Travel Diary

Heather, Jason and Jane will be travelling to Europe in late March, visiting some breeders in Germany and The Netherlands, as well as going to the World Cup Final! We're also planning to see the touristy sights of Western Europe, the UK and Ireland. 

This page will be updated as regularly as possible while we're away, so you can follow our progress. 

Watch this space!

22nd March

We've had three very enjoyable days at Dressage and Jumping with the Stars, as well as the Bloomfield auction today, and I am now updating this page from the airport at 1.30am as we wait for a 3am departure for Dusseldorf.

We caught up with lots of friends at DJWTS and Ton de Ridder presented a very entertaining masterclass and commentary on the horses.  The standout dressage horse was San Jose...wow, what an impressive horse.  His future will be very exciting to watch.  The other horse I really liked was the 5yo WA stallion Bellario.  He is the sort of horse I would love to take home for myself.  It was great to see Alabaster win the Grand Prix Kur last night....he's matured so much and looks to have a great future ahead as a GP horse. 

Today's auction at Bloomfield was fantastic.  Royal Hit was even more impressive in the flesh than I had imagined and their younger stallion Furst Love is another that I was very, very impressed with.  Their property is just beautiful and the horses were all very well handled and presented.  I had no intention of bidding, but suddenly found myself very nearly being the winning bidder on a 2yo Royal Hit x arab filly!  It's probably a good thing that I missed out, because the timing wasn't exactly ideal, but she was a lovely filly with the touch of arab that I love in my mares.

Signing off now so the others can use the computer.  Next time I will post from Germany!

24th March

What a fantastic few days we have had!  How can it only be two days since we left Australia?  Monday was very long, I guess, with the change of time zone, but it feels like we have seen so much already.

Our flight consisted of three legs: Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur, KL to Dubai, Dubai to Dusseldorf.  A word of warning to anyone pre-booking seats on an Emirates flight - avoid the second row if you want any semblance of rest on the plane!!  The first row in each section is reserved for parents with small children, so for the first two legs of the flight we were graced with constant screaming, dadadadad'ing, banging on the seats, whining etc etc etc until we were all ready to throw all 2yo children out the window!  Thankfully for all of us, we got seats further back for the last leg of the flight which gave us some sleep at last.  The flights were smooth and the Emirates food and service were excellent.  We finally arrived in Dusseldorf 26 hours after leaving Melbourne.

Amazingly, none of us have suffered any jetlag at all.  It is actually hard to believe that we should be asleep during the day. 

We spent a very enjoyable few hours wandering around Dusseldorf on Tuesday morning....it was all so....German!  I couldn't wipe the grin off my face!  Almost everyone had a cigarette or cigar hanging out of their mouth and there were dogs eveywhere.  We saw dozens of gorgeous old buildings and had our first look at the River Rhine, then made our way to the train station for our trip across to Eindhoven in Holland.

In Eindhoven we picked up our hire car (a black people-mover with the steering wheel on the wrong side....eeek!) and Jas very bravely made his way out into the traffic, with absolutely no idea where to go.  We were headed for 's-Hertogenbosch and somehow managed to get here in one piece without any map or navigation system!  Today we bought a navigation system!!  This was a much cheaper option than hiring one with the hire car and will work in all the countries we are visiting, as well as back home in Australia.

Today, Wednesday, we went into the centre of 's-Hertogenbosch, where we found a market that was just like something in a movie....fresh fruit and veg, tulips, breads like you wouldn't believe, all set in a gorgeous cobbled square....it was wonderful!  We bought some pastries shaped like rabbits.  The Easter theme is everywhere here.  The other thing that is everywhere is bicycles!  They are all over the streets, huge racks of them on the footpaths as well as people riding them everywhere....from small children to ancient men and women, often with a dog in tow on a lead.  Whole families pedalled past, with baskets or crates on the front of their bikes, tied on with frayed brown string.  No pretence at all, which is so refreshing.

