This past week was all about preparation for our four day party for friends at the National Dressage Championships, plus a quick scoot to Frankfurt and Paris in one day to do some interviews for my headhunting day job. We have had our hospitality "tent" at Stoneleigh for some years and it’s a great opportunity to catch up with clients who have bred with our stallions or bought horses from us. The circle gets ever wider and I think that they also enjoy meeting each other and comparing horse family albums, although these days they are mostly DVDs or video snips rather than stills.
To say it was a great show is an understatement. We have been at the Nationals with horses that we have bred, owned or produced, for about ten years. This year was very special as our two horses Rockstar and Dornroeschen (Rocky and Rosie), ridden and trained by the Eilbergs, had a real chance. As an owner you are never sure whether you dare to hope. Just to get there is great and we were perhaps the most thrilled for Alice Hurley, who worked for us about two years ago, and had qualified Woodlander Frangelica into the Novice Open. She did really well.
On the first day both Rocky and Rosie were in the Medium Open with Michael making sure we had a very early start as his test with Rosie was about 9am. He went into the lead with a very proficient test but perhaps the mare looked a little flat. When Rockstar and Maria overtook Rosie they sat at first and second until the last few horses. This was unbelievably stressful as there were some good combinations still to come. It was such a thrill to see the names of our two horses on the scoreboard for a large part of the morning and Rocky stayed at Numero Uno with Rosie displaced to fourth by Peter Storr and Jo Barry who rode excellent tests. We were off to a great start and were not let down by Rosie’s amazing ride in the Advanced Medium Open. I hope it is flattering to Carl Hester to know how much more the win meant to us because of beating his horse Valegro (ridden by Charlotte Dujardin). I watched Michael’s test on the fabulous Dornroeschen from very close proximity and it was as though the test was in slow motion. Michael prepared the mare for every movement and his attention to detail was breathtaking. The result was a very smooth test with lots of expression, particularly in the changes. This is all the more remarkable when you think that he has produced this work with the horse in only the two and a half years since she had her foal.
The feeling you have in these situations is very odd. There isn’t for me the exhilaration that I am sure many others experience. Instead there is a sort of quiet satisfaction and an appreciation of all the work that has been put in and all the work still to come. I always look forward and want MORE. I am also in awe of the horses themselves. I have known these horses for all their lives and rather like one’s children it is remarkable to see their maturity and to see them as grown ups and really engaging with their sport.
I met up with a very excited Karen Hoerner who, together with her husband Manfried, bred this wonderful mare. I bought her at a foal auction, unplaced and seriously underscored by the judges on the day, for just under £5000. This horse must now be worth hundreds of thousands and I think that people should get a lot braver about buying and selling in auctions. There are real jewels to be had if you sit and wait.