Down an unassuming country lane flanked by wheat fields, through a gate and neatly trimmed hedges, is a well-ordered stable yard bustling with activity. There is no grand sign announcing that you have arrived at the home of one of the world’s greatest dressage riders, Isabell Werth. Instead, a set of Olympic rings, made of now-faded silk flowers decorates the front wall of the stables. Through the original stable block and across a brick-paved yard is a new barn, and in the last stall, past her stablemates, including Don Johnson FRH and Bella Rose 2, lives Weihegold OLD.
In her stable, “Weihe” is sweet and unassuming. Her glossy dark coat speaks to the excellent care she receives. When groom Steffi Wiegard opens the stall door, Weihe looks for treats but doesn’t attempt to leave her stall. Wiegard said all the horses have learned to stay in their stall with the door open, and she’s relaxed as she retrieves a halter and lead rope from a hook on the wall to bring the champion out for grooming.
Though her stable houses more than a few top horses, Weihegold, which translates as “coronation gold,” is quietly confident. Weihe saves her fire for competition ring, where she lights up and wows audiences with her brilliant performances.
The 15-year-old mare (Blue Hors Don Schufro—Weihevoll, Sandro Hit) is owned by Christine Arns-Krogmann and leased by Werth’s longtime patron, Madeleine Winter-Schulze, who has secured the sporting rights to the mare through 2020. Weihe showed promise early on when she was crowned grand champion of the Oldenburg Elite Mare Show (Germany) as a 3-year-old. Together Werth and Weihe claimed team gold and individual silver at the 2016 Olympic Games (Brazil) and have won the past three FEI World Cup Finals.
Most recently, Weihe topped the Amsterdam CDI-W in January with a 90.28 percent in the Grand Prix freestyle, and Werth was aiming her for the FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas before its cancelation due to the coronavirus pandemic. She and Werth are currently world No. 2 behind Bella Rose 2.
• Via embryo transfer, Weihe has 13 offspring by illustrious stallions including Totilas, Donnerhall I, Quaterback and Furst Heinrich, among others.
• Weihe doesn’t have a best friend in the barn, but she also doesn’t like to be alone. “She must have a neighbor, but her neighbor must ignore her,” said Wiegard. “When her neighbor says hello, she’s really [cranky].”
• While she is generally relaxed and easy to handle on the ground, Wiegard said that Weihe’s one quirk during grooming is the spray bottle. “Fly spray is the only thing she really doesn’t like,” she said. “Nothing else bothers her or makes her nervous.”
• Weihe travels well and is quite the globe-trotter. While she generally does not get attached to other horses, Wiegard said that on the trip to Omaha, Nebraska, for the 2017 FEI World Cup, she bonded with a show jumping gelding that she shared the shipping container with, and she missed him when he was gone.
• While she may be a diva in the ring, she’s easy to handle in the barn. In Rio, the drinking water tasted bad, and many horses didn’t want to drink, but Wiegard said the mare was not picky, which made it easy to keep her hydrated in the hot, humid weather.
• Weihe is very motivated by food. “The best way to keep her happy is to give her food,” said Wiegard. “The problem is she is not allowed to eat as much as she would like! I try to feed her first because it makes her happy, and I get stressed at shows when the horses around her are fed earlier than her because she doesn’t like it.”
• Asked which movie star Weihe would be if she was a person, Wiegard thought for a moment and said with a grin, “I cannot say ‘Miss Piggy,’ because Isabell would kill me!”
• Weihegold lights up in the competition ring. “For riding she is always happy and knows the way,” said Wiegard. “I can’t say anything negative about her. She is calm in the stable, but under saddle she is hot. This is the type of horse Isabell likes, like Bella Rose, too.”
• For added fitness and its therapeutic effects, Weihe works two to three times each week in an AquaTrainer, which has been installed directly in the barn. “It’s good when they have a day off from being ridden and can get a walk,” said Wiegard. “It’s so nice for the hot weather, too. We also have a horse walker, but in the summer the flies bother the horses, and the AquaTrainer is a good change for them. We also hand walk all of the horses when the flies are bad in the horse walker.”