whatever you program into them, you have to re-program if there’s mistakes. Rather than just trying to get a change, work on fixing the basics.”

Jayden shared the process of teaching flying changes with Dallas: “Leonie got us to approach it quite differently to the work we did with Fürst Friedrich because she is a lot less established at that level.”

“We have to manipulate her body much more to allow her to change correctly. We use a lot of counter canter on the 20metre circle and then add travers to the mix.  So she is essentially bending in the opposite direction to her canter lead.”

“Once she is reliably straight through her body then the changes just happen. But if I allow her to lean into my leg or become crooked through her shoulders, it doesn’t work.”

Perfecting the half halt was also a feature of his lessons with Leonie: “We did a lot of work to make sure that when I ask for a half halt, the horses don’t compromise their frame and the activity of their legs.  Quite often the horse thinks the half halt is just slowing down, or even just stopping. But to get them to keep the activity and also maintain the same softness through their body is a little more difficult.”

Leonie reflects on this at the forum: “Jo Hinnemann always used to say, ‘If you’re losing the quality of the paces in the movement you’re doing something wrong.’ The horse should change positively with work. They need to keep working from behind without shutting them from the front of the withers, they must stay open and engaged from the hindquarters.”

This brought the forum to a close and rather than feeling weighed down by so many concepts, I left feeling positive and ready to approach riding in a more tactful way. Leonie has been a breath of fresh air on the Queensland dressage scene and I can only hope the clinics will be opened up so the rest of us may benefit from her teaching.

Getting to know Leonie…

Growing up in the horsy neighborhood of Southlands in Vancouver, Canada Leonie was able to indulge in several disciplines: “I went to pony club and had to do western, jumping and the whole works, which gave me a really good base because you get a good feel for a horse.”

Dressage eventually became her concentration and she enjoyed numerous victories as a young rider, including being a member of the gold medal winning team at the North American Young Riders’ Championships in 1981 and at just 15.

At 18 Leonie became restless with the dressage scene in Canada: “I grew up there and I had the same issues and problems that you guys are having. So I was living off clinicians.”

“Jo Hinnemann was the coach for Canada when I was a young rider and he came for a clinic and I went, ‘Wow this is it, this is for me.’ I felt like I was on the right track and I’d been to a lot of clinicians and tried lots of stuff.”

In 1984 she made a life changing decision to train in Germany at Hinnemann’s barn. Leonie summarises her trip: “I planned to stay for two years, then bought my mare and went to the Olympics. I just had to slog it out. I was a working student and I didn’t have the ability to pay for it. So it was a long haul and I sometimes think, ‘Wow, you know, she managed.’”

The combination debuted in their first season of Grand Prix, not only in a foreign country but also with the likes of Reiner Klimke in the class. They went on to become a member of the Canadian team at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, as well as the World Championships in 1994.

It’s an extraordinary feat and certainly rare for an 18-year-old to buy a three-year-old horse and, eight years later, take that same horse to the Olympics in dressage: “I think back now and I’m like oh I was so lucky because usually they go lame or something goes wrong, but I think I made it happen because it was my only shot, and there certainly wasn’t going to be a second chance there.”

Leonie, Jo and Gilbona

Leonie remembers the exceptional Oldenburg mare, Gilbona, and their time together: “I mean she was very difficult, she was very full on, very hypersensitive and non-functional as a young horse. So it was a journey with that horse and she taught me so much. I wish I had her now because I think I could have really done her more justice.”

“She was amazing how she helped me because a lot of it was self learning. I didn’t have someone standing there ever day giving me a lesson. I had to really get my head around concepts and things and ask why isn’t it working? How can I change my riding? What am I doing?”

Leonie and the stallion Rohdiamant from the famous Vorwerk stud

During this time Leonie was also given the opportunity to train several notable horses including Rohdiamant, Relevant and Inspekteur, as well as Fosbury who she rode to win the 1992 German National Championships for young horses.

Leonie has now been living in Germany for over 30 years and operates a training facility and breeding station with her partner Volker Dusche in Gestüt Mühlenort located centrally, close to Hamburg, Hannover and Bremen.

