Finally an Update!
Happy New Year. I’ve been working on this journal entry for three months, so, of course, I’m in a completely different place as we approach the last two days of 2019 than I was at the end of September. I’m about to go through to cut and paste what’s still pertinent so there’s some attempt at cohesion, but, if it reads a little choppy, forgive me. I’ve dated the sections to indicate the timeline and updated the current sales availability of this year’s foals and our mares.
You can thank my procrastination at doing my 2018 farm taxes and the fact that I have a meatloaf in the oven for beginning this journal entry. I hate sitting down to do taxes. I’d rather do other things I absolutely hate, such as empty the cat litter and unload the dishwasher–both of which are on my agenda after this piece of writing.
It’s been a big year for us, maybe our biggest year. We have two new Grand Prix horses out of our program, Godot SSF (UB-40 x Sir Sinclair x Jazz) and Willioso SSF (Rodioso x Hierarch x Michelangelo), with Godot SSF being identified in the talent pool by Team Canada for Tokyo; Franco SSF just debuted successfully at Intermediate level eventing; we ended up with five top five or ten placings in the keuring; we bred a new keur mare; multiple young horses from our program are near the top of USEF/USDF national standings; and, Gaudi bred nearly 100 mares. That’s pretty incredible for a small program in the backwoods of New Hampshire, started with almost no money. It’s taken us 30 years, but we’re breeding not only the best horses we’ve ever bred, but also horses that are winning nationally and becoming internationally recognized and competitive. And, looking at the quality of mares and babies in my backyard, I know it could be only the beginning.
Although, I admit, I get a little envious when I see people who have the money to be able to go out and buy themselves a program, there’s a lot of satisfaction in creating a program based on education, research, a good eye, and some luck, both good and bad. I was just having a conversation this morning with someone who has been through hell and back in the horse business, celebrating her recent success and recognizing the struggle and pain it took to get there. Horses save us and destroy us. Sometimes, if you’re persistent and believe in yourself and your horses, tragedy can open doors you never would have recognized or had the courage to unlock. I’m sure we have many more tragic events ahead of us in this business, but I’m also sure there are even brighter moments ahead, if I can figure out how to “maintain” and still feel fulfilled. More on that in a bit.
2018 Foal Crop
We had seven foals at the farm, one in Holland, and three in Indiana. The foals began arriving early, and kept coming until August. Thanks to some new foaling cameras in the foaling stalls, I spent more time sleeping in my own bed, checking my laptop, than I did sitting in the barn dealing with mosquitos and dirty Golden Retrievers wanting to be lap dogs. Still, it was a long foaling season. Knock on wood, all ended well. We had one really scary foaling–the last baby was upside down. Of course, when I realized the feet were facing up, I was sure she was breached, but once I put my arm in the mare, her nose was between her legs. We’ve had mares foal standing up, a couple legs that needed to be repositioned, a prolapsed uterus, a couple red bags, and a mare that cast herself during foaling so the foal fell back into a terrible position, but this is the first upside down foal in our 28 foaling seasons. I don’t want another one. Again, knock on wood, it all ended well.
(When I began this journal entry in September, only two of these foals were available. Over the last three months we’ve decided to do some refocusing of our program, so, Carol and I have had to make some tough decisions. Consequently, we have a few more babies for sale than we’d planned.)
