Tuesday, November 28, 2006

CONGRATULATIONS, IT'S A BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mary Anne Milleman is the proud owner of "Fidelity", a four year old Hanoverian gelding, 16.3, liver chestnut. He is sure to keep her well occupied since he is a high energy horse with a Dennis the Menace personality. He has 3 beautiful gaits and a nice uphill conformation with a very elastic way of going. He has already been shown here in Germany with blue ribbon placings at First Level. His future looks very bright as an FEI prospect. He is due to arrive in Miami on Dec. 14. Now that's what I call a good Christmas present! There definitely is an advantage to shopping here for a horse since you can see literally hundreds of horses within a very small area. Kind of like going to the ice cream shop and trying to pick your favorite flavor. Speaking of flavor, as I have already mentioned, the food here is very good, however, ordering can be a challenge when you don't speak the language. Mary Anne and I wanted a taste of home, so we went to the Kentucky Fried Chicken place in Paderborn. Then, we realized that we couldn't go through the drive thru since we don't know what to say, so we opted to go inside. Mary Anne jokingly said, "I'll just order a Number 2 Meal". And lo and behold when we got inside, they did have a number 2 meal and that's just what she had since her German is limited to knowing how to count. It worked out great until we realized that we didn't have any silverware and no idea what the German translation would be. So, once again, sign language worked out well. Even at Kentucky Fried Chicken, your meal comes on a china plate with real silverware instead of throw away plates and utensils. No waste around here. The other cute story that happened was when some friends of ours were driving through the German countryside and decided to stop at a local place for a bite to eat. Not knowing any German, when they were asked what they wanted to order, they just repeated what they had heard the lady at the next table order. The only problem was, when it came, it was meatloaf and our friend was a vegetarian. But, by that time she was so hungry she ate it anyway and actually found it pretty tasty! On the home front, Donneur and Dolly both trained exceptionally well today. Dolly had her best day yet with wonderful halfpasses and predictable pirouettes. Her neck is growing larger by the day, she has really blossomed under this program. Donneur is really getting his canter under control and his piaffe is incredible. I think I got a back handed compliment from one of the Swedish girls here. She told Mary Anne that in Sweden, they don't think the Americans know how to ride and that every horse that gets exported to the US gets ruined with bad riding. Now she has seen that there is at least one good American rider........

Monday, November 27, 2006

This photo is of
a 4yr old horse that we found and thought was pretty special, his name is Lacord. He was so much fun to ride, very forward and balanced and a great work ethic. He already has over 20 placings at horse shows at Training and First Level. The other picture is of a stable that we went to looking for horses. A real family operation. They breed horses and sell them, there are 4 children in the family ranging in age from 16 to 26 and they all work at the stable. It is still very much the tradition for the children to take over the family business. You almost never see houses for sale, they usually house multi-generations and the oldest son inherits the property. Most of the people live in the same town where they grew up. The unemployment rate here is about 13% and taxes can be as much as 50% of your gross pay. It is a very foriegn concept to the young people here to go away to college and possibly move to another state to take a job. They can't drive until they are 18. However, they can drive a tractor at 16. But there is a tremendous sense of dedication from some of the young people here. One of the Bereiters at Hubertus' stable, also named Hubertus but affectionately known as "Hoopsi", drove his tractor and pulled his horse trailer along the backroads at 25 KPH for 2 hours to take lessons with Hubertus. The young people that work in the barn are here hustling all day and then go home to their family's stable at night to ride and teach as well. Every three weeks, one of the working students has to do the barn work alone ( there are over 60 horses),over the weekend, meaning they don't get a day off that week and you never hear a complaint. That's life in Germany.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Mary Anne came over to look for a horse but she is missing in action and was last seen in the dairy aisle of the supermarket looking for Landliebe Blackberry Yogurt. She can't seem to get her spoon out of the jar......You know, the language barrier can work as a great deterrent to keep you out of the bakery. You really have to get up your bravado to go up and ask for something in a language that you don't speak well. Even if you manage to ask for what you want successfully, just as you're congratulating yourself, they ask you a question back and if you didn't want that piece of cake so badly, you would just as soon turn and run from embarrassment. But somehow, with a combination of very basic German and some finger pointing thrown in, you manage to get your point across. It's pretty humbling to think that even the dogs around here