Q: Hope you’re doing well. I stopped by and had a short visit with Carol (and MAZEY!! Yeah!!). So, my question for your blog is . . . If I had bred a magnificent creature like that, I’d either retire and rest on my laurels forever, or breed my entire Orchis line to Totilas. Do you think that all your girls would produce similarly well with this cross? When you look at your Orchis line, what differences and distinctions do you make when choosing a stallion?? Congrats on Mazey. She’s a knock-out. Plus, what a personality. If she’s missing, I’ll be a suspect!
A: This is the first time I've had a foal born and I've actually considered stopping breeding. Many people will look at Mazey and say, "She's nice, but I've seen prettier foals." or, " She's a little short in the neck." or ask, "Is she just a hair old-fashioned?" Since you are one of maybe four or five people other than family who have seen her, and the reaction, at least to my face, has been similar, maybe I'm wrong. My point is that I know she's not perfect, but there's something about that seems to satisfy all of my breeding goals. She has the strength, balance, movement, and brain of a top athlete. And, I say "athlete" rather than "dressage horse" because I think this filly could have a successful career as a jumper, eventer, polo pony, team penner, or dressage horse. So, after nearly a decade of specialization, I breed one of the top dressage mares on the continent to the best dressage horse the world has ever seen, and I get an all-rounder. Not my plan, but I couldn't be more pleased with the result. Yes, this made breeding decisions for Orchis daughters really tough. To whom do you breed when you've found exactly the cross you want for you mares but can't take the financial risk of investing in more doses at nearly $8,000./dose? This is the part that keeps me breeding: Thinking in generations. Once I start imagining to whom I'll need to breed my Totilas daughters and to whom I'll want to breed my Totilas stallion son, I get excited about researching pedigrees and reassessing my breeding program. This should be in the back of a good breeder's mind anyways, but this year, given the Totilas cross and my having spent a year of personal reflection due to health issues, I felt more pressure that the choices I made were going to have a lasting impact on my program. So, I spent time in Holland and Germany this year and an inordinate amount of time on the internet researching--really narrowing down for me what I want from my horses. I fell in love with a jumper stallion. Over and over again, I realized the horses I like best are not bred out of pure dressage pedigrees, but more often out of all rounder pedigrees. I looked for common horses in the pedigrees, and discovered that I had almost all the elements of a really cool recipe right in my barn yard. I was missing two ingredients. My breeding picks this year are more like shopping for the right chocolate and a special kind of berry that's not in every grocery store. I'll probably be in my 60s before I know whether or not the path upon which I've embarked leads to the promised land or not, but I'm really all about the journey, so it will be a worthwhile and personally fulfilling adventure regardless.
Just went back and reread your questions...got off on a bit of a tangent there! Orchis's line produces top mares. Every once and a while, a top gelding will come out of the line. Only once or twice has a top stallion come out of the line. If my goal were to breed only for broodmares and sport horses, my breeding picks would be easy. Since I want to breed an approved stallion that has a major impact on the studbook, and I don't want it to be an accident, I have to constantly stir the pot and season and season the stew, as it were. The line needs constant attention to the canter. The line needs constant attention to size.
At this point in time, I have no clue if I really answered your question or not, but if Mazey's missing, your barn will be one of my first stops!
Q: "When you are selecting a horse for breeding stock and you look at movement, what are you looking at?"
A: First, when I'm looking at breeding stock, movement is secondarymaybe even tertiary. First, I'm looking at pedigree, in particular, the dam line. Second, I'm looking at conformation and type. Third, I'm looking at movement. When I get to movement, I always have to remind myself not to be swayed by "Wow" movers or too quickly unimpressed by "ordinary" movers. The longer I buy and breed, the easier it is to see through the flash and look for the balance and tact. My big thing is to look for bending of the joints throughout the body. I want to see a horse sit in the hind endnot just drop, but "sit". I want to see the muscles flex and the angles move closer together and the wither lift. See the horse actively transferring weight to the hindquarters. I also want to see the hind leg come quickly under the horse's center of gravity (basically, just below where a rider would sit)one of the first things that will negate a horse for me is "out behind." I'm a little more lenient about this with stallion selection for my mares, because my mares have such good use of the hind leg. But, if I'm buying a foal or a mare for breeding stock, and he or she has made it through the pedigree and conformation analysis, out behind can stop the deal. Probably most important is my overall impression of a horse's athleticism/use of his or her body in movement. There has to be self-carriage/lift (bending and good use of the hind leg), but, ideally, the horse has power, clear moments of suspension, suppleness, and a regularity to the movement. I have to be able to imagine the horse going through a passage piaffe tour. I have to be able to imagine the horse doing a pirouette or changes. In answering this person's question, I realize just how complex evaluating movement can be. Try this, the next time you are at a horse show, a friend's farm, or looking at your own horses moving, look at one thing at a time in the entire population you have in front of you. Say, in the next 20 horses you see, you're just going to look at the horses' withers as they begin to move. Can you see the wither lift? Break down movement into the components that are important to the proposed function of the horse, and look at one at a time. It's really the best way to train your eye. Not that we're on the topic, but the sameis true for conformation. I've taken my kids out to the barn on more than one occasion and said, "OK. We're going stall to stall and looking just at loin connections." Or, "we're just looking at bone density in the front leg."
