Born to Per­form: Blood­lines of Top Dres­sage Horses

Des­per­a­dos FRH: The Epit­ome of To­day’s Hanove­rian Breed

Dressage Today - - Content - By Karen M. Brit­tle

Des­per­a­dos FRH: The Epit­ome of To­day’s Hanove­rian Breed

The first horse in our se­ries is the world-fa­mous black stal­lion, Des­per­a­dos FRH. Like his sire, De Niro, and grand­sire, Don­ner­hall, be­fore him, Des­per­a­dos is widely re­garded as one of the most in­flu­en­tial Hanove­rian stal­lions of the past 40 years. Known for his ex­cel­lent type, ex­pres­sive move­ment and hand­some good looks, the 16-year-old is ap­proved for breed­ing by the Hanove­rian Stud­book as well as by mul­ti­ple other warm­blood reg­istries. In Ger­many, more than 30 of his sons have al­ready been li­censed as a “Pre­mium” stal­lions and many of Des­per­a­dos’ prog­eny have proven them­selves as per­for­mance horses around the world. Un­der his long-time rider, Kristina Bröring-Sprehe of Ger­many, Des­per­a­dos has medaled at the Olympic Games, in­clud­ing team gold and in­di­vid­ual bronze in Rio, as well as at many other na­tional and in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions. In 2016, he was named Hanove­rian Stal­lion of the Year by the Han­nover­aner Ver­band.

The Pedi­gree of a World-Class Horse

Chris­tine Trau­rig, U.S. Olympian and cur­rent Young Horse Coach for the USEF, grew up rid­ing Hanove­ri­ans on her par­ents’ breed­ing farm in Ger­many. The farm was lo­cated just out­side Ver­den, the river­side town where the Han­nover­aner Ver­band is head­quar­tered and where the world-fa­mous Hanove­rian in­spec­tions and auc­tions are held each year. For Trau­rig, this com­mu­nity and these horses—work­ing the young stock, rid­ing the sale horses, at­tend­ing the breed in­spec­tions and auc­tions—would be­come the foun­da­tion for her fu­ture in­ter­na­tional suc­cess in dres­sage.

As some­one who was (lit­er­ally) “raised on Hanove­ri­ans,” Trau­rig agreed to guide us through a close read­ing of Des­per­a­dos’ pedi­gree. “First and fore­most, Des­per­a­dos is one of the per­fect rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the mod­ern dres­sage horse, not only rep­re­sent­ing the Hanove­rian breed but what all breed­ing as­so­ci­a­tions and coun­tries are aim­ing to­ward,” says Trau­rig. “He’s el­e­gant and light in type and ex­pres­sion. His move­ment is elas­tic, with the scope and ad­justa­bil­ity that’s needed for pi­affe and pas­sage. And, there’s his tem­per­a­ment—he’s got a great work ethic and is ea­ger to please his rider.”

Trau­rig says Des­per­a­dos’ pedi­gree re­flects the pre­dom­i­nant breed­ing strate­gies uti­lized by Hanove­rian breed­ers since the 1960s. She ex­plains: “What stands out is the depth of his pedi­gree in re­gards to fun­da­men­tal stal­lions: Don­ner­hall, Welt­meyer and Matcho. These stal­lions are the foun­da­tion of the Hanove­rian breed mov­ing from past to present.” Trau­rig points out that De Niro, Des­per­a­dos’ sire, is one of the most fa­mous and suc­cess­ful sires of dres­sage horses in the world. A son of the leg­endary Olden­burg stal­lion, Don­ner­hall, De Niro was named Hanove­rian Stal­lion of the Year in 2008. De Niro com­peted through Grand Prix with in­ter­na­tional suc­cess, as have more than ten of his off-spring. He’s sired six horses that have com­peted in dres­sage at the Olympic Games.

Trau­rig points out the no­table in­flu­ence of the in­cor­po­ra­tion of “hot blooded” Trakehn­ers, Thor­ough­breds and An­glo-Arabs on DeNiro’s pedi­gree. (He’s 28.13 per­cent Thor­ough­bred/Ara-

bian, while Des­per­a­dos is 15.63 per­cent “blood.”) On the dam side, De Niro’s pedi­gree traces back through Ali­cante to Akzent II, a Hanove­rian born in 1975. Akzent II was sired by Ab­satz, a pro­lific Hanove­rian stal­lion born in 1960, who was by the Trakehner Abglanz, a stal­lion who was graded into the Hanove­rian stud­book in the mid-1900s and whose in­flu­ence helped to re­fine the breed. (We see the in­flu­ence of Ab­satz on both the sire and dam side of Des­per­a­dos’s pedi­gree.) Ac­cord­ing to Trau­rig, the in­flu­ence of hot-blooded horses on tra­di­tional stock is re­spon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing the mod­ern dres­sage horse.

Des­per­a­dos’ mother, a chest­nut mare named Wie Musik, is also a case in point of this ap­proach to sporthorse breed­ing. Trau­rig points out Wie Musik is by Wolken­stein II who is by Welt­meyer, both Hanove­rian stal­lions, but Wie Musik’s dam was sired by Matcho, a 16-hand, jet black, French­bred An­glo Ara­bian who was pur­chased by the State Stud at Celle specif­i­cally to lighten the Warm­bloods be­ing bred in Ger­many in the 1980s and 90s. Trau­rig ex­plains: “Welt­meyer is one of the most fa­mous stal­lions in the Hanove­rian breed. Over time, it be­came ap­par­ent that his di­rect off­spring were strik­ing in type and ba­sic move­ment, but of­ten lacked the ‘light-foot­ed­ness,’ elas­tic­ity and ad­justa­bil­ity re­quired for up­per-level work. In this pedi­gree, we can see how the in­flu­ence of Matcho, through his daugh­ter Maskottchen, has mod­ern­ized the breed­ing on Des­per­a­dos’ dam’s side.” Matcho’s daugh­ters are known for not only for their beauty, but also for their abil­ity to im­prove type and con­for­ma­tion and pro­duce off­spring with tal­ent for dres­sage.

