Wednesday, May. 29, 2024

San Shivago Shows Off At Markel/USEF Western Young Horse Dressage Selection Trials

This talented 5-year-old stallion lives up to Louise Koch’s expectations.

The secret to winning at the Markel/U.S. Equestrian Federation Western Young Horse Dressage Selection Trials is to buy a young Sandro Hit stallion in Germany, leave him there for his stallion testing and then bring him home to California.  Or at least that’s what worked this year for two lucky owners.



This talented 5-year-old stallion lives up to Louise Koch’s expectations.

The secret to winning at the Markel/U.S. Equestrian Federation Western Young Horse Dressage Selection Trials is to buy a young Sandro Hit stallion in Germany, leave him there for his stallion testing and then bring him home to California.  Or at least that’s what worked this year for two lucky owners.

Louise Koch and her fabulous, new Westphalian stallion San Shivago (Sandro Hit—Donna, Donnerhall) won the 5-year-old selection trials, held during Dressage At Flintridge, May 22-24 in La Cañada-Flintridge, Calif.  They took home blue in the preliminary test (80.00%) and in the finale (80.40%).

This was the first time Shivago had competed on back-to-back days, and he was just a little more tired on Sunday than normal.

“But he was so good and really, really tried,” said Koch. “He doesn’t let much upset him. He was a bit tense on Saturday afternoon because of the flags and the other young horses spooking at things. And he’d never been in front of a crowd seated in a grandstand before either.”

In the preliminary test, the judges said they wanted to see “Shivago” carry himself more in the trot and more lateral flexion. But when Koch pushed Shivago’s trot in an attempt to get more activity and self-carriage, he broke into canter a few times during the finale test. He scored 8.5 on his trot on Sunday, but only a 7.4 for submission because of the bobbles. His other scores were 8.0 in the walk, 8.3 in the canter and 8.0 for general impression.

“He is amazing. His temperament is fabulous. He’s just a wonderful, wonderful show horse,” said Koch. “He’s very focused, and he does exactly what I ask him to do.

“Shivago is very rhythmic, and he has a beautiful trot,” she continued. “I’ve been really working with Christine Traurig on his canter work and depending on the judge—some judges prefer his canter work and others prefer his trot work. The judges have been extremely complementary.”

At the Del Mar National Dressage show in April Shivago received an 8.9 from judges Stephen Clarke and William Solyntjes.

“That was the best test I think we’ve ever done,” said Koch. “I warmed him up a very short time, and he was totally on. His medium trots were the best I’ve ever felt in the show ring. He was extremely rhythmic and had a really nice spark to him. It was just a fabulous-feeling test. I didn’t feel our test at Flintridge on Sunday had quite the spark that test had.


“It’s hard trying to learn on a young horse how to really manage their warm-up at a show,” she continued. “At Del Mar I purposely showed him on Friday, worked him only long and low with relaxation on Saturday and then did a short warm-up for my class on Sunday. Having almost a day of rest in between really benefits a young horse. At Flintridge on Sunday it was just a little harder for him because he had worked hard the day before.”

Koch looked for almost two years to find the right horse to replace her retired Grand Prix horse Polaris, and she made four shopping trips to Germany before she found Shivago. Fortunately, that patience has paid off, and he’s won all but one of his classes since they started showing last November.

She found her new horse with help from Jürgen and Jennifer Hoffmann. He’d only been ridden about 20 times when she tried him. She left him in Germany for his stallion testing, and now he’s approved with the Westphalian and Oldenburg verbands.

This is Koch’s first time competing a stallion. Polaris, who is now 24 and retired in a pasture near Koch’s three other horses, was an approved Westphalian stallion when she purchased him at 3. But she had him gelded before leaving Germany. Shivago, who was bred by Walter Huning, has the same sweet temperament as Polaris according to Koch. Both horses have Paradox I in their pedigree.

“I thought I would never have the opportunity to replace Polaris because he was so fabulous for me,” said Koch. “To have a second chance at what I think is a fabulous horse—I’m just really blessed. I am so pleased to find such a special horse again in my life. It’s been fun for me to be back in the competitive world.”

Koch, Westlake Village, Calif., is a USEF S-rated dressage judge. This is her first experience with the FEI 5-year-old classes, though she has taken two horses to the Grand Prix level. She’d like to aim for the large tour with Shivago as well. Koch, 62, has been a dressage instructor since the 1970s, but she’s also a retired high school teacher who used to teach German, English and home economics.

A Wonderful Warm-Up

Sandomere was the second Sandro Hit stallion to win at the show, capturing the preliminary test (76.60%) and finale (77.00%) with Merrie Velden, Fresno, Calif.

“I think I had my best ride on Friday in the qualifying test,” said Velden. “He was really good—soft and expressive and obedient—all the things that he wasn’t on Saturday and Sunday. Friday’s test was a much more harmonious ride. His changes were good and his half-passes were good. I just liked the test better.”

On Saturday, Velden, 49, had a migraine during her ride, and Sandomere was very strong and forward.


“I think part of the problem was that I overestimated the amount of time I needed to warm him up,” explained Velden. “I did too much and then the show was running late. It was not a good combination because he got very angry. Instead of getting tired like a lot of horses do when they’re overworked, Sandomere gets mad and does more. I just kept throwing my hands forward and smiled like I meant to go that forward and big in the trot!”

Sandomere (Sandro Hit—Romina, Ramiro’s Match) had a restless night on Saturday and was sleepy when Velden and owner Holly Reimers, Orland, Calif., arrived at the show Sunday morning.

“He didn’t feel good in the trot at all,” said Velden. “There was just no oomph; it was flat. I tried to get his trot more up in the warm-up ring, and every time I pushed he’d break into the canter. So I stayed conservative in the trot work in the test.

“But because he was tired I think that’s why the canter work was so good,” she continued. “He wasn’t messing around with me; he was doing his job. I think that was the best canter work he’s ever had.”

Sunday’s scores were 7.8 in the walk, 7.5 in the trot, 7.8 in the canter, 7.5 for submission and 7.9 for general impression.

“He’s the most incredible horse to ride,” said Velden. “He’s got an incredible work ethic. I have to watch out that I don’t teach him too much or ask too much of him, because he’ll give it to you. He’s a lot hotter than he appears to be, and he can get lit easily.”

Velden found Sandomere in Germany at Ulrich Henschke’s in the fall of his 2-year-old year. Henschke and Paul Schockemöhle owned him at the time, and Marion Menck bred him. Reimers left Sandomere in Germany to complete his 70-day test, and he arrived in California the following August.

“Holly’s the best owner you could ever hope for,” said Velden. “She owned the horse from November to August and only saw him on video and photos. She didn’t see him in person until he came off the plane in Los Angeles.”

Sandomere and Velden won the 5-year-old Western Selection Trials last year.




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