By Adriana van Tilburg
Photography: Peter Llewellyn, and personal collection
To understand the pedigree of a mare or stallion it is important that you know the ancestors. If we look at Clinton’s pedigree below, at first glance we might think that he’s 100% Holstein – bred by Rudolf Wieck and belonging to Stamm 8829. Indeed, the Stamm number – beginning with the number ‘1’ – already indicates a late-registered mare line, according to the first ever book that recorded mare line families which was published in 1886.
The younger the mare line, the higher the number. Currently the Holsteiner Verband has about 9,000 Stamms, many of which are no longer active.
The Trakehner mare line of Leonore
The mare Brischka (Raimond - Loni x Lachteufel, bred by Rheder Thormählen) has a Trakehner dam, and the fourth dam on his maternal side is also Takehner.
If you read the literature about English Thoroughbreds, it is often said that you should look at six generations. So what are these two other generations? I have asked myself this question for several years. Although online databases show the motherline with several generations, I couldn’t find information about it. In this case, however, it is not only about bloodlines, it also bring a black page in history and culture to the table and, thanks to Neel Heinrich Schoof, the son of a well-known Holsteiner breeder, who now works for the Trakehner Verband, I got in contact with Erhard Schulte. A passionate man who knows a lot about Trakehner horses, who was on the board of directors for a long time, and is still an honorable member of the Trakehner Verband. He organizes journeys to the old East Prussia to discover more about the history of this fascinating breed.
So, let’s take a step back in history. In 1944 the Russian Army advanced closer to East Prussia, what was then a part of Germany. After the First World War, it was separated from Germany with an area belonging to Poland in between. By January 1945 the situation had turned very dangerous, and several very tragic incidents had already occurred.
At that time, Trakehnen was once the biggest breeding farm in Europe with 1,200 horses, as well as privately owned mares totalling 25,000, and 1,000 stallions. Suddenly, forced to evacuate, and a desperate journey to the west started – more than 1,000 kilometres, including 80 kilometres over the frozen East Sea (including das Fisches Haff).
Reports vary about the number of horses that eventually survived, but it was apparently between 1,000 and 1,500, one of whom was the mare Leonore (Bürge - Lola x Pirol, bred by M. Jonat). Alongside another mare, she pulled a wagon and made it to Schleswig-Holstein, where other horses from this trek died. What is even more astonishing is that she was in foal, kept the foal, and gave birth to a healthy filly christened Loni (Lachteufel,bred by I. Niemann) who was was born in 1945.
In East Prussia, Leonore had already become a highly rated premium mare, born in the Tilsit-Ragnit district in the central breeding area of Trakehner horses on the Memel, and likely sold as a foal to the Niemann family from Kobylinnen, in the district of Lyck. In West Germany, in addition to the mentioned Loni, she produced three more foals, of which Lore, born in 1947 by the Holsteiner Notruf, and the Trakehner daughter Libelle von Heidedichter, born in 1949, whose branch is now extinct.
Lachteufel was a respected state stallion in Rastenburg and was born at the private Birkenfeld stud where Gimpel, the two-time Berlin 1936 Olympian and team Olympic dressage champion was bred.
Bürge was a state stallion in Georgenburg, born in Götzhofen in Memelland, where the legendary Dampfroß was raised, and was one of the best sires in East Prussia, as well as his ancestor, Pirol, who also worked as a main stallion in Trakehnen. All three of them were renowned because they took top positions in the supply of remonten – young cavalry riding horses. It was only the very early years of high performance sport.
Luna the last Trakehner mare
The mare Loni gave birth to a filly, Luna (Modekönig or Totilas, bred by W. Badel) born in 1952. Because all the official papers state that she is by Totilas I, that’s the path I’ve followed. The sire Totilas (Pythagoras - Tonteube x Pilger, bred by the Hauptgestüt Trakehnen) was approved as a three year old and was at the state stud Georgenburg. He also survived the trek as a seven-year-old stallion and became a very important sire. He has 91 listed offspring, and I also found an online article written by Dr. Horst Willer that mentions 60 registered Trakehner-bred daughters. He reached the very respectable age of 27, and I quote from the book Adel Verpflichtet written by Claus Schridde, page 61: “Totilas was an outstanding improver of the type and gave his offspring especially an unmistakably beautiful face.”
