Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Great Dressage Stallions: Donnerhall

Donnerhall 1981-2002
Riley's great grandsire is Donnerhall, one of the great dressage sires of this century. I have seen videos of Donnerhall, most notably his final competition performance in Rome. He was gorgeous, but to be honest what impressed me most was the crowd's adoration of this old gentleman. An Oldenburg liver chestnut standing 16.3 hands, he had flowing, supple gaits. He was not known so much for his gaits as his rideability and talent for dressage. Donnerhall died in 2002, but he left a legacy. There are a ton of D-line stallions around, and for good reason. Donnerhall is one of the most influential breeding stallions in dressage.

A few tidbits about Donnerhall...

  • As a young horse he placed second out of 70 horses at his Stallion Performance Test, with an overall score of 131.92 (1).
  • At least 16 of his offspring are competing at an international level--twice as many as other prominent sires such as Weltmeyer (2).
  • He has the highest dressage breeding value index (271) of all stallions (3).
  • Donnerhall sired more than 77 approved stallions and more than 84 state premium mares [note: the numbers vary from source to source, but I'm quoting (4)].

    Donnerhall wasn't just a great breeding stallion. He showed that it is possible to combine a successful breeding career with a competitive career. With rider Karin Rehbein he achieved phenomenal success in the dressage ring, winning over 30 international grand prix, grand prix special, and freestyle classes. He retired in 1998, after many years at the top of international level dressage. His wins and accomplishments are listed in many of the resources listed below. Donnerhall is deeply revered in Germany, and it is evident in this video tribute:

Donnerhal sounds like the penultimate stallion for the ambitious amateur, with his rideability and talent for collection. For anyone considering a D-line prospect, here are some tidbits of information abut him that I've gleaned from articles and listservs...

  • Donnerhall does not necessarily pass on a physical type, and many of his get do not look much like him. They do inherit strength for collection, fanastic temperament, and rideability (5).
  • Donnerhall crosses extremely well with Pik Bube mares and with lighter type thoroughbred mares (6). One gorgeous example of a Pik Bube cross is Don Schufro.
  • Donnerhall is known for his ability to sit down on his haunches and collect, and to pass on this ability to his offspring.
  • Donnerhall offspring sometimes inherit his bulkier build, and what is considered an old fashioned type. On Donnerhall offspring you sometimes see a large, noble head and a longish back. For this reason breeders like to cross him with a lighter, leggier type or thoroughbred blood.
  • Donnerhall's pedigree would not necessarily have predicted his success. His father Donnerwetter never produced another horse remotely like Donnerhall. Donnerhall had several full brothers that were nothing like him. Donnerwetter was standing in the United States toward the end of his life. (7)

You can read a detailed history of Donnerhall (8) and his obituary (9) at the Horse Gate web site. Rideauwood Farm has a Web page with a detailed list of his significant offspring (10).

1. Wikipedia's Donnerhall
2. Great Dressage Sires of the World, Donnerhall the Greatest
3. The The German Oldenburg
4. Donnerhall from Sport-Horse Breeder
5. What stallion should I use?
6. Donnerhall from Horse Magazine
7. You choose: Who is the best of the big 3?
8. Horse-Gates Donnerhall
9. Donnerhall Obituary/Tribute
10. Donnerhall: A Living Legend

Other Resources
Dressage Unlimited Obituary
Donnerhall info from Sport Horse Data
Discussion of Donnerhall stallions on wwwarmbloods.com
Best Donnerhall son discussion on www.uncouthbb.com
Donnerhall dressage rankings 2000-2003. Published annually in the magazine “Der Hannoveraner”.


  1. I loved that video of Don Shufro - amazing horse.

    Since other people seem to suggest ideas for future articles and your posts are always so informative I thought I would also ask for one :)
    I know of this girl whose young dressage horse was diagnosed with Proximal suspensory desmitis (PSD). She went through radial pressure wave therapy (RPWT), box rest, spa rehab, daily walking increasing up to 60 minutes a day etc. She went for scans and they all reported slight improvement every time but the vet suggested neurectomy.
    She's been trying to gather an information on recovery chances and return to competitive career but seems to find very negative and depressing statistics. There are of course some very positive ones too but just a few.

    So, I wonder whether you would like to do a post on PSD injuries, treatment (with special attention to neurectomy) and chances to return (and perform well) into the limelight?


  2. Hi,

    Is there no end to the things that can go wrong with them??? *Thanks for the suggestion,* and keep them coming. I have 1 or 2 other ideas from readers and will definitely look into this. I was interested in writing about stem cell therapy for horses, and wonder if this treatment had been tried for PSD.


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.