Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday

Time flies and this year is almost gone. With the economy being all gloom and doom and people worrying about their jobs, there is still plenty to thank for. We celebrated many new wonderful foals and have many more to look forward to next year.

It can be a tough year for breeding next year due to all the uncertainty. We observed many foals either not selling at a price that would be considered fair two years ago, and some well bred foals are being dumped to the market at a price that is hardly enough to cover the stud fee, vet services, inspection, registration and feeding the mare for 12 months. We are doing our best to help our breeders market their foals, but we must advise all who try to market their horses with the following:

  1. You must have at least one high resolution very well posed conformation shot or action shots that show the conformation well.
  2. It is important to have a good video that clearly shows the horse's movements at all 3 gaits from the side, and preferably from the front and back as well. The video should be taken in a well-lit location with anti-shake or image stabilizer feature on, and steadily zoom to focus on the horse at all time.
Unless you have good connection with trainers and repeat buyers, just about everyone shops on the internet first nowadays. No one is going to buy a plane ticket or drive 100 miles at the current (even though already reduced) gas price to look at your horse without first gathering as much information as possible; especially if you only have one horse to sell. If you cannot attract potential buyers while others can by using all the available tools, such as internet classified ads, youtube video, and print ads, you are going to lose out on sales opportunities.

I will write up some tips on how to use just a cheap digital camera to get good web quality pictures. It does require some help from others and a lot of patience. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, based on anectodal indicators from the classified ads and equestrian forums, and very obvious indicators of world economy, stock, real estates and lending markets, overall breeding market will likely decline next year just like the other trades, this means whoever has good young horses 2-3 years later when the economy turns around will be in a much better market position. Quality will sell.
To help breeders to have a good start, we are offering a pre-season early booking discount at 50% off on both booking and stud fees for all our stallions. For return breeders, we have an even nicer deal for you. We have other options for new clients as well. We are also interested in partnership with qualified mares. Please just call or email us for more details.
Wish you a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving, and enjoy the time with your friends and family, two-legged as well as the four-legged.

Conrad Schumacher Clinic

Conrad Schumacher was here in early November for a symposium! My friend Dara at Golden Oak Farm organized this symposium. Unfortunately we got hit by atypical weather for California. The rain storm was so strong that made thundering noises on the metal roof of the covered arena. At one point, Conrad stopped, and shouted, "Welcome to Germany!" Only an hour later, the rain was pouring down even harder, and he shouted, "This is not Germany any more. Welcome to England!" However, the rain didn't dampen the riders' and attendees' spirits, and all the horses behaved quite well. Around 150 people attended the symposium. Many of them appeared to be trainers, and even though video cameras were not prohibited, many people were observed taking notes furiously, including drawing exercise patterns.

Conrad has given lessons to my trainers on my stallion Rubino Bellissimo before, and I have always like how Conrad can figure out the horse and rider really quickly and come up some exercises to help them, and the most amazing part is that he always gets the result very quickly. Here are some (bad) snapshots to give you a taste of the interesting clinic. For your holiday shopping, check out his first video production "Prepare To Win": http://www.conradschumacherdressage.com/

This is not just a video tape of a collection of clinics and symposiums, but it's specifically developed to teach the viewers, according to Conrad, the intelligent thinking kind of riders. ;-) It is designed for competitors as you can see the title name, but it's good for all riders to learn. This is volume 1, and he says there will be two additional volumes. (Note: I am just a fan, and not related to the video production or sales in any way.)

Weltinvader at 2008 USDF Regional Championships

Breeder Beverly Nahman forwarded a photo card that features her horse Weltinvader (Welt Klasse X Vienna Waltz) at the USDF Regional Championships last month. This wonderful and elegant gelding has matured beautifully with his brightened gray coat. You can see more (83 total!) pictures of him taken by photographer David Mullinex at: http://www.photoreflect.com/pr3/orderpage.aspx?pi=0BEF0078430000&po=0

Click on the play button and enjoy! (The posted picture is just an old picture as a teaser... :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Trip to Taiwan

I went to Taiwan, the beautiful island of Formosa, for two weeks in October, but no barn tours this time. I visited a friend's horses, and had a nice long chat with him. To be honest I don't remember him very much as it is more than 30 years ago when we rode, and he must be just a kid. :-) Thanks to internet we stayed in touch.

It was raining the day of the visit, the barn was quite wet and muddy, so I didn't take any pictures. He bred his own two mares. They are sisters but not much alike at all. He rode the young mare to show me, and she is an elegant tall horse, but lacks muscle development for a 6-year-old. They worries about founders, so the horses are kept quite lean, but founder is more caused by sudden increase of sugar load, and a thin horse can founder if turned loose on spring pasture.

Anyway, my friend reported that the equestrian sport has regressed since the high point in the late 80's early 90's as a lot of early horse owners who bought the nice horses just don't have time to ride because of their travel schedule and long stay abroad for business, and the few trainers are too busy to really work all the horses. Without enough exercise, the horses get quite wild. Hmmm, why don't the owners sponsor some young talents? He also mentioned that the trainers don't seem to be able to teach the riders to move up the levels. The owners of FEI horses don't seem to get the chance to learn anything beyond leg yield. I am in the states for over 30 years now, so I really don't know the horse affairs over there to comment any more.

