Tuesday, November 12, 2013

France's Camargue Region

The final stop on my 2013 equestrian tour of Europe was to the Camargue region of Provence in southern France. The sturdy little white horses that originated in the Camargue marshes, known simply as Camargue horses, are raised for riding horses and as stock horses to work with the bulls the region is also noted for. They say they originated in the marshes, but my money says they came from Spain or Portugal. They have a decidedly Iberian or Lippizan look to me. I love their compact size, and despite being a small gene pool, they remain hardy and correct with almost indiscernible differences between individuals.
The bird life is vast in the Camargue, with dozens of species along with flocks of flamingos that have taken up residence.
And of course, the Camargue also produces the world's most prized gourmet sale, fleur de sel or "flower of salt," which is harvested from the Camargue's marshes.
The black fighting bulls are distinct to the region. The fields are full of large herds of them, beautiful to behold. On a walk from the 1700s farmhouse I stayed in, down the lane past their pastures I enjoyed pausing to look at them. Of course every ear and eye was turned toward me, as they are alert and wary and have been trained since youngsters to consider humans as sparring partners. When I stared too long, they all began lowing in their throats and advancing toward me. They are used for bullfights but with a wonderfully humane twist. The bullfights do not involve killing the bull. Instead, a medallion is fastened to the horn of the bull. At the end of the "fight" whichever possesses the medallion, the man or the bull, is the winner. If it's the man, he receives the prize money. If it's the bull, its breeder receives the money. Bullfights were over for the season, but I was lucky enough to arrive in town on a weekend when there was a special festival of bringing the bulls onto the beaches of Saint Maries de la Mer for a herding exhibition.
White horses, black bulls and pink flamingos! Ah, the fantastic color scheme of the Camargue.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Haras de Couvains and Haras de Hus, France

A brief stop in Paris to visit friends was followed by a trip west to Normandy, to pay a visit to the Haras de Couvains. I was most interested to meet Sophie Levallois, whom I began doing business with last year when I began selling the frozen semen of the excellent Selle Francaise stallion, Diamant de Semilly. The Diamant semen is sold by the individual straw, yet it has an excellent conception rate when used deep uterine. This stallion is one of the kindest, most generous of horses and is in the top percent of the world's best sires of showjumpers. Their temperaments and characters are excellent, not at all the hot, hard to ride type that some have come to associate with some of the Selle Francais lines. Sophie mentioned how different this line is from the lines that come from Alme Z and Galoubet. I saw several Diamants last summer at Spruce Meadows and was very impressed by their type, jumping style and the correctness of their legs and feet.
I plan to offer two more stallions from the Haras de Couvains in 2014, as a source of blood, which North American showjumpers are in need of according to some experts. They are Calypso D' Herbiers (Hurlevent / Double Espoir), who features a wealth of impeccable Thoroughbred jumper blood.  Calypso D' Herbiers was the winner of the Grand Prix CSIO and the Derby de La Baule 2004. He was the triple French Champion of Hunters, Dressage and CSO at four, triple French Showjumping Champion at four five and six and French vice champion at seven. He is ranked "elite" at eventing and "very good"  as a Selle Francais jumping and dressage stallion.
Also available soon via frozen semen is Herald 3, a 3/4 Thoroughbred son of Heraldix xx, out of an own granddaughter of Ladykiller xx. Herald's sire, Heraldik xx, is the leading sire of event horses in the world and his Holsteiner dam, Alissa, is a direct granddaughter of the great Ladykiller xx, making Herald a 3/4 Thoroughbred of the most exceptional breeding. He is a multiple international Grand Prix winner, reactive but with a cool mind, tested at the top level.
The Selle Francais lines should be of special interest, due to their ability to impart blood through a slightly different way than strictly Throughbred crosses.
The French/German cross seems to be working very well, as evidenced by the recent success of the sires Diarado (Diamant de Semilly / Contendro) and Balou du Rouet ( Baloubet du Rouet / Continue by Contender).
I also stopped by the Haras de Hus, a showplace stud farm if ever there was one. Their dressage stallions, Don Juan de Hus and Solimon de Hus, are making names for themselves as dressage sires, but they have begun to produce showjumper stallions that we will no doubt be seeing more of in the future.

