I have just returned from another very successful trip to Germany to watch more stallion gradings and visit our breeder friends. I think what has been most interesting is the trends that I have witnessed at two gradings, the first was the Trakehners and most recently the Oldenburgs.
We found that for the first time ever for both breed societies there were mainly dark dressage colts presented and certainly in the Premium ring there was a distinct absence of anything other than bay, black or brown!! Now most of you that know me, know how much I love black horses but this was amazing and it obviously shows that either breeders are breeding more dark horses or that they are playing to the market demand for dark horses……… who knows. What I do know is a good horse does not have a colour and for me I have a soft spot for chestnuts……….chestnut is the new black!
The second trend I saw was that far less of the colts at both gradings were put forward to the auction and who can blame the breeders. With the market conditions being so slow, it would be insulting to only receive 20,000 Euros for a colt who had been selected for grading and possibly graded. Far better to take it home and produce it under saddle and play a waiting game. The prices were down at the Trakehners and about the same at the Oldenburg with two notable exceptions who reached 750,000 and 800,000 Euros ………more of this later.
The last trend I saw was there was no stand out Champion at either grading. Often on day one at the trot up there is one stallion that demands your attention and has that star appeal and who gets better and better as the days go by. A couple of years ago it was Fürstenball, who has gone on to achieve fantastic things including being named the 5 year old Bundeschampion. Last year for me at the Trakehners it was Millenium - now the grading commission obviously didn’t agree with me as he was placed 2nd Reserve Champion but to me he was sensational, as was the actual Champion – Imhotep interestingly both carrying Gribaldi blood. This year I was struggling to find a Champion and I don’t think I was alone in that regard. Some foal crops are just better than others, why we don’t know, maybe it’s down to the weather and grass conditions while the mare is carrying the foal or maybe some years breeders are inspired to use different stallions because of financial reasons or maybe it’s just the luck of the draw.
One of the huge benefits of going to these events is to see for yourself how correct the colts are and watch how they cope with the atmosphere. In Germany they view dishing / winging somewhat differently to us, they seem to find it acceptable, I don’t and I am sure I am not alone in this regard in the UK. The Champion of the Trakehner graded dished and many of the colts at both gradings were incorrect - so for me I would never use them as there are so many good correct stallions to choose from. It is only by seeing them up front and personal that you can see this, videos can be made later which emphasise the good points only.
We caught up with many breeder friends at both events and as always part of the benefit of going to the gradings is sharing information with them and picking their brains about trends and stallions and the direction the breed societies are going.
At the Trakehners the riding horses sold really well. It seems like the market is better for ridden horses rather than unproven 2 year old colts, which I guess makes sense, the broodmares sold with average prices and the foals too, we watched the Mare Championship and I was delighted to see so many modern type mares doing well, one that stood out for me was St.Pr.u. Pr.St. Isola Negra – Lauries Crusador xx / E.H. Caprimond, she was so elastic and uphill and ended up Reserve Champion a well-deserved honour, I was hoping I could squeeze that mare into my suitcase!
I am not sure what the Trakehner grading committee were thinking when they made Hoewelmann ( Hofrat / Artistic Rock / Fahnentraeger) Champion, a few cynical people whispered it was one of the very few colts in the Premium ring that was up for Auction, but as he only sold for 140,000 Euros I am not convinced the buyers thought too highly of him as this is a modest price to pay for a Grading Champion. He was a good consistent stallion on all 3 days but a surprising choice for a Champion. Interestingly his full brother was in the foal auction and his full sister in the broodmare auction, so it really was a family affair. Out of the Premium ring I liked Fairmont Hill by Singalo / Cadeau / Karo As. I gave him 9 for his canter and trot and 8 for his walk, he was modern with plenty of knee action and an exceptional hind leg. He was one of Singalo’s first foal crops and I loved him, at least he got a premium. He had previously being sold through the foal action for 20,000 Euros so he wasn’t for sale so I will watch him carefully to see if he might be a good outcross a for some of my Oldenburg mares.
Above: Premium Stallion Fairmont Hill by Singalo
My last word about the Trakehners has to be about Imperio. I have watched him closely for the last few years and have been so impressed with him. To me he can compete with the best of the other warmblood breeds and is one of the best Trakehners. He was spectacular at the Gala show on Saturday night with his new rider Hubertus Schmidt. He made the movements look effortless and when interviewed about his new ride Hubertus was generous in his praise of this stallion who always wants to work and is so easy to train. It was a delight to see two Imperio sons up for grading both were super elastic and extremely stylish and showed a good jump too.
However both lacked a good walk, so I have concluded that if you want to use Imperio your mare must have an excellent walk. Both colts named Schwarzgold and Hancock were awarded a well deserved Premium.