Q: How do you decide which foals, yearlings, etc., to take to the annual keuring? What criteria do you use when determining which animals to present?
A: This is a great question. The answer really lies in what you're trying to accomplish and learn in your own program. For me, after nearly 20 years of breeding, I don't need to take as many horses to a keuring as I did when the learning curve was much steeper. A breeder just starting out should be taking a larger percentage of his or her horses because he or she needs the feedback. At this point in time, as foals, I take only the exceptional ones (evaluated on movement and type--a foal is judged 50% on movement and 50% on conformation and type). We don't do a lot of showing, so keurings are a marketing opportunity for me. If I have a super foal, he or she might as well score some points for the home team. For the most part, though, we're talking about foals; repeatedly, I've seen the top foal in the country become a second premium adult. I don't put much stock in how a foal does. As yearlings, I leave them home. At two, I only take the boys we've kept as stallion prospects. If the jury isn't going to be interested in a colt into whom I'm putting time and money, then I want to know. My mares all go at either three or four years old, depending on their development. As far as I'm concerned, and there are those who will vehemently disagree with me, the studbook/ster/keur eligible presentation is the most important day in a young mare's breeding career. I want my mares to look they're very bestwe spend months preparing our mares for this presentation.
I am a fan of keurings. There are those people in the breeding and sport worlds that put no stock in them at all (no pun intended). Personally, I learn something at every keuring I attend, even after nearly two decades. As long as I choose to breed KWPN horses, then I need to be participating in keurings. They give me direction and I trust the jury is giving me a fair evaluation of my horses. It's really rare that I disagree with the jury. As I've said before, the only two times that I can think of involved my own horses, both of which were foals, and in both of which I was probably too emotionally invested.
Q: You've mentioned that you spend months preparing your mares for a keuring. Can you elaborate on what you do?
A: Preparing mares: I do start months ahead of time. First, and most importantly, I evaluate whether or not the mare should even be presented as a three year old. Some mares need to wait a year. It doesn't do your mare or your program any good to take horses that aren't ready to a keuring. Second, I send them off to be backed for at least two months. I try to time it so I get the mare back for at least a month or two so I can get a few extra pounds and a super looking coat on the mare. Training barns rarely feed as much as I do--I want any horse going to a keuring to have super condition--not too fat, but I want flesh so the mares have the depth and width to the top line that I want. Of course, if they're not in good muscle before you add the extra layer of "condition", then you just get a fat top line, and that doesn't work either. The last month, I try to do no undersaddle work with the mares--only ground work, either ground driving, longlining and/or lungeing and free jumping, regardless if the mare has to free jump at the keuring or not. If I can't do all of this myself, due to school or other time commitments, I send them to Zaz Putnam, in Keene. She's done wonderful working getting my mares into the kind of final topline condition I want. I don't do any work in hand with the mares in preparation for the linear scoring. The final step is the day or two before the keuring. I grew up in the 4H and Morgan systems of preparing horses for shows--that means they are clipped, bathed, polished, oiled, and braided.
Q: What bedding do you use for mares about to foal?
A: Simple answer: hay. In New England, straw is normally a lot more expensive than hay--plus, it makes me uncomfortable having mares whose systems are already stressed with pre and post foaling issues to be consuming straw. Dr. Grass, my former vet and a long-time breeder of Standardbreds, moved me in this direction. I was talking to him about my not liking my mares to be eating the straw, and he told me about some famous racehorse auction that had had issues with horses colicking on straw. The auction switched to all hay for its bedding, and stopped having issues with colic. So I switched. Of course, ideally, I like my mares to foal outside; it's so much easier and safer on the mare and the foal.
