The Making of the Modern Warmblood - From Gotthard to Gribaldi is available exclusively in the USA through DressageDaily at Shophorsesdaily.com at the new price of $50 + shipping (reduced from $80)! The Making of the Modern Warmblood - From Gotthard to Gribaldi is the product of over 20 years of research by equestrian journalist Christopher Hector, in all the major breeding areas of the world. Over that time he has interviewed most of the more important breeders and breeding experts to produce a work that brings together – for the first time in the English language – the most influential Performance Horse stallions in all Europe’s major breeding areas, from France to Scandinavia, through Germany, Holland and Belgium over the past 50 years. 144 stallions are individually examined with pedigrees and photos, all of the major Studbooks are profiled, and many of their key players interviewed. This is a work destined to become the standard reference for students of the Warmblood breed. This piece below is a sample chapter from the book that covers the 2008 Hanoverian Stallion of the Year - De Niro.
Licensed for Hanover, Oldenburg, Westfalia, Rhineland, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sweden, Denmark and France. Donnerhall was the first of the great competition dressage stallions. Instead of staying at home in his breeding barn, coming out to cover mares (or more likely the phantom mare), Donnerhall hit the competition trail so successfully that he was a valued member of the all conquering German dressage team, and in doing so started the fashion for breeding stallions who were also serious competitors – a fashion carried on by his son, De Niro.
De Niro comes from the Akzent II mare, Alicante, who was herself a successful dressage competitor, and who produced De Niro’s full brother, Dimension, a stallion with a good reputation in Westfalia. Akzent II was particularly noted as a sire of broodmares and as well as De Niro and Dimension, he is the dam sire of: Gralshüter, Carismo, Welton, Trend, Pik Labonics, World Man G, Grannus As and Gracieux. The dam sire is the Thoroughbred, Wiesenbaum, with the great Ferdinand on the dam line – from this dam line comes Franke Sloothaak’s international showjumper, Landdame.
At the stallion licensing in 1995, De Niro demonstrated his jumping ability, and although in his performance test at Adelheidsdorf the following year, he went better in his riding score – 145.41 and best of the year – he was also competitive in the jumping section with a score of 117.75 which put him into 11th. Overall De Niro finished 2nd with a score of 141.93.
By the year 2000, and at the age of only seven, he was already competing in Grand Prix dressage with Dolf-Dietram Keller – and the following year carried Mr Keller to the title, German Professional Champion. In 2002, De Niro won international Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special tests at Saumur and Berlin, and in 2003, he was the winner of the German Dressage Derby at Hamburg. More recently the young rider, Theresa Wahler has taken the ride on the stallion, competing him at Grand Prix level.
As a sire, De Niro has been a huge success. In 1997 he was awarded the 1-a main premium by the Oldenburg Association on the basis of his progeny. In 2000 his daughter, Die Weingard was the 1-b ‘diamond ring’ mare at the Oldenburg Elite Show at Rastede.
In 2004 he was the sire of Dancier, the Hanoverian licensing champion at Verden, as well as two of the vice-champions. The following year, the Verden champion, Hotline was out of a De Niro mare – this young stallion was sold for the record price of €800,000. In 2006, De Niro was represented by 14 progeny at the Bundeschampionate, making him the most successful sire.
The 2010 Hanoverian Stallion Book records him as having produced 839 competitors, with winnings of €594,416, with 96 of his progeny competing at S level dressage or above. When I interviewed his owner, Burkhard Wahler in 2007, he was rightly proud of his horse: “Some people might disagree, but in my opinion, there is no son of Donnerhall as successful as De Niro. He is only 14, the oldest progeny are ten, four are already placed in Grand Prix. Twenty-four are placed in Prix St Georges and Intermediaire. The offspring last year won almost €195,000, in just one year. When you start thinking that next year there will be more horses, at a higher level, that means they will probably win even more – and the stallion is still very young. My daughter Theresa competed last year with him in Grand Prix, and she will ride him again this year.”
