Viva Vechta: A Fun First Day at the 2010 Oldenburg Stallion Licensing

Fri, 11/19/2010 - 16:43
2010 Oldenburg Stallion Licensing

Attending the annual Oldenburg stallion licensing has become a tradition. While some years I even dared to skip the first day or left early on Saturday, for 2010 I decided to go all the way again. For years I have been going to the licensing in Vechta with my Danish friend and colleague Thomas Bach Jensen (from and an exquisite little club of Danish dressage horse breeders. The event and Danish gathering are planned weeks in advance, the hotel is booked, the dates are set.

Late last night Thomas and I discussed the itinerary on Skype. He was to come to my place by 9.30 am and we would head up north to Vechta together: a 333 kilometer drive.. Thomas was right on time and as usual I was lingering: posting a quick update on the site, letting the dog out one last time, packing an extra coat and an extra pair of boots because it might be cold. All last minute rush rush, as usual. After 10 years it’s still hard to be as punctual as a military officer.

The drive flew by as if I hardly noticed the road travelled. It was all talk talk talk, non stop. Catching up on our personal lifes, discussing work, sharing views on what to expect of the current collection of stallions in Oldenburg. We also quickly addressed the hyped subject of the moment: the sale of Totilas. Who’s going to be the next rider. We both heard the same rumours and we individually had a fixed idea on who the rider will be. Let me just say one thing: The trath is out there.

There’s a Dutch expression, “when you talk of the devil, you’ll see his tail.” We were near Osnabruck when we came up close and personal with Paul Schockemohle; not in person, but his face depicted on the back of one of his lorries next to a horse. The German looked as amicable as a slick politician in the running for presidential election. Besides owning about 5000 horses, P.S. also runs a major German transport company. He’s a Renaissance business man.

We were 10 minutes late in Vechta due to a short traffic jam. We missed the first six stallions on hard surface but got to see all the rest. The weather was chilly and at first I didn’t feel all too cold. I was proven wrong within 50 minutes as my thin soled boots became instant refrigerators freezing my feet. It was hard to assess the stallions because the crowds were packed at the trot-up strip and only those on the front row got to see all the goods. It was striking that very few stallions showed a decent walk, but that was because they were tense and pumped up to perform as extravagantly as possible on the concrete. I also noticed that many colts had huge feet or were in dire need of a trim.

There was a 1,5 hour break in between the dressage horse presentation and the mandatory lunging in the indoor arena. Thomas and I went for lunch in the main tent and ate a “Schnitzel” with fries. It was a German version of “lean cuisine” in the sense that there was no sauce on the meat and the only way to jazz up the dish was by adding mustard on top. I had a strange encounter with my past when two persons came up to me to say hi. One of them I had seen occasionally at show. He is my peer who rode at the same barn as I did back in 1989 when I got on a pony for the first time. Ten minutes later another person challenged me to identify him and even though the face looked familiar, I was afraid to offend him by putting the wrong name to the face. He turned out to be the owner of that very first barn I rode at (Groenendijk in Dessel) and I guessed his age 63 while he was 73. Gerard Claes looked stunning and it was fun to catch up on memories of the past.

However Vechta is not all play... there is a little bit of work to do and I wanted to look at the lunging of the stallions with my full concentration. As I hadn’t seen any super stars on hard surface, I feared that this year’s collection might be without real highlights. There were very few bad stallions in the lot, but there was no show-topper either. The lunging in itself is always a challenge as some handlers choose to present their stallions over-tempo by chasing them so hard with the whip that the colts don’t show a decent trot or they stress the colts so much that the canter is just so tense the horses look like hopping bunnies. A few handlers preferred to tug the side reins chin-on-chest-short preventing the colts from blossoming and showing off their real qualities.

The first impressive colt was the Diamond Hit x Sandro Hit x Hohenstein offspring (owned by Felix Tieman and Victoria Michalke). The refined, long legged dark bay colt showed an elegant trot and canter despite him being curbed by the short side reins. The chunky grey Don Schufro x Sandro Hit x Calypso I colt showed great potential. He was smooth and rhymthmical in canter while he was allowed by his handler to frolick around, buck and jump like a real 2,5 year old.
The Quaterback x Donnerhall was probably one of the best Quaterback sons presented at this licensing. The chestnut has good length in the neck, a nice top line and the trot is powerful. In canter the colt often went into cross canter. Some attendees saw quality in the massive bay Quaterback x Stedinger x Lord Sinclair but to me he was extremely slow behind, despite his good cadence and suspension. In canter he showed zero flexion of the hocks on the lunge line.