After lunch we met up with Geoff Butler, an Australian dressage rider based in Holland, who was introduced to us by a client of Cooramin.  He took us to visit a small Dutch breeder who spent the afternoon showing us his mares and their offspring.  It was wonderful to see the horses and their housing.  There were mares by Jazz, De Niro, Vincent (my favourite), Ferro, Wolkentanz, among others.  It was very educational to see the mares moving in the arena and then to see their offspring, especially to see them as natural horses rather than presented for show.  I was quite amazed at how intensively the mares and youngsters are managed, especially during the colder months.  My horses would be horrified to be so confined, but it is obviously a formula that works well here.

Tomorrow is the first day of the Indoor Brabant competition here in 's-Hertogenbosch, which will culminate in the World Cup final on Saturday.  There are "Indoor Brabant" signs and flags up all over the town and all the locals seem to know about it.  Very different to Australia!!  I am so excited!!

26th March

Ohhhh, the trade stands!!  Thursday was the first day of Indoor Brabant and I have never seen anything so extravagant at a horse event.  The trade stands include glitzy restaurants, interior decorating displays, huge trucks with all the bells and whistles, as well as endless shops selling saddlery and apparel.  I had a little splurge on some stuff that I needed....and some stuff that I didn't need :)

What a great experience it was to sit in the front row of the stands, watching the world's best dressage horses right before my eyes.  The main event for the weekend is the Dressage World Cup final, but there is also a Showjumping World Cup qualifier as well as a number of international dressage and jumping events.  Yesterday we saw the dressage young rider FEI tests, the international (non-World Cup) Grand Prix dressage (with Anky and Salinero, Isabell and Satchmo, Edward and Sisther de Jou, just to name a few champions) and then last night was the first round (Grand Prix test) for the World Cup Final. 

Our own Brett Parbery did a super test with Victory Salute and ended up in a very credible 11th place.  There were quite a few Aussies in the crowd and we gave him a big cheer. 

I was very excited to see Totilas and Parzival in the flesh and I was not disappointed.  Totilas made a few costly mistakes and ended up second to Parzival, but both horses were simply amazing to watch.  They make it seem so easy and take dressage to a new level in expressiveness.  The commentators speak only in Dutch, so we have no idea what they are saying most of the time, but the atmosphere is a real buzz, especially the spectacular presentations.  The whole production is seamless and professional.  No wiping dust off the seats here!

Today was a showjumping day, but it didn't kick off until the afternoon so we took a drive to the historic town of Maastricht.  In the rain, we did the city walk and saw some amazing historical buildings, forts and the ruins of the old city wall.  We drank divine coffee in a tiny ancient pub off an equally ancient and deserted alley, then ate waffles covered in icing sugar in the centre of town with the characteristic Dutch buildings lining the square.  I love Europe more and more each day. 

This afternoon we headed back to Indoor Brabant for the international 1.50m showjumping against the clock.  Australia had two representatives - Edwina Alexander and Chris Chugg.  Chris and Vivant did a super round and finished clear, just a few seconds behind the winner.  The highlight of the night was at the completion of Chris' round, when "We Come From the Land Downunder" boomed out of the sound system as he crossed the finish line, much to our delight!  Chris, ever the showman, executed a pretty darn good one-handed canter pirouette with his helmet under his arm for the crowd!  What fun!

29th March

I have so much to catch up on!  How can so much happen in just three days?

Saturday was the final of the Dressage World Cup.  To be seated in the front row of a stadium packed full of Dutch dressage fanatics, watching The Netherlands place 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the World Cup...well, you can imagine how wild the crowd went!  Totilas was the deserving winner....I was totally spellbound, partly by this amazing horse and partly by his music, which fitted him so perfectly and had me captivated from the first moment.  Parzival was again wonderful for second place and Sunrise produced a super Kur to take third....what a great competition to witness!  We were also stoked to see Brett produce a very good 70% Kur for tenth place for Australia amongst the European big guns...well done Brett!

