The mare Esperanza is from the National Stud at Kladruby nad Labem in the Eastern Czech Republic; she was imported to the US on 2nd December 2002. Esperanza was born on 28 June 1997. On her birthday the National Stud held a demonstration of the stable routine of the different parts of the Stud from birth to its selection for sale or breeding.

She was the 24th foal sired by Generale Proxima XLVIII out of the dam 229 Esmeralda. The filly was born in a foaling box and there were no complications. On her first day she was taken out in the large courtyard of the Kladruby stud with her mother led by a groom, so that she could take her first steps alongside her mother and also register the person who led her dam to their safe horse world. This is the method of imprinting, which was described by the world famous scientist and geneticist Konrad Lorenz. The method was introduced at the National Stud by Dr Norbert Zalis.

Nowadays, when people try to rush what simply cannot be hurried, this might seem unimportant but this moment will prevent shyness and timidity in the foal; it will save you having to get a young foal used to handling in the future, which is vital since horses are mainly bred in captivity now. The mare Esperanza was named on her first day, as dictated by the rules of the stud book of the Old Kladrub horse and was measured and weighed by an expert panel. Her foal and health certificate was made out. She suckled from her dam for six months and was put out in the pasture daily with the other mares and foals born the same year. The daily routine for mares with foals is as follows: at 6.30 am the mares and older foals are tied up in the open stables for individual feeding. The stud director makes a tour of the stables every morning, with the heads of the different sections of the stud to check the horses' health and discuss the day's schedule and any health problems. Mares with foals older than three days are led out to the pastures at eight am. In winter or bad weather this is delayed by an hour or more. Foals younger than three days are taken out twice daily to run freely in the stud courtyard with their mothers led by grooms. If there is inadequate grazing especially towards the end of summer the horses are given extra hay. The horses are generally taken back to the stables at 3.30 PM. They spend the night inside in clean, well-aired stables. Mares in foal have the same routine but spend longer out at grass. Sometimes a mare close to foaling will try to adopt a foal and there is an undesirable clash between dam and the "interloper". Around 40 foals are born during the foaling period from February to August at the National Stud.

mare Esperanza leader

At six months Esperanza was branded on the left thigh and on both sides behind the shoulder {or beneath the wither}, and weaned from her dam by the gradual weaning method. She was in the herd with other foals from her birthday in 1997 and in the open stables until she was one. The daily routine was the same as before. The foals are fed individually and weighed and measured regularly. Their hooves are trimmed for the first time.

Esperanza was then in the herd of fillies after the yearlings are separated according to sex until she was four. Her daily routine started with rolled oats in the morning with a mineral supplement and the whole day out at grass; in the winter she would be out with hay and additional carrots and apples. The horses are tied up for feeding to prevent submissive individuals from losing out of their ration. The horses are always brought home at night or in very cold weather or rain.

The National Stud holds an annual assessment of horses and young-stock. An expert panel judges the general state of the horses from a health and breeding point of view. The breeding committee makes a provisional selection of horses that seem suitable for further breeding and also assess the general conformation of the offspring of particular stallions.

Esperanza showed excellent signs in all three years of representing the Old Kladrub breed. She was chosen by the committee as suitable for Old Kladrub breeding with regard to exterior and character, but because she suffered from an itchy skin condition she was classified late for the elite sale of horses, where future top sport horses are sold.

At three and a half years of age horses start schooling, in which they are prepared for performance tests following a training programme. The horses are worked daily in a group or according to individual needs under the direction of a trainer. All the aspects of the stud, breeding Old Kladrub horses and foal rearing I believe meet world standards. Moreover, carriage driving and training horses for heavy draft work is excellent and had made its mark in the international arena.

Unfortunately low standard of riding gave Esperanza an overall poor muscle development, while building up the wrong muscles such as the lower neck and chest. She was stiff at the poll and it was impossible to strike off into a canter while remaining seated. After a while the mare began showing resistance to change. Human lack of education and knowledge made her suffer. She became highly-strung; she reared up and would not allow her head and ears to be touched. I recall that her even sweet itch worsened. The stud manager at the time put the mare into indivudual work. After a few months of daily exercise routines Esperanza got back to her natural form and started working willingly again both ridden and driven. In the summer of 2002 she was chosen by Dr Peter Bullock, a rider and carriage driver, and bought her along with four other mares and one stallion for breeding and driving. She was transported to the US with the other mares by the Dutch airline KLM and after the obligatory 40 days quarantine, brought to her new home. Working with her in the early stages was not easy and problems with relaxing at the poll continued, but sensitivity, patience and knowledge have born fruit. Today Esperanza is ridden, lunged or ridden out daily and her immeasurable devotion and huge heart have made her an ideal leader in the driving team. Her relationship with her owner and trainer is based on mutual trust combined with firmness. Esperanza is a wonderful, highly sensitive, hard-working mare. She is white with a rectangular frame, pronounced joints, a slightly Roman-nosed head and huge paces. She spends several hours a day at grass and rests in a clean, well-aired stable with appropriate fresh feed. I consider free movement in a paddock a crucial part of the daily routine, a part of a humane approach which cannot be replaced. Horses belonging to me or in my care will not spend 24 hours, at best, in a stall three metres square, never to know free movement after being worked. The reason horses suffer such imprisonment is primarily due to human idleness - a horse that has rolled in the paddock must be cleaned of dust or mud - I don't know what is worse, simple ignorance of the natural needs of animals or laziness. If health problems or extreme weather conditions do not prevent it, every horse should have the possibility of natural free movement.

