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Thursday, August 11, 2011

I find myself torn as to what should go up first...

Honestly, I am sitting here debating which bit of good news should go up first - show results & breeding news or clinic photos and synopsis? What to do? Which to choose? Does it bother people if I put it all in the same update? If you have a strong opinion either way, please feel free to comment and let me know! No hard feelings!

My logical side is overpowering my super-psyched & happy self at the moment, so I'll go for the show results! Eurodressage currently has a wonderful article with lots of commentary on the Nuremberger Burgpokal Warm Up Test from Verden HERE. It goes into great detail about the changes in Desperado OLD (by Dressage Royal) since he was crowned World Champion as a five year old in 2008 under Nadine Plaster. Desperado OLD is now matured into a steady, relaxed competitor and they clearly won in their group last week over 33 other competitors from 4 other countries. This excerpt is from the Oldenburg Horse Breeders Society website from a competition several months ago - "Desperado OLD (Dressage Royal x Balalaika (Rouletto) bred by Karl Lenk, presented himself in top form. Under Carola Koppelmann, he won with an outstanding 71.800% in the Prix St. Georges qualification for the 2011 N├╝rnberger Burgpokal, a championships for the Developing Young Horses held in December in Frankfurt, Germany! Desperado OLD already made a name for himself having not only been the top priced horse at the 2007 Oldenburg Fall Elite Auction, but for winning the 5 year old Dressage Horse Championship title at the 2008 World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany. So with this latest victory, he confirms his exceptional class."

In and amongst the other competitors were top riders like Isabell Werth, Fabienne Lutkemeier, Former European pony champion Marion Engelen, Stephan Framm (from the Brandenburg State Stud of Neustadt/Dosse) and the USA's own Jennifer Hoffman. Stephan Framm saddled Doug & Louise Leatherdale's Damsey (by Dressage Royal) for a third place finish in the test with a score of 70.83%. Damsey is now 9 years old but was apparently a crowd favorite in the class. Incidentally, he was bred by Dorit & Hermann Kothe who own Dressage Royal.

Please click on the link to see photos of the horses and to read the full article. If videos are uploaded to You Tube I will add those links as well in the future.

As a small reminder, we have SIX Dressage Royal offspring here on the farm. Dreamcatcher (2008), Dream Girl (2008), Drummond (2009) and Don William (2007) are currently for sale. We also have a plentiful store of high quality EVA & CEM negative Dressage Royal semen in storage at SBS in MD for distribution here in North America. All of our DR youngsters were bred here in the States and we have a very high first cycle conception rate.

Now I mentioned a name a few moments ago who will lead off my Catherine Haddad-Staller Clinic news! Don William WF received permission on Tuesday evening to go along with his big brother Wyatt WF and have a school off the farm at Hawk Hollow Ranch! The facility is fabulous. Very, very nice people - Randy is honestly just delightful! The footing is perfect. The barn is lovely. The indoor is delightful. The boarders and other clinic participants were friendly and kind with nice horses. In any case, I was able to ride him for a few minutes during the lunch break on Wednesday and I am in awe of this horse. He is quite tall at 17.2 1/2 and while we are pouring feed and hay into him, he is still in need of some groceries to bulk out to his full potential. However, he is not thin or thrifty - merely a tall, lanky fellow who is still growing with a shiny coat and healthy appearance. Here are some photos -

Liam was beautifully behaved and relaxed quickly into his work. We practiced the more forward gaits and leg yields from the training system and it produced lovely results with more swing over his back, better contact and frame - all of which gave a better impression of throughness and connection!

The main reason that the above was all possible is the Catherine is one of the most amazing instructors I have encountered. She allows her students to actually RIDE in her Stubben Genesis Special D. I can not emphasize how rare this is. Most riders sanctify their equipment to the degree that I have a deep seated fear to even touch someone else's saddle, let alone RIDE in it! In any case, Stubben had sent a new GSD up to the facility for people to try but Catherine allowed us to use her saddle time and again. (!!!!) The new GSD had been on Wizard on the first day - again I was the first person to ride in a(nother) new GSD! - but Catherine's has been broken in properly and as she put it, "It has good karma!" :-D But the horses all like the saddle(s) and I ride best in them - which becomes an ever increasing circle of positive reinforcement of why the training system and techniques work so well. My position is correct, the weight aids are able to influence the horse better, so they respond better, which allows my position to relax and swing, they go forward with more positive energy into the bridle, and so on...

