Below are several articles written by Craig Heckert and / or Patty Larson. Several have appeared in Today's Horse Magazine. Please don't reprint without permission of the authors.



Interested in Western Dressage?

By Craig Heckert


Cowboy or Western Dressage is a new and exciting discipline growing in popularity in the US. It is a combination of western and classical, or traditional, Dressage. A way of “uniting” two distinct disciplines.

As the name implies, Cowboy or Western Dressage requires the use of a western saddle and bridle and the rider dresses in western style clothing.  Most smooth snaffle and curb bits are allowed but there are rules covering shank length, mouthpiece diameter and the like, covered in the Western Dressage Rules in the US Equestrian Federation rulebook.  (Available on the USEF website:

Classical Dressage brings the age old techniques of European horsemen, that are based upon principles which encourage cadence, balance, and self carriage. Western Horsemanship has been practiced in the American West since the 1800s and even earlier through the traditions of the Vaqueros. Advances in Western Training, begun by horsemen like the Dorrance Brothers and Buck Brannamen, and now practiced by many horsemen and women today opened the door to much kinder training techniques. These “new” techniques took into account the “mental state” of the horse, encouraging patience and understanding. These concepts of lightness, kindness and subtle cues continue to gain wide acceptance among horsemen and women. These techniques are being used by well respected trainers like Eitan Beth-Halachmy and Jack Brainard in the development of Western Dressage.

Good horsemanship, its principles, practices and teachings should not belong to just one discipline, but rather to all disciplines, all breeds, and something all riders should work toward. Dressage and its development through history is familiar to many horse people. It is also “intimidating” to many riders and seems unattainable or even unwelcoming to many. Western Dressage is changing that attitude!

In its simplest terms, Dressage is nothing more than a series of building blocks. These building blocks are Rhythm, Relaxation, Acceptance of the Bit and the Aids, Straightness and Collection. It is a proven system to develop a horse and rider to their full potential from the ground up. Dressage training techniques work well regardless of what tack the horse wears.

Western Dressage Classes are becoming popular in shows across the country.  The classes offer a place for the western rider and horse to improve themselves as individuals and as partners. Dressage principles will improve their horse in multiple ways, cadence, balance and self carriage for instance. The use of Dressage will improve the western horse’s ability to work off his hind quarters with a more natural head set.

Western Dressage is ridden on “light” contact, rather than the draped reins seen in most Western competition classes.  As with traditional Dressage there are “tests” (a written program) with the movements scored individually from 1 to 10. At the “easiest” or Basic Level only walk and jog are used. At the Primary Level “working” walk, jog and lope are used. I believe more advanced tests are also being developed. The tests are ridden in a traditional Dressage Arena of 20 x 60 meters. (about 65 feet by 195 feet). These classes will offer a place where the western rider can compete on a scoring system that allows them to move up at their own pace. It is not just a competitive format but an educational one as well. Every movement receives not just a 1 to 10 “score” but the Judge also writes down comments as to why the movement was scored as such. This gives the rider an opportunity to see where and why they need improvement.


Western Dressage can be done by any sound, healthy horse regardless of breed, or level of training. It requires no special equipment. It will build your confidence and will help you become a better rider. Western Dressage will help your horse improve at other disciplines. Whether you are a professional or a beginner, Western Dressage will help you develop a better partnership with your horse.


Besides being a discipline of its own, the philosophy of Western Dressage is a very sound training system for multiple disciplines. It promotes a true “partnership” with your horse, something every rider should strive for!



Craig’s bio:

Craig Heckert has a successful background in both Western and English Performance Horses. He is a US Dressage Federation Bronze, Silver and Gold Medalist riding the Trakehner stallion Meisterwind. Craig has trained and ridden 13 different horses to Register of Merit Awards in Western Pleasure as well as earning 5 Superior Western Pleasure Awards. He qualified for and rode at the AQHA World Show 4 times. His mare, Zippo Pat Seeker won the Minnesota and Iowa Pleasure Futurities and earned 158 Western Pleasure points in 7 months of showing. Heckert Farm was the Leading Producers of AQHA Performance Horses in 1984


Craig is the trainer at Rivervale Farm, Nisland,         SD, where he specializes in raising and training young Sport Horses for careers in Dressage, Eventing and the Hunter/Jumper markets.



Breeding for the “Sport Horse” Market
By Patty Larson

Horse breeding has become very scientific within the last few years with many breeds becoming very specialized. I'll try to address what we look for and breed for in the Sport Horse industry. To clarify, I will add that Sport Horse describes a horse bred for the “English” disciplines of Dressage, Eventing, Hunters and Jumpers.
Let's talk body type. Horses come in all sizes and shapes and no one shape will be perfect for everything. But certain shapes are usually most appropriate for certain jobs.