Mr Wahler liked the cross of Donnerhall on Akzent II: “I love to buy the Donnerhall blood but I don’t like the very popular Donnerhall/Pik Bube cross – very heavy big horses, and I didn’t like that so much because I am from the other side, from the Trakehner side and I like more an elegant horse. I really liked De Niro, because he was out of a mare with Wiesenbaum/Akzent breeding. Akzent is through Absatz, Trakehner, Wiesenbaum is from Thoroughbred – so in my opinion, this was a very interesting bloodline.”
The story of how Burkhardt Wahler acquired De Niro is entertaining, and bears out Burkhardt’s maxim that with every stallion comes a story...Wahler’s Klosterhof Medingen stud is in the middle of Hanoverian breeding country, but had always stood Trakehner stallions. He found the Hanoverian breeders would only visit his farm once: “We thought, okay we have so many Hanoverian breeders but they don’t come back – because they used our stallions to breed F1 – half Trakehner, half Hanoverian, then they go back to a Hanoverian stallion and not to a Trakehner again. We had to buy a Hanoverian stallion.”
“It was the first time I’d been to the Stallion Licensing in Verden, and in the catalogue, I had three stallions marked – and one of those three was De Niro. At that time, Celle could choose ten stallions for a certain price and it was not possible for private breeders to buy those stallions. When I looked at the stallions, there was only one I wanted to buy, that was De Niro. Then I asked Mr Jahncke, the President of the Hanoverian Association, do you think the state stud will take him? Yes. Probably he goes to Celle.”
“It’s always the same weekend with two stallion licensings – Verden has the Hanoverians, Neumünster has the Trakehners. So I left Verden and went to Neumünster. I called the next day after the freejumping – is he going to Celle? No. They thought Dr Bade didn’t take him because he is by Donnerhall, and Donnerhall was a private stallion, and he didn’t want to make private stallions popular. In this time they took Weltmeyer, Weltmeyer, Weltmeyer. Every year twelve Weltmeyer stallions. So then I called my partner, Tönne Böckmann from the Böckmann stallion station, and I said, I am here in Neumünster, you go and buy that stallion...”
“It was in the days when they didn’t have a proper auction for the licensed stallions, just the people who are interested used go into some rooms of the Verband office and bid amongst themselves for the stallions. Paul Schockemöhle was on the phone to the Hanoverian breeding director, Dr Wilkens who was doing the deal. The price went up to 150, 170, 180 Deutschmarks - so 80/90,000 euros - and Schockemöhle asked, who’s bidding against me? Oh it doesn’t matter...No, who is it? Böckmann. I want to talk to him...Okay, Paul said, I stop now, you buy him and we can talk later. But what he didn’t know was that Böckmann already had a partner!”
“Then on Monday the telephone was ringing, Schockemöhle’s manager was ringing Böckmann wanting to know how they were going to make the arrangements for the stallion. There’s one problem, Böckmann said, I have already a partner, and you have to talk to him. Two days later Paul calls me and says, listen I stopped bidding. And I said, yes Paul that was very nice, we have been friends for a long time...but now I have him and I am not interested in having a third owner in him. You should think about it, Paul said. At the end, I had no more arguments, and I didn’t know what to say, so I said, I really can’t decide - I have to ask my wife!”
“Paul said, are you crazy? Böckmann says ‘I can’t decide, you have to ask Wahler’. Wahler says ‘I can’t decide I have to call my wife!’ At the end Böckmann and I had De Niro ourselves. We got very lucky.”
According to Mr Wahler, De Niro crosses over a wide variety of mare lines: “We have bred a lot with Weltmeyer mares, in Oldenburg with many Rubinstein mares. Okay with the Donnerhall blood, once in a while they could be a little heavy, Donnerhall himself produced some heavy horses, that can happen – that’s why we try all the time to make sure we don’t get too heavy mares for De Niro. He makes very good dressage horses, especially with a good hindleg.”
Currently De Niro is the sire of 60 licensed stallion sons around the world. Two are standing at Celle: Dancier and Der Lord, while six more – Depardieu, Danone I & II. Donatello, Donautanz and Duke of Oldenburg stand at Burkhardt Wahler’s farm, Klosterhof Medingen, alongside their father. On the 2010 FN rankings, De Niro has a dressage score of 142, as against a jumping score of 71. On the 2010 Hanoverian calculations he has a dressage index of 121 and a jumping index of 67.