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17Feb 16

Stallion show Den Bosch 2016: the times they are a changing

Last year was my first time back at the KWPN stallion show in Den Bosch after some thirty years and I decided to visit again last week as my interest was very much refreshed. I was overwhelmed by what I saw, at the same time realizing that, having concentrated for so many years on my own training as a trainer and competitor, I had completely and utterly lost touch with the Dutch breeding world.

The separation in 2006 of the stallions as jumpers and dressage stallions for a start had not really sunk in until I saw with my own eyes how far apart these two types of stallions had grown. Weirdly enough I found it easier to judge the show jumpers as they seemed to still be more like the horses I remembered.

In Cornwall I certainly come across some very decent Warmbloods as the years go on, however, the young dressage stallions shown on the last two days of the show seemed to be a different breed. One can't be but seriously impressed with the extremely high standard and with that the endlessly adjusted philosophy of some very knowledgeable people. People who have tremendous heart for the Dutch breeding industry, an industry which basically has conquered the world in show-jumping and dressage.

Still, I could not keep my mouth shut at times and was lucky enough to exchange my thoughts with some professional breeders in the stands which gave me a chance to express my worries about the lionesque shape of some of the young dressage stallions: huge fronts and/or hind legs which moved so high that it made me feel uncomfortable. 

One of my neighbors was a charming veterinarian,who took the time to explain to me that it was possible to create this movement artificially. I picked up the words chains and elastic bands.... If these stallions would make it to the performance test, this would gradually undo itself and so they would in the end still be judged on their own natural movement.

So in the end the KWPN stallion show was very much a show, whereas during the performance test the stallions would be trained in a uniform way, which would give a clear picture with the added bonus of an insight into their character and behavior. After that very few and only the very best are left.

But what if it actually is their natural movement and this is considered acceptable? What will be the physical future of the offspring of these stallions. Also, is it possible for them to maintain their quality of walk?

This was discussed in the stands as the now 4-year old stallions, who passed their performance test, were shown under saddle and the Novice stallion competition took place. The marks for the walk often exceeded 7 whereas also I could see the 4-takt rhythm was simply not there. Jokes were made about a potential Specsavers advertisement involving the KWPN judges.

Despite all the questions and issues my mind was boggling with, when I left the big arena in Den Bosch, I still felt excited about my visit.The KWPN is an organic organisation always in movement, always trying to improve, always open to new ideas whereas the past has proven that the KWPN is capable to change direction when things don't work out the way they hoped. Long may it last.... 

 

 

Top picture: Heraut, accepted by the studbook in 1946

Bottom: Igor, by Apache out of a Vivaldi mare qualified this year for the performance test and won the championship

 

 

 

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Dressage Training

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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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