"I was the only rider in the GCT on a home bred horse"

William Funnell 
Show Jumper 
Of the greatest show jumping breeders in Great Britain evidentially are top show jumping rider William Funnell and Donal Barnwell of The Billy Stud. Last year Funnell was in the top thirty on the Longines Ranking, thanks to his home bred AES horses. His fully AES approved stallion Billy Congo helped him and Great Britain to win team gold at the European Championships in Herning, Denmark in 2013. A Tuesday evening in October we pass by William Funnell’s farm near Dorking and stop by his favourite pub to have a chat. While consuming a glass of beer and a good steak, William talks extensively about his breeding program and his aims in the sport, about what he likes about his life and about his “eventing wife” Pippa Funnell of course. We just passed by your breeding farm. It looks huge. How many foals do you breed every year? We have about seventy right now, but we have already sold a few. Seventeen? No, seventy! We cleaned some mares lately, but do more embryos now. We started with ET five years ago and we can see the difference. We are now trying to focus more on our best mares. That’s what everybody is doing right now. The breeding has changed. In the future we want to have thirty embryos a year and fifty normal born foals. This year we started to do the embryo transfer at home. We have enough of our own mares to use, so we don’t have to rent foreign surrogate mares. My goodness! Do you really think you have to breed in these large numbers to get something really good? It’s hard to draw a line. If it was a science, it would be easy to breed GP horses. We have already sold broodmares that afterwards seemed to have given interesting foals. If you could see it all before, it would be easy. We started to breed on a bigger scale five years ago. How did it all get started? Twenty years ago Donal and I bred our first foal together. We got to know each other when I worked at the Brendon Stud for the Light family as a young man. Donal often called in at the Brendon Stud to loose jump horses. Later on he became a dealer and I a rider. Donal and I had some horses together and our first foal came from a mare who had been injured. Her name was Tatum. She was an Irish horse by Clover Hill. We couldn’t do anything but breed from her. Maybe it was faith that pushed us in this direction. Also luck was on our side. The mare we started with was a very good jumper. She was meant for sport, but used for breeding. That’s how it should be. Little by little we realized she could be the founder of a nice breeding story. From the beginning we believed that crossing the Irish blood with the best European, could offer us top show jumping and eventing horses. Her first foal immediately turned out to be a GP horse. This was Billy Orange (Animo), who jumped in the Super League Nations Cups for The Netherlands with Roelof Bril.  There’s the Billy term already! In fact we named this first colt just Orange, because it was a chestnut. When he came in to start being ridden, a groom called him Billy. His sport name became Billy Orange and we kept the Billy name for our stud. The second foal out of our mare Tatum was Billy Autumn, also by Animo. She was a lovely filly, so we decided to cover her as a three-year old. The stallion we used was Vechta, a stallion by Voltaire who I had just bought in Scandinavia. I had seen him jump clean in the Grand Prix of Oslo as a seven-year-old and fell in love with him. The foal of this young mare and Vechta was Billy Congo, my current GP stallion. One more foal out of our first breeding mare Tatum jumps internationally at the moment. This is Billy Buttercup (Vechta) from the Norwegian Victoria Gulliksen. She mostly jumps the small tour 1.40m-1.50m classes, but she’s often placed. Could you see Billy Congo’s skills from the day he was born? In fact we decided to keep him entire and not sell him because he was a brilliant foal and because his mother started to perform so well. Congo was four when his mother won her first GP in Canada. She would even win a car at Spruce Meadows in Calgary later on, so it wasn’t surprising that Billy Congo ended up being a GP horse as well.  You had Vechta, but also acquired Cevin Z as a breeding stallion. Did you use your own stallions to reduce the expenses? We did, but we had already started to use more foreign semen. I don’t think it’s smart not to use top stallions because of the price of the semen. For 2.000 or 3.000 euro you can use any of the best stallions in the world. The stallion is the cheapest part, as long as the semen is good. The only problem is the quality of frozen semen. Often they send the worst straws from Europe to England. But when you have fertile semen, those few pounds can make the difference in the end, when you have a good jumper. However, with our own or with local stallions we were lucky. First we used Animo a lot, because he was stationed in the neighborhood and he was a blood stallion with an Olympic record. He has given a strong base to our breeding operation. Later on I bought Vechta and received Cevin Z as a gift from Heather McPherson, which brought more success to the breeding programme. Vechta was unbelievable. He was to jump the World Championships with me, but was injured just before. He was nearly there. I remarked Cevin Z in the Foxhunter class in Birmingham. Also my home bred stallion Billy Congo has delivered very promising young stock, but I don’t think it’s necessary to use only own stallions. Right now we have fifty percent foals from our own stallions and fifty percent from foreign stallions.  