Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Learning the horse business

This time of year I speak with a lot of newcomers to breeding. Even though I tell them mostly the same things over and over again, I really don't mind. They often apologize for so many questions, but I tell them their questions are always welcome--and I mean it. Better questions before, than wishing you'd asked them later.
Even though there are equine courses taught at colleges and universities, horse breeding is largely self-taught or passed on by experienced breeder-mentors. Horse breeders are some of the most generous people with their time and expertise of any people I know. Many are continuing the practice of handing down their knowledge to the next generation, as it was handed down to them.
As a kid in southern California, back before all the old ranchos went down to development. (Yep, they paved paradise and, put up a parking lot.) I was lucky enough to live near several working horse ranches. And being a horse crazy kid, I propped on the top of many a corral fence watching the ranch hands, most of whom were Mexican, as they went about their business. That was my introduction to horse breeding.
Years later, when I had my own kids and they had playmates over at the house during breeding season, I'd pick up the stallion's chain shank and head for the barn to tease or breed mares. One of the kids would hear the chain rattle and say to their friends, "C'mon, you gotta see this." And a little trail of children would join the dogs following me to the barnyard. Like the old vaqueros who didn't shoo me away, I figured it was a good lesson in how babies are made. Nobody's parent ever called to complain.
When I went to the racetrack I first worked as a groom, learning the basics of horse care, including how to properly clean a stall, grooming and leg work, feeding, tacking and most importantly, assessing a horse's mental and physical condition and relaying important details to the trainer. Has the horse been digging in his stall? Might be sore or colicky, or bored. Did he pin his ears and go to the back of his stall when he saw you coming with the tack? Might be sore or sour, which is usually caused by being sore. Being a groom is one of the very best ways to learn the horse business from the ground up. They are the often unsung heroes of the horse industry. I love it when a top trainer hails their groom as the reason for their success.
When I was training racehorses myself, I never missed an opportunity to learn from other trainers. Even the "worst" trainer might have some nugget of advice that you can use. The old guys were especially willing to sit in the shed row on a hot summer afternoon and let me pick their brains. I learned so many tricks of the trade that way, and still have the little recipe book of liniments and cures that I wrote them down. When I once asked a prominent trainer the secret of his success in developing so many top class horses he had a one-word answer that I regard as the key to raising and training horses. "Patience," he said.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Blog Relaunch

I have always enjoyed doing blog posts while on European trips, but I haven’t blogged from home yet. That‘s about to change! I plan to blog on topics of interest to North American breeders and enthusiasts. I hear the most interesting things from people, which are often learning experiences for me. I hope to share topics of interest and hope you will send me suggestions for topics and continue to share all those interesting factoids with me. Please contact me at superiorequinesires@gmail.com if you have ideas to share.

My new assistant since 2016, when I relocated to Spokane, WA, is my daughter, Annie Grinolds. It has been a delight working together. She is smart, friendly, capable, polite, has great phone skills, and can even spell! Though she was raised on our family horse farm and thus has good basic knowledge of horses and rode a bit as a kid, she was new to the warmblood world when she began working for me. Annie has studied diligently to learn about sport horses and really enjoys our work. She has been responsible for upping our social media presence and freeing me up to do things like, well, writing a blog.
A recent topic of interest to breeders has been Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome. When the topic first broke to the general public last April many people pretty much freaked out. Some were advocating eliminating all carriers from the breeding pool. Now that folks have had time to do some research, most have come to realize that the most critical thing is to test your mares. Then you can breed to any stallion without getting a fragile foal. You still have a 25% chance of getting a carrier, but a carrier can be a performance horse, or even be bred, as long as you breed it to a non-carrier, as then there is no risk of getting an lethal foal. Over time this gene can be eliminated from the warmblood population, without eliminating valuable bloodstock from the breeding population. Again, test your mares!
Yesterday, I received from Germany the book “The Hanoverian Horse,” by multiple authors. I’ve lusted for this book when I’ve seen it in the Verband’s sales booth at the stallion licensings. I haven’t purchased it because it’s only been available in German, so I was thrilled to see a 2018 edition in English. It’s a large-format 400 page book packed with the history of the Hanoverian and famous farms and breeders.  As I go through it, I’ll share some of the many insights. This tidbit of history details the first German breeding system:  
“Until the 17th and 18th century, horses predominantly reproduced without breeding control and selection in so called “wild studs” (Wildengestuet), untouched in nature from where they were captured and domesticated, depending on the individual purpose. Prezellius reported in 1777 about so-called “half-wild studs” with mares living in the wild all year round and stallions kept in the stable and only released back into the wild during the breeding season. This type of horse keeping can certainly be considered a first specific breeding measure, mainly implemented by studfarms, which were initially separated from rural horse breeding.”

