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The International Contingent

Filed under: Current Articles,Editorial,Featured |     

By Lana Grieve

internationalIn today’s evolving horse show world, the process we undergo to continuously strive for a better industry is constant. The specialization and intricately defined disciplines of the equestrian world have carved a path all its own. This is becoming prevalent not only in the United States but around the globe. Improving the standard of our horses has provided limitless opportunities to increase the knowledge of how horses should be bred and exhibited.

As our industry grows, the international equestrian audience has increased. We are welcoming many new international exhibitors to our American show circuits each year. Our industry is continuously dedicated to welcoming new people, and equally, making decisions that will benefit breeders, exhibitors, and trainers around the world.

In an effort to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the international contingent, we’ve asked four serious international exhibitors their impressions of the breed standards here in America. We also wondered how our standards are impacting current development efforts in their own associations overseas.

Noemi Pichler – Graz, Austria

Like most little girls, Noemi Pichler was fascinated by horses. By the age of six, she admits to forcing her parents to give her riding lessons. Obeying her request, Noemi’s parents brought her to a local riding stable where their daughter’s adventure in the saddle began. “The barn we went to had a lot of big english horses, but I was looking for a more calm one to ride,” she says. “The people showed me their western horses, and I immediately fell in love, especially [with] the colorful Paint Horses. They woke the passion in me from the very first moment I saw them.”

It didn’t take long for Noemi to acquire her first horse, an APHA mare named Promised To Fritz. By age seven, Pichler was showing in the all-around events in her home country. Steadily increasing her skill and knowledge, Pichler acquired a second show horse, Wynning Chex, a 2002 APHA gelding that she says was a very important part of her show career and life. “In 2006, I was twelve years old when we participated at the APHA European Championships for the first time,” she says. “This big show was really exciting and made me work harder on myself. Over the years, we became a great team and won several champion titles in Youth and Open events together.”

Today, Pichler owns and shows her current all-around horse, Freaky Friday, a 2009 APHA Gelding. This year, the team defended their title in Youth Western Pleasure at the European Championships that Freaky Friday also won as a three-year-old. Over the last four years, the team has earned six European gold, five silver, and five bronze medals; four Bavarian Champion and two Reserve Champion titles; and numerous all-around champion Styrian and Austrian titles. In the United States, she represented her country in 2012 at the APHA Youth World Games in Fort Worth, Texas, and showed at the 2012 ApHC Nationals and Youth World Show for the first time and ended up 14th in the Youth Western Pleasure. This year, she returned to the ApHC Youth World Show and placed fourth in the Novice Youth Western Pleasure.

After experiencing the American way of horse showing, Pichler can see a dramatic difference in the level of participation, as well as sponsorship. Her hope is to increase awareness in her country to someday increase the show participation. “My whole life, I’ve been showing Paints,” she says. “In my country, we only have two APHA shows a year. These shows are well organized, but they are not so big and we don’t have many exhibitors. It’s hard to earn APHA points when you attend them. Other countries in Europe are in the same situation, because it’s hard to find organizers and sponsors for APHA shows.”

The American horse show industry is specialized in each discipline, but in Europe, the standards aren’t as defined. While horse breeders in United States raise horses for specific classes, some European horses are bred following the old tradition of creating an all-around horse.

Pichler explains, “I spent this summer in Florida and got the chance to go to a lot of AQHA shows. The Little Futurity was my favorite show by far. To see the two-year-olds performing at such a high level was stunning. In my country, it’s more common to breed with reining or working cow horses and show them in all-around events. For example, Freaky Friday is out of an old working cow horse bloodline, but he has been shown successfully in western pleasure, horsemanship, showmanship, hunt seat equitation and hunter under saddle.”

Pichler wishes the western disciplines would become more popular overseas. “Compared to the USA, we don’t have a lot of publicity,” she says. “The big money and sponsorship is in the jumping and dressage events, because they have television coverage.”