In the same trek were also Semper Fi and Abglanz. Semper Fi is the sireline of Stakkato while Abglanz is the sireline of Arko III (Argentinus). Unfortunately, the Totilas stallion line no longer exists but, for a long time in the Netherlands, for both the Gelderlander horse and KWPN, his stallions were active. For instance, the stallion Wagenaar, who jumped at 1m60.
Coincidentally, Luna was competing under the saddle of a very young Harm Thormählen, while Loni was jumping at 1m20 and 1m30 level in 1959, and later also competed under the same saddle. Thormählen recalls: “That mare was so special. I still have a photo from when I was jumping her in the German championships in Berlin. This was just before the time when the wall came, there was so much chaos. Luna already jumped at 1m40 because my father bought her for me to become my junior horse. She was a very clever horse, super to ride and I remember she had a very good mouth. I remember that my father used Raimond for her and I am sure her Frivol xx daughter was also born here because Frivol xx was stationed close to our farm.” Luna gave birth to three fillies, Lucretia (Frivol xx) who jumped successfully at 1m40, her sister Legende (Marlon xx), and a third, Brischka.
The line continues in Holstein
Brischka produced several sporthorses who jumped at the 1m20, the best being a Landgraf I daughter, Ohra, who was known in sport as Olympia 24.
Peter Claussen, who was the breeding manager at the Haidkoppel studfarm, recalls: “We purchased Brischka from the horse dealer Reimers. Harm Thormählen rode her mother with quite some success. Brischka’s daughter Ohra was an outstanding mare, she had a beautiful type and was very modern for her time. She competed at 1m50 level under the saddle of Karsten Huck and Dirk Schröder and we then brought her back from sport. We sold her daughter Urte I (Masetto) as a youngster to Rudolf Wieck, and when Clinton was a foal we bought him from Wieck – his breeder. We sold him again quite soon, and with a few detours he was sold to Belgium.”
Karsten Huck remembers Ohra very well, saying: “I rode her in 1984 and in 1985. She was a beautiful, tall mare and had a great character. Dirk Schröder rode her after me and she jumped very well with him. She had a very positive willingness to perform, she always wanted to be clear and she had a lot of scope. Her canter could have been better and with the jump she was a bit straight in the back.”
Rudolf Wieck, Clinton’s breeder remembers: “I purchased Urte I as a foal from Heinz Heinike. She had a good character and was a modern horse. Almost all her offspring went to Belgium, including Urte I. Also the full sister of Clinton, was a modern type of horse.”
Clinton was sold to Georg Claussen as a weaned foal and was later purchased by Team Nijhof. And so began the next chapter of the Clinton line in the Netherlands. Currently only one mare is still registered in the Holsteiner Studbook, while others have spread their wings to Belgium and Westfalia.
MNS Franziska – Clinton’s full sister
Clinton has one full sister, MS Franziska. She was leased to Hubert Hamerlinck when she was four years old, at which time she was covered by Concept (Concerto II - Florina I x Langata Express xx, Stamm 275) with the resulting offspring being Contact van de Heffinck. Eight years ago MS Franziska she moved to Belgium, to Stefaan Delabie, who recalls: “I’d already known MS Franziska since she was a foal, because after Henk Nijhof and Hubert Hamerlinck purchased Clinton we visited the breeder. There we met Clinton, his mother Urte I, and MS Franziska. We kept in touch with the breeder and made the agreement that if he ever wanted to sell MS Franziska he should call me. That is exactly what happened. Later I went back to get Urte I and brought her to Hubert Hamerlinck. Unfortunately he had no luck with her, but I am very happy with MS Franziska. She is now 26 and has already given one approved son here in Belgium: Prestige van het Kluizebos (Halifax van het Kluizebos). So the two lines that I have are combined in this stallion, because I am also the breeder of Halifax van het Kluizebos.”
The line blossoms also in the Westfalian Studbook. Kerrin II (Carthago - Urte I x Masetto, bred by Rudolf Wieck) was sold to the owner of Cornet Obolensky and Comme il faut: Zhashkiv Equestrian. Alongside Kerrin II, some daughters were also sold to Zhaskiv Equestrian, and a stallion was presented at this year’s Westfalian stallion approvals showing Kerrin as the fourth mother.