I loved this little tidbit. It reminds me of the way Western ranches, beginning in the 1930s and 40s, turned out Army Remount Thoroughbred stallions with their “native” mares. The Army then made regular buying trips to the ranches to buy the tough, hardy offspring as mounts for the Army. Because the local cowboys had (and still have) a predilection for colored horses, many of the mares were colored. The offspring the Army didn’t buy were sent by the rail carload back East to be used as polo ponies and “English” horses. Old photos reveal many show horses of that time as having spots, high white socks and bald faces. I’ve often thought that the discrimination against colored horses that used to prevail in the early sport horse world here in North America was because people wanted to distinguish their European warmbloods from American-bred horses. Remember when sport horse owners and breeders only wanted solid bays with no chrome? Well, those days are long gone and even the Europeans have to admit that a good horse can be any color. And as many breeders have found out, you can have two horses of equal quality, but the one with four socks and blaze will usually sell first.
This reminds me of reading Mary O’Hara’s novels as a girl. She wrote a fictional series about her real life on the Remount Ranch in Wyoming. My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead and Green Grass of Wyoming are the titles of her books, and if you’ve never read them, you must. They are atmospheric and fun and actually helped inspire my vision of rural living. I used to look for the ranch when I drove past Tie Siding and Virginia Dare when I lived in Wyoming for a few years but I never managed to locate it.
A little commercial: Superior Equine Sires is the only semen brokerage in the country that still conducts "open" orders, where you can order any stallion from our list, depending on the country of the sale. This allows breeder to choose from a vast array of stallions not offered anywhere else. We also offer shipping services, if you prefer to buy your own semen and have us import it for you. 
With that, I’ll close for now but I’ll be back with more blog posts in the near future. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hanoverian Stallion Licensing, Verden, Germany, October 25--28, 2017

Okay, so I'm running behind with this post. Blame it on exhaustion and acute jetlag. But I wanted to at least offer a few comments on my favorite stallions' offerings and post the judge's comments on the premium stallions at the licensing.
Among the jumpers, the offspring of Grey Top (Graf Top / Singular Joter I) really impressed as a group. His eventing Bundeschampion son, Gentleman, made an appearance, along with several other of his kids, and they are a beautiful, athletic and impressive group. I have liked Grey Top since I first saw him several years ago at the Langestuet Celle. He's the new best hope for saving the venerated G line in Germany. Plus, his semen works really well, so that makes him even better in my book.
I also particularly liked the Stolzenbergs and the lone Cascadello I son who topped the jumper sales at 85,000 euros.
Seeing the first crop of nine sons of Finest presented reminded me of when I saw the first crop of his sire, Fuerstenball, presented at the licensing a few years ago. I remember looking down at a group of them from the top tier of the arena, and thinking they walked like "snakes," with a sinuous swing rippling through their toplines. The Finest sons were an equally impressive group and six were licensed. The second high seller of the auction was a Finest. His frozen semen is working very well, so I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of these charming horses in the US in the future.
Fuerstenball himself presented four sons at this licensing, all of whom were licensed. The rest of the entries were of varied and diverse pedigrees.
Prices and comments on premium stallions in auction:
7.  Cascadello I / For Keeps, 85,000 €, "Ability, movement, and genetics."
14. Contendro I / Stakkato, 45,000 €, "The best bloodlines for sport."
15. Cristallo Boy / Cassini II, 24,000 €, "Elegant, eager and a quick takeoff."
28. Quidam de Revel  / Cassini, 50,000 €, "Power, technique and demeanor."
30. Sivlio / Vulkano, 24,000 €, "Leaves nothing to be desired."
44. Dancier / Bonafatius, 90,000 €, "Elegant, powerful and light-footed."
46. Danzador / Royal Highness, 74,000 €, "Shines in his movements."
62. Finest / De Niro, 360,000 €, "Smooth, beautiful and a calm character."
75. Franziskus / De Niro, 55,000 €, "Energy and swing."
93. Livaldon / Worldly, 120,000 €, "Combines the genes of two top stallions."
96. Millennium / Donnerhall, 140,000 €, "Presence and very dynamic basic gaits."
97. Negro / Christ, 70,000 €, "Power and stability with special bloodlines."
102. Scuderia / Belissimo M, 54,000 €, "The powerful hind makes the front light."
105. Sezuan / Donnerhall, 650,000 €, "Well made and powerful with a good frame."
109. Toto Jr / Sandro Hit, 360 €, "Beauty and movement combined."