Anywho, the big red guy was excellent! So forward, so elastic and also so, so, so good. We have a show coming up this weekend at Fidler Run Farm, so hopefully we continue to develop in a positive direction. :)

And this brings me to my Weltmeyer son - Wyatt! This was his second interaction with Catherine as we had gone to VA for our first CHS Clinic in June. So much has changed - I am able to ride most every day now, he is fitter and we have been working on all that Catherine had introduced to us since I was quite excited to get a progress report! It was a thrill to have it be a positive one!

As Catherine has so much experience with Weltmeyers and Wyatt is my first - I value her insight and techniques more than I can properly explain. It is not that they are the most unique horses or anything super complicated to ride - but it is more that they are clearly stamped by their sire and there are few training tools that work really well with them. :) We worked on controlling the tempo while increasing the engagement from behind. His gaits became even better with a clearer rhythm and better use of the hind legs - if this makes sense - we worked on slowing the front legs just a bit while speeding up the articulation of hind joints as well as closing his base. Wyatt also has a trot that requires the rider to have great flexion and range of motion in their hips and pelvis. Because of the GSD - I can accomplish this and it makes riding him so much easier!

I do not want to get overly optimistic about what the future holds for us. But if the training improves steadily, hopefully we will make up for the lost fall/winter/spring and be able to compete in the new year with good results.

The first morning of the clinic (Tuesday) was Wizard's time with Catherine! I was quite excited to take him to work with her - as you all know - he is my special horse - so it is with some trepidation and anxiety we ventured to Hawk Hollow Ranch.

The comment of "he is the most gorgeous color" is lovely to hear but as a rider I prefer to hear compliments about his gaits, his temperament or his mind. But then I take a step back and acknowledge that he is an amazing shade of chestnut! And to have his symmetrical white markings with the dark hooves is a very rare thing -

So other than having a great looking young stallion - I was thrilled with how calm he was. We had a few moments to walk in the lounging ring and it had an overhanging willow tree. I don't know how many of you ride young horses, but it was with a feeling of 'well, this could be a dumb thing to do" I pushed him forward in a big walk and we wound through the fronds stretching a bit around my inside leg while we waited for the first horse of the day to wrap up their lesson. One of Wizard's most endearing traits to me as a rider is that he is a sensible horse and it was reinforced as there was absolutely no shift in the length or speed of his steps as the branches scraped on my helmet and shoulders. :) Moments like that are always filed away for future reference - perhaps he will be as unfazed by a bouquet of flowers in a victory gallop someday? :-D

Flowers and fronds aside, we worked on developing a true collected canter - rounder strides with greater jump, more engagement, more elevation of the front end and a clearer transition between medium/working and collection. All of which went quite smoothly and showed great improvement! We also worked on improving the quality of the canter-walk-canter transitions. Catherine praised him for the clear quality of his walk with 4 pure beats. We also worked on the technique of stretching him properly in the frame and then bringing him back together as would be necessary within the test pattern. Wizard did so beautifully and was just delightful from where I was sitting. As he is just five years old I am quite pleased with how he handled the increase in the difficulty of the work and the atmosphere of the environment. We will continue to polish the transitions - upward, downward as well as those within each gait while stepping up the requirements of the training program. Wizard responded quite well to the new Genesis Special D that I rode in. I was also cautioned to not approach each ride with large, earth shattering goals with this horse. Concentrate on the quality of each gait, each transition and each stride rather than a "today we will go through the PSG" frame of mind. Small goals with consistent improvement are the best way to bring Wizard along in Catherine's mind and I couldn't agree more. He is a smart horse with good potential, so there is no sense of rush or impatience on my part. The breeding season interfered with his training schedule (and mine) but that is behind us now, so hopefully we can continue on the road to success. :)

It is quite exciting to come away from the clinic with so many tools to use with Wyatt, Wizard and Don William (and the others who stayed home) and what a relief it is to have mom's training background reinforced with so many 'new' techniques. Her German instructor worked with her in the 70's and 80's with a smattering of English mixed with French and Spanish...which made for language lessons to be mixed into explaining training techniques. Catherine's teaching style and methods might not be for every rider out there but for us and our horses - it feels tailor made for bringing up Grand Prix horses. Her positive comments and helpful critiques of the three horses that went to the clinic are without equal - she knows what it takes, what the top level requires and what the judges are looking for...all invaluable facets of bringing horses along into successful competition careers. The consistent emphasis on the quality of each gait, each transition while the rider maintains an active but sympathetic position with forward hands and good impulsion - that is huge! I feel honored to work with her while riding such nice horses. It is a lovely place to be in life!

After 2 days with Catherine I am saddened to return home to my old saddles but it is just a few more weeks until my saddle arrives from Switzerland, so not much longer...but we are hoping to have Stubben come to the farm for a saddle fitting clinic in the near future. As soon as a firm date is established - I will post more information about setting up times.

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