Paradise Valley Performance Pony Stud is situated a little way beyond Wandin, in the beautiful Upper Yarra region of Victoria. It would be difficult to find a more picturesque location in autumn, with the breathtaking hills splashed with magical seasonal colours.
The stud principal Lyn Spiers, is a half owner of the imported Dutch dressage pony Flowervale Boginov. He recently took part in Ulf Moeller’s Dressage and Jumping with the Stars Pony Masterclass, stepping in at very short notice when a late scratching threatened this part of the 2013 program.
Flowervale Boginov (pictured left with Arden Woodford, Case Wientjens, Lyn Spiers and Peter Fischer) and Rossanne Mason’s imported pony Triple Trees Prince Perfect (Penmain Riding Ponies) shared the limelight and enjoyed accolades as pony enthusiasts agreed that the standard is rising and both stallions offer a great deal to the growing number of riders and trainers who are embracing Pony Dressage.
It is interesting to note that both stallions share common ancestors and while they are different types, there is great opportunity for them to improve the gene pool by bringing the proven imported bloodlines to Australian breeders.
I was unable to be at Ulf’s Masterclass, so delighted to accept an invitation to come and meet Boginov and honour a commitment to look in on a day’s instruction by the German Instructor/Coach Peter Fischer, who is now a regular at Flowervale Warmbloods in Yarragon, Victoria.
Flowervale Warmbloods is owned and operated by Case Wientjens and Dr Arden Woodford who are also co-owners of Flowervale Boginov. Arden has taken over the stallion's training and was looking forward to showing me how he has progressed under Peter’s instruction. All connections were still on a “high” following the very positive feedback that has flowed on, after the Masterclass.
Above - Prada the Aussie Shepherd
Prada shakes hands with Arden
As Lyn and I arrived at Flowervale and stepped out of the car, we were greeted by Prada, Arden’s Aussie Shepherd dog who wriggled her way into our affections and relished the chance to show us her tricks. She shakes hands, rolls over and smiles – no wonder everyone loves her.
Peter Fischer is the best kept secret in Australian Dressage, but as more people get to experience the sound knowledge and effective teaching style of this quietly spoken German, he is sure to find demand increasing … and this can only be good for the sport!
Peter and Mosi
Peter and his wife Ann-Katrin arrived in Australia in 2005 – to make a new life and take on some new challenges. They bring with them a sound knowledge of the German training system and Peter’s vast experience was gained operating a huge barn with 54 horses of which 30 were competing in Young Horse classes right through to Grand Prix, along with showjumpers – youngsters right through to A Grade. Peter looked after the interests of 30 owners and had 2 apprentices and 1 Bereiter working under his supervision. He says, “It was a huge job, 7 days a week from early morning until 10.30 at night. Even though it is what I love, I was ready for a change of pace and the opportunity to make Australia our home.”
I asked Peter to tell me about his German qualifications and the major influences in his equestrian career and he said, “I started my training as a Bereiter with Günter Festerling in Munich. I am now recognised as a "Pferdewirtschaftsmeister" and this qualification gives the opportunity to employ apprentices and train "Bereiters".
Günter has the very distinguished title of "Reitmeister", there are only a few people who have achieved this title and it recognises the ability to bring on young horses and train them right up to the highest level in both Dressage and Sowjumping. The latest person to be recognised as a "Reitmeister" is Ingrid Klimke, daughter of the most respected Reiner Klimke who was himself a multi disciplined horseman reaching the highest level in both Dressage and Showjumping.
Günter Festerling is also greatly revered for his contribution whilst managing the German equestrian centre at Warendorf. He has subsequently reached a wider audience and gained great respect for his publication "Ethics and Morals of Professional Riders".Right - Arden and Flowervale Boginov
“I also trained with Hans-Jörg Kaltenböck, a very accomplished rider and trainer who has been the German Professional Champion on 5 separate occasions. I have also worked with Iabell Werth and Klaus Balkenhol. These great riders and trainers have influenced the way I train and ride.” Peter explained.
“I came to Australia to have a break from horses and the long hours, but Berni, you probably know that when horses are in your blood, you cannot stay away for long and I have become more and more involved and am now teaching full time. There are some exciting opportunities here in Australia and I am keen to help riders to understand the European training system, as this is the basis of success for the world’s leading trainers and riders.”
Peter has a pleasantly soft approach and this was evident as he stopped for a few minutes between lessons to give his canine friend Mozzi a pat. Mozzi travels to lessons and takes his job as Peter's companion, very seriously!
Peter’s next lesson was Lyn Bartlett and her 13 YO Pony/Anglo Arab by Warrawee Dundee. He is a very nice mover and Peter agreed that he could do anything, if only he would settle and listen. The lesson was all about “less is more” and the less Lyn asked – the more her pony gave – very nice work!
Lyn and her Anglo/Pony
Next to go was Torina Johnston riding Rodd & Gunn an imposing buckskin gelding by Woodleigh Don Juan. Torina shares the ride with her showjumping husband Adam, who had a very successful competition at Dressage and Jumping with the Stars where Rodd & Gunn placed 4th in the final of the “Current Stars Grand Prix” class and went on to finish 6th overall.