understand German better than you do. But, for those of you who are wondering what I do in my spare time, I am studying Baron's "Mastering German" course which is the same one that is used to teach US diplomats a foreign language. I am at the stage where I can understand much better than I can speak, but I am gaining on it. Speaking of gaining on it, Dolly really turned the corner this week and finished out the week with some trot and canter halfpasses that even Hubertus had to say were very good. Her trot has become so much more engaged and her canter stride has opened up to cover more ground when she is collected. Donneur and Hubertus had a meeting of the minds today and when the dust settled, we'll call it a draw. Both of them were equally wet and tired. But, you should have seen the beautiful one time changes and canter pirouettes that came out of today's work. The discussion always gets a little tougher when Hubertus wants another degree of collection, but Donneur always comes through in the end and has beautiful gaits in ANY company! Tomorrow is a well deserved day off for the horses, they will go for a nice long walk and afterwards, we are off for some more horse hunting. Anyone want to put in an order? Caroline and her daughter, Christine have been here for 3 days exploring the old city of Paderborn after watching the horses each day. She said the cathedral is especially noteworthy since it was built in the time of Charlemagne (1500's?) They left to go back to Amsterdam today and will fly back to the States on Monday. The picture is of Caroline and her daughter with Donneur and Mary Anne hard at work. It has been such a treat to have Mary Anne here to help me with the horses. You never know when your lesson will be and the time is subject to change on a moments notice. So it is best to have them groomed and ready for anything. And, by the time you have cleaned the stalls, fed and watered and picked out 3 times/day, hand grazed them each and cleaned them up after they dry off, the day is pretty much done. The chestnut horse is a 4yr. old we found that we think is pretty special, his name is "Lacord".

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Well, it's been a fast and furious pace since my last posting on the blog. Mary Anne Milleman and Caroline Ashton(owner of Donneur and Dolly) are here visiting and taking in the whole German experience. It certainly is nice to see some faces from home! Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. It's amazing that you have to go to Germany to find out what you can do on the Internet. Since I have been here, I have had more time to explore the Internet and enjoyed listening to XM Satellite radio, CNN and Fox news on the computer. I have also been able to phone home for a much better rate than the cell phone by using Skype.com on the computer. We have been out looking for a horse for Mary Anne to take home and it has been quite the experience. I have to say, she was rather shocked at the rate of speed our driver maintained on the Autobahn, well over 100 mph. Not much fun to be a passenger in that situation if you are a cautious driver! We have seen mostly young horses, 3 and 4 years old, however, here in Germany, they are well accomplished at that age and have already been to a few shows. Many times not only do they walk, trot, and canter on the bit, they are already trying a few changes. Certainly not what we are used to at home. You really get a feel for their temperament since they have no problem showing you a horse that hasn't been ridden in a week or a 3 year old that was broke, turned out for a month and then ridden for 2 days before you came to see it. You also ride these horses in a busy arena and you find that they are quite used to the confusion and oncoming traffic. I have to say it is much more pleasant than trying a 4 year old that has barely cantered and only been ridden at home with no company. Back at our own stable, the lessons with Hubertus continue to go well. He has ridden Dolly 3 more times and made great progress with getting her more through and engaged. After he has ridden your horse, they are significantly more on the aids and better balanced, which makes riding the movements sooooo much easier. Well, it took 5 weeks, but yesterday Donneur and I finally graduated to being able to ride competition size pirouettes. Hubertus insisted that we ride only working canter pirouettes until I had complete control of all 8 strides during the exercise. We also finally got his blessing on our trot and canter half passes. Talk about not cutting you any slack! Caroline has enjoyed seeing her horses and thinks they have improved tremendously in just a few weeks. It has been entertaining for she and Mary Anne to see the dynamics of 8 horses in a 20 X 50 arena. Especially when Donneur and the 3 year old spook at the same time and just about take out Hubertus in the process. We would have certainly got sent back home for that! The horses are more like a school of fish, when one goes in close quarters like that, they all go. But, 3 seconds later, everyone regroups and resumes their tempi changes or whatever. Mary Anne Ann tells me there is a word for that, "hoick" , which means an immediate, unplanned change of direction. All I can say is, there can be a hoick at any time around this place!