Eurodressage's Silke Rottermann spent the day at Brookhouse Stud in Erbach, Germany. Here are the impressions of her walk on the premises of Emma Hindle's exclusive equestrian facility:
The drive to Emma Hindle’s Brookhouse Stud, located in one of Germany’s idyllic uplands, is a mere 30 minutes from my home, but it certainly brings back happy childhood memories. Here I once started riding on a pony farm and now I am back to visit one of the most successful dressage riders Great Britain has ever had.
A Wally Welcome
Brookhouse Stud is located high above the town and on the edge of the forest. I am immediately greeted by a shining personality of a horse, standing in a steep field three metres above the parking lot and moving sure-footed like a mountain goat: Wie Weltmeyer.
Emma’s great old Grand Prix horse takes an obvious interest in the intruder and follows me along the fence until I disappear in the stud’s office. There Emma’s two Jack Russell terriers, a wire haired Parson and a smaller smooth haired one, welcome me before Emma’s secretary Jutta Holschuh accompanies me to the stables just opposite the office.
Lancet Gets Me Going
The airy and bright boxes are under the same roof as the wonderful indoor arena. The stallions all have an exclusive view over the big paddock, the fields and virtually looking down into the town. Next to the entrance of the indoor arena some action is going on. Emma’s two grooms, Claudia Mainzer and Barbara Fischer, are letting a beautiful liver chestnut stallion with kind, but cheeky eyes dry under the solarium: Fürstano (by Fürst Heinrich x Brentano II). Not so long ago this stallion was sent from Nadine Plaster’s yard to be prepared for the World Young Horse Championships. Emma chats to a breeders’ couple from Stuttgart, who is interested in breeding to Fifty Cent and Diamond Hit.
I wander around a bit, looking at the well-known stallions standing peacefully in their stall or napping in their boxes, all bedded on wood shavings. My first impression is that these are very well tempered and content horses. This will be confirmed in the course of the day as all horses at Brookhouse are well behaved and seem to be happy athletes.
Emma has stopped her conversation with the breeders, greets me and asks if I want to accompany her on a short hack with Lancet. I grab my camera and off we go, up a steep hill next to the field in which some ponies graze. Following the 17-year old’s enormous walk is not easy! I try to hold contact, but my walk and poor level of fitness are easily outclassed by the bay Hanoverian. Well, he is the Olympian, not me!
I ask Emma about the covering rates of the stallions and not surprisingly she tells me Diamond Hit has by far the highest rate of all her stallions. She regrets it a bit that Wie Weltmeyer, whom she affectionately calls “Wally”, is not used that much “since he has produced really good horses.” Wie Atlantico springs to my mind, a horse I like very much and look forward to seeing in the future. I wonder if the stallions have to cover prior to shows. Emma looks a bit surprised of that question: “Of course they have. That’s their main job.” After the short hack Lancet has some gymnastics in the outdoor arena, which is nestled in the hill under the stable complex.
Fürstano watches interestedly from the paddock above to what his stable companion is doing and Emma greets him while passing: “Hey Henry, take a good look, you can learn something!”
This 5-year old, which is owned by Simon Kohlenbrenner and Nadine Plaster's company Pferd 24, loves to act foolishly in his paddock, cleverly removing his blanket and playing passionately with it for a long time. Emma explains that his playfulness is the reason why he does not wear protective boots on the frontlegs. He just removes and destroys them!
Fürstano seems to know the importance of a camera and stays in front of me, proudly waving his blanket to his audience. As he stands still like a model I am convinced that this horse knows how to sell himself best in front of a large crowd one day! I have to admit I immediately fell in love with him. The colour, the expression and character, who could resist such a horse?
Fürsti, London 2010 Hopeful
I join Emma’s head groom Barbara who is preparing Fürstenreich, a 12-year old Oldenburg stallion by Florestan out of a dam by the renowned Trakehner Matador. Barbara is accompanying Emma’s stallions to all the shows and after passing the HVG-licence last year she is also responsible for safely driving the stallions from A to B.
Amazingly Barbara’s heart also beats for icelandic ponies. Owning two herself she has done her apprenticeship at Mönchhof, one of Germany’s most renowned icelandic studs and training stables, producing icelandics for World Championships. So we joked that she has switched from one world class stud to another, just the horses are very different!
In the meantime Emma has welcomed a young Australian couple who had flown over the day before and planned to visit some German studs like Klosterhof Medingen later that week. Emma mounts Fürstenreich, who seems to have a very relaxed attitude to life.
This beautiful stallion could be her horse for the Olympics on home turf in 2012, owning a great presence and tremendous piaffe and passage. While following “Fürsti’s” training I use the opportunity to talk to the Australian woman about dressage in Australia.
Emma is piaffing in front of the large mirrors at the short side of the indoor arena, checking Fürstenreich, who steps under greatly and remains calm and content. Every two or three weeks her long-time trainer Richard Whiteflies in from England to help her with the training of her stallions, so Emma is usually riding on her own, supported by her two skilled girls Claudia and Barbara.
