Europe Adventure Part 4: the stallion show

After a couple days in Paris, a day in Brussels, and a day touring the Belgian country side looking at horses, we were finally to the main purpose of our trip: the sBs stallion selection show. For those who don’t know, sBs is the Belgian Sporthorse studbook. Despite being one of the smallest warmblood registries it still ranks #3 in the world for show jumping – pretty damn impressive for a humble little studbook in south Belgium when compared to all the glitz and glamour of the “big guys” like Hanoverian, Holsteiner, KWPN, and Oldenburg. Wondering what sBs horses you may have heard of before?

how about Rothchild?

 

or Hello Sanctos with Scott Brash – #1 in the world

 

Lucy Davis’ superstar Barron

Anyway, you get the point. Small registry, big quality.

Their stallion approvals every year are held in conjunction with a stallion show. This is awesome if you’re a spectator because not only do you get to see the young stallions that are being presented for approval as breeding stock, you also get to see the stallions that are already licensed and showing. Since we had the “in” we were at the VIP table reserved for the USA, so our seats were literally ringside. No joke, I got both dirt and horse slobber on me at various points during the weekend. The true mark of great seats.

VIP

There were a total of 40 stallions being presented for approval, ranging in age from 3 to 6. Saturday morning kicked off with in hand presentations, followed by free jumping.

It’s not JUST a jumping registry! This is a 3yo stallion by Totilas.

 

IMG_5179
Diamanti van de Helle Z

 

my personal favorite, Mercy Van’t Ruytershof by Arko III

Then the stallions that were 4, 5, or 6 years old came out and did a jumping round under saddle. They showed against the already approved stallions of those ages, in classes divided by age, much like our young jumper classes are here in the US. These pictures are all from the 4yo class:

IMG_5168

IMG_4995

IMG_4986

One of the best parts of being VIP is that you get free champagne and vouchers for the food. And we’re not talking sandwiches here, we’re talking awesome catered meals. It was, no joke, some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. The desserts deserve their own shoutout too.

How to get fat at the stallion show and REGRET NOTHING

On Sunday they free jumped the 3yo’s again, then announced who had made the cut. As you can see from the short “approved” list, most didn’t. These guys are very selective.

But the ones who did make the cut were all really nice young horses. After the new approvals were announced it was back to horse show mode, with more classes for 4, 5, 6, and 7yo stallions.

Being a good little tack ho, I did keep vague track of what I was seeing tack and apparel wise. Samshield definitely ruled for helmets, and I saw a LOT of Animo coats and breeches. It seemed like every other horse was in a CWD breastplate, but the saddles ran the gamut of mostly french brands. I did notice three Ogilvy pads and one Ecogold pad, although most were sheepskin types. Stirrups were almost all Jin, Freejump, or Royal Rider. Also the overwhelming majority of the horses were in simple snaffles. It also gave me the warm fuzzies to see so many Horse Pilot jackets, a french brand I mentioned on here a couple times last year. They’re beautiful in person.

this 6yo (by Diamant de Semilly out of a Papillon Rouge mare) was a little guy but boy was he quick and athletic

 

BOING in the 4yo class

 

my favorite of the older stallions, this is 6yo Jaguar van Paemel. He was really really impressive, I would not be surprised to see him on the world stage in a couple more years.

 

an actual nice picture of Jaguar – we were sitting just to the left edge of this picture

Unfortunately we had to pack it in before the 7yo’s started so we could make the train to take us back to Brussels, but by then my butt was pretty tired of sitting anyway. If you’re really interested you can go back and watch the entire selection show here: https://www.clipmyhorse.tv/en/archive/detail/1045/all/sbs-selection-show and probably catch glimpses of us in the crowd, most likely drinking and eating.

I really want to thank sBs for their hospitality – they were all super friendly and showed this American a really great time. It was also fun to get to mingle with some of the most successful breeders in Europe at dinner, and I admit I giggled a bit at how fascinated they were with the American Thoroughbred. They looooved looking at pedigrees, and they were very willing to share their knowledge about their own native bloodlines. It was such a wonderful experience and I learned so much, plus fell completely head over heels in love with Belgium along the way. Not kidding at all when I say I could totally live there.

À la prochaine, Belgique! I’m already trying to figure out the next time I can go back… maybe if the SO is good he can come this time. 😉

Europe Adventure Part 3: Belgium farm visits

After a couple days in Paris and a day of eating and drinking around Brussels, our new Belgian friend Baudouin of Haras des Concessions picked us up on Friday morning to take us around to see some horses. He was accompanied by his adorable little terrier Nina, who I’m pretty sure is the cutest dog in all of Europe.

belly rubs for my backseat companion

Our first stop was Stal de Muze, home of many world class horses including the renowned show jumping stallion Nabab de Reve (WEG bronze medalist in 2002 and sire of Vigo – WEG gold medalist in 2012) who is now 25 and still looking great.

IMG_4187

We got a quick tour around the barn, looking at all of Joris’ lovely horses. We saw some really big name bloodlines, from half siblings to Hickstead to foals out of Butterfly Flip. If you’re a show jumping groupie, this place is your heaven. The facilities were also, as you can imagine, world class.

IMG_4188
half brother to Hickstead (same dam)

 

IMG_4207
Looking in on the yearlings

 

yearling out of Butterfly Flip

I also found it interesting that he had some young eventers there by wb stallions out of full tb dams – a cross that tends to be looked-down-upon in the US. Granted, the dam was an international level eventer herself, not just a random TB.

IMG_4246
Grand Prix stallion Elvis ter Putte

 

IMG_4218
Carrots in bulk, anyone?

After Stal de Muze we headed to the barn of Lara de Liedekerke and her husband Kai Steffen Meier, both 4* eventers. Lara is only 26 and has already represented Belgium at two WEG’s. Pretty crazy. Their barn is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. First you pull up past the castle-like house and see this view when you park:

Then you actually go inside the barn and your jaw just drops.

Then you start walking around and looking at the horses, and your mouth pretty much just stays open in amazement the entire time. The sheer number of top quality horses in this barn is pretty incredible, and from all kinds of bloodlines: Jaguar Mail, Mighty Magic, Diarado, Orlando, etc etc. Nothing that has made it to this place got there by accident. Even the young horses are accomplished, many of whom had top 5 or top 10 placings at young horse championships under their girths already.

IMG_4288
6yo stallion by Mighty Magic

 

IMG_4291
Ducati Van Den Overdam, Lara’s WEG partner

 

IMG_4323
Baudouin sitting on his Jaguar Mail filly (who refused to get up from her nap) while Nina begs for attention

 

IMG_4331
when the Jaguar Mail filly finally DID get up to say hi, she was very sweet

IMG_4344

Lara and Kai were both very nice, taking us around and showing us the horses, including a young Mighty Magic gelding that Kai has for sale. This is an important moment, because this is where I really fell hard in love with Mighty Magic and decided I have to have one.

IMG_4355
Max, 4yo gelding by Mighty Magic

 

IMG_4377
more Max

 

IMG_4387
For real, I need one.

The two MM offspring they had were quite similar looking, and both seemed really good minded. Definitely my type of horse.

IMG_4437
Lara ready to hack out

After we left Lara’s place we headed out to see more of Baudouin’s horses. He breeds mostly eventers and has a lot of TB and Anglo Arab (real Anglo Arab, not tb x arab crosses) blood in his stock. As an eventer, chatting with him and racking his brain was really interesting. He’s also seen so many young horses by all the popular eventing stallions that he’s a wealth of knowledge about what crosses work well. I may or may not have shown him a few thousand pictures and made him pick which of my mares would be best for Mighty Magic.

one of Baudouin’s young AA mares. She was a character.

Then we headed to another of Baudouin’s barns to see some brand spanking new babies that he had foaled out for a client – these were straight Arabian show foals, apparently worth ridiculous sums of money. It was fun to play with the babies a bit.

IMG_4580
Never turn your back on an Arab

 

this happens

Then we headed to the last stop of the day – the barn of young event rider Julia Schmitz. We saw yet another Mighty Magic, this time a 4yo stallion owned by Baudouin out of one of his AA mares. I loved him too. The consistency across the board in these offspring is pretty incredible.

IMG_4655
Figaro des Concessions, 4yo stallion by Mighty Magic out of Daguet de Terlong AA

 

IMG_4712
more Figaro

 

IMG_4771
This is Sinhus, a gelding by Sunlight xx out of a Hanoverian mare

 

IMG_4774
He had the most beautiful expression

This was, for me, the best day of the trip. I loved being able to see all the different horses and so many different bloodlines all at once. It’s tough to get that kind of experience here in the US, with how spread out we are geographically. We also got the insider’s look on how they raise and keep their young horses – also really interesting. Some Americans would just die at the mere sight of the mud or the thought of communal stalls for babies. And of course, spending the day driving around the southern Belgian countryside was a treat in and of itself. What a beautiful place… I totally could have stayed forever. And yes, I’m looking into purchasing a dose of Mighty Magic frozen semen to use for Sadie. We’ll see what happens. 😉

Tomorrow – on to the stallion show!

Europe Adventure Part 2: Brussels

After spending a couple days in Paris, where we ate and drank and walked way too much, we headed to Brussels for a day. Guess what we did there? Ate, drank, and walked way too much.

To be honest, I was a little skeptical about Brussels at first. The walk from the train station to our hotel did not make a great first impression (it was one of those “don’t make eye contact and just keep moving” kind of affairs) and after being dazzled by the beauty of Paris it just looked drab in comparison. Things started looking up when we got to our hotel – it was old but super swanky and cool.

The view from the balcony – Brussels is an interesting mixture of old vs new

Then when we left the hotel and walked a couple blocks away into La Grand-Place, I suddenly understood. WOW.

sometimes I panoramic

 

La Grand-Place is the city’s central square. It contains their Town Hall and some other official buildings, but also many taverns and touristy shops. I’ve never seen so much amazing chocolate in my entire life. First we hit a tavern for some beers (bonus points if you guess which one is mine) and a super delicious cheese tray. Because cheese.

A slightly different view than your typical American bar

Then we wandered around past some more shops and I learned that apparently Easter is a really big thing there. All the chocolate places had crazy elaborate displays in the windows, most of which involved bunnies of varying levels of creepiness.

it’s ALL chocolate!

Then we wandered down to an alley full of nice restaurants to find some mussels (apparently you must have mussels in Brussels, but I personally refused to partake because ew). I kept calling it Diagon Alley but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it. We got serenaded by some interesting dudes and were lured into a restaurant with the promise of free drinks. When you’ve already had a few beers, free drinks just seem silly to turn down. Plus – I was on vacation.

Not-Diagon-Alley

We ate and drank some more, then started wandering back towards our hotel. Along the way we passed a waffle shop with some awesome looking waffles in the window, so I leaned in for a closer look. Sadly, in my slightly hazy beer and wine induced state I mis-judged just how far away the window was and WHAM – forehead went boom into the glass. Commence my former friends dying of laughter, everyone in the shop dying of laughter (it was a loud thunk), and me slinking away in shame. No waffle for me, just a minor concussion and long lasting mortification. Sorry about the forehead print on  your window, waffle shop.

To make up for my lack of waffle, when we got back to the hotel we decided to see just how many macarons we could fit in our mouths. Those buggers are bigger than they look, I must say.

The trick is to smoosh them together…

 

Yep, that happened. Almost choked, but there are worse ways to die than via macaron eating contest. And yes there’s macaron in my hair. That’s how I party.

The next morning we snagged some breakfast from the buffet, where I fell in love with this brioche. Good god it was delicious. Pretty sure that’s crack sprinkled on top.

Then our Belgian friend Baudouin came to pick us up and take us to see some PONIES!!! But you have to wait til tomorrow for that… brace yourselves for pictures. Many many pictures.

 

 

Europe Adventure Part 1: Paris

After we landed in Brussels we took a train to Paris, checked into our hotel, and immediately set off sightseeing (sleep is overrated).

The view from my hotel room balcony

We didn’t get into Paris until around 2:30, so we mainly just walked around and got a feel for things, enjoying the city and making our plans for the next day. We ate (croque monsieur that I’m pretty sure had at least 2lbs of delicious cheese on it), we drank, we lost our way a couple times, and we got rained on, but it was still pretty amazing. Nothing exists in Paris that isn’t beautiful.

Notre Dame

 

view from one of the bridges

IMG_4170

Sunset at the Louvre, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

By the time we got back in the general area of our hotel we almost passed out on our feet in the market (30ish hours with no sleep maybe?) so we wisely decided to pack it in. I don’t think I’ve ever slept as well in my life as I did that first night. Exhaustion is awesome. On Day 2, which was our only full day in Paris, we had a definitive plan. We got up, had breakfast (the french breakfast is pretty much tailor made for me – a croissant, orange juice, and hot chocolate), and set off to the Eiffel Tower. Turns out that SOB is a lot farther away than it looks, it took us forever to get there. Almost 4 miles to be exact. Hindsight  – take the metro. But then we would have missed out on seeing all the cool stuff along the way so I guess it was worth it.

Then we walked a little ways further past the Eiffel Tower to a tack shop called Padd. It was pretty neat to see this big store full of horse stuff in the middle of Paris right across from the military school. I’m not sure if it’s sad or a blessing in disguise that I only bought one thing… could also be a testament to the fact that I have too much crap already. But either way, it was pretty fun to paw through all their stuff and see what they had. Lots of color, a good dose of sparkle, Samshields and Delrange galore.

your eyes do not deceive you, those are camo breeches

 

Build your own breastplate – you could pick whatever elastic color you wanted and it snapped onto the girth strap. Pretty cool.

Oh ya know, just a 4,000Euro Bruno Delgrange hanging out on the rack with the Wintecs…

 

After escaping the tack shop with minimal damage we walked back toward the Louvre area, had some lunch, then hoofed it over to the Catacombs. For a history nerd like me this was pretty awesome, even if the experience was made slightly less enjoyable by the intense pain in my feet and calves from having walked so far already. Getting to see “old Paris” sitting right there under current day Paris… mind-blowing.

By this point we’d been out walking for 8 hours and all of us were dead on our feet, so we started the long trek back to the hotel, stopping of course for some sustenance along the way. And by sustenance I mean macarons. Then boeuf bourguignon.

By the end of the day I think we walked at least 10 miles total, and god did it ever feel like it. We were wrecked by the time we finally fell into bed. It was tough getting up the next morning, all of my muscles were protesting, but we managed to pull ourselves together and crawl on the train to head back to Brussels for one day of sightseeing there before the pony time began!

IMG_4180
Au revoir, Paris!