Q: I've heard different opinions on whether or not to breed on the foal heat. What do you think about this?
A: If I want a mare pregnant, I hate to let any heat cycle go by without attempting to breed on it. The research says if a mare ovulates on day 11 or after post foaling, that the conception rate is the same as on her 30 day heat. If she ovulates prior to day 11, the conception rate is significantly lower. If a mare has foaled early or has had any stress, foaling issues, didn't clean in a normal time frame, etc., then I give her until her 30 day heat. Otherwise, I don't hesitate to breed on the nine day heat. As a matter of fact, we have had some of our best conception rates on the nine day heat. It tends to be a shorter heat and an easier ovulation to predict.
Q: You said you can email jumper questions to a friend who knows all about that stuff? Could I ask him, how he evaluates a weanling/yearling for jumpers? I know the bloodlines are a big thing. If sire is a superb jumper and dam is also a very nice jumper, does that assure you the offpsring will be? and , is that the best way to look at them...aside from good conformation and good walk, nice canter lead changes, etc......when they are that little/young, what is the best thing to look for when you are looking at them for a future jumper?
A: As Scot pointed out before, bloodlines have my major interest. I strongly believe they provide a good indication for future jumping ability. But confirmation is equally important.
For the first time I study a filly/colt at the age of 10 days. The way they look then in proportion is exactly the way they will look 3 or 4 years later.
In between I will oversee a lot.
What I look for is a backline that is not too long, a neckset that is more horizontal than vertical, a hindleg that is not too long and a shoulder that is muscled and even may be a little steep. The neck itself must be long and I like an “attentive, clear” eye.
We like to freejump them as a yearling in an enclosed area, just over a small vertical and an oxer behind it with one stride in between. What to look for then? Balance, suppleness and the ability to perform like a “harmonica”: shorten and lengthen the stride as is needed at that moment. I like to see them jump with a rounded back and opening behind as much as possible. They don’t need to fold their front feet up to their breast, but I don’t like to see them “throw” them forward. The canter is critical and needs to be strong, the yearling needs to “carry itself”. The walk does not have to be the one of a dressage horse. Correctness is enough, same goes for the trot.
Now to the other topic: super jumper sire and nice jumper mare combined equals good jumper?
In my experience: no, not necessarily. You have to increase the odds by bringing the right bloodlines together. I am a very strong believer of “line-breeding” in the third or fourth generation or beyond. Not with any stallion, but with those I believe are responsible for the succesfull jumper characteristics:
Cottage Son xx
Cor de la Bryere
I like to see those names in a pedigree as much as possible.
I advised Numero Uno, before he became a known sire, on a Burggraaf mare. Why? He has an excellent canter, but moreover the combination resulted in a pedigree with 4 x Ladykiller xx, 2 x Ramzes, 2 x Cor de la Bryere, 1 x Almé and 3 x Cottage Son xx. The resulting horse knows how to jump!
On a different mare, by Ahorn, I recommended Mermus R, who bred just a few mares at the time. The resulting filly is very nice and has a pedigree with 2 x Ladykiller xx, 1 x Cor de la Bryere, 3 x Ramzes and 3 x Cottage Son xx. She already shows to be a promising jumper!
In the meantime both Numero Uno and Mermus R have become “keur” stallions, but even then they should not be used on any mare in my opinion.
If you look for “proven” stallion names in a pedigree, based on my theory of the great five, here are a few:
Acord II, Cassini I, Contender, Indoctro and Indorado.
Good luck with your breeding program!
Q: What about the new young stallion Bon Balou? Any thoughts about breeding to him? He’s young does he have anything on the ground that looks good?
Just like Scot I am a firm believer in the abilities of Dutch (KWPN) warmbloods. Looking at all the results of the jumping classes in Wellington, I hope I may have a point. The KWPN stallion selection process is very severe. Only the best (and healthiest) stallions survive. Selection on offspring at various stages in the stallion's life does the rest. We obviously choose the best from our own Dutch breeding programs, but also from Holstein,Trakehnen, France and occasionally Hanover. Bon Balou,not a Dutch warmblood, looks like a nice enough free jumper, but with his (substantial) white markings and yet unknown quality of offspring he would not be my pick for my mare.