For instance, a Draft horse is excellent for pulling and work in harness. He may be fun to ride, but he is not a Sport Horse. His neck is set on high, but is thick and strong, not supple. His back is very short, broad and strong. His hind quarter angles are more open with his hind legs out behind for pulling power.






The stock horse shape is well equipped for working close to the ground. His rump is higher than his withers and his front legs are shorter than his rear legs. He is heavily muscled with straighter hind legs for quick starts and stops. His hindquarter angles are more closed with the hind legs more under his body. His back tends to be longer as well. This body type creates level or downhill movement and is very suitable for Western events and cattle work.



For the Sport Horse market, we breed the riding horse body type that has been developed in Europe. This type of horse has an uphill build. His withers are higher than his hindquarters and his front legs are long in relation to his hind legs. His neck is set on high and is very supple allowing, the horse to work in an uphill frame. His hindquarters are very strong with the ability to swing the legs far under the body. The ideal hind leg is neither straight nor sickle hocked. This body type tends to produce movement with a generous suspension phase, giving the horse very “floating” movement. Because of the strength of the hindquarters he will have much push from behind.

In our program, temperament and soundness are the most important. Since the majority of riders are not Olympic caliber, a horse must have an amicable and cooperative disposition. Since the German breeds we work with have had good dispositions bred into them for many years, this is fairly easy. Good temperament must not be confused with laziness. These horses do tend to have energy which they need for sport, but they must be bred to be trainable. We work toward this goal by being very selective of our broodmares. The mares are then bred to stallions who are successful show horses. Because of the level of difficulty of the English disciplines, Sport Horses need to be bred for soundness. If a mare or stallion could not remain sound for competition they should not be used in a breeding program.

Cross breeding is always a touchy subject with many people. I won't say that all cross breeding is bad. After all, most of the breeds we love resulted from cross breeding. However, if you venture into cross breeding it must be done sensibly. Don't breed two extremely different body types and think you will end up with a foal that is the perfect combination of it's very different parents. That happens “once in a blue moon”. More often than not you will end up with an odd combination, like a 1400# horse on size 00 feet. Or a horse that wears an oversize bridle and a pony girth. My opinion is that with today's over saturated horse market, breeders need to be more conscientious than ever! Why try to reinvent the wheel when our homework has been done for us?
You will make your job easier by sticking to proven, performance tested bloodlines. The European breeds dominate the English disciplines. There is a reason for this. These breeds have been developed as riding horses for many, many generations. They have to pass inspections before they can be used in breeding programs. Additionally, stallions have to either pass a 100 day test or have a successful performance career before they receive their lifetime breeding license.
All that said, probably the toughest thing to learn is to evaluate foals and young horses. Many Sport Horses can be downright homely as young horses. AND they mature very slowly. We try to honestly evaluate the foals at about two weeks old. They are then turned out to summer pasture with their dams until September when they are evaluated at the annual Keuring. The Keuring gives you a general idea of your foals qualities, but don't take a poor foal score or a great score, for that matter, too seriously. The score reflects how the foal was on THAT day and many things, like age of the foal, have a huge bearing on the foal score. Some foals are real hams and put on a show which will earn better movement scores than a shy foal who won't leave it's dams side. Big, fat, stall raised foals will look great and usually score very good, but may not grow up sound so don't sacrifice your foals future for a big score.
The foal pictured is a nice type, well balanced with an uphill build and movement. She looks like she has the potential to grow into the right type of horse for Dressage or Jumping. Yearlings are almost impossible to evaluate. They can grow very awkwardly and seem to change from day to day. Generally, in their two year old year they will begin to look like they will as an adult. Most two year olds will be croup high and may look like they will never mature into an uphill horse. Thankfully most of them do. Pictured is a good example of a croup high immature two year old. This guy is from two uphill parents so in a matter of time he too, will mature uphill.
Which discipline a horse ends up in usually depends more on the rider than on the horse. If the breeder has done their job right, Dressage horses can jump and Jumpers can do Dressage. Of course some horses will distinguish themselves as “big time” horses in one discipline and then it is wonderful if they have the rider with the talent to take them there.
Set your breeding goals high. Over the years, people have said to me, “you can't ride the papers”. That may be true, however, a horses papers (from a legitimate registry) will give you much information about a horse's potential. Essentially, a horses papers are his history, and the proof that he is what he is represented to be. Study bloodlines and competition records and do your best to make informed breeding choices.



by Craig Heckert and Patty Larson

Recently Dressage has had the honor of coming to the forefront of equestrian sports. Many prominent trainers of all disciplines have realized the usefulness of dressage training with all types of horses. This has led to both greater understanding and misunderstanding of just what dressage is.

THE IMPORTANCE OF RIDER POSITION ~ Horses go exactly the way they are ridden!

