November 29, 1999
Topic: Balancing Reality and the Horse That's in Your Backyard
I've been thinking a lot since I read Jacques Verkerk's letter in the Na/WPN newlsetter. Perhaps if I knew the score that my horse had received and could judge for myself just how close to the first premium rating of 70 it had been, then I could accept a second premium rating as a good thing for my breeding program. Without that knowledge, however, I'm going to be disappointed in my progress not encouraged. I realize on one level that every horse I breed is not going to be in the top third of all Dutch horses bred, but there's another level that says, "**&$%@##! They're going to be!"
This topic is especially pertinent to the decision I'll be faced with in September when I present Rodgrigo SSF (Olympic Cocktail x Michelangelo) as a stallion prospect. A fellow breeder and devotee of Dutch horses from the Midwest visited over the Thanksgiving holiday, so I took the opportunity to drag Roddy out of his mud bog and put him out where we could really watch him move. I'd breed to him, and I'm a picky SOB, nose in the air, "no stallion is good enough for my LaVita" kind of a guy. My fellow Dutch addict thinks Roddy is the best yearling she's seen in the country, and she's seen the ones that have been ranked the best by the jury. So what do I do with these hopes and dreams that this bright red, yearling colt won't let me let go of? What do I do when I present the horse that is damn close to my ideal and the jury says, "..........?"
Well, I'm going to Holland in February or the stallion show--I've got to see for myself what the stallion selection committee is selecting; I need to see what reality looks like because the horse in my backyard looks pretty good to me.
November 3, 1999
Topic: Life as a horse lover
I stood in my kitchen window this morning and looked out at the mare pasture. LaVita stood there warning the others of the dangers inherent in approaching her pile of hay, and I smiled at the beauty of nature and the absolute perfection of a pregnant mare. Fog lifts off pastures in ways that reflect fog in brains; clarity only exists in nature--everything else is imposed. Will Rogers said, "There's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse." I need to clean out my own stalls. It's comforting and satisfying; and I know when I'm done. I can stand by my fence--and I can say "my fence" because I dug every hole by hand--all the time thinking about the play barns we created when we were kids under my grandmother's locust tree. Dreaming of the horse that would carry me through imaginary fires and over the biggest mountains and through the deepest rivers. My wife shakes her head when I order yet another set name plates for the stall doors of the barn I designed on the back of an envelope. She doesn't love the horses like I love the horses, but she loves me. She chides me that I didn't put as much time into researching the bloodlines of my potential children as I do into the bloodlines of our potential foals...I tell her to really think about it, and point out that I charted her cycle on the calender with the mares when she and I were trying to get pregnant. LH, OH, CH...LaVita in Heat, Oladaula in heat, Carol...She digs out an old calender and is not amused. I'm not sure whether she's reassured or horrified that her parents were evaluated conformationally before I proposed. If the Na/WPN sponsored keurings for human offspring, my children would make the top ten, however. It's a good life. LaVita came to us with her name, but I couldn't have chosen a better one.
October 20, 1999
Topic: Ms. Bubble Wrap!!
Well, LaVita fans...I couldn't stand it; I had to have her palpated again, and I'm pleased to be able to report that at 6 months and two days she is still pregnant!!!! As matter of fact, Doc says it's a huge foal. No wonder with all of the weight she and I have gained from not riding since April...So, she is due the week of my birthday--I'm thinking "Tolmano" if it's a boy and "Totally Vita" if it's a girl. Let me know what you think!
Also able to report that Oladaula (Hierarch x Michelangelo) is four months pregnant with her Zeoliet foal. Dynamite (Voltaire x Ramiro) lost her Jazz baby sometime between 45 days and coming off Regumate; and, Orchis (Jazz x Roemer) lost her Zeoliet foal sometime after 45 days as well. Two is better than none; as all of you who breed know, there are worse years.
October 16, 1999
Topic: Eact Coast Breeders' Group
A few weeks ago, I posted an idea for a New England Breeders' group on the USDF Bulletin board. The responses indicate that the concept needs to include the entire East coast. My idea is that we create an organization which exists within the auspices of the Na/WPN, but focuses on East coast breeders for purposes of marketing and selling horses, hosting keurings, and disseminating information about bloodlines, breeding choices and current information vital to us as breeders of Dutch horses. The plan would be to eventually host a sale where buyers from across the country could come and look at a number of horses from different breeders at the same time; we'd work as a team to market and sell our horses. And, we'd act as a support system for one another in researching bloodlines and stallion choices, etc. Currently, I'm looking for a key number of people to meet some time in January to set up the particulars of this organization. If you're interested, please contact me at my email address.
