Gina and Dan Ruediger been breeding KWPN (Dutch Warmblood) horses in the Northwest USA for 12 years. Their first trip cross country to the Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse Championships Aug. 19-23 proved their efforts were worth the journey. Their Sonnenberg Farm, LLC bred 4-year-old mare Generosa S (Uphill-Zen Rosa, Farrington) earned the Reserve Championship title in the USEF Four Year-Old Test at the with a final score of 79.2 percent. Judges Jayne Ayres, Jeanne McDonald and Louise Koch called the mare impressive with three solid gaits and lovely training, adding that the use of her hind leg and her submission were highlights of the test.
“Generosa in Spanish means generous and boy, is she generous,” Gina Ruediger said. “She has a great mind and she’s a great mover. She’s by Uphill and out of our elite Farrington Jazz mare. Last year, she was champion mare of all North America for the KWPN. At the studbook presentation, she was the highest scoring mare as a 3-year- old.”
Generosa’s rider, Brooke Voldbaek, was happy with the outcome. They were ranked as second alternates for the championships, so an overall second place finish was a testament to her riding and to the mare she has been training for the past six months. After coming in fourth in the 4-Year-Old Preliminary Test on Thursday, Voldbaek was determined to move up in the rankings.
“She was much more with me, she felt more fluid,” the rider said. “I think I rode more focused. She’s well balanced and she’s sensitive, but sensible. She’s just a super nice ride. She has a really good hind leg, but I think her temperament is where she excels the most. I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be happier. OK. If I’d won, I’d be happier, but second’s good!”
Voldbaek said that when she and Generosa entered the warm-up arena, U.S. Dressage Young Horse Coach Christine Traurig told her that the mare looked like she lived there. Voldbaek has also trained with Jeremy Steinberg as well as Dietrich of Hopffgarten.
“I came out today tearing up because it’s not where I expected to be,” she said. “It’s a great place. It’s really horse friendly here. I can’t wait to come back.”
It was Voldbaek’s first time at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, as well as the Ruediger’s. They made the three-day drive from Sherwood, Oregon, to the Chicago area into a road trip adventure as they loaded up their largest horse trailer and left their teenagers behind with family and friends and took to the open road. Voldbaek, who has been with Sonnenberg Farm for ten years is a well known and respected rider and trainer in the Northwest having developed multiple horses to Grand Prix. Now the rest of the country got to see a taste of her talent as she presented Generosa to the judges' panel.
“There was lots of corn,” Dan Ruediger said of the trek across Utah to Nebraska to Illinois. “Gina just kept taking pictures of corn!”
For Voldbaek there was another reason the long haul was a winning trip. On the way back, her boyfriend Don Powers who was a part of the journey, proposed, during a layover in Livingston, Montana. He gave her a ring he had designed himself when fly fishing 6 weeks earlier in Bozeman. He arranged to have someone from the Gem Gallery deliver the ring to their dinner table that night after they got the horses settled into their Bed & Breakfast. "You can imagine how difficult it was to coordinate it all," Don said. "First of all I had to convince her to take the northern route to Oregon through Montana, then timing the delivery of the ring after the day's haul to our destination was quite an adventure."
Dan and Gina travelled with Generosa as well as Voldbaek’s mare, Dimora S, a 7-year-old KWPN mare, by Sir Donnerhall out of Tamora by Ferro. Dimora was bred by Lana Sneddon and is competing at Third and Fourth level with designs on Developing Prix St. Georges in 2016.
“Generosa and Dimora were partners and best friends and we had our big trailer with two box stalls so they got to put their heads down a lot,” Dan Ruediger said. “Lots of breaks, lots of water and bran mashes. They did great.”
Another Sonnenberg Farm horse at the championships was Dr. Kerrin C. Dunn’s striking 17.3 hand, 10-year-old mare, Allure S by Rousseau out of Sizarma H by Farrington. Allure and her rider Angela Jackson competed in the FEI Intermediaire II (Developing Grand Prix).
“A horse like that that is so tall and long-lined takes longer to develop but we were so impressed that Angela has brought her along so thoughtfully and carefully,” Dan Ruediger said. “We think she’s going to be a real horse of the future to watch. When that horse is 12 or 14 doing the Grand Prix, she’s going to be outstanding!”
“It has been an enormously positive experience,” he said of the championships and show. “The people are phenomenal. We’ve met and gotten to know the owners of Lamplight and they’re just great people. So open, so gracious, so accommodating. The USEF staff is wonderful. The coaches are all approachable. Christine Traurig has worked hard with Brooke. It’s a wonderful experience. The only thing I’d like to improve upon is the bugs! We don’t have bugs in Oregon!”
All joking aside, the Ruedigers take their breeding operation seriously and it shows in the quality horses they produce. “It’s important to put a spotlight on North American breeders,” Dan Ruediger said. “So many of these horses are imported. Our hope is that the riders, the trainers, the investors and the farms, start to see there are some great North American bred horses. They don’t have to go to Europe to purchase them.”
The couple has been mentored by some of the best in the business: Judy Yancey, Lana Sneddon, Willy Arts and Judy Reggio. Their foundation mare is from Reggio’s breeding program. At the beginning, they traveled extensively to Holland and Germany to round out their knowledge. They sing the praises of the KWPN breeding organization’s educational programs. They kept some of their best fillies early on and they now have an exceptional mare base.
Although they sell the colts fairly soon, they often retain the fillies to get them started under saddle. They know they need to sell their youngsters, but Gina Ruediger finds it hard to part with the fillies.
“Our slogan is ‘Bred for mind and movement. Born to perform,’” Gina Ruediger said. “When they get in this kind of setting, it’s intense for a horse-especially a young horse. And we really work hard to breed for the mind, but to also have suppleness and expressive movement. You just can’t leave out the mind.”
For now, they are going to keep on doing what they are doing: carefully breeding and thoughtfully bringing up the horses.
“For us, we are going to let the horse decide where she wants to go,” Dan and Gina both added. “It’s not about our goals, it’s about what a horse can do and why type of potential she has. You want to protect her attitude. And, I would contend that the KWPN horses are some of the best of world."