And which stallion brought you the best horses? Billy Congo is the best! No, I’m a modest man, but I’m just so in love with some of the young horses by Billy Congo. Some six- and seven-year-olds in my stables. What I experience with Billy Congo is that he gives blood and produces careful sport types. There aren’t many stallions like that. For most stallions you need a blood mare. He doesn’t need that. I think most people don’t even realise how good he is because I think he is suited more to the European mares than the English blood types. He’s good on the typical continental mares, because he’s a strong horse with a good back and good hind end. That’s why I think we should sell more semen to Europe. There are not enough stallions with this type in Europe. Together with Kees Van Den Oetelaar I’m dividing the semen in Europe now. We have just finished another period of freezing his semen. His semen is better than any other. And his frozen is as good as the fresh.   Do you also breed eventing horses for your wife (Pippa Funnell)? Of course she rides some home bred horses, but most of the time this happens coincidentally. We don’t really breed in that direction. We don’t use thoroughbreds anymore, but some horses just seem to be suiting the eventing sport better than the show jumping. We just try to breed sport and blood types, which boosts our chances. Look at the top four horses at WEG. You could easily make a top eventer of Jeroen Dubbeldam’s horse, from Casall and from the French one. You really need blood in general. When you use too much Darco or Cassini, you end up too cold. It’s the same for me as for her.  How much is she involved? Of course we don’t ride all the horses ourselves. We have lads to produce the young ones. But I can say we both do important work. Besides that Pippa is busy writing children novels. She has begun the 21 st  book now. It started some six years ago and the books are getting really popular.   So she’s already thinking about the retirement pension?! Back to business… How does the cooperation between you and Donal work exactly? We discuss everything and always seem have the same opinion. We make each other complete. I couldn’t do better than to work with him. He’s even more of a horse expert than me. He does the breeding part. When they are three and a half year old, they come to me. We don’t really select before, because all the young ones are in groups in the field. We have some dry land where they can stay out during the winter. We don’t do anything with them before they come in. It works well. We don’t have a lot of trouble, because the first weeks when the foals are born, we handle them a lot. They remember that forever. They are not wild when they come in three and a half years later, but they come to me loose. We put them in the stalls and from there start working individually. Horse by horse we judge the quality and decide which direction to take with each one. Some will be sold sooner than others. Certainly there is a market for many of them. In England a lot of horses are imported from Holland and Germany. Lower quality horses. The breeding of jumpers here is smaller, so we have the tradition of importing horses. I think in the future the English have to provide their own horses, like we do. When people come to us to buy a horse, they know it was exclusively produced by us, which is a plus point. They also know we have more horses when they need the next one. More and more people approach us for horses as a result. We’re making progress. We don’t see you in the show jumping ring anywhere right now. Is this the time of the year you start with the young ones? In fact I’m finished competing until the Sunshine Tour next spring. Billy Congo was injured in Lummen, where he won the Grand Prix this Spring, so I didn’t have the horses ready to compete at the highest level. That’s why I took it a bit easier for the rest of the year. I gave my stallion a longer break than necessary, but he’ll be back at the beginning of 2015. I like the shows, but only when I’m able to perform. Last year when I was in the top thirty of the world ranking, I was invited to every big show in the world. I was placed many times in the Global Champions Tour shows, so I stayed in that top thirty. It was the time of my life, as I was the only rider on that circuit winning prizes with home bred horses. I enjoyed it, but I don’t need it to be a happy man. I’m not frustrated about having lost my position. I’m not obsessed by the Longines Ranking. I think that’s the only way to keep enjoying it. Once you lose your top horse, it’s nearly impossible to stay in. It’s important to know that as a rider. Next year my other horses will still be too young. I don’t want to burn them out. That’s the reason I planned another quiet year for Billy Congo next year. In 2016 I want to be on top of the game with a nice string of horses again, because I think Billy Congo is a horse able to jump the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I hope we can jump in the team again, like we did in Herning, where we won the team gold for Britain at the European Championships. In the meantime you enjoy working with the young ones. I like the sport as much as I like working with the young ones, but I wouldn’t want to miss either of those two activities. I like riding a Grand Prix, but on Monday back home I also like to loose jump the three year olds. I study the horses and constantly try to improve what we do.  There are few people making money by breeding horses, but you do. How come? Like I said we always try to improve ourselves and we have been lucky from the beginning. From our first Irish broodmare Tatum we have sold three Grand Prix horses. We had a portion of luck with the accident to this mare. She was expensive and she got injured, but the foals made the profit. Because we want to produce the best horses and keep on making money from the breeding, we now use more frozen semen from top stallions than ever. We want horses that can keep us at the top of the sport. They have to be good enough for the international level we compete at. That’s our aim. Also because we produce our own horses, we can make more money that way. My goal is to have fifteen seven-year-old horses ready every year for the international sport and available to commercialize. It works well like this and we are still growing. 
