As somebody used to regularly drive 940 kilometers to France, a trip of 554 km to Germany’s para newcomer and renowned Hanoverian warmblood breeder Andrea Lahmeyer seemed child’s play on paper. But then German motorways are infamous for being overcrowded and a lot of roadworks are ongoing as soon as I turn north of Heidelberg.
I was still in good spirits when I jumped out of bed at 5:30 am, had a quick breakfast and dropped my dog at my parents Them being retired for some time now, could not understand their daughter’s enthusiasm to be up in the early hours for a yard visit.
Equipped with 2 liter of strong black tea, a bag with chick pea crisps, and the emergency Redbull I drove off in thick fog which quickly lifted for gorgeous sunshine. My spirits were soon dampened by a road blockage and the first 50 km off the motorway. As my GPS has a dynamic mode I safely found backroads, only to face the first bigger jam soon after. A few more would follow and I felt like I had covered at least 800 km when shortly past 3 pm I finally arrived at Bassum, not far from Bremen, where the Lahmeyer family runs their farm for generations.
Of course I did not find the well hidden property at first attempt and thanks to my GPS I landed on the far away neighbour’s driveway. A quick phone call and Andrea guided me through a dark forest nearby on a muddy hidden path which showed me again that an SUV would’ve been the better purchase than my ordinary car. Suddenly a glade opened up: Huge fields to the left and the farmyard on the right.
Quinsam L and Follow Your Heart
Andrea and her partner Anja Schneider welcomed me, with their dogs Lilly (a Romanian rescue) and benevolent Labrador Lotte saying hello as well. Secretly I sighed in relief that I had not brought my Dachshund along who barks at every dog bigger than her…so practically all.
After a pressing visit to the stable loo, we immediately began the yard tour, this time via a more proper looking path towards the edge of Bassum. Andrea and Anja had loaded two horses: Andrea’s international Grade V horse Quinsam L (by Quarterhall x Stedinger) and the youngster Follow Your Heart, a recently broken in 5-year-old by Fürstenball daughter out of Quinsam’s dam.
As the farm only has an indoor arena, they opted to have the riding photos taken on the beautiful Olympic sized ring of the Bassum Riding Club.
Anja had already warmed up Quinsam before my arrival at her home (we had been in constant contact to update my arrival time which got delayed and delayed…), so after a shorter walking period Andrea began to ride the horse that caught my attention at the CPEDI in Mannheim in May.
Now Quinsam L is neither a spectacular looking - Andrea later admitted that without his funny blaze he would perhaps look ordinary - nor moving horse, but he is trained after principles which are the only ones to produce a naturally moving supple horse. No tense spasmodic front-leg flying, no stiff back, no tight neck. Just a horse with quality gaits that is balanced, active and moving back to front from the first to the last minute.
Quinsam is of course home-bred. He is totally benevolent, but quite a lout. There is not one mean bone in this 173 cm big framed horse, but you immediately can see he owns a certain sense of humour; attributes which fit his special looks with a striking blaze and a left eye in which some white shimmers. „Gaudi“ the gelding is nick-named, after the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi who actually could’ve designed Quinsam’s face.
Horses are Therapy
Quinsam is a cheerful horse and he’s a therapist. He got Andrea to start riding seriously again after a motorbike accident she had not caused and which almost cost her the life in summer 2017. She spent several days in coma, suffered multiple broken ribs, a lacerated lung and very serious leg injuries which forced surgeons to amputate her lower right leg.
Andrea now masters all the work on the farm with about 30 horses from foal to pensioners under more difficult circumstances in addition to having to adapt her riding to the new physical conditions. Except for her leg prothesis and a magnetic stirrup which helps maintain the leg safely in position Andrea does not use any special tack. If you didn't know her right lower leg was missing, you would not recognize it. However in the Grade V group of riders she is probably one of the most disabled. Only this spring in Mannheim Andrea and Quinsam L made her international debut and did the FEI officially classifiy her into this grade.
While Quinsam L is definitely her heart-horse, Andrea of course rides several horses a day as her farm operates entirely on horse breeding and training with a few boarders. She took over from her father who was already a very renowned Hanoverian breeder.