October 8, 1999
Zeoliet's EVA status continues to haunt us. Just this week, a prominent Dutch breeder made the comment that she "would never under any circumstances breed to an EVA positive stallion." this was during a telephone conversation with my wife, Carol. Zeoliet is one of the highest ranked stallions in the world, and easily the highest raked Dutch stallion standing in North America--I take it so personally when I have to defend him against the hysteria and misinformation surrounding this easily manageable disease. We vaccinated all of our horses because we breed with imported, frozen semen regularly and the testing procedures in Europe are inconsistent and often inaccurate. I never dreamed when we imported Zeoliet that his EVA status was going to cause such a furor. The following is a letter I wrote outlining my portion of a presentation on EVA presented at the American Horse Council's meeting in Washington, DC:
Firstly, let me apologize for not being here in person; a situation has arisen at my restaurant that requires my attention. Secondly, I sincerely hope that this panel on EVA is both well attended and well heeded. EVA itself is an easily managed virus, but the confusion, rumor, and misinformation it carries cause much harm to those of us who must live with it in the breeding business.
We imported the Dutch stallion Zeoliet in February of 1999. During the vetting procedures pre-export, it was discovered that he had contracted EVA at some point between the last time he was collected for freezing in 1996 and his final collection in the Netherlands in January of 1999. We were told that he was blood positive, but we were also told that the testing indicated that his semen was absent of the virus. We decided to have both his blood and semen tested by Dr. Timoney at the Gluck Center. The results of these tests differed from the testing in Belgium in that the semen tested positive for the virus as well. Due to the information provided to us by Dr. Timoney, my knowledge of EVA from past experience, and the ice breaking work that Iron Spring Farm and its staff have done educating the breeders in our registry, we decided to import this stallion even though he is a shedder of the virus.
Our first difficulty came when the state vet of New Hampshire refused him entrance into the state. This vet also checked with all of the rest of the New England states' state vets who supported him in his decision. This gentleman told me that we had no EVA in the state of New Hampshire and we weren't going to on his watch. When I informed him that ,one, there were no Federal regulations supporting his decision and, two, there were vaccinated mares in the state and EVA positive semen being shipped into the state on a regular basis, he denied both situations. Two days later he called to inform us that we in fact did have the right to bring this stallion into New Hampshire, but we would have to vaccinate all horse on our property, vaccinate any horses visiting the property, and obtain proof in writing that all mares bred to this stallion had been vaccinated for the virus. I do not begrudge any of the preceding measure of safety--they make sense. I am concerned that six state veterinarians can be so unaware of the Federal stance on EVA.
Our second difficulty came when we attempted to find someone to collect this stallion for shipping purposes...the closest veterinarian I could find is in California. Although it has worked out for the best, we had not planned on the additional investment of setting up our own collection facility. The financial implications and time management issues are considerable--especially when they were not budgeted.
The third difficulty came when we started advertising. This stallion is the most proven Dutch stallion standing in the USA. He ranks among the top producers of both Dressage horses and Jumpers in the world. His importation was awaited with much excitement...until people found out he was EVA positive. I have literally had people scream, drop the phone, and then hang up on me after they have already agreed to breed and were then asking for the particulars of the contract. The misinformation spread around the internet was especially disheartening; ridiculous information such as: " a mare can never be bred to a non-EVA positive stallion once she has been vaccinated;" "the resulting foal will be EVA positive and must be quarantined at birth;" " it is illegal to bring the vaccine into most states and you can be arrested;" " if a mare with a foal at her side is vaccinated, the foal will die." These are all direct quotes.
As a breeder who both stands an EVA shedding stallion and imports frozen semen from Europe on a regular basis, I'm advocating that all states have uniform regulations that follow the Federal guidelines for the management of EVA and its vaccine. The testing procedures are too inconsistent in Europe to be trusted; anyone breeding with imported frozen semen must be required to vaccinate his or her mares. Our registry, the Na/WPN,has been a leader in requiring testing of all of its stallions. I would like to see this go further and have all registries require not only this measure of safety, but also mandate the use of the vaccine on the breeding population. This would save U.S. breeders from the inconsistent testing in other countries and lessen the effect of the stigma attached to EVA.
Thank you for your time, and, again, I apologize that I could not be here in person to voice my position on EVA.
Shooting Star Farm
October 4, 1999
Topic: Expectations of Breeding a Mare
The following is a response to an email I received from a former riding student asking advise about breeding her mare:
Cost is variable--you have the stud fee, which will range from 1000. to 3500 dollars--vet fees, collection fees, shipping expenses....you can figure around $300 per heat cycle for all of that. The mare should be a super quality individual who can produce quality offspring. Her temperment, conformation, movement, athletic ability and genetic worth all have to be taken into consideration. As far as what to look for in a stallion is concerned, first, look at what are the mare's strengths and weaknesses and find a stallion that compliments the strengths and
strengthens the weaknesses. You also want a stallion that has a record of producing offspring that perform well in the discipline for which you are breeding. I always look for a stallion with a complimentary body type and consistent type throughout his pedigree--this way I know he will be genetically true--a half Thoroughbred stallion, for instance, will not produce as consistently because he is a hybrid and half of his gene pool is of an inconsistent type. There are certainly very famous exceptions to this statement, but there are more half bred stallions that produce inconsistently than not.