Torina was keen to have Peter sit on her horse and give feedback about the feel. Peter made it look easy and really enjoyed his ride on the handsome and versatile 9 year old.
Torina riding Rodd & Gunn
Peter Fischer on board
As this lesson came to an end, the final preparations were made by Lyn, Case and Arden to ensure that Flowervale Boginov not only worked well, but also looked good enough to step out in the show ring. Arden checked the girth and stirrup leathers, while Case wiped the stallion’s face with a fine coating of baby oil to bring out the sheen of his soft black skin and Lyn checked the white bandages – Bogi certainly looked good.
Peter’s work was based on the German ‘training scale’, which must be followed through all levels of training as these principles govern the rate of progress. It goes, rhythm - suppleness - acceptance of the hand - impulsion - straightness - collection - and Peter was never tempted to break the rules or try to show work that the pony was not capable of doing well.
Left and Above - Flowervale Boginov
with Dr Arden Woodford
Peter said, “Arden, he is not fit and we must take it slowly and give him time to adapt both physically and mentally.”
As the lesson progressed, Peter was pleased with Boginov’s acceptance and encouraged Arden saying, “Good, now we can try some shoulder-in”. They did the exercise on both reins and then moved on to show some shortened steps and then on to some more extended work in trot.
Peter explained that Boginov has only recently returned to work following an illness. He said, “Bogi has come back better than we ever hoped and his performance at Dressage with the Stars was really fantastic. Case drove home and collected him and with only 30 minutes to prepare, he went in to the big atmosphere and his rider Kylie Burton felt quite at home riding him and reported that Bogi seemed to love the experience. Many people reported that Bogi put on an an impressive display and is sure to make his mark over the next 12 months.”
Before we left Flowervale Warmbloods, Case introduced me to the impressive 2 HO colt, Flowervale Sandreo (pictured right) by the frozen semen stallion Sandreo KWPN and out of one of the stud’s best producing mares Flowervale Questionir, by the Flaneur stallion Thorston and from a Souvenir mare. Case said, "these bloodlines have been the backbone of Australian warmbloods and many champions have carried these genetics. Questionir has already produced 5 champion foals for us and three of them have gone on to become Supreme Champions." Case added, “It is a pity that as a breeder, the good ones have to be sold. I will be very happy to see him in a competitive home as he is quite special and worthy of keeping entire."
After saying goodbye, Lyn and I drove home and I stayed on to see this season’s foals and some of the older progeny of Boginov. I was “dog sitting” Hugo for 4 days over Easter and we received a “royal welcome” from Lyn’s charming Standard Poodle, Cody. Cody has the energy of 10 puppies and while Hugo did not attempt to keep up, the dogs enjoyed the chance for some canine interaction and fun.
We started our stud tour mid-morning on Saturday and with camera in hand, I welcomed the chance to take some glorious landscape shots. We played with dogs and patted ponies – I cannot think of a better way to relax. The Flowervale Boginov progeny were all impressive, but without doubt, it was Fowervale Bodazzle who stole my heart. She is 4 months old and out of Flowervale Free Spirit by the Dutch stallion Freestyle and by Flowervale Boginov. The mare is quite small for a warmblood, but carries impressive genes, which have given her the fantastic movement that she has passed on to her foals.
|Above Left - Lyn and Cody at feed up time. Right - Cody spends much of his time airborne.|
Lyn said proudly, “The mare always does a good job for me, but this filly is very special with her “chocolate box” markings and gorgeous colour. Everyone seems to love 4 white sox and the little star. Bodazzle has been very friendly and accepting right from day one and is sure to mature to make a wonderful dressage horse with breeding options thrown in!” Right - Bodazzle pictured in January 2013 (when green grass was at a premium)
Lyn explained, “The other foals in the paddock are also by Boginov and very good examples of the European pony influence. The chestnut colt is out of Braefoot Park Roses, a Riding Pony by Langtree Parisienne. The youngest foal is the very dark liver chestnut filly out of Kirreway Hourglass, by the Anglo Arab stallion Warrawee Dundee. I think that this is my best crop and this makes the breeding interest very rewarding.”
“The yearlings are going through a less attractive phase, it is often the gangly stage in their development. I am very pleased with the movement that the Boginov genetics has produced over my mares. Pony Dressage buyers are catching on, with more and more making enquiries about purpose bred ponies to train on for dressage.”
Above - Boginov colt from Braefoot Park Roses
Right - Boginov filly from Kirreway Hourglass
“I am breeding to sell and I would really love Paradise Valley ponies to go to competition homes, as this is the way to prove the value of my breeding program.”
Right - Paradise Valley Bodazzle by Flowervale Boginov from Flowervale Free Spirit.
“We are very pleased that Boginov has recovered so well from his illness and is now set to get back into competition. The pony dressage sport has really come along since he was last competing and we are expecting a very bright future."
“Thanks so much for your interest and enthusiasm Berni, we know that you love ponies and this is a great way to introduce Paradise Valley to a wider audience.” Lyn concluded.
I thanked Lyn for a lovely couple of days. The 2013 Easter break was a very pleasant and memorable occasion for me - Easter in Paradise!