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After putting the bloods of our favourite Lusitano Xangai on test in the UK, we headed back to Madrid on the overnight train, some experience! It was 80Euro which is cheaper than a hotel, four to a cabin. It left at 10pm from Lisbon and got into Madrid at 8am, just in time to go look at more horses!
Next on our list were two half brothers - one I thought looked great but wasn't quite suited to me under saddle, and the other I really liked and came back a few times to ride him and then thought no - he is just not quite what I perceive that the New Zealand market needs.
Our time in Portugal was certainly well spent. Not content with just finding the perfect horse, we wanted to keep looking for something better, and also have a back-up. Unfortunately the disease Piroplasmosis is endemic in Spain and Portugal and is not allowed into New Zealand. It is estimated that up to 80% of horses in Spain have the disease and perhaps 50% of horses in Spain do. It is spread by ticks and can make horses quite sick. However this type of tick doesn't exist in New Zealand, but none the less horses that test positive are not allowed in. The cant spread the disease, but even so, testing positive to the dreaded "Piro" makes importation to NZ, USA, and Australia impossible. So while we sent off Xangai's bloods we continued tripping thru Portugal to find a back-up and to increase our knowledge of this wonderful breed.
We flew into Lisbon on a perfect sunny summer's day, and I must say I instantly felt a bond with Portugal. Ireland is the only other place in Europe I've ever felt at home, and I was surprised to find myself feeling the same way on the Continent proper. Later that day I was informed (by many people) that New Zealand and Portugal are polar opposites - if you dug a hole deep enough from Lisbon you would poke your head up back in Aotearoa - A comforting thought to know there is a short route home!
Many of you may be surprised to hear that I have always had a fascination with Iberian type horses. Who couldn't help but fall in love with a wonderful black Friesian horse, or with the famous PRE stallion Fuego who with his Spanish rider has set the dressage world into a bit of a spin!?! Earlier in the year I made the decision to try and find a Lusitano stallion to bring back to New Zealand. The breed is fairly unknown here, and what better way to show off this fantastic breed than bringing in a top class dressage stallion?!
After the competition season is over the thing to look forward to is most definitely hunting. This year was the Dannevirke Hunt Clubs Centennial celebrations - and a good number of Maramarua members went down for the week. We had a fantastic time both socially at the different functions including the Ball, and a great time on the hunt field too. Unfortunately the weather gods were not shining on us and the ground was certainly wet under foot. We had a cancelation of one of the Meets which was disappointing but understandable - there was some huge flooding in the Hawke's Bay area during that week...There is a photo below of a few of the gang down at Dannevirke.
Well Hastings put on a cracking week weather wise for the 2011 Horse of the Year Show. Hawkes Bay is renowned for its great weather - and great wine! And this year was no exception.
For the first time in a long time I had no pressure on me to perform at the show. I only had one horse entered - Donnerwind in the PSG / Inter I level, and no qualifications for WEG or Olympics to go for. So I was determined to have a bit of fun, treat it as a holiday, and to spend time with friends and sponsors alike. Two of my sponsors had big trade stands there - Mitavite and Horse Vans - so it was great to spend time with them and meet the public looking thru their stands.
Its been a tough few months for me here at the farm, watching the gradual deterioration of our wonderful stallion Whisper. In just a short period of time his health deteriorated so much that attempts to give him a great quality of life seemed futile.
On the 10th of March 2011 Whisper was finally laid to rest, buried beside our other great stallion Ramazotti on a rise overlooking the broodmare paddocks. My vet Noel Power did a wonderful job of letting this wonderful horse move on to a pain free and restful place. Whisper took it all in his stride with dignity and calmness and I know in my heart he was ready to go. Still, those last few minutes together when I walked him from the stable to the field, talking to him of how much love I had for him and how much I admired and adored him, were minutes I will treasure forever. As we stood together in the field and he ate carrots and apples out of my hand, my mind wandered back to the great victories we shared, and the pains we had endured together both in NZ and the USA. It had been a rollercoaster of a year long journey for both of us, with the saddest of all endings. The last thing I whispered in his ear as he laid down to the ground was a simple "Thank-you".
March is always a busy time for us, with the NZ Dressage Nationals and the Horse of the Year Show. This year I decided to make it even more tricky by attending the Arabian National Championships as well.
For the first time ever the Dressage Nationals were held in Fielding at the big impressive indoor venue Manfield Park. I took Donnerwind down in the Horse Van (www.horsevans.co.nz) and he enjoyed a very comfortable journey!
I managed to arrive late (nothing too unusual there!) and had only a limited amount of time to get Donnerwind used to the indoor venue. He felt terrible that night, stiff and looking at everything - not with me at all... But by the next day he was supple and concentrating and we went in and rode what I think was the best PSG level test I have ever ridden - and there's been a few! I felt like I could just sit and do nothing, and with no mistakes - magic! The Australian FEI judge agreed, giving us the massive score of 68.16% and saying that Donnerwind "is a true international Prix St Georges horse". Unfortunately the local judges didn't see the quality she did, so we finished 3rd in the test - but in my heart I knew it was something special.