Hope this helps answer some of your questions. Breeding is exciting and addictive, but it's also a gamble; most people are better off taking the money they would have spent on stud fees, vet bills, collection fees, shipping fees, grain, hay, vet and maintenance costs until the resulting foal reaches three or four, and training fees and buying a three or four year old already under saddle. Just because a mare can be bred doesn't mean she should be bred. And, even if she should be bred, there's no telling what you'll get. You can breed the perfect mare to the perfect
stallion and get a not so perfect baby!
September 23, 1999
Wow! I knew that I had been neglecting my journal, but I didn't realize that my last entry was in July!! Thank you to all of you who have been faithful in checking for a new entry and your words of "encouragement" for me to return to writing it...
Topic: Na/WPN Keurings
I've heard so much gossip and and rumors and outrage about the Na/WPN keurings this year, that I was really excited and intrigued to attend the Iron Spring Farm keuring last week. (I have also been quite relieved that the closest keuring to me is over three hours and that I had decided not to attend with any horses...) Having just returned from the Rabobank Horse Days in the Netherlands, I think I have a pretty good idea of what the KWPN wants the modern Dutch horse to look like: leggy, supple, sufficient suspension, ease of movement though powerful movement from behind that reaches forward more than upward and still contains good hock flexsion, and superior conformation especially when it comes to the "connections", ie., head/neck, neck set, loin, etc. Not much to ask for...perfection...or close to it! Well, the Calvados colt that took the foal championship certainly fit this description--as did the Ferro filly that won the two year old class--and the Jazz x Triton mare that was the top star mare--the overall quality was amazing. On to the Na/WPN keuring.
Jacques Verkerk and the Na/WPN jury members were extremely consistent in their grading of horses with what I saw in the Netherlands. Horses that should have received a first premium received a first premium...and horses that should not have did not. I thought that Jacques spoke clearly and helpfully about each horse, and was crystal clear in his expectations of what the jury is looking for in a sport horse breeding prospect.
The stallion grading was especially interesting. There were two that stood out as higher quality sport horses and were in the first premium realm. The jury is looking for the top 2% of male horses for its stallion population, however, and neither of these two boys made the cut. I didn't take it that the jury didn't like them; as a matter of fact, I think the jury thought they were excellent sport horses--just not stallions.
We have some excellent horses in this country--some that are equal to the best in Holland. Our numbers are few, however, and we are not as strict in our breeding selection to consistently produce the top quality horses. I see Jacques Verkerk as the right type of horsemen to take us to the next level in breeding Dutch horses. We are in for a few tough years filled with disappointments and hurt egos, but we are headed in a good, and the right, direction.
July 14, 1999--10pm
Ignore the next journal entry; she' still pregnant!!!!!
July 14, 1999--11am
OK...I've had LaVita palpated every 15 days because I'm sure she's lost her Vincent pregnancy--today, she will be palpated once more; she should be nearly 90 days pregnant, but I saw her in heat three days ago. This will be longest pregnancy of my equine involvement...it's more nerve wracking than my wife's pregnancies (I can say that because she doesn't read this journal!). For those of you who don't know the saga, I purchased a breeding to the Dutch stallion Olympic Vincent in 1994 or 95; we've bred with this frozen semen on three different mares over a total of eight different heat cycles over the course of four year; the first three doses sent were the wrong dosage (though we didn't know this until we fought to get the next three doses directly from Holland); the next three doses were all used post ovulation and at a vet clinic, but unsuccessful; only one breeder in the USA has had a pregnancy with this semen, and two other breeders have spend thousands of dollars trying to use it and cleaning up the resulting infections; Vincent ranked number two on the leading producers of dressage horses index...just behind Doruto: Vincent died; I finally got two more doses of the semen this year because no one would use it anymore and it can not be returned to Holland (there are only about 12 doses left in the world); I decide not to use it because I have spent thousands of dollars and really need a good breeding year; LaVita ovulates 7 days early and my Jazz semen is late arriving from Holland; we inseminate her with the only semen I have on hand...Vincent; she's pregnant--or so she has been at every 15 day palpation interval. One hour from now, I will know whether or not she is still pregnant--if she is, I think I will wrap her in bubble wrap, ship her to a remote island and hire thirty grooms to be at her beck and call. If she's not, I'll be seriously bummed, but maybe I can go on with my life!
June 22, 1999
TOPIC: The Quirks of Using Frozen Semen
Using frozen semen is both easier and more difficult than using fresh cooled. It's easier in that it's readily available sitting in your tank waiting to be used; it works just as well as fresh cooled if you've timed it correctly and the stallion freezes well. It's more difficult if you don't have a vet that's experienced (or at least willing to be come experienced) with the use of frozen, if the stallion doesn't freeze well (which you may have no way of knowing), and if you and your vet can't monitor your mare well enough to know within four hours of when she is ovulating.