              Many of us remember that learning to ride was WORK! Your position was the first thing taught and of THE most importance. There was not much concern for the rider feelings if you were riding poorly, the comment of “you couldn't ride a stick-horse” was heard all to often! Now we seem to be in a time when instructors will only tell riders what they want to hear. Or is it that students are so thin skinned that they can not handle criticism? Which ever it is, please remember that it is the horse who suffers from poor riding.

              No one wants to be told they may need several years and many hours to learn to ride correctly, we all want the quick and easy method. But one of the truths of this world that will never change is that any thing that is worth pursuing is going to take time and effort.

              Last week while watching the latest “infomercial trainer” on television, we were shown the PROBLEM horse of the segment. The rider was a very poor, unbalanced passenger. She went from a chair seat to a perched seat, back and forth, all the time jerking on the reins because her horse had “attitude”. In her chair seat, she would swing her legs way back and spur the horse. The horse would throw it's head up and lurch into a lope on the wrong lead. Then the rider who now is trying stay with the horse grabs the horn jerks the reins and yells whoa! The horse starts to stop which throws the rider off balance again. She flops forward, only to spur the horse trying to catch her balance. This goes on as our infomercial trainer makes a running commentary, all about the horses “attitude”. His assessment was “boy we are going to have to train that attitude out of him” or some similar comment.

           Never was the subject of the rider not being able stay with the movement of the horse addressed! Instead the horse was blamed because it had “attitude.” What we saw was that the only “attitude” the horse had was patience in trying to compensate for a very poor rider.

          At this point the Trainer gets on. Of course he is a solid, balanced rider with a secure seat and legs. So using one of his “top secret techniques,” the horse's attitude magically disappears and off they go in a nice frame. It was pretty obvious that the rider was what made the difference, not any new training technique! Then our Trainer was off to sell one of his many products and of course they were glad to take credit cards.

          Naturally, business is business and the trainer does not want to turn away customers! We all know that people want to hear that we have the secret or gimmick that will make the horse perfect. But there is no secret other than the horse is a living breathing thing that does not speak English and the human is supposed to be the smart one of the two.

         George Theoderescu, one of the masters of our time, was quoted as saying “Man begins his life as a pedestrian, negotiating the world on two legs. In order to become a rider he must think and move like a horse. The rider must become one with the horse, and the world must, suddenly, be negotiated with four legs in balance. He likened the horse to a tightrope walker “one man can manage to walk the tight rope, but if you put another man on his shoulders, the job becomes much more difficult. Only if the top man remains steady, still and supple can the task be achieved. It is not the horses who make mistakes.”

         We understand how people get frustrated and want to blame the horse, but if each of us will step back and take time to work on our riding, you and your horse will be a lot happier. Asses your riding abilities honestly. Do you have an independent seat? Are you comfortable and secure at all gaits? Is your horse steady and balanced at all gaits? Will he go quietly in a snaffle? These are the “tools” you need to get started on your way in Dressage. Achieving a correct seat isn't all that difficult. It does however, take time in the saddle.


Above are examples of a good seat, a chair seat and a perched seat.

       A correct Dressage seat teaches the rider to control the horse more with the seat and legs and less with the hands. In referring to inside and outside leg or hand remember that if your horse is traveling to the right, his right side is the inside and his left side is the outside. The rider “positions” the horses body with their legs. The outside leg further back than the inside leg will help “bend” the horse. If your horse is obedient on the lunge line, having an instructor give you lunge lessons is very helpful as well as lessons on a schooled horse. But if that is not an option, there are many wonderful videos available. The United States Dressage Federation ( has a wealth of information available as well. Dressage does take more time but with correct riding, most horses progress quickly. There are no shortcuts however, and doing it the proven, “classical” way WILL get you there the quickest.

     The word dressage is French for “to train”. Dressage and the principals of Dressage are very useful tools in the training of young horses being started under saddle as well as older horses in need of a tune-up. What sets Dressage apart from other training methods is it's systematic approach. There is a clearly defined “training scale” that successful dressage trainers use. The training scale is a gradual, logical system of strengthening and supplying exercises with the goal of developing the horse to it's full potential. Competition Dressage is different levels, beginning with simple exercises at Training Level, consisting of walk, trot and canter, on 20 meter circles and on straight lines, and in both directions. Each Level of Dressage requires more suppleness, strength and obedience from the horse and better, more precise riding from the rider.

     One of the best things about Dressage is that almost any horse is suitable for at least the lower levels. Your horse needs to be sound and able to walk, trot and canter. Dressage is good for gaited horses as well, but lateral gaits are heavily penalized in competition. You will need a snaffle bridle and a Dressage saddle. A dressage saddle is built to help place the rider in the correct position. Dressage saddles come in all price ranges, from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. A good alternative for the budget conscience rider are the synthetic saddles. We prefer the Wintec saddles as they fit a wide variety of horses and are comfortable for riders.

