If you were an APHA competitor in Europe in the 2000s, you have definitely recognized this pair: Alena Helmcke and Shes Doolins Nikita. The black tobiano mare was a Paint Horse that was way ahead of its time and nearly undefeated in the Amateur classes. Alena and „Niki“ have won a total of 32 medals at the Euro Paint. It does therefore not come as a surprise that Shes Doolins Nikita was inducted in the PHCG Hall Of Fame following her sudden death. Alena told us Niki’s story – that sadly turns into „Kay’s story” at some point:
I want to start in the beginning. In June 2001 and one the breeder of our horse Doolins Cascarita called my parents, telling them that there was a full sister to Cassie. Since a friend of mine was looking for a new horse, we drove to the breeder’s place to see Cassie’s full sister. It was love at first sight. As soon as we arrived at home, I told my Dad about the foal, showed him pictures and convinced him to visit the facility once more. We had to drive another 90 minutes. My Dad asked me: “Would you sell Peppy in order to buy this horse?” I instantly said yes. Peppy was my Dad’s horse, a very spooky Cutting bred buckskin mare.
The next day, when we visited Niki, my Dad jumped around the foal, throwing around his hat. He wanted to find out whether the baby was “cool”. Niki kept calm and passed the test. Then things started to happen very fast. Within a few days, we bought Niki and sold Peppy. Niki moved to our place as soon as she was weaned. When we wanted to break her in as a three-year-old, my trainer at that time, Olaf Illner, injured his knee. So I tried breaking Niki in on my own under his guidance. Our show career started soon after that. At our first show, however, Niki got a fever and was stumbling in her stall. We had to leave to get her to a clinic. Up until today, we do not know what kind of virus she had caught that day. 2005 we did our first European Championship together – I spontaneously decided to show Niki instead of Cassie in the Youth Pleasure. That day, Niki got her first gold medal. It is one of my favorite memories until today! Within the following years, Niki and I were multiple German and European Champions in Youth, Amateur and Open. She was simply amazing! But she was never a simple horse. She used to test other riders: running backwards, not loping off, trotting fast instead of loping, not going into the wash stall. However, she was not the usual bitchy mare. I think we were a good team.
Until today, Niki is the Paint Horse in Europe with the most APHA points and medals. She has won the Zone Award in Europe in 2006 and 2007 in Youth, 2008 until 2011 in Amateur and 2008 in Open as well.
In 2012, we decided to breed her to One Hot Krymsun. There were no problems during pregnancy. In May 2013, the baby was born – and Niki never got up again. During the afternoon of that day, I recognized wax on the teats and I just got home to get something to eat. When I arrived at the barn at night, the foal was just born and laying in the stall. My Mum and a few friends were already there. The barn owner just said: “The baby is okay, but the mare won’t get up. We have to make her stand up.” I called the vet immediately. In the mean time, Niki tried to get up twice and broke down again. She was looking up, neighing at the filly and started to cramp. When the vet arrived he could only note the time of death. Niki died in my arms. We assume that she got internal injuries during birth and died from exsanguination. This moment was like a bad dream.
The only consolation I have is the fact that I was with her until the last breath and she did not have to suffer. Niki was my once-in-a-lifetime-horse and even more than that: friend, partner and family, all in one.
And then, Kay’s story began:
We did not have much time to grief as the baby was still fighting to live. Our vet milked some colostrum off the dead mare and our friends loaded the trailer to drive the baby to the clinic. The vet there was not really a warm person. “The stupid foal” did not want to drink and its owner was just crying. When I asked whether I could try giving the baby the bottle, the vet just said: “You will never get the foal to drink.” But Kay did drink. The next day, we had to drive her home as the vets at the clinic did not want her to stay. They told us to find a foster mare or to raise the baby with the bottle. The latter option was not an option as we all had full-time jobs. The people who had foster mares asked us whether it was a solid or colored baby. Until today, I do not understand the question: What difference does it make? It was a baby that had lost its mother. Introducing Kay to the foster mare was a fail. The mare would not get near the foal – despited being sedated, the twitch around her nose and four people who held her, she was just kicking everyone away. At some point Kay was so exhausted that she was laying in my lap, shaking. And everyone told me to get my act together, because of the lady whose mare had lost a foal. To me however, that was the big difference: I had lost a partner that was twelve years – at that point half of my life – by my side, she had lost a baby she had no connection to. During the whole time, my Dad called everyone he knew and then found some people who raised foals by bottle. We put Kay on the trailer again and drove her to that place. There, she grew up with three other orphaned foals.
