I had the most fabulous summer vacation. A friend and I took a week long riding tour around the Loire Valley in France! We had the most fantastic horses that appeared to be a mix of Selle Francais and Trotter breeds. They were well cared for, very behaved and super trail horses. Our mornings generally started around 8am with croissants, baguettes, fromage blanc, cheese and fruit. Then onto our trusty horses for an average 2.5hr ride through fields, woods and small villages ultimately ending at a castle. The horses would be untacked and groomed and then we would sit down for an amazing picnic lunch. After lunch and a nap we would take a tour of the gorgeous castles and gardens. Then back onto our horses for an afternoon ride to the next hotel/ village for a much needed shower, dinner and a good nights sleep. If anyone has ever dreamed of taking one of these "equitours" do it!
In front of the chateau we stayed in one night
Coming into the village
After a week of riding in the Loire Valley and a few days in Luxembourg City I drove to Warendorf to meet a friend and attend the Bundeschampionat. What a show...horses, ponies, dressage, jumping, eventing and driving! I must admit I did not understand the format of the Bundeschampionat before I went, only knowing it was Germany's championship show for young horses and ponies. The show is divided into 3, 4,5 and 6 year olds. For dressage bred horses and ponies the 3 and 4 year old classes are divided into mares/ geldings and stallions. These classes are held similar to Materiale classes with a group of 2-3 horses being shown at walk, trot and canter under saddle at a time. They are then untacked and presented by their rider to the judges standing and at the walk. The 5 and 6 year olds are shown under saddle only and essentially do the FEI YH test for their age group. The 5 and 6 year old classes had at least 60 entries each!!
In one arena were the 3 and 4 year old classes, another the 5 and 6 year olds, yet another the jumpers and finally in a different area the eventers and driving horses...all this at the same time! Woven through all this are shop after shop after shop to spend your Euros!!
It is impossible to watch even a fraction of what is going on so I spent the bulk of my time watching the 5 and 6 years olds as that was the most interesting for me. Sadly, I was only able to attend Wed-Thurs-Fri so missed the finals. However, I found the final qualification classes where all the 5 and 6 year olds competed the most interesting and educational. For anyone competing at Second, Third and Fourth Level I think attending this show is years of education in a few days. No where in the US could you see 120 of the top 5 and 6 year old and riders competing one after the other. It is such a great education for the "eye" to see how forward to ride your horse, how to ride a truly forward flying change, simple change, medium trot and canter. One after the other after the other for 8 hours a day!!
Then to top it off I had lunch one day with my friend, another Hanoverian breeder from Germany and Uta Graf! I must admit I was a bit star struck sitting next to Uta. She was amazingly down to earth and friendly with a boisterous laugh. After talking with her I hope we breeders in the US will one day have access to the stallion she competes Damon Jerome. Her report of him was glowing and obviously they are highly successful with an amazing competition career thus far.
Some of my impressions from watching the 5 and 6 year olds (as well as few 3 and 4 year olds) were mostly from the stallions Quaterback, Fidertanz and Sir Donnerhall. I found the Quaterback offspring to have very good use of their bodies, especially at the trot and canter, but even their walks were good. This combined with my observations of Quaterback mares last summer at the mare shows and I think he is a super producing stallion. There is a general understanding that his walk is limited but I think bred to a mare with a good walk that can be easily overcome. Fidertanz appears to be producing very well conformed offspring, many of which have a similar build to him. Nice compact bodies with good elasticity and beautiful front ends. Again, the ones I have seen have been very good at all three gaits. The Sir Donnerhall offpsring were quite rideable with amazing elastic gaits and some had that "wow" factor. Their "type" seemed less consistent with some being quite heavy built and others lighter.
Another observation were that many of the dressage horses that I liked had some Trakehner in them . Contrary to the past impression of Trakehners being hot and unrideable here at the Bundeschampionat they were just the opposite. They also bring a beautful type and elegance to their offspring. Thier gaits were pure and solid at walk, trot and canter. Another observation was that the eventer bred horses also had a fair amount of Trakehner bloo. For the dressage breeder wanting to add some versatility and jumper qualities to their program may want to investigate some Trakehner lines.
I took as many photos that I could, but missed most of the "top" horses as I was caught up watching and not taking pictures. Also, please forgive some of my not so great shots as I am still developing my photographer skills. Enjoy!!