Since 2006, Australian Development Squad rider Jenny Gehrke has trained regularly at Leonie’s barn. But in 2008 she sat down with another one of Queensland’s competitive riders, Kate Wilson, to discuss how they could bring the German training experience to them:

“We had a conference and said, ‘Well if it costs us $10,000 to go to Germany for two weeks aren’t we better to spend that $10,000 and get Leonie here for two weeks?’”

“We try not to think about it as a per lesson cost. Not because it’s too disturbing, but because it’s not about the cost of a coach per hour, it’s about having days with her and immersing yourself in her system which is really on the German training scale.”

“Then it’s the work-shopping with each other and the discussion of our lessons and if you just say the whole experience cost me a couple of thousand dollars, it’s money well spent. You wouldn’t get that kind of experience on a short trip to Germany because you’re not on your own horses.”

Since introducing the clinics to Australia, instead of going to Germany for a refresher, Jenny has been concentrating on what she calls ‘dressage nut camp’: “Leonie comes into Australia for three or four days, flies out to New Zealand for ten days, then comes back to Australia for three or four days.”

“We get two clinics each time she comes, so we get to go and flounder a little bit, and then she comes back and says yes or no, and tells you if you’re on the right way. She comes twice a year so we actually get four clinics.”

Rather than opening the clinic up to all Queensland riders, the group focuses on a few people who have a few horses each. Jenny said: “Quite a few of us are coaches as well so we’re able to pass on what we’ve learnt to our students.”

Results at the Australian Dressage Championships over the last three years show a vast improvement in Queensland riders. When I look closer at Leonie’s Australian based students I find these are the same names featuring in the championship titles; Jenny Gehrke, Jayden Brown, Nicole Tough, Victoria Welch and Gary Lung. So could Leonie be their secret weapon?

Gary Lung said: “I certainly think she’s adding to Queensland dressage. I mean we had the likes of people like Tor Van Den Berge coming in to set the standard and we’ve gone, ‘We’re going to have to lift our game.’ So the standard in Queensland is just getting higher and higher.”

“I think us as riders, we’re starting to look at resources like Leonie with skills and experience to help us develop, and all of us who’ve had lessons with her who are coaches, will pass on what we’ve learnt.”

Jenny is impressed with Leonie’s love of teaching: “She’s very passionate about communicating a message across to you, it’s amazing. We’ve had Leonie teach 12 lessons, and then come inside and we’ll hand her a glass of wine, and I’ll be sitting down in another section of the house watching a video of my lessons from the day.”

“She’ll come and join me and she’ll end up sitting there for three hours watching people’s lessons with them and talking about it. She’s not like other guys who come from overseas and they’re like, I have another life I don’t want to talk about horses, she does. She likes talking about horses, and she likes doing other things as well, but you know she’s really, really passionate about it, and I find that so refreshing for someone who’s done the slogs in Germany.”

“You know, 12 hour days, seven days a week for 20 years. She’s done the slogging and she’s still passionate about it and I think she really enjoys that about us, that we’re riding for the right reasons.”

I sat down with Leonie to get her view on the Australian dressage scene:

Have the riders improved since your first visit in 2008?

“Definitely. Now there’s really an understanding of the concept of training with their horses from some sort of a base. They’ve established a strong basis of communication and connection with their horses. They’re also understanding what a half halt is now, understanding when the horse is in front of the leg, the frame, you know the whole base scale and that’s just moved them on up.”

“There’re a lot of advanced riders here, but they were riding in a bit of a hole and they’ve not been able to move on and improve their scores and improve their horses so it’s been about making that happen and that’s happening now.”

Has it mostly been about improving the basics?

“Well people try to push up the levels too quickly. They’re trying to get to advanced, just for the sake of getting to advanced, without understanding the depth of the basics. You have to know about keeping a rhythm, and know what proper collected trot is.”

“You can’t get collection without riding from the base into the contact, and that base is what makes the rest of it all build up like a pyramid, but you have to have the foundation. If the foundation is bad, the building falls down. If the horse has a lot of talent, it can compensate up to a certain level, but if a horse learns a flying change it’s not just about doing a flying change.”

“It’s about doing one for a 9, and you only do that by enhancing the canter, getting the horse more through gymnastically, making his muscles react better. It’s like with any athlete, they all know how to do their sport, but they only get better by doing cross training. It’s also about understanding their biomechanics and their physical limits, then working on expanding them.”

