Friday, January 11, 2019

Foundation Sire: Donnerhall

Here is the next installment of Warmblood Stallions of North America’s Foundation Friday.  Every other Friday we will be featuring a foundation sire - one who has been influential in the development of warmblood breeds. We pull from the incredible archive of The Horse Magazine, published by Chris Hector of Australia. Thank you, Chris, for permission to draw on your expertise!

172 cm
Liver Chestnut
Breeder: Otto Gärtner

Donnerhall’s talent was apparent right from the start, and he scored 131.92 to be second in his performance test at Adelheidsdorf in 1984. Donnerhall’s competition career is the stuff of legend. He won many Grand Prix, Grand Prix Specials and Freestyles for Mrs. Rehbein.

In 1994, Donnerhall was individual bronze medallist (and team gold medallist) at the 1994 World Championships at The Hague. Donnerhall won the European World Cup Freestyle League final standings twice, in 1997 and 1998. He retired from competition in 1998.

What Donnerhall seems to give to his offspring is a trainability and a strength to handle the more collected work, even if their natural paces are not so spectacular. It would seem that the mix of Donnerhall and a large drop of "blood" (Thoroughbred that is) in the dam is more likely to produce competition horses. Donnerhall’s son Davignon is out of a Pik Bube mare and those direct Donnerhall progeny that are going well at FEI level – like the mare Dona Castania – are out of Pik Bube mares. Another son consistently producing exciting looking youngsters is Don Primero, again out of a Pik Bube mother.
The Donnerhall son De Niro (out of an Akzent II mare) started competing at Grand Prix level at the tender age of seven. Perhaps the most exciting son of all is Damon Hill (out of a Rubinstein mare). The stallion has had a charmed life. Twice a world champion young horse with Ingrid Klimke and Helen Langehanenberg, and now one of the top three dressage competitors in the world – he too looks like being a valuable sire.

The 2011 Hanoverian stallion book (the last in which he appears) records that Donnerhall has had 998 competitors, 840 dressage competitors (226 at advanced level) – and even 97 in the jumping ring – for total prize money of €2,137,490. Far and away the most successful of these progeny has been the mare Donatha S, who won €174,242, followed by Don Schufro with winnings of €109,257. At that point, there were 40 horses with dressage winnings of more than €10,000.

Donnerhall had FN dressage ranking of 150, jumping, 77. His Hanoverian ranking is 158 for dressage and 75 for jumping. He was the sire of 50(!) licensed sons at that stage.

Indeed there are those, like the trainer Jo Hinnemann, who believe that it is the second and third generations of Donnerhalls that will produce the goods: “Donnerhall produced a lot of good stallions. You see a lot of very good-performing riding horses by Donnerhall. He makes them pretty – sometimes I think that in his time, like Rubinstein, it was a very, very good generation, but when you see horses like Roman Nature or Fidermark, or Laurentianer, it is a step further on in the breeding. They are always a little more pretty and more elastic. The breeding becomes again a little bit better – but if you didn’t have a Rubinstein or a Donnerhall, there is no going further in the breeding. These stallions were good in their time – perfect – but I think the three stallions I have named are a step further on in the breeding already.”

To read the entire article, with pedigree, details of Donnerhall's sons and daughters, on the Horse Magazine website, click here.
There are several stallion descendants of Donnerhall in North America. Click on the following links to read about each of the ones on

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