image001.jpg (94054 bytes) StallionDonnerhall2.jpg (86277 bytes)painting by Christina Bötzel

donnerhall_photo.jpg (17593 bytes)


Date of birth:

1981 - 2002 

Stick measure:

16 hands 3½ in


Otto Gärtner
23827 Wensin


1983 in Oldenburg


1984 in Adelheidsdorf
Total Score: 131.92 (2nd of 70)










Monolete xx




Negera III


Don Primero was born

1986 DLG-Champion in Hannover
1987 Donnerschlag was born
1988 Don Gregory and Donnerschwee was born
1989 Dream of Glory was born
1993 De Niro, Del Piero and Don Bosco were born
1994 German Champion  in Mannheim
1997 European Champion and 3. in single competition in Verden
  Don Frederico was born
1998 Team world champion in Rom
  Oldenburger dressage stallion of the year
  Retired from sportt
2002 Died January 14th, 2002 


donnerhall.jpg (32463 bytes) donnerhall_photo2.jpg (11281 bytes)


Don Gregory, who was bred in Hanover and who is stationed in the Oldenburg breeding region of Cappeln is well on the way of following in Donnerhall's hoofsteps both as a sire and in sport. In 1996, he won the Grand Prix under Martina Hannöver and is thus already a "classical winner". Since then he has increasingly had successes in breeding: Daydream, out of the Trakehner mare Cinderella, was top horse in Vechta and in the following summer dominated the stallion performance test in Medingen. He was followed by several others, who succeeded in jumping into the "hundred thousand (Deutschmark) club".

Even though Don Gregory's prepotency has far from waned, the next stallion is already pounding against the door laying claim to his own chapter in the big book with the heading "Foundation Sire Donnerhall": De Niro. In 1996 he was at the very front at the stallion performance test in Adelheidsdorf. The black Hanoveranian horse won the partial index of rideability with a score of 145 points and became vice-champion of the whole event. He presented highly remunerated foals and was proclaimed champion stallion in Oldenburg as a four-and-a-half year old. Performance record and progeny left no doubt about De Niro's championship title. The Oldenburg stallion Days of 1996 could not do without Donnerhall either. Three direct sons were approved, of whom the extremely true to type Donatelli was able to advance into the premium lot as the best. He was then stationed at the traditional Kathmann station in Holtrup and two years later was awarded the I-c main premium. The darling of the audience at this approval was a Donnerhall grandson. The I-c premium stallion De La Gardie, a Davignon son at the start of a long journey who became a state stallion in Sweden, at the Flyinge stud. He did brilliantly in his stallion performance test in Medingen in Germany but his performances are equally good in his new Scandinavian home.

Back to Donnerhall once more, the years after his success in Den Haag. The first climax of the year 1995: Hollywood. The Place where the stars meet. The place where the finals of the Volvo Dressage World Cup were held. The preliminaries, the Grand Prix, were absolved with faults. A bad starting position for Karin Rehbein, who nevertheless managed to attain fifth place after a very good presentation of the basic exercises. The goal for that season was clear: The European championships in Luxemburg. An accident however prevented participation in Luxemburg. 1995 was the only year in Donnerhall's long career in which he did not enjoy perfect health.

The dream of a second performance in the USA, the dream of Atlanta and Olympic gold however remained a dream for ever. The dressage committee decided on a quartet without Donnerhall in 1996. Donnerhall and Karin Rehbein made a successful comeback at the indoor season in autumn. In Berlin the pair won the basic exercises in the "Deutschlandhalle". The dressage judge Heinz Schütte was impressed by the freshness of the then fifteen-year old. In Neumünster in February 1997 "Donni" was even so saucy, during the basic exercises, that he pertly aimed at the thigh and gained third place.

Donnerhall went to the start as winner of the Western European League at the finals in the Dutch t' Hertogenbosch. This time he attained fourth place. Donnerhall's last great success, which Herbert Rehbein was still able to witness. In the summer of 1997, the probably most significant dressage trainer of the past few decades died of cancer. Whenever Karin Rehbein's name was mentioned (or for that matter is mentioned) in context with Donnerhall, his name is also in people's minds. Karin and Herbert Rehbein together advanced many internationally successful horses and Donnerhall is their masterpiece. The quintessence of a marriage in which everything revolved around horses. The 1997 CH 10 of Aix-la-Chapelle was the qualification tournament for the European championships which in that year were held in Verden in Lower Saxony. Karin Rehbein refrained from starting so soon after the death of her husband. She was still unable to ride, too deep was the sorrow that she felt. She finally did make use of the last qualification however and came second in the German Championships. Following her ride she said "Herbert would have wanted it this way". The vice-champion was thereupon nominated for the European Championship in Verden. There, the German dressage riders won the anticipated team gold medal. But who would win in the quest for the individual bronze medal ? Who would succeed in the jump onto the winner's steps next to Isabelle Werth and Anky van Grunsven, the two riders who would most certainly win gold and silver? Numerous wagers were placed on Louise Nathorst and Walk on Top, the winner of the World Cup finals. But things came differently than expected, Donnerhall put up the third best performance of the European Championship therefore winning the bronze medal. Even though Nadine Capellmann-Biffar had the same points score, she only came fourth in the three index evaluations. Donnerhall's show talent, the better placement for the basic freestyle exercises were the basis for the success at that event, which Karin Rehbein retrospectively regards as the greatest of her career.

She almost won a further individual medal at the World Riding Games in 1998. The year had begun well, the riding duo was among the best at the World Cup finals, then the Derby win in Hamburg. Donnerhall furthermore did well at the German championship in Gera and even though that did not suffice to win, there were enough people at the edge of the dressage arena who were of the opinion that Donnerhall was the actual winner of the test. Donnerhall nevertheless qualified for the World Riding Championships in Rome.