Klosterhof Medingen

A visit to Klosterhof Medingen is always a special treat. To see the Wahler family horses at their home stable, interacting with their handlers is a delight. And, as always, they present the king of Klosterhof Medingen, Caprimond, to his adoring fans. He knows he's a star and is very good at posing for the cameras. This year, at age 28, he's finally starting to show his age and is buckling over a little on the knees. Though his handler, Peggy, says he is her favorite horse on the farm, states that he is still okay for the grandchildren to ride a little. Truly a grand old gentleman.
In adddition to seeing the stallions presented for our inspection, we were lucky enough to have a chance to watch Theresa Wahler schooling the Trakehner stallion Herbskoenig under the watchful eye of the master of Klosterhof Medingen, her father, Burkhard Wahler. Theresa warmed up the beautiful, typey young stallion and then schooled him in the beginning of passage. Mr. Wahler, mounted on his riding horse, watched from the middle of the arena and spoke to us briefly about his stallions and his theories on breeding. Of course, everyone at KM is exceedingly proud of the status of senior sire De Niro as the number one sire of dressage horses in the world, according to the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH). Last season he bred over 800 mares in Germany, which was 300 more than the year before, and which was 300 more than the year before that. Yet, you can scarcely find one for sale in Europe, so coveted are they as performance horses and breeding stock. Mr. Wahler elaborated as he watched Theresa. To paraphrase, he said it's hard enough to raise a superior horse when you start with two superior animanls, let alone when you begin with less than brilliant animals. But, he went on, even when you have two excellent animals, the result is sometimes not as good as you hoped for. Even though all breeders know this, it was good to hear it coming from one of the world's premier breeders. After all, how many people ever own a stallion that leads the world's WBFSH standings?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Impressions of the October 2013 Stallion Licensing

The Hanoverian stallion licensing, Oct. 24--26, was a welcome upward trend for German breeders. I attended with a lovely tour group that included three Americans, including my assistant and our able driver, Stephanie Law, who lives in Germany, a Canadian and three women from Botswana, Africa. We immersed ourselves in the process of over 100 stallions being presented for licensing. The first day occurs outdoors on the triangle, where the stallions are walked and trotted in hand and posed in front of the judges for evaluation. Keep in mind that these stallions have already been selected for this phase by a pre-selection committee.
The second day, the stallions are presented in the arena loose and all are free jumped, even the dressage stallions, though they don't raise the bars as high for them. It's interesting that some of the dressage-bred stallions actually have quite good jumping form, but the poles are never raised as high as for the jumper bred stallions. They are jumped to give the judges another impression of their willingness and athletic ability.
The loose presentation of the dressage and jumping horses allows a look at their gaits, conformation and attitude to their handlers and surroundings. Most take it pretty well considering the excitement and noise level, but there's always at least one who tries to jump out of the jump chute or over the flower decorations.
They are brought back in groups of six to eight for a final walk ring in front of the judges for a last assessment of conformation and the walk (extremely important in the selection process). Then, it is announced which stallions are licensed and which are not. Even if not licensed, the stallion can still be auctioned, and in fact this is where many a good future gelding is purchased.  At the end of the day they determine the premium stallions from those which have been licensed.Those will be the first auctioned on the final day.
The next day the horses are presented on the lungeline which offers another impression of gaits, athleticism and shows suppleness and how well the stallion responds to the trainer.
Stallion licensings are an excellent opportunity to see what the stallions that I offer frozen semen from are siring. With a group of stallions by the same sire, it is possible to get a good impression of what that stallion is doing particularly well or where he is lacking a bit.
The auction itself was exciting and inspiring. After several years of downturn in the number of horses produced and falling prices, the 2013 licensing auction was a welcome reversal of that trend, as this auction summary shows.
I was extremely impressed by the Fuerstenballs. They were fantastic--elegant, refined, beautiful with three balanced gaits. They are quick behind with good reach under themselves, their trots are balanced with supple shoulders and reaching strides and their walks are long-strided with swing through the body. I cannot say enough how beautiful these horses are. I am wondering if he is homozygous for black as I don't recall seeing an offspring of his of another color. And based on what my clients say about his offspring, it seems they have exceptional temperaments to match their stunning good looks. Based on the uniformity of his offspring from a wide variety of mare bloodlines, I'd say he is a stamping sire. And he has excellent semen quality and conception rate.