Q: So, to leap into a random topic that I’ve wondered about mare line horse names. So, in Dutch breeding, there certainly seems to be a pattern of a mare suffix that follows the female offspring. So, the ette line, the vita line, the daula line? Is that just Dutch? Is it American? But if you look at the pedigrees of your horses, La Vita didn’t follow her mare line name, and many mares - yours and others’ - didn’t follow their dam line. Does a breeder have a “this is the one!!” type of experience with a particularly good mare and decide to name the line? If so, why would Orchis not have been given a name like Orchites with a dam like Charites? So, if you’re ever looking for a topic to hold forth about, please explain!
A: The choice of mare name is completely the breeder's. Other than following the letter of the year, the KWPN doesn't require that a breeder maintain any naming convention. What's helpful about naming conventions in the mareline, however, is that well-known lines are easily recognized. You ask about Orchis's mareline. Her breeder, Gerard Vervoorn, names all of his mares after flowers or some derivation of a flower: Orchis, Bertalonia, Lies, Nadine--these are all flowers. The name, Charites, I'm not sure is; so, actually, that may be an inconsistency in the mareline. For me, I want my marelines recognizable. I've started the "ites" line from Orchis to honor Charites. So far, we have Werites, D'Orites, and Felicites. If we get a Totilas filly next year, I'm thinking right now that she will be Glorites SSF. We'll see. Eugenie van Dam, Wiegelia's breeder, also used flowers for names: Wiegelia, Davidia, Oleander. That's why we use flower names for her fillies: Buttercup and Fleur. LaVita's breeder, Ingrid van den Berg, quite often has an Italian or Spanish sound to her names. So, in keeping with that and my background in Latin, (with the exception of the one LaVita foal that was named by his new owner) I've used the masculine ending of O on LaVita boys and the feminine ending of A on the fillies: Rocco, Thea Vita, Udo, ZaVita, Cara Vita, and Fantastico. Mr. and Mrs. van Helvoirt, the main progenitors of the Wendy line and perhaps the most influential breeders of KWPN dressage horses in history, always name in their marelines.
Hope this is helpful.
Q: Is the KWPN breeding direction destroying the quality of jumpers produced a decade ago?
A: No,definitely not! Then why is it that Hickstead and Seldana,the older generation,excell at the WEG and not the Dutch team jumpers Utascha , Tamino and Bubalu? Experience,that's what has dominated these games. Conrad Homfeld built terrific,challenging courses that required much more than just ability. Experience was key. Lighting played a part and so did the difficult distances between the fences. The young Dutch horses just didn't have the mileage to cope with these challenges (and sometimes the riders made mistakes, too...). The Olympics are 2 years away and I guarantee you the Dutch will have a strong team then. If none of these horses are sold that is...since we have a reputation for that too...!
Looking closely at the pedigrees: the "new" generation builds on the quality of the old generations; Ladykiller xx , Cottage Son xx and Alme are still there! Nimmerdor is the common denominator in 3 horses : Hickstead, Seldana and Bubalu. Coincidence? No! If combined with some thoroughbred bloodlines (in this case Courville xx , Lucky Boy xx and Ladykiller xx)
Nimmerdor is a strong indication for jumping ability in a horse. My theory is that granddame Dorette H is responsible for part of the success. She gave birth to both Farn and Roman (by Ramzes) and created her own dynasty. So, on that note, I like to add the mare Dorette H to my list of "very nice to see, more than once") ) in a jumping pedigree. (Besides Alme , Cor de la Bryere, Cottage Son xx , Ladykiller xx)
Good examples of the new generation,ready to take on the world shortly,in my opinion are Tyson and Quality Time. The now 10 year old Tyson (Numero Uno x Voltaire) is one of my favorites for the 2012 Olympics. Leon Thijssen manages this horse superb and already placed high in the World Cup at Oslo. Check him out and see for yourself that he "eats up" every obstacle that comes in sight! Quality Time is one of my favorite KWPN stallions.He has Dorette H in his pedigree 3 times! His jumping ability is beyond discussion, but since he is being ridden by Hanno Ellerman from Estland for Team Nijhof chances are slim he will compete for the Dutch team any time soon....QT's sire Quantum is by Quidam de Revel out of the full sister of Constant who sired Chin Chin! Alme, Cor de la Bryere ,Cottage Son xx and Ramzes are all there too!