Intending to compete more in the United States in the near future, Pichler encourages everyone with the opportunity to compete in the United States to do so. “I’ve become friends with so many people in the States and met all the superstar trainers, breeders, and owners of so many well-known horses,” she says. “To see them perform in the show pen was an amazing experience. I haven’t made any official plans to compete to America again as of yet, but I will be back, that’s for sure.”

Pichler is currently attending college majoring in Horse Physiotherapy. Her objective is to become a professional horse trainer and offer her future clients a combination of training and therapy to optimize a horse’s athletic performance.

Cathrin Gutmann – Austria

Residing at their equestrian estate, Gut Jaidhof, Cathrin Gutmann, her husband, and their daughter live one hour from the city of Vienna. Riding since age six, Gutmann always had the desire to be around horses. “Coming from Europe, of course, I first started out with dressage and jumping horses as this is the traditional way of riding,” she says. “I didn’t really know about western horses until later. My parents were really supportive and drove me to different trainers for riding lessons during my childhood.”

In 2000, Gutmann met a girl at school who successfully showed Quarter Horses all over Europe, and she discovered a whole new world. “It was not easy for me, because it is a completely different way of riding and feeling your horse, but I wanted to be able to do all of that, especially reining with the spins and the sliding stops. For me, it was absolutely amazing!”

According to Gutmann, reining was, and still is, the most emerging part of the show scene in Europe, and that’s where she started her horse show career. She began showing as a youth in 2002 by making the finals at the NRHA European Championships and winning an Austrian District Championship. She says, “I still have that horse out in a pasture, and this year the first two-year-old I raised out of her will be started.”

Taking a short break from showing in 2006 due to school obligations, Gutmann knew that she wanted to try the western pleasure and all-around classes someday. When she met her future husband in 2008, one of the interests they shared was their equal love for horses. “He was a dressage/jumper all his life, so like me, he had to get to know Quarter Horses. Luckily, my old reining horse did a great job teaching him how to sit in a western saddle.”

Making the decision to become involved with the Quarter Horse industry on a trip to Italy in 2010, Gutmann and her husband visited one of Europe’s premier western pleasure and all-around horse trainers, Karin Prevedel. “We decided to work together to become active riding and showing again,” she says. “During the same time, we were in the middle of renovating our old family estate and planned on building a state-of-the-art equine facility. We wanted to be able to keep our horses at home in the future and to establish a premier breeding program in Europe. I drove down to Italy riding a few times with Karin. In 2011, she and I (with my little daughter Emilie who was three months old at the time) made our way to the Congress to look at horses. That’s where I bought multiple Futurity Champion and Reserve Congress Champion 3-Year-Old Open Hunter Under Saddle futurity horse, Al Be Graceful, and 2010 Congress Champion Western Pleasure horse Only Afraid In The Dark. Another addition was A Natural Sensation, a multiple Reichert Champion Hunter Under Saddle horse that was my husband’s first show horse.”

After bringing the horses over to Europe, Karin Prevedel prepared them for the 2012 show season and Gutmann’s success was overwhelming. Al Be Graceful won the 2012 NSBA European Championships Open Hunter Under Saddle. A Natural Sensation was Reserve in the same class and was the European Celebration Amateur Hunter Under Saddle Champion with Mr. Gutmann in the saddle for the first time. Only Afraid In The Dark earned the AQHA European Championship in Junior Western Pleasure Open and a Reserve Championship in Amateur Western Pleasure. In addition, Gutmann added three horses to her barn in 2013: a trail horse named Gold Styled VP, a hunter under saddle gelding named Al Ways Right, and a very special horse Gutmann houses and shows in the United States, Blue Couture.

