Sunday, 21 November 2010

Trakehner hengstmarkt

The following article was recently published in the Horse Breeders online Magazine and reports our recent trip to the stallion licensing in Neumunster, an annual highlight!

Whether you are a Trakehner enthusiast or not, a visit to Neumunster in North Germany at the end of October, is an incredible experience. A long weekend of quality horse flesh, soaring emotions and in many cases a chance to catch up with other breeders and debate breeding issues long into the night.
The format for the licensing was slightly altered this year, but started with the traditional trot up on a hard surface, the first time the crowd get to see that year’s selection. Even at this early stage, the knowledgeable crowd will pick out their favourites and cheers and wolf whistles will follow any colt they feel has particularly good movement.
But the first day is also a chance for the spectator to get behind the scenes, looking at each colt in the stable and assessing temperament, type and limbs. I think is it quite a personal thing to assess in the stable what you like and don’t like, and is often a little unquantifiable. Having read through the catalogue in detail in advance, some colts disappointed me at this stage for lacking presence or strength in the limbs. I want the whole package so even a plain head or small eye will be a negative mark against their name. Having missed the trot up, this first view of the colts highlighted three in particular for me, a black Gribaldi colt called Imhotep and a chestnut by Le Rouge called Banderas. These two both oozed presence and X factor. The third colt was a leggy elegant colt called His Time, who caught my eye not only for his stellar pedigree (I am a big fan of anything with Consul in the pedigree and he is a direct grandson) but he had a wonderful calm presence and was just a beautiful type.
Friday morning was the loose jumping section, and overall nearly all the colts jumped well, even the very dressage bloodline dominated ones, showed adequate scope and athleticism over the fences. There were some outstanding ones, such as both the colts by the Holstein approved Hirtentanz, and the Sky Dancer colt Olivander. Of extra interest is that after every 7 or 8 colts have jumped, they return to the ring to walk round together, giving you the first chance to assess them against their peers, and really see the walk.
The afternoon saw the presentation of the colts on the triangle. In previous years a number of handlers had ignored the layout of the poles on the ground and trotted their horses right around the edge of the arena, so this year the poles were laid out in a more rectangular shape to ensure a more even playing field. From our seats a few of the colts looked to be moving a little wide behind, perhaps due to the very speed they were being trotted at, but once again a few colts who had stood out in the morning session, did not disappoint with a display of power and activity. By now my top four were the chestnut Banderas, Imhotep, the Gribaldi son, and a grandson, the Easy Game sired Millenium, and the elegant His Time.
Saturday started with a new layout for the loose phase. A team of Dutch handlers were bought in to demonstrate a system they developed, which involves, through the use of strategically placed poles and plant pots, and from a team of 8 ‘whip men’ gently guiding the loose colts around in a figure of eight. The horses were not rushed or harried but allowed to demonstrate how they wanted to show themselves. The figure of eight lay out was excellent for highlighting the balance in canter and how clean the changes were. To finish the colts were sent round the outside edge of the arena which had been fenced off into one long track and this really gave the horses chance to open up and cover the ground. Once again the colts came back into the ring in groups of 7 or 8 and at this stage where either invited to come back in the afternoon, or declared ‘Nicht Gekort’ - Not Graded.
At this stage there was only 1 colt that didn’t grade that I would have put through, a lovely well made little bay by Shavalou x Alter Fritz who showed lovely suspension, and easy light movement but was not graded due to being on the small side. In addition one of the Hirtentanz colts was not graded, a colt out of a Tanzmeister mare. I felt he looked like a puissance jumper in the making in the way he had jumped, but he was a little plain in his stamp and I think lack of type was the deciding factor here. The crowd were as usual very vocal when one of their favourites got the nod, no doubt trying to influence the judges into who to select as Champion.
Saturday afternoon then becomes firstly about the Supreme Mare Championship and then all about the auction. The mare championship brings together the Champion and Reserve from each regional mare grading. Although these mares are 3yos and so a year older than the colts, it is noticeable that they don’t have the same maturity or muscularity, and look altogether more feminine. It was quite difficult to predict the Champion this year as the top 5 all really moved, but the eventual winner, the Goldschmit daughter Praise Me, was a deserving Champion. Already a competitor at the Bundeschampionate this year, she looked strong and powerful, and her paces or enthusiasm did not diminish once, given she was also being shown all weekend as part of the auction. The audience reaction to her victory was typically German. Lots of stamping, clapping and wonderful music as the mare was trotted round and round wearing her victory sash. Personally I was pleased to see a lot of Hirtentanz daughters in the ring, a young stallion I have used and so am following his career closely. To have so many daughters through spoke volumes for his prowess.