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Gerd Sosath for Stud and Sport

Gerd Sosath
October 26, 2017
A visit to the family owned and operated Gerd Sosath Stud is always interesting. You can count on Inga, Gerd’s wife, to ply you with cakes and coffee. Our group was shown around by Inga and daughter Janna, as Gerd and son Hendrik were busy at the Verden stallion licensing.
We looked at the stallions currently in residence. What a super group; though the stud has focused on jumpers (with Gerd riding many/most of them in the past), they maintain some nice dressage horses too. I particularly like that they are good legged and good footed horses. Many of their broodmares feature the bloodlines of Landadel, Lordanos and Landor S. All of their stallions are quiet and well manner, in beautiful condition and people oriented.
Adoro (Ampere/Donnerschwee/Landadel) is a typical Ampere: pretty, with a beautiful neck and smooth, powerful hindquarter.
Beniro (Bretton Woods/De Niro/Placido) is also a model of his sire. Tall, elegant and eye catching.
Casino Berlin (Berlin (Caspar)/Landor S/Carolus) is a tall fellow with a friendly demeanor who reeks of athleticism. “Impressive” doesn’t do him justice.
Casiro (Cassini II/Landgraf I/Ramiro) has a pedigree full of legendary sires but is amazingly modern in type. He’s charming and gregarious.
Florenz (Florencio/Sandro Hit/Donnerhall) This Bundeschampionat qualifier is as pretty as he is talented and is a real people horse.
For Dance (For Romance I/Rubiloh/Ehrentusch) A stallion with a “10” character that everyone loves to love. He brings a bit of a outcross dressage bloodline via Ehrentusch.
Diamant de Plaisir (Diamant de Semilly/For Pleasure/Landor S) This stallion’s pedigree combines several legendary sires and. He is made in the model of a Diamant—big and correct, with great caliber and those fabulous Diamant feet, which are good-sized with wide heels. These horses are built to hold up. And they can jump over your house!
Fuerst Fabrice (Fuerstenball/Sandro Hit/Castro) The utterly charming winner of the Oldenburg licensing in 2016 is one of a growing number of stallions out of Sandro Hit mares, who brings just what you’d expect (beauty, elegance, type, gaits).
Levisonn (Levisto/Lennon/Roman) This guy is a bona fide jumper, with the smooth gaits, prettiness and temperament to make lovely hunters. In fact, Sosath stallions Catoki and Lordanos have already produced champion hunters, indicating the carefulness with which they choose their breeding stallions for top performance, good characters and rideability.
Of course, the grand old man of the barn Lordanos (Landos/Ahorn Z/Calypso I) was very pleased to have company visit him. He is sweet natured and knows he’s a bigshot. Use him for making hunters or jumpers with really nice gaits. The cover of the most recent catalog features a picture of him with the Sosath grandbabies, one astride and one holding his lead.
Ogano (Ogano Sitte/Diarado/Cantus) This tall, modern stallion with the hard to find Darco bloodline is the model of a jumper. This is the kind of stallion that makes you say, “Yes! That’s a jumper.”
 Bundeschampion Devonport (Dancier/Ravallo/Westbury) was not at the farm on the day of our visit but we had the pleasure of seeing him in an exhibition ride at the Niedersachsen Hall the next day. All superlatives apply: beautiful, elegant, light footed, tactful movements and charisma all wrapped up in a shining black package. He knew he was on display and loved it.