Now onto the Oldenburg grading. The weather was kind to us and it was a great joy to stand and watch these magnificent colts in the sunshine at the trot up – although a few gluweins were needed to keep out the cold! The jumping horses were presented first over the 3 days, followed by the dressage horses. This meant that for the first time ever we paid a lot of attention to the jumping horses as well as the Dressage ones!
The first thing I saw this year was the return to the slightly more old-fashioned stamp of the Oldenburg horse in the dressage section. One in particular, a Sir Donnerhall/ Quattro B / Feiner Stern colt that made it through to the Premium ring was so heavy it reminded me of one of our English Cobs! Admittedly he was a real powerhouse showing much cadence in his trot but his walk like many of the “S line” his walk could be better. You would need to use him on a very long legged refined mare!
As usual after the trot up outside all the young colts were lunged inside in two rings so you could see their paces in a controlled manner. The Oldenburg schedule was slightly different this year as they watched the dressage colts jump on Wednesday, meaning that the Friday morning was taken up with jumping colts doing their free jumping and in the afternoon we watched the dressage colts at liberty – always my favourite part. This year the skill of the handlers was even better and none of the stallions own handlers were allowed to interfere or handle their stallions. As soon as they entered the ring the Verband’s handlers took over and skilfully and very calmly guided these young horses to show off their paces to their best advantage. The jumping was the same, all the handlers wore ear pieces and the grading commission could give directions to them like put an ground pole in to slow the horses down etc. they made it look effortless and calmed down even the most excited horses so they could show themselves off properly.
A quick word or two about some of the stallions who stood out. There were some young stallions with their first foal crop showing, such as Christ, Sarkozy, Fackeltanz and Sieger Hit. My impressions were that the three by Christ were all quite powerful movers, of a good size but quite chunky and not refined or elegant. Only one graded and also received a Premium a Christ out of a Fürst Heinrich mare. The Fackeltanz was harmonious and uphill although a little hocks out behind, he also graded with a Premium, I would have graded him but not so sure about the Premium. There were two forward by Sarkozy and both moved with great elasticity and were uphill. One graded Premium, a Sarkozy out of a Trakehner sired dam - just like our Larkshill Rheindancer who graded Elite Premium with the BEF this year. This colt had an electric hindleg and was always uphill and was very impressive. Sieger Hit (Champion stallion in 2006) also had two colts forward, personally they didn’t do anything for me but they both graded. Once the Premium colts were selected it was easy for me to pick the Champion (and for once the grading commission agreed!) it was a Fürst Romancier out of a Sir Donnerhall / Don Schufro mare. He was very elegant and modern and I scored him highly on all 3 paces and he had a very good active hind leg. He sold for 750,000 Euros and is certainly one to watch for sure for the future!
One surprising outcome was a Temptation / Sandro Hit / Master colt. This was by far the crowd’s favourite and was uphill and elastic and he sold for 800,000 Euros. He could be not have been made Champion or indeed make it to the Premium ring as he wasn’t branded Oldenburg. Never the less he was a very good colt and I am sure will make a good sport horse – although with those genes I think he may well be HOT!
Finally the Hauptpremium award, this is for the best 4 year old stallion on the basis on their performance test and first foal crop. There were three contenders this year, Fairbanks the Flemmingh Champion stallion from 2009, Surprice a Sir Donnerhall / Prince Thatch stallion who has had a very good foal crop this year and Destano a Hanoverian stallion by Desperados. And the winner was…………Destano. I was slightly taken aback as he was a Hanoverian and graded Oldenburg, but it clearly shows the Oldenburg Verband want new blood and to continue to improve their stud book which is very good.
The Gala was very good on Saturday night and some lovely young horses showed themselves off well, others found the atmosphere too electric which is understandable. Highlights for me were seeing Fürstenball – I could watch him all day, I was also interested to see Chagall who is out of the same mother as Bretton woods and Astrix, the current 6 year old World Young Horse Champion. Sadly he was one of the ones who found it all a bit much and whilst I liked him, he obviously has more to show when he is relaxed – as proved by his fantastic win.
The whole weekend was rounded off by a visit to out good friends the Sieverdings. We had a lovely few hours with them and as always it is so inspiring to see their breeding program and all their lovely mares. We said hello again to Fürstenball’s mum, Sieger Hit’s mum, Sieger Hit’s full sister, Blue Hors Hot Spot’s mum and one of my favourites, a wonderful 5 year old mare by Don Romantic out of Georg’s original Classica mare who bred the mares I have just mentioned. This mare has the best hind leg I have seen for many many years, is very beautiful and is just extra ordinary in every way. I am very excited by Georg’s foal crop next year and will see if he can be persuaded to part with any fillies!
More about the Larkshill gang next time!