How does this compare to the work you do with your German students?

“It’s the same problems in Germany. There’s just a lot more riders there. It depends how you want to address the problems as a rider, and what your personal interest is. I have a lot of riders who come to me because they take a personal interest in delving into it more, and having the horse so they don’t just have to push harder or kick harder, they want to have the horses reacting off signals.”

“They come to me because it’s a different way of teaching, it’s more of an understanding of the horse. I think more about how I’m communicating with the horse, and it’s usually not a horse problem, it’s usually a rider problem. So if I can make a rider aware of what they’re actually wanting to happen, then they can understand why these things aren’t happening, and then they can start to change things.”

“I think in Australia there’s actually a lot more riders who take care of working on physio and those sorts of things. Where as in Germany it’s like, ‘well get on with it’, so both have advantages and disadvantages. If you can get someone who works on those sorts of details, and get them to help you, that can also help. There are some extremely talented riders over here.”

How important do you think it is for riders to train in Germany?

“It depends on where you end up. Just going to train in Germany is not what it’s all about. There’re a lot of bad trainers in Germany, just as there are a lot of bad riders in Germany. Then we have a lot of good trainers and good riders as well. Some people just want to go and have someone say, ‘Yep cool, do this-and-that and you’re riding’. But it’s everybody’s own personal journey.”

“For example if you do it like Jayden, he came to us for a year and we really immersed him into the system. It was just getting him riding and really understanding the concepts over that year, and explaining why we start what we’re doing with a four-year-old, how that’s going to help him when he is three years, four years down the road, trying to teach him to do a canter pirouette.”

“You know, you have a journey, you have to plan it in your head for the long term. That’s just my system. But you can just go over to Germany and ride a bunch of school horses and ride around thinking you’re important, but the riding involves so much more.”

“It’s really upstairs, it’s in your head. It’s really where you’re at, and where you’re centered, and then taking a deep breath. It’s taking the emotion out of your riding and finding the center of your balance so you’re really having that horse go forward with you.”

What drives you to succeed in such a challenging sport?

“It’s a passion and I can’t help myself. I have such a passion for trying to have people understand their horses better. I ride because I love horses. It’s not just a job for me. I’m very passionate and when I see the way everyone rode today it makes me so proud of what they’ve done.”

“To show these people there’s no spur marks on these horses, they’re not pulling on their mouths, they’re concentrated, you can see the horse is clicking in this difficult situation and that’s what it should be like. We’re trying to make things happen.”

“Everyone has a calling I guess and this is mine, to connect horses with their riders. The horse is always trying to tell you something, and I just say, well that’s the way it is. You work through it and maybe it’s just that way, it’s like people, they’re not all perfect, and you’re trying to train an animal and make it perfectly square, left and right, and most people are completely one sided, so then they’re doing their horse an injustice.”

Leonie and Orion in passage

“So it’s just making them aware of what they’re doing, and it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be riding, it’s just, you know, awareness is what triggers your brain and puts you into the thought process. Then they can think about their own style, and how they’re reacting, and think about what’s happening. I think it just makes the world more of a comfortable place for people and their horses.”

“Of course you have to challenge them, and sometimes they get a smack or whatever, but it’s putting it into the realm, and not punishing a horse who doesn’t understand. That’s very important, you don’t need to punish them, you correct them. But doing it in a certain way, with the intensity necessary, and then immediately after the correction, you let it go.”

What do you still want to achieve in dressage?

“As much as I can. I just enjoy moving the young horses along, it’s very rewarding. Perhaps in the future, when my own personal riding career goes down the tubes, which happens to all of us, going on to be a National coach for my country.”

“At the moment I’m still not willing to take that commitment because I enjoy riding so much myself. But helping people who want to maybe look at their training from a different angle, not just doing what everybody else does and making the technical picture happen.”

“That’s what I find very interesting and very rewarding. It’s just been amazing working with this group of riders here, because it’s people who are not doing anything wrong, but it’s just trying to develop them and take them round the corner once and say, ‘Look over here’.”

