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AHHA - American Holsteiner Horse Association

dressage horse holsteinerIn May, Maggie Sjoberg and I had the opportunity to travel to the Schlesswig-Holstein region of Germany to observe the Holsteiner Verband’s mare approvals and stand with their judges. Maggie’s daughter Abby also went along as an observer and to take photos and video of the trip. In all, we visited eight of twelve sites and saw over 400 mares. It was truly an amazing learning experience.

Maggie and Abby arrived the day before me, picked up the rental car, and watched two small sites in Bordesholm and Plon. In Plon, Dr. Eva Junkelmann (a judge on several AHHA tours) presented a mare by Caratino who was the site champion, qualifying for the mare finals to be held in June.

I arrived in Hamburg on a pleasantly warm day in the midst of the tour sites. I was so excited to be returning to the Verband, I felt like a 10 year-old going to Disneyland! It felt like I was coming home. I was thrilled to once again see the friends that I had made here as an auction rider last fall, man and beast alike! Mr. Boley, manager of the Verband in Elmshorn, graciously allowed me to stay in my old room, which to my surprise still contained several items that I had left behind, like a hanger in the closet from my hometown. After settling in, we all visited the stallion stable with Mr. Boley.

We were saddened to hear about the sudden death of Happy Guest, but thrilled to see some of the new hopefuls preparing for the upcoming approvals. Seeing some of the most famous stallions in Holstein like Cassini I, Corrado I and Caretino is always a special experience. Mr. Boley took time to explain some of the basics of the Verband breeding program, saying that the young stallions are limited to 150 mares, but the older stallions are allowed to breed up to 300 mares per year. Most of the stallions are collected each morning starting at 6:00 am when there is less traffic. The beauty of the situation now with the addition of frozen semen is that the young stallions have the opportunity to prove themselves in sport as well as through their offspring.

True to form, on our way to the site the following day in Rendsburg, we had left 30 minutes early and were foolishly feeling confident that for once we were not going to get lost and would arrive on time. Much to our surprise we were pulled over by the Polizei, shortly after exciting the Autobahn (and after unknowingly passing the site!). A look of sheer terror came over Abby’s face (this would have been her second ticket since parking in the wrong place the day before in Elmshorn), so with me speaking little German and the police officers speaking little English, we discovered that they thought our vehicle was stolen! Thus we learned the make and model of our rental car with a suspiciously loose license plate, matched the description of a stolen car that they were looking for. So, we smiled as much as we could, and the officers escorted us to a gas station so we could get the license plate fixed. We laughed until we cried because now we could be late and were nearly arrested in a foreign country. Perfect! I was sure Dr.Steffani Walker and Dr. Nissen would not believe our story, but luckily we somehow managed to arrive on time. At this site Maggie and Abby and I split up. I sat on the outside panel while Maggie stayed inside and watched the mares at liberty. We met back at the end of the day to watch the final line up and make our picks for who the site champion would be. It was interesting to discuss the mares after the site was over and compare what was seen at liberty and what was seen on the triangle.

After Rendsburg, we had the weekend off and so decided to go and watch a horse show on Saturday in Hannover. The show was a national level show that had dressage and jumpers. We got to see Isabell Werth and a young Prix St. Georges horse as well as the Holsteiner Verband stallion Dolany (by Donnerhall) in the Grand Prix Special. Dolany did well scoring a 67% and placing 6th overall. In the jumper ring, we watched a speed class where the American Gabby Salick competed on two horses. Gabby is best known for competing the AHHA stallion Sandstone Laurinn on the American grand prix circuit even competing in the 2005 World Cup in Las Vegas. In the end Marcus Beerbaum ended up winning with his 2007 World Cup mount Leena, though. It was interesting to see the difference in European shows compared to our American shows. The show only had two rings, one for dressage and one for jumping, and each ring only had 3 or 4 classes per day. The show grounds were in the middle of a field off the main road, and once again we got lost when close to the final destination. When we got directions we were sent further down the road that we had once already been down! On Sunday we rode with Mr. Boley to several breeders’ farms to look at their foals and some potential stallion prospects. It was interesting to see how much the breeders respected his opinion, good or bad towards their horse, even though he isn’t a judge.

Holsteiner mareMonday and Tuesday, we went to more sites in Stormarn-Lauenburg and Schleswig-Flensburg respectively. The site in Stormarn-Lauenburg had 67 three year olds entered and some that showed up on that day. The site champion was a mare by Casall, second was a mare by Clinton I, and third was a mare by Lorentin I who went back to the AHHA stallion Laredo. In Schleswig-Flensburg, there were 41 three year olds that entered as well as 9 that showed up that day. Only four mares came back for the final line up. The top placing mare was by Limbus, second went to a mare by Levisto, third to a mare also by Limbus, and fourth to a mare by Quinar. We also got to see a mare by Corrado I, owned by AHHA member Dr. Steve Passman, presented in Schleswig-Flensburg.

Sadly, on Wednesday Maggie and Abby dropped me off at the airport for my flight home to prepare for a clinic. Their return flight was not until Friday morning. Wednesday was another day off, after dropping me off they went sightseeing in Schwerin and Lubeck. Thursday was spent at a mare site, held in Elmshorn at the Verband. That site divided into two sections. The mares that showed before lunch were from Elmshorn, and the mares shown after lunch were from the outlying regions. This site had the largest number of mares returning to the final line up at the end of the day with 13. This was also the largest site with 55 total mares entered before lunch and 301 entered after lunch. Fortunately, some of the mares had come to different sites and many did not come at all, so the total number of mares judged didn’t come close to the total number entered. At the end of the day, the top placing mare was a Casall, second went to a mare by Levisto, third to a mare by Quintero, and fourth to a mare by Colman.

HolsteinerOverall, out of the four sites I attended there were 38 States Premium mares. The stallion that had the most States Premium mares was Casall with 7, then Limbus with 4, Casado, Contender, Quinar with 3, and Quintero with 2. The other stallions that had one were Ussuri xx, Lorentin I, Caretino, Calato, Clearway, Coriano, Lucky Champ, Con Air, For Pleasure, Lacantus, Landos, Clinton I, Cassini I, and Levisto. There were more Premium mares than any other ranking. All the top mares represented a modern type with excellent athleticism.

At each site Maggie and I were introduced as representatives of the American Holsteiner Horse Association and were allowed to stand side by side with the Verband’s panel while Abby took hundreds of pictures and videoed. I learn a lot by watching, so my strategy was to judge the mare first on my own, a few steps from Dr. Nissen so I could not hear his scores, and then listen to their scores. Most of the time I understood why they would give a score, if not then I would ask Dr. Nissen and he was more than willing to explain. We were truly grateful for their hospitality. Mr. Boley went above and beyond, taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to explain their philosophy and system to us in great detail. We had the pleasure of eating dinner with the Boley’s family at their farm and talking into the wee hours of the morning about the Verband’s history. It is fascinating to see how it has developed over the decades.

We want thank the American Holsteiner Horse Association for giving us this priceless opportunity to learn more about Holsteiners, our breed. As well as a very special thank you to Anke Magnessen and Ed Wallace for their selfless donation to make Maggie and my trip possible. We truly appreciate all that you do for this organization.