The Making of the Modern Warmblood From Gotthard to Gribaldi - Weltmeyer

Weltmeyer - World Cup I x Absatz (Photo: Werner Ernst)
Weltmeyer - World Cup I x Absatz (Photo: Werner Ernst)

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Foaled in 1984, Weltmeyer was a sensation the day he was born, according to his breeder, Hermann Meyer, and he proved Mr Meyer right when he was champion of his licensing in Verden. Incidentally, it is from Mr Meyer that Weltmeyer gets his name – ‘Meyer’ which is about as common in Germany as ‘Smith’ in England, and means something like ‘dairyman’. As the Hanoverian heavies were celebrating Weltmeyer’s win at the licensing with a few hefty glasses of schnapps, they were contemplating an appropriate name, what about World Champion? Great, till someone remembered it had been taken, ah they said, the schnapps cutting in now, we’ll call him Weltmeyer – so Worlddairyman it was...I guess the story is funnier in German, with the schnapps.

At the Bundeschampionate, Weltmeyer continued his triumphal progress. According to deputy breeding director of the Hannoverian Verband, Dr Ludwig Christmann: “He moved through the arena unflustered. His trot was magnificent. It could not have been any better. The judging committee gave him the top score of 10. His canter stride was a leap forward flowing through the entire body of the horse. It earned a 9.5. The walk was ground-covering and earned an 8.0 (if there is a little worry about the Weltmeyer progeny it is in the area of the walk). In addition he received a 9.5 for conformation and for his overall impression.”

One of the few ‘doubters’ at the time was Westfalien born, bred and based, Johann Hinnemann who as the test rider for the ride off at the Bundeschampionate, awarded Weltmeyer a score so low that the announcer declined to read it out, suggesting that the rider could reveal his score - and the reasoning behind it.

Years later, with Weltmeyer an acknowledged champion sire, Jo told me he was unrepentant: “I have still not changed my mind. The director of the Hanoverian Stud, Dr Bade was very angry when we gave Weltmeyer low marks after riding him but we had to judge a riding horse competition and not a stallion competition. Weltmeyer is a monument of a horse, and he will produce - especially I think in the second generation - very good riding horses, which will bring breeding a step forward. But when I rode him at the Bundeschampionate in my opinion, he was a horse that was uncomfortable to ride, He had a 15 walk, a 15 trot and a canter for 15, you couldn’t handle that. He gave a lot of energy and perfect basic gaits to his offspring, and they were very successful at the Bundeschampionate, and now I have some horses here that have Weltmeyer as a grandfather and I am enthusiastic about that.”

Weltmeyer went on the win his performance test at Adelheidsdorf with a dressage score of 143.94 - more surprisingly he had a jumping score of 141.44. With the huge demand from mare owners for Weltmeyer, state stud director, Dr Bade took the unprecedented step of not sending Weltmeyer out to a stallion station, but keeping him at the breeding station in Celle where he was bred to 200 mainstudbook and State Premium mares from all over the Hannoverian breeding district. This was a ‘kick start’ the like of which no other first-season stallion had received, and there are still those who question Weltmeyer’s success, claiming that it comes in no small part from the superior mares he covered. Still there is no doubt that Weltmeyer is a sensation as a breeding stallion. In 1991, a colt from his first crop, Wittinger (out of a mare by Raphael) was champion of his licensing, and went on the following year - like his dad - to win the title at the Bundeschampionate, and his performance test. At the 1992 licensing, Wolkenstein II (out of a mare by Wendekreis) was reserve champion, and then won his performance test the following year, the year in which Wolkentanz won his licensing and he too went on to win at the Bundeschampionate, and stand reserve champion at his performance test.

Wittinger the first licensing winner - Weltmeyer x Raphael (Photo: Werner Ernst)
Wittinger the first licensing winner - Weltmeyer x Raphael (Photo: Werner Ernst)

According to the rider who has been with him all his life, Hans-Peter Klaus: “Weltmeyer has fantastic basic gaits. And it is something very special to ride such an eye-catching horse, especially while he is trotting. When he was a young horse his movements were extremely elastic and powerful. I am always very impressed by his willingness to learn and to do a good job. When Weltmeyer was young, he was a bit difficult to handle, but it was better when he matured. Weltmeyer passes this attitude and the spectacular trot to his offspring. All ‘Weltmeyers’ want to be ridden and they ask for work. People enjoy riding Weltmeyer’s sons and daughters, they are very suitable for ambitious riders.”

According to the Hanoverian Verband Breeding director, Dr Jochen Wilkens, who handed over the job to Werner Schade in 2006, of all the stallions during his time as director, Weltmeyer has been the most important.

“For the dressage horses, Weltmeyer has been the most influential. He is now 21 years old, and he has brought to the Hanoverian breed, firstly typiness. He himself is of a refined type and I think it comes from his mother, who is by Absatz, so he gives his type. Another point is that he gives us that big step in trot – they are very elastic and very engaged. The canter is good, a little weak point is the walk. Some of the offspring are not so optimal in the walk, but altogether, from the point of dressage, he is the stallion of his time.”