“Throughout this show season in Europe, I was the NSBA European Champion in Ltd. Non Pro Western Pleasure and Reserve Champion in Non-Pro Western Pleasure with Only Afraid In The Dark, an NSBA bronze medalist in Amateur Hunter Under Saddle with Al Ways Right, and A Natural Sensation was the AQHA European Champion in Junior Hunter Under Saddle in the Open and Amateur,” she says. “For me, 2013 has been a very busy year as I also traveled to the States often to show my mare, Blue Couture. She is one of the most impressive horses I’ve been around, and I enjoy showing her a lot. I have her in training with Allison Clark, and it’s amazing what she teaches me as far as riding and showing. She really is a remarkable trainer and made all the success we’ve had until now possible. We started out in May winning at least one class every time we’ve been out together. At the Reichert Celebration, we earned the Championship in Non-Pro and Ltd. Non-Pro Hunter Under Saddle and NSBA Champion titles winning every class under every judge. Allison also showed her to an NSBA Reserve Championship in the Maturity Open Hunter Under Saddle.”

When comparing the standards of showing in the United States to those in Europe, Gutmann feels the Quarter Horse business in the States is more of an established culture than it is in Europe. She notes that even though there are quality performance horses actively showing in Europe and the competition is becoming tougher every year; the quantity of horses is significantly less.

“What we don’t have in Europe are two-year-old classes, so there isn’t a new set of fresh two-year-old horses every year that people can be excited about,” she says. “On the other hand, horses begin to show in the three-year-old futurities and probably maintain their soundness for longer. Overall, the futurities are not as big of a deal as they are in the United States, which is a pity, but that’s just because there is a lack of attractive programs and shows. We have five or six premier horse shows with all of Europe’s top-level competitors. Of course, there are smaller shows to attend. Some shows and programs are decreasing in their importance and some are getting better over the years, but overall I think it’s safe to say that the quality is quite good and there are a few people that really make an effort in establishing new shows, buying new quality horses, and progressing the horse shows to another level.”

Holding a sincere appreciation for the people organizing major horse shows in the United States, Gutmann praises the professionalism and customer relations by show mangers. “In the show offices in America, they always treat you like a customer. That is an important aspect to make a successful event, and in my experience the managers have always done their best to have a good client relationship. In Europe, I would love to see operations [become] more professional and more customer-oriented. Futurity programs should be coordinated with the United States and made more attractive. European breeders should open their minds more to breeding to American stallions. Equally, more of these stallions should be nominated for European futurities.”

Gutmann’s personal strategy for promoting an increase in horse quality overseas involves buying exceptional mares and breeding them to exceptional stallions along with hosting world class clinics with top professional trainers from America at her facility.

Gutmann will be showing Blue Couture at major American events this fall and in 2014. “My dream, of course, would be winning the Congress or a World Championship,” she says. “Let’s wait and see! Allison and I will do everything possible to grow the industry in Europe, but as it always is in dealing with horses, one has to have luck and the right situation must fall into place.”

Leonie Fischer – Berlin, Germany

Eighteen-year-old Leonie Fischer dreamed of riding horses when she was a toddler, and by age five, she started riding ponies. Fischer’s mom tried to convince her husband to begin riding along with them. He only agreed when she had the idea of taking western lessons on an American Quarter Horse. Fischer remembers, “My dad really raved after his first ride, so I wanted to try western riding as well. I immediately fell in love. Since then, I have never ridden another breed besides the American Quarter Horse.”

Watching her mother compete in Halter and Showmanship classes with her show gelding, Fischer made her own debut in the show ring at ten years of age. From that moment forward, she was hooked. “When I turned twelve, I received my first horse as a birthday present,” she says. “I showed Archie in Reining, Hunt Seat Equitation, and Horsemanship. With him, I earned my first bronze medal at the European Championships in Germany.”

Her coveted bronze was only the beginning of her success. In 2010, she won the Youth Western Pleasure at the International German Championships under all judges, the NSBA European Championships in Youth Western Pleasure in 2011, and in 2012 her greatest accomplishment was winning the NSBA Western Pleasure Non-Pro Futurity and placing second in the NSBA Western Pleasure Open Futurity with a mare her family bred themselves.