      Dressage differs from many disciplines in that correct Dressage is ridden “back to front”. In other words, from the time a young dressage horse is started under saddle, he is ridden with the intention of developing the weight carrying capacity of the hind legs and as a consequence, the forehand becomes lighter as the horse learns to step up into the bridle. He is not ridden in draw reins or other gadgets to set his head. The arched neck and head set of a dressage horse develops as a result of correct riding.

               The Half Halt                                         Probably the most important “tool” in Dressage is the half-halt. A half-halt is exactly what it sounds like. The rider sits deeper in the saddle and “stops” his seat and closes his hands on the reins, momentarily telling the horse to halt with seat and hands. The horse will take shorter, more upward steps. But instead of a full halt, the rider again rides forward and the horse will be more energetic and attentive. The half-halt is something that you will develop to “tell” your horse that something new is going to happen.

Before we go further, lets talk about straightness. A Dressage horse MUST be straight. But straight is not stiff. A dressage horse must be supple from side to side and over their top line and comfortable traveling straight. Straight means that his rear feet follow the path of his front feet. Lack of straightness will be most apparent at canter so I'll address it there. But always be aware of crookedness on your horses part and ride correctly to minimize it. Correct Dressage basics will make many things easier for your horse regardless of his discipline. In addressing straightness you will also teach your horse to “stand up straight” and not bank around corners like a dirt bike. As he becomes straighter he becomes stronger and more able to stay “on the aids” and carry himself.

To begin, ride your horse forward at the walk, encouraging him to march along, on a large circle. You should have a light elastic feel of his mouth through the reins, without him pulling into your hands. He should have a slight bend in the direction of travel. Your inside leg is at the girth and your outside leg is slightly behind the girth. Your inside leg is creating energy and you outside leg keeps his hindquarters from swinging out. Keep the idea, “inside leg to outside hand” in your mind. As you move him up into trot, maintain the same feel of his mouth and send him into a forward, swingy working trot. This trot should have steady rhythm. The rider helps the horse maintain the rhythm by sending him forward with their legs. The amount of “leg” required will be determined by how responsive your horse is. If you are dealing with a horse who is “dead” to the leg the use of spurs or a dressage whip may be necessary. You want your horse to respond immediately to your leg. Picking at him will only make him more insensitive. Ideally, you deepen your seat, close your leg with a nudge forward and your horse will strike off in a nice, forward, rhythmic trot. Keep in mind that forward does not mean speed. A horse that scurries along on the forehand is not forward. Forward is the feeling of controlled energy because the horse is pushing forward and upward from behind. His back feels soft and he is comfortable to sit. However until you are able to develop this feel, posting the trot will make it easier for your horse. You can help your horse be much more “aware” of his hindquarters by doing many transitions. Transitions from walk to trot and trot to walk with only a few steps of each will help greatly to engage the hind legs AND make your horse more attentive to you as well. In short, you are creating energy from “behind” and “capturing” it in front with your soft elastic contact of the reins. Gradually your horse becomes stronger and more able to carry himself.

Canter will be the most difficult for the majority horses because most horses are either right or left “handed” resulting in a crooked canter. Watch horses canter free. You will notice that most horses have a preferred lead and will carry their hindquarters slightly (or sometimes dramatically) to the side of their preferred lead. Make sure that you ride the same on both leads although you will have to do more positioning in your horses “bad” direction. Make sure that you always position you horse so he is bent in the direction of travel. The bend is slight, from the saddle you should see just the corner of the horses eye. Any more bend only pushes the shoulder out and disengages the hindquarters further and thus creates more crookedness. Proper positioning will result in nice canter departs, always on the correct lead.

In your horses “good” direction he will maybe offer too much bend which you will need to correct by using more outside rein and more outside leg to encourage him to travel straight. The opposite will be true on his bad side. He will want to counterbend to the outside. You will need more inside hand and more inside leg to position him with the proper inside bend. If you are consistent and correct in your riding your horse will become comfortable with straight and become much more capable. He will travel with his hind feet closer together and his hind feet will follow in the path of his front feet not to one side or the other. If crookedness is addressed as soon as possible in a horses training, it will solve many “training” problems later on. For instance, most horses can do a single flying change regardless of weather they are straight or not. But if your goal is the upper levels, until a horse is straight he will not be able to do the upper level movements. And remember that Dressage makes a horse physically stronger so passing up basics such as straightness will come back to haunt you.

In closing, remember, basics! When riding we think “relaxation, suppleness and forward. Followed by “positioning, soft elastic contact and transitions”. If you are starting a young horse, stick to correct basics and your horse will develop quickly. If you are reschooling an older or spoiled horse, the same basics apply. Yes, it will require work on you and your horses part but the rewards are a wonderful partnership!

