Princess Nathalie’s fairy tale

Old school reigns

 

After the morning training we walk over to the main stables which were recently renovated. Inside there’s a whiff of fresh hay and horse and on a white chalk wall there’s the characteristic Crown and Wave of the Danish Warmblood breed.

Despite a controversial decision to forbid the branding of horses in Denmark, the historic signature remains on the family’s horses. The foals are not affected when the branding is done properly, both mother and daughter explain.

“They barely wink  – inserting chips is far more problematic,” they tell.

When some breeders take five to six eggs a year from a competition mare to produce as many offsprings as possible, the foals from Berleburg are made the old fashioned way.

In line with their conservative breeding, the family is also “one 100 per cent against cloning”.

“The horses are constantly evolving and as a breeder, you want to move forward. The most important thing is really how the horse is cared for and how it is educated,” tells Benedikte.

 

Born and bred in Berleburg

 

It is her daughter who selects the stallions and the horses that they decide to keep. When they are three years old, she starts to ride them carefully and by eight or nine they have reached their pinnacle which means that they can do a Grand Prix. So far Nathalie has made four Grand Prix horses and one more is one it’s way; a beautiful mare by the name, Fabienne.

“When we only breed from two mares and skip some seasons I think that our success rate is pretty good,” she smiles.

 

 

“My father always said that he can’t afford to buy expensive horses and that is the reason why we breed. Some people have laughed at this but now I’m not so sure if they’re still laughing” 

 

 

When she came second in the World Cup she had performed Digby’s best Grand Prix ever. It was only when she looked up at the scoreboard for a second time that she realized her achievement.

 

That anyone should come this far on a homebred horse is in itself a rarity.

When most riders buy horses that have already reached a certain level, Nathalie is known to bring out the best in even the most ordinary horses.

It’s all about patience and having an eye for their individual qualities, she tells.

 

“It is an art form to shape a horse from scratch. If something goes wrong it is my mistake as I made the horse. But since they know me so well, it is much easier than starting with a horse who was already in someone else’s hands.

My father always said that he can’t afford to buy expensive horses and that is the reason why we breed. Some people have laughed at this but now I’m not so sure if they’re still laughing,” she smiles.

 

Breast feeding while competing 

 

Not just the horses are main in Berleburg.

In July 2010 Nathalie had her first child, Konstantin, with the German businessman, Alexander Johannsmann. Even before he was born he was a part of the daily training as Nathalie rode two horses a day during the first seven months of her pregnancy.

“During the last two weeks, when I couldn’t ride, my co workers told me that I was impossible to be around. All I wanted to do was to get back on a horse. I wasn’t made to sit around and do nothing,” she laughs.

 

“The child was not planned and yet, he was well planned. If he had arrived a month later I would not have made it to the World Championships in Kentucky. I told my doctor that I could only go past one week of my pregnancy term but no longer.”

Just one week after having given birth the princess was back on Digby for twenty minutes. After a month she participated in an international event “to make sure that everything was in place,” and two months after having given birth she competed in Kentucky while she also found the time to breastfeed her son.

 

The duo reached a sensational seventh place.

 

“When I look back it was just the way things were. If I know that he’s looked after I can really concentrate on my riding. The baby obviously comes first but the horses aren’t too far behind,” she smiles while she shows the difference with a few millimetres between her fingertips.

 

Elleven years of schooling

 

Even if she grew up in an equestrian environment it was not until she graduated from high school that she got her first real dressage horse. After four years of schooling with the legendary Kyra Kyrklund in Sweden and after that seven years with Klaus Balkenhol in Germany she returned to the family estate.

 

“The child was not planned and yet, he was well planned. If he had arrived a month later I would not have made it to the World Championships.”

 

“Berleburg is my home where I grew up and love to be.  During shows your adrenaline goes up and down all the time which is exhausting, even if you’re only bringing one or two horses. When you come home from an event it’s very relaxing to be in the midst of nature,” tells Nathalie, whose apartment is situated above the stables of two breeding mares.

 

The horses are not just a pleasure but also a business. Each time they sell a horse that Nathalie has trained they make a small fortune. Twice a year she travels to Australia to give clinics and lately, she has lent her name  – complete with a crown – to a new line of riding boots and breeches.

“The aesthetics are important and you’re always concerned about what you look like when you’re in the saddle so it is a logic collaboration,” says Nathalie.

 

“Some people may think ‘that woman, she had it all served on a silver plate..’ but I really had to work hard to get to where I am now. I never had a horse when I was young that looked like a million; I had to make them all by myself from ordinary young horses. But I was lucky to learn from the world’s two best trainers. They are the ones who have laid the foundation of my career and my life. “

 

 

©horse-tales.com

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJD-De1DE9E

 

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