As I begin the first draught of this article on behalf of the Oldenburg Verband, I find myself sitting on a train, beginning the first leg of my journey home, to Canada for Christmas. I currently live in Europe but I am fortunate to have an opportunity to fly back to North America with some horses. After spending Christmas with my family I will be heading to Montreal area to stay with a wonderful lady, who I met during the Oldenburg Winter Meeting this past December. You see, sometimes a group of like minded people come together and with a little magic, exciting things start to happen. I want to share with you a little bit of how a special magical moment happened at the Oldenburg Winter Meeting this past December.
December 6th a group of people gathered in a hotel lobby in Lohne, Germany. Most of us strangers, we slowly began getting to know each other. Tentatively at first, but very quickly our love for horses overcame our strangeness and we were sharing stories of our horses in no time. Truly there were people from all over the world: Canada, USA, Switzerland, Romania, Indonesia. We met our tremendously helpful, welcoming and knowledgable hosts for the meeting: Peer Eitenmüller and Sebastian Rohde. Climbing into a couple of vans we embarked on our adventure.
First stop was the Oldenburg head office in Vechta, where we had an introduction to the inner workings of the progressive Verband. Following the in depth presentation, we headed out to tour the facilities and observe the training and trials of the auction horses.
The afternoon was rounded out with a tour of the Schockemöhle stables where we were able to meet a few of the more famous stallions. I must note that I have never seen cleaner more deeply bedded stables in my life. Dinner was combined with a presentation by Inge Workel on the Mare Performance Test.
The following morning we were whisked off to Warendorf and its legendary stables did not disappoint! The sprawling equestrian centre combined the illustrious history of the horse in Europa with present day modern sporthorse breeding and education programs. Several fantastic stallions were presented for our benefit to view and discuss... …but alas it was rather cold and the horses were very fresh! We moved on with a tour of the historic facilities, touring the breeding facilities, arenas, and seeing the young stallions being prepared for their licensing tests. We also got to see a number of draught breeds that were being protected to ensure their survival. After a group photo session with the famous Paradox monument (some monuments are just meant to be ridden) we headed off to the Warendorf city center for a lunch in a restaurant with the loveliest Christmas spirit.
Next we headed to Hengstation Holkenbrink for another tour. I must admit I was rather looking forward to this visit as both myself and a lovely lady - who had travelled all the way from California - had young horses by the stallion Franziskus… And he did not disappoint: what a handsome stallion! You must note my bias but just standing out of his box he looked every bit a super model of a horse.
So, it can't be all horses all the time, Peer and Sebastian had built in some touristy time. After the tour of Holkenbrink we headed off to one of Münsters many beautiful Christmas markets where hilarity and merriment ensued. I think we will keep those photographs private....
Friday morning we hit the ground running and headed up to Oldenburg to tour Hengststation Ahlers. We were warmly greeted and spoiled with coffee and delicious cakes and cookies but the highlight was having some foals presented to us. We had discussed on Wednesday evening during the mare performance test presentation that it would be nice to see what the champion foals would look like as a mature horse. Well, the Ahler family presented such a foal… …and then promptly presented us with his full brother, 3 years older under saddle, which was good for practicing the eye as a breeder.
Up until now we had toured only stallion stations, so the final farm tour was complementary as it was of a horse rearing station, Farm Oldehus. Incidentally, one of the fabulous ladies from Pensicola Florida had two lovely, furry and sweet young foals (purchased from a summer Oldenburg Auction) happily growing up at this farm. After a great deal of snuggling with babies and drinking gluhwein and eating boterkoek, we headed back to the hotel for the home stretch the following day.
The final day consisted of a shopping spree of sorts at Schockemöhle, one last time to try the auction horses, and the cherry on top: The Winter Auction. Now this is where the camaraderie and friendship that developed over the past days shone through.
A discerning breeder from Quebec, Canada had her eye set on a beautiful Best of Gold mare in the auction. Through out the winter meeting we speculated on price and chances of the mare getting an honorary Canadian citizenship. The entire winter meeting crew were emotionally invested. The auction started and the mare in question was about three quarters of the way into the auction. Prices were fair and horses were being sold all over the world- the tension in our group began to build. We were a few horses away from the beautiful mare we were all waiting for and suddenly there was a flurry of activity. The lady from Pensicola, Florida abruptly got out of her seat and found her way to where the lady from Quebec was sitting. I don't know what was said or what was agreed upon - and maybe it was the excitement of the auction or the Glühwein (we had developed a taste for THAT) but it was quickly whispered amongst out group that the two marvellous ladies were going to buy the mare together.
Finally it was time. The mare trotted into the ring with a flourish and the bidding started. It was tense and seemed to last forever but finally the gavel struck the block! A cheer went up from the Winter meeting crowed and the auctioneer asked, " And where has this horse been sold", to which Sebastian, our marvellous host shouted above the cheers of congratulations and excitement: "To Canada AND the USA, an international collaboration!"
The Oldenburg Winter Meeting was over before we knew it. We all said our good-byes on the evening of the auction as everyone was headed to their own unique future adventures and directions. The Winter Meeting had certainly fulfilled its end of the bargain in terms of education and exploration of the Oldenburg breed and far exceeded my expectations in terms of hospitality and connecting with other like minded horse people from all over the world. To be a part of the special week culminating in the marvellous moment of friendship and collaboration at the auction, well, it still gives me goosebumps and I hope that future members of future meetings are as fortunate as us to have such an experience.