Yesterday we made our way to Munster for the North-Rhein Westfalien Spring Elite auction, where we saw around 60 young horses sold under saddle, as well as a handful of foals.  The top prices were Euro66,000 and Euro65,000 for a 5yo Laureus/Ferragamo/Der Clou gelding and 4yo Ehrentusch/Rubiloh/Ferragamo gelding respectively.  My pick for myself was a 4yo Sir Donnerhall/Granikos/Colorado x mare, who sold to America for Euro44,000.  Too bad I didn't bring the cheque book!  :)  Another mare I took note of was by Furst Piccolo out of a Lamoureux II mare.  She was the dam of one of the foals that was sold, so she was not for sale herself, but she was a striking mare.

At the commencement of the auction, the auction welcomed buyers from several countries including Australia.  We found ourselves with VIP seats, which was a great buzz.  The crowd was entertained by a miniature appaloosa pony, who arrived in the back of a mini-van and then proceeded to do the most amazing display of dressage in hand, including some very good passage!  What a little champ!  The horse industry here is so polished and mature....it's inspirational.  We noted that the majority of attendees at the auction were older men....breeders perhaps?  The auctioneer spoke only in German, so we missed a lot of the commentary, but it was still great to see the horses and their pedigrees, as well as the interest from the buyers. 

This morning we headed off to Warendorf, where we had an excellent tour of the Warendorf State stud and I had a brush with fame!  At 24 years of age, the legendary Florestan still has the highest-priced service fee of any of the Warendorf stallions and today I got to pat him!!  I was star-struck!  We saw many other stallions, both heavy draught horses and warmbloods, including Florestan's son Furst Piccolo, who was the sire of one of the mares that I particularly liked at the auction.

Warendorf State Stud is a gorgeous old facility, with ivy growing on the walls and big airy barns.  The main show area looks exactly as it does in photos.  We saw the indoor arenas, the school for coaches and riders, as well as an old blacksmiths area, where there is an ancient set of rather barbaric looking stocks that were once used to contain unruly horses for the blacksmith.  It I was quite struck by the location of the stud, right in the middle of the town, surrounded by residences and the central business district.

From Warendorf we headed up to the PSI barn of Hof Kasselman, where we were given a great guided tour of the facilities.  Kasselmans is where PSI horses are prepared for sale, both for auction and private sale, as well as a major international competition venue.  They are preparing for their major event in April, where they will host Horses and Dreams.  This will be a final chance for the German dressage riders to qualify for the World Equestrian Games, so it is a big deal!  I wasn't really aware of the extent of Kasselmans as a competition venue until today.  It is a grand facility, with no expense spared, located down some very narrow and windy streets in a lovely area of rolling hills.

We then made our way to the Celle insemination station at Ankum.  All I dared to hope for this visit was to meet the mighty Weltmeyer and I got so much more than that!  The people at Ankum were all too willing to show off the stallions for us, so we got a personalised showing of Londonerry, Brentano II, Falcao (another lovely Furst Piccolo), Likoto, Edward and Weltmeyer himself.  All the stallions were impeccably behaved and extremely well managed.  I was very impressed.

Now my hands have touched Florestan and Weltmeyer on the same day.....I will never be able to wash my hands again!!

Our last horsey stop for the day was PSI's Deckstation Schockemohle, where we were shown a stallion barn that was a who's who of modern dressage breeding - Furst Romancier, San Amour, Sir Donnerhall, Furstenball and Sandro Hit himself.  Sandro Hit was walking on a treadmill inside the barn when we arrived, so it was great to see him out and moving rather than standing in the stable.  Another legend before my eyes and the feel of yet more famous horses on my hands....I'm in heaven!

Our navigation system led us rather astray on our trip to our hotel in Celle this evening and we found ourselves in the middle of some military training area deep in the woods, where the road signs had pictures of tanks!  Of course, we can barely read the road signs, so who knows where we really were!  We were wondering if the army had blocked our GPS signal and we might disappear forever!  Luckily our friendly navigator managed to recover itself and we found our way safely here for the night. 