“They’re all good riders but let’s just look over here, maybe there’s something that she’s missing. Take that aspect into it, add an aspect and then get them creating their own stuff. It’s not me actually telling them, ‘You’re doing it wrong, do it this way’. It’s just me throwing something at them and saying, ‘Why don’t you try that?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh’, and I go away and they play with it.”

“They need that time to flounder, and if they can feel things and make things happen themselves it makes them better riders.”

“The cool thing is that some of those people are coaches and are putting that into their own students. That for me is a very rich compliment because that’s your own system and they’re opening on themselves and moving on, that’s a huge compliment for me.”

What did you learn from your time with Johann Hinnemann?

“That it doesn’t happen overnight it takes years. I was very fortunate because a lot of times people go to Germany for a year or half a year and think, ‘Okay I’ve gone to Germany I’ve done all that.’”

“I’ve been able to take a lot of horses from very green or very young up to the advanced levels and they all have difficulties, but it’s actually teaching them to be functional good competitors and getting them out in the ring up to advanced.”

“Unfortunately once we start connecting them into Grand Prix, usually they get sold. That’s just what happens it’s my job. I don’t have an independent sponsor, so I don’t have any of those options.”

Leonie and Orion

How often do you get lessons?

“I work with Heike Kemmer a lot. I will go over to her place once a week and help her out by being her eyes on the ground, and if I have a horse, I’m getting prepared for a test I’ll drive over and she’ll help me.”

“I don’t have a regular coach in that sense so I sort of have to coach myself. I have a mirror which I use a lot but I’ve always, even at Hinnemann’s, I had to help myself a lot.”

“But certainly your feeling sometimes does get off a little bit on the wrong track so you do need someone every now and then to have a look. Working with Heike, she works at an extremely high level, so it just keeps you tuned in and aware and gives you a little bit of a reminder.

What was it like coaching Heike at Beijing?

“That was an amazing experience. But it’s not like you’re coaching, it’s just about being their eyes on the ground and if the riders are getting to the point, I mean they’re not nervous they’re good competitors, it’s just that if you’re thinking the horse is nagging you at one little spot you have to say, ‘You know what, it’s irrelevant. Just leave it alone.’ It’s all good because you know each other well enough to say that. But it was an amazing experience. Dealing with the weather and the whole situation was cool, it was fun.”



The portrait is by O. Cornaz from the 1963 L’Année Hippique

At THMdigital we received an email from our friend – former USET team vet – Dan Marks:

Bill Steinkraus, has left us in his ninety third year.  He enjoyed a fine Thanksgiving at home  surrounded by his three sons and their families. He passed away on November 29. 

Revered world wide, his memory will continue to motivate all who knew him, and the collective horse world, to the very highest standards. He was my close friend and  many of you will join me in missing him and keeping his memory alive. – Dan

Attached is the Obit Bill Steinkraus wrote himself.

Though he enjoyed wide range of interests and talents, William C. Steinkraus who died on November 29, 2017 at ninety two is perhaps best remembered as the show-jumper who became the first American ever to win an Olympic individual equestrian gold medal (in Mexico City in 1968). Born in Cleveland, OH in 1925 he grew up in Westport, CT and as an adult, lived for more than half a century in nearby Darien. He was a graduate of Yale College (’48) and a veteran of World War II, having served in the Mars Task Force in Burma as a member of the 124th Cavalry Regiment. He spent several years after the war in the concert management field (New Friends of Music, Community Concerts) before working for a longer time in Wall Street as a security analyst (Value Line, Stone & Webster). His final working years were spent in the publishing industry (D.Van Nostrand, Winchester Press, where he was Editor in Chief, Simon & Schuster and various free-lance assignments).


As an equestrian, Steinkraus first attracted attention as the winner of both ASPCA equitation championships at the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden, on the flat and over fences. A sought-after open jumper rider after World War II, he successfully competed with the jumper strings of Arthur Nardin, Raymond H. Lutz and Fairview Farms before winning a place on the first civilian Olympic Equestrian Team in l951. After helping the team win a bronze medal at Helsinki in 1952 he succeeded Arthur McCashin as its riding captain, a position he retained until his retirement at the end of the l972 season. During his team membership Steinkraus won two additional Olympic team silver medals and over 100 individual international competitions as well as participating in 39 winning nations cup teams. Thereafter he stayed connected with the USET as its president, chairman of the board of directors, and at his death, chairman emeritus. He also served for eight years as a member of the Bureau of the FEI, and was an Olympic TV commentator at Montreal, Los Angeles and Seoul and several World Championships as well as serving as an Olympic judge at Barcelona. He was one of the first inductees of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, and was a member of the New York Sports, Madison Square Garden, National Horse Show, Washington Horse Show and Fairfield County Sports Halls of Fame.