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"I will use all this helpful information provided by the AES"

Prince Torki 
member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia 
His Royal Highness Prince Torki Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al Kabeer must be the only Saudi showjumping horse breeder whose home bred horse has won a medal at the Olympic Games. As the breeder of London 2012 team bronze medalist Sultan V, Prince Torki gained lots of respect worldwide for his stud Old Lodge in Ashdown Forest. Certainly because the Olympic horse Sultan V was not just a fluke. Prince Torki, member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia, is very passionate about show jumping and has approximately fifteen foals a year. They all get an AES passport. He uses the best mares and stallions and the foals develop in the best circumstances, with the best care. This we can witness after visiting the Prince at his wonderful stud. It’s a unique location where the Prince’s horses grow up. In the middle of Ashdown Forest,  in Uckfield, East-Sussex, he has a 180 acres stud land territory just for the horses. He bought the property twenty years ago, since it was a unique and preserved area where construction permission was difficult to get, but he eventually managed to persuade the local authority to grant him permission to build stable for the horses because he is one of the leading breeders in England. This benefits the horse industry ofcourse. That’s why he has now temporary stables on the hill just one hundred meters away from the main house, a huge manor. Call it a castle, with massive walls, impressive decoration, a wonderful view. The house is being well looked after by a local couple residing in a detached house next to the main house. There are horse pictures and valuable paintings in every room. Other pictures show the Prince of Saudi in meetings with George W. Bush, Nelson Mandela, the presidents of China, Argentina, and many other head of states and highly ranked officials. The house was built by Henry VIII in the 16 th  century and has always been used as a hunting lodge. Prince Torki renovated it totally, but it wasn’t easy. After being granted building permission a new huge remarkable building will rise in Ashdown Forest, to stable the young ones and the broodmares. The ridden horses are in training with professional riders. Prince Torki is very strenuous to make sure his horses grow up in the best circumstances and he knows why. As experienced thoroughbred breeders, the Saudi’s know how to breed top horses and how to produce them. The instinct and the knowledge from the race horse breeding, he also uses for the show jumpers. He has educated people working for him and the stud manager Carolyn Murdoch treats every single horse as if it were hers. She currently runs the breeding farm professionally and has things well organized. The horses are very well cared for and mannered. To inspect every single horse and to make up diagrams and reports for the Anglo European Studbook, all horses were shown on hand in front of the judges. Recently weaned foals give their legs as if they have done it every day. Horses are shown in top condition. The feet are trimmed at regular base. It’s remarkable, but Carolyn gives us the explanation: ‘Also when you have a lot of horses to manage, it’s important you still treat them individually. When we bring in mares and foals, we always catch both, the mare and the foal. That’s how we start to learn leading them. It makes work much easier to handle them, deworm them and trim the feet. We can do that in the field! Foals go to the blacksmith every four to six weeks. Together with the vet and the blacksmith we follow up the growth of the legs of the foals.’ Watching them one by one, we see top bloodlines and promising looking horses. The 2014 foals are by Kannan, Corland, Diamant de Semilly, Presley Boy, Nabab de Rêve, Super Trooper de Ness, Clinton, Cassini and Concorde to name some. The years before also Arko III, Locarno, Armitage, Conterno Grande, Calido, Nonstop, Vigo d’Arsouilles, Clinton and Mylord Carthago have been used. Also the mothers have great certificates. Most of them have an FEI passport. In Ashdown Forest, they are breeding with the homebred mare R. Little Lefanie (Indoctro), former British 7 year old champion and gold medalist at the European Championship for Young Riders. Then Geoff Luckett took over the ride winning many GP’s and her last competition ever was at the Bolesworth International show, where she won the Grand Prix. In addition, mother Lefanie had a filly again this year. C’Est Tres Chique (Cassini II) and Twilight (Vert et Rouge) jumped internationally and produced international show jumpers lately. The mare Lianta, mother of Olympic horse Sultan with Abdullah Al Sharbatly and GP winner Brickfield Boy (Geoff Luckett), is still used for breeding, just as her daughter Dorina (Chin Chin). Furthermore Oaklahoma (Larome) is a valuable mother as she got the highest marks ever given by the AES judges. She is now in foal to Spartacus. The progeny of Prince Torki’s mares delivered five AES approved stallions in 2014. And there are more to come. We have seen a very strong group of two-year-old colts, sired by Action Breaker, Numero Uno, Corland and Super Trooper de Ness. Prince Torki bred several foals sired by this last stallion. Super Trooper de Ness was acquired as a young stallion at the sale and sold to the USA when he was a GP horse. He finished 5 th  at the worldcup final in Gothenburg. The Prince has always regretted the decision to sell him.  