Another stallion I was very impressed by was Diamond Hit. From a variety of mare bloodlines, he made beautiful, elegant, typey foals, usually of dark bay color. You just couldn't fault them on their gaits, presence, style or quality. I am very excited to have him on my 2014 roster, as his reputation for good conception precedes him.
The Danciers continue to be sought out and also sold very well. The are gorgeous, light footed horses with style, good gaits, lovely toplines and heads and incredible presence. You can always tell when a stallion is going bigtime, when every stallion station in Germany is adding one to their lineup, which seems to be the case with Dancier.
The De Niros were of course good, there just weren't many of them in the sale, which has to be because everyone is holding onto theirs. He bred over 800 mares in Germany last season.
The Fuerst Romanciers continued to impress with their size, conformation, light-footed movements and good presence and kind demeanors. They also sold very well.
The lone Totilas colt of the auction was booed by the crowd when he was licensed. A Verband official told me that though he has heard the crowd boo when certain stallions were not selected, he had never before heard booing when a stallion was licensed. The colt was knocked down for 100,000 euros to Edward Gal, so it will be quite interesting to see how he develops as a dressage horse.
From a wide selection of jumpers I preferred the Stolzenburgs. He sires horses more leggy and modern than his legendary sire, Stakkato. They are impressive jumpers: powerful, careful, scopey, with good techinique. The Valentinos were also on their games. And of course a high-priced Diarado was a highlight.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dose size, volume comments by University of Vienna vet school director

I met with Dr. Christine Aurich of the U of Vienna veterinary school to discuss a variety of topics. When I lamented the fact that a couple of my suppliers had gone to two straw doses, she quickly corrected me and said, "No. When you are getting fewer straws, you are getting better semen with more viable sperm!" The important thing is to purchase semen from manufacturers who know how to make a good product and concentrate on providing the correct number of post thaw sperm.
Dr. Aurich then went on to say that the important thing with a two-straw dose, for example, was to get all of the semen into the mare. Unless the veterinarian or technician is using the minitube system, which gets every last bit of semen from the straw, this is nearly impossible to achieve. In fact, when thawed semen is deposited into a tube and then aspirated into a syringe, the most active and viable of the sperm are missed, because they are so lively they are already climbing up the sides of the tube! This has sold me completely on the minitube system.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 2013 Hanoverian Elite Auction of Riding Horses and Foals

It appears that my blog on the Hanoverian Elite Auction of Riding Horses and Foals (recap) went missing in cyberspace, so I will give a brief impression here. Can you say Fidertanz? He not only sired the top-priced horse at 200,000, he had several other horses that sold extremely well. Each was consistently beautiful, light-footed, an impressive mover and responsive to its rider. Fidertanz is breeding a lot of mares in Germany and the success of his offspring there will continue to improve the marketability of his foals in North America. His excellent frozen semen should make him highly interesting to NA breeders.
My personal favorite was Equitaris by Estobar NRW, which sold for 175,000 euros. An absolutely stunning, beautiful-moving, quiet-tempered horse which makes me wonder why Estobar is so underused in North America. He is a wonderful young sire and should be considered for his great outcross bloodline for North American mares.
I watched a few horses sell with Dr. Ludwig Christmann and we agreed that both Dancier and Fuerst Nymphenburg could be considered as having good refinement qualities. Offspring of both are very elegant and typey.
Of the jumpers, the top seller was the Catoki/Lordanos son, Cadanos, who sold for 155,000 euros to China. He was the typical Catoki type; smooth, balanced, correct and bay, with great technique and power. Those who own Catoki offspring remark on how amenable to training and fun to ride they are. Plus, he is making some good hunters.  The Stolzenburgs also impressed. My personal favorite of the jumpers was the mare Graefin Escari by Graf Top, out of an Escudo I mare. Wonderful jumper, beautiful, feminine type and black with high white socks and a blaze. Might be a great nick for consideration for all those Escudo I mares in North America.
The top selling foal was Diamond's Hit by Diamond Hit, which brought 30,000 euros. The foals averaged 6644.23 euros.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I confess. I fell in love with the Lippizans as a child, when I watched the Disney movie about the rescue of the Lippizans by the American Army headed by General George Patton and then director Alois Podhojsky, code name "Operation Cowboy." Finally, I got to visit Vienna, Austria, a fabulously beautiful city, full of art, music and culture. And the famous Lippizan stallions that make their home at the Spanish Riding School located in its center, are no less a work of art. Produced from centuries of selective breeding and years of intensive training, they are magnificent. Though the public performances were ceased for the season, I was able to observe a morning training session with several sets of stallions in different stages of their training. The stallions are sent from the Piber Stud to Vienna to begin their training when they are five years of age. There are now three women riders at the school, which is a recent development; previously only men were allowed as riders.
