‘I got a lump in my throat’: End of the road for top British dressage partnership

  • Woodlander Dornroschen, the dressage mare long-listed for the Rio 2016 Olympics with Michael Eilberg, has retired from competition to her owner Lynne Crowden’s Woodlander Stud in Northampton. She will now be used exclusively for breeding.

    As well as being an elite competitor at international grand prix, Dornroschen (by Dimaggio) is also the dam of the double world young horse champion Woodlander Farouche (by Fürst Heinrich). “Rosie” won the Horse & Hound outstanding mare award in January 2014.

    Michael, a former showjumper, has had the mare in training for a decade, and built an exceptional relationship with the 15-year-old British Hanoverian, who was bred by Karin Hoerner.

    At a recent demo at Moulton College, the emotion of riding her for the final time got the better of Michael.

    “I did have a moment,” he told H&H. “I took Rosie along and someone asked about her story. I was telling it and just about to say, ‘And this is probably the last time I’ll ride her’, but as I went to say it I got a lump in my throat and I couldn’t talk. I had to turn around and slap myself in the face before I was able to speak again. It was terrible.”

    The journey the two have taken is impressive.

    “She was really my first dressage horse and we learned things together,” explained Michael. “She wasn’t the easiest to start and took some time to get sensible and strong. The first time I sat on her, the rein snapped and I ended up on the floor.

    “When she was young she’d put her head between her knees and bronc like a good un’. But the fascinating thing about her was that she had two sides: she has a massive personality with a strong attitude and presence, but on the other side she was incredibly delicate and fragile.

    “We found a great relationship where earning her respect through her strong side meant I could influence her when she was fragile and she’d look to me for support.”

    ‘It’s a lot of responsibilty’

    Lynne bought Rosie from Brightwells sale and remembers how she was captivated by her beautiful, seahorse head.

    “I fell in love with her at the auction, and it’s been such a fantastic journey that she’s initiated,” Lynne told H&H. “It’s a delight to have her home — and a lot of responsibility to have back a horse that’s been in training.

    “Carsten [Sandrock, Woodlander Stud’s rider] will ride her as it will be better for her to be ridden a bit but she won’t be competed. I’ve had enquiries, but I don’t want her to go anywhere else.

    “She’s now in the mare barn with 23 other mare boxes and she’s settled straight away. Now we are thinking about which stallions to use on her this season for embryo transfer [ET]. Our own Double Bubble, by Don Frederic x Rousseau, is a definite, but we haven’t finally chosen the others yet, though Quantensprung has really impressed me. His offspring were amazing at the Hanoverian licensing.”

    Other than Woodlander Farouche — whom Rosie carried herself — the rest of her offspring have all been via ET.

    Her son Franz Ferdinand is a licensed stallion standing in Germany, and is full-brother to Farouche. Another licensed son is Freddie M (by For Compliment).

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    The Eilbergs own Rosie’s full-brother MSJ Distinction, a rising four-year-old by Dimaggio out of Claire. Now 22, Claire is still being used for breeding via ET by Newton Stud in Devon, and is expecting a Quantensprung foal this spring.

    Michael describes Distinction as “a cheeky boy. He’s definitely got his sister’s bronc in him, but he’s only a baby so you’d sort of expect it at this stage. He’s absolutely stunning and such a looker. It’s like ‘I’m so sexy’ is playing through his head all the time. We’re keeping him entire for now, but we’ll see how things go.”

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