We've bred with frozen semen for five years, and have made a few observations that may help you in the process:
1. Educate yourself; don't rely on your vet or the person selling you the frozen semen to have all of the answers.
2. Ask for the stallion's pregnancy rate with frozen semen. Just because it is available doesn't mean that it is worth using. Most of the time, frozen semen doesn't come with a live foal guarantee, so when the three doses are gone...they're gone.
3. Breed post ovulation. I don't care if your vet tells you that your mare is going to ovulate within the next 30 minutes--tell him or her, "Great! I'll see you in 30 minutes and we'll check to make sure."
4. Motility doesn't necessarily have anything to do with fertility-- a recent paper presented at a vet conference in Canada demonstrated that frozen semen with a lower post thaw motility was almost always more fertile than the frozen semen with a high post thaw motility. We have bred to the stallion Vincent via frozen semen for five years. His post thaw motility is incredible--it looks like you just went out back and collected him fresh...we got our first pregnancy this year--many thousands of dollars and man hours later...The stallion Burgraaf's post thaw motility is almost non existent--it's so low that the owners don't sell it--yet, in one instance, three out of four mares bred with his frozen semen were pregnant after one insemination. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak; ask for facts about the pregnancy rate.
June 17, 1999
TOPIC: Published Information about Approved Stallions
As a breeder, I research every possible source before I select a stallion to whom to breed my mares. One of the best thing about the KWPN is the amount of information they publish detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the stallions and their get. I can find out the performance index for both jumping and dressage, the foal report, the stallion's testing report, and the stallion's own results in sport--I can even find a report on the stallion's dam. Here, in the USA, we are able to see the scores of the stallion's performance testing only if they are listed in the annual directory; we have no information about the stallion's get other than the listing of first premium, second premium, third, etc. in the annual directory. The Na/WPN does publish information gathered by the KWPN about imported stallions, but the majority of the stallions standing in the USA and Canada are standing without providing such basic information as how many mares bred versus how many foals born.
I realize that there are many difficulties involved in trying to completely mirror the KWPN system here, but basic breeding information must be made available to breeders if they are to make the most intelligent choices for improving the breed. Keeping breeders in the dark about a stallion's results in the breeding shed can only inhibit the success of the Na/WPN. there must be some way to address this issue without ending up in court because we published something negative about a stallion.
June 10, 1999
TOPIC: Article I wrote for the Na/WPN newsletter
"Scot, let's go to the Borculo foal auction..."
That's how I began my recent trip to the motherland of all Dutch horses. My friend Melinda (Grand Prix rider, Grand Prix partier, and Grand Prix planner of trips) continued with, "You don't have to buy anything--let's look for me. I really want another baby to bring along."
"Melinda, first, I can't buy anything because I have no money and, second, what about the kids, Carol, the restaurant, the farm...how am I going to get away for a week in Holland?"
Well, a week later I had bought my ticket to Amsterdam. Another week later, I called Melinda and asked her why she hadn't bought her ticket. Another week later, she had decided she couldn't get away from work, and I (broke, unpopular with my wife, kids, horses, and employees (two of whom are my 74 and 80 year old parents)) was going to the Borculo foal auction by myself with the vague notion that I would try to find a stallion prospect . And, so began what turned out to be one of the most obviously fate controlled periods of time in my life.
Within hours of Melinda deciding not to go, I got an email from Jeanette Nijhof inviting me to stay at their farm. Cool! Voltaire, Zeoliet, Cocktail, Heartbreaker, Calvados, Wolfgang...I could cope with this; things were looking up. The day after Melinda decided not to go, I received a letter from an actress friend (and ex-girl friend--another popular point with my wife concerning this little adventure...), Rigtje Passchier, thanking me for my recent note about the death of her father--the letter had been delayed and was forwarded to her because she was now living in Amsterdam and would I like to visit some time? Why, yes, how about next week? And, then, what has become one of my favorite moments in this whole course of events, Gert van der Veen called me to talk bloodlines. I had emailed the KWPN to ask some specifics of the auction. He called at 6AM New Hampshire time, and, in my very groggy, half-asleep state, we spoke for at least 20 minutes about the horses in the auction, my breeding choices, his breeding choices, the stallions available in the USA compared to the stallions available in the Netherlands, his willingness to help me find a stallion prospect while I was in Holland, and more. Now, all you Dutch horse lovers out there know the mixture of joy and sorrow that comes from me telling you about that conversation--Gert van der Veen was our life line to the KWPN; he was the quality control of our breeding programs; and, he was an active supporter of us all. I will miss him greatly.
Well, I was set; Reggie (Rigtje) would meet me at the airport for lunch and put me on train to Zutphen; Jeanette would collect me in Zutphen and take me to the headquarters of Team Nijhof for the auction and a day of viewing horses; Gert would meet me at Borculo and, once we saw the colts, talk stallion prospects; Jeanette would put me back on a train to Amsterdam and make the arrangements for my purchase to get home to the USA; Reggie would take me on a tour of Amsterdam and get me back to the airport; I would arrive in Boston tired and joyous to see my loving family and tell them all about our new stallion prospect... What is that quote about "the best laid plans of mice and men?"