In the USA he’s been showing under the saddle of Katie Dinan, Mclain Ward and nowadays under Beat Mändli. Because of his unbelievable jumping qualities, the semen of the stallion was much used at Old Lodge and also the half sister of Super Trooper was acquired for breeding. Also many sport horses that the Prince bought, are jumping in the top of the sport right now. Think about Golden Hawk with Shane Breen, Zanzibar under Ellen Whitaker, Shahenaz with Michael Duffy and Lord of Arabia (John Whitaker), who won a class and placed second twice at HOYS in Birmingham this year. Also at HOYS Nicole Pavitt placed third in the Foxhunter Championship on Old Lodge Contessa. Your horses did well at Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham. Congratulations! Thank you. Lord of Arabia was amazing, not touching any pole for the whole week. He started on Wednesday with an easy fifth place, won on Friday and placed second twice in the weekend. It was not an easy show, with some of the world’s top riders present. Outstanding horse, but top rider as well. John Whitaker is riding the gelding. My two young mares were ridden by Nicole Pavitt. Tia Semilly won the Newcomer’s. Contessa ended up third in the Foxhunter championship, a very prestigious class in the UK, and she could have won. They changed bits in the last minute before going into the ring the first day, which was not a good decision. The second day was better, but she had to go in the ring the first, which is always a disadvantage. We ended up being too slow, but we should have won with a mare like this. You like to win, Sir? I love it! I go to the shows every time I am in England. I like the sport and I like to win, but I know the game very well after all these years. You win some and you lose some. You know what I like the most? That I compete with horses we bred. I breed to compete at high level. It is even more special when you see a foal you bred entering the ring. So you hope to be competitive with home bred horses. That is our aim indeed and we succeeded already several times with Sultan, Brickfield Boy, Little Lefanie and many other. We were fortunate, but only because we work hard for it. You have to make your luck. We really want to be in the top, nothing less. That’s why sometimes we have to sell some horses. Not to make money, but just because the horse is not good enough for what I aim. Mares have to be able to jump 1.40m. Then they can stay for the breeding. Geldings must compete at 1.50m or 1.60m. Otherwise I sell. That doesn’t mean they are not good horses. Just not good enough for my request. Still thousands of riders would be happy with a horse like that.  Where does the passion for horses come from? It’s a family tradition. I grew up in an environment in which top horses always had a central place in life. In Saudi Arabia right now I have 250 race horses. We have the leading stable in our country, with 150 horses in training. I also have the International horse riding school in Riyadh for young showjumping riders, which was the starting point for many top Saudi show jumpers. Horse riding and breeding is a family tradition, but not breeding jumping horses. Historically we are thoroughbred and Arabian horse breeders, but in fact you can compare it to breeding jumping horses. Only the best performing mares and stallions can give good foals. We never use commercially interesting stallion, only stallions proven in the sport. What they have not done themselves, they cannot pass on to their descendants. Using young stallions is a risk that I don’t take. It’s the same with camel breeding. In our country camels are used for racing and shows. The best parents give the most expensive foals. Recently we sold a camel for one million pound. My father learned me to never buy something because it’s cheap. His advice was to buy something good, even if it’s expensive. All my life I kept that advice in mind. Also the mares you breed with all have competed. We’ve seen your three-year-old mares, but none of them is in foal? We take the three-year-olds now to riders specialized in breaking and producing young horses. We give every horse a chance, the ones that prove to have big potential, move on to an international rider. The best mares will be used for breeding by the use of embryo transfer. I use this technique often because I want the best foals from my best mares, whilst the mares can compete in the same time. Just during the breeding season those mares get a few months sport break, because I think it’s hard to get a mare pregnant when she’s in training. How come you have your jumping horses in England? I started studying at Cambridge University and London University in 1973 and during my stay I bought one race horse at an auction. That horse won the Queen’s Stake as well as the Norfolk Stake at the Royal Ascot meeting and many other important stakes. It encouraged me to start breeding where I bought Brickfield Stud in New Market. When I finished my studies successfully, I went back home to work for my Government where it became difficult for me to attend racing because of the commitments of my job, and whenever I have a holiday I always like to spend it with my horses. Flat racing is more popular worldwide but I lately enjoy showjumping because it lasts longer, because one clas in a show jumping competition could last more than an hour with the jump off, whereas in flat racing it’s a matter of minutes. In show jumping you can see the warming up session before the start of each class and you can enjoy the show from morning till evening. When did you start up your British breeding farm? I started horse breeding at Brickfield Stud in New Market in the late 70's and after that I moved to Oldlodge Stud in Ashdown Forest where expansion in our breeding program kicked off. We bought more mares and used top stallions to cover them. Oldlodge is considered as one of the most successful breeding studs in the UK, because we are more selective with the mares and we make a lot of studies in considering which stallion to use with which mare taking into account conformation, pedigree, performance, temperament, and previous offspring. Which horses did you start the breeding program with? When I decided to start the breeding program, I went to the Dutch VDL Stud to buy some mares. Lianta (Voltaire) and Lefanie (Damiro) were two of the five I picked out. A few years later, when the first foals were growing up, my eldest son Prince Sultan came to watch the horses. He had one favorite, a strong, grey colt by Irco Mena. I said okay, you can have him. I asked him which name he would give him? He said "I will name him Sultan V". I was surprised, because that’s a huge risk. In our language Sultan means King or Monarch. It’s a very glorious title. My father always told me: carefully choose a horse's name. Only give a horse a special name like this when there is a sign he’s going to be a top