In para sport, in which the quality of horses is not an inch short of that of the able bodied dressage riders, is it of course an advantage to be a sport horse breeder. Still, Andrea cannot afford keeping all the talents and it is sometimes a bit heart wrenching for her to decide who might stay and who has to be sold. Even though she also sells a foal occasionally, usually the home-breds stay until they are broken in and have some competition experience to show for.
"My father was always proud to have a horse in the Verden stallion or auction lot, it is a goal many Hanoverian breeders naturally have. But I do not fancy it at any cost because it asks a lot of the young horses once they are start the preparations. It also works very well if I sell my horses privately," Andrea stated.
Nomen Est Omen
One of these home-breds is Follow Your Heart, a 5-year-old mare in foal to Global Player. "My father always had one mare ever since he retired and this year I gave him Follow Your Heart and he decided to cover her with Global Player," said Andrea
It cannot be denied by her looks, willingness and wonderful natural balance, that the black mare is by Fürstenball out of Quinsam’s dam. She has two full sisters at home.
Even though she is already 5, she has only been broken in this spring and on this early September afternoon it is just the second time she saw the outdoor arena. Being a bit excited for the first ten minutes when being prepared and lunged, she then focused hard on Andrea and tried to please her all the time. It is amazing that a young inexperienced horse can already move that balanced at such a stage of training: Talk about breeding progress which not only shows in outstanding gaits.
Andrea hopes Follow Your Heart might become a back-up to Quinsam in para competitions, but of course also in the able bodied dressage sport where she continues to successfully take part in too.
Little Stars and Old Campaigners
Once the photos were taken of both horses, they get loaded for the 5-minutes-drive home again. Whereas Quinsam was a real pro, the cute Fürstenball mare is totally inexperienced. The more surprising it was that she behaved perfectly when getting untacked: Her eyes took in her surroundings pretty well, but she remained well mannered.
In warmblood breeding much focus had been put on gaits and looks the past decades. However, it is doubtful whether a healthy conformation and inner attributes have always been taken enough into equal consideration. At Lahmeyers the character and temperament have always had importance and you will also not find a hypermobile horse coming from their breeding programme, which aims for healthy and sane horses that move well and can also be handled by amateurs.
Back at "Lahhof" it is time for the yearlings and two year olds to come in from the endless fields. They have huge loose boxes where the farrier is awaiting them to trim their hooves. As the evening sun was still shining, we wandered to the broodmares and their foals who are in the field next to the youngsters.
On the way there we passed a smaller field with two horses grazing peacefully. "The one with the sweet itch blanket is Shiraz (by Sandro Hit / Rohdiamant). He was bred here and then sold to the USA. My trainer Ulf Wiltfang heard the owners were looking for a good place and I immediately decided he would come home. Usually Shiraz, Quinsam and the Appaloosa of a boarder spend their days out together in this field," Andrea explained.
We came closer to the field of broodmares and foals and I counted three foals. "This year we only have three foals, two fillies and a colt, but sometimes we also have up to 6," said Andrea. The broodmares and foals were accompanied by the "uncle" with the striking name of Havasupai (by Havard x Rohdiamant). Multiple health problems forced the early retirement of this 21-year old to the field, where he is an invaluable part of Lahmeyer’s fold: Havasupai takes care of the foals once they are separated from their mummies and is the perfect uncle for them. And this day of goodbye is nearing now in late summer.
It does not take long when the herd discovered us and moved towards us. They are out 24 hours a day over the summer with lush green grass and have an additional covered hayrack. Still Andrea and Anja Schneider are looking for contact every single day to get the foals acquainted to humans. Just like people are very different, so are the foals. One was rather timid and needed a lot of affection from Andrea to get over his natural shyness (which certainly worked as the little colt walked bravely towards my lens until he could sniff it), while the other was a born star with healthy self-confidence and a lot of natural presence. The latter "will probably never leave our farm," said Andrea, who is already very sure about the attractive long legged filly (by Senecio x Quarterback) who dons a blaze very similar to Quinsam’s. One doesn’t need to be a foal expert to quickly realize somebody very special is growing up here.