I was lucky enough to be treated to a private tour of the "backstage" riding school by Dr. Max Dobretsberger, the current director of the Piber Stud. He was in Vienna to discharge his duties as the veterinarian who oversees the health care of the Lippizans both at the stud farm and in Vienna. "But," he said, "there is little to do as a veterinarian because they are such sturdy, healthy horses and very little goes wrong with them." The strength and soundness of their blemish-free legs amazed me. When you see the levade, capriolle and other high school movements performed you'd think there would be leg issues, but their mountainside rearing pastures, gradual training and rigorous selection no doubt accounts for their soundness.
The most difficult part of their training is the mental aspect. They are confined to box stalls (roomy and well-ventilated) for 23 hours per day, being out of them only to walk on a recently-installed automatic walker and to be trained in the main riding hall. The Spanish Riding School occupies a relatively small section of the Hofburg Palace, in the very center of Vienna, and there is no place for even a small turnout paddock. So, selecting for a temperament amenable to such confinement is an important part of the  breeding selection. The expression of "stallion" behavior is also not desirable nor allowed; all of the stallions I viewed in their stalls and in the riding ring were really calm and quiet. They acted more like geldings than some of the geldings I've known!
After the tour of the stables I was driven by Dr. Budik from the University of Vienna Veterinary School to the Piber Stud, about 150 miles south of Vienna, for a tour of the breeding farm where the famous white stallions are born. Speaking of white, there are now two gorgeous bay stallions at the riding school. In former times, there were also chestnuts, duns and leopard-spotted Lippizans. Dr. Dobrethberger expressed a fondness for the colors, but only the white stallions perform in public. There is a breeding project in development whereby the leopard-spotted Lippizans will be "recreated" from the baroque-style Knabstruppers of Denmark. These horses were once raised at Piber, then migrated to Denmark and formed the Knabstrupper breed. Both breeds descend from the classical horses of Spain and Portugal. Bent Branderup of Denmark has trained several Knabstruppers in the classical movements and these are the horses being considered for reintegration into the Lippizan program. A look at them easily convinces that they are indeed the descended from Lippizans.
Dr. Sven Budik, who arranged my private tours and took me to Piber, raises the critically endangered Furioso horses. His family has almost single-handedly preserved the breed from only four mares. At one time the Furiosos were also raised at Piber but were removed from the breeding program many decades ago during a financial crisis and were dispersed throughout Europe. I arranged an importation of semen from his stallion, Furioso Morgana, to the United States last year, where it was used to inseminate a mare with a complimentary bloodline he is hoping will result in a filly that he can bring back to Europe. The Furiosos (no relation to the Anglo Norman Furioso II of warmblood fame) can use Thoroughbred and Arabian and Trakehner blood only. They trace back to the Radautz Stud and contain the blood of the famous Ramzes. Dr. Budik was excited to find the Grand Prix showjumper Bonaparte N AA on my stallion roster and plans to use him in his breeding program. His prized Shagya blood is important in the Furioso breed. A few Furiosos found their way to America. Anyone with knowledge of them or Hungarian horses in North American is asked to please contact Dr. Budik with the information.
I met with the director of the veterinary school equine division, Prof. Dr. Christine Aurich, and made an arrangement to bring semen from two Shagya stallions to the USA for 2014 (more on that later) and also from the Brandenburg Stud in Neustadt-Dosse, whose semen the university prepares. In addition to the esteemed Quaterback, I will be importing several other of their stallions in the coming years.
Dr. Budik is doing cutting edge research in cloning and embryo transfer and assured me it will soon be possible to import frozen embryos from Europe for implantation into mares in North America with a reasonable live foal rate.
Another interesting and exciting development is the possible repatriation of frozen semen from some US Lippizans which were exported from Austria in the 1960s. Because the gene pool is so limited, the Piber Stud would like to obtain some bloodlines back which have been lost from Piber. This project and the search for descendants of the Furiosos is something I look forward to in the future. It's why I travel! So much to learn and so many opportunities to meet equine experts from around the world. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Oldenburg Auction

The Oldenburg auction of October 4-5 went well, with prices on the rise again after several years of downturn.