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Donneur and Dolly continue to benefit from Hubertus' expert riding. Their initial reactions have been quite different as you can imagine since they have different personalities. Donneur was a hard sell at first, simply because he has the strength to challenge Hubertus. Nothing dramatic, in fact he was very cooperative until he was asked for a new degree of collection and his answer was to simply get stronger to veto that idea. Hubertus was excellent at being able to dilute Donneur's ability to be in charge by pushing him sideways and just at the moment when the horse would give on the rein, he went after the hindlegs to drive them forward. It sounds very simple to do, but your timing has to be just right. He is also a master at rewarding the horse by riding him absolutely soft in the rein when the horse is soft. VERY IMPORTANT! As a result, the horse is taking more and more weight to his hind legs and when the corners are ridden in collection with good bending, the half passes are predictably good. If there is still a discussion going on in the corner (any at all), he goes on a 20 meter circle, works it through and then tries again. He just doesn't compromise on the basics because the horses will fall a little on the forehand or lose bending in the half pass as a rule, so you can't come into it with any problems and expect the half pass to be good. The other big influence that he has had on Donneur has been in the flying changes. He gets the horse so straight on the old outside rein and then makes him loose on the new inside rein, while supporting on the new outside rein, that he really only uses his seat to make the changes with a minimal amount of leg. The idea is to have the canter so settled before the change, that you don't have to put any pressure on the horse to make the change. Donneur had a few "Whose the man?" dicussions during the tempi changes, but, he has realized that Hubertus is calling the shots. Today, Hubertus said" Good thing he learns quickly and remembers well, because he can be so strong!" I'm thinking, I'm glad he's only 16.1, not 17 hands. Dolly's first reaction was disgust that someone was rocking her world! She went around the arena the first day puffing like a freight train and alot ot tail swishing commentary. She wanted to see Hubertus' permission slip to make her sweat! Alot of work has gone into Dolly over the last 4 weeks to get her really round and staying there in all situations. Hubertus took her to task about not wanting to let go of the left rein. Very important to remember when you are in the double bridle and trying to get the horse to bend more easily, it has to be done only with the snaffle on the inside while you maintain contact on the outside rein. And the hands must not exert more pressure than your legs can keep the horse forward. Speaking of forward, I have yet to see Hubertus stop a horse that was too stong and you don't see him rein back either, except if required in a test. Everything is corrected in a forward direction, although not allowing the horse to run on the forehand, that's the tricky part. This kind of training is the real deal and very demanding on the horses and the riders. Theoretically, it can be applied to all horses and riders, but in reality, few are up to the challenge of working at this level of intensity. Every horse and rider will have to find the level of intensity that matches their goals. The good news is, Dolly got over her initial shock and made great improvement, much straighter throughout her body, taking more contact on the right rein and staying rounder in all movements. She was much quicker to comply than you know who. She looks beautiful in her new frame!

Monday, November 13, 2006

It has been very interesting to watch the young horses just starting under saddle and how it compares to what we do at home. Basically, lunging with sidereins is standard in a lunging arena but things take a whole new direction when it's time to get on. I have watched a young horse over a period of 3 days go from having someone lay over the saddle to cantering. What makes it so different is that all this takes place in a 20 X 50 meter arena while everyone else is riding. No concession is made for the horse being young, kind of like being thrown in the water, sink or swim. Quite a challenge to navigate in that space on a horse that doesn't know what the aids mean and if they are shy about oncoming horses, they have to get over that in a hurry! Once again, it appears that we baby our horses much more and shelter them compared to the German way. I think there is merit to both approaches, they just get the horses over the shock of riding in traffic over in the beginning, instead of at the horse show like we do. It was rather humerous today though. After lunch there were 5 of us in the arena and one of the working students was riding a very spooky horse. No special treatment here if the horse wants to look at something, just a good crack with the whip and forward they go. What would Linda Tellington Jones say???? Not going forward or hesitations of any kind are just not tolerated here. And there is no worry about how that affects the other riders in the arena. It's damn the torpedos and full steam ahead. Our horses looked more like a school of fish, when one spooked and changed direction, they all did. You had to laugh. I think horses invented Monkey See, Monkey Do. On the other hand, the young horses see all the other horses going round and round, do you think they get more confindence knowing that they are carrying humans around too????