The auction that followed started with the riding horses and then the broodmares and foals. There were three mares in particular I was dying to have a sit on and whose pedigree, paces and attitude would have seen them welcome in my barn. Of course the highlight was Praise Me, who was knocked down for 90,000 Euro, and to be honest was a bargain. Daughters of Connery and Kasimir were my other two selections, making 20 and 18,000 respectively. Interestingly both had bloodlines I have in my herd already, and that is one of the best reasons for coming to Neumunster – to consolidate which bloodlines seem to tick your boxes. The one gelding I would have made room for, was a big rangy 4yo by the Schwadroneur son Pricolino. The grandsire is a horse I have admired for some time and has been a great influence in Denmark. It is often on the dam side that I like his influence so it was good to see a direct sire line.
The broodmares seemed to make good money, but interestingly if I had been looking to buy, it was the dams of two of the foals that were offered that caught my eye. Both Premium mares, one by Cadeau and one by Sixtus, , and I just wish I had had a cheque book handy. Within the foal auction a filly by Axis from the direct motherline of Arogno looked a bargain at 6,000 and there were a few colts that looked like they might re-appear here in 2 years time for the licensing. The top priced filly, a very elegant daughter of Le Rouge, was sold to German dressage trainer, so I hope we see her under saddle in the future.
Back to the licensing, and the colts that had made it this far came back in, in three groups, where the tension was slowly increased as the judges deliberated in the middle of the ring. All the colts who made it to this stage were graded, a total of 13, and my thoughts on each one is listed below.
First Flight Spirit (Cavallieri xx v First Flight Celebration x Almox Prints J x Steuben). Winner of the best Half Blood award, this chestnut really opened up and covered the ground with good active hocks. Lots of good jumping blood from the damline and damsire and will be a good horse once he has matured.
Edberg (Connery v Elta x Kaiser Wilhelm x Schwadroneur). By one of my favourite stallions out of a Danish champion, dam sire a Grand Prix horse and a damline producing international level Grand Prix competitors. This little bright chestnut moved in a very cadenced and athletic style, so was a real crowd pleaser but was weak in the second thigh and it will be interesting to see how much that extravagant movement combined with a weaker hind end holds up if he should be trained to the higher levels of dressage.
Millenium (Easy Game v Merle x Ravel x Consul). This black Gribaldi grandson showed real presence, super trot mechanics, and again a pedigree packed with great names. I felt the canter got a little heavy at times, and he was quite a hot type, much like his sire, but there was no denying how much the crowd got behind him.
All Agility (Gribaldi v Aller Beste x Buddenbrock x El-Zid) On balance this horse disappointed me, maybe because his full brother is so exceptional at just 3 years of age. He jumped in a neat shape, had reasonable suspension in the trot but I would have liked more athleticism. Nothing to really criticise but not one of the highlights. Sold to Switzerland.
Imhotep (Gribaldi v Imann Holt x Hohenstein x Schwadroneur). Having caught my eye in the stable this horse showed natural uphill tendancy, swing and suspension. The canter was very balanced and he really oozed class. A real crowd favourite too, being black and beautiful.
Tarison (Hirtentanz v Tiara VI x Humanus x Caanitz). This black colt was an effortless jumper over the biggest fences. Always very calm and self contained, he was athletic and active without being extravagant and deserved his award for the Top Jumper. Muscluar and compact in his frame.
Mescalero (Impetus v Mariza IV x Herzzauber x Mandant). All my notes on this horse show that he was harmonious in frame, so you didn’t notice he was quite a big horse, moved well through his back, but just didn’t wow me. So although I was a little surprised when he graded, his lap of honour trot showed a lot of power and suppleness and he actually well deserved his reward.
His Time (Interconti v Herbstlied V x Timber x Caanitz). Probably my favourite from the minute I saw him, typey, elegant, long limbed, beautiful paces with a really ground covering canter. Impeccable temperament and manners and actually a nice outcross pedigree in some ways being free of Caprimond blood, although Mahagoni appears on the sire’s side. For me this was a colt who while probably destined for a top dressage career could easily sire leading eventers, as he showed scope and intelligence over his fences, a real dual purpose prospect. It seems this young stallion has alredy been renamed – Herbstkonig, which rather beautifully translates as Autumn King.
