Having been involved in the sport of dressage for 30+ years and I reflect on the early days of the sport in Australia - and how little we all knew! In some ways it was easier, as we did not have videos to watch and compare the better standard that existed in Europe. I believe that the wheels of progress began to turn for Australian dressage in the period from 1998. This was the year when AEA Burong brought Anky van Grunsven to Australia for the inaugural Dressage with the Stars and Australian Young Dressage Horse Championships.
Most Australian's had very little idea how the Young Horse classes differed from open dressage competitions. The first year entries were high, but only the top placed horses were prepared in accordance with the international judges' expectations. However, DWTS has gone on and is now run by Equestrian Australia (Vic) with Performance Horse Sales (PSI) involved as an major sponsor, following Ulf Möllers appearance as the riding judge. Australia has embraced the words of wisdom from the many well credentialed European based riding judges ... and the standard of horses and their early training has improved greatly.
A significant reason for the improvement in Australian dressage is the passion and commitment of horse lovers and breeders who have embraced the long term commitment to import horses - in particular quality breeding stock, with a long term plan to improve the Australian based performance horse gene pool.
I was talking to Maree Tomkinson - who has a couple of fantastic imported horses (Diamantina and Rodrigo lll) at her Hidden Valley stables and she suggested that I would enjoy speaking with Sarah Lloyd who has quite recently imported two beautiful German mares with the intention of proving them under saddle and then breeding some top quality foals.
I made contact with Sarah and was engaged by her enthusiasm and enjoyed hearing about the long term plans that the family has to develop a small boutique stud with their two beautifully bred imported mares as the foundation. This is how our conversation went:
Sarah Lloyd on her galloway mare - Double T Evita.
BS - How did your become interested in the idea of importing the mares?
SL - I have always loved horses and have been involved in showing, I have a very nice Arabian Riding Pony mare, Double T Evita and the picture was taken at the 2009 Horse of the Year Show. I train with Maree Tomkinson and she says it is a pity that Evita was not a little smaller as she would be ideal for Pony Dressage.
BS - It is a big step from a show galloway to the mares you have imported, how did this happen.
SL - Not really, Evita is my show horse, but I would love to progress to dressage and have been keen to breed for dressage. My mum ...... and fiancé Chris Westhead share the interest with me and we have all been involved in the plans. We decided to look for two good quality mares and I started to look at pedigrees and reading up on the various types, temperaments and other characteristics which are attributed to the popular stallions that are based in Europe. After extensive research, our search for Warmblood mares found its way to Germany, so plans were made to spend some time looking at the best studs. On my arrival, I was accompanied by Andreas and Jannah Ninennabar and with their help and broad knowledge, experience and contacts I was shown many quality horses from stables including Klatte, Vowerk, Boekmans and Famos.
BS - Were there any stand-outs?
SL - Yes ... lots! But, Shakira was a very easy choice as her sire is Samba Hit I who is by Sandro Hit and out of the famous mare Poesie who is also the granddam of Quarterback. Samba Hit I is the full brother to Poetin. The Sandro Hit/Poesie cross has been so successful it has been repeated many times resulting in Licensed stallions and State Premium Mares. Also, Shakira’s Dam line is very strong, her Dam Daviola, by Davignon by Donnerhall, is a full sister to the licensed stallion Donnerschlag. Daviola’s Dam Pirola is a full sister to Pik Bube. Shakira was in foal and we felt that this made her a very viable choice.
BS - When did she come to Australia?
SL - Shakira arrived in December 2008 and foaled a wonderful filly by Fidertanz in April 2009. This filly will be retained for future breeding and competition.
BS - Oh, a Northern Hemisphere mating so out of our time frame - are you planning to put her in foal again.
SL - No, not just yet. Shakira is a young mare and has a lot to offer as a riding horse - in particular dressage. Mum (Yvonne), Chris and I can see the benefit of proving our mares under saddle and Shakira is now in training with Maree Tomkinson at Hidden Valley Equestrian Centre where she is proving the strength her bloodlines. She has a fantastic temperament, movement and is very trainable. Her first competition is scheduled for January 2010.
Above and Below - Maree Tomkinson riding the imported mare Shakira.
A view across the rolling hills at Hidden Valley in Wallan.
SL - We found our second mare Debstar at the famous dressage stable Vowerk. Vowerk has been home to stallions such as Rubinstein,Rohdiamant, Di Maggio, Rubinero, Don Gregory, Relevent and Royal Diamond.
Debstar is by Di Maggio out of a Rohdiamant mare and carries the lines of Don Primero, Donnerhall, World Cup I, Rohdiamant, Rubinstein and Ramino. Her pedigree is full of the equine 'whose who' as Rubenstien's dam Antine is a full-sister of the top international dressage horse Ahlerich 2 ridden by Dr. Reiner Klimke and Amon ridden by Annemarie Sanders-Keyzer (NL). Antine also produced 2 further stallion sons, Rubinstein II (Sanders-Keyzer stables / NL) and Rubinstein III. Also, Antine's full-sister Adone gave birth to the multiple Olympics champion Rembrandt 24 who was ridden by Nicole Uphoff.
You can see the quality of her breeding, Debstar is compact and powerful and really built 'uphill'. She has strong movement with three fantastic gaits, it is very exciting to have them home at last!
Debstar was in foal when she arrived in Australia and in October 2009 she presented us with a beautiful black colt by Rubinero we have high hopes for him as a future sire and top quality dressage horse.
Debstar at Vowerk in Germany
BS - What are your plans for Debstar?
SL - Debstar will be bred via Embryo Transfer before her foal is weaned. She will go to Hidden Valley to be trained by Maree Tomkinson. We chose these mares for their proven bloodlines, conformation, movement and talent and because they both possess a wonderful temperament. They are very easy to handle, ride and work with and have passed on these qualities to their foals.
BS - This is very exciting and gives the future of Australian dressage a very positive outlook. Do you have any other comments about Luton Park?
SL - I guess my mum Yvonne, Chris and I acknowledge that a great horse is not created with two hands and one mind. It takes many ideas, passion, skill, persistence and patience. We know that through careful breeding, management and training we will make a difference. We plan to breed a handful of foals every year and will import more mares in the future with the goal to produce top quality horses that be suitable that both the amateur and professional rider can train on and enjoy. How far they go with the horse is up to them - we will breed horses with the genetic make-up and talent to get to the top.
BS - Thanks Sarah, we look forward to hearing more and hope you will share some more photos with us.