Without doing the math, I'm sure the best average for a stallion with more than one horse in the sale was that of Sir Donnerhall I. After a stellar summer season with several of his offspring doing exceptionally on the international scene, demand for his offspring was high. They are consistently beautiful, tactful movers. His son, Sohn der Sonne, 2010 Swedish champion, went for 150,000 euros. Bronze Brillantring mare, Emperadora, went for 70,000 euros and son, Samstag sold for 90,000 euros. St. Ferryman, a gelding son, brought 50,000 euros.
There were two Sir Donnerhall II offspring presented, which sold for 46 and 20 thousand euros and were impressive in their type and movement.
The San Amour offspring were impressive as well, very beautiful and sold fairly well.
The Bordeaux mare, Biscaya, champion in Rastede, topped the sale at 300,000 euros ($408,000).
The foals by For Romance were very well received and brought the best prices overall, but the high seller was by the East Prussian Trakehner, All Inclusive, out of a Sandro Hit mare.
I had a great tour of the University of Vienna's reproduction facility yesterday, courtesy of biologist Dr. Sven Budik whom I became acquainted with when I facilitated a shipment of semen from his rare Austrian Warmblood stallion, Furioso Morgana. The semen went to a US breeder who has a Trakehner mare with a complimentary rare bloodline. This is not the Anglo Norman Furioso line that is seen in German bloodlines, but the Austrian Thoroughbred/Arabian line that gave us Ramzes. The breeding resulted in a colt that was gelded, but the mare is back in foal and they are hoping for a filly that Dr. Budik will purchase.
The university produces the semen for the Brandenburg Stud at Neustadt Dosse, Germany, and is conducting important research work in cloning and also in freezing embryos. The day when you will be able to purchase a frozen embryo from Europe for implantation into a donor mare is not that far away! In fact, I have long envisioned this development and have been faithfully paying rent on a frozen embryo domain name for many years, just waiting for the efficiency of freezing, thawing and implanting of embryos to evolve.
Dr. Budik answered a question for me about semen produced by clones. According to him, there should be no problem with the semen produced by clones or with horses produced from the semen, even though cloned animals themselves can have health and lifespan issues.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How do you say "yee haw" in German? The Landgestuet Warendorf stallion parade is the most fun stallion show I've ever seen.
The first act was a jumping quadrille where the horse and rider combinations jump in and out of the arena. They proceed to perform over a series of brush jumps, weaving through each other at high speed. The stallions were pretty keyed up  and fed off the crowd energy. Some of the riders had their hands full.
The State Stud Warendorf has a German Coldblood breeding program in addition to the warmbloods. These charming and docile work horses are beloved by locals and are a fun part of the parade. They have one event where they bring out five abreast, hooked together by their bits, with a handler on each end horse, and a brave whip person out in front of them. When they turn the group one of the end-men basically acts as an anchor they pivot around him. Really funny.
A super quadrille is called "warm and cold," where they alternate a warmblood and its rider with a coldblood driven in a stud cart. They do an elaborate quadrille (in the US, we'd call this a drill team) and it's quite thrilling to see the carts and ridden horses weaving in and out of each other with precision.
Exhibition of the current Bundeschampions from Warendorf was popular with the crowd. Being a state stud (landgestuet), i.e. taxpayer funded, these parades are also a way of showing the public what they are paying for. There are ten landgestuets within Germany and each has regularly scheduled stallion parades for the patrons.
There was a demonstration of high school movements like the Spanish walk, the levade, in which the horse stands poised on its hind legs, and the capriole where the horse leaps into the air and kicks out behind. These maneuvers are performed by the Lippizaners of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, but it's unusual to see them done elsewhere. The capriole and levade movements were developed for warfare.
The Landgestuet Warendorf also houses the German Riding School where students are accepted from all over the world to live onsite and learn all phases of horse care and training.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Oldenburg Verband gala was, well, gay. I entered the exhibition hall to a brass band enthusiastically playing "Surfin' USA." I'm always amazed that 99% of the popular music played here is American. I guess we are number one at something--rock n' roll!
