A VERY SPECIAL TRIP TO GERMANY RESULTING IN AN UNEXPECTED MEETING WITH OLYMPIC RIDER LEONIE BRAMALL
A few weeks ago, my husband Buz and I left Cornwall at the crack of dawn to be in time for the Eurostar to take us to Bruxelles. We were on our way to Hanover for a very special occasion, the marriage of Toby and Christian, both committed horsemen. Two days never to forget. To witness a young man, whom I had known for many years, getting married to the love of his life, was an emotional happening, to say the least.
For the newly-wed to take their first married day and drive us around for an equine-related sight-seeing trip was the icing on the cake. Not only did Toby, now a qualified equine veterinarian, show us around the Veterinary College of Hanover, but we also visited Volker Dusche and Olympic rider Leonie Bramall. The proud owners of dressage yard and stud Bramall-Dusche GbR gave us a warm welcome and were extremely generous with their valuable time.
A FUN AND LOYAL LITTLE HELPER FROM GERMANY
Some fifteen years ago, a very shy boy, named Tobias Puschmann, walked into my yard. He was on a working holiday at the organic farm next door, but so missed horses. At the time I was still breeding and, other than a few mares and foals, I had a couple of horses in work and a busy teaching schedule, so some extra help wouldn't hurt.
For three delightful weeks, Toby came every day. He not only knew how to handle a broom or shovel, but was a kind of hard-working sponge, sucking up every bit of information that could possibly help him to become a better horseman. The day he came to say goodbye with his mum, still too young to travel on his own, I will never forget. As soon as they were out of sight I basically sobbed, because I knew: such a kind and loyal young helper I would never find again.
TWO INCHES TALLER
Until he went to university, Toby came nearly every year for a couple of weeks. The third time I went to pick him up from the airport he was suddenly two inches taller than me. Little boys can grow very fast.
We always had so much fun. Other than the work in the yard, Toby came with me to all lessons, he rode some of my horses and in our spare time we walked the coast and talked about everything under the sun. As Toby got older, our conversations often were about his future.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Last year, when Toby came to see me with his partner Christian, he told me that, during one of his stays, I had made him so very angry. When yet again he had told me, he wanted to become a horse trainer, I had answered him in a very matter of fact way that he just wasn't good enough. 'I was so angry with you, but it was the very best advice you could have possibly given me.'
In another conversation, in which Toby was wondering what to study, one of the options being a veterinarian, I told him that I could not choose for him. But if he chose to study to become a vet, he would become a very good one.
A WALKING EQUINE ENCYCLOPEDIA
So now, some fifteen years later, after the official part of the wedding, we were sitting down for dinner, very convenient in the restaurant next door. The chair next to me was occasionally empty, because my neighbour, a tall and larger-than-life man with ginger hair, was regularly running off with his camera. Volker Dusche not only shot loads of beautiful pictures, but also turned out to be a walking equine encyclopaedia. Whenever he sat down he showered me with pedigrees of German and Dutch warmbloods. I really needed the breaks to recover when he was on another round of picture-taking.
OLYMPIC DRESSAGE RIDER LEONIE BRAMALL
Next to Volker sat his partner Leonie Bramall, Olympic dressage rider from Canada. Only eighteen years old, Leonie moved to Germany to train with Johann Hinneman. She rode at the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992 and again in Atlanta in 1996. Christian occasionally takes his horse to Leonie for a lesson, which has turned into a good friendship. How very attentive of Toby and Christian to put me right there.
Whether Leonie is possibly not the biggest talker, I will never know, because of the unbridled enthousiasm of Volker.
‘BRAMALL-DUSCHE GBR’: TOGETHER IS STRONGER
It wasn't that surprising that we drove to stud and dressage yard ‘Bramall-Dusche GbR’, the following morning. I forgot my hangover as soon as Volker, who calls himself the 'tractor driver', introduced me to the first horse. And he continued this from stable to stable. Again, I was told pedigree after pedigree and admired all, including the horse Leonie is competing at Grand Prix, the 9-year old Oldenburg gelding Queensland by Quaterback.