This article first appeared in TODAY'S HORSE MAGAZINE


Reprinted with permission from

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Foundation Stallions used in Warmblood development.


There are so many stallions that have influenced modern “sport horse” breeding today, that choosing just a few, “Foundation Stallions” to write about has turned into quite a project. I have tried to pick a few stallions that are important to this day and bloodlines that are contributing to our present day champions.

One of my favorites is LAPIS. Lapis was a Yugoslavian Shagya-Arabian stallion sired by Siglavy II and out of Phänomen. He can be traced back as far as 1816, when Siglavy was imported from the Arabian desert as a breeding sire for Babolna, the Hungarian National Stud. Lapis stood at the Hungarian National Stud before being captured by the Germans and assigned to the Army Riding and Driving school at Krampnitz. While at the school he won the admiration of first Lieutenant Schmidt-Salzmann, who took Lapis to the front in 1941 as his cavalry mount. Lapis carried his rider home to Germany from Central Russia after the defeated German army was dispersed. This horse carried him through enemy lines and the perils of the Russian winter, at one point swimming alongside his rider's boat across the Elbe River to escape enemy forces. Sometimes having only the straw from thatched cottage roofs to suffice as fodder, Lapis survived the 6000 kilometre ordeal healthy and sound. He and his rider were taken prisoner by the British on the trek home; however, diplomacy secured the release of horse and rider, and Schmidt-Salzmann received permission to bring him home to Germany. Once in the safety of his hometown, Salach, located east of Stuttgart, Schmidt-Salzmann helped the staff of the evacuated Stud Babolna return to their own country. In gratitude of his support, the Babolna Stud gave him the choice of a broodmare. He selected the elegant chestnut mare 68 Fenek V of Anglo-Arab lines, born at the National Stud Kisber. Lapis was bred to the mare, and in 1948 a bay colt was foaled... Burnus.

Burnus was to become one of the superstars in the Trakehner breed, with his influence reaching into European and American Warmblood breeding.  Burnus, ridden by Dr. Reiner Klimke won the German National Eventing Championship before he embarked on his illustrious stud career. Burnus became one of the pillars of the breed, mating 420 mares until the time of his death at age 32 in 1980.   He produced three approved sons, and 40 broodmares but the coal black, 16.3 hand Habicht would prove to be the most successful proginator of the Lapis line. Habicht had very elastic movement with great impulsion that he passed on almost 100% to his get. He passed his inspection and was entered into the stud book as a Premium Stallion. He won the stallion performance test at Westercelle with a commanding lead a year later. After standing as chief sire at the Rantzau stud, he was offered at age 7 to the German Olympic Committee. Dr. Klimke wanted him as a dressage horse, Lutz Goessig requested him as a show jumper, but the event team won him and Martin Plewa took him for three-day eventing. Habicht competed in Eventing for six years and was one of the most successful three-day eventers on the national circuit. He was returned to breeding in the 1980's, and he won the Southern German Warmblood Horse Grand Champion title and was named Premium Stallion at the Federal Stallion show Habicht sired 13 approved sons: They have been used in several Warmblood breeds including Dutch Warmblood, Belgin Warmblood, Zweubrucken, Zangersheide and of course Trakehner.

Two of Habicht's most famous sons are Windfall and Sixtus. Windfall a black Trakehner was first ridden first by Ingrid Klimke, winning many National and International Eventing Championships. At the young age of 6 he won the prestigious title of federal champion. At age 7, Windfall won every single CIC** and CIC*** that was held in Germany, including such big events like the National open European championship trials in Cavertitz and was named Trakehner of the year. The following year, Windfall and Ingrid won the German professional rider championships, a unique test where all the professionals meet and compete against each other in intermediate dressage, open jumping and intermediate cross country. You are allowed to take different horses for the different disciplines. Ingrid showed only Windfall, and won. That had never been accomplished before . Imported into the United States in 2000 by Dr. Timothy Holecamp Windfall, ridden by Daren Chiacchia has had resounding success in Eventing in North America and in fact have just won the Gold Medal in the Pan American Games Three Day Event!!

Sixtus, himself, is a very successful show jumper in Germany and is one of the most sought after sires in Germany. He was named Trakehner “Stallion of the Year” in 2001 and is one of the youngest stallions ever to be named “Elite Stallion”. Already represented by 5 Approved sons including the Hanoverian State Stallion, Buddenbrock. The Lapis line continues to be an important influence in modern Warmblood breeding and the impact of the bloodline will be felt for years to come.