Along with Esperanza four more mares travelled to the US and I will now introduce them and their characters.

The mare Rabieta was born 28th February 1998, the 27th foal by the stallion Generale Proxima XLVIII and out of the dam 105 Rabia. I remember her birth and it was also without complications. She was born in the old foaling stalls of the National Stud in Kladruby where the mares foaled separated from the other mares and foals. In 2001 the foaling stalls were knocked down at the initiative of the then director, Dr Norbert Zalis and returned to the original open stables, where the mares foal naturally in the herd, removingm the stress of separation for mother and foal. Rabieta went through the same process of weaning and training as Esperanza and certainly as a part of the elite herd of Old Kladrub mares. She is a light grey mare changing to white with a large rectangular frame, a long back, the typically noble Roman-nosed head and expressive high and elegant paces. She brought one bad habit from Kladruby and that is that she has to be bribed to take the bit. Some of the employees, we hope unintentionally, probably caused her pain when putting the bit in her mouth. We believe that patience, perseverance and time will change all that. Rabieta is worked by daily being ridden, on the lunge or out in single harness or in a team. She is playful and we have to be firm, but that brings the desired results.

mare Rabieta

The mare Aurora was born April 5 1998, the first foal sired by Sacramoso Energica L and out of the dam 198 Amantina. The birth was uncomplicated. Aurora also went through the same process of weaning and training and is also without doubt one of the elite Old Kladrub mares. She is a harmonious mare light grey that is whitening with a lighter square frame, a less typical Roman-nose, a very noble head and large expressive eyes. Her elegant paces bear witness to the quality of the Sacramoso line. In her case we had to go back to basics in her training and after lungeing, harness her to a so-called sleigh (heavy draft) as her psychological state made it impossible to harness her right away. This was for fear of risk of injury to horse or people; the mare is still mentally very immature and imbalanced despite her age and experience. It wasn't even possible to put blinkers on her in the normal way. She was afraid of every sound and movement. The mare had basic training at her place of birth and that was not straightforward. But the enormous promise of superior performance evident at first glance has helped the mare through all previous and we believe temporary problems. Today she is ridden in the arena or out, or lounged daily or worked in harness. She is very attached to the people who are with her every day and has total trust in the voice.

mare Aurora

A horse like that is Ragazza. She was born April 30 1998, eleventh foal sired by Rudolfo Candia II and out of the dam 239 Rorella. She is a dark grey mare with a long powerful frame, with a well-built back, a Roman-nosed head and less expressive paces. She is completely reliable in a four-in-hand team with a good character. She likes her food!

She is ridden daily in the arena or on trails, lunged or worked in harness and is another leader alongside Esperanza in the four-in-hand team. She is reliable and deserves our gratitude that she gracefully tolerates the less quiet horses harnessed next to her. Six weeks before travelling here she injured her left hind leg in the paddock. She was probably kicked by another mare in the herd. From an almost invisible wound she developed lymphangitis and was immediately given antibiotics. But the swelling did not go down and Ragazza might not have been able to travel to California. The consequences of injuries of this kind can be forseen with 90 per cent certainty. Sometimes the swelling can go down with normal work; there is no pain, the horse is not lame but it potentially remains a weak point for the rest of its life. The consequences of this kind of injury rarely disappear completely. In any case Dr Peter Bullock decided not to alter his original choice, which has ensured the mare will have a wonderful, and we hope, long life.

mare Ragazza

The last our mare is Era. Era was born June 6 1997, the fifth foal sired by Rudolfo Candia II and out of the dam 204 Errata. Era is light grey, turning to white with a smaller square frame, an even head and expressive paces. She went through the same basic training as the other horses. She is the smallest of all the horses here, but very dominant and she controls the others. She often insists in the most humourous manner that she goes first into the paddock, that she gets to eat first and constantly tries to be in front. But otherwise she is not hard-working. She does just enough as is necessary and not a bit more. She never tries to excell, but on the contrary regularly tries to avoid work. She is playful and fearless. She is ridden, lunged or worked in the team daily.

The decision to buy the stallion Generale Ariosa XLVIII-4 arose in January 2003. The stallion, Ariosa, was born on April 7 1995, the fourth foal sired by Generale Proxima XLVIII and out of 212 Ariosa. The stallion followed the same upbringing regime in the stud as the mares listed with all of the other horses at the KladrubyNational Stud. He began his training and schooling at four years old. He would have followed the same training path as the other horses but since the Stud was looking for stallions that showed promise in dressage, he was in fact chosen for a sporting career. From the age of four years and three months he had one trainer and one rider. His trainer was Dr Norbert Zalis.

stallion Ariosa

The stallion was schooled for five years by this team and his rider continues his training here in California, where he has also become a breeding stallion.

In the Czech Republic he was placed in several dressage competitions, though his focus was mainly classical baroque riding. He took part in hunts and several presentation performances; his presentation throughout was calm and controlled. His sire was previously the main breeding stallion of the National Stud, Generale Proxima XLVIII, who, though now in private ownership, is undoubtedly one of the best schooled Kladruber dressage horses in the Czech Republic.

Ariosa is a classic white stallion, compact and very elegant with a large, square frame, a slightly Roman-nosed head, a strong neck and expressive paces. His large, gentle, bright eye is the best indication of his superb character. He is a willing, well-rounded stallion. He needs to enjoy his work and his training programme is designed around that. He flew to California alone, in the same company as mares. He spent seven weeks in quarantine in Sacramento. He arrived in Woodside in excellent physical and psychological condition. He is making good progress in his dressage training.