It’s funny. Every time I start to write about Schultheis, I sit a little deeper in my chair. Hah!
Where was I now? I had sat through a morning of training at the Schultheis stable and then gone to ride my own horses…
I was both thoughtful and pensive on that day. Back in Michigan, due to my naiveté, I had mistakenly believed that everyone in Germany trained with the skill of Willi Schultheis. Boy had my eyes been opened! I was terribly unhappy with my situation. Schultheis was right next door, but suddenly the fence that I had clambered over just a few days before now seemed like the Great Wall of China—insurmountable.
I rode my bicycle back to the Emshof Hotel, commonly known as a rider’s hotel, in Warendorf. I was thinking about having lunch in the restaurant there. I had arrived in Germany with a few packages of instant oatmeal. Those combined with the oranges that I had been almost too shy to buy (I was so embarrassed about my lack of German) had gotten me through most lunches and dinners for two weeks! Hunger would drive me to learn the language.
I grabbed my Deutsch/English dictionary and sat down at a table to do some deep thinking over a hot meal. (I still do my best thinking over hot meals.)
Hühnersuppe: Hühn = chicken. Suppe= soup.
Yes! I would order my lunch in German! Unfortunately, by the time the waitress came over I had already forgotten the word for chicken. I got close. I said, “Ich möchte Hundesuppe.”
She looked at me without humor and said: “Das ist keine chinesische restaurant.”
I had asked for dog soup. She had replied that the restaurant was not Chinese. In German, this is not funny.
Now you see a bit more of my predicament. I was in a foreign country, I was broke, I couldn’t speak the language, I was hungry, I was homesick, I had the wrong trainer, and my horses were unhappy.
Before the chicken soup arrived, I decided that I would find a way to train with Mr. Schultheis, or I would go home.
Here comes that zodiac sign into play…
The next day I rode both of my horses (one by one—Roman riding being frowned upon in Germania since the fall of the Empire) over to the DOKR training center for their daily training. On the way back with the second horse—my mare, Traviata—I found my eyes wandering over to Stall Schultheis which bordered the DOKR property. Spontaneously, I decided to jump another fence.
Fortunately the gate was open so my dressage horse did not have to jump, although I am sure she would have had I asked. I simply rode up the lane and stumbled upon Mr. Schultheis himself. He was using the tractor to groom the manure pile, and he was NOT happy to see me trespassing on his property.
He jumped off the tractor waving his arms and shouting, “Geh’ weg! Das ist privat. Was willst du hier?!?” (Oh, the shame of it now! One simply does not ride onto the property of an old German Reitmeister without an invitation! What WAS I thinking?)
He calmed down a little bit when he recognized me, but he was still irritated that I had ridden onto his property. “What you are doing here?” he demanded in English.
I explained that Traviata was the same blood and a near double to the horse of Bodo’s that we had talked about the day before. I just wanted to show him my horse. Once again, the mention of Bodo Hangen seemed to soften him up.
Mr. Schultheis looked me in the eye for a moment. To his credit, he took a deep breath. Then he said, “Go in the hall. You will ride for me.”
He pointed to the indoor arena. I turned the corner into Willi Schultheis’ hall on my 8-year-old, 16.1-hand, half-Thoroughbred mare that was barely second level. I was 29 years old, I could almost ride a Prix St. Georges test, and I wanted to learn how to train Grand Prix horses from Willi Schultheis.
Would I pass this impromptu audition? I don’t remember thinking about that. I was just THRILLED to enter his arena on horseback.
More soon, Rita. It is dinnertime, and the Corgis are sure they haven’t been fed in a week. Gotta go!
I’m Catherine Haddad and I’m sayin it like it is from Vechta, Germany.
Training Tip of the Day: Are you able to ride 3-in-1, 4-in-1 and Fillis with your double bridle?