Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

Donauwalzer CSF Electrifies At Ocala Dressage


Susanne Hamilton bought Donauwalzer CSF on impulse, but her instinct was a good one as the 5-year-old stallion has steadily improved, including his most recent win in the FEI 5-year-old classes, March 10-11, at the Ocala Dressage Show in Ocala, Fla.
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Susanne Hamilton bought Donauwalzer CSF on impulse, but her instinct was a good one as the 5-year-old stallion has steadily improved, including his most recent win in the FEI 5-year-old classes, March 10-11, at the Ocala Dressage Show in Ocala, Fla.

“He’s my heartthrob,” said Hamilton with a laugh. “I was visiting friends in Germany who run a phenomenal breeding farm.  I saw this guy being longed—he’d only been backed a dozen times—and I had to have him.”

Although Hamilton adores the Rhinelander stallion (Dollmann—Wallery S), he can be a bit prone to adventures.

“He was No. 4 in the nation at training level last year, but then he jumped out of the ring at [the University of New Hampshire dressage show],” said Hamilton.  “He still ended up in 10th place nationally.”

And the Ocala weekend wasn’t without mishap either. Hamilton, South Montville, Maine, had intended to trailer back and forth to the show from her winter home in Ocala. But she put her horses in temporary stabling when she realized how long the drive would be with a horse trailer.

“He’s a bit of a wall climber,” said Hamilton.  “Still, I figured he had to learn to be in temporary stabling at some point. We put up a live wire around the very top to keep him in.  While we were on our way for night check, I got a call that my stallion was freaking out.  He must have rolled and kicked the divider wall into the next stall where his buddy was.  The friction made the wire come down on him.  Thank God there were very helpful people right there that cut it immediately.  So I took [the horses] home that night and brought them back the next morning. I’ll never put him in temporary stabling again.”

Despite the night’s misadventures, Donauwalzer was ready to go the next morning, scoring 80.80 percent in the FEI 5-year-old Finale test.

“He got a 9 on the walk,” said Hamilton.  “He’s gotten 8.4 on general impression and submission.  He’s gotten 8s on the canter and trot, but generally he still needs to get stronger. He’s not even 5 yet.  He’ll be 5 in two months, and his loin area needs to get stronger for more self-carriage, but that just takes time.”

His temperament is one of the best things about Donauwalzer, according to Hamilton. “The relaxation that he can produce in the ring is unbelievable,” she said. “He has so much swing and suppleness. What a dream to ride that horse.”

Hamilton scored well with two other horses at Ocala as well.  She placed second in training level, test 4, with Bettina Hinckley’s Such A Rose (67.00%) and won an Intermediaire I class with Charleston 26.
“I’ve only had him a month,” said Hamilton of Charleston. “He’s dynamite!”

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Hamilton, 42, imported the petite, 15-year-old schoolmaster from Germany through her business, CSF Imports, which she runs with her cousin. They find quiet, experienced European dressage horses and bring them over to the United States to sell. CSF imports has also taken over sponsorship of Donauwalzer.

Hamilton first spotted Charleston at Alexandra Simons DeRidder’s farm in Germany seven years ago.  He accomplished much under a young rider there, and, eventually, he came up for sale, so Hamilton jumped on the opportunity to buy him.

“He has huge gaits,” said Hamilton. “I’m just getting to know the horse.  The first two tests I rode had good scores, but I felt like I went into the ring and didn’t know this horse yet. I needed a better connection, back to front.  My highlight this time was the fact that I kept the connection this time throughout the test.  Within that we have to get more precise.  He’s teaching me right now.  He’s a very fun little horse.  He never makes a mistake.  You get on him, and whether I have the right connection or not, he still doesn’t make any mistakes.”

A Change Of Scenery

Preventing mistakes was one of the reasons that eventer Melissa Ransehousen was showing her advanced-level event horse Critical Decision at third level in Ocala. She won her third level, test 1, classes (73.59%, 64.87%) as well as third level, test 2 (69.23%), with the 11-year-old, Oldenburg gelding (Consul—Two Days Tor).

“My event horse gets quite tense in the arena,” said Ransehousen. “It helps him to do as many dressage shows as he can.  I chose third level because it’s approximate to advanced, and he was much better behaved than I thought he would be.  This time he was relaxed for the whole test. I think he’s feeling more comfortable with himself for all the movements.”