Jumping off Fürsti Emma invites me to sit on and ride him in walk while he is cooling down. Despite the offer of a lifetime, I am not keen on riding such a valuable stallion in jeans in front of several visitors, so Antonia is stepping in. She is a 15-year old school girl who supports the Brookhouse team in her school holidays and sometimes travels with them to shows, too. Fürsti walks totally relaxed on long reins with her. I continue being impressed and amazed by the character of this stallion.
Brookhouse's Baby: Longton
Barbara handles a bay stallion which looks nice, but very young. “That’s Longton, he is only 3 years old and we have recently broken him in,” she explains to me. After lunging him in a quiet manner Barbara stops him, removes the side reins and leads Brookhouse’s “baby” in the middle of the indoor arena. This stallion had been a premium stallion at the 2009 Hanoverian licensing. Sired by Locksley I he goes back to Lauries Crusador xx and has Rohdiamant as his dam’s sire. Emma put a riding helmet on: “Just to be sure. He has covered for the first time not long ago and is still a bit excited.” She points to a hole in the wooden wall of the indoor arena: “This was my head when I was thrown off last autumn not long before the Stuttgart German Masters.” Obviously Emma is a tough cookie!
Before she mounts Longton, who everybody calls “Leo,” I ask Emma if she minds me taking some photos while she is riding him. I am not sure how this youngster is going to react with a photographer standing in the indoor arena or when flashlights are being used.
Emma destroys my doubts: “Of course you can come in and take pics. If he is spooking then we repeat it over and over again until he has learnt it is nothing dangerous.” I am a bit blown away by Emma’s relaxed attitude about this because I have already experienced it very differently.
Leo does not mind me and my camera at all having in the indoor arena. Barbara holds the lunge line while Emma starts mounting him from a block. She does it with all her horses to ease the mounting for both horse and rider.Very carefully Emma puts her weight in the left stirrup and observes the horse closely at the same time. Leo stands still like a statue and Emma finishes mounting him and rewards his quiet behaviour with a lump of sugar which he happily accepts of course. Barbara removes the lunge line and Emma starts riding her youngster. Longton impresses with the quality of his gaits and searches for a steady contact with the bit. Emma rides him forward on big lines so he can find his balance. The stallion shows his good mood with a few bucks, which Emma sits out without batting an eyelid.
Time flies, visitors leave and Emma’s second secretary, Dorothea Strecker, brings lunch. We sit down at the table opposite to the entrance of the indoor arena to have lunch time. A well-earned one for Emma and her staff! Emma offers me tea, “English tea!” and waves a piece of paper: “Let’s practice English a bit!” The girls know that now it is crossword puzzle time. Barbara turns out to be quite quick in using the dictionary while Emma wonders over the words. The language spoken at Brookhouse is normally German, which Emma speaks fluently with only a tiny accent.
Boys at Work
In the afternoon Emma checks the fresh semen orders in the office. Quite some orders have arrived and now her “boys” have to leap into action again and do their job. Usually Andreas Müller, the owner of the property and an accomplished breeding expert, collects the fresh semen after the stallions have jumped on the “dummy”. But today he is not in and Claudia has to do the job.
While she prepares the dummy I talk to her about her past. Claudia originally comes from Cologne and has done her apprenticeship at the Westfalian State Stud in Warendorf before joining Emma’s team about 2 years ago. At Brookhouse Stud she likes the 6-year old Fifty Cent the most, having successfully started him at L-level last year and aiming at M this season. Claudia has done a 4-week course to earn the EU-certificate for inseminations last year, so she is qualified to help out if Müller is busy like today.
Barbara brings Chequille Z, a Zangersheide stallion with Holstein bloodlines and one of Emma's five Grand Prix mounts. “Chequi” does not make a sound, sniffs a bit at the dummy and jumps on. He is a professional not only on the dressage ring, for sure!
Claudia collects the semen and Barbara supports the horse coming off the dummy again. Claudia then rushes with the valuable good to the laboratory to prepare it for sending. It is essential that fresh semen arrives at its destiny as quick as possible. Brookhouse Stud delivers fresh semen for free to several selected vets throughout Germany, but also to every other destination which can be reached within the time limit.
The unforgettable Wie Weltmeyer
Emma has watched the procedure and I ask her if we can visit Wie Weltmeyer in the field so I can take some pictures for all the readers of Eurodressage, who surely will remember him. We climb a steep grassy hill to reach “Wally’s” field which is next to one with several cows belonging to Müller. Wally watches us and probably assesses if we are there to take him in. I position myself next to the electrified fence and Emma crawls under it and walks to Wally.
This Hanoverian stallion by Weltmeyer is still the great personality he used to be as a dressage horse of exceptional success and presence. Emma leads him a way down the field as she knows he is going to canter back to the other end. Wally does not disappoint me and canters back with power. Claudia and Antonia come from behind to take in the chestnut for his dinner. Wally willingly follows them like a dog on the lead rein.
Emma and I slide down the steep hill and I watch Antonia washing Wally down in the stable. He enjoys the wellness treatment, but is quite tired from his day out in the field, yawning while I take a picture. Maybe he is also tired of cameras after a long life in the spotlight?
After six exciting hours I say goodbye to everyone. On my way back to the car I discover Fürstenreich enjoying the sunshine in the big paddock. I take my camera out one last time to cherish the contentment and happiness of these Brookhouse stud athletes.