The Oldenburg headquarters in Vechta – including a permanent 20x60m arena – plays host to a number of stallion shows from individual studs at key points in the breeding calendar. All dressage geeks, regardless of whether they’ve been there, will be familiar with the blue and red curtains that drape the entrance and will have watched dozens of top stallions exploding through them online.
Tonight’s showcase stud is Bockmann. Like Sprehe, the family have an alternative revenue stream in trailers and lorries, but also a thriving stud business, with their flagship stallions being Dancier, Fidertanz and Floriscount. They also stood Suzanne Lavander’s famous Dimaggio for the last few years of his stud career until he died in December 2015.
The shows in the hall at Vechta – and I’m lucky enough to have seen a few – are always impressive affairs. They’re ticketed events with allocated seating and a party atmosphere. They’re significant social affairs for the many breeders in the area and have a professional but buzzy feel.
This year, for the first time, our group of English speakers were provided with headphones through which we listened to an English translation of proceedings. Although some of the headsets’ batteries gave up part-way through the show, mine held out and provided valuable information into what we were seeing.
Jumping horses and dressage horses were mixed throughout the evening, with an army of keen youngsters swarming into the arena to collapse or build the three fences in split seconds. I like this mix as it keeps bums on seats for longer and improves the atmosphere. If all the dressage horses were shown in a lump, the dressage breeders would buzz off straight afterwards.
Dancier and Floriscount were both shown in hand; the former because he has nothing to prove (he’s a a Celle state stallion with 26 licensed sons already) and the latter because he injured his hoof shortly before his grand prix debut late last year and is still recovering.
Three daughters from these two stallions were shown, all outstanding types showing scope and rideability. One in particular, by Floriscount, looked how I imagine riding a keen, willing hoverboard at speed might feel; always connected from the hindleg to the bridle and powering through, over the back and into a lively, submissive contact. Her rider was having a ball.
The standard of the riding – particularly in relation to the stallion show I attended at Bury Farm in the UK last month, was very high.
During one demonstration of family dynasties in Vechta, three young riders showed two horses and a pony. The two powerful horses both showed tempi changes and pirouettes and we were gobsmacked to be told their pilots were just 12 and 15 years old.
Germany invests a lot in the youth and education wing of riding and Bockmann have gone one step further, building an outreach programme with a large network of local kindergardens teaching children about the pleasure and benefits of horses.
The dressage stallion Radisson (Rock Forever x Sevillano xx) impressed with his metronomic trot rhythm and superb, uphill canter. Although only five, you didn’t have to stretch the imagination far to see this horse pirouetting for a 10. His programme finished with one-handed passage-type trot, again showing the horse’s great rhythm and rideability. It’s obvious why he got 10s for rideability in his performance tests.
The Totilas x Krack C son Tolegro has improved immeasurably since I saw him as a rising three-year-old two years ago. I recall him being quite ‘pony’ with a daisy-cutter front leg and narrow shoulders. He’s matured into a short-coupled powerful little package with a lot of willingness. His natural reaction when the crowd clapped to was to sink down and push more from his back end – always a desireable natural reaction in a dressage horse.
The star of the jumpers was the six-year-old Fire And Ice. The For Contest x Coronino bay was extraordinarily scopey and pinged over the top of the wings with supreme ease. His scope and technique combined with his bargain price of €600 make him a really attractive prospect for showjumping breeders. I doubt he’ll still be that cheap next year.
The show concluded with the grand prix horse Fidertanz (pictured, top, in his stable after the show). Although a popular sire with a number of licensed sons and champion mares, the Fidermark x Ravallo son has such a massively muscled neck that he resembles a bullock more than an elegant sport horse.
He is much-hyped and has lots of fans – and is the most expensive sire on the Bockmann roster at €1,500, but I have to say he just doesn’t do it for me and reminds me of an over-inflated tyre. He’s what I’d call ‘an absolute unit’. But wouldn’t the world be boring if we all liked the same thing?