On to the youngsters herd. The dogs appeared and ran around which triggered the play instinct in a stallion! If you have never seen a Labrador in a flat out gallop, here she was: Lotte soon recognized this game, which could end badly for her, so she extended her strides with every second until she just made the other side of the fence to safety. Quite a feat for an 11-year-old bitch with a handicapped hind-leg!
To get back to the stables, the little herd had to trot all the way from the field through an adjacent forest. Anja used a scooter and the herd trotted with ears pricked into the courtyard.
It was farrier time now and you could see that they have seen him before: Not only was the behaviour reasonable, but also their hooves. There is clearly no stone left unturned to give these horses the best start in their riding horse life and whatever is done, is done with great calmness and consideration.
Let’s Talk About Breeding
While Andrea's Lahhof has existed for centuries, it is only over the last half century that Hanoverian warmbloods are being bred there. Andrea’s father Heinrich started with a Velten xx-granddaughter and preferred to choose more mares descending directly from thoroughbreds, such as Cardinal xx, Praefectus xx and Prince Thatch xx. This phenomenon was not at all unusual in the 1960s and 1970s in order to refine the warmblood breeding in Germany and all over Europe, but has disappeared nowadays as the descendants from this crossings are already extremely noble horses.
Readers may not know the name Lahmeyer, but they all know one of their breeding products: Rock’n Rose, this dark brown mare by Rubin Royal x Feiner Stern who was a successful international dressage horse under Dorothee Schneider and who so tragically left her life this spring from an aortic rupture. "Rock’n Rose was born here and I broke her in. She was later sold via the Verden auction," Andrea reminisced. Louisdor final participant Diva Noir (by Diamond Hit x Rubin Royal) of Louisa Lüttgen also saw first light at Lahhof, just like the S successful horses Sunrise (by Donnerhall x Feiner Stern), Royal Mr. Sunshine (by Royal Blend x De Niro), Flin Flon (by Fürstenball x Stedinger), First (by Florencio x Rohdiamant) and a few finalists at the Bundeschampionate.
While the focus is on dressage horse breeding, Andrea is well aware that even with the best chosen parents and upbringing not every horse can reach such heights. For that reason she also takes great care that the offspring of her broodmares have a very good character, are well mannered and therefore can also be ridden by pleasure riders and amateurs. Attributes which are also asked for in the para scene for which Lahhof could be a good place to look for future para stars.
Andrea is not specifically aiming to breed licensing candidates, but of course is proud if one of the colts makes it. The licensed premium stallion Harvard who us optically very much stamped by his Trakehner father Hohenstein (out of Carina by Cardinal xx) might be their best known home bred breeding stallion. However also Davis Cup (by Dürkheim x Cardinal xx) and Rodioso (by Rohdiamant x Furioso II) are licensed stallions from the Lahmeyer breeding program.
Let’s Talk About Riding
While Andrea has just started her international para career and is not yet in Germany's A-squad, it wasn’t her successes that caught my attention. It was the way she was presenting her horse at the CPEDI Mannheim in May 2021. It reflected classical dressage training and proved to me that somebody is not attempting to find a compromise between classical riding and competing, but a rider who presents her way of training to the judges.
Whereas Andrea does this pretty successfully, she isn’t entirely convinced that classical riding is always strictly appreciated by the judges.
"My experiences are that classical dressage training nowadays isn’t always what one wants to see at shows. On the other hand I am hopeful that this will change. There are horses who are not the huge movers and are only good because their training is correct and their movements got improved by it. The judges honour this, but it is not always what wins."
For 15 years Andrea has been regularly training with Ulf Wiltfang as well as with the assistant German para team trainer Rolf Grebe with whom she rides in clinics of the para team.
„Ulf pays extra attention that the basis is correct and the horses are always worked back to front and work over the back," Lahmeyer explained. "It is already the most important thing for him with the youngsters: To ride the horse over the back and to develop and maintain impulsion from the hindquarters. He always says that if the basis is correct and the horse moves through his body, then you can ride everything with him and this is true."
Text and Photos © Silke Rottermann for Eurodressage
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