horse. That’s why we take our time with filling out the names in the passports. Mostly we don’t give them a name before they get ridden. Maybe we’re a bit superstitious, but we think there’s more chance you get a good one, when you wait with giving names. But my son didn’t, he was convinced about the foal. And he was right? The horse Sultan V was big and solid when he was around three and four years old and when he was cantering and free jumping we realized that he had the potential of being top class horse. That’s why we didn’t rush him in the training process. We castrated him because he was very difficult to handle being a big and strong horse. We thought about a calm and steady rider and have chosen Bruce Menzies. One day Bruce called me to ask if I wanted to see the horse jump. I went to his yard and saw the most powerful young horse I had ever seen. He jumped like a ten-year-old horse and a bit later he started winning. It wasn’t a surprise that Sultan V went on to win the Foxhunter Championship in Birmingham and the Scope Festival National championship. When Sultan V was nine years old, the British chef d’equipe Rob Hoekstra asked me if Sultan V would be available to be part of the British Nations cup team in Gijon in Spain, I accepted his request and he jumped double clear in the Nations Cup and placed second in the five star Grand Prix. Rob Hoekstra asked me if I would keep the horse available for the British team. Of course I said yes. I would never sell the horse and because it worked out so well with Bruce Menzies, he was meant to keep the ride. But when I was in Saudi Arabia, my cousin called me. He was in charge of the Saudi Equestrian Team and told me he had a message from the King. The Saudi Arabian team has qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and was in need of top horses to compete with. During that time my cousin approached me and told me that the Saudi Team was acquiring top horses and Sultan V was one of them. He wanted the horse to represent the Middle East at the Olympic Games in show jumping, to compete with the Saudi Team. The Custodian of the Two holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz AlSaud supports the Saudi Team and bought top horses for them. My Son Prince Sultan and myself decided to give the horse Sultan V as a gift to the King which he kindly accepted, and was later given from the King to the Saudi Equestrian Showjumping Team. With that team he won bronze team medal at London Olympics. Luckily I still have two full brothers to Sultan V which are two years old now, and I also have a a five year old stallion which is half brother to Sultan V and full brother to Brickfield boy. His current performance indicates that he could be a top horse for the future. I also have his half-sister Sultana now being ridden by Bruce Menzies. Do you stick with those pedigree lines you have now? In breeding you always have to look for new blood which I'm currently doing. I always go for mares with top performance as well as top pedigree and good confirmation. I think it’s important to have a great variety in your breeding program, its not advisable to stick to one line. Choosing the right stallion for the right mare is essential. I mean conformation, performance, or temperament wise. I always prefer to choose stallions that have proven themselves through their progeny. I always follow closely the result of the top stallions and which breeding lines they successfully combine with. I look at it as a hobby and feel so excited when I see the horses I bred doing well in competitions. I’m breeding horses my entire life, but I'm still open to listen to experts' advice. When we do my horse breeding program I always try to select the right horse for the right mare. There is no point of sending a big mare to a big horse, cause you'll end up with a giant and vice versa. It is essential to be very selective and careful when you make your breeding program. Nowadays, in show jumping you need horses with more blood because the jumping courses have been more technical and difficult where you need a strong quick and careful horse. That’s why breeding nowadays became so difficult and more technical.  I really appreciate what Anglo European Studbook (AES) is doing now by judging all AES born horses and making reports. I use all this helpful information provided by them, because I feel they are doing a professional job and are being more selective and careful in their choices and judgment. I use their information and comments when I choose the suitable stallions for my mares. I feel I’m in the right direction cooperating with the AES and there useful information. Their effort to improve the studbook must be appreciated by all of us, and will be a very useful reference for the future. Final question. What about the Saudi team? They won the bronze in London, silver individual at the WEG in Kentucky, but didn’t come with a team to the WEG in Normandy this summer. The Saudi team riders are considered to be one of the best riders in the sport, where they have proven themselves internationally such as in the London Olympics, WEG in Kentucky, Sydney Olympics, the Global Champions Tour, the Arab league, and other various international events. Unfortenatly most of the Saudi Equestrian team horses suffer from injuries including Sultan V. And lately one of the top international horses that was ridden by Khaled Aleid, Presley Boy, has passed away. Also the Silver medalist Seldana at the 2010 World Equestrian Games suffers an injury. And HRH Prince Abdullah bin Miteb AlSaud and Davos have both retired from the sport. With these big losses it will be difficult for the team to maintain a high level of participation. Except Abdullah Al Sharbatly  is currently competing very well with his own horses. We hope the team will acquire top horses in order to be able to have a complete team for the upcoming international competitions. London 2012 was a super moment for our team. I was proud watching my country's team winning the team bronze in such a very competitive and difficult competition at the most important sport event internationally. It was an outstanding moment and amazing feeling. It was even more astonishing because my home bred horse Sultan V was representing my country.