Steinkraus’s other sporting interests involved hunting, fishing, skiing and golf, and he was an accomplished violinist and viola player and a considerable bibliophile. His clubs included the Camp Fire Club, The Boone & Crockett Club, the Marshepaug Forest Assn.,The Leash and the Verbank Hunting & Fishing Club, and he was a director of the New York Chamber players.

He is survived by his three sons, Eric, Philip and his wife Stefanie, and Edward and his wife Beth and four grandchildren, Grace, Abigail , Griffin and Clark.

Services were private. Donations in his memory can be made to United States Equestrian Team , Gladstone, New Jersey.


William Steinkraus 1925 – 2017

Bill Steinkraus was many things, rider, thinker, poet, musician, writer, but for the equestrian world his most enduring legacy was proof that effective riding was good riding, classical, civilised riding. Jumping, he told me the first time we met, back in the early 80’s, is how you ride the track, the jumps themselves will take care of themselves, if you ride your track beautifully.

William Steinkraus participated in five Olympic Games. At the 1968 Summer Olympics held in Mexico City, he won a gold medal in Individual Jumping with the horse, Snowbound. He obtained two silver medals in Team Jumping, first in 1960 on his mount, Ksar d’Espirt, and 1972 on Main Spring. Bill also won a bronze medal in Team Jumping at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland on Hollandia. He was also slated to ride on the 1964 Olympic Team until his horse, Sinjon, was injured.

William Steinkraus retired from international competition at the end of 1972, following the show season, but continued to remain involved in the horse showing industry. This included involvement in USET, either as president or chairman, from 1972–1992, and as an Honorary Member of the FEI Bureau. He also was a television commentator from 1976–1988, and a judge at the 1992 Olympic Games. He was – luckily for us – the author of four books: Riding and Jumping (1961); The U.S. Equestrian Team Book of Riding (1976); The Horse in Sport (1987) and Reflections on Riding and Jumping (1991).

Look at the photos in this article, William Steinkraus was simply never out of shape over a jump. Farewell Mr Steinkraus you brought so much to the world of the horse, may the memory of your elegance, the quiet beauty of your riding, live forever.

– CH

I invite you to read this article and enjoy the wonderful photos that capture so well the spirit of the man… click here

The Thoroughbreds of Oldenburg

The following information is from Das Oldenburger Sportpferd by Roland Ramsauer, published in 1978. I am indebted to Katrin Burger of the Oldenburg Verband for the translation – Christopher Hector




Adonis xx:

(Magnat xx, M. Aster xx by Oleander xx – Wallenstein xx. Born 1952)

Description: Medium sized, fine stallion with good face, a little weak in the back, regular frame and limbs with a little too much angle in the hind legs, regular gaits.

Career: Stood from 1959 until 1963 in the Oldenburg area at the stallion station of L. Kathmann in Holtrup. First Thoroughbred to begin the change of breeding, sold to State Stud in Dillenburg 1964.

Genetic legacy: Good heredity for breeding horses, fitted best with heavy mares, excellent genetics for sport horses in all disciplines, especially some outstanding horses for eventing.

He produced 10 licensed sons, and 26 premium mares (11 State Premium, 15 Verband Premium).

The offspring of Adonis were amongst the most successful in Germany. His offspring won 175.304,– DM in 12 years (making him the second most successful of all Oldenburg stallions in that time). Adonis was the most successful stallion in the whole of Germany in 1971 on the basis of the number of offspring placed in sport; in 1972 he was in the second place.


Adrian xx:

(by Almeido xx, M: Agraffe xx by Gamsjäger xx – Travertin xx. Born 1963)

Description: Very beautiful, elegant stallion, medium sized with very correct frame, limbs and good gaits.