In the beginning, I was not sure whether I wanted to keep Kay or sell her. Today, I am happy about my decision to keep her. She is so similar to Niki and even shows behavior she could not have learned from Niki that is so similar. Kay also has the same head as her Mum. She is a solid, but you cannot ride on color. I am so thankful for the way my family and our friends have supported us during this difficult time.
The pain of losing Niki, however, is present until today. Kay’s birthday will always be connected to that terrible experience, but I try to think it was destiny. I cannot change anything and there was no point where I could have decided about Niki’s fate. In the end, I have all the memories about the short but wonderful time Niki and I shared. I do cry from time to time and that will never change.
War man in den 2000ern APHA Reiter in Europa, kam man an ihnen nicht vorbei: Alena Helmcke und Shes Doolins Nikita. Die black tobiano Stute war als Paint Horse in Europa ihrer Zeit weit voraus und in den Amateur Allround Klassen fast schon unschlagbar. Insgesamt 32 Medaillen haben Alena und “Niki” insgesamt auf der Euro Paint gewonnen. Dass Niki nach ihrem tragischen Tod in die PHCG Hall of Fame eingeführt wurde, ist daher nicht verwunderlich. Alena hat uns Nikis Geschichte erzählt, die irgendwann zu Kays Geschichte wird:
“Ich fange mal ganz von vorne an. Im Juni 2001 wurden meine Eltern von den Züchtern von unserer Paint Stute Doolins Cascarita, mit der ich meine ersten Turniererfahrungen sammelte, angerufen. Sie teilten uns mit, dass Cassie eine Vollschwester bekommen hat. Da eine Freundin ohnehin gerade auf der Suche nach einem neuen Pferd war, fuhren meine Mutter und ich mit, um uns die Verwandschaft zu unserem Pferd anzugucken. Ich war sofort hin und weg. Wir waren kaum wieder zuhause, da erzählte ich meinen Papa von Cassies Schwester, zeigte ihm Fotos und überzeugte ihn schließlich, direkt am nächsten Tag nochmals hinzufahren. Es war eine Fahrt von eineinhalb Stunden. Mein Papa fragte mich damals: „Würdest du für dieses Pferd Peppy verkaufen?“ Ich beantwortete die Frage mit einem deutlichen Ja. Peppy war das Pferd meines Vaters, eine ziemlich schreckhafte Cutting-gezogene buckskin Quarter Horse Stute.
Bis heute ist sie das Paint Horse mit den meisten APHA Punkten und EM Medaillen in Europa. Die Europa Rangliste, den Zone Award gewann sie 2006-2007 in Youth und 2008-2011 in Amateur sowie 2008 in Open.
2012 habe ich mich dann dazu entschieden, sie von One Hot Krymsun belegen zu lassen. Die Trächtigkeit verlief problemlos, wie im Bilderbuch. Im Mai 2013 wurde dann das Fohlen geboren – und Niki stand nie wieder auf. Niki hatte am Nachmittag Harztropfen bekommen und ich bin noch kurz wieder nach Hause, um etwas zu essen zu holen.
Als ich am Abend wieder im Stall ankam, war das Fohlen gerade geboren und lag noch pitschnass in der Box. Meine Mutter und ein paar Freunde waren bereits da. Der Stallbesitzer sagte mir nur: „Das Fohlen ist okay, aber die Stute will nicht aufstehen. Wir müssen zusehen, dass sie aufsteht.“ Ich rief umgehend den Tierarzt an. In der Zwischenzeit versuchte Niki noch zweimal aufzustehen und brach direkt wieder zusammen. Guckte hoch, wieherte ihr Fohlen an und fing an zu krampfen. Als der Tierarzt ankam, konnte er nur noch ihren Tod feststellen. Sie starb in meinen Armen. Bei der Geburt hatte Niki womöglich innere Verletzungen erlitten und war innerlich verblutet. Dieser Moment war einfach nur schrecklich, wie ein böser Traum.
Die einzige Linderung für mich ist, dass ich bis zu ihrem letzten Atemzug bei ihr sein konnte und sie nicht leiden musste. Niki war mein “Once-in-a-lifetime”-Pferd. Wobei sie nicht nur ein Pferd war, sie war Freund, Kamerad und Familie in einem.