Along with her European titles, Fischer has been active on the American circuit by showing in Halter under the guidance of Ted Turner. “I showed in Halter at the AQHYA World Shows in 2009 and 2010,” she says. “I placed third with Designed By Royal Te in 2-Year-Old Mares in 2009, and the following year, I showed Centrisity in Yearling Mares and placed fifth. This year, I showed the mare, Naturally Graceful, in Hunter Under Saddle and made the finals out of 114 participants, which makes me very proud!”

Because it is considered that most European horse shows are very expensive, local riders started a petition to protest against the high fees at this year’s German Futurity Q13. Fischer explains, “Many of the past competitors could not afford the increasing costs anymore. After the protest, the DQHA lowered their fees, so it’s already a step in the right direction. I think the showing standard in Europe is a bit different, because the entire industry is smaller. There are less horses and riders, and the horse shows are a lot smaller. But, the level of competition at the big European shows has improved a lot and is coming very close to the level in the United States. It’s a totally different feeling to show in the United States than competing in Germany. I really love the huge shows with so many entries in the different events. I learned a lot every time I have shown there.”

Fischer would like to have the “harsh” entry rule changed in Germany. Currently, it is not possible to enter a class shortly before it begins. All competitors are obligated to enter a class a day prior, which she says is difficult for some exhibitors.

Concluding with a statement about her excitement for specialties in the American show horse, Fischer says the standard all-around horse in Europe is still greatly versatile, competing in performance, halter, and cow horse classes. “A few years ago, it was possible to see the same horse in Reining as well as in Hunter Under Saddle (in the Non-Pro division),” she says. “That already changed a lot within the last few years. The level in every division became much better, but it’s still in progress.”

Fischer hopes to compete at the 2014 Arizona Sun Circuit. “I hope my horses stay healthy and that I can compete at many big horse shows next year, which is my last youth year,” she says. “Hopefully, I can earn good placements. My parents also just built a new barn very close to our hometown, so I now have great possibilities to train our horses close to our home.”

Christina Einsiedler – Bavaria, Germany

Residing in the southern countryside of Germany, Christina Einsiedler’s family owned horses before she was born. When her eldest brother learned to ride as a child, he carried his two-year-old sister with him. Riding horses independently ever since, Einsiedler began competing in riding tournaments by age twelve. She reminisces, “I won my first medal at the European Championship in Youth Western Pleasure in 2010. I also won some medals at the German Paint Show in Youth and Open. I then qualified for the Youth World Games in Texas. In 2012, I took part in tournaments with my own mare, Missin Hot Chocolate. Together we won the gold medal at the European Championship in Novice Youth Showmanship among other prizes. This was, of course, absolutely amazing and cannot be compared to tournaments in Germany.”

Due to unforeseen illness in 2013, Einsiedler took a break from showing full-time. Despite the setback, she won two bronze medals at the 2013 European Championships. She spoke fondly of her recent accomplishments. “Because of my nomination for the Youth National Team Germany of the PHCG, I was allowed to compete in Trail for Germany,” she says. “I won this discipline with my American horse and earned the Youth World Champion title in Trail. We also won the silver medal with our team.”

Einsiedler hopes the European show circuits will increase their support in the interest of their youth exhibitors and in the western riding discipline in general.

“I have only attended the AQHA Youth World Show in Texas, so I can’t say a lot, but I liked that everything at the show was well-organized,” she says. “The people were very informative and always answered my questions politely. I liked talking to people who seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing, and all of the horses and riders were amazing.”

Einsiedler’s 2014 American trip is already planned. Pending this year’s classification for the 2014 Youth World Games in Texas, she will be riding for the German National Team of the PHCG. “I’ll work very hard to improve my performance, as well as my horse’s performance,” she says. “Otherwise, there won’t be a lot on my show schedule next year except breaking my three-year-old mare. That certainly won’t be boring for me, since riding in the snow is absolutely gorgeous.”

Click here to read the complete article from the Equine Chronicle November/December 2013 Issue, Vol. 16 Number 7.


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