Thoughts on breeding programs and aims
The Knabstrupper is a rare and unusual breed of horse, bred by mostly hobby breeders in Denmark and Germany the breed has a long history and several times has been in danger of disappearing altogether.
One of the aims and purposes of our breeding program is to help maintain a population so that the breed can stay a viable breed of horse . Of course we cannot do that alone, but we can do our small part along with all the other breeders across the world.
To that end I have imported these horses from both Denmark and Germany, with the hopes of not only producing excellent riding horses but also to cross together disparate lines. In time other horses from England and elsewhere will be brought in to join our herd.
The breed Knabstrupper is new to the USA, some breeders here are more interested in breeding the Sporthorse type and to that end would be crossing Knabstrupper mares to elite warmblood stallions, to produce superior dressage athletes who also have color.
While I also like the beautiful sportier types in my breeding program I am most interested in the classical, baroque type of horse, rather than the Sporthorse cross and here’s why.
When Axel Steiner said at the USDF symposium, “We have bred these horses as far as we can for movement, now we need to breed for temperament and rideability” I think it was certain lines of gorgeous but temperamental warmbloods that he had in mind.
The demographics of the dressage world, nowadays tell us that the most frequent rider/owner is the middle aged lady who came to riding late in life and will most probably never ride above 2nd level.
The demographics in Europe are very different, with a lot more men riding and competing in dressage, wanting a bigger more powerful horse.
Relative to Europe there are far fewer people here who simply own horses that professionals ride, in the USA the most common owner is also the rider and she is no professional.
When I stand at the side of the warmup ring at the ‘A’ shows the most common horse I see warming up for the lower levels is the Friesan, big, flashy, quiet, soft moving, not particularly athletic but kind and easy to ride. Why, oh why, with all these superior movers and gorgeous dressage horses around are the big, black hairy-legged ones so popular. Because they can be ridden by amateurs that’s why. They are less than fantastic movers but that means that they can be ridden by people with less than perfect seats, they have good steady gaits and good steady minds. They have a flashy look but are above all kind and generous. You don’t see them being led by the grooms down to the warm up arena while the rider perches nervously on top, nor being lunged for hours so that they will settle down enough to be rideable in a crowded warm up, they are above all amateur horses.
We have several of the more gorgeous athletic types of warmblood showing around here as well as few of those famous Donnerhall/Rubenstein crosses. They are without a doubt some of the loveliest best moving horses ever seen. But everyone of them needs an expert rider with excellent hands, a good soft following seat and great tact. Beautiful, brilliant prima donnas come to mind! They are definitely NOT horses you could ever sell to an amateur rider, at least not for the owner to ride and show, these are strictly horses for professionals.
Enter the Knabstrupper, an old European breed long overlooked by the producers of the fancy flashy warmbloods. a solid, generous, not overly large, easy to ride and handle and with reasonable gaits, built level or even occasionally uphill, and with a distinctive unusual look, mostly from the color.
But a Knabbie is far more than just a spotted warm-blood, they are a true working horse, their strongest attribute is their easy going temperament. In Europe they were and are family horses, bred mostly by hobby breeders and ridden by everyone not just the elite riders.
I rode one as a teenager and a more fun horse would hard to find. Solid, capable, generous, loud colored, willing, kind, a total gentleman. He was easily the nicest horse a teenager could have to ride. Sadly Klaus was not mine, I just rode him for his owner, but I had immense fun on him and that is the horse I want to reproduce.
Interestingly the Danes are also, breeding the Knabbie for the flashy high powered movement, producing the gorgeous superior riding horse. They have bred some Knabbies that could easily hold their own in any elite warm blood company, but I think, and this is my personal opinion only, that this is not the way for the entire breed to go. This is not what is going to get the Knabstrupper the solid fan base that the other baroque breeds have.
Don’t get me wrong, I have all admiration for some of these superior horses and I would love to have one to ride for myself. I so badly wanted to buy one when I was in Denmark, they are so gorgeous and would make any professional drool. And we are going to need some of them, a few well bred superior movers, and outstanding performers, judiciously placed with the right professional to be the ‘show pieces’ for the breed. A few in the top ranks of each sport would be excellent, a great advertisement for the breed, to get them ‘on the map’ as it were.
When Mrs Amateur Dressage/Hunt seat Rider sees one at a show, she will want to own and show one, and she needs to have a selection of the ones who look like the fancy horse but don’t move quite as big, are not quite as sensitive to the rider as the elite horse, available to try and to ride and buy. And to produce those we need as close to the pure bred classical type as we can without losing quality. And that is why I would far rather pay a little extra to the Danes for the real thing than try to make just another spotted warm blood that is just as hard to ride and train as all the others!
So far all my hopes for these Danish horses have been realized. Both of the riding horses I imported are super guys, willing, kind and just plain fun.
So when you want to try a fun, flashy horse for your showing, think of us and come and see my Knabstruppers, we’d love to show off for you.
Yours truly, Melyni