Australian dressage star Lyndal Oatley has enjoyed success of late competing her Grand Prix horses Elvive and Eros, with both in contention for World Championship team selection this year. However, recently at an event in Ankum, Germany, it was a new horse that caught everyone’s eye – a near-black mare by the name of Dante’s Herzchen, who won her Prix St Georges debut with an impressive 78.69%.
The result surprised even Lyndal, whose main aim of their first test together was simply to have a positive experience they could build on. “I didn’t go in there aiming for anything except a positive experience for us both. It was a strong start field, but that didn’t impact anything for me as I was only thinking about one movement at a time and giving us a good start to our competition journey,” says Lyndal. “Herzi really trusted me in the arena and gave a great feeling. I didn’t go for it at all, but just wanted a steady and confident test. She will give her all in there and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.”
Lyndal explains that she began searching for a new horse after selling her beloved mare, Diva. “I had sold Diva to an adorable girl in Sweden and wanted to find something to bring along again. I had contacted a friend of mine, Michi Wantia (who found Sandro Boy, Toystory and Scandic for Lyndal and husband Patrik Kittel), and explained what I was searching for. He said he had seen one that could be my type of horse and sent a video of Herzi.
“We really liked her gaits and that’s what we were drawn to. Michi explained that she would need a certain type of rider, and had been delayed in her training after a rough start so had not a lot of experience. Santi (Santiago Damil), who we purchased her from, had spent a year re-educating her and gave her the time she needed by going back to basics. I loved her even more for that, as that’s a journey that can be very rewarding and offer a chance to develop a special bond.” Lyndal explains that she’s remained in touch with Santi, who has been happy to help and provided her with advice and insight on how to prepare Herzi in the lead-up to Ankum.
Herzi has been with Lyndal at Eulenhof since mid-2021, and Lyndal says she’s taken her time with the mare, at first working on establishing trust, confidence and the basics, especially straightness and balancing her on both reins. “Towards the end of 2021 we began working on the short steps in hand, which she showed great talent for, but we left it from then to focus on the Small Tour.
“When we returned from a trip home (Lyndal confirms that by ‘home’ she means Australia, of course!), Patrik randomly said we should aim for the first show at Ankum. I was a tad shocked, as I hadn’t thought about shows yet, but the winter season in Ankum offered a great opportunity to gain show experience without too much going on around her, so we could continue developing her confidence.”