Career: Retired sound after 76 starts on the race track, GAG 80 kilos. Winner of his class at the show for Thoroughbreds in Köln in 1968 and 1970. In 1970 he was reserve champion of the whole show. He commenced his breeding career in 1971 at the stallion station in Sillenstede.

Genetic legacy: Very good heredity for breeding horses, the first offspring showed good results in sport, several good auction horses

16 premium mares (7 State Premium, 9 Verband Premium)


Bucephalos xx:

(by Agio xx. M: Bella Donna xx by Magnat xx – Ferro xx. Born 1966)

Description: Medium sized, sympathetic Thoroughbred with good limbs, well-muscled and excellent gaits.

Career: Bred in the famous stud of Schlenderhan he had a GAG of 80,5 kilos. Very good pedigree out of the motherline of the mare, Blaue Donau. He was based on the Vorwerk stud from 1971 till 1974, in 1974 he retired.

Genetic legacy: Good heredity for broodmares, but a little narrow in frame. Remarkable, that the colts mostly have a big frame and with good potential for a sport career.

17 premium mares (7 State Premium, 10 Verband Premium)



Kronprinz xx:

(by Nizam xx, M: by Kaiserkrone xx by Nebelwerfer xx – Bubbles xx. Born 1960)

Description: Very beautiful, medium sized stallion with a lot of expression. Good withers and neck, very beautiful head, a little fine but correct frame and limbs, outstanding gaits.

Career: Famous line of the Zoppenbroicher Kaiser family, successful career on the race track with a GAG of 90,5. The stallion stood always at H. Ahlers in Bümmerstede

Genetic legacy: Good heredity especially in making broodmares, some successful sporthorses

As of 1978, 23 premium mares (16 State Premium, 7 Verband Premium), his offspring were successful competition horses.



Manolete xx:

(Asterios xx, M. Malta xx by Allgäu – Oleander xx. Born 1955)

Description: Beautiful stallion with good expression and long lines but a little flat in the croup, good strong frame and limbs with good gaits.

Career: Second Thoroughbred at the Schlenderhan stud after Adonis xx

Genetic legacy: Good success in producing brood mares, excellent offspring in sport with some outstanding products

6 licensed sons: Markant, Mangold, Markus, Manfred, Marinus, Marius

19 premium mares (10 State Premium, 9 Verband Premium). He produced in 1972 and 1973 the most successful Oldenburg sport horse.


Makuba Makuba xx:

(Goody xx, M. Mainburg xx by Gundomar xx – Janus xx). Born 1956)

Description: Tall, distinctive stallion with a lot of expression, a fine face, medium sized frame and limbs and good gaits.

Career: GAG 82 kilos, winner of all classes at the Thoroughbred show in Köln 1965. Same motherline as Maigraf and Marcio which were used in Hannoverian breeding. 1966 until 1972 at Ludwig Kathmann’s, then sold to Bavaria.

Genetic legacy: Very good, uniform heredity, mostly with dark coats for breeding horses, outstanding heredity for sport horses with very good rideability and very good characters

4 licensed sons, none of which had much success in breeding

35 premium mares (21 State Premium, 14 Verband Premium)



Miracolo xx:

(Tantieme, M. Malta xx by Allgäu – Oleander xx. Born 1958)

Description: Big framed Thoroughbred with very good expression, excellent withers, good muscling and frame, outstanding gaits.

Career: Third Thoroughbred imported to Oldenburg after the Second World War, also coming from the Schlenderhahn stud. 1963 – 1972 at Vorwerk’s, then sold to Baden-Württemberg. Winner of the Thoroughbred show in Köln 1966 and 1968.

Genetic legacy: Excellent heredity for breeding, big framed offspring with good shoulders and withers, good results in sport

4 licensed sons, 41 premium mares (22 State, 19 Verband)


More Magic

More Magic xx:

(by Vilmorin xx M: Jules Magic xx by Magic Red xx – His Highness xx. Born 1957)

Description: Medium sized stallion with good muscles and big lines, good fundament with small problems in the front legs, but with outstanding gaits.