What an amazing few days I have had!  On one hand it's hard to believe that we have been here for a week already and on the other hand it feels like we have seen and done so much that it couldn't possibly have been only a week!  I have to hand the award for patience to Jas, for his endless patience with horse stuff, as well as the award for driving on the wrong side of the road.  He even mastered driving at 145km/h on the Autobahn today!

31st March

We spent Monday night in the town of Celle, then took a walk to the Celle State Stud on Tuesday morning.  As it is breeding season here, most of the stallions are at insemination stations all over the region and there are several building renovations happening, but it was good to be able to visit such a famous stud.  Like Warendorf State Stud, it is located right in the centre of the town. 

After lunch we set off for Klosterhof Medingen.  What a beautifully presented and operated place this is.  We were shown around by the very friendly and knowledgeable Jessy.  She brought each of the stallions out for us to inspect and have a pat.  The great De Niro was a highlight, but this is a barn full of great horses - Caprimond, Hohenstein, Fidertanz, Danone I and II, Feuerspiel.  They all look magnificent and appear very content with their life.  I was again impressed with the excellent behaviour of the stallions.  Jessy commented that they like to keep them just like all the other horses and this philosphy shows in their contentment.  We were shown all around this lovely facility, including the mares, foals and riding horses.  Klosterhof Medingen was definitely worth the visit.

We had a few hours of daylight left, so thought we'd call in and have a look at Luneburg, a town famous for having "wobbly" buildings.  The area has been mined for salt for centuries, which has caused some ground subsidence and significant warping of the cobbled pavement and brick buildings.  There is a tall tower, visible in the skyline all over the town, that is apparently leaning 2.2m from vertical.  Many of the old buidings are leaning, warped or have developed a rather pot-bellied appearance....very interesting! 

We had parked the car in a carpark and walked in to the town centre, but when we went to return to the car we found ourselves hopelessly lost.  None of us had noted the street names and somehow we walked in a big circle and were completely disoriented.  The light was fading and we were starting to feel a bit worried!  I was having visions of sleeping, freezing, on a park bench!  By some miracle, after quite a lot of walking, we found the road back to the carpark and made it safey to our hotel for the night....phew!

Last night's hotel was an adventure in itself!  It is a very quaint potato farm way out in the country....the hosts barely spoke English, but were wonderfully warm and welcoming.  The restaurant served potatoes prepared in every way imaginable.  We had no idea what we were ordering, but had a great time!

Today we were shown around Gestut Lewitz, the stud farm of Paul Schockemohle.  They have around 800 mares and 700+ foals every year!!  This is a seriously enormous production!!  We were shown some mares for sale - my pick was a Hotline x Sandro Hit/Landadel mare in foal to Furst Romancier.  There was also a very fancy-moving Royal Hit x Kennedy mare.  It was very interesting to see some very different mares and study their pedigrees and the breeding decisions made.  We were shown around four separate facilities - one for pregnant mares, one for wet mares, one for young riding horses and one for dry mares.  There were foals EVERYWHERE at the wet mare facility.  There must have been several hundred already born, with many more left to be born....it was an amazing sight.  Like all the places we have visited, all the horses are housed inside during the colder months, so they can fit a huge number of horses into a small space.  This visit was a real eye opener...the scale of production was enormous.

This afternoon we visited our friend Linda Krogh, who is working for Kristy Oatley-Nist at Groenwohldhof.  When we arrived, Linda was exercising Quando Quando, Kristy's international Grand Prix stallion.  What a great experience for her!  We met Kristy's horses and the other stallions at Groenwohldhof - Swarovski, Furst Wilhelm, Don Bolero and Desperados.  The facility here is beautifully presented and very grand, with a heated indoor arena! 

Today was our final day in Germany, which means that the horse component of this diary will decrease significantly.  I'm sure that this will please Jas very much, as well as my sister Jessie, who complained that it is boring because all I ever talk about is horses!  HA!  :)  We are staying in Hamburg tonight and will fly out to Scotland early tomorrow morning.