Trau­rig sug­gests Des­per­a­dos epit­o­mizes the re­sult of this ap­proach to breed­ing the con­tem­po­rary dres­sage horse: he’s more re­fined and lighter than horses of the past, long-legged (es­pe­cially up front), has an up­hill build and re­fined head. Trau­rig says, “There’s also his color. For to­day’s dres­sage arena, the darker the bet­ter!” (She then quickly adds: “But al­ways re­mem­ber a good horse has no color.”)

In ad­di­tion to pass­ing on color, gen­eral type and ex­cep­tional move­ment, Trau­rig says Des­per­a­dos’ off­spring are known for their good tem­per­a­ment. His daugh­ter, Doris Day, a Hanove­rian mare named Hanove­rian Mare Cham­pion in 2010, is a per­fect ex­am­ple of Des­per­a­dos’ abil­ity to stamp his off-spring with his best traits.

The Reg­istry: Han­nover­aner Ver­band

The Han­nover­aner Ver­band is one of the old­est, largest and most in­flu­en­tial Warm­blood reg­istries. In The In­ter­na­tional Warm­blood Horse, co-au­thor Deb­bie Wallin writes: “Most of the ma­jor Warm­blood breed­ing so­ci­eties have at least a cer­tain per­cent­age of Hanove­rian mares and stal­lions in their stud­books, the ex­cep­tions be­ing those of the Selle Fran•ais, the Hol­stein and the Trakehner.” The Ver­band has of­fi­cially reg­u­lated the breed since 1922, though the breed’s his­tory goes back much fur­ther. Ac­cord­ing to the Ver­band’s website: “The

be­gin­nings of pur­pose­fully breed­ing Hanove­rian horses can be traced back to the 16th cen­tury. Breed­ing horses was an es­sen­tial ba­sis of ex­is­tence for the farm­ers.” His­tor­i­cally, the Hanove­rian state owned the stal­lions and sub­si­dized the breed­ing pro­grams of mod­est farm­ers, who cared for the brood­mares (typ­i­cally also work­ing farm horses) and raised the foals. Over the cen­turies, the breed adapted many times to the ne­ces­si­ties of mil­i­tary and farm life, usu­ally with the in­tro­duc­tion of Thor­ough­bred or Trakehner blood­lines to lighten and re­fine. To­day, the Ver­band de­scribes the ideal Hanove­rian horse as fol­lows: “an ex­cel­lent to ride, no­ble, cor­rect and big-framed Warm­blood… a part­ner for sport and plea­sure.” Hanove­ri­ans stand be­tween 16- and 17-hands high and are noted for their good bone, good feet and re­fined looks.

The Legacy

If it’s true that Des­per­a­dos FRH epit­o­mizes the mod­ern dres­sage horse, it’s also true that his story epit­o­mizes the his­tory of Hanove­rian breed­ing in Ger­many. Des­per­a­dos was bred by Her­bert SchŸtt (now in his 80s) in Hem­moor, Ger­many, on a fam­ily farm lo­cated 50 miles from Ver­den. In a 2016 in­ter­view, SchŸtt’s son, Claus, told WBFSH Breed­ing News: “The fam­ily of Des­per­a­dos FRH has been in my fam­ily for al­most 100 years. I have a photo of Lacilla (by Lorenz) on a wall in my home, she was born in 1923. The horses from this line were used to work on the farm, but in 1964, my fa­ther stopped us­ing them as work horses and kept them for breed­ing rid­ing horses. I al­ways started the horses and then they were sold, or we kept the bet­ter ones for breed­ing.” The horse Claus refers to, Lacilla, was a reg­is­tered Han­nove­rian mare, seven gen­er­a­tions back on the dam side of Des­per­a­dos’ pedi­gree.

De­spite the out­stand­ing suc­cess of the SchŸtt’s breed­ing pro­gram, the fam­ily has kept their op­er­a­tion small, breed­ing just a few horses each year, pro­duc­ing Hanove­ri­ans for both dres­sage and jump­ing. In a 2012 state­ment made to the Ger­man news­pa­per Cux­havEner Nachrichten, SchŸtt re­calls his im­pres­sions of Des­per­a­dos as a foal: “Slop­ing shoul­der, cor­rectly po­si­tioned legs, glossy black and a pic­ture-per­fect face. One rec­og­nizes a promis­ing foal right away.” In the same ar­ti­cle, Claus com­mented, “Even as a foal, Des­per­a­dos looked like a poem.” To­day, Des­per­a­dos FRH is owned by GestŸt Sprehe, a large breed­ing op­er­a­tion in the Olden­burg re­gion of Ger­many, and con­tin­ues to com­pete un­der Bršring-Sprehe with ex­cep­tional suc­cess and longevity on the world stage.

Ger­man Olympian Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Des­per­a­dos FRH, a 16-year-old Hanove­rian stal­lion who was ranked 2nd in the world at the time our re­search be­gan.

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