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.