They kicked it off with a presentation of the exceedingly lovely QC Flamboyant (Fidertanz / De Niro) and when it was all said and done, the five year old Bundeschampion was my favorite of the evening. Beautiful and confident, with three expressive gaits, he is a model sport horse. The second placed Sir Heinrich (Sir Donnerhall / Fuerst Heinrich) and third place Soiree de Saumur (San Amour /Latimer) also made appearances.
And of course it wouldn't be a gala without the specialty acts. The dog trainer with several tiny trick dogs was entertaining, but my personal favorite was the four jumper-men, who began their presentation in bare feet and black suits. They ended their exhibition wherein they jump actual horse jumps put higher and higher, in nothing but their speedos and neckties. Now that's showjumping, folks.
San Amour and his elite dam, Puppenfee, were part of a special presentation. If I understood German, I'd know what actually happened, but since I don't, I'm guessing that Puppenfee's breeder received an award. After driving literally thousands of miles last summer listening to my "learn German" dvd's, I must accept that I am linguistically challenged. However, I've discovered that merely knowing when to say danka, bitte and guten morgan/tag/abend. will get you far. German people are very friendly and even those rare few who don't speak English make every effort to figure out what in the heck I am talking about. I am becoming quite facile in pantomime.
As always, they found a way to include the pony clubbers in the show, and a large contingent of people dressed in pig and cow costumes swarmed into the arena, followed by two people in chicken suits with their egg. The drama unfolded when the egg was stolen by a cook with a large wire whisk. Mayhem and dancing ensued and of course that techno version of Cotton Eye Joe inspired the most craziness. A wagon pulled by the beloved "cold bluts" took the devastated chicken-parents from the arena, followed by the pigs and Holsteins.
The highlight of the evening, horse-wise, was a special presentation of Sir Donnerhall I and his "golden children" (translated by me from the program note "goldkinder," so maybe I have learned a wee bit of the language:-) and then an appearance by Biscaya  (Bordeaux / Quattro B), who will sell at the auction.
Bling alert: rhinestone brow bands have become standard worldwide, but this is the first time I've seen tinsel woven into braids and tails. If this trend hasn't hit the US yet, it will.
But it wouldn't be a gala without some smoke and fire. I can't imagine US fire marshals not shutting down a place packed with hundreds of people who all light incendiary devices at the same time. At the end of the show everyone stood up and lit the sparklers that had been placed on all the seats and waved them about as they sang a German "serenade to the best."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Germany 2013

Landed in Frankfurt Wednesday after a ten-hour flight. For the first time, I flew business class and the main advantage I can see is that the seats fully recline and everyone goes night-night until an hour before landing. So you don't arrive feeling hammered from trying to hold your own in a too-small seat next to a too-large person.
I drove to Damme, where I will stay while attending the Oldenburg elite auction, a first for me. It's just a few miles from Vechta. The autobahn is pretty wild. You can check your rearview, see nothing behind you, move into the fast land and before you've passed a car there is a Mercedes or BMW up your tailpipe. It's not for the faint of heart and makes me appreciate Europe's wonderful rail system all the more.
Another of my favorite things about Europe is the prevalence of small hotels with four to eight or more rooms, with an onsite restaurant. Truly lovely surroundings, charming hosts and good food make these a memorable part of any visit.
And German-style potatoes are the best in the world! I think I finally have the recipe figured out. Brown minced bacon with onions in a pan (I'm using my trusty cast iron skillet when I return home) then toss sliced potatoes with that mixture, maybe add some chicken broth (or maybe the bacon is sufficient) and bake. Yummy.
Tomorrow morning, I head for the Oldenburg Verband bright and early. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I drove home from Calgary through the gorgeous grasslands of Alberta and on over the Continental Divide, back to Washington state. Alas, no woodland caribou sighting on my return either.
The final tournament of the Spruce Meadows season, The Masters, was of course spectacularly thrilling. A showcase of the best world showjumping offers, it provides thrills, excitement and inspiration. To watch the best riders on the planet coax superlative performances from their mounts under intense pressure provides a lesson in finesse and communication.