Another Anglo Shagya stallion of enormous influence was Ramzes. Foaled in 1937 in Poland, Ramzes was imported to Germany in 1948 by Clemens Freiherr von Nagel, who initially gave the stallion to German jumping rider, Hans-Heinrich Brinkmann as a competition horse. Ramzes was leased by and stood at the Holstein Verband in 1951 and 1952 to refine the heavy Warmblood horses of the area. His sire was the great Thoroughbred, Rittersporn, while his dam was the Shagya Arab, Jordi. His jumping offspring Retina, ridden by Fritz Thiedemann, Romanus with Hans Günther Winkler and Ramona with Alwin Schockemöhle established Ramzes' fame in Holstein, and resulted in him standing there for two more seasons, in 1959 and 1960, before he was transferred to Westfalia.

While in Holstein, Ramzes bred show jumpers, but when used in Westfalia, he produced dressage horses. The Ramzes son, Remus won individual dressage silver and team gold at the Tokyo Olympics, where he was ridden by Harry Boldt. Two years later, another son, Mariano (ridden by Josef Neckermann) won the World Dressage Championship, with Remus collecting another silver medal. Mariano won silver at the 1968 Games - and four years later, at the Munich Games, another son, Robin was a member of the German gold medal winning show jumping team. The Ramzes son, Radetzky established in Westfalia a line that led to Romadour and in turn to his gold medal winning son, Rembrandt, Nicole Uphoffs brilliant champion.

In Holstein, Ramzes produced five licensed sons, including Raimond and Rigoletto. Rigoletto was sold to The Netherlands where he was an enormously successful sire of showjumpers. Raimond was the sire of Ramiro, arguably the most successful jumping sire of them all.

In his history of the breed: 'The Holsteiner Horse', Romedio Graf von Thun-Hohenstein, sums up the influence of Ramzes: “The marvelously positive results were doubtless due to the large percentage of Thoroughbred blood carried by Ramzes himself... Ramzes influence in Holstein seems to have achieved its greatest importance with the whole list of first class approved broodmares which carry his blood. “

There are some names that keep appearing on performance horse pedigrees over and over and over again - none more so than the English Thoroughbred, Bay Ronald, foaled in 1893. The hurdler, Hampton, sired Bay Ronald who had a successful career as a racer. However, he was a sensation at stud, both as a sire of race horses and founding a line in Warmblood breeding that still flourishes today. His most influential son, Dark Ronald (sire of Son In Law) is certainly one of, if not, the most influential jumping progenitors of all time. The line descends from the Darley Arabian.

Before his prepotency could be proven, Bay Ronald was sold to France for £5,000 where his career as a sire really bloomed. In France he sired the mare Rondeau, dam of Teddy - one of the most important influences in Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and the USA. Teddy features on the pedigree of France's most successful export to Hannover - Matcho (Anglo-Arab) (by Pancho II (Anglo-Arab)-Nit hard (Anglo-Arab) Kesbeth (Anglo-Arab)-Dadji (TB)-Astérus (TB) by Teddy)

In Germany, we regularly find both Teddy and Dark Ronald. Take the pedigree of Donnerwetter, the sire of Donnerhall (Oldenburg). His dam, Melli is by Matador (Marconi-Marcio (TB)-Aventin (TB)-Teddy (TB), and Aventin's dam's sire is Dark Ronald!) and out of Lilli by Der Löwe whose dam, Lehnsherrin (TB) is by Herold (TB) by Dark Ronald. World Cup I (and his brothers II-IV, of course) is by Woermann whose dam, Mandat is by Marabou (TB)-Oleander (TB)-Prunes (TB)-Dark Ronald. World Cup's dam is Sendernixe out of Lünenixe by Lugano 1 by Der Löwe.

According to one report the Dark Ronald grandson, Oleander features on the sire line of the Lithuanian bred dressage star, Rusty, although it should be noted that several pedigrees have been produced for this horse.

In Hannover the influence of Dark Ronald has been strong. The influential Thoroughbred sire, Der Löwe, is out of a daughter of Herold, by the Dark Ronald son, Dark Legend. Another daughter of Herald, produced Abendfrieden, sire of Pik As, sire of Pik König. Another of the great modern sires of the Hanverian breed - Werther who is out of Meisterkrone by Marcio (TB) - once again two crosses of Bay Ronald in the breeding of Marcio's sire Aventin. The Thoroughbred, Pik As who is so influential through his son Pik Bube, is by Abendfrieden (TB), whose dam Antonia (TB) is by Herold by Dark Ronald. Another influential Thoroughbred in Germany is Valentino (TB) - by Nuvolari (TB) by Oleander (TB) by Prunes (TB) by Dark Ronald. Or take Waidmannsdank (TB) who appears on many Hannoverian pedigrees - his dam, Waldrun is by Alcehmist by Herold by Dark Ronald, while his sire, Neckar (TB) is out of Nixe by Arjaman by Herold. Neckar is by Tricino who is out of Terra who in turn is by Aditi who is an own son of Dark Ronald.