I got to Amsterdam; I had lunch with Reggie--bread and cheese (as far as I can tell, bread and cheese is about all any one Holland eats before 7PM); I was put on a train to Zutphen with a peck on both cheeks and a quick explanation of the Dutch train terms I need to know, and, by the way...
"...Carroll (Reggie calls me by my real name because she's never had to deal with the confusion of my father and wife's names also being Carroll/Carol), darling, you only have two transfers, but, unfortunately, the first one's at Amsterdam Central--it's only five minutes by train and a lot easier than driving into the center of Amsterdam --but you've got a minute and 30 seconds between trains so just look for #5--it should be right across the track."
A minute and 30 seconds...plenty of time...I had a huge, mongo blister on my left heel caused by my new Ariat's (which I just had to have for viewing horses, don't you know)...it's now noon Holland time or 6AM New Hampshire time and I hadn't slept more than 30 minutes at a time in 24 hours...and now, I had a minute and 30 seconds to switch trains in a foreign language at the busiest train station in the Netherlands. I was feeling pretty secure here, and I was thinking, "Melinda, I will get you for this."
"Carroll, you'll be fine! After you get on the train at track #5, start listening for Appledornshckillsingster" (or something like that--some town with an apple at the beginning, anyway).
So, here I was, five minutes away from having one minute and 30 seconds to get on train where I start looking for Appledornshckillsingster; I'm thinking, "Well, at least my plane didn't crash. How bad can it be wandering around Holland looking for Appledornshckillsingster. I'll buy new shoes. Maybe I can find a cup of coffee to go with my next meal of bread and cheese."
In spite of my language deficiency and my new Ariat's, I made the first transfer--track #5 was indeed the next track over. I kept hearing "Appledornshckillsingster" so I knew I was going in the right direction. In the middle of the crowded car, I took off my Ariats and exposed the raw flesh of my left heel; my seat mate started to look uncomfortable (...probably wondering what I would take off next.) I opted for my pair of dress shoes and unpacked most of my belongings onto the floor in front of me and my seat mate so I could make room in my luggage for the cursed Ariats. Every one got up. I was thinking , "It's my feet," but then I see a sign that read, "Appledorn". The "shckillsingster" must have been some suburb or addendum or something. My dress shoes and I exited the train and made our way to the train to Zutphen. Ah! Yes! Now I had 20 minutes to stare out my window and gaze at the masses of Dutch horses majestically cantering through the fields. Funny, I only saw sheep and cows. In my sleep deprived state, I swore we passed the same farm twenty-seven times The cows were the same; the sheep were the same; the lack of horses was the same. Zutphen. And, it was raining (it's a wonder that Dutch horses haven't developed a propensity for webbed feet )--why didn't I notice this when I was staring at the same farm twenty- seven times?
I stood outside the station, as instructed by Jeanette, awaiting a green Volvo or a black Mercedes. It was now 3PM Dutch time or 9PM NH time and it had been well over 24 hours since I'd really slept, but I was feeling fairly pleased with myself and my feet. Jeanette arrived in a black Mercedes, just as she promised; we greeted, I slumped into the car, and she said, "We're going to look at some Cocktail fillies with some other Americans." Tingles went up and down my spine--"some Cocktail fillies!" The mother land! I would see more than the same 27 farms of cows and sheep! Trying not to sound too giddy and excited (after all, I'm a professional horse person...), I think I said, "Fine." Inside I was going, "Yes! Psych! Get this car moving, woman!"
Without incident, we collected Bob and Donna McHenry (two of the most warm and gracious horse people I've had the good fortune to meet) and arrived at our first "Cocktail" stop. Now, if you've never been horse shopping in Europe, you aren't prepared for the tiny driveways that somehow lead through rows of quaint, chicken shack-like barns. We were greeted by the breeder--a middle aged, pleasant , farmer's wife dressed in baggy pants, jacket, and knee-high, rubber, muck boots. She greeted us with much nodding and smiling, and she disappeared into one of the quaint, little barns. Then, almost as if by magic, these gorgeous horses appeared. The first was a Cocktail filly with a really nice Uniform x Pion dam--lovely filly-- was first premium at the local keuring; the second was another Cocktail filly this time with an even nicer Purioso x Uniform x Pion dam--also lovely, but a little lighter boned--also a first premium; and, finally, she brought out a Krack C colt with a really, really nice Purioso x Uniform x Pion dam--spectacular mover, but a little too close behind--all three foals were equivalent to the high quality foals I've seen in the USA, but here's the kicker...not one of them was priced over $4000. US dollars. Our nodding, smiling, rosy-cheeked, farmer's wife with the knee-high muck boots ran her heart out beside these gorgeous horses. Her movement didn't compare to that of her horses (she was a little on the forehand with too much knee action), but her mare line and its offspring were obviously a great source of pride to her, and I will always be able to picture and appreciate the devotion and love that old woman has for her horses... Now I'm thinking, "Thanks, Melinda!, wish you were here!"