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"Horse breeders must think more into European terms"

Mario Everse 
One of the most popular young AES stallions of the season listens to the name E-Star (photo). It’s one of the few approved sons of Nick Skelton’s show jumper Big Star. Just like his father, E-Star was produced by Mario and Mischa Everse in Waddinxveen, a Dutch village between Rotterdam and Utrecht. Once Mario Everse ran a huge hairdresser’s chain. Today he is one of the biggest horse breeders in the Netherlands, and an AES breeder!   E-Star is one of the most used young stallions of the country. Was that what you expected? Normally you would think an AES approved stallion would cover less mares, not? In the Netherlands breeders are still a bit supercilious about the studbook, because they have a long tradition with KWPN. Nevertheless I don’t think we need to talk about AES like that. I consider it as a full-fledged studbook, which has occupied a place between the best of the world on the WBFSH world ranking. The fact that E-Star was so much used lately, means a change is happening. In the recent past only KWPN approved stallions got that many mares. I know that not all AES stallions will breed this much, but it’s the same for KWPN. Many of the young stallions only breed few. If a stallion doesn’t prove himself in the show arena, he will not be accepted by the breeders anymore, whatever studbook we’re talking about. I think that’s a good evolution.   How do you think the breeding will further develop? I’m convinced that the breeders will not keep on appreciating the bureaucracy of the established studbooks. It will need a few more years, but I think horse breeding will end up being a European activity without frontiers. Breeders will think more in European terms, like AES is doing already for a while. To guarantee the quality of our horses, we will have to think global. In The Netherlands there’s still a doubt, but in Belgium AES is already more accepted. The Belgians are breeding better. That’s what I realized already many years ago. Dutch breeders stick with certain criteria, which are not linked to the sport. They think too much in frames, but as a business man, I always learned that “thinking out of the box” is the only way to progress. That’s what AES is realizing. There’s a sport culture for sure. The stallion approvals are proving that.   You think breeders in your area are concerning too much about the type of a horse? Indeed. An overload of model tests give the breeders a wrong image about breeding. They are convinced that those tests are important. Okay, I also like to have a good conformation, but that’s it. I don’t mind if the head is a bit bigger. I try to never forget that I want to breed horses for the big sport. That’s my first criterion.   Do you think an AES keuring is sufficiently strict? Some opponents say it’s not… For sure AES is more supple, but they will never grade a stallion that cannot jump. For sure they will be less strenuous about the model, but they have a good reason for that. In the end AES tries to preserve the real jumpers.   Big Star is the living proof of this. He was rejected during the first test of the KWPN stallion approvals and afterwards he got accepted by the AES. When he went to KWPN, I wasn’t owner yet, so I cannot tell you more about this case. In the end it was my luck that he wasn’t KWPN approved. Otherwise I had never been given the chance to buy the horse. He became four years of age when I bought 50% by his breeder. I had seen the horse at Alan Waldman’s. We have had him in our barn for one year. Egbert Schep then bought my part and less than one month later, Nick Skelton became the new owner. The life story of a horse can be very exciting. At first KWPN doesn’t want to see the horse when it’s three years old. Later on the same horse becomes the big promoter of the studbook. Thanks to Big Star, KWPN was the number one of the world ranking last year. When he started to perform so brilliantly, he was accepted as a breeding stallion by KWPN aswell, but that doesn’t say anything about recognizing the qualitiy of young horses.   Also E-Star was picked up by AES. What’s this story like? E-Star was appointed for the saddle test of the KWPN stallion approval, but I voluntary didn’t participate at that final test. I’m not a supporter of those heavy tests for three-year-old stallions. That’s why I have kept E-Star home. I think young horses are overloaded in Ermelo. The saddle test is a seventy day operation on location. Foreign people are riding the horses. You don’t know how they handle your horse and who’s riding it. I didn’t want to take that risk with E-Star. I didn’t mind to wait a bit longer before my horse showed his quality. Afterwards AES approved my stallion and not much later he seduced the breeders during the stallion competition.   Quality always comes above? That’s it! For whatever studbook your stallion is graded. In Holland breeders are still a bit attached to the KWPN criteria, but E-Star meets all requirements. I don’t see one reason why a KWPN breeder wouldn’t use this AES approved stallion. The foals can be entered in every studbook, as AES is a WBFSH renown studbook. Dutch breeders can get a KWPN A register passport with their foal, but  I am registering with AES. It’s not the paper that has to jump, it’s the horse!   What’s the story about E-Star? I have bred him at home. First I had his aunt Chocola Z (Carthago). Mischa placed fourth at the World Breeding championship in Lanaken with the mare when she was six. Later on she turned out to be a GP horse with Andrew Ramsay. That’s why I started looking for more horses from this damline. In the north of Holland, I found a half sister by Heartbreaker. I bought her in foal, but I injected the mare to reject the embryo. I covered her by Big Star and the result of that cross was E-Star. Afterwards the Heartbreaker mare seemed to be very fertile. In one year I had once seven foals out of her, through embryo transfer. Later I have bought and resold more horses out of this motherline, and I saw one common characteristic for all of them. They all can jump! This year I bred one full sister of E-Star.   