A Short Visit to Holland Spring 2002
Traveling is one of those things that you either LOVE or hate. I happen to love to travel and always try to fit a good ‘Welsh fix’ into my itinerary. In May 2002, my husband was going to be teaching in Cologne, Germany. Due to changes in his work schedule, he was unable to go. I had been planning this trip for about a year. My husband KNEW that he couldn’t tell me NOT to go. Because of his schedule change, I had the marvelous company of my twenty-three year old daughter, Gretchen. This also put a slightly different twist on the trip. Gretchen loves Welsh as much as I since she has been doing the Welsh showing thing since she was 18 months old (first leading rein class) and has traveled with me around the globe.
The advent of the Internet has greatly changed my Welsh Pony/Cob experience. In a matter of moments, I can see Welsh ponies and Cobs (via websites) around the globe. There are also several excellent list servers that allow you to share knowledge and friendships around the globe. These ‘lists’ made it possible for me to 'meet' Frank Megens and Joost van Gestel, and learn about the International Welsh Show in Arcen on June 1st.
Sadly, many Americans don’t learn languages other than our strange form of American English. I too am guilty of this. Certainly seeing the show at Arcen was a marvelous experience that would have been so much more so had I known Dutch AND arrived earlier at the show. I am afraid I don’t read Dutch road signs well, and roundabouts are something I definitely have to work on. This double deficit sent me off in the wrong direction from Venlo. Over 20 minutes later, Gretchen and I realized this. We arrived late at the show.
We finally arrived at Kasteeltuien Arcen (website http://www.kasteeltuinen.nl/indexeng.html ) and parked our rental car about 11am. We walked down the parking lot looking at people preparing their animals for the show. I wanted to stop several times and ask people about their lovely animals, BUT Gretchen kept me on task. My first surprise was that people actually expected YOU to PAY to go to a Welsh show and park. THIS doesn’t happen in my area unless you go huge state fair, which this wasn’t! We got our hands stamped and went to the show, arriving just as the Sec. A broodmares were entering the ring. I walked over to the show secretary booth and announced who we were. To my delight, we were expected and immediately handed a gorgeous show program. IF only I could read Dutch, I am sure I would have found it full of great information. The show grounds are near perfect with lovely large grass rings.
It felt odd to be at a Welsh show and NOT exhibiting. I am not a shy person, but not understanding the language is a HUGE disadvantage. Gretchen and I went to the show ring and started ‘ring side’ judging. Immensely gratified when we judged several classes almost exactly as the British judge, Chris Cobley, we began to feel more comfortable. We were hit up to purchase tickets for the raffle, which we bought. Although we didn’t win, the familiar activity, so like the raffles at our shows, made us feel even more at home.
The standard of Welsh being shown impressed me. I saw several ponies and Cobs that would be welcome in my barn ANY time. I was very taken with Ring Danielle (Nebo Daniel x Cascob Delight). We went over and talked briefly to the owners. I have a granddaughter of Nebo Daniel and another Cob mare that is of Cascob lineage. This broke the ice and certainly finding Frank, our host, helped.
At the end of the day, we were thrilled to see this marvelous mare, Ring Danielle, go all the way to a well deserved Supreme Champion of all Sections. The Reserve Champion mare, Zonneweide’s Norelja (Boreas Illias x Zonneweide’s Janneke) pleased me as well. After the show, we were honored and delighted by an invitation to the judges' and exhibitors' party. It was fascinating to hear the judges sharing their comments, and marvelous to meet people and talk ponies and pedigrees.
A horse show is just a HORSE SHOW. Seeing actual studs with all their stock is much more interesting and informative. I was treated with several memorable visits. I must state that I am an unabashed LOVER of the old fashioned Welsh. Our first visit on Sunday was to Frank Megen’s stud where our two-day host was very gracious to let us sleep in. Both Gretchen and I were rather sunburnt from our Saturday adventures. I am sure it was difficult for Frank to have the invasion of two American women, but he was VERY understanding about us taking OVER both his bathroom and the spare room.
After we had a strong cup of tea and I painted my blistered nose, Frank showed us his youngstock. We then saw the mares, Suda Sidan and Suda Siwan, gorgeous dun full sisters with cute foals by Cwmfrwydd Lead Soldier. I am a huge fan of duns, and these two mares didn't disappoint me. We visited with Frank's parents and saw Gredington Dee (dam of the two duns). Cwmfrwydd Lead Soldier is a proper Section A stallion with lovely movement and type. I think after seeing the two foals by him, Frank will be very pleased over the coming years. Please do take a look at Frank’s web page http://home-3.worldonline.nl/~fmegens/ which will give you all their breeding.