You know, I travel between three and eight hours to see more than one or two Dutch horses in one place--within a few hours of standing at a train station in Zutphen,
I saw close to 100; by the end of my five day trip, I had seen over 300 Dutch warmbloods--unbelievable. I can't take the time to describe every stop and every farm (unless, of course, you want a series of "Scot's observations in Holland"), but I can tell you the people were gracious (of course, if I could understand more Dutch I might be appalled!) and extremely proud of their horses and their breeding programs. In the span of a few days, I was able to see breeding trends, pick out dominant traits of certain stallions, see mares from the most famous mare lines, and gain a new perspective not only on my breeding program but also the state of the Dutch breeding programs in our country.
At our final stop of the afternoon, I was to experience the difference between quality and "quality". We had been at the home barn of Gribaldi, Pion, Heirarch, and the recent PAVO cup winner, Lucky Times, when the owner said, "If you're interested in Cocktail foals, you should go to my father's house; he has a few mares and foals there." ...a few turned out to be dozens! Talk about pride in a mare line--my single favorite horse I saw while in Holland is a member of his mare line. She is a UTV champion mare by Burgraaf out of a Cadmus xx mare. Spectacular mover, perfect conformation, sweet temperament...and a "quality" Cocktail filly at her side. These folks had just been to a keuring, so they had their best foals inside and polished. When these babies moved, you held your breath and felt your feet leave the arena dust just an inch or two. I looked over at Donna and I knew she had found her Cocktail filly. We were both levitating and kind of looked at each other with a goose-pimpled, glazed over hysteria that only true horse lovers experience. Of course, this Cocktail filly wasn't "for sale", nor were the Gribaldi and Cocktail colts in the stalls next to her--as a matter of fact, the Cocktail colt, out of the dam of Mondriaan (recently approved stallion), had already been put into a partnership whose members were merely waiting for the formality of his approved status. Unbelievable.
At this point in time, my senses (and Donna's; Bob was just looking a little nervous thinking about the price of a filly who was "not for sale.") were numbed--my fatigue, euphoria, and hunger left me smiling a lot and nodding occasionally. I had the same kind of headache I had at Carol's and my wedding--the kind caused by the dry mouth you get from smiling like a speechless fool for hours on end because the joy of the experience renders you happily idiotic. Since she wasn't familiar with the local restaurants, Jeanette asked our host where he would suggest we have dinner. He escorted us to one of the finest restaurants in which I have ever eaten. Our host joined us for a couple of drinks...just what I needed in my current state! Especially when I found out that he had insisted on paying for all of our drinks that evening (there's something about really good red wine that someone else is providing I find hard to resist). After a couple rounds, this gentleman order our meals and departed, leaving us in the capable hands of this gourmet restaurant. Of course, they sat us in a far corner of a room adjoining the room in which the rest of the diners were eating. It may have had something to do with the way we were dressed...I'm in a black, travel-rumpled trench coat, a Na/WPN hat, and my now very muddied black, dress loafers; I think Donna had on her "I Love Arabians" sweat shirt; Jeanette is always prepared in her trademark, yellow, knee length, quilted, horsewoman's car jacket and her alligator skin heels; and, Bob was still looking a little green over the possible price of a Cocktail filly that "wasn't for sale." Of course, it may have had more to do with the way we smelled--we had only been in and out of about ten different stables and twenty different fields in the past four hours. Nonetheless, the staff was gracious and proceeded to bring us a lemony mussel soup, a lovely salad covered with the tiniest and tastiest shrimp imaginable, the veal version of filet mignon, fresh, fresh fruit in some really light aperitif sauce...OK, I'll stop. It was damn good, and it wasn't bread and cheese! What does this have to do with horses? I've never met a horse person who didn't appreciate good food as well as good horses--combine good food with good horse conversation and good wine, well, that's about all I need to call it a vacation. Melinda, eat your heart out!
Well, there weren't sugar plums dancing in my head as I slept that night, there were horses! Lots of them and Dutch ones at that. I remembered the dream I had had earlier in the year. . .When I awoke, I remember feeling disappointed; he was chestnut and had almost no white. As is my early spring custom, I dream about the unborn foals growing inside their dams. After ten years of selectively breeding, importing, researching , examining in depth the mare and sire lines of Dutch Warmblood dressage horses, I'm still the little, fat kid who will hide away with a horse book and dream of the perfect horse. This year LaVita (Elcaro x Belisar) was our only mare expecting; she was in foal to Idocus. The colt I saw stood facing into the northwest end of our barn. He was definitely a colt; had really good conformation with a solid hindend and a good neck set, but he was chestnut and had no white except for some on his hind legs. . .and I knew he was my stallion prospect. . . when LaVita foaled a lovely, bay colt, I was surprised, and, I'll admit it, laughed at my foolishness. Anyway...
