The idea of a visit to Tannenhof Stallion Show grew from my choice of the young Holstein stallion Contados (Contender x MytensXX) to breed to my ISH mare in 2009. I had been very impressed by the video and photos that I had seen of him – I also loved the pedigree for an eventer! He was standing at Tannenhof last year, and it was planned that he should return for 2010.
Tragically, my mare lost the foal in December due to a twisted umbilicus, but as I was determined to try again with the same breeding, I was keen to view Contados at the Tannenhof Stallion Show; there were also several others of their stallions that both I and two fellow mare owners were interested in.
So we set off from Heathrow on the 27th February, for what was intended to be a short weekend visit. We had decided, rather at the last minute, to get to see Balou Star (Balou du Rouet x Quick Star x Domino) at Kassel on the Sunday, having spoken to his very informative and enthusiastic owner Udo Oppermann to arrange this.
The Tannenhof Stud is a 40 minute drive from Frankfurt Airport, and is set amidst the rolling hills and woodland of the Hesse region, scattered with incredibly picturesque little villages and towns, all higgledy-piggledy half-timbered houses. Why anyone from the US should want to go to Chester when they have numerous examples of half-timbering in this region of Germany, I don’t know!!
When we arrived at the village of Heidenrod-Watzelhain for the Tannenhof Stallion Show it was quickly obvious that this was a very different sort of event from the equivalent in the UK. The stud itself was situated amidst the homes of the village. Family groups were streaming into the main hall and arena of the stud, and the professional breeders present in the audience were definitely in the minority! As the afternoon wore on, presentation of the stallions was interspersed with displays of carriage driving, dog agility, and unicycles ... All round entertainment, in fact!
The Gestuet Tannenhof is itself very much a family affair which has been built over a period of 26 years; it is run by Klaus Plönzke, his daughter Anja, who competes and rides the young stallions, and Roland Bauer, who is the Managing Director of the Bauer company providing horse transport and very impressive horse lorries, examples of which were on display on site.
The Tannenhof stallions are both dressage- and jumper-bred, with a slight bias towards dressage lines. For the most part, they are typical of the modern type currently fashionable – long-legged, lean athletes. The Holstein, Oldenburg and Westfalian studbooks were all represented amongst the stallions presented on this Saturday. The first stallion brought into the arena was Rousseau Noir, (Rousseau x Del Piero). He is a substantial, long-backed tall horse, with a powerful shoulder and huge walk. He has powerful hindquarters, and strong hindlegs with a good length of cannon. Tail set a little low, perhaps. He is a large impressive horse with a handsome head, and a very good work ethic, but somehow lacked that intangible element of charisma for me. His pedigree, though, is impressive – his sire Rousseau is by Ferro, a Silver Medal winner at the Olympics. Rousseau himself finished with the highest scores in his stallion performance test in Ermelo in 2001, and went on to win the Dutch Pavo Cup and in 2003 to become the Vice Champion of Young Dressage Horses in Verden.
Cassitano (Casado x Brisco x Carthago) (photo right)
was the next to be shown, a lighter and more
modern type, a 16.3hh four year old bay stallion
with a very pretty head, good length of neck,
wonderful big feet, and a powerful croup. He
displayed a very balanced, uphill and fluid
performance under saddle, with a willing attitude.
It was very nice to see such a relaxed young horse
so happy in his work. Cassitano was approved at
the Holstein stallion licensing in 2008, and went
on to take the title in the class for 3 year-old riding
horses at the State Championships.
At his 30-day test in Neustadt he achieved 5th place out of a group of 32 stallions. A critique would be that he was a little narrow in front, but the jumping display that we saw from him later certainly bore out the promise of what one of us described as a “good jumping bum”! Cassitano jumped very competently and tidily, and was keen to perform, though not aggressive or exaggerated in his jumping style. One of our group selected him as a potential match for her mare to produce an amateur-friendly show jumping prospect.
The seven-year-old golden chestnut stallion Don Laurie II (Don Schufro x Lauries Crusader) provided a superb display of his paces, beautifully shown off by his rider Anja Plönzke, in spite of a tendency to sharpness and tension at the outset. He oozes presence, and demonstrated a lovely rhythmic canter and impressive extension in trot, with light, elevated paces. He has powerful quarters, with a good length of rein and large handsome head. His quality is confirmed by the result of his 70 day test at Adelheidsdorf, where he achieved Performance Class One. We also saw an example of his offspring - a very pretty chestnut foal, who floated with immense grace across the arena, showing quite as much elevation as the sire!
The 3 year old 16.2hh stallion Fahrenheit (Fidertanz x De Niro)
(photo right) was next to be presented. He’s a tall bay horse,
who looks like he still has a lot of growing into himself to
do, so it was difficult to make any very definite judgements
about him. His pedigree is outstanding, but he did look a
bit green and not very balanced under saddle in the arena.
He is a very pretty blood-type horse, with nice loose
movement and a willing attitude, despite his initially apparent
nerves. He has a slightly high-set neck, and with not quite
enough muscle development and a large head, almost
appearing swan-necked from some angles. We also saw him
put over some jumps later on, and again, he looked very immature and not quite balanced over obstacles. This is a horse that in two or three years time will likely be transformed in his shape and balance into something very impressive indeed for the dressage arena, as suggested by his superb pedigree, once he has matured further.