Banderas (Le Rouge v Bandera x Friedensfurst x Diamant). A combination of Champion stallion and the direct motherline of the great Buddenbrock. And this hot chestnut colt didn’t disappoint. Huge presence, very harmonious frame, great self carriage and a good active hind leg. I think had he been a little less cheeky and full of himself in the loose assessment he may have been close to the Champion title.
Grasnitz (Lowelas v Georgenberg II x Peron Junior x Partout). A littlie ponish in type, very round bodied, but he did cover the ground well and an interesting pedigree. Sold to Austria.
Windsor (Ovaro v Wintermarchen II x Schiffon x Vivus). A horse very stamped by his grandsire Hohenstein, he showed good athleticism over the fences and was one of the crowd favourites.
Olivander (Sky Dancer v Oststar x Mangan xx x Aspirant). A horse that used his whole body over the fences and was a very balanced and quick horse. The dam has produced a lot of good jumping horses. Maybe lacked a little stallion expression. Sold to the Ukraine.
Eiskonig (Songline v Eiskonigin x Trocadero x Guter Stern). I really hoped this horse would grade, partly as I have Guter Stern in my mare’s pedigrees and Trocadero is a British based stallion, but mainly due to the fact he had three good and balanced gaits, with a really active trot and was a good stamp of a horse. His half sister had really impressed at the Trakehner Bundesturnier in the summer so good to see her brother looks a real ridden prospect. He was sold to Haras des Quatre Chemins in Belguim who make a point of training their breeding stallions to Grand Prix.
The premiums were awarded to Millenium, Imhotep, Tarison, His Time, Mescalero and Banderas.
Sunday morning saw all the graded stallions back in the ring while the commission team announced their feedback on each horse. Sadly my German is too limited to get the full benefit but the odd bits I did understand tailed with my own thoughts. All this built up to the announcement of who was to be Champion. The black son of Easy Game, the big trotting Millenium was Second Reserve, followed by the beautiful bay His Time as Reserve. Then the Danish bred, black Gribaldi son Imhotep was proclaimed Champion with immense whistling and clapping from the crowd, in fitting tribute to his late sire. As the music played ‘Halleluiah’ and the colt trotted round with his handler encouraging the crowd onto their feet, it was impossible not be carried away in the excitement.
That feeling lasted into the afternoon auction, as the Champion swept into the arena to open the proceedings. Black, big uphill trot and a trendy pedigree meant he was going to be popular and under bidders included the late Gribaldi’s owner possibly in league with a leading German stallion owner. After he was knocked down for 300,000 Euros the crowd applauded when it was announced he was to remain in Germany.
To my delight His Time was purchased by Klosterhof Medigen, a super stud to work with, with a wonderful broodmare herd. At 180,000 I think he was a bit of a bargain and interesting to note the State stud at Marbach has become a partner in the horse.
The top price was given for Millenium, who was also bought in a joint venture between the State Stud at Moritzburg and the huge stallion station at Sprehe for 320,000 Euro. Really good to see that Sprehe recognise the importance of not just Trakehners but also thoroughbred blood in their breeding program.
The other colts both graded and ungraded that were offered at the auction all found homes. Olivander was sold to Eastern Europe, but the majority remained in Germany, despite some international under bidders. Overall a very high quality and enjoyable weekend and I look forward to seeing these colts under saddle next year.
You would think after all that, there could be no more room for drama, but the highlight of the 2010 Hengstmarkt was Saturday night’s Gala Show. For 4 hours the audience was swept along through delight, laughter, sadness and over whelming love and appreciation of this magnificent breed.
First on display were the show jumpers. Often dismissed by parts of the show jumping community in Germany, there was an abundance of talent on display. This included the American bred and owned Tzigane jumping through fire, but the highlight for me was the wonderful Axis son Hirtentanz showing effortless scope, and just why the Holstein Verband added him to their stallion roster.
Following the jumpers, was a selection of Shagya Arabians, mainly stallions, aimed at showcasing the importance to breeders in not neglecting these bloodlines. The 11 year old Pamino son Pamir who is already competing successfully at S level, gave a wonderful display with his wonderful work ethic evident. In keeping with the German love of award ceremonies, awards were then given out to riders attaining their Golden medal, in recognition of their achievement in the higher levels of sport.
Then the recently graded 2010 Premium Stallions came in for a fast paced lap of honour to voluminous music and you could feel the sense of satisfaction in the audience that the breed was producing such quality, and the claps and wolf whistles got even loader as a result. And then for a total change of tack we were entertained by a fast paced junior version of the Household cavalry quadrille with pony club children adapting the story of Swan Lake to include furious galloping and jumping in formation. We did note the superb lower leg position of these young riders with some envy.