The daughter of famed rider and judge Jessica Ransehousen, “Missy” is no stranger to the dressage arena, even though she chose to pursue eventing as her main interest.

“For me, [going to dressage shows] helps to make the dressage end of it a little bit easier,” she explained.  “You spend a little more time training them. I like it, and it makes you more of a well-rounded rider.  I have a lot of students who do both eventing and dressage, so it fits into the schedule.”

Missy did show a “pure” dressage horse, Lord Ludger, in the Prix St. Georges.  She won both her classes with the 17-year-old, Holsteiner gelding (62.75%, 65.12%).

“I got the ride on him because he was so badly misbehaved,” she said with a laugh.  “He’s taken a long time. I’ve been riding him for five years, and it’s really taken me this long to get him to where he’ll stay quiet throughout a test.  He had a rough beginning. He learned to act up to get out of work.  He was pretty violent about it.  It’s taken years of persistence on my part and many hours of riding him.  I think I’ve calmed him and gotten to really know him so that now I can really start to train him.”

Missy said she kept Lord Ludger at third level for a long time so that she could ride him through the test if any blow-ups occurred.  But now that he’s more trustworthy they’ve moved up.  Ocala was their first show at Prix St. Georges.

“He gets a bit behind my leg for the canter pirouettes, so we had some mistakes,” she said. “The same happened for the series changes.  But he stayed more level headed for the second test. I thought it was a great improvement overall in his temperament. He tried harder for me the second day.”

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Riding out of Unionville, Pa., Missy, 36, said that Lord Ludger was really her mileage horse.  “I don’t have any great goals with him, but the more time I can go down the centerline the better,” she said.  “He’s quite a brilliant horse.  I’ll see what I can get out of him and go as far as I can.”

A Lucky Find

Having fun and going as far as she can are Fran Marino’s goals.  She was thrilled to find a steady, talented partner in her new horse, Nobel, who won the adult amateur fourth level, test 1, class (68.60%) in her hometown of Ocala.

“I’m 53 years old, and I had a hip replacement in 2004,” said Marino.  “I asked my doctor if I could ride, and he said, ‘You can ride, but you can’t ever fall.’ ”This wasn’t a problem when she had two dressage horses she knew and trusted, but when she lost one last fall, finding his replacement was tough.

“Having a horse with a good disposition was my most important consideration,” said Marino. “My other horse is a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood.  I’ve had him for a number of years. He can be a little warm, he’s half Thoroughbred, but he’s very honest, and he and I know each other very well. I didn’t want a horse that I had to worry about.”

So when Katherine Bateson-Chandler, a longtime friend of Marino, told her about Nobel, a 12-year-old, Dutch Warmblood (Indoctro—Jodena), she was excited.

“It’s difficult to find a horse of that age that doesn’t have a lot of holes in him, whether they’re mental or physical,” she said.  “He truly doesn’t.  You can find older horses who are truly schoolmasters, but they have limited careers.  Or you can find young horses, but at my point in life I don’t want that.  I felt very fortunate to find a horse of his caliber.  I think I was in the right place at the right time.”

Nobel was imported to the United States as a 3-year-old and had just one owner before Marino. “I feel really good about our relationship,” said Marino.  “He knows me now; now I’m his mom.  Before I was just another rider riding him. I think he kept thinking, ‘I’m just here for a while, and then I’m going home.’  Now, I’ve noticed that he’s become more playful and personal with me. I think that’s when he decided he was staying.”

Although Marino was pleased with their test results at fourth level, she’s got her eye on moving up to Prix St. Georges with Nobel.

“The showing is OK,” she said.  “I actually don’t like showing, but I find that if I don’t show, then I don’t push myself out of my comfort zone.  I show to have a deadline. When it’s over, I heave a big sigh of relief.”

Mostly, Marino is glad to be back in the saddle. “For a lot of women like myself, sometimes the road gets a little bumpy.  I remember when I had no choice [about the hip replacement].  I wondered if I’d ever be able to ride again.  But I turned them out for four months and they were fine.  If you rode before, then you can ride afterwards.”

Sara Lieser

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