Which of his sons and grandsons will be the most important heirs of Weltmeyer?
“This is another difficult question. There is Wolkenstein and Wolkentanz, both are in the breed for a long time. Wolkenstein gives a little more jumping ability, I think he is one of the few Weltmeyers to do this. Wolkentanz, tremendous good rideability, and very engaged in all three gaits. Of the younger stallions, Worldly I think is a very interesting horse with Brentano on the mother side. At this stage I think he is the most interesting son of Weltmeyer.”

In 1997 Weltmeyer’s first grandsons made their appearance with Welser (by Wolkenstein II, mare by Lanthan) reserve champion at the licensing, while the following year, Waterford (again by Wolkenstein II, mare by Matcho AA) won his licensing and Welser placed second in the performance test.

Weltmeyer, according to the 2010 Hanoverian Stallion book, had produced 85 licensed sons. Interestingly, unlike Donnerhall who found the perfect match with Pik Bube, Weltmeyer has clicked with mares by a number of sires, from the slightly more old fashioned mare lines of Dr Schulz-Stellenfleth (Wolkenstein I, II, III) to Welt Hit 1 to 6, out of a mare by the Thoroughbred, Hill Hawk. Weltmeyer is also proving a valuable sire of broodmares, and the cross Donnerhall/Weltmeyer has produced some very nice horses. However I am indebted to my Canadian colleague, Judy Wardrope ( for the observation that there are some stallions who just have to become great brood mare sires because of the quality of the mares sent to them. Her example was the Thoroughbred, Secretariat, who covered almost every top American Thoroughbred broodmare and ended up recognized as a brood mare sire without a lot of star  performers. I guess the situation is the same with Weltmeyer, he had access to most of Hanover’s top mare lines and his chances of siring good brood mares were greatly magnified. Having said that, Weltmeyer is no freak, he comes from the most successful dressage family in the world, the ‘W’ family that begins with Woermann. For mine, one of the most exciting things Weltmeyer does (in common with most of the good ‘W’ stallions) is stamp his offspring with a wonderful hock action, instantly cleanly forward and under the centre of gravity - none of that ‘out behind’ coach horse action of earlier times. The other great thing about Weltmeyer is the potency of his semen, even when he was 19, the manager of his breeding station told me that they were getting between 10 and 15 serves from each collect, and his frozen semen is consistently the best on the market.

According to Dr Ludwig Christmann of the Hanoverian Verband: “Weltmeyer is one of those stallions that are born only rarely - Absatz, Bolero, Weltmeyer - they leave their mark on the offspring, they are timeless. It is just not possible to reproduce such a stallion, you can try to breed them, but everything has to click and fit for it to happen. He is the number one stallion.”

Warum Nicht FRH sired by Weltmeyer
Warum Nicht FRH sired by Weltmeyer

The criticism of Weltmeyer is always that the horses won’t collect, that there are 5000 offspring, where are they in Grand Prix?
“There are Weltmeyer offspring in Grand Prix. Weltmeyer definitely has his place in the breeding of dressage horses because of the active hind end he produces, and the regularity with which he produces that movement. It is also a question of how many Grand Prix riders we have. I think if Weltmeyer has the right partners, then he produces Grand Prix horses.”

What are the right mare partners for Weltmeyer?
“For most breeders the first aim is to produce sellable riding horses, not many are looking to produce a Grand Prix dressage horse, they want a talented riding horse with three good gaits and rideability. We find that Weltmeyer works well with mares with Thoroughbred blood, he has always worked well with Bolero, and he also seems to work well with Lauries Crusador. He himself is not a refining stallion and he is not a stallion to put longer legs on the offspring. Sometimes the walk could be better for the Weltmeyer offspring. So I would say long legged mares with a certain proportion of Thoroughbred blood.”

Weltmeyer has already produced an Olympic representative in the form of Rosemount Wallstreet which perhaps answers some of those who run the line that while the Weltmeyers are very fancy moving young horses ‘of course they will never collect’. In fact, Weltmeyer almost had two representatives at the Sydney Olympic Games, the stallion Wie Weltmeyer was long listed for British selection, but the general feeling is that it was more the inexperience of his British rider, Emma Hindle that kept him out of the team than any lack of horse talent. Martin Schaudt and Weltall, made the German team - while the huge chestnut son of Weltmeyer, Warum Nicht, has been a Grand Prix sensation with Isabell Werth – and he has a double cross of ‘W’ being out of a Wenzel mare.

The 2010 Hannoverian Stallion Book records 1161 dressage competitors (155 at S level) by Weltmeyer for €2,044,846 in winnings. His breeding ranking based on mare tests and auction selections reveals a dressage score of 147, with 166 for his trot. For type he rates 134 and for his limbs he has a rating of 142. His FN ranking is 149 (dressage) and 66 (jumping). He is 3rd in the top 37 Hanoverian Dressage stallions, with his sons Weltregent in =5th, Wolkentanz in 10th, Wolkenstein II (12th), Wolkentanz II in 13th and Wie Weltmeyer (23rd). On the WBFSH standings for 2009, Weltmeyer is fifth place.