Back to business next with 4 of last year’s graded colts giving a display under saddle. Every one was ridden beautifully and all looked so happy and comfortable in their way of going. Last year’s champion Kentucky just had the edge with his extra presence and power, but all were super breeding and sport prospects. Then to showcase the versatility of the breed the eventers were brought in, first ridden by juniors including European team medallist Mayenne and the lovely Anglo Arab stallion Hill Dream. The fences in the arena included some very unsual balls, chairs and fake water jumps, but every horse looked to be having a ball. Then it was the equine juniors, including this years Bundeschampion Songline and last year’s Herzog. Songline really impressed with his boldness, scope and superb paces. Finally some older horses came in, with Ingrid Klimke leading the way on a very elegant Heraldik son named Tabasco, who unfortunately for us breeders, is a gelding.
With the fences cleared away in record time, three more representatives of last years grading came in under saddle, headed by the very special Gribaldi son All Inslusive, who was the Bundesturnier Champion in the summer. I hope he is well used by breeders despite his chestnut coat, as he looked to have no weakness, and has an exemplary pedigree. These young horses were followed by a version of indoor horse trials with pairs of Trakehners from Gestut Ganshow galloping round the arena with incredible hand brake turns, as each driver tried to get their name on the leader board. With our seats on the front row, we really did feel we were part of the action, and it looked pretty hair raising!
Another quick change of pace with 2 cars being driven into the arena and the young Ganshow owned stallion Dramatiker being jumped firstly over the bonnets and then over the roofs. And another change of pace quickly followed with a lone signer entering the arena under spotlight. As she started singing a beautiful version of the Bond theme ‘For Your Eyes Only’ the bright chestnut graded stallion Donaudichter entered the arena and gave his farewell retirement performance. Beautifully and sympathetically ridden by Nils Bezold, not only was it a lovely display, but the rider was clearly upset at his last public ride on the stallion. Then as we wiped away the tears, the super mare Olivia TSF came in, and again rode under the spotlights to Bond, and then was joined by Donaudichter for a beautiful Pas de Deux. Then in a really poignant scene, the two riders halted, dismounted, removed their saddles, and led their horses, through the tears, out of the arena. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
The top three mares from the earlier Mare Championship where then given their moment in the main ring in front of this large audience, before it was the turn of the Stallion of the Year, the Elite Buddenbrock. This was the first time I had seen this famous stallion in the flesh and he is a much bigger, more imposing specimen that I had imagined. His Elite stallion son King Arthur paraded with him, and awards were handed out to all associated. This is a key aspect of the German breed societies – they love to celebrate and promote the contribution made by the breeders.
For a complete change of pace, we then had an hilarious dog training display with every size and shape of hound performing superb tricks that had us rolling in laughter but also incredibly impressed by the skills of the trainer Wolfgang Lauenburger. This was followed by the very humbling display by WEG paradressage Silver medallist Annika Lykke-Dalskov with her graded stallion Preussen-Wind, another son of Gribaldi and Schwadroneur. This very correct and compact little horse has already had success at S level, and his trainability and movement, showed that fabulous aspect of the Trakehner breed- they love to please.
The Gribaldi theme continued as a tribute to the stallion who has done so much to highlight the breed in recent times. The bronze medallist from the Swiss National Championships – Distelzar and the up and coming star Easy Game, performed together. Distelzar has been a very prolific sire from limited opportunities, and it was evident that the tall and charismatic Easy Game has benefitted from his time spent at the Gal training stable in Holland and is undoubtedly a future Grand Prix horse. The 3yo All Inclusive completed the tribute, and his superb training by Gestut Tasdorf showed why he was so successful at national level this summer. Finally awards were made to all associated with the late Gribaldi while images of him from foal to Grand prix horse were played on the large screen suspended from the roof. Not just his owner and breeders, but his sire’s owner, the man who prepped him for his licensing and the owners of his most famous son Totilas, were all presented with mementoes.
And just in case anyone had resisted the swell of emotion so far, the finale brought the crowd to its feet in a unison of pride for this breed and emotion at a farewell to one of the greats. Caprimond, the 25 year old Elite stallion, ended the show, in unison with his son Hohenstein, grandson Munchhausen and great grandson Titiano. The four of them piaffed and passaged in synchronisation, and then halted, motionless under the spotlight, while a lone trumpeter played the Ostpreussenlied, the Trakehner anthem. As the curtain went down on the 2010 gala show, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

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