There’s a special halter that’s been sitting in Isabell Werth’s barn for the past several years. A gift from German team rider Fabienne Lütkemeier, it’s a simple, beautiful leather halter with a name tag that says, “Rosalie,” Lütkemeier’s nickname for Bella Rose 2.
But that halter has seen little use until last year, as Bella Rose took the long road to recovery following an injury following the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France).
“I put it aside and said, ‘We‘re going to use this when we travel to a show,” said Werth’s top groom, Stefanie Wiegard. “We’ve looked at it often during the past four years and wondered whether we were ever going to use it at all, but now it‘s traveled to Tryon [for the 2018 WEG] with us!”
Werth’s patience is one of the secrets to her success. Once she’s seen that special thing in a horse, she believes in it, and she makes it her goal to show the world just what she sees.
And Werth needed that belief, as Bella Rose has had setbacks that would send other riders reeling. It took years for the horse Werth calls her absolute dream horse to come back from an injury after the last world championships in 2014.
Even when Werth and the 15-year-old Westphalian mare (Belissimo—Cadra II, Cacir AA) mare made their comeback at the CDI in Fritzens (Austria) in June 2018, no one was sure how it would turn out. She’d been riding Bella Rose for a long time already at home, but four years out of the show ring meant the horse was lacking experience and confidence.
The next three months turned out to be a masterpiece of horse management. You could see Bella Rose finding her legs again from one test to the next, and in the end, Werth’s dream of taking her to the WEG came true with a team gold medal and an individual gold in the Grand Prix Special.
• The horses all love the aqua trainer, but Bella Rose was a bit skeptical the first time. After that, no problems at all though. “She goes on the aqua trainer every day and doesn’t get any special treatment, just the same things we use on the other horses as well, like a magnet field blanket,” Wiegard said.
• Wiegard knows exactly where her place in Bella Rose’s universe is. “She’s very attached to her human,” she said. “I’m the one who feeds her, and of course, who grooms her, who turns her out and who is there for her wellness, but as soon as she hears Isabell’s voice, she pricks her ears, and I might as well no longer be there. They really have a special bond, these two.”
• When it comes to equine partners, Bella Rose tends to be picky as well. “She traveled to Tryon with [Sönke Rothenberger’s] Cosmo, and they got along really well. But when I want to turn her out or go grazing with her, she needs to have special partner with her, or she just won‘t relax.“
• Werth recently built a new barn, and Bella Rose seems to feel right at home in the new stable. She’ll look out of her stall into the aisle as long as her door is open, but she’ll munch an apple hidden in the straw just as happily once you close it. She may be completely unaware of the long period of worry that she’s caused her humans, but she certainly knows what’s hers, and that she won’t even have to ask.
“I think if she were human, she’d be royalty, in the best sense of the word—someone with real dignity,” said Wiegard.
• Bella Rose is the first horse Werth rides every day, very early in the morning. After that, she gets groomed, then she gets turned out, or she’s hand grazed. She’s a real mosquito magnet, so her turnout times depends a bit on insect frequency.
• “She likes to eat, but she’s not greedy,” said Wiegard. “She has no problem being the last horse we feed. She loves carrots and apples.”
• “She’s the sweetest horse 99.9 percent of the time,” said Wiegard. “Tractors, wind, things that make other horses nervous are no problem for her. But if she spooks, like if she sees ponies or foals, she spooks badly.”