One of my favorite quotes is “A breeder is one that leaves the breed better than when he started, all others are just multipliers of the breed”. I think when we take on the responsibility of breeding animals (be it horses, dogs, cats, birds, etc.) we must always keep this primary intent in mind. I am by no means a big breeder of Hanoverian horses. Quite the contrary I breed on average one horse every other year. However, I take that task quite seriously and in doing so decided to attend the 2011 fall Hanoverian Breeders Course in Verden, Germany. I had already heard great things about the course, but it was even beyond what I had expected. The course not only provided lectures on Hanoverian bloodlines, conformation analysis, gait analysis, tours of major stallion stations including Landgestut Celle, attendance at the stallion testing, licensing & auction, but it also gave me a great understanding of the history of the Hanoverian horse, the direction sport horse breeding is headed, and a real sense of identity and connection to the Hannoveraner Verband (Hanoverian Society). Oh, and not to mention the great people I met and all the food we ate!
I must first start off by saying that the Hannoveraner Verband took this course as seriously as us attendees. They rolled out the red carpet for us, gave complete VIP treatment, and truly accommodated to our every need. They picked up each and every one of us from the airport, shuttled us around to every location, fed us fantastic meals, secured us great seats at all the venues, and gave us VIP status at the Stallion Licensing & Auction.
For anyone that breeds Hanoverian horses this educational course should be a mandatory component of their breeding program. In my opinion it would behoove all breeders to forgoe one years stud fee (about the price of this trip) and attend the course. I firmly believe the investment will pay itself back and then some. Sure, anyone can get lucky and produce a great horse with little knowledge. But it is just that, luck, and we all need a little luck when breeding horses. However, luck will only get you so far, knowledge and education will get you further.
Central Courtyard at Celle
1) Bring warm clothing…winter coat, hat, gloves, scarves. We were lucky in that we had great weather (sunny and in the 50s) but still needed to bundle up when out at the farms. I was even prepared with hand and foot warmers (the kind used by skiers).
2) The “dress up” night it is fine to wear nice trousers and top. A lot of attendees at the dinner even wore nice jeans, top, and blazer.
3) I think one will get the most out of the course if they already have a basic knowledge of Hanoverian horses and terms. Names like Weltmeyer, Donnerhall, Sandro Hit, etc should be familiar. Terms like withers, hocks, stifles, pasterns, etc known. Dr. Christmann does go over the basics but I think you will get much more out of it if the course is used as a building block past these elemental points.
4) If you have the time learn a little German…good morning, thank you, count 1-10. Everything is translated for you and frankly everyone spoke very clear English, but there are times when you are on your own so it was nice to know a little.
5) If you forget something (soap, shavers, etc.) don’t panic! You’ll have plenty of opportunity to get it.
6) Bring a suitcase with room to fit what you buy…you will shop, I guarantee it!
7) Diet BEFORE going. I thought Americans liked to eat, but it turns out so do the Germans! We all gained weight!
Be prepared for VIP treatment.
We were picked up bright and early Monday Morning and drove the short 5 minute ride from our hotel in central Verden to the main offices of the Hannoveraner Verband. The majority of the attendees had already met as they arrived on Friday to attend the Elite Auction and were witness to the purchase of Lemony’s Nicket, the highest priced Hanoverian purchased ever at the Elite Auctions (900,000 euro!). Even though I did not attend the auction I was soaking in the "high" the other attendees were radiating.
Our group was a total of nine members; myself from the USA, Nicci from the UK, Roz from the UK, Kersten a German transplant to the UK, Hanne from Norway, Silvia a Swiss transplant to France, Satu and Anna from Finland, and our only man Harish from India (or as Silvia put it “the cock amoungst the hens!”;).
From the Verband was Maren Schlender our main guide, Monika Meyer our organizer, and of course Dr. Ludwig Christmann.
Dr. Christmann started with a lecture on the different breeds of warmbloods within Germany and the regions where they originate. He then went into further detail on the historical development of the Hanoverian breed, the structure of the Verband, how mares & stallions are evaluated, performance tested, and licensed/ titled (main mare book, SPS). An aspect of the lecture I found most interesting was the new format for stallion testing which aims to better be able to compare stallions from each of the testing sites and from year to year. For many of us we did not realize that the scores given to each stallion during their testing was only in comparison to the stallions in that years group at that particular testing site. For example, if Stallion A scored 130 for dressage in 2010 and Stallion B scores 130 for dressage in 2011 they were not compariable to each other, only to the other stallions in their group of the year they were tested. So if in 2010 there was a weaker group of stallions being tested it would be easier for Stallion A to garner a score of 130 than it would for Stallion B in 2011 if that was a strong group of stallion. Another little tidbit for the American breeder is why we give the title Elite Mare (EM) while in Germany it is States Premium (St.P.St)..it is because the States Premium title is "owned" by the country of Germany and hence can only be awarded to mare in Germany...other countries had to designate differnet terminology.
A large portion of the lecture also focused on three main breeds that have been incorporated into the Hanoverain horse, Thoroughbreds, Holsteiners, and Trakehners, and what qualities we want from each of these breeds. Being from the US I was particularly interested in how much the Tb has influenced the Hanoverian breed and the future of the Tb in breeding programs. In the US I had heard many times people comment on how they prefer Tb blood on the sire line but not the mare line (ie; OK to use a Tb sire such as Lauries Crusader xx on a Hanoverian mare, but not a Hanoverian sire on a Tb mare). I asked Dr. Christmann about this and he felt it did not matter as long as the Tb being used was one of type and movement prefered for Hanoverian breeding and crossed with the right Hanoverian sire/ dam. He cited an example that one of the best foals he saw in Australia recently was by Benetton Dream out of a really nice full Tb mare.
Lastly he discussed the different sports for which Hanvoverian are used: dressage, jumping, eventing, driving, and a new division called “Hannoveraner erleben” which is akin to natural horsemanship training here in the US. As the vast majority of equestrians are leisure riders this in an area they are really keen on expanding.
Dr. Christmann concluded the lecture with a quote “Breeding means to think in generations”. I really liked that statement as it emphasizes why we need to continually educate ourselves about our own breeding program and goals.
After our morning lecture we were treated to lunch at a traditional German restaurant (I promised Kersten I would detail our meals as they became an integral part of the trip!). This restaurant had the best onion soup I have ever had. Silvia was all excited about her traditional Herring plate (which I must say did not look appetizing to me in the least:/)
There was no postprandial napping allowed as right after lunch we all piled back into the vans and drove the short distance to Hof Clasen. The Clasen family is quite famed in not only the Hanoverian breeding world as the breeder of the 1994 Hanoverian Stallion of the Year Argentan I (by Absatz out of their foundation mare Worms), but in the sport world as well having bred Emma Hindle’s stallion mount Lancet. We were all very excited as this was to be our first "farm tour"...and little did we know also an introduction to the aroma of raising pigs (another aspect to farming life at Hof Clasen)!! After a tour of their horse facilities they presented to us some of their horses including a gorgeous SPA mare by Dauphin (he also was bred on their farm by Marefield Meadows) and a lovely weanling filly by Desparados. Lastly we were invited into their lovely home for coffee and cookies (more food) and discussed horses, farming, and husbandry. The Clasen family were gracious and clearly eat, sleep and breathe Hanoverian horses and have a multitude of successes to show for it!
Tuesday morning (and all subsequent mornings) we met in the hotel restaurant for breakfast: fresh bread, homemade jams, cereals, fruit, juice, coffee and tea were available. It was a wonderful way to start each day! After our early morning meal Maren and Dr. Christmann picked us up in the Hannoveraner vehicles to shuttle us to the Verband for our next day of lectures.
This was a big lecture...stallion lines of the Hanoverian breed. There was so much information in this lecture that I was happy to have good notes provided to us. Dr. Christmann discussed in detail all the main stallion lines: A-line, F/W-line, D-line, G-line, Semper Idem, Abglanz, Bolero, Furioso II, Lauries Crusader xx, Ramzes, Calypso II, Ladykiller xx, and Sacramanto Song xx. I think the most interesting thing for me was how influential the Tb is in essentially every foundation stallion line of the Hanoverian breed. We all know of Lauries Crusader xx and Ladykiller xx (especially this one if you ever looked at the Holsteiners), but the A-line (Eiger, Espri, Escudo) trace back to Adeptus xx in 1884, the Weltmeyer dynasty to Zerneborg (Jupiter A xx-Black Comet xx) in 1845 then Woermann (Marabou xx-Abendsport) in1971, the D-line to Devil's Own xx in 1887, the G-line to Goldschaum xx in 1891, Bolero (Black Sky xx-Bleep xx) and the list continues! That doesn't even take into account all the Rb blood that is bred into the lines through generations! My personal feeling is that here in the US we don't even begin to appreciate the Tb in sport horse breeding. I know a lot of our Tb's are not the sport horse type, but we also have a lot of Tb's that are!
Throughout the lecture Dr. Christmann also gave us information as to what each stallion had brought to the table in conformation, movement, and athletic ability. It was also interesting to learn how many stallion lines have disappeared if they did not produce a stallion son to continue the line. However, thankfully many of these lines can be carried on through dam lines. I think by the end of this lecture we all had a bunch of stallion names whirling around in our brains so it was nice to enjoy a great lunch where in the end we all talked about...you guessed it...horses!
One of the things that delighted me the most was how accessible Dr. Christmann made himself to us participants. He discussed breeding with us as equals and was genuinely interested in our opinions and comments. He is to the world of the Hanoverian breeder what Isabel Werth is to the dressage rider. Can you imagine as a dressage rider discussing dressage with Isabel Werth for days on end? Amazing!
After a lovely lunch at a local Italian restaurant we were driven about 1hr to Adelheidsdorf in Celle. There we watched the test riders ride the basic gaits of the stallions. We had a lively discussion regarding the different styles of the test riders. Some of us prefered a female rider that rode the stallions in a much longer and lower frame and some others prefered one of the male riders that rode them in a much shorter, higher frame. In the end I think we liked having both types of riders because it was interesting to see how the stallions responded to both styles of riding. It really tested the flexability of the stallions.
We also had a lot of discussion as to which stallion(s) we likes best. Sporcken (Sir Donnerhall-Lauries Crusader-Weltmeyer) was the favorite of most, but other favorites were a Contendro I son and Florencio son. All in all the quality of the stallions was high as they had very good basic gaits, nice willing work ethics with all the riders, and were well conformed.
Below is a picture of Sporcken's stall at Adelheidsdorf. An interesting tidbit: the name Sporcken comes from one of the founders of Landgestut Celle. One of the main barns at Landgestut Celle and the street it is located on (SporckenStrass) are also named after him!
Stall front at Celle
I had to spend this day with the State Veterinarians at Celle to fulfill some CE
This was a day we were all waiting for! We were now going to enter the "meat and potatoes" lecture of "How to Judge a Horse; conformation & basic gaits". The morning was spent with Dr. Christmann giving us a lecture on conformation terms, anatomy terms, and looking at a lot of conformation pictures of horses...good and bad. We went over type, head, neck, topline, croup/ loin connection, legs, frame, and saddle position. Descriptions of what is desireable and what is not for each of these areas was covered. I must note that the stallion that was used as our "gold standard" of conformation was Londonderry (which delighted Silvia to no end as she has a 2 year old by him at home!)
He described that for "type" a mare must look female and a stallion must look male. The Hanoverian breed type is also defined by function and not only looks. The "frame" of the horse must have "long lines", big parts in relation to body size (this does not mean literally the size of the horse), and there must be harmony of conformation.
The head was important in that it not be too big nor too small for the horse. That the eye be large with good expression as the eye is the "mirror of the horse". They do not want an eye with a "white ring" (however, one of the stallions that would be pronounced premium the following week at the licensing was a gorgeous Fidertanz stallion with a lovely head other than pronounced white of the eye). It is also important to have a clean jaw and large nostrils. I also thought it funny that an undesireable trait is "droopy ears" but we all know how well that turned out for George Williams's mare Rocher!!
The neck was described as needing to be well shaped, well muscled, and not set too low or too high. We saw many pictures of poor necks that were thin, ewe or swan shaped and set too low.
Frame is a hard term to define as it encompasses so many parts of the horse; essentially the overall outline and proportion of the horse. This includes the neck, shoulder, withers, back, croup/ loin, and tail set. The horse must be generally divided into 3 equal sections of front, middle, and hind quarters. Dr. Christmann showed us charts and many pictures of horses to really help give an understanding of "frame".
Forelegs/ Hindlegs came with many pictures! First he went over basics with drawings of straight legs, bench legs, base narrow, sickle hocked, pigeon toed, long pasterns, short pasterns, etc. Then he went into further detail with drawings of desireable angles of the shoulders/ legs/ hooves. I found it interesting that a slight "toe out" of the rear limb is common and acceptable as it gives stability to the horse.
We then moved on to correctness of gaits, impulsion and elasticity in the trot, ground covering and uphill canter, and nice four beat rhythmic walk. We watched videos of some horses at the Bundeschampionat such a Lissaro and Lemony's Nicket for examples. The discussion naturally turned to what is desireable movement today in dressage horses with greater knee action. Dr. Christmann made it clear that with greater front end action breeders need to be careful to keep an active hindend.
It was a great morning lecture with so much information. Off we went to lunch to recharge for the afternoon exercises of putting all that information into practical work!
After another really nice lunch (waist bands were beginning to expand at this point!) we went across the street from the main facilities of the Hannoveraner Verband. This location was once military facilities that were occupied by the British after the war. When the British left the facilities were taken over by the Hannoveran Verband and turned into a training center. There are multiple covered arenas, stabling facilities, and outdoor arenas and jump field. Dr. Christmann explained to us that what is now used for the riding arenas housed equipement such as helicopters for the British military!
I must say I was a bit nervous at the start of our practical judging exercise..similar to how I felt walking onto an exam at school! What if I failed miserably? I needn't worry as it was fantastic! We were presented a total of 6 mares that were there for preparation of their MPT. First they were walked out in hand so we could evaluate their conformation, correctness of gaits, walk and trot in hand. We had been given clip boards with score sheets so we could write down out comments. Dr. Chrstmann and Maren had their own discussion as to what they would score each horse. Then came judgement time when we discussed what we scored, what Dr. Chrstmann and Maren scored and why! By the sixth mare I was just beginning to get the feel of it. It is much harder to score a live mare than it is to look at a photo of a nicely stood up and presented horse! Finally all the mares were presented to us under saddle (by some really nice young rider) in the same format as done during a MPT. What was absolutely most interesting was that the mare that had some fairly big flaws conformationally was absolutely lovely under saddle! Under the rider her walk, trot, canter and way of going was harmonious, ground covering, and rideability high. I asked Dr. Christmann which is better...a conformationally better horse or one that is better under saddle? Of course he said you want both, but under saddle is more important as in the end the horse needs to be used for sport. However, the conformation can't be so poor as to lead to unsoundness.
This was the morning I discovered Haggebutten (rose hip) tea. Have you ever had it? It is lovely. Now back to the program...
We had an early 8am pick up time and headed straight away to Hof Bruning. It is a father-son duo that run their tranquil farm that is really geared to mare breeding and the raising of young horses (weanling upward). Their accomplishments are many and include breeding the winning mare family at the Herwart ven der Decken Show both 2007 & 2009, breeder of US Grand Prix stallion Don Principe, as well as breeder of many St. Pr. St. mares and licensed stallions. You can tell these two take their horses seriously and have put a lot of thought into the design of their facilities.
They have built a new unique foal barn. It is a center aisle barn that reminds me a little of a cattle barn in design. On either side of the center aisle are two large paddocks that are both covered and open air and house large groups of wearnlings. The "fronts" of the paddocks are bars extending the entire height and length of the barn. Haylage is placed on the ground in the center aisle. Periodically there is a 35cm spacing of these bars to allow foals to feed from the center aisle. The footing in the outdoor portion of the paddocks is cement as they feel the hard surface lends itself to better soft tissue and bone growth of the foals legs and NO mud!! The covered portion of the paddocks is bedded deeply with straw. The benefits of this design are many: feed stays clean (no poop or pee), more dominant foals cannot monopolize the feed, foals can be tied to a paticular opening to control feeding even more strictly, and the open air design leads to better respiratory health. They also were very particular about what they feed the weanlings prefering to mix their own feed and have it nutrtionally tested.
We were also given a tour of their mare barn, foaling area, insemination room, and riding barn & arena. They have a young female rider that was riding a lovely horse in the indoor. She was one of the nicest soft riders we saw during our entire trip.
After the tour we were welcomed into their home and presented with a fantastic lunch of homemade pumpkin soup and quiche. It was a wonderful start to the day! More pictures of this day can be seen on the photo album.
Gestut Famos is one of those grand equestrian facilities that spares no expense. The barns are spotless, the flooring poured rubber and pavers, the stalls large, open, and gorgeous, wash areas with solariums, drive in area for loading/ unloading the lorry, spectacular indoor area, park like grounds with large tranquil pond, and a club house more lovely than my home!
The tour started with a presentation of some stallions, including the one we were all waiting for, Contendro I. Even at 14 years of age, having been heavily competed and bred, he is the picture of a stallion in top form. We were all taken aback by his presence and how gentle he was...he even has a stuffed bunny rabbit that hangs in his stall! We then began the tour of the facilities and all jaws just dropped! Our guide, jumper rider Karl Brocks, was gracious and funny (and handsome to boot, but sorry ladies he is taken!). He told us a great story of how the owner of Gestut Famos enjoys riding the lawn mower and dragging the arenas...sometimes even in his fancy suit! Not only was this facility "eye candy" for the humans but the horses well being was also taken into account. The stalls were large, open and airy. Each stall had at least 1 toy for the stallions to play with and well manicured paddocks were available for daily turnout.
After having some cookies and tea in the club room at Gestut Famos we were taken to the riding center, Schwartze Hof, of the Baumgart family. Our guide was Hannes Baumgart, a dressage rider that needs no introduction, but to name a few of his credentials: started both Satchmo and Warum Nicht, rider/trainer of Royal Highness at the WCYH, and Don Mardeba at the Bundeschampionate. He is every bit a dressage rider being tall, lean, with good posture, and every bit a gracious host. The tour started in this fantastic 100s year old barn that reminded me of some fairy tale structure in Hansel & Gretel. He gave us a brief history on Schwartze Hof and then led us through the multiple modern training barns (both dressage and jumping), indoor arenas, and outdoor arena. This is a "nuts and bolt" facility that is really geared to the training of dressage horses by Hannes and jumper horses by his brother Philipp. This not only includes upper level horses but also the rearing of young stallions, preparation of stallions for inspection approvals, showing of talented young horses and even the raising of a few weanlings. We saw some nice riding, both dressage and jumping. Funny enough, the American bred stallion Selten HW, was being ridden in the indoor in preparation for sale! Just goes to show you how international horses are now!
Of course afterwards we were presented by our gracious hosts, Hannes & Philipp, with more treats of sparkling wine on this fantastic old wagon tray cart that I fell in love with!
Foal Barn Hof Bruning
Lunch at Hof Bruning
The Hannoveraner Verband was fantastic and lent us one of the vans for the weekend. They even gave us a GPS! A bunch of us wanted to go to Gestut Sprehe, which was not scheduled during the original trip, but again the Hannveraner Verband was amazing...they organized for us to go on our own on Saturday. So off we went to Gestut Sprehe early Saturday morning, GPS in hand and thankfully Kersten to translate directions for us!
We got to Gestut Sprehe a few minutes late and was greeted by a knowledgable man that spoke only German. Again, Kersten acted as our translator (and did a most fabulous job) as he went through their extensive stallion line up one by one. Of course the stallions we were most interested in meeting were Desparados and Christ as we were a dressage group. Unfortunately, Desparados was off site showing.
Gestut Sprehe is a large well appointed facility with multiple barns and lovely indoor with viewing club house that reminded me a bit of a Vegas lounge. We were given a tour of the barns and then presented some stallions in hand. I was excited to see Christ (pronounced Krist) as he has really interesting blood lines and looks super under saddle in the videos I have watched. In person he was quite lovely, long legged, nice front end and good demeanor.
After our visit we all piled back into the van and found a little restaurant open in a village for lunch where we ate a very traditional German meal. We discussed the visits of that week including Gestut Sprehe & Gestut Famos and all the stallions we had seen thus far. The favorites up to that point were Contendro I and Sporken. We were still anxiously anticipating seeing the Celle stallions such as Londonderry, Rotspon, Londontime, and Don Frederico, as well as the Leatherdale's stallions at the Meyer's.
We were all up early Sunday morning to pile into our Hannoveraner Verband vans to make the short trip to Hannover to attend the German Classics. Once we arrived to the stadium in Hannover I was shocked by the traffic lining up to get into the parking lot of the show! It was like getting into a football game in the US!! It was even more amazing once we entered the large indoor facility that housed the competition arena completely surrounded by stadium seating for thousands of spectators, vendors galore, and tons of eateries. Inside all this fanfare was the warm-up arena...right smack dab in the middle of the food court! How wild is that? You could sit down, eat your chicken gyro and watch Isabel Werth warm up Satchmo not 10 feet away.
The Dressage Freestyle went first so we all took our seats, fourth row, and settled in with the other thousands of spectators to watch Isabel Werth, Karen Rehbein, and Carola Koppelman amoung others. Isabel Werth won the class on Satchmo with a 76+%. It was electric to watch her ride so close, especially knowing that Satchmo was soon to be retired. After the freestyle we were treated to Heike Kemmer riding Bonaparte in their farewell retirement ride. What a morning it turned out to be! Coming from the US I had goose bumps as the crowd was HUGE and fully engaged in the show...they clapped loudly during the awards ceremony and Bonaparte's ride...nothing like attending a horse show here.
There was a break between the dressage and show jumping for lunch and more importantly SHOPPING! Kersten said we bought every bridle in Hannover as almost every one of us bought at least one! I'm glad I left a lot of spare room in my luggage as I bought a bridle, bell boots, breeches, stall signs, and some jewelry.
Normally I don't like to watch Grand Prix jumping as each time a horse nears a jump I have a mini heart attack. However, I was so caught up in the atmosphere of the crowd that I really enjoyed watching it! Sadly the only rider that fell off (didn't get hurt) was the one American rider:( We were so close to one of the jumps that you could hear the horse's exertion over the fence. After the first round came the jump off...that even though I didn't know the riders I was completely engrossed as the crowd was going wild. The winner was a local rider from Hannover so the crowd was on their feet cheering! It was like being at the Super Bowl!!
After an entire day of watching the show, eating and shopping we helped the employees at the Hannoveraner Verband booth carry all their stuff back to the vans and headed home. What a great end to our first weekend.
I was excited to make the 2+ hour drive out to Jens Meyer's farm as it is right on the North Sea, not far from where I purchased my mare EM Dorfblume. It was sure to be an action packed morning as the US Hanoverian breeders, Doug & Louis Leatherdale, keep all their fabulous stallions at the Meyer's farm.
Well, we were once again not disappointed! The Meyer's first gave us a tour of their breeding shed, laboratory, and stallion barn. Their stallion mount is quite interesting as it has a hydraulic lift that can raise and lower the entire mount. They feel it is quite beneficial as it puts less strain on the rear limbs of the stallions. Also, their stallion barn layout was completely unique, user friendly, and lovely for the horses. Instead of having a center aisle with stalls on either side there is a central "rotunda" and the large airy stallion stalls in a circular fashion around that. It allowed the stallions view of all their neighbors as well as all the "action" going on within the barn. I wish I had seen this before I built my barn!