Career: GAG 80 kilos, 1965 until 1972 at Vorwerk’s

Genetic legacy: Only grey offspring, very good heredity for breeding horses. Medium frame with good muscles, some excellent broodmares, produced riding horses with very good rideability for all kinds of sport.

5 licensed sons, 46 premium mares (21 State, 25 Verband)



Praefectus xx:

(by Primera xx M: Honey Portion xx by Major Portion xx – Hyperion xx. Born 1967)

Description: Very beautiful stallion with good muscles and frame, good shoulder, excellent croup, good frame, a little weak in the fetlock, very good gaits with good rhythm.

Career: Most expensive horse of the Thoroughbred auction in Ascot 1971. Stood at Vorwerks until 1975, then sold to Rheinland-Pfalz.

Genetic legacy: Good results for breeding, produced a lot of auction horses with good rideability. Good results in sport.



Vollkorn xx:

(by Neckar xx, M. Vogelwarte xx by Ansitz xx – Widerhall xx. Born 1961)

Description: Big framed Thoroughbred stallion with long lines and excellent withers, solid frame and limbs, excellent gaits.

Career: GAG 86,5 kilos, motherline similar to the Thoroughbreds, Vierzehnender and Venator. Breeder: G. Gäting, Esnshammer-Oberdeich.

Genetic legacy: Dominant, outstanding heredity for breeding and sport, produced outstanding broodmares and excellent sporthorses especially for eventing.

7 licensed sons, for example Volturno (winner of the licensing and main premium) 51 premium mares (31 State, 20 Verband)

Postscript – the Thoroughbred in Oldenburg Now

An article in Pferdeforum October 2014 looked at the research of Dr. Hinrich Meyer–Gerbaulet into Bloodline Diversity in the Oldenburg breed.

Dr. Meyer–Gerbaulet is a guest professor at the Trakia University Stara Zagora and personal advisor to the agricultural Minister of Bulgaria.

He analysed the paternal lines of young stallions presented at the Oldenburger licensings between 2006 and 2011. He found that they were influenced by 12 Thoroughbred stallions and a group of Trakehner stallions.

Almost 50% of all young stallions can be traced back to Furioso xx (16.25%), Rantzau xx (17.5%) and Sacramento Song xx (16.3%). These three stallions established three main bloodlines; Furioso xx is represented predominantly by Furioso II and Mexico, Rantzau xx lives on through Cor de la Bryère and Sacramento Song xx carries on through Sandro Hit and Sandro.

They are followed by another trio of Thoroughbred stallions that are represented in about a quarter of pedigrees, Devil’s Own xx (8.32%), Ladykiller xx (8.68%) and Orange Peel xx (8.56%). Devil’s Own can be found in the early lines of Donnerhall’s ancestors. Ladykiller influenced the showjumping breeding through his sons, Landgraf I and Lord, as did Orange Peel through Almé.

Other stallions of importance are Cottage Son xx (5.78%), Rittersporn (3.29%) and Ultimate xx (2.38%), plus the Trakehner stallions that account for a combined 4.95%. Cottage Son is represented by Capitol I, Rittersporn was instrumental for the sport horse breeding through the foundation sires, Rubinstein, Ramiro and Ramzes AA. The French sire Ultimate is very popular in modern jumping horse breeding, via Diamant de Semilly and also as dam sire of Almé.

Black Sky xx (1.67%), Likoto (1.02%) and Lauries Crusador (1.07%) together form about 4% of the Oldenburger bloodline.

It is evident that the English Thoroughbred played a pivotal role in founding the Oldenburger bloodline, even though it is only represented by a few select sons or grand sons and its use dates back many decades, or nine generations as in the case of Devil’s Own and Donnerhall.

Looking at the percentages of the individual lines for each year, the importance of Furioso xx and his sons Furioso II (Georg Vorwerk, Cappeln) and Mexico (Netherlands) has grown, followed by Rantzau xx and Cor de la Bryère (Schleswig-Holstein). Ladykiller xx, Landgraf I and Lord are also on the up, the contribution of Sacramento Song on the other hand is in decline.

Percentage average influence of the foundation line starts on young colts from the years 2006 – 2011 in the OL and OS Verband

OL and OS young colts 2006 – 2011. Percentage average of the foundation line starters: