The World of Living with Horses

Conversation With a German Brunette by Stephanie von Bidder

Ariana is the sweetest mare I’ve met. She always knickers when she sees me and pricks her ears. She loves it when I scratch around the side of her face: Her eyes get soft and doe-like. Ariana is big and placid like a Jersey heifer. And she loves to eat, mulling over her food, enjoying how it makes her feel.

Don’t misunderstand me, Ariana is no cow; she’s a powerful and gifted athlete as I learned when I bought her. I went to a friend’s farm to find a pleasure horse for a client. I saw a big dark bay mare, a hunter, turned out in a field. She was very attractive. She was also not for sale.

Fast-forward one month. My friend called to say the mare was available. There was a hitch, though. Her owner had bred her the previous year. She’d been turned out since she had the foal. “She’s not very fit,” my friend said. I went that afternoon to try her.

Now, here are hunter basics: They must be very quiet, have a good lead change and a solid canter as the basis for a beautiful jump. Being a good mover is icing on the cake.

This mare had a spastic 100 mile-an-hour trot. I picked up the canter. It was bold, too bold, but there was a cadence to it and she had presence. I tried a lead change and the mare contorted her body, pinned her ears, tried to slam on the brakes, threw her shoulder toward the barn and produced a perfect cross canter. I moved to some jumping over a cross rail, then a few strides to an oxer. She was quick, jumping off to the left, but yanked her knees to her eyeballs: an athlete, no question about it.

I asked my friend about the mare’s history. ”She belongs to this amateur lady rider. She was in training as a three-day event horse for several years, but then they decided to breed her. She’s an Oldenburg,” my friend added.

Well, she is now 10 and I have no idea what she knows. Oh, and did I mention that she is a mere 17 hands?

Of course, I vetted her the next day and bought her knowing only that she was physically sound. Where this fantastic athlete will end up, I can’t predict. We’ll all have to learn.

Training challenge: Understanding what my big German girl is saying when her past is a mystery and we don’t speak the same language.

By Stephanie von Bidder

Stephanie trains horses and riders at her Daybreak Farm in Aiken, S.C.

Next: Creating a plan.



Stephanie von Bidder

Stephanie von Bidder grew up in New York’s Westchester County, where she had the opportunity to learn from Patricia Neff, Jerry Carollo, Joe Fargis and Darren Graziano. She now lives in Aiken, South Carolina at her own Daybreak Farm, a full-service hunter and equitation show stable. She trains riders of all ages and abilities in addition to their four-legged counterparts. Von Bidder holds her SCHJA judge’s card and is applying for her USEF license. In 2010, she completed her USHJA Trainer’s Certification.

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