The excitement of the next day's auction filled my head with all sorts of possibilities. I had studied the catalogue carefully; knew the bloodlines inside and out; had ranked my choices and the money I couldn't spend on each. I was particularly interested in a Voltaire colt out of the Bottie line--this mare line is behind many good horses such as Vanitas, Cabochon, and the Burgraaf x Cadmus mare that is the dam of what was soon to become Donna's new Cocktail filly (Yes, Bob had every reason to be nervous; he knew Donna had her heart set on that filly). On paper, I also liked a Gribaldi, a Welt Hit, a Clavecimbel, and a Havidoff--so, I was thinking that I had plenty from which to choose and was fairly certain I would get caught up in the moment and be buying a baby. And, well, I did. . .
Borculo was and is an event. Tents flapped in the breeze--bleachers--covered grandstand area--purveyors pushed their equine wares--a hedge-lined parking area for the trailers which contained the mares and foals (and the Volkswagen Bugs pulling the trailers which contained the mares and foals)--VIP tent complete with a complimentary bar and food-toting wait staff (being American has more disadvantages than advantages in most situations when it comes to buying horses in Europe, but getting to sit in the VIP tent is one of the advantages!) Hundreds of people excitedly walked around and viewed the 50 or so foals with their dams. All of the foals were shown at the walk and trot with their dams while the auctioneer talked about the pedigree and performance results of individuals in the pedigree. The foals had all been preselected and invited to the auction--these were top quality babies--a few of them even exceptional.
Have I mentioned that it rains in Holland? Actually, it either pours or it drizzles--nothing in between. This was another advantage to the VIP tent. At one point, gale force winds were blowing a soaking rain onto the inhabitants of the bleachers. Amazingly enough, umbrellas came up and cigars stayed lit. I was sitting with some Dutch friends for a moment during one of the cyclones, but discovered how disadvantageous it was not to have an umbrella; a person who did have an umbrella simply allowed it to be positioned so he or she could still see the auction, which never skipped a beat (and we worry about hosting a keuring without an indoor), and which caused any run-off to fall directly into the lap of the person seated behind him or her. It does not do much for the ego to walk around in a foreign land looking like one has pissed himself--such was my lot that day.
I didn't even bid on the Voltaire colt. He was too small, and I didn't get that feeling I wanted in my gut. He sold for $8,000. I didn't bid on the Clavecimbel; he was too brown (I know; I'm supposed to be the professional horse person here). All of a sudden, I owned an Ircolando x Miro colt. Yes, it happened that fast. Ircolando x Miro, you ask? Who's Ircolando? Who's Miro? I know, but he was really nice--perfect conformation, gorgeous head, lovely mover, ideally built dam....he was mine--for about 15 minutes. The auction staff rushed over with the complimentary basket of goodies and the contract. My shaking hand signed the contract and my mouth somehow mentioned both Jeanette and Gert's names, as I had been instructed. I was either being congratulated or ridiculed in Dutch by all those around me (hard to tell when someone is patting you on the back whether he or she thinks you did well or is really sorry). The American contingent of fellow Na/WPN members was nodding at me and smiling. Life was a blur. Well, I was to be rudely awakened.
The auction continued; a couple more colts sold. Then, in my delirium, I sensed a changed mood within the crowd--the auctioneer had announced something that was not going over well. Little did I know that it had to do with me. Murmurs in a crowd are always unsettling, but ,when you don't speak Dutch and the murmurs are at an auction in Holland, they are even more unsettling. Suddenly, I felt as if I were the drop of water that dispersed the oil. People moved away from me and shook their heads (please, I didn't even take my shoes off!) Jeanette came up to me and told me that there had been a protest. I had been bidding against a wealthy stallion owner for my colt. He thought that he had won the bid. Somehow, either he or his lawyer protested the bidding , and it was decided that my colt would be put back out to bid--even though I had already signed the contract.
As you can imagine, my joyous delirium had ended. Part of me thought that I had been shafted, but part of me thought that I wasn't supposed to have that colt. I didn't even bid on him; he sold for $500 more than what I had bid. And the auction continued. This is a sore fact of life that always amazes me; no matter how big the personal disappointment or tragedy, life goes on.
The Gribaldi colt came up and the auctioneer tried to get me to bid. He was gorgeous, but not enough power from behind. The Welt Hit; same story, but too light boned. The Havidoff; Gert just shook his head. The auction was over and I had no colt. Jeanette was furious with the auction staff and immediately set up appointments for me to see colts for the rest of the day. We found nothing. After much red wine and many apologies from Jeanette, I went to bed coltless.
I know it's hokey. Go ahead and laugh--I shouldn't even admit it to you, but I had the dream again; my stallion prospect dream. Now, I tend to be idealistic and I believe that there are forces stronger than those contained within an individual at work in the universe, but I'm way too anal to freely let someone else control my life. I resist it. Tell me what to do and I'll do the opposite--just ask my wife.
I awoke the next morning to a bustle of activity; Team Nijhof had decided to kick into gear to find me a stallion prospect. Jeanette asked me, if I could have a stallion prospect from any stallion, which would I want?
