He competes in dressage up to Intermédiaire I, he has earned many fans by his victory in Aachen and now has been awarded with the WAHO Trophy 2014: Exquisite’s Fantasy! We asked his breeder and owner, Susanne Hofbauer-Werth, how it all came about.
Arabian Horses IN THE FOCUS: Susanne, you have bred Exquisite’s Fantasy yourself. When did you realize that he is something “special”, when was his aptitude for riding recognized?
Susanne Hofbauer-Werth: Well, actually, I bred him for myself. I wanted to go to halter shows and ride him, of course – in my “old age”. When I saw his sire at a stallion presentation with a huge fire work, and he stood there totally relaxed and bored in between all the other stallions jumping around, I thought by myself: “Well, he is exactly the right partner for my somewhat ‘happy’ Exquisite’s Shatana. Selfconfident, relaxed, solid body, correct legs and a huge, quiet eye. When Jan Calis handed Gasir over to a friend during these fireworks to hold him, just telling him that this stallion is well-behaved, it came clear to me, that he is the right match.
When Fantasy was four years old, I was already 46 and therefore didn’t want to break him to saddle myself. Andreas Stöger, a trainer, whom I knew very well and who had ridden many purebred Arabians before, started to work with Fantasy. Simply walk, trot, gallop and a bit forward. Then, sometime during the work Andi suddenly said: “You know, he is a rather ingenious horse”.
Unfortunately, this rider left us and moved to Germany, so I had to start searching again for a suitable rider. This was quite difficult and took a long time… Until one day a friend told me: “You know, the rider of Padrons Khen Saabi, whom you liked so much in Stald Paura, works now in Lower Austria at our stable!”
I remembered this well-seated rider very well and so I asked him. But it took quite some time, also some persuasiveness, and after some months he had a look at Fantasy. That was back in 2009, the stallion was 7-years-old. Since that time, Stefan Hirnböck is the one and only rider for Exquisite’s Fantasy.
Arabian Horses IN THE FOCUS: What factors need to come together, to recognize and promote such talent?
Susanne Hofbauer-Werth: A horse with a friendly mind-set that is willing to co-operate, clear headed, further the best rider you can find and enough time and patience. And: Trust is the key word. That applies to all team members.
Arabian Horses IN THE FOCUS: From where do you take the motivation, to invest so much work and money in the training and ridden performance of Fantasy?
Susanne Hofbauer-Werth: Haha, yes, that has it’s origin some time in the past. I started to ride at the age of six and I think, I was about 13, when I had firmly made the decision to ride dressage at the Olympic Games. This dream was quickly over when I turned 17. My mother was always afraid of horses and thought, that “this is a sport only for the top 10.000”. I understood quickly, that I won’t make it without support. So I rode “normally” and tried to find excellent riders to teach me. When I couldn’t afford them, or only rarely, then I watched them riding. Alfred Knopfhart was one of them. But my serious interest often opened the doors. Even today.
Well, my motivation is unwavering and is still there – I simply fulfil myself a dream, which was not fulfilled in my youth. Isn’t that the case with many of us? My husband had exactly the same in his sport: He invested in a young man, who eventually participated in the Superbike Worldchampionships… and he was always with him, at all the racetracks around the world…
It is incredibly exciting to see how a horse-rider pair in harmony can develop. To be allowed and able to watch the two working, is “great cinema” for me. Apart from that, I always felt that a horse becomes more expressive and more beautiful with dressage.
Arabian Horses IN THE FOCUS: What is the weak point in the sports scene with purebred Arabians? Is there a shortage of talented horses or more one of talented riders, who are also willing to ride Arabs?
Susanne Hofbauer-Werth: Breeders are not prepared to test and train their horses also under saddle. For me personally, this is absolutely essential for the continuation of the breed.
On the other side: Young riders do not learn, just how important a solid basic training is and how great it feels to ride a really well ridden and trained horse. To plod along on the forehand while hacking out is not really suitable for horses. But who tells them, and who takes the time and explains it to them well?
We cannot even think about a possible lack of talented horses, because we simply don’t know if we are lacking them. We cannot establish a meaningful assertion about a population, where only about 10-20% of the horses are ridden, if at all. I do believe, there are enough talented riders and surely, there are also some, who do have the right sensitivity and the knack for all those other special breeds. These are the riders we have to find and to win them for the purebred Arabian. Primarily, this is also a task for the breeder. Then they can continue to serve their client of their horses with this rider. Something like that will spread fast. Anyway, I think, it’s about creating value for all. Together. And: Yes, it does cost money, but that is true for all parts, and yes, breeding has never been associated with long-term gains. Not even in the good old days.
Arabian Horses IN THE FOCUS: Which character trait do you like most in your stallion?
Susanne Hofbauer-Werth: His inner calm and stability. This is also reflected in its quiet eye.
Arabian Horses IN THE FOCUS: What were (for you) the greatest successes of this team, Exquisite’s Fantasy and Stefan Hirnböck?
Susanne Hofbauer-Werth: Actually, the year 2014 as a whole, it was full of highlights, and above all, the victory in Aachen. Then, the two stallion licensing events. And I’ve blasted, and Stefan of course, too, about more than 65% in the Intermédiaire I at the “Horsebox Austria Cup” in October among Warmblood horses. The relatively small (1.60 m) purebred Arabian stallion with such a big heart among the really big competition.
Arabian Horses IN THE FOCUS: Will we see the two at Janow Podlaski for the European Championships for Sports Arabians…???
Susanne Hofbauer-Werth: I don’t think so, but ultimately Stefan will decide.
Arabian Horses IN THE FOCUS: Thank you for this interview and good luck and success for the two!
(The questions were asked by Gudrun Waiditschka)