The stakes were high once more in the eternal city. After the Grand Prix, Donnerhall was fourth, which meant team gold for Germany. Thereafter the duo came fourth again in the Grand Prix Special which sufficed for the third place in the intermediate evaluation and was the best prerequisite for the basic freestyle exercises. Here his performance was however "only" good enough for fifth place, which added up in the final score, amounted to place four. In Rome, Karin Rehbein reached the decision to withdraw Donnerhall from active competition sport. Karin, as head of the Grönwohldhof had earlier on already stressed that if Donnerhall were to retire, he would only do so at a nice tournament and what's more, he still had to be 100% fit. She had seen too many great dressage horses disappear without a trace, too old to really have great successes in the dressage arena, or the official veterinarian might see himself in the predicament of having to end a world career through a routine check up for the condition of a horse. Donnerhall would not become the victim of such a fate.

Donnerhall rode his last salutation round in Rome, at least as regards competition sport, but he still had a long period to fulfill on the breeding stage. It was only his farewell from sport that was celebrated. More than 3,000 thrilled spectators showed their reverence to that wonderful personality of a stallion at the 1998 Oldenburg Stallion Days, who had already become a legend during his own lifetime. Successful sons such as Dream of Glory, the former federal champion Davignon and the current German class champion Del Piero took part. Then there was the five-year old De Niro, who suddenly started doing piaffes as though it were the most natural thing in the world to do and of course Duntroon, who is well on the way to the very top and not to forget the Grand Prix winners Don Gregory and Don Primero.

Above all however, Donnerhall was there. A stamping rhythm resounded from the loudspeakers of the sold out Weser Ems Hall in Oldenburg. Synthesizer sounds; music to get everyone swinging. The stallion with the D.M. 640,000 life winnings sum trotted in regally. He knew his audience and was aware that that was his show. Once more, Karin Rehbein dug deeply into her bag of Grand Prix sports tricks: Change of canter "a tempi"- not ten, not twenty, no - far in excess of forty. And piaffes, passages, pure energy! Joie de vivre, power! Then the solemn moment: Donnerhall stood in the middle, his breeder Otto Gärtner next to him. Peter Wandschneider, the stable manager of the Grönwohldhof was also asked to join the group, as was Paul, the English horse keeper, who had looked after Donnerhall over the past years. Donnerhall, who was awarded the title of Oldenburg Dressage Stallion of the Year for the second time in his life was presented with a large wheelbarrow full of carrots. Then his sons appeared, taking their positions in a semi-circle. The lights went off. Oldenburg's auction manager Uwe Heckmann worked out the event as master of ceremonies. Suddenly 80 small children came into the blacked out arena carrying lanterns, each lantern bearing the Oldenburg brand. "A breeding region says thank you to Donnerhall". The candles flickered in the lanterns carried by the children. Diffuse light lit up the scene: the protagonist standing there just like a monument, motionless, only his eyes gleaming. The goose pimple chorale " I pray to the power of love" rang out. All the able-bodied people in the Weser-Ems Hall were meanwhile standing, solemnly listening to the sounds, with more than just the occasional tear in some of their eyes. Then came the finale, with the 80 children forming a narrow lane. Donnerhall definitively made his last round of honour over the centre line in front of the eyes of "his" Oldenburg breeders. Karin Rehbein passed through the sea of lights accompanied by a spotlight doing two, three piaffes along the route outside. Donnerhall danced and beamed. The public was enraptured . The final 20 metres were covered at a last heightened trot, with Karin Rehbein waving to the crowd. Outside she was presented with a red rose by each of the 80 children.

Scenes like these were repeated over the following weeks in the big farewell tournament through the whole of Germany. He was a triumph everywhere, whether it was in the Stuttgart Schleyer Hall, on the second last November weekend or in front of his home audience in Schleswig Holstein, in the Baltic Sea Hall of Kiel (Ostsee Halle) on the first Advent.

It is beyond question, that Donnerhall succeeded in founding his own stallion line. He is an exceptional sire, who was even permitted to cover Holstein mares even though the Holstein breeders are rather sceptical and essentially disapprove of all stallions from other breeds. Donnerhall is recognised in the Netherlands and Belgium, in the U.S.A. and Denmark, as well as in France. His sons and grandsons are growing to maturity all over the world and seeing to the dissemination of Donnerhall genes, which above all, guarantee one thing, namely rideability and intellect, factors, which when viewed soberly, are probably the most important characteristics of warmblood breeding. A glance at the approvals sites of the leading German breeding regions in the autumn of 1998 verify Donnerhall's significance. A number of Donnerhall sons and grandsons were approved in Hanover. A direct Donnerhall son (dam by Matcho AA) was in the first Celle lot looking forward to a career as a state stallion. He was furthermore a thunderclap in Warendorf at the North-Rhine Westphalian approvals, where the champion stallion was by Donnerhall (dam by Rosenkavalier), another horse predestined for a career as a state stallion. The vice-champion (by Donnerwind-Mephistopheles is carrying on the succession of generations. In Oldenburg, the winning stallion was out of a Donnerhall dam and the vice-champion had the blood of the legendary sire pulsating in his veins in the second generation via his sire Duntroon.

The tally of Duntroon's successes includes one-hundred-and-eighteen wins in advanced dressage competitions and life winnings of around DM 640,000. There are more than 250 progeny performing successfully in competition sport in Germany alone, apart from those in other countries. Donnerhall is without a doubt the most important contemporary dressage stallion. It also goes without saying that he is a foundation sire: one that will still be talked about with respect even in the year 2050. Irrespective of which direction riding horse breeding will develop to, the world will always need a stallion like Donnerhall.


Donnerhall and Maxim

Donnerhall and Peter Wandschneider




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