Lara and i sat down one evening and discussed with our father, Reiner, how we would go about using the farm. We now had the land to produce livestock or to agriculture a crop. I was thinking along the lines of cattle as this was something i was interested in farming with especially angus or bronsmara. But knowing almost nothing about cattle and the management of them we decided to ultimately stick with what were passionate about, horses. Why not start our own stud? There is a market and a place for breeding beautiful horses in this country so why not give it a go. Lara had a brilliant idea to begin with warmbloods. Warmbloods Lara knew quite a lot of and being a popular breed and with Germany having literally an encyclopedia of champion Warmbloods and studs, it was the favorite choice to go with this breed. Little did i know that it would be a breed i would fall in love with especially with a very special mare. I had always been a fan of friesians and thoroughbreds after having spent a lot of time with them at my previous workplace and absolutely loving my experience with both these breeds. Yet, there was a hidden love for warmbloods i didn't know i had until i went on a journey to find our first brood mare to establish the Ibalansi warmblood stud.
Lara had chosen the father, a Hannoveranien warmblood champion called 'Rotspon'. Lara had visited his stable and got to meet the stallion in person in Germany. When Lara returned with photographs, i was blown away at the size and amazing physique of this stallion, a true champion! he is magnificent! While the stallion was chosen and the frozen semen on its way to South Africa from Rotspon, all we needed was a quality mare to go with this champion we would use to begin our little stud. Lara and I searched for quite a while until we found a mare standing in the Free State not far from where i grew up in the North West. Her name was Big River Bends First class.
We were both fascinated by the name. Her photographs and videos showed something of great potential and we were drawn to this mare like a moth to the flame. Lara had an assignment for me and given me homework. She wasn't going to go the farm up in the Free State to choose. It was up to me. Homework was in the form of learning from Lara what to look for-movement, top line, hind quarters, how she presents herself, how she walks, trots, canters, etc. Ultimately, Lara had said to me: 'All of these things are important but the most important is to feel. Its your own feeling of the horse. The right horse will come to you and pick you. Its a feeling and you'll know it when it happens.' So apart from seeing what she can physically look like and what she can do, i had to have this horsey 'jedi' feeling to know which horse to choose for our stud. I was sent on my way to find 'the one'.
It was going to be a trip home to see family and then a short drive out to the farm just over the Vaal river into the Free Sate countryside. My father and my sister accompanied me on this quest. We first had to visit two other stables and view those mares. When we arrived and weren't greeted by the owners we already had suspicions of these two yards and beat a hasty retreat. I guess i was starting to use this Jedi power to find the right place and horse. Then we arrived at our last stable. There we were greeted by the owner and her husband and offered tea and biscuits. Their hospitality was very welcoming. We didn't however come for tea and biscuits so we jumped right into the reason why we came, to find that elusive brood mare Big river bends first class.
As i approached the open field near their lunge ring to see the mares, there in the corner a beautiful dark chocolate chestnut colored mare turned to us and came walking towards us. I was quite impressed with her whole attitude and personality of wanting to come over and say hi. I walked up to greet her and she seemed like such a sweetheart. I then asked the owner who this was ad truth be told, it was River! I had this feeling come over me as if Lara had put a horse spell on me. I just felt that she was the 'one'. I had her in my thoughts but she also had another mare to look at too. i had to concentrate and be professional. Lara wanted me to come home with making the right choice. I too looked at the other mare. She was also a stunning horse, a painted warmblood mare. She reminded me of my favorite mare whom i fell in love with riding in the bush in the Waterberg, Samburu. Almost a striking resemblance but she was not a paint horse but a warmblood. She too was a fine tuned, well mannered but hot horse. She had this attitude about her of meaning business and she just seemed to wild and hot for me. I like a challenge but we wanted to make the right investment and who would produce the best foals. This was a tough choice. Do i go with Rosabella or River? I got on the phone with Lara....
I was at the right place at the right time with the right horses but who to choose? Lara said: 'got with your gut feeling Adam, i know you'll make the right choice.' So i thought about it for a while, spoke to my family and they too agreed that the really liked the who persona of River and how she was the first mare who came up to greet us and want to be around us as if she was saying-'your my human, take me home with you!' I turned to the owner and i made my decision, we chose Big River bends first class!
Not a Moment too soon, the paperwork was done and River was one her way to our beautiful farm. When she arrived, We were so thrilled! Big River Bends First Class aka River for short, has really been amazing since she arrived on the farm. Not only has she brought us so much joy, but she has shown us her true potential of being a champion and having champion parents like Olympic Ferro and Southern Sandreo.
River has been through a lot through her life and her journey to get to us so we are taking our time with her to bring out the best in her. We have slowly introduced her to our life and our herd and she has taken it in good stride. She has also been the first horse i have ever backed and it has been an absolute pleasure to back her. Everything we have done in the backing process has been at free will, her choice, her decision whether to let me put a saddle on, climb on and stay on. We have enjoyed every minute of it. She is such a fast learner and the most relaxed horse to back! For instance, we were not sure if she had ever been rugged before in her life. I walked up to her with a big rug Lara got for her form Germany, i showed it to her and she just stood there without even being afraid or wanting to run away. She looked at me to say-'yes, just throw it on my back I'm okay with that.' And so i did, she was all rugged up for the winter! Easy as that! Lara and i were dumbstruck how pleasing and accepting she was to everything we introduced to her. Sometimes we thought doe she ever think like a horse at all? The answer is, yes, she does still think and function like a horse and does flee from silly things around her but when it comes to her training and being with us humans, she is completely desensitized from everything, she is brave, she is fearless and courageous! A real pleasure to school and to ride.
River is our young brood mare full of potential! We are so blessed to have found her and she has a particularly special bond to me. When Lara started to work with her she would literally spend perhaps 5 minutes with Lara and then run over to me while i was filming Lara in the field. Time and time again she would do this. So Lara marched up to me, gave me the ropes and halter and said-'she's your horse now, she wants to be with you so you school her!' An hour later, River was doing everything in the schooling i asked of her while Lara took over the filming and documenting this time. It seems our herd do have their favorites between Lara and I but ultimately all our horses have a special bond with us.
We continue to succeed with River's training so far and we are enjoying every minute of everyday with her and we can see how happy she is being part of a herd, a family, a quiet place where she can simply be a horse and bring us so much joy and happiness. We hope she will also bring new life in the Ibalansi herd and farm when she brings into the world her first foal for us one day...