I actually had to wipe tears from my face when I first sat down in the stands at the Hannoveranner Verband Elite Auctions at Verden. I know that sounds over the top, but it’s really true.
Verden is a place that I have heard and read about for years. I’ll bet you probably have, too. When I listened to stories about people who went to Verden, they were the kinds of horse people who, in my mind, were a big deal. Verden always sounded elite and untouchable—like it was well out of the grasp of someone of my riding level and financial status.
So when little old me was sitting right there in the stands watching some of the finest young horses in the world parade around in front of me, I could hardly believe that I was finally one of those people who made it to Verden. Let me pause here to say that I know I’m not any better of a rider just because I attended Verden as a spectator and a tourist—but I do think that just being exposed to that kind of quality and atmosphere makes me a step closer to becoming a more educated rider and horsewoman.
We took the train out of Hamburg on Thursday and after a quick and easy one-hour train ride, we arrived in Verden. After getting off the train, we walked about 10 minutes to our little hotel that was located in the ADORABLE and very horse-themed downtown.
Verden is the kind of place that looks straight out of a postcard. When you are in Verden, you know you are in a German horse town. The winding cobble-stone streets are lined with perfectly manicured trees, shrubs and hedges. It literally looks like someone took a protractor and an exactoknife to the shrubbery. There are metal horseshoes laid into the sidewalk that lead in the direction of the auctions. The metal stands where people park and chain their bikes even have horses on them. And not just any horses—dressage horses and jumping horses! The toy stores even have large posters of dolls wearing riding clothes. It is the kind of place that gets any horse-person’s heart fluttering, no matter their age. And strangely enough, Verden is also home to an abundance of Italian restaurants! But more on that later.
Downtown Verden is located about a mile from the base of the Hanoverian Verband. By the way, the word “verband” in German is just a fancy way of saying “organization.” The property includes many offices, stables and a few places to eat. The main focus of the property is the massive indoor arena where the auctions are held, called the Neidersachsenhalle (pronounced: “needer-zaxen-hall-uh”).
When we first arrived at the Neidersachsenhalle at 9 a.m. on Friday morning, the stands were almost empty, with only about 50 people in seats. We sat down in the stands and were pleasantly surprised to notice heaters hanging above us to keep all of the spectators comfortable. I swear these guys think of everything.
Right on schedule, they cued the dramatic music and opened the very large, floor-to-ceiling doors of the indoor arena. Two incredibly fancy horses and with very good riders came trotting in and then demonstrated all three gaits, with lengthenings and stretchy circles mixed in. Each set of horses was in the ring for about 3-4 minutes. It took a few hours to get through all of the dressage horses. To me, one of the most fascinating parts of this was watching each horse go and trying to guess its bloodlines and then checking in the program to see if you were right.
I have owned a Thoroughbred-ish mutt (because that’s our best guess of her breed) for the past 10 years and have never known her bloodlines. But since she turned out pretty well, I never paid much attention when other people boasted their horses good breeding. However, when I purchased my new Dutch mare and learned that her father was Rubinstein, I suddenly became obsessed with learning more about her ancestors.
I have gotten many good laughs on this trip when I’ve been attracted to a certain horse and then learned that it also has Rubinstein blood in it. I guess I have a type! I was also able to spot a few Londonderry horses at the auctions, but maybe that was just luck!
After the dressage horses were presented, we got lunch at the restaurant attached to the arena and then came back to our seats to watch the presentation of the jumping horses. About 50 horses were free-jumped over a chute with some very large fences. It was really interesting to be able to observe all of their temperaments and unique jumping styles. Most of the horses were very eager and excited to run through the chutes, but there were a couple that just said “NOPE!” Once these horses eventually did manage to get through the line of jumps, they all looked very athletic and talented, but you did have to wonder if some had the right mentality for jumping.
After the jumping horses were presented, we had a couple hour break before the Gala Evening Show began. Just enough time to eat some crepes from a nearby food truck! If only I could spend the rest of my life eating nutella crepes and watching fancy horses trot around!
Although we had heard rave reviews about the gala show, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. But based on what we had already seen that day, I imagined that we wouldn’t be disappointed.
And disappointed we were not! The stands were packed and the show was absolutely unbelievable. They had more than 15 acts, which ranged from Icelandic horses doing a presentation to music (and boy were they cute) to a natural horsemanship demonstration to a super trippy and psychedelic spanish horse pas de deux that involved flag carriers and a costumed woman on stilts! However, none of this was to be confused with any kind of circus because there was also no shortage of super horses. There was an awards ceremony for the Hanoverian Mare of the year and a few jumpers who had earned big national titles jumped some massive fences for the audience. A string of all-black auction horses did a drill to music, too. My favorite part of the show occurred at the end, when approximately 12 Grand Prix level horses and riders performed a musical tribute. Towards the end of the performance, they rode to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and I think it pulled on everyone’s heartstrings. It shook me to my core, in the best way possible. I had never seen so many stunning, well-trained horses in one arena at one time, and the powerful music was just the icing on the cake. I’m going to remember that for a very, very long time.
Check back tomorrow for Part II of my Hanoverian Verband Auction experience! There is so much to write, one blog couldn’t possibly cover it all!
Bis später! See you later!
Psst.. Feeling like you missed out on the first few days of my trip? Check out my first two blog entries here:
Blog 1: To Hell With Comfort Zones --> http://dressagetoday.com/blog/hell-comfort-zones-54076
Blog 2: Goodbye USA, Hello Germany! --> http://dressagetoday.com/blog/goodbye-usa-hello-germany-54142