American dressage riders not only import many young horses and FEI schoolmasters from Europe, once in a while they also bring over trainers and riders so that they watch and learn from their knowledge. That is exactly what Melissa Mulchahey did when she decided that her German bred mare Donna Novella was ready to compete at the he MSEDA show in Lexington, KY, September 11, 2004.
Under Fritz Fleischmann, Donna Novella, a black Hanoverian mare by De Niro x Werther x Gotthard, won Second Level Test 1 receiving a score of 73.947% from judge Tami Batts. Donna Novella and Fleischmann became the High Score Second Level for the show.
Mulchahey discovered Donna Novella at the 2002 Verden Elite Auction and the mare was her first purchase ever at an auction. Mulchahey had picked out three horses she liked based on size, temperamant, movement and veterinary exam, but simply fell in love with Donna Novella during the Gala evening, the night before the auction.
"There was an opera singer in the middle of the arena, smoke from lots of dry ice and really loud music with the horses doing a quadrille in the smoke," Mulchahey explained. "Several of the horses really didn't handle the commotion, but Donna just floated around the arena with her ears flopping, totally listening to her rider. I took one look at her and said to my husband, "thats it, she's the one, I have to have her." So lucky for me on auction day, I was the lucky bidder."
Melissa imported the mare into the U.S. in the spring of 2002; Donna Novella was then 4-years old. She was shown in the U.S. in the materiale division and became the USDF Horse of the Year 2002 in Mare Materiale under her amateur rider.
Meike Möller and Donna Novella Score in 2003
In 2003, Mulchahey slowly but steadily began to realize that her "calculated infatuation" purchase at the Verden Elite Auction was a better deal than expected. The black mare was improving rapidly and started to show serious potential to score high in the FEI Young Horse Classes. Melissa wanted to show the mare in the American Selection Trials for the World Young Horse Championships but needed a professional rider to do it. She called up the German Jorn Kubelke, who had trained Donna as a 3-year old, to come over to the U.S.
"However ten days before the show, Jorn had some complications at home and was unable to come," Melissa said, "I was panic stricken. I had spent so much time, effort and energy prepping Donna, and now I didn't have a rider." Mulchahey called Jeanine Pagel, head of Customer Service at the Hanoverian Verband, who helped her find a new rider. "She asked me if I had a preference for one of the auction riders to come over," Melissa explained. "I had ridden several horses from Meike Moeller at the auctions and had liked the way all her horses always went, so she was my first choice. Meike agreed, and 4 days before the competition last year Meike flew over. With the help of my USA based trainer Alex Gerding - Meike and Donna had 4 days to get to know each other. And obviously it worked out fine!"
Donna Novella was shown in the 5 year old FEI Young Horse Division, becoming the Central States Selection Trial Winner and she was fourth on the short list to represent the USA at the 2003 World Championships at Verden.
However, most of Donna's showing was done by Melissa herself. The combination competed at training and first level and ended up with several Horse of the Year awards from the USDF.
Fleischmann and Donna Novella Match
For 2004, Mulchahey engineered a new strategy to campaign her horse. The bulk of 2004 was spent in training and showing in hand at breed shows. "She was Grand Champion of the Kentucky Dressage Association Breed Show and was Grand Champion of the Mid Ohio Dressage Association Breed Show. She has a median score of 83%, so I am quite hopeful she will place highly in the USDF Breed Division Horse of the Year awards," Mulchahey listed.
Through some connections in Germany, Mulchahey was recommended to get in touch with Fritz Fleischmann, the head rider at the barn of Hubertus Schmidt in Paderborn, Germany.
"The reputation of Hubertus' to me was unimpeachable and I was excited at the prospect of having a rider from Hubertus' barn come to help me," Melissa explained. "After a few phone calls Fritz agreed to come to Ohio for one month. He came very highly recommended and seemed to have a good background in both young FEI horses and proven FEI horses."
As a Young Rider Fritz Fleischmann has trained with Hubertus Schmidt, Bimbo Peilicke and Holger Schmezer and was the Young Rider Champion of Westfalia. Fritz has competed at Grand Prix level and is currently competing young horses, his own FEI horse and horses of clients, while pursuing a degree in Economics at the University in Paderborn.
It was Fritz' first trip to the U.S., but it became a definite success. Although it was a last minute decision to enter Donna Novella in the show at Lexington, Fleischmann won the second level test one with a high score of 73.947%. The combination really clicked and Mulchahey is ecstatic about it, as it creates opportunities for so much more. "Fritz remarked that it went so well that he probably should have done Third Level instead," Mulchahey said.
"It was great to work with a German professional rider of Fritz's calibre. I really learned so much and also learned that I have so much more to learn! Donna progressed so much and is schooling most of PSG by the time he left."
Melissa will return to Germany in November to find another Young Horse prospect with the help of Fleischmann. "The horse will stay in Germany with him until February and then he and the horse will come back to
the USA for another round of intensive work with me, the new horse and Donna," Mulchahey explained, adding that "Fritz will continue to work with us and be showing Donna some next year as well as myself showing her," Mulchahey said. "I am looking forward to his return this winter. "
Remarkably, Mulchahey was leaning towards the idea of selling Donna Novella and buying a PSG/I1 horse. However, based on the fantastic progress and even further potential for FEI work that Donna has shown this summer with Fritz's help, that idea is fading fast. "Actually Fritz has forbidden me to sell her now and tells me that she is the horse of a life time for an ambitious amateur like me," Mulchahey said.
Text by Astrid Appels of Eurodressage.com
Melissa Mulchahey's FAS Hanoverians
Horsesdaily Coverage of the 2004 USEF/Markel Young Horse Dressage Championships
Horsesdaily Horsemarket: Donna Novella