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I am sure that some of you are wondering what daily life is like in a small village in Germany. I will say that overall, the country has more conveniences than it did when I was here in the early 90's. A few things of interest: All of your garbage has to be separated into paper, household waste and organic. All glass containers have to be recycled, there is a bottle deposit on every drink bottle, glass or plastic. The shopping carts are always returned to the store because you have to deposit a euro to use one and you get it back when you lock the cart to the other ones. You bag your own groceries, in fact, you must furnish your own bags, unless you want to pay for the plastic ones that we are familiar with. You can buy fresh milk that is good for about 5 days or you can buy ultra homoginized milk that can sit on the shelf unopened for weeks. The bread is to die for, baked fresh each day with no preservatives. Laundry is an adventure. The wash cycle takes 1 hour and 20 minutes and most people hang it out to dry, which is a challenge at this time of year because it rains so much, so most laundry dries in the basement in a few days. Plan accordingly! You can use an international ATM machine, but don't do it on a Friday afternoon because the computer is overwhelmed since banks aren't open on the weekend and everyone wants some cash. Many local shops close at lunch and nothing is open on Sunday. Driving can be a challenge on the AutoBahn with my Ford Fiesta. There is no speed limit, however, I don't dare get out in the left lane lest I be eaten alive by a BMW or AUDI doing 100+ MPH. Pedestrians and bicycles always have the right of way. The typical answer when you ask for directions is, "It's hard to explain". It's best if someone takes pity on you and lets you follow them. The road signs don't say east or west, so if you don't know the name of the town that is in the direction that you want to go, you are in deep trouble. Most of the cars are small, but I will say that the Germans take their tractors seriously! They are huge! I get one channel that is in English on the Satellite, CNN International. Thank goodness for the Internet so I can keep up with what is happening at home. Overall, the people are much more healthy here than the US. All ages do a lot of walking and bike riding. The vending machines have coke and beer in them....When you go to a restaurant, they are never in a hurry to serve you and turn the table around quickly like at home. In fact, if you don't ask for the check, you might not get it for several hours! The pace and the conveniences of home are not present here, but it is much more personable and safe to walk through the village at any time day or night. Soccer ( what they call football) is wildly popular here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I thought you might find these pictures of Fleyenhof (Hubertus' stable) interesting. Hubertus grew up in the village of Etteln and has lived here all of his life. His parents built the stable in the early 70's and Hubertus completed his Bereiter training and came home to work at his family's stable. There are about 50 horses on the property now, with some of the boarders having been here over 25 years. The village of Etteln is very proud of their favorite son, over 1000 people greeted him when he returned home from the Olympics in Athens. Not all of the horses here have Olympic aspirations, but Hubertus and his wife of 25 years, Doris, feel like they are family and don't have the heart to downsize the stable to only International Dressage Horses. You are just as likely to see Hubertus on a tractor dragging the arena as riding a horse with a price tag of 1 million euros. In fact, when I arrived at 11:00p.m., he was the one who helped me unload my horses and equipment. He handwalked one horse and I did the other before we settled in the first night. It is so refreshing to meet a man with so much talent as a rider and a teacher that is truly a nice and genuine person that really cares about his horses and loves what he does. He would have to in order to keep up his daily routine. He is in Australia this week doing a clinic and will return to work with us next Monday.