Outrageous SSF (Gaudi x Bon Bravour) SOLD
Overdrive SSF (Gaudi x Rousseau) SOLD
Olicites SSF (Gaudi x Rousseau) RETAINED
Oserenia SSF (For Ferrero x Charmeur) AVAILABLE IN HOLLAND
Olympites SSF (Secret x Donatelli) SOLD
Osei SSF (Hiro T x Atleet) AVAILABLE
Obi-Wan SSF (Gaudi x Freestyle) SOLD
Ocho SSF (Gaudi x Sir Sinclair) AVAILABLE
On Top SSF (For Romance I x Totilas) RETAINED
Oliscia SSF (Gaudi x Farrington) AVAILABLE
OzaVita SSF (Democraat x Contango) AVAILABLE
2019 Breeding Season
It’s been a long and busy breeding season. As I mentioned above, the foals started arriving in March, and the last one arrived mid August. So, of course, that means I’ve been rebreeding for six months. Here’s where we’re at right now:
(We’re now planning on selling two or three more mares. If anyone is interested in knowing which ones, shoot me a text: 603-209-3243)
Eliscia SSF (UB-40 x Pass the Glass xx) in foal to Gaudi
Hyacintia (Charmeur x Santano) in foal to Vivino
Gazania (Bon Bravour x Santano) in foal to Gaudi (tried once with Zack, but no luck)
D’Orites SSF (Donatelli x Jazz) in foal to Jaleet (was pregnant to Secret again, but lost it)
Carpe Diem SSF (Farrington x Pass the Glass xx) in foal to Gaudi THIS MARE IS SOLD
T.Lente (Cabochon x Farrington) in foal to Gaudi THIS MARE IS SOLD
BoWendy (Sir Sinclair x Jazz) in foal to Vivino
Emaldine (Atleet x Manno) in foal to Gaudi
ZaVita SSF (Contango x Elcaro) in foal to Vivino (twin situation, which I hope has resolved…)
Werites SSF (Freestyle x Jazz) lost a Gaudi pregnancy, rebred to Secret–not sure it’s still there
We decided not to breed Galearites SSF (Totilas x Jazz) this year. I want to give her another chance to become a sport horse. We’ll see how bringing her back into work over the winter goes, then decide whether or not we breed her in the spring.
It’s been a long summer, spring, and fall. My main barn guy was in a motorcycle accident in May, so I have been completely tied to the farm. I snuck away for a couple nights in June for the Summer Seminar at Timbach Farm, but that’s it. It’s difficult for me to get perspective on our program unless I’m away from it occasionally. Since I just booked ten days in Holland to attend the First Ring of the KWPN stallion selection, I’m going to get a much-needed break. As you read any of this, keep in mind I’m feeling a little fried by the day-in and day-out of maintaining all we have going on here. Even this morning doing chores, ice on the outside water tubs, having to wear gloves for the second time this year to operate the tractor and put out hay, I had to stop for a moment with my wheelbarrow full of hay and grain for the outside horses to remind myself how lucky I am in my life, how much promise lay in the rising sun illuminating the clear blue of my beloved New Hampshire sky, and regardless of vet bills, work load, mud, or the undeniable approach of much colder weather, I am living a life I have chosen. A life I love.
Ironically, as you’ll see in a moment, I took advantage of the time change this morning to get up and finish Find Me, the sequel to Call Me by Your Name, by Acimon. If you haven’t read either of them, the central theme of the story is having the courage to live the life that completes you. Time-gone-by and the inability to recapture it is the price paid for not doing so. (That was the “ironically” part, by the way…) As I always wrote on the board every year as I began to teach literature, “the most important thing about reading great literature is what you learn about yourself when you’ve finished.’ I’ve been fortunate in my life to have the courage, the luck, and the obstacles to live the life that matters most to me . It may not have seemed that way at the time, but even the death of my brother and two cancer diagnoses brought me to choices that led me to a better, truer version of me. At the moment, as I suspect is true for most of us, I am also my biggest obstacle in moving forward to continue to develop and foster the best version of me.
What does all this have to do with the future of our program? Fair question. I’ve never been satisfied just to breed good horses. I want to breed incredible horses. I’ve never been content with breeding for a market or having an eventual sale in mind when I make my stallion picks. I am always breeding for the horse that is a manifestation of my dreams and aspirations. Much like my unfinished novel, hundreds of hastily scribbled sentences on the backs of envelopes and scraps of paper, a Google Docs queue filled with sporadic pieces writing, and a number of canvases on which I’ve created the backgrounds but haven’t yet visualized the composition that springs from the textures and colors already in place (you could rightly be thinking that my next statement should be “I have trouble finishing things since it’s November 15th, and I started this journal entry over six weeks ago…), my breeding program is very much like an unfinished piece of writing or partially begun painting. Breeding for me is part of a creative process. Sometimes I’m happiest when I crumple it up and toss it or completely repaint the background. Ever since I figured out the ending of my novel, I’ve basically stopped writing. I’ve always thought the best job for me would be if someone were to pay me for having ideas and giving them life, then find someone else to go through the minutiae of maintaining what I’ve created and built. Maintenance is a death knell to the creative mind. At least, to my creative mind.