The winner of this year's final event was Pieter Devos of Belgium on his wonderful mare Candy, by Nabab de Reve (Quidam de Revel  / Artichaut). Candy's dam, Etretat, is a full sister to Canadian equine superstar, Big Ben. Devos and Candy were part of Belgium's previous day's second-place (to Germany) Nation's Cup team. The beautiful and poised eleven year old Belgian Sport Horse mare had no peer in the competition, posting the only double-clear. More amazingly, the duo had fallen on Wednesday and Devos was riding with a swollen and bruised leg. Candy, miraculously, showed no ill effects from her fall. Even during the awards ceremony when many a horse was reacting badly to the crowd, the brass band and all the hoopla, Candy stood like a dude horse. A testament to temperament if ever there was one. Unfortunately, the frozen semen from her sire, Nabab de Reve, proved to be virtually worthless. Still, there are many horses with good frozen semen with Nabab blood in them.
It seemed like there were more French-bred horses than ever in the top twelve in the Masters, i.e. those who competed in the final round.
The second place horse was by the Holsteiner, Cumano (Cassini I), out of a French mare.
Third place Nayana, by Royal Feu, is of French breeding. Her rider, Penelope Leprevost of France, was very impressive and a rider to watch in the future.
Taloubet Z came in fourth and he is by French sire Galoubet A, out of  a German mare.
My personal favorite, though was fifth-place Lacan 2, an Oldenburg by Lando, out of a Contender mare. I loved his blood-look and his tactical speed was awesome. He could turn on a spurt and then easily come back to his rider as asked. I offer his full brother's frozen semen from the Landgestuet Celle lineup.
Here is a link to the final rankings of the Masters:
For more information, consult:
Next year the Masters will offer a 1.5 million dollar purse!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The German team won the Nations Cup on Saturday. Alas, the two North American teams, the United States and Canada, placed fifth and seventh, while Belgium and France were second and third.
The competition was fierce, made more difficult by the footing after torrential rain for most of the morning. (This morning the sun is shining, which bodes well for the million-dollar Masters today.)
While the pedigrees of the competitors' horses weren't posted, it appears from their names that many of them are of French or Belgian breeding. Though I don't have actual statistics I think there are more of these bloodlines than in years past, when German breeding dominated. And of course, the Dutch jumpers have often been infused with French and Belgian lines. The Irish horses are another distinct bloodline group. They interest me quite a bit, though I've never been aware of much interest in them in the U.S. However, I have been approached by several people with stallions in the UK in the past few months about possibly offering their frozen semen, and I did an importation for a client of semen from the eventing stallion, Chilli Morning this year, so maybe the trend will continue. The UK and Canada share the same predominate interest in jumpers, while dressage interest seems less, the opposite of the United States.
I'm off to the most exciting jumping venue in North America!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I'm sitting in my hotel room in Calgary watching it pour rain! I dread that it will continue into the afternoon and make the course for the Nations Cup this afternoon a mucky mess. But, I guess that's outdoor competition is about. You gets what you gets weather-wise and that's the footing you have to deal with.
The $205,000 Encana Cup was contested in the rain, and was won by hometown hero Ben Asselin, who happens to be married to a Southern family granddaughter. The Southerns own and operate Spruce Meadows. There is no more robust a crowd than at Spruce Meadows when a Canadian wins an event. In fact, they are devoted fans of jumping and even the average Joe, knows quite a good deal about showjumping. They follow international jumping the way racing buffs follow Thoroughbred racing. Encana Cup results  
Spruce Meadows is truly an event not to be missed if you love horses, jumping and beautiful surroundings, not to mention great shopping. There are several rings running simultaneously, brass bands playing, royal guards, mountain men brigades and horse artillery companies. The pomp and pageantry are part of the fun.
This year, they changed from presenting a Landgestuet Celle dressage quadrille to a contingent made up of one stallion from each of Germany's ten state studs, or landgestuets. Here is a link to the information on the stallions.  Stallions of the German State Studs  A link to more information is included along with photos of the stallions.
For their exhibition, some of the stallions are ridden, some driven, and some shown in hand. The stallions driven in front of a mounted rider reminded me of when I used to drive my young racehorses in front of my faithful racetrack pony-horse. I drove them around the farm fields and up the mountain logging roads too. It worked quite well for getting them fit and teaching them how to carry and respond to a bit. The trouble was, by the time they had been driven a while they were quite fit, so when I started getting on them, they could be quite a handful.
