by Ginny Smith and Amanda Bliss

Tannenhof and Balou Star 050

A Rising Star

After an excellent dinner in a bistro in the little town square, an exploration of the fascinating wooden half-timbered, carved and brightly painted houses in medieval streets, and a good night’s sleep, we set off on Sunday morning for Kassel.

Udo Oppermann, of Showhorses Oppermann, keeps some of his showjumpers at a large equestrian centre just outside the town, and had very kindly brought Balou Star down from his usual base so that we could see him loose schooled in the arena. Udo was very apologetic that his nephew, Daniel Oppermann, who has been riding the little stallion with great success in the showjumping ring, was not available to show him off under saddle.

We arrived to find that Balou Star was still on his lorry, looking out curiously over the open door; Udo and his niece (Daniel’s sister) were waiting for us, determined that we should see how quietly he stood on the lorry and how well he unloaded. It was to be the introduction to the outstandingly calm and friendly temperament of this lovely horse.

Showhorses Oppermann is very much a family affair, with Udo, his twin brother (who arrived a little after us at the equestrian centre, and obviously absolutely adores the stallion), nephew and niece all very much involved in the breeding and competing of their horses. And they seem to have struck gold with Balou Star! He is by Balou du Rouet out of a Quick Star mare, with Galoubet A on both the top and bottom line of his pedigree. He has taken time to grow into himself – literally! – being originally registered as a pony, but having now, at five, achieved 160 cms. Udo believes that he still has some growing to do.

Showhorses Oppermann breed for the showjumper, hunter and dressage rings, and we were shown two stunning showjumpers on a tour of the centre, who are currently successfully competing with Daniel. The philosophy of their breeding programme is only to breed from competition proven mares, who have proven their talent sufficiently in L, M and S classes. They choose stallions every year from the top stallion shows in Hannover, Oldenburg and Holstein, and have used some very eminent names on their mares so far, including Cassini, Chacco Blue, Sandro Hit, and Quidam de Revel. Udo talks with passion about his belief that broodmares and youngstock should have as much freedom to exercise in open paddocks as possible, and the system that we saw with the horses stabled at the Kassel Centre was an interesting one – every horse had a concrete yard that they could wander out into from their stable, and then from a gate in the yard step directly into their own paddock.

The Oppermanns believe in bringing their youngstock on slowly and gently, and will not start them under saddle until their third year or later. They begin their sports and competitive training well into their fourth year.

Balou Star is an extremely pretty, athletic stallion,
who has, according to Udo, a strong refining influence
on the mares that he is bred to. He looks every
inch the showjumper, and has proved to be so, doing
extremely well in his 30 day test in December,
gaining the only 10 for loose jumping (out of 43
stallions presented) at the Stallion Performance Test
at Schlieckau. He was approved by the Oldenburg
Studbook in February of this year, and, every time
presented, has caught the judges’ eyes, gaining a
lot of compliments from the Chairman of the Holsteiner
Verband. He has just been started on the competition
circuit, under his rider Daniel Oppermann, and is already
clocking up the results. We saw him loose jumped in the school, and also video footage of him at his first competition, jumping 1.30. He has a natural relaxed rhythm in canter approaching a jump, and is outstandingly impressive over a jump, making a beautiful shape, with the most amazingly athletic spring and neatness and precision of technique. He uses his shoulder to great effect, opening and stretching as he rises over the jump, powering strongly off his hocks, and tucking his front legs up to fly with ease over the obstacles.

Given his pedigree, and the success that he is already recording, Balou Star would be one young stallion that it would be well worth “taking a flyer” on – particularly if you were looking to add athleticism, a wonderfully calm and steady temperament combined with great enthusiasm for his discipline, and more refinement and “blood” to a mare. He might also be a very interesting choice for anyone looking to breed for the young rider market, having in his first year already produced some impressive foals from pony mares. Because of his competition commitments, fresh/chilled semen will only be available between March 17th and April 17th this year, with frozen being available through Hobgoblins Stud in East Sussex.

Reluctantly, and aware of flight times and the distance that we had to travel, we had eventually to bid a reluctant goodbye to Udo and his brother and niece, and their beautiful little stallion Balou Star, and head back towards Frankfurt Airport. As we got closer, I did think that I was having particular trouble keeping the car on the road, and we wondered about the amount of leaves and debris that seemed to be strewn across the motorway. Radio reports broke in to the satnav every now and again, but as we none of us understood German, we were not picking up the message .... “Do not travel unless absolutely essential! Hurricane force winds across Europe!” And of course we arrived at the airport to find that all flights to the UK had been cancelled, mainline stations were closed, and learnt that there was no way that we were going to get back home that evening ...... However, that’s a whole other story – suffice it to say that in spite of the brickbats that they attract, British Airways this time did us proud, putting us up at a 4* hotel and issuing vouchers for a generous dinner, and we were very happy not to be flying in storm-force winds!

..... And a postscript to our trip, and our disappointment at not seeing Contados at the Tannenhof Stallion Show – I had an email on our return to the UK from his owners letting me know that he is now fine, will be returning to stand at Tannenhof in the next week or so, and that they have put up a video of him training over jumps at home on their website. Viewing this, he looks every inch an eventing sire to me, very much like Chepetto C, who is the only other stallion currently standing in Europe with the very desirable Contender x MytensXX breeding. It definitely confirmed my choice of him for my ISH, so we will be trying again this year for a 2011 Contados baby!
Ginny Smith
Amanda Bliss

Links :
http://www.holsteiner-horsebreeding.com (for Contados)

Tannenhof and Balou Star 064
Balou Star 2

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