Sissy Max-Theurer’s dark bay ponyesque Rosandro out of Augustin OLD’s full sister Augustina (by August der Starke x Rohdiamant) stood out with his lovely trot but in canter the darling colt became tense and lost scope and suspension.
It was quite a surprise that still four direct Sandro Hit sons were presented for licensing. Even though the black stallions were all very modern in looks and appealing to the eye, the market is totally saturated with SH blood and there’s a plethory of licensed offspring to choose from if you prefer to dip into this genetic pool. The Sandro Hit x Lauries Crusador xx x World Cup I showed a decent trot but was quite faulty in his conformation becoming extremely narrow in the hocks while moving.

One of the stars of the show is the Sir Donnerhall x Royal Diamond x Krack C. The delightful liver chestnut colt does not look like a stallion. He could easily have been a mare without anyone wondering about his gender, but he showed a perfect temperament -- calm, collected and relaxed -- and one of the best trots of the entire collection. The Belgian bred colt picks up his hind legs so nicely. He’s quick behind, engaged and always working. At times he beautifully moved from the shoulder. Unfortunately he hardly showed any good canter work on the lunge line. He’ll definetely be one of the stallions to watch the next few days.
The black Sir Donnerhall x K2 x Partout x Finley M also showed decent quality on the lunge. The colt was quick off the ground and always working from behind. He did become tight in the hocks and could have moved the hindlegs more towards the gravity point, but in general he was a highly functional mover.

Only one Swarovksi made it to the licensing this year, despite the sire’s popularity amongst breeders. The Swarovski x Furst Heinrich x Prestige Pilot is a beautiful type of horse with a smooth, energetic motor behind. The hind legs should have reached more under and on the hard surface the hocks were a bit jittery.

The Who’s Who of the stallion world was in Vechta. The major German stallion owners were there to select their future acquisitions while world wide breeders gathered to make a pick for the 2011 breeding season. The only thing that was truly absent today was “the walk”. It was staggering how few stallions possessed a decent, ground covering, relaxed and rhythmical walk. Many of the S-line stallions had a regretably poor, pacing walk and the Q-line colts failed to impress in ground cover, lenghtening in the body and true swing over the back.
Fortunately the lunging of the dressage horses ended with a final highlight. A dark bay colt by Werder Fan (by Welt Hit II x Plaisir d’Amour) out of a Sandro Hit x Arratos xx x Erdball xx mare stole the show with super lunge work. The pretty faced poster boy had great rhythm in trot, moved with ground cover and was always uphill. The stallion is a bit long in the fetlock and stands slightly crooked on the left front leg, but he’s a super mover and will certainly make a great dressage horse.

After the lunging Thomas and I headed towards the coffee area on the ground floor of the Vechta centre for a glass of German champagne (‘Sekt’) to celebrate our first day at the licensing. We met up with three ladies from our Danish breeders’ group to share impressions. Then we decided to go to the hotel to continue our discussions over more champagne in one of the rooms.

As we were driving to the hotel Thomas and I were chatting away full blast. While queuing at a roundabout we suddenly both shreeked when a white Volkswagen reared us and pushed us forward unexpectedly. The shock was not hard, so I wondered “shall I pull over?”. Of course!!!! Thomas and I jumped out of the car to inspect the damage and while I was crouched to investigate every single detail of the back of my car, a timid 18-year old boy kept apologizing in German. As soon as I saw that nothing was damaged I was at ease and kept babbling in English: “Oh don’t worry, there’s not a scratch, you’re lucky. Don’t worry, nothing happened...” Even though it was a minor incident I was slightly nervous about it as my mouth was talking non-stop (this seems to be one of my coping mechanisms for stress). My car was completely intact and so was his, but I still felt the urge to remember his license plate just in case my bumper would fall off five minutes later. His plate said “VEC KO 90”. K.O.. Knock Out.. Not a co-incidence, right?

At the hotel our room became the Danish meeting point. Thomas had brought several bottles of magnum champagne to celebrate his birthday and we had our aperitive in the room before heading downstairs for a German dinner. We were joined by Johannes Westendarp and his wife Ines, who rides Lone Boegh Henriksen’s licensed stallion Furstenball. (by Furst Heinrich x Donnerhall x Classiker). We had a super time chatting about everything horsey until the entire dining area had cleared with people.

The Danish gang rallyed in our room again for some late night Irish coffee and champagne. The beds were packed with people, the room was filled to the brim with about twenty Danes yapping away in Danish about horses. A bit reluctant to write my story of the day, I pushed myself into action and grabbed my laptop to write this article while the rest of the group kept chatting until the early hours of the day...

by Astrid Appels