However, I'd like to recommend the hottest movie there: Cape No. 7

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time to catch up

Wow, it's been a while since my last post. I was abroad for two weeks in October, but I guess it takes forever to return to normal rhythm. I'd better finish up my tour of barns in Beijing before I forget what I saw. It looks like I still have 4 more places to report. Gee, I went to a lot more places than I thought.

I have researched on the internet and found that there is a sporthorse and racehorse breeding farm near Beijing, so I found the contact information, and address and made it a planned stop. I was calling the number since morning trying to make an appointment, but it never went through. My taxi driver also helped calling while he was waiting for me at each stop. In the end, we arrived the place without an appointment. The next obstacle turned out to be their 20-foot stonewalls. This place is surrounded by two-story high walls with huge solid metal gates all locked shut! From one side they have a lower gate, and I could see barns in there, but the gate was also locked with nobody in sight. We figured there must be another gate, so drove around, and arrived at a stable. However, that was not the originally planned destination. In fact I didn't know it existed, so not in my plan at all.

The barn worker first was suspicious about us. I would too as it turned out to be a private stable, but he became very excited and friendly once I told him that I was from the US and would like to see horses in Beijing. The barn was not the fanciest, but it was maintained very clean and all the horses looked well fed and shining. I could see the barn help was very proud of the horses he cared for. He pointed out a big colt and his dam to me, and asked me to guess his breeding. Oh mine, how would I know? They looked to have some blood, but the mare's size was somewhat small, so they must be some mixed breed.

He laughed and told me it was sired by a prized blood-sweating horse! The legendary blood-sweating  horse was known to run very fast with a lot of endurance, and they would bleed from the neck when they ran. The modern veterinary medicine tells us this phenomenon might be caused by parasites encysted in the skin bursting. It was also believed to be just a visual effect as the horse sweat, its hair color became so deep that it looked like blood. The actual breed is believed to be Akhal-Teke or a close relative. Other than the longer back, I really couldn't see any distinctive traits in this colt. However, they do have a horse that looks like a cremello or perlino.  He has a cute head, nice topline, but kind of short legged.

Anyway, this is just a detour, we asked how to get to his neighbor, the big well-secured breeding farm, but the answer was simply, "find an open door." Hmm, not too helpful. Well, if we couldn't find the door to get in, we should just head for the next stable. As we were retracing our route to leave this village, we saw the low gate of the breeding farm was open, and people were coming and going. We drove to the gate and let the person, who appeared to be guarding the gate and supervising the workers, know why we were there, but he said he had to check with the owner.  He called the owner and handed me his cell phone, and I got to explain to the owner that I am a sporthorse breeder in the US and my interest in seeing horses near Beijing. He was very welcoming and even apologized that no one answered the phone earlier and he was not there to greet us. I was a bit overwhelmed by the gracious hospitality over the phone. He called his barn manager to come to the gate to take us for a tour of his facility. 

My goodness, what a place! It is definitely at the caliber of Mr. Uli Kasselmann's farm, and to no surprise, this facility is in association with PSI! I saw a club house and the stable. Both of them looked like Mediterranean palaces. There were not many stalls, but everything is size XL in volume and height. The barn housed several stallions with jumping Holsteiner and Hanoverian bloodlines.  The grounds were all green completed with paver stone paths through the gardens and woods, a creek, pond, water falls, fountains, and completed with some swans swimming. There was an automatic horse exerciser, and a palomino stallion was getting a bit anxious and unhappy doing his rounds. The paddocks all looked kind of small to me, and the paddocks were wet and sloppy, not quite up to the standard of the rest of the property.

There was a big jumping arena and several riders there jumping or doing flatwork. I was told by the barn manager that they were team members of the Beijing Equestrian Team sponsored by the farm owner, and they were all jumpers as no one was interested in dressage work yet.  They have a coach sent from PSI. I later learned by googling, the owner is a real horse lover, and an official in several organizations, and very dedicated to the equestrian sports. However, I can see it is difficult to promote a sport that takes not only talents and skills, but also great investment and deep knowledge of the sport partner - the horse. Since the owner has so much security and privacy measures with the big wall and gates, I didn't take any pictures of this place. The place is called "Clearwood  Farm", and they do offer PSI style auctions, so I am sure whoever is interested can get the information.

The next two places are really not very exciting. One barn was in "Crab Island Resort". I was wondering what Crab Island was. How could there be an island in the middle of large land mass and no lakes? It turned out to be a theme park where you can do indoor crabbing (so I was told as I didn't go in to see.) There were several giant buildings, that looked like aircraft hangers, and the taxi driver said they were for crabbing.  We found the horse area, but it 
looked to be just for non-horsey tourists to ride in circles, so we didn't stop to check it out. However, I did see something totally wierd; couldn't guess what the whole structure was for. The taxi driver said they were all antennae. I am pretty sure the guy who was making the call on his cell phone had great signal! Haha.

The next place I went could probably be toatlly skipped. It was very close to some lower-end residential/commercial area, but the surrounding businesses all seemed to be the off colored sort. Anyway, I saw a few skinny rental horses, and one customer struggling to try to get the horse to move.

One day is really not long enough to go to all the places. There is another barn on the south side of Beijing in my plan, and they have Friesians based on what I found on the internet.  Hopefully, I can stay for a longer time in my future visits.

I left Beijing the next day, and here are a few shots at the airport, including the display of the ancient "drums" used in the Olympic opening ceremony.