Bay Ronald's dam, Black Duchess was also the third dam of Blandford, sire of four Derby winners, including Bahram, sire of Persian Gulf, the grandsire of Marlon (TB), an influential sire in Holstein breeding. Marlon's dam, Maralinni is out of Misguided, by Knight of the Garet by Son-In-Law by Dark Ronald.

Even more influential in Holstein breeding has been Ladykiller (TB), bred in Britain in 1961. Ladykiller is by Sailing Light whose dam, Solar Cygnet is by Hyperion, by Gainsborough by Bayardo - while Ladykiller's dam, Lone Beech is by Fartuch by Apron by Son-in-Law by Dark Ronald. Ladykiller was the most influential Thoroughbred stallion in Germany for many years, and his sons Landgraf I and Lord were two jewels in the crown of modern Holstein breeding. Ladykiller produced 33 stallion sons in the Holsteiner Studbook!

It was through his British born son, Son-In-Law that Dark Ronald was to dominate the bloodlines of the sport horse world. Son-In-Law was described as a plodding middle distance horse, but he became known as a sire of slow maturing horses of great stamina. Son-In-Law's daughters were responsible for such influential sires as Fair Trial and Round Table. Three of the most important sires in modern Holstein breeding trace to Son-In-Law: a grandson, Cottage Son, Ladykiller (though his second dam) and Cor de la Bryère whose sire, Rantzau is a great grandson of Son-In-Law. Son-In-Law was himself a 'Cups Specialist' winning eight races out of 18 in his career for total earnings of £5,546; his sons won four Ascot Gold Cups and two Goodwood Cups. No other stallion produced so many sons of almost unlimited staying power.

The hugely influential Holsteiner, Cottage Son, bred in England in 1944, is by Young Lover, by Son-In-Law by Dark Ronald. Cottage Son was unraced, but a successful sire of hunters in England before his export to Germany. Unfortunately his career in Holstein was only to last four short years, from 1960 to 1964 before his tragic fatal accident. But what four years! In that time he produced 14 approved sons and 42 approved daughters - he was also crucial as a sire of broodmares. One of the most influential jumping stallions of modern times is Ramiro, by Raimond out of Valine by Cottage Son, while Lord was out of Viola, again by Cottage Son. Cottage Son's most famous grandson was Granat - World Champion Dressage horse, by Consul.

Son-In-Law was also the sire of Maureen, the dam of Furioso, one of the most influential sires in modern sporthorse breeding. Furioso is by Precipitation - the prime representative of the other great Thoroughbred jumping line, founded by Hurry On. Furioso xx had 21 race starts for not one single win! Nor did he ever jump a fence but he soon proved himself an exceptional sire of jumping horses. His son, Lutteur B was the individual gold showjumping medallist at the 1964 Olympic Games. Ten Furioso progeny competed at the Tokyo Olympics, and a staggering 30 representatives (from 303 foals) won international events.





  Our annual Rheinland-Pfalz-Saar Keuring on Friday, Sept. 2, 2005 was a wonderful success!  Our entire foal crop all scored SILVER or GOLD Medal PREMIUMS!!! This is especially rewarding to us as our foals are pasture raised, and foaled in late Spring and early summer,  not "hot house flowers". The first 3 Lion King foals arrived and WOW, are they nice! Very "modern" type with his "look at me" presence.  They also have his bold, confident attitude so are really easy to handle.  See those available for purchase on our horses for sale page.


Rivervale Farm hosts 2003 German Rheinland-Pfalz-Saar Keuring

Western South Dakota's annual RPSI Keuring was held on September 8, 2003 at Rivervale Farm, Nisland, SD.

Rivervale Farm presented 5 foals and one broodmare.  The mare was Sarah Song a purebred Arabian. She was accepted into the Main Mare Book.  Sarah's beautiful black filly, RF Mariachi, by Meisterwind was awarded a Silver Medal Premium with scores of 7.4 and 8.0 for an overall score of 7.8.

Other foals presented were: RF Macarena, bay filly by Meisterwind, out of Pfiesta (TK) Gold medal Premium. This filly scored 7.4 and 8.6 for an overall score of 8.0.

RF Marivedi, bay colt by Meisterwind, out of Chipper Bezt (AA) Silver Medal Premium. Scores of 7.0 and 8.2 for an overall score of 7.6. This colt is for sale.

RF Merlot, dark brown colt by Meisterwind, out of Trinkgeld (TK) Gold Medal Premium. Scores of 7.8 and 8.2 for an overall score of 8.0 This colt is for sale.

RF Milwaukee Steel, black colt  by Meisterwind out of Pfeffernuss (TK) Gold Medal Premium. Scores of 8.2 and 8.6 for an overall score of 8.4. This colt is in the top 5 nationally! Not bad for a July foal raised on pasture!