The Sosath Stud makes good semen and stand behind their product. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Dressuerpferde Leistungszenrtrum Lodbergen

October 25, 2018
Dressuerpferde Leistungszenrtrum Lodbergen
Located in the pastoral German village of Lodbergen, the Dressuerpferde Leistungszentrum Lodbergen is a world class dressage center. We met with Lars Schoon for a look at most of the stallions currently in residence:
Best for Me (Bretton Woods/Latimer/Brentano II) is a large framed, strikingly beautiful stallion son of Bretton Woods, with the bling that gets him extra attention.
Dominy (Diamond Hit/Pour Plaisir/Piaster) is and elegant stallion in the mold of his sire, Diamond Hit. He is charming with an alert personality, exuding quality and class.
Finest Selection (Follow Me/Lauries Crusador xx/Donnerhall) was under saddle and in the ring for a training session when we arrived. He was going quietly and nicely for his age and has a lot of eye appeal and should offer some refining ability as a sire.
Frascino (Fuerst Wilhelm/Don Frederico/Wolkenstein II) is interesting for his relation to Desperados on the sire’s side and Don Frederico on the bottom, combined with Wokenstein II, called the “jumping Weltmeyer.” An interesting way to bring performance blood to a dressage pedigree.
Herakles (Gribaldi/Michelangelo/Arthus) brings the best Trakehner blood to sport horse breeding. Trakehners are sometimes looked down on in North America, but I’ve noticed many top breeders in Europe regularly use them. Look at a photo of a Trakehner from 1929 and a Hanoverian or Oldenburg from 1929 and it’s apparent why they have been called “the Improver.” This guy brings their best qualities forward.
Quel Plaisir Quantensprung/Placido/Corlando) is one of the first crop of stallions by Quantensprung, from which seven of his sons were licensed. Lars Schoon commented that he was a bit “sensitive” when worked with as a youngster on the ground, but under saddle became a focused and willing worker.
Rock for Me (Rock Forever I/Florencio I/Longchamp) is a typical Rock Forever, a model of a horse with a beautiful burnished-bay coat and a charming disposition.
A couple of “oldies but goodies” we saw at the station are Royal Doruto (Royal Hit/Rubinstein I/Matador), Rubin Royal (Rohdiamant/Grundstein II/Akzent II) and Couleur Rubin (Cordalme/Grannus/Ramino). These grand older fellows need no introduction, having proven themselves through the years.
The highlight of our visit to Lodbergen was the serendipitous opportunity to happen into the arena viewing area when Dante Weltino (Danone I/Welt Hit II/Noble Roi xx) came out under Swedish rider Therese Nilshagen for a training session. As if that wasn’t enough, Klaus Balkenhol soon arrived to coach her lesson. Unfortunately, they won’t be making frozen semen from him for a couple of years, while he pursues his dressage career.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Verden, Germany, October 24, 2017
Hengststation Boeckmann, Lastrup
A visit to the Boeckmann station is always a pleasure. Wibke Hammermann is welcoming and friendly and gladly showed me and my guests and around the farm. Its white brick buildings, spacious, well-kept pastures and surrounding forest create an idyllic haven for horses.
Many of the stallions were absent at this time of year but we still had a nice tour of the stallion barn:
Checkter (Cellestial/Lord Pezi/Ile de Bourbon) was one of the best four year old jumpers in Germany last year. He is a calm, confident young stallion with an appealing character and a nice type for sport.
Fire and Ice (For Contest/Coronino/Lados) represents the For Pleasure line, which continues to exert its influence at the highest level of international sport. This young stallion is moving up the ranks.
We enjoyed watching Floriscount (Florencio/Donnerhall/Waldorf) training. He is a beautiful stallion with a strong impression of athleticism and is very serious about his job, making it apparent that he enjoys his work.
And of course we saw the star of the stable, Fidertanz (Fidermark/Ravallo/FruehlingstraumII). So gorgeous, harmonious and noble—he is the epitome of a warmblood stallion. He is quiet with impeccable manners and knows he’s on display, relishing the admiration.

