The German stallion tour de force: part two

  • Day two started with a frantic search for cake. It was Sarah Oppenheimer from Headmore Stud’s birthday and her dressage rider daughter Alice roped Kevin Sparrow and I into the mission. Alice made good use of the one German word she remembers from school (gooseberry) and, with the help of some internationally recognised hand gestures, we’d soon procured a vast cake.

    Alice almost uprooted the 18hh metal horse on the town’s main drag on our return trip — while trying to ascertain if it would take my weight. It won’t.

    A close shave

    That afternoon was the Schockemohle show, in the same Oldenburg arena as Sprehe’s the previous day.

    We, along with the 2000-odd other spectators, arrived early to gorge in the party tent. In my excitement I shoved the stiff door over-zealously, bashing the man behind it carrying two precarious trays of chips. It was Matthias Rath. I would have been single-handedly responsible for his hunger or — worse — his broken hand, had the door swung a smidge further.

    The Schockemohle show had its own problems early on, with the three-year-old Sandro’s Adel losing his bottle after clouting the big final spread of the loose-jumping combination. He then jumped through clean, but refused the final element the next time through.

    There followed more attempts to get him down the line, culminating in him crashing through the lowered final element. His groom said afterwards that something at the end of the arena had caught his eye, distracting him. Let’s hope his confidence is restored in his next session.

    Ants and scope to burn

    That aside, the Schockemohle team — and particularly the main stallion man — gave an exemplary display of handling stallions from the ground and running them up: something many Brits could learn from.

    Both shows used what we termed “ants”: to keep both jumping and dressage breeders interested, the disciplines are mixed up, demanding frantic fence building and dismantling every 15 minutes — cue the swarm of matching-jumpered school children legging it into the arena. Three proper fences repeatedly appeared and disappeared like magic.

    There followed outstanding top-of-the wings jumping performances by Balou Du Rouet and Diarado — two really exceptional, athletic horses with scope, power and the illusive “look at me” factor.

    On the dressage font, it was a delight to see the greats Sir Donnerhall, Furstenball and San Amour, as well as Don Frederic and Foundation — all horses I have pored over only in catalogues and online until now.

    Sandro Hit was run in-hand, looking the picture of health. To see this magnificent horse, who has had such an impact on dressage breeding, performing under the lights was really special.

    We got to go and visit them all back in the stables after the show — the isles were noisy and packed with punters and the horses were friendly — none more so than the black three-year-old Dancier son Danciano.

    The only disappointment was that Totilas wasn’t presented, but at least with the international competition stallions there are other chances to view them.

    The Germans are very lucky to have these horses on their doorstep — and thank god for AI for us!


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