Next was the six year old Don Corazon, (Don Frederico x Weltmeyer) a big, powerful entirely black stallion standing 16.3hh, with lots of presence. He gained the Reserve Championship at his 70-day test in 2007, receiving a score of 9.0 for rideability and 8.8 for his canter. His success extends to his offspring, one of whom became the Champion of the 2008 Tannenhof Foal Championships. Watching him, his paces were certainly very impressive, athletic, light and with a powerful engine behind, if a bit wide. As far as his conformation was concerned, we thought that he had quite a long second thigh, and seemed slightly light-boned in the leg compared to his body mass.
Into the ring after Don Corazon was the well-bred advanced show-jumping stallion Acomet (Arpeggio x Pilot x Furioso II). He looked very compact after the recent dressage performances, with a very pretty head, and his performance was very good. On initial glance, he did not give an impression of power from behind, with a slightly long back and downhill movement, but once pointed at the jumps, he came into his own, jumping aggressively and with much scope and good reflexes. Acomet’s unique pedigree includes two crosses to the legendary Westphalian stallion Pilot.
One of the horses that we had been keen to see was the 16.3hh dark bay, Conteur (Contender x Rasputin) – and he did not disappoint! He was awarded a Premium at his licensing, finished his 2001 30-day test with the highest marks, and then took the Reserve Champion title at his 70 day test. He was subsequently leased for several years by the State Stud at Celle. He has had numerous successes with his offspring, with thirteen sons licensed so far, and his offspring achieving total winnings of €69,440 in 2009. His daughter Chirara gained top price at the CHIO Auction in Aachen, selling to a UK buyer for €240,000. He himself was competing successfully with Anja Plönzke at S Level when he had to be retired after an injury. He is a beautifully proportioned and balanced stallion, surprisingly blood, with presence and elegance. He has a powerful shoulder, and moves strongly off his hindleg, with balanced, and rhythmic paces. Although a lighter modern type, he has a good depth of girth, and looked alert and responsive under saddle. He has a very attractive and kind eye. We saw evidence of the quality of his offspring when two were presented in-hand and then loose-jumped. Both impressed with their paces and jumping ability, and one in particular was spectacular in the ease with which it sailed over the jump, with feet to spare!
An unexpected treat was the three-year old 16.1hh stallion Chacco (Chacco Blue x Stakkato x Grannus), acquired by Tannenhof at the 2009 Hengstmarkt, Verden. We were all very taken with him. He has, again, some maturing still to do, and I would want to see more of him under saddle in a year or so, but he has loads of presence, and a very pretty head. I described him in my notes as “long and streamlined”, with an athlete’s form, and a very impressive jump, making a beautiful shape over the obstacle, and really locking onto the jumping lane in his eagerness to perform. Mind you, with his pedigree, it’s a talent that he should possess in spades! Conformation-wise, he was very slightly straight through the hind leg, and a bit lacking in depth of girth, but otherwise looked very correct and athletic. He showed himself as being still slightly green over an obstacle, unsurprisingly, and could sometimes have opened out his shoulder more, but that really is to nit-pick.
We had a brief view of the nineteen year old Cyrano, (Cantus x Ahorn) being led round in-hand, and taking every advantage of the outing to show us he still possessed lots of energy and a bit of cheek! His record of achievement as a jumper, winning at the 1996 Bundeschampionat, being placed at the young horse championships at Zangersheide, and numerous other placings and wins – speaks for itself. Cyrano possesses good bone, and a beautiful head, with a very powerful build.
Following on from Cyrano was the 7 year old brown stallion Sungold (Sandro Hit x Grundstein II). As someone who is not naturally drawn to the modern dressage horse, I was surprised to be knocked out by this chap! He’s an impressive presence at over 17hh and beautifully put together, correctly proportioned, slightly shorter-backed than many of the previous stallions that we had seen, with a powerful front-end, and substantial quarters. He moves strongly through his hocks, and overall has a lovely correct action, without the exaggerated paces that you see from some modern dressage stallions. He is obviously one of the stars at Tannenhof, and he and Anja looked as though they had a great partnership, with the horse enormously enjoying his work, looking alert and responsive. He has only been at Tannenhof since 2009, and is already scoring successes with Anja on the dressage circuit, as well as siring the Champion Foal at the Land Tage Nord Championships.
Well, we waited, and we waited ... dog agility shows and unicycles came and went, and there was still no sign of Contados. Eventually I asked one of the staff, only to be told that he wasn’t there (we had already spotted his empty stable) – apparently he had contracted a minor virus just before he was due to arrive for the stud season from his owner’s, and was being checked over at the vet clinic. So, with some disappointment, we piled into our hire car and set off for the little town of Butzbach near Giessen , where we had booked a bed & breakfast for the night. We were due to travel on to Kassel the following day to meet up with Udo Opperman, who had arranged for us to view his talented young stallion Balou Star.