Big Star doesn’t have a huge offspring. The semen is not for sale on the market, but it’s very much wanted. How much semen do you still have? Big Star has covered two times with us to freeze semen. I used some, but have still ten straws. I don’t sell any of them, however everybody keeps on calling for it. The quality of the semen is not very good. That’s why I wait before the ICSI technique is available in The Netherlands. Then I have more chances to get several foals out of this portion of semen. At the University of Utrecht, they are working hard to start providing ICSI. It means they instrumentally implant the sperm cell in the ovum, under the microscope. It’s a promising method to get mares pregnant when the quality of the semen or the mare herself is not very fertile.   E-Star looks different than Big Star. Is that also how you think about it? E-Star is more beautiful and more modern than his father. He’s jumping also a bit better behind, but furthermore I only see similarities. I have a video of Big Star when he was four. When you look at that before watching E-Star jump, then they really resemble each other. Their jumping style, their attitude, their balance and the gallop are equal. At that age they were both so eager, they had so much “blood”, that we never got high notes for ride ability. But in the end you need that “blood” to win the game!   E-Star sold to Janika Sprunger Just a while after this interview with Mario Everse, he sold his super star E-Star to Switzerland. The five-year-old talented grey horse was acquired by the sponsor of Janika Sprunger. Her top horse Palloubet d’Hallong was sold to Qatar for 11.000.000 euro last year, so now she’s looking for new horses of this quality. Last year she came to buy Bacardi VDL in Holland. Now it’s E-Star’s turn.   Stal Everse more focusing on breeding More and more the stable of Mario and Mischa Everse is focusing on breeding. Initially they sold mainly dealing horses, but nowadays they have more own breeding products in training. This year Everse had 22 new born foals. Mario: ‘It’s hard times to buy horses. Believe that from me. The horse business changed a lot in recent years. The best horses became much more expensive and the other ones you don’t want to have. That’s why I try to breed more myself now. Eighty percent of my horses are bred at home. I think it’s a tendency for all the big stables. More riders and dealers start to breed themselves, because they cannot buy the  horses anymore. And why wouldn’t we do it? The private breeders reduced their stock because of the economical crisis. The number of foals born in Europe reduced a lot. If the demand stays the same, then it’s interesting to keep on breeding.’ And Mario is breeding in large numbers: ‘Maybe it’s getting a bit too big. I think about reselling some breeding mares. When you start doing ET, it’s going fast!’ To accommodate all of these horses, Mario has bought a farm next to his training stable. There he has huge renovation plans, so he can keep all of his horses at home.
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"Someone has to breed!"

John Whitaker 
Show Jumping Rider 
John Whitaker is a famous show jumping rider, and an AES breeder. His stallions all were graded by AES. The foals are registered here aswell. Logically he uses his top stallion Argento mainly for the breeding nowadays. Hopefully one day the eldest Whitaker (58) will ride one of his own foals in the Global Champions Tour. So far it didn’t turn out that way. ‘The ones I bred never reached the level of the horses I bought, but British breeding is improving. We keep on trying, because someone has to breed them!’ Not many people know you are breeding? I’ve always been breeding a little bit, but now I have this stallion Argento, and my daughter is motivated to help me with it, I’m starting to be more involved. People are interested to use him. Nevertheless I realize the breeding in Great-Britain is small scaled compared to Europe. People are breeding thoroughbred mares to get show jumpers and eventing horses. There’s still a long way to go, but you have to start somewhere. Some breeders are getting bigger, like William Funnell and some others. I have six foals this year. Maybe it doesn’t make a big difference when you compare to Belgium, Germany, Holland and France, but someone has to do it. Which mares you use? Former sport horses? I mainly rode stallions in my carreer, but one mare I’m breeding with, jumped the World Championships at Aachen, not with me, but with Cassio Rivetti. Her name is Olona. She’s by Indorado x Nimmerdor. The mares I ride myself most often are quite old when they stop jumping, so after their career we don’t get too many foals out of them anymore. Besides breeding your own mares, you focus on selling semen of your stallions at Heyside Farm in West Yorkshire, I see on your website. You do quite some effort to commercialize the semen? Yes that’s true. We’ve always been selling semen, but before 2004 we didn’t have a website. Now my youngest daughter Joanne is involved, we can give the breeding all the chances. The breeding is a good income next to prize money now. She’s pushing the business a lot by promoting the stallions. We sell quite a lot of semen of Argento. He’s only a few weeks a year available to fresh, when they are freezing semen. The rest of the year I don’t want him to breed, because I have the experience stallions get crazy when the combine sport and breeding. Of course we always have frozen semen in stock. What about the Argento offspring? I cannot say anything of them so far. I just know they are beautiful and big, however he’s smaller himself. The eldest are five and starting to go under the saddle. Then there’s a gap of a few years and we got bigger numbers of foals born last year. As soon as he started to become successful in the sport, people wanted to use him. Now we have thirty mares a year pregnant. That’s a lot in Great-Britain, but not in Europe. So it would be nice to also break in the European market this year. He is a good breeder and he has an interesting bloodline with Arko III as the father and Jasper as the father of his dam’s father.  