What struck me most was both Volker and Leonie's drive and their enormous pride about what they have achieved together. That 'together' is what makes ‘Bramall-Dusche GbR’ tick, makes them stronger. These two people admire and respect each other; one the trainer and rider, the other the breeder and organizer.
In the field, with three mares and foals, Volker pointed out the mare still from the line his father bred. In that respect Germany is not that different from Holland. The passion of horse breeding is passed on from father to son.
YARD WORK, BRUSHING AND TACKING UP: PART OF THE JOB
With over twenty horses in work, of which Leonie trains up to eight, and that next to a busy teaching schedule, there isn't a spare minute in the day. Still, when I asked her whether she still worked in the yard, I already knew the answer. Her strong arms and hands spoke for themselves. 'Yes, why not? Mucking out, brushing, tacking up, it gives me a chance to get to know them. We get quite a few quirky horses. Intelligent horses often have that side. It is in my own advantage to be around them and sort some issues out without being on top.'
CAN YOU SEE I'M GOOD-LOOKING?
Volker Dusche insisted to show us a two-year-old in the indoor arena. The chestnut had to be gelded, his too small testicles the reason not to be accepted into the grading system as a potential sire. Volker was sad about that, but in the end, here trotted and cantered a proud sports horse with great quality and the world at his feet. Out of their broodmare Rihanna (Sire: Royal Classic) by Galaxie, he stopped suddenly, turning sharply, putting his neck right up there and looked at us, as if to say, 'Hey, can you see I'm good-looking?'
WITHOUT ANY DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR
No, no time for cappuccino, thank you very much, 'Herzlichen dank, wir mussen weiter!' Back in the car I still feel the electric enthousiasm of two great horsemen of the highest level, who are used to work hard, day in day out, proud of their achievements but without any delusions of grandeur. Quite seldom, these days.
THE VETERINARY COLLEGE OF HANOVER
Next on our way to the veterinary college of Hanover, where Toby is now a qualified equine veterinarian. When entering the modern building, I inevitably had to think of our trip of many years ago. my home-bred PSG mare Marie had developed a chronic sinus problem. I was referred to the veterinary college in Bristol and Toby happened to be there, so joined me for the trip.
Now, I was following Toby into a similar building, realizing that he probably had reached the same, if not higher, level as the veterinarians who had drilled a hole in the head of my beloved mare to have a little look inside.
Did I feel a touch of pride? I admit, Yes, I did…
COLICS, CHRONIC EYE INFECTION AND HEAD-SHAKERS
I saw horses with colic on drips, a stallion with a chronic eye infection and a very charming little cob mare with a cute little moustache who was a head-shaker.
Toby eyed up each individual case in his quiet and steady manner. It was his day off, but that didn't keep him from making sure he left the building knowing that all was as well as could be under the circumstances.
RESEARCH FOR HEAD-SHAKERS
Toby told me that one of his research projects is head-shakers. In the outdoor arena he will sit for hours on end, watching four individual cases being lunged with all kinds of different set-ups. This to see whether side-reins, high, low, longer, tighter or none, affect the behaviour. The slightest differences will be registered with the aim to produce new knowledge.
THE CRANE, SAFETY FIRST
The crane, which moves on rails from the ceiling through part of the building, including the X-ray unit and the operating theatre, is impressive and has changed the complex and dangerous process some of the horses must go through. It means that now horses under full anaesthetics can be moved in slings, completely safe from injury.
THE HORSE VIRUS CAN BE PAINFUL...
We had one more visit to make. Christian had to prepare the food for his Oldenburg mare Anna, at the yard where she is in livery. When Christian was doing the stable,Toby looked longingly at Anna. 'Hopefully I will be able to have my own horse next year...'.
I feel for my good friend who has been so patient. I was once his age. The horse virus can be ever so painful…
Top picture: Leonie Bramall with her Grand Prix horse, the 9-year old gelding Queensland. (Picture made by Volker Dusche)
Below that: Toby with one of the foals at 'Bramall-Dusche GbR'. (Picture made by Volker Dusche)
Below that: the two-year old gelding by Galaxie. (Picture made by Volker Dusche)
Below:Toby at the veterinary college in Hanover. (Picture is made in and belongs to the veterinary college in Hanover)
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About Liz Barclay
Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.
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