We then went to see Joost van Gestel’s family’s farm. Sadly, only Sumrin Taru and her filly foal were home. Yes, Joost's ponies are as lovely as their pictures on the Internet. Joost’s Dad did a tremendous job sharing (with commentary) a comprehensive photo collection of their foundation ponies. Their 'family room' had a huge window overlooking the closest pasture. What a great view and peaceful setting. I can understand WHY Joost misses not being in the Netherlands. We were behind schedule due to our ‘sleep in’ so didn't get to see the ponies that were away from the family farm. Please take the time to visit Joost’s web page http://personal.eunet.fi/pp/emcaeu/ and see them all.
Next, we visited with Piet and Rhode Thielen. Piet, a gourmet chef, treated to a grand meal. BUT better than the meal, was the quality of ponies that we saw. THIS is indeed a high compliment because I am exceptionally fond of food. Rhode had prepared for us a great brochure of all her ponies’ breeding, which made it easy for me to look at the ponies and then look at the pedigrees as I walked around her stud. Yes, I LOVE to look at pedigrees, and I learned a great deal being able to compare what pedigrees I knew to what I saw. I would be hard pressed to say which pony I liked best. The quality of the youngstock was outstanding. Do go to http://www.stalvennebos.nl/ and decide for yourself.
Monday was a day to be treasured. Frank took us to the Rondeel Stud, an incredible place on the edge of a National Park (much of the land donated to the Netherlands by Mrs. Peletier’s family). I don't know how many acres there are, but the farm is huge. I had an odd sense of being there before. Later on in the visit, Mrs. Peletier joined us. When she started to talk about visiting the States and mentioned Mrs. Ingersoll, I realized I had been unconsciously calling on memories of Grazing Fields in the grand days of my early visits there. Mrs. Ingersoll was a major inspiration to me, first in breeding my Sec. B ponies and now my Cobs. Grazing Fields Farm used to be the oldest producing Welsh pony and Cob farm in the United States until Mrs. Ingersoll’s recent death. The connection became even more clear when Mrs. Peletier talked about doing endurance riding and how much she enjoys it. Mrs. Ingersoll used to do endurance riding. Mrs. Peletier is not only a Welsh pony breeder but also a 'horse person' in the best and highest sense.
The Rondeel ponies were outstanding. It mattered little that I didn’t know the ponies’ pedigrees when I saw them. Although their pedigrees mattered little compared to their quality, I do admit that one of the first things I did on returning to the States was to pull out my British Indexes and trace their pedigrees. What I found did not disappoint me. Inside of two generations, these ponies trace to legendary ponies born in the 1930’s and 1940’s. All the ponies at Rondeel live out 24/7. I was impressed that Mrs. Peletier’s breeding program focused on hardiness to survive all as much as on type. Few breeders seem able to remember this crucial Welsh trait. Frank is planning to work with Mrs. Peletier and put up a website on her beautiful ponies.
Without a doubt in my mind, one of the finest Sec. A ponies I have seen in all my many travels is the twenty-eight –year-old stallion Rondeel Carino (Rondeels Pengwyn x Twyford Cobweb). He has it ALL. Seeing a near faultless Welsh pony is an overwhelming experience. Gretchen and I just stood and stared and stared. I will treasure seeing this pony for the rest of my life. What do you say to his breeder? I can’t say I was speechless but…I don’t think I was able to convey how important it is to the Welsh breed that she continues her outstanding breeding program.
In hindsight, visiting Rondeel saddened me deeply. Yes, the experience was a tremendous joy, but it seems that many Dutch breeders have forgotten about Rondeel. I know if I were a Sec. A breeder in the Netherlands, I would be at Mrs. Peletier's doorstep BEGGING to breed to or purchase some of her stock. Fads come and go, but the GREAT old Welsh type doesn’t. I fully agree with Mrs. Peletier’s decision that if her ponies do not sell well, she will not breed many. WHAT a huge loss to the global Welsh community, but she is correct in her logic.
What did I relearn and was firmly reinforced by my visit to the Netherlands? We don’t need to reinvent ‘type’ in Welsh because if we are willing to seek out and find quality stock, we can see it and learn from it. We need to examine pedigrees closely to see what successful breeders of the past and present have done or are doing. Pedigrees are only pieces of paper. Seeing the pedigree ‘live’ is what it is all about. See as much as you can in this global Welsh community. Conformation, type, and movement is just as important in 2002 and as it was in 1901. This is what breeding Welsh is all about to me.
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