That’s how this all ties into our breeding program. We’ve had, perhaps, our best year in 30 years. I’ve stopped teaching because the workload of managing both the farm and a full-time job became overwhelming. But, I’m bored. Yes, there are always thoughts going through my head about how to improve our program; however, for the most part, we’re in a place of maintenance. I’m feeling a need to shake things up a bit, to kind of throw everything up into the air, then see what I can make out of the pieces once they’ve fallen. I’ve always been more comfortable and productive amidst a little bit of chaos than mired in the tedium of too many things in their proper places. The more pragmatic portions of my brain recognizes that I’m just creatively feeling unfilled, to look for something to fill that void, and to leave our breeding program alone, allowing it to continue to grow and improve on its current course.
December 30, 2019:
In a perfect world, there would have been a few more journal entries between that last statement and where I’m at today, but that’s just not the way it has played out. Maybe that’s a good thing; you don’t have to live through the vacillations my brain has gone through over the last month and a half. Basically, to recap: I was bored; felt a need to shake things up; and, spent the better part of the last three months trying to figure out how to move forward and stay sane and creatively fulfilled. Things finally began to crystallize for me after I returned from the First Ring Selection in Ermelo.
Thoughts on the First Ring Selection
In many ways the First Ring is more interesting than the Stallion Show. The main reason is that you get to see a broader representation of any given stallion’s offspring. Breeders and owners can present whichever horses they want in the first ring. Some of these horses are presented for more sales exposure with the owner having no expectation his or her stallion will be accepted to the next round; some are presented because the owner is barn blind and hasn’t been paying attention to the direction of the KWPN (the flipside of this situation is that there are a few horses presented where the owner is ahead of the KWPN, and the jury rejects a horse it shouldn’t–but this is rare); most are presented because they have some combination of the type, pedigree, and talent to be seriously considered as eventual approved stallions. Regardless, instead of seeing just the best sons of each stallion, people who attend the First Ring get to see all of the sons presented. This leads to a much broader knowledge base when it comes to selecting stallions for your own program. That’s my primary reason for going to this event: More information. A second reason the First Ring is more interesting is that people are less crazy busy, so there’s more time for conversations and making connections. A third reason is to get one of the meatball sandwiches they serve at least one day of the event. SO good.
Overall, there were some good horses presented, but only two special horses–both by Totilas, as it were. It’s a good thing the KWPN wasn’t paying attention to all posters on the COTH Forum about eight years ago when the Totilas haters were in full force declaring that he was an “end product”, “ a manufactured horse”, “will never be a successful sire”, etc., etc. I think it’s safe to say their crystal balls lied to them. In fact, Totilas is going to go down in KWPN history as one of the most influential sires of dressage horses ever. And, although my two favorites were by Totilas himself, overall, the Totilas sons are more consistent producers than he is.
I’m not going to go horse by horse, or even sire by sire, and do detailed comments. It’s taken me three months to get this much written! My overall observations are not going to be new information to those of you who read my journal regularly.
- It’s all about Totilas and Totilas sons right now.
- The jury continues to select for sport at the expense of “stallion” type.
- Potential new blood is held to a lower standard than KWPN blood.
- The jury is paying special attention to the quality of the foundation, quality of the walk, and perceived temperament….until it isn’t.
I was lucky enough to be in Ermelo for a round of the Stallion Competition, as well, and have some thoughts–but I’m trying to finish this and get to the gym. Basically, I saw some very good riding horses, but very few breeding stallions. Of the winners of each age group, there’s only one to whom I’d consider breeding. One has talent as a dressage horse, but is just too heavy in type and not enough bending in the joints for my taste. Another looks amazing until you really watch his hind legs when asked to collect and carry in the canter–I don’t see him as a Grand Prix horse. In the J year, there are some good stallions. I’d breed to a few of those stallions. I didn’t stay for the PSG horses because I have seen all of those horses repeatedly.
Great trip to Holland. Saw over 300 horses, but always nice to come home and see such quality in my own back yard. Galearites SSF (Totilas x Orchis x Jazz x Roemer). Keur mare. 94.5 IBOP.
Without going into a full explanation, I’m feeling pretty good about where we’re at as a breeding program and where we’re going. The bottom line of any breeding program is it’s marebase. We’re in incredibly good shape there. I came home realizing we’ve built a marebase that’s as good as or better than any you can find here or in Holland. The next most important aspect of a program is stallion selection. We have one of the most interesting and pertinent breeding stallions in Gaudi. There couldn’t be a better time to own a Totilas x DeNiro son out of the KWPN’s highest indexed dressage mareline. Things are good. Better than good.
The New Year and beyond will be exciting times for the Tolman family and SSF. I wish you and yours a happy, healthy new year, with no vet bills and low hay prices.