While at the Boeckmann station, I got to meet Wibke’s new colleague, Christoph Rowald, who offers breeding advice. I look forward to another year of working with both of them. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Verden, Germany, October 22, 2017

Verden, Germany, October 22, 2017
We began our trip in Italy and spent four days in Venice sightseeing, shopping and eating pasta. Then we traveled to Vienna, where I met with my colleague/friend Dr. Sven Budik of the University of Vienna Veterinary School. Dr. Budik is one of the world’s foremost authorities on freezing and transferring embryos and doing ICSI. He sometimes comes to the United States and is always interested in speaking with people about his specialties. During our conversation, he informed me that DNA testing has proven that all women are descendants of one of eight different women, while all men are descended from one single man. Of course I exclaimed “this explains so much.” Being a bit doubtful, I did a little web research and it backed up his assertion. Food for thought.
While having an after dinner digestive in the Hotel Holtje bar last night, I introduced myself to the man sitting next to me who represented the Haras de la Gesse in France, which prompted the guy next to him to exclaim, “Hey, I know you!” It was Dr. Miguel Bleibernicht who produced the Rubi AR (Lusitano) semen that I have offered for the past couple of years and which is excellent. Turns out he studied at the University of Vienna under Dr. Budik, whom he contacted for verification of the all-men-from-one-man theory.
My assistant/daughter Annie and I attended the pony koering for a while yesterday. They inspect New Forest, Welsh, Shetland and Hanoverian Riding Ponies. I discerned that many of the riding ponies contain Frierenhof Stuecker bloodlines, which I offer on my roster. I loved the Shetlands, which are the old-school Thelwell Pony type I learned to ride (persevere) on: shaggy and funny and cute as heck. They haven’t yet evolved into the miniature Saddlebred type of our American Shetlands, though I suppose there are some North Americans breeding the same type as Germany.
Gestuet WM
On Saturday we visited Gestuet WM and were shown the stallions curently at the stable, by Ecki Wahlers. It was very kind of him to take time with us, since they are building a new stable area and have six young stallions to take to the Hanoverian Stallion Licensing on the 25th. He took the blankets off each stallion and let us take our time looking at them and ask questions. (At some stations they rush you down the center aisle, pointing to heads hanging over stall doors and calling out the names of blanketed stallions, so I really appreciate it when they take the time to actually show you the horses.)
Based on the viewing, I have a few observations about the stallions we saw:
Martinez (Millennium/Laurentio/De Niro) is a charming young stallion who exhibits his Trakehner influence in his finely chiseled head, beauty, elegant type and alert demeanor. He is active and likes to play in his stall, “killing” on average one rubber play ball per day.  
Fantastic (Fuerst Romancier/Sandro Hit/Welt Hit II) is, well, fantastic. He is a handsome and friendly fellow, interested in meeting his visitors. He is a beautiful and harmonious individual as his pedigree would indicate.
Bon Coeur (Benetton Dream/Sandro Hit/Carismo) reminds me very much of his sire in type and conformation. He is cordial but somewhat reserved in his demeanor.
Finest (Fuerstenball/Wie Weltmeyer/Prince Thatch xx) is referred to around the stable as the “king.” He is incredibly wide between the eyes and has a huge, kind eye. One of the most intelligent looking horses I’ve ever seen. He is charming and friendly and as gentle and kind as a kid’s horse. Ecki Wahlers told us that he is so special to the family because he was orphaned at ten days old and bottle fed around the clock by his wife and children.
Secret (Sezuan/St. Moritz/Rotspon) is the stallion everyone’s been waiting to hear about, and it’s no secret that he’s sensational. He is a handsome and charming stallion with a deep heart girth and capacious body well-connected to a big, smooth-muscled hind end that helps account for his dressage excellence. We look forward to offering his semen in 2018, and have pre ordered it, contingent on the frozen semen quality being acceptable.
Gestuet WM has provided us with great semen quality in the past and stands behind their product. I was impressed with their stallions, who have obviously been well reared and well trained and love their owners. This is a wonderful family owned and operated facility whose horses are part of the family.