Within five minutes, Jeanette had called the KWPN and the secretary had faxed her a list of all Cocktail foals born in the "R" year with breeders, addresses, phone numbers, foal names and pedigrees, and foal sexes. Surrounded by portraits and professional photographs of legendary Dutch stallions, we sat at the Nijhof's guests' breakfast table eating bread and cheese..and even a little pate this time. Jeanette and I went through the colts, charted out an itinerary, and hit the road.
Our first stop was 45 minutes away. Cocktail x Ramiro x Lector. Jeanette tried in vain to reach the breeder by phone, and we didn't get to see the colt. Our next stop was over an hour away from the first stop. Cocktail x Michelangelo x Zichem. I looked at the abbreviated pedigree and said, "Gee, the dam looks like she came from the Barneveld's." Jeanette looked (while driving and talking on her car phone, I might add...) and agreed that it looked that way. She called the breeder to get directions and asked him who bred the dam. The Barnevelds. This colt's granddam was the UTV champion mare Deutzia (now keur pref.), half-sister to the UTV champion mare, Weigelia, whom I had owned and lost with a prolapsed uterus two days after her last foal--this colt was out of my favorite breeding program in Holland and related to the nicest horse I had ever owned. At that moment, the Twilight Zone theme was resonating in my head.
We arrived to see the colt. Mr. Schreutelkamp (don't ask me how to pronounce it) greeted us and brought us into the living room for coffee and to view the registration papers. He speaks no English, so Jeanette translated for me. He had been sick with Diabetes and must sell horses. He was disappointed because this colt had been selected for the Borculo foal auction and he had been excited about having a colt selected, but his daughter was in America and he was too sick to bring him...(yup, Twilight Zone theme was going off again). We left the house and drove a little ways down the road to a seemingly makeshift barn. It was raining. He explained that his daughter had just returned last night and the colt had not been brushed or clipped. His daughter opened the stall door and went in with the mare's halter. She led them out. He was a solid chestnut with two white hind legs.
The mare and he were turned loose in a small sand ring. Jeanette and I went into the middle of the ring while the Schreutlekamps stood outside. The colt went into an extended trot beside the mare. Jeanette turned to me and said, "Nice colt." Rodrigo SSF.
June 8, 1999
TOPIC: why I haven't been updating the journal
I'm still figuring this out--I have lots to say but little expertise with this system of communicating--give me a little time and I will have this updated on a regular basis.
April 5, 1999
TOPIC: Na/WPN Annual Meeting
For those of you who missed the Na/WPN's annual meeting in San Antonio, you missed a really informative four days. The turnout was small, but, with a few exceptions, representative of the people I have come to believe make up the core of breeders of Dutch horses in the USA. Also attending were Janko van de Lageweg (of the family who owns Nimmerdor, Ahorn, Flemmingh, Jet Set D, Farrington, etc.), Johan Knaap (newly appointed head of the stallion selection committee), and Ko Goedegebure (director of the KWPN). I'll try to give you an overview of what I got out of the meeting with the following points:
||The KWPN will remain supportive and active its relationship with the Na/WPN-this is a huge relief to me. I really felt that we would be in a state of flux with the loss of Gert van der Veen. After spending a few days with both representatives of the KWPN, I firmly believe that our relationship and inter- action with the KWPN will be stronger than ever.
||Many people have talked to me about the need for change within our own organization-better use of the advisory board, additions to the board of directors, elimination of approved stallions who are not producing top offspring, and many other topics... Believe it or not, I think we are an amazingly cohesive and efficient organization that gets things done for the good of our breeders, our horses, and sport horse industry.
I have to say that anytime I have a gripe or a question or a concern I get answers. I may not always like the answer, but often that's as much my problem as it is that of the organization. We had real discussions at the annual meetings about concerns and they were heard. Personally, Dr. Mary Giddens , Sylvia and Patt have been really supportive and helpful with the EVA issues surrounding the importation of Zeoliet, and have been willing to go out on a limb in combating the ignorance surrounding EVA.
I would still like more information about what stallions in this country are producing, but I understand the difficulties associated with this-as a stallion owner, I'm not prepared to incur the expense of gathering a significant percentage of Zeoliet offspring in one place with their dams for an inspection. I certainly can't expect any other stallion owner to do so. It would be helpful to know what traits, both positive and negative, are being seen in particular stallions offspring, however. Possibly, it could be clearly stated in the verification form that an offspring evaluation will be published when the jury decided it has enough information to validate it.
||I know understand the linear score sheet and how it applies to each conformation point of the horse. In concept, it has always made sense to me, but, after Johan Knaap's excellent demonstration and lecture, I can finally articulate it. The first thing I did when I got home was to go out and look at the length of connections and bones on all my horses. I picked out the strongest point of each and the weakest and noted my overall impression...and I'm pleased! Always nice to find good horses in your own back yard!!!!
||Leave your babies in the pasture; don't overfeed them; don't worry about x-rays until they are two years old; be thankful that the Dutch are so particular about x-raying stallions; x-ray your mares, if you're really concerned; then stop worrying so much about OCD.