So, the line went from the Trakhener Studbook, to the Holsteiner Studbook, to the BWP, and is now also active in Westfalia.
The remarkable Clinton
Clinton was first co-owned by Henk Nijhof and Hubert Hamerlinck, and was raised in Belgium for the approvals by the latter. Melanie Hamerlinck recalls: “Clinton was of course very special to us, together with Fuego du Prelet and Orlando he put our company on the world map a bit more. In the end, stallions like Clinton and Heartbreaker meant a lot in breeding, especially in Belgium, and we owned both stallions. We still have the BWP-approved stallion Prestige van het Kluizebos from his dam line, whose dam is a full sister of Clinton that we co-own with a friend.”
Naturally, the eyes of Henk Nijhof Snr, and Jeannette Nijhof start to glow when they are being asked about Clinton, who they agree was a once-in-a-lifetime stallion. “Clinton had a lot of character, already as a young horse. This made him unsuitable for the KWPN system so we sent him to Hubert Hamerlinck, just as we had done with Heartbreaker. Clinton needed a special rider who was Dirk Demeersman. When we called Dirk to tell him that Clinton was having health problems he came right away. We sat together in front of his box and recalled fond memories. Did you know that Clinton had to have a special way of flying? That he should be alone in a box? When he had to go to the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 this was not organized at the airport. Dirk Demeersman did not load Clinton onto the plane, but put Clinton him on the truck and drove him to the Olympic Games, and then to finish fourth shows the bond between these two and the strength of Clinton.”
Stefaan Delabie adds his own commentary to this partnership: “These two were made each other, Dirk was the perfect rider for Clinton. I think it would have been very difficult to find a different rider with whom he would have had the same results. Clinton was a genius and his qualities were unbelievable and Dirk knew how to make him shine, even if it was not an easy journey.”
Today, Clinton’s offspring are well known and their information can be found on several websites. But the story behind Clinton is not so familiar. Seventy-five years ago his ancestors had to escape from the Second World War. It was a journey survived by only the fittest horses, of which Leonore was one, and also in foal. Her strength and character was inherited by Clinton.
I am very grateful for the help I received from the Trakehner Verband, from Neel Heinrich Schoof and Erhard Schulte.
In Dirk Demeersman’s own words
I rode Clinton for the first time when he was five years old. At the first jump I thought that with this horse I want to go to the Olympics! That was not very realistic because he had a very strong character, and a special mouth, contrary to what many people think, he was very soft and sensitive in the mouth.
We did the five-year-old cycle and, as a six-year-old I rode him again and jumped a few times internationally with varying success. He sometimes dared to strike, and ‘no’ was ‘no’ with Clinton.
When he was seven, Aachen organized a stallion competition in January, when the first day he jumped his first 1m50.... And how! Clear round, clear in the jump-off, and fifth place among all the older stallions. It was a great feeling which was confirmed again when he did national and small international shows. During that winter I took him to competitions such as Vienna, London-Olympia, Mechelen, as second or third horse, and he always came home with prizes. As an eight year old he was fully employed in breeding. Then, in October, he jumped his first Grand Prix competition in Helsinki, and from then on I regularly rode him in bigger classes.
When he turned nine the real sport started with very varying success. Most of the time he stayed at Van de Heffinck’s Stud and I drove 240 kilometres a day to ride him. That same summer a new groom started working for me and two days before the competition he drove with me to get to know Clinton. During our trip I told him what an amazing stallion he was and that I could go to the Olympics with him. The following weekend, in a big class during the second day of the competition, three fences down, and he parked himself 30 metres from the ditch [water jump] – so no chance! When I came out of the ring – and this is a good one – the groom said ‘do you want to go to the Games with something like that?’ Fortunately the following competitions were better and they became close friends, so together we went to the Olympic Games. He had to respect you otherwise you couldn’t do anything with him.
He also didn't like transportation, one time I had to stop on the way back from Spain to call a vet to give him something to calm him down because he was renovating the truck. Later we arranged the truck differently and he traveled super. So well that he even went to the Athens Games by truck. I have had not much luck with his offspring that I have ridden. One had a bit too much Clinton level but not the qualities he had, the other had not a good health. Ugano Sitte approached his father closely with qualities with a much softer character, but unfortunately faith decided otherwise and he died very young. I am sure that Ugano was a real winner.
So to say in short, Clinton was very special for me.