I continue to believe that with every generation the KWPN horse becomes a better athlete, the KWPN is heading the rankings now and will continue to do so as long as there are quality riders out there to match these horses up with. Selling is only one thing.....
Q: I read last week that Lissandro van de Helle is going to Edward Gal. I looked at some video footage of him and I think he is very cute, and he has most certainly been very successful in the competition ring. I emailed Judy Yancey about whether he would be available to North American breeders, and she said she could look into it, but that he has such a weird pedigree, she would not know how to use him. Do you always consider pedigree first, before anything else, or would consider a horse with a weirdo pedigree, if you liked his conformation, movement, and his performance record? I remember reading on your site one time about a mare with an unknown pedigree, but who had been successful in the show ring, and so you thought she deserved a crack at making babies. Just wondering if you would use a stallion like Lissandro, with a non traditional pedigree?
A: Although I'm one of the biggest pedigree freaks in the breeding world, pedigree is not my first consideration. My first consideration is that I absolutely LOVE the stallion and I can see him physically and athletically matching my mares. OK, a nanosecond later, I think about the pedigree. In this situation, if Lissandro vd Helle blew my socks off, his pedigree wouldn't deter me. I agree with Judy that there's not a lot to really hold onto in his pedigree as far as matching it, but he's from a really strong mareline that has produced multiple approved stallions, though mostly jumping. And, there's an interesting collecton of stallions both top and bottom. I like the double C line. Sion is a Sultan son, and Sultan produced some beautiful and rideable horses for the KWPN. I'm also a huge fan of Matcho, and think that the KWPN could use more of his blood. Since I know your horses, your Royal Prince x Jazz x Amor mare could be really interesting with him. I've never seen Lissaro vd Helle in person, so I can only comment on him from the online videos--he has one of the most beautiful walks I've ever seen. He's really rectangular. I'd like to see him bend in his joints more and lift more through the wither. He seems really well suited to lengthening in his paces, but not as strong at collection. Again, not having seen him in person, this may not be a fair assessment. People more knowledgeable than I have certainly lauded him for his abilities. So, back to the beginning of this answer: Do you love him? If so, then go for it. Of course, you're asking advice from the person who has been publicly ridiculed for risking an unheard of amount of money (in the Warmblood breeding world) to breed to Totilas, a totally unproven sire who may well be an F1 product who doesn't reproduce himself, using unproven frozen semen with no guarantee. In the case of Lissaro vd Helle, his walk alone might convince me to try him on a Royal Prince x Jazz x Amor mare.
Q: I was reading the Paardenfokken site and found a really cool tidbit about my mare's granddam producing her 7th international jumper, which has me newly pumped to find her the best jumping stallion I can, so perhaps one day she will grace me with a filly foal...
I know you are a dressage guy, and both Bart and Janko both said Indoctro for her. I am just " not that into him". LOL!! Any sugestions from your jumper peeps? She is Goodtimes - Calvados - G. Ramiro z, from the Lottie/Zottie line. She is a little base narrow, and could have a more correct hindleg, but she is athletic, smart, strong in the back and loin, Canter scored an 8, Jump is big and scopey. Babies are too young yet to ride, but all have been more modern and refined then she is. My holsteiner friends are saying Calido or Acodetto, both of which sound cool to me. :)
Numero Uno a thought? Lux Z?
In my opinion,none of the stallions mentioned should be used. If she was my mare,and that's usually how I like to think when giving advice, I would breed her to ZAVALL VDL. Zavall is by Casall (la Silla) (Caretino x Lavall I) out of an Elite mare by Emilion x Cor de la Bryere x Alme.
- Zavall produces pretty foals with correct hindlegs of good quality and they all have a well balanced ("easy") canter.
- Casall is a much winning international Grand Prix jumper under Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and one of the best producing stallions in Holstein
- Zavall, under Jur Vrieling , jumps in the highest class (ZZ) for his age/year (2004), is very impressive in the competition , and is thought to become a top Grand Prix jumper by many - most importantly: the resulting filly/colt will be "line-bred" to THE proven jumping sires:
Cor de la Bryere 3x
Cottage Son xx 4x
Ladykiller xx 2x