The girl on the chestnut horse is Anna-Katherine, a bereiter here hacking Wansuela Suerte, Hebertus' World Championship mount.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hubertus won the Grand Prix Special on Private Dancer with a 70+% at the Paderborn show. A couple of things that make shows here more interesting, they play music with each ride that coincides with the gait that the horse is in and begins and ends as the horse does. They also give each rider a glass of wine as they come out of the competition areana. The other thing is that NOBODY leaves before the prizegiving. They love to celebrate the winner. The pictures included today are: Hubertus receiving his 1st place on Private Dancer, Mieko Yagi from Japan with her horse Dow Jones( she commutes from Japan every few weeks to ride Dow Jones, who stays with Hubertus, Hubertus signing autographs after the Special, the view from my apartment window. We haven't seen the sun now for about 10 days and not expecting to in the near future. By the way, if you think you pay alot for gas, you should be here. It is 1.18 Euro per litre ( there are about 4 litres to a gallon and a Euro is worth about 1.28 US dollars or about 5.12 per gallon!)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

This is a photo from the inside of the plane that we flew over on. The other photo is of the container that Donneur and Dolly were transported in.........Imagine my surprise when I went to a local show here in Paderborn and saw the likes of Isabelle Werth, Monica Theodorescu, Rudolph Zeilinger and Hubertus compete. There were 31 horses in the Grand Prix. It was very interesting to see so many top riders in the same place and watch their warm-up routine. Hubertus followed his exact program that he uses at home. What a tremendously accurate test rider! Half passes that were huge and flowing and absolute straight changes on Private Dancer. He placed 3rd in the horse's 4th time at GP with a 68+%. Isabelle won with Satchmo, with 72%. Wonderful halfpasses, excellent piaffe and passage, whole test seemed so easy for the horse. Her warm up was very short, maybe 20 min. Start long and deep at trot and canter, then pirouette and walk. Pick up the reins, few steps of piaffe, walk. Canter and do a few two tempis, then walk. Very low key. Monica Theodorescu had a very nice horse but her style is to put a lot of pressure on the horse in the warm up. Not the same fluidity as Hubertus and Isabelle but the horse actually looked better in the test, maybe because she had to be more tactful. Rudolph Zeilinger rode the horses very uphill but so tight in the neck compared to Hubertus and Isabelle. I think what is boils down to is you have to pick a style of riding that suits you and your horse. It is great to know that after seeing some other top riders that I am most pleased with my choice for my horses... Interesting to see how Donneur would be like to ride after Hubertus had been on him for 3 days. Like getting on a Ferrari, so much power but loose and light! The horse is very happy to get into that groove each day for me now, it is so much nicer for him because he has more freedom to move, even in collection because he is in more self carriage. Unbelievable how sensitive he is in the changes! Almost no leg, only seat and amazing how much straighter they are because he isn't against one rein or the other. I am sure everyone will be interested in the stable management compared to how we keep our horses. Suffice to say that ours are so spoiled! The theory here is that they can take care of themselves and the more you pamper them, the more they need. Every horse is on the same diet of crimped oats, 3 times each day, the same amount, one big scoop. Even on days off and bran mash never happens. They get silage (their version of hay) once each day, in the middle of the afternoon, a lot of it. Little to no turnout and they stand on their days off or they are ridden long and low. It's amazing what they get used to and they work very hard and seem to thrive just fine. I will say one thing that almost every barn has is a solarium to dry them off in the winter, pretty nice. They bed on straw mostly and use a deep litter method adding more each day and then about every 4 weeks, they strip the barn. Basically one guy does the feeding and stall cleaning for close to 50 horses. German people work as hard as their horses!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Today we woke up to 25 degrees and snow. As usual, it bothered the people more than the horses. Hubertus rode Donneur again today (the third time) and if it is possible for a horse to grow up in 3 days, he did. What a huge difference in the amount of throughness and submission. The half passes were good from the beginning. Even the canter pirouettes were more controlled stride by stride. Certainly wonderful to see such improvement in a short time. Hubertus was very pleased and Donneur certainly looked like he belonged in a world class stable. After Hubertus gets back from doing a clinic in Australia, it will be Dolly's turn. Meanwhile, Dolly and I have been making steady improvement in all of her work as well, most of all keeping her round through all of her movements. News flash from the stable****** Hubertus is selling all of his Grand Prix horses including his World Championship mount Wansela Suerte, aka Winnie, and looking for a sponsor to but Fuerst Fabio, a 7 year old horse owned by Cesar Parra for 1 million Euros (approx. 1,300,000 US) Any takers? There is a show in Paderborn this weekend, about 20 minutes from here. Hubertus will be showing 2 horses and coaching several people. I went over tonight to watch the schooling and imagine my surprise to see the likes of Karin Rehbein, Isabelle Werth and Monika Theodorescu. How's that for a local horse show? Will go back tomorrow afternoon to watch the Grand Prix. Even after watching those riders school their horses, I am very sure that I am in the right place for training. All of the horses from Hubertus' stable are easy in the hand and swinging in their gaits and even in their piaffe steps and doing pirouettes easily. A lot of the other horses that I saw were impressive movers, but there wasn't the same level of cooperation from the horse. It will be interesting to watch the warm up and the Grand Prix.