Then came the stallions! The line up included Damsey, Hampton, Fairbanks (OLD), and their grand old man Cashman. To our delight Damsey and Hampton were also presented under saddle in their indoor arena. Hampton was absolutely stunning, nicely conformed, great demeanor, three solid gaits and of course in a jet black package! However, I think we were all taken by Damsey. He was absolutely lovely under saddle and has a 10+ walk. He was so willing and soft in the bridle...a joy to watch and definitely a stallion to use.
The afternoon was spent at Hof Seeverns which is run by a husband-wife team, Maike & Jan. Their farm is part Hanoverian horse breeder/rearer and part dairy farm. It is located not too far from the Meyer's and is well situated on flat open coastal like green land. It is a large facility responsible for over 100-head of horses from weanlings up to riding horses. They too had a similar open air barn to that at the Brunings, as well as more traditional barns with stalls, indoor & outdoor arenas, and covered walker. Maike was our tour guide and explained their feeding, worming, farrier and raising schedules. We were even treated to a short tour of their dairy including the totally modern, electronic milking shed.
It was interesting to note that many breeders from all over northern Germany, including them, keep the majority of their stock on large pastures in these coastal plains during the warm months and move them back to their facilities during the winter. It was a lovely afternoon and really cemented for us the full gamut of facility types from the well functioning utilitarian set ups to the uber fancy show barns.
The drive out to Klosterhof Medingen was absolutely beautiful. It was a mix of open rolling hills and densely wooded forests, reminding me a bit of home in central North Carolina. Klosterhof Medingen is situated right smack dab in the middle of a small village and you know you have reached your destination as when you drive into the farm centrally located is a large statue of Caprimond. Coming here is for warmblood horse breeders what walking onto the pitchers mound at Yankee's Stadium is to a baseball fan...a truly remarkable farm responsible for many legends: Caprimond, Hohenstein and DeNiro.
Our guide was breeding manager Jessica Lob who started right off bringing out all the greats! First came Caprimond, who despite his age of 26, is still ridden by his owner. He reminds me of Paul Newman in that despite decades of age he still is stunningly handsome and has that "it" quality. Then came his most notable son Hohenstein, who like his father exudes nobleness, quality, and substance. For me this was a highlight as I have always adored Hohenstein and plan to breed to him in 2012. Jessica explained to us that they have now been successful with his frozen semen having increased the straw count from four to eight...great news for us breeders in North America!!
The stars kept coming as next to be presented was DeNiro. At 18 years of age he is still one of the most sought after stallions and may be the most successful Donnerhall son to date. He is the sire of Dablino, Dick Tracey, and Deveraux to name a few and is known to be one of the great producers of Grand Prix dressage horses.
Next came the "young guns" Danone I and Danone II, Feurspiel, and Duke of Oldenburg. Feurspiel (Fidermark-DeNiro-Jet Stream xx) was absolutely gorgeous...long lines, modern and nice disposition. I'm excited to see what he produces in the future. It was very interesting to see the differences between Danone I and Danone II (Donnerhall-Weltmeyer-Bolero). Despite being full brothers they are quite different: Danone I is much lighter and leggier than his brother and produces taller as well. As can be told by his pedigree he has been successful already producing dressage standouts in stallion licensing and high priced auction horses.
Klosterhof Medingen is not only a legendary breeding station but also a training facility and hosts elite auctions. We took a tour of all the barns and two indoor arenas. The newer large indoor arena was bustling with riders including one on Danone I. He was lovely under saddle being forward, light and energetic. From a corner we could not see was Mr. Wohler, owner of Klosterhof Medingen, coaching some of the riders. It was so exciting just to get a taste of life at this amazing and first class facility.
Just some fun facts we learned during our tour: each spring they hand walk mares & foals in groups through the streets of the little village to get to their summer fields and they use a life sized plastic horse as a teaser mare during semen collection!
What an absolutely fabulous morning we had! We were all sad to leave but were looking forward to having lunch in the historic city of Luneberg (more expansion of our waist lines!).