In this series of articles, Francesca Newman shares the highs and lows of her first-time journey to get her stallion licensed for breeding in Germany

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So there my stallion Velvet Dancer (Peanuts) was at the testing centre in Germany and his 50-day test was underway.

Of all the horses there, there were only a few five-year-olds; most were four.

Peanuts was also the biggest horse by far, measuring 175cm. Due to his size, he wasn’t moving as big or in as elastic a way as he is likely to in future.

We were reserved in our expectation as he is not the ‘modern’ type, but hopeful that the judges would see his top class potential.

During the 50 days it was virtually impossible to find out any information about how he was, or how he was faring.

Each time I called I was given a very simple, “Everything is well, he is fine” answer which was deeply frustrating.

I had to wait until the mid-way test, at which Peanuts was presented by Nadine and then ridden by a test rider for dressage. On day two the process was repeated, but for jumping.

Of the stallions presented, there was a real mix of standards of training. Some, like Peanuts, had been carefully prepared and understood the job at hand. Others were quite wild, having not been jumped before, misunderstanding the contact and generally a bit unruly in the arena.

One test rider refused to get on one stallion as he deemed him unsafe!

Thankfully Peanuts passed both days with fabulous comments, and was able to work towards the final, at the end of February.

The final test

On the day of the final it was utterly freezing at the Schliekau testing centre. I saw Peanuts for the first time in nearly two months, and he had grown into an impressive stallion.

Typically he was fast asleep in the stable; apparently they had even plaited him while he was lying down!

First was the vet check, which he thankfully passed, although there were a few horses that I would not have let continue.

Then he was required to warm up in the arena with another horse and each took turns to perform a dressage test in front of three judges and the testing centre manager.

It was hard to watch the horses being warmed up in just 10 minutes; it clearly wasn’t really long enough for Peanuts to perform a test as demanding as that, but he did each movement perfectly.

After day one we were given no indication of how the horses had done. We all had to wait.

The following day was full of drama.

The horses were presented in pairs, and were considerably warmed up by the centre riders before being ridden by the final guest test rider. They were worked hard and thoroughly tested. The results for each horse were announced over a microphone after they had completed their ride with the test rider. I did think to myself that following this no UK competition arena would ever faze Peanuts!

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Several found this and the large audience a little frightening; two horses were forced to discontinue their tests as they bit their tongues while being ridden.

You could feel the stress from every breeder, owner and trainer — were our horses going to get the minimum score to pass?

Many did not get the minimum score and it was felt that horses who were not already licensed were marked harsher than ones that had been licensed.

It is a political minefield; much of the licensing is based on who you know, who you are and who you are associated with.