It's still pouring rain, but I'm off. A perfect day for shopping at the trade fair. Thank goodness I sprang for seats in the covered grandstand.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Yesterday, I drove to Calgary, Alberta, following highway 3 for a couple hundred miles across British Columbia, just north of the Canadian border. Alas, my bucket-list wish of seeing a Woodland Caribou when I passed through their mountainous range did not materialize. Though there are only 45 of these critically endangered animals left in the USA, a snowmobile group has filed a suit to attempt to gain access to their habitat. Woodland Caribou Facts
This morning, I await my friend Jane, who will join me in heading to the show grounds at Spruce Meadows. The event opened on Wednesday but the more prestigious events occur over the weekend. The Rolex Grand Slam million dollar incentive made things extra exciting this year. However, Nick Skelton and Big Star have withdrawn from the competition, so we'll have to wait until next year to see who wins that prize.
I can't wait to see the statue honoring Hickstead. Eric Lamaze on Spruce Meadows and Hickstead
I look forward to the competitions, the bands, the Celle dressage quadrille performances, the battle of the breeds and the general hoopla (not to mention the best equine trade fair ever). I hope you will also have a good time as you follow along.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Event at Rebecca Farm

Congratulations to client, Emily Sanders, one of the officiating veterinarians at this year's event. Her Rascalino mare, Irish Blend, won the Young Event Horse five year old division with an 83.4! Not only that, Emily was approached by a USEA representative who suggested her mare was a likely candidate for the $20,000 grant to send the talented mare to the world championships for young event horses in France in 2015. How exciting is that? Click link below for photo of Irish Blend at Rebecca Farm:
Emily described the Irish dam of "Peanut" as having a topline like a cow. So, improving the topline was her main concern. "I went through every photo on your website and looked at every stallion's topline," Emily said. "I called you when I had narrowed it down to two stallions. When you said everyone who'd used the Rascalino semen so far had gotten a conception, I chose him." A fortuitous choice, for sure, as the inherent jumping ability of the Rubinstein line through Rotspon seems to come through quite strongly.
Emily and I talked about the fact that US eventers are actually breeding event horses now, rather than simply searching for them in the general horse population. This is a trend I have definitely noticed accelerating over the past three or four seasons. Thus, I am actively looking for event type stallions to add to my roster. In fact, I did an importation of Chilli Morning semen from the UK for Emily and a group breeders this year. Since they had good results with the semen, I will hopefully repeat an importation of his semen in 2014. http://www.sporthorsegb.co.uk/horse.aspx?id=132997 A look at his progeny is quite impressive.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Event at Rebecca Farm

The beautiful Flathead Valley of Montana is a perfect backdrop for the Event at Rebecca Farm. It is evident that first class planning went into this facility. I seem to remember, but can't say for sure, that owner Becky Broussard had the advice of Capt. Mark Phillips when she planned the course. I love that spectators were amply planned for, with the entire course mostly visible from a spectator's knoll in the middle of it. There are also strategically placed shade tents with lots of room. Now that Becky is passed away, her family continues operating the world class event. Admission is free, but the parking costs $5 per day, which is all donated to the family's Halt Cancer at X charity. It's the best I've ever felt about paying a parking fee!
Being a former racehorse trainer, I especially enjoy seeing all the blood and blood-influenced horses. Lately, it seems like there is a trend back toward more blood in event horses, after the pendulum had swung quite a bit toward warmbloods the past few years. The equine athletes I have seen here are beautifully conditioned and, in spite of temperatures in the 90s, I haven't seen any heat related collapses or horses in distress. This is a testament to the skillful training and management of the event riders. It must be difficult to train horses for the strenuous cross country portion of the event, where they've got to be rarin' to go, and still keep them calm and quiet enough for a good dressage test.
When I wandered over to the event's commercial tent, I was pleased to see the Cindy Burge Memorial trophy, dedicated to my friend Cindy Burge. She died a few years ago at the event when her horse tangled feet as she circled him approaching a jump. I met Cindy when I was training horses at Playfair Racecourse in Spokane years before. She came through my barn looking for event prospects. She met her eventual husband Jerry Ackerman there, when he showed up looking for polo prospects. I took a few riding lessons from Cindy each summer. I did okay jumping, because I was used to riding two point from conditioning racehorses. But dressage was something else. She laughed like crazy when my rear end automatically came up out of the saddle when she asked me to canter. It was nice to remember her under the spacious Montana summer sky.