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Home-grown honey

Just over a year ago (HQ120, March 2017 issue) we met Sue Botha’s ‘home-grown honey’, Cheval Dansant’s Danseuse, more affectionately known as Dot. We left off with Dot at the age of five weeks old, and so this month we catch up with the young filly’s debut in the ring.

Miss Independence

Danseuse’s mother, Midas Touch Devotion, did not conceive again after she was born, so my quest for a black colt was put on hold, and mother and daughter were sent to a friend’s farm nearby for the winter. Devotion is an exceptional mother, and an even better milk producer. Dot thrived, and grew into a magnificent, powerful, well-muscled foal, with a massive zest for life and boundless energy.

At four months old, a highly respected stud manager suggested we wean Dot by the latest five months of age. It seemed her mom was doing too good a job. This was a heart-wrenching decision, but I took his advice and brought Devotion home. I saw, first-hand, a mare mourn the loss of her baby. Devotion was depressed and dull for weeks on end, but not our Dot. Her independence has been remarkable from day one, and she carried on with life as if nothing had changed. She had a weanling filly friend a month older than herself, and the two of them wintered out together in a big camp where they could run around, chase geese and tractors and build their immunity, strength and individual personalities. The fillies had daily human contact, but this was kept to a minimum in their first year.

Getting show ready

In early January, I brought Danseuse and her buddy home to begin their ‘formal’ training. They are in different paddocks during the day, but sleep next door to each other at night to minimise separation anxiety. Around mid-February, I decided to prepare Dot for the upcoming Young Dressage Horse Championships. I had five weeks to introduce the in-hand bridle, teach her to walk, trot and stand properly, load in and out of the horsebox, and horror of all horrors – to have a bath. The latter did not happen without incident I might add.

The old adage of three steps forward and two steps back became the daily norm. When asked whether I was entering Dot for Young Horse, my stock reply was that I’d feel so much more confident if it was her mother I was preparing for the event. A 14-month-old Warmblood foal is not a pretty sight, and doubting we would be ready in time, I left my entries to the very last minute.

Final prepping touches

I told my friend, who owns Dot’s stable mate, that if we place first or second in our age championship, we’d get booted from the Supremes as there were some very classy horses from the country’s top studs entered in this event. This competition is open to potential dressage horses, up to seven-and-a-half years of age, competing for the championship in five individual age categories.

Fortunately for me, Danseuse is as much of a sucker for pampering as her mother. The washing, grooming, ear trimming and ‘unruly mane training’ went into overdrive in the two weeks leading up to the show, and when the sun came up on a beautiful Sunday morning, we loaded the babies up and drove to Stellenbosch, with no expectations whatsoever.

First big win

I must admit that, had this been a pure showing show, Dot would’ve been out the door. But this was a Potential Dressage Horse Championship, where the quality of paces and balance are the main criteria. Our little scrap floated around the arena like an old pro. She saved her best for last, and even drew applause from the spectators on her final run-around for the judges.

The result was completely unexpected, but I am beyond thrilled to say that at just 15 months of age, Cheval Dansant’s Danseuse (Danzas/De Niro/Weltmeyer – Desperado/Jazz/Gribaldi) is the 2018 Kuda Grand Champion Potential Dressage Horse In-Hand.

I am over the moon with this first foal from my beautiful M-T Devotion. The ‘queen’, as she is known to her friends, is newly in foal to an exciting young Hanoverian stallion (the latter who is unlikely to produce the black colt I so desperately want), and so I eagerly await another red-head in January 2019.

Danseuse is now on holiday, and the challenge now is to keep her safe and sound, and to prepare her physically and mentally for a sporting career that, we can only hope, will continue as it began. This has been such a rewarding journey, and just goes to show that no one should feel inadequate in this breeding ‘game’. If your conviction is strong enough, you know what you like, and most importantly, you truly believe you have a top quality mare, then go for it. Make your own champion.