Pinto colt by Spectrum out of a TB mare. Silver Medal Premium. Owned by Marcia Graber, Rapid City, SD

Cadence PT, chestnut colt by Czar's Legend out of Kamille (Holst.)  Gold Medal Premium. Scores of 8.0 and 8.0 for an overall score of 8.0. Cadence PT is owned by Prairie Thunder Ranch.

Cathrine Berke also presented her two lovely imported Zweibrucken mares. Helena, a 1997 mare by Herzberg (TK)out of Helena XXXII (TK) scored 49 points, earning the distinction "Premium" mare.

Liaison, 1998 mare by Leonberg (ZW) out of Grenoble (ZW) scored 48 points, placing her into the Main Mare Book.


Annual Rheinland-Pfalz-Saar / Zweibrücken Keuring at Happy Hills Ranch is a GOLDEN Day

The annual RPSI Keuring was held on Friday, Sept. 20, at Happy Hills Ranch, Hill City, SD. Twenty German Warmblood horses were presented to Judges Hans-Willy Kusserow and Otto Shalter. Mr. Kusserow and Mr. Schalter represent the Rheinland-Pfalz-Saar Verband in Germany and are responsible for guiding the development of Zweibrücken horses in North America.

Stallions, mares and foals were evaluated and graded. Foals are judged on a Premium scale, Gold Medal Premium, a score of 8 or higher, Silver Medal Premium, a score of 7 to 7.9, and Bronze Medal Premium, a score from 6 to 6.9. Stallions are graded into Book I or Book II with their registry status and “Breeding Approval” pending performance testing. Warmblood stallions are not licensed to breed without completing 100 days of stallion testing or competing in Dressage, Jumping or Eventing at the FEI (International) level. Mares are graded into the Pre-Mare Book, the Mare Book or the Main Mare Book. Only foals from Book I stallions and Mare Book or Main Mare Book mares receive the full brand and full registration, all others receive a 1/2 brand and a Certificate of Pedigree.

The horses are presented "in hand" where their conformation is evaluated. They are then turned loose to show off their movement. Foals are presented with their dams. Each horse is scored between 1 and 10 for both conformation and movement. Stallions are also "free jumped" through a jump chute so their jumping talent can be evaluated.

Amber Burns-Christian of Prairie Thunder Ranch, Whitewood, SD presented her two Holsteiner stallions, Legado De Fuego and Czar's Legend and both were accepted into Stallion Book 1 pending the 30 day test and sport results or the 70 day test. She also presented a beautiful flaxen chestnut colt by Czar's Legend, out of Charlotte's Web. He was awarded a Silver Premium. Charlotte's Web was also accepted into the Pre-Mare Book.

It was an exceptionally good day for the Happy Hills Ranch horses. Eight foals were presented, all sired by Meisterwind. Five of the foals received Gold Medal Premiums and three earned Silver Medal Premiums. But the high point of the day was when Hans-Willy and Otto asked if there is any possibility of leasing Meisterwind so he could stand at stud, and have semen frozen for the future in Germany. They feel he is one of the best stallions in the World! Considering that the finest warmblood stallions are in Germany, this was quite a compliment indeed. A final decision has not yet been made as this is a very big decision.

All in all it was a very good day! The Germans have a wealth of knowledge that they are willing to share. They feel that South Dakota is quickly becoming the hub of Zweibrücken breeding in North America and are very excited about the future. Possible plans for a stallion testing station in South Dakota were discussed as well!

Scores for the Happy Hills Ranch foals were as follows:

MEISTERHAFT, colt, by Meisterwind, out of HH Good Luck, 7.6 / 8.8 = 8.4 and a GOLD PREMIUM.

MEISTERWERKE, colt by Meisterwind, out of Gold Digger. 7.8 / 8.4 = 8.1 and a GOLD PREMIUM.

MALACHITE, colt by Meisterwind, out of Deva. 6.5 / 8.1 = 7.3 and a SILVER PREMIUM.

MEISTERIN, filly by Meisterwind, out of Willow Bezt X, 7.6 / 7.8 = 7.7 and a SILVER PREMIUM.

MEZMERIZE, filly by Meisterwind, out of Pantone. 7.8 / 8.2 = 8.0 and a GOLD PREMIUM

MADERIA, filly by Meisterwind, out of Liberty Belle. 7.6 / 8.2 = 7.9 and a SILVER PREMIUM.

MAGISCH, filly by Meisterwind, out of Trinkgeld. 8.2 / 8.2 = 8.2 and a GOLD PREMIUM.

MISS AMERICA, filly by Meisterwind, out of Pffefernuss. 8.0 / 8.6 = 8.3 and a GOLD PREMIUM.