I hope Argento gets chances in the breeding, because when you don’t get the chance, it’s hard to succeed. You must have the chance and get good mares to produce good offspring. When other breeders notice the children are jumping good, they also start using him. It’s like a snowball effect. The more you roll, the greater you become. When did you buy Argento? I got him when he was four years old and we broke him in by ourselves. My daughter Louise rode it for two years. I took him over when he was seven. We’ve had him for seven years now and he has never disappointed us. He looked promising as a four-year-old and he turned out to be super careful, but also brave and honest. He’s always trying hard. He’s a real winner as well. Did he also win a lot as a young horse? We didn’t push him too much to win as a young horse. Because he was always so careful, I tried to give him nice experiences. Until today I focus on keeping him happy and confident, because he’s so careful. You’ve been hesitating about the last scope of Argento. Now he’s won some big GP’s in Germany and the CSI4* in Amsterdam, would you believe he could be a championship horse?  He’s always developed and today he’s jumping a big Grand Prix, so who knows? I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying definitely no. I just try to do the right thing for the horse and see what’s happening. When I keep him happy and confident, we don’t know where he will end. What’s your short term schedule for Argento? We do Hagen again, where we won the GP last year. After that we do Global Champions Tour in Madrid and after that maybe Hamburg. For sure I use him as my first horse this year. And next to him I’m developing Lord of Arabia as a second Grand Prix horse. I need certainly something to take some pressure away from Argento. One thing is sure. You don’t sell Argento! Indeed. All the time people keep asking a bit if I would be interested to sell, but that’s not the meaning. It’s difficult to do this sport without a horse and this is what we do in life, so I need a horse like him. It’s nice to have money, but money is not everything. This is my life. I still enjoy doing the shows and I like to win classes now again with this horse. He’s earning money, so we just continue like this. Which other stallions you offer the breeders? One of my former jumpers Cornetto King (Cornet Obolensky) is still available. I don’t ride him anymore because of his strong character, but he breeds very nice. Also Catwalk (Colman), my son Robert’s top horse, is available. I still have semen of my former grey top stallion Randi (Ramzes), which already died. All the stallions are fully AES approved. And when the mares have to be inseminated, you play the helping hand? Yeah, if I have to, I do that. I’m qualified to inseminate the mares, and when Joanne is not there I sometimes do it. As I mentioned we’re all very interested in the breeding. The whole process happens at home, except for freezing the semen. Does Michael breed? Yes he does. Not so much like me, but still he has four or five foals a year. What’s the best foal you ever bred? That’s a difficult question. I think it’s everybody’s dream to breed a superstar, but that’s no evidence. You have to accept what you get. We bred some nice ones, but up to now we’re still looking for that superstar. We still didn’t succeed in breeding, I admit that. But someone has to breed them, so hopefully one day we get that one top horse from our own breeding. We just try to keep crossing top mares and stallions and we wait for the result. It’s easier to buy them? Yes, then you buy what you like. When you breed, you have what you get. But still it’s so interesting. Really a lot of fun to see them grow up. We have own stallions, mares and a lot of fields, so why wouldn’t we do it? You like the breeding! That’s why you also breed cattle? I just have thirty. it’s more of a hobby. I like to see the animals in the fields around the stables. The farm is set on the hill above 140 acres of land, so it’s perfect for breeding at home. I like breeding and I always will.
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"AES scores with full fledged stallion grading in Schijndel"

Kees Van Den Oetelaar 
Friday April 4 the AES grading in Schijndel was scheduled in Riding School De Molenheide. Kees Van Den Oetelaar showed to be a successful new leader for the studbook. He left the judges’ table and moved to the secretary table to organize things. His efforts were highly respected by the public. Not less than fifty stallions were presented. The champions Black Bird and Gletsjer helped to raise the studbook to a higher level. ‘The world was not created in one day’, Van Den Oetelaar said at the day of the gradings in Schijndel. ‘We’re happy with the progession we made, but there is still a long way to go. It costs a lot of money to reorganize things. We want to give the studbook a new image. We’re modernizing and reorganizing.  We’re looking for sponsors who want to support us in all of this. We already found pancake producer Jan Vink of Abra-Ca-Debora willing to pay fifty percent of the printing cost of our new designed passports. And in the future we want to find sponsors to help us organize competitions for young AES horses.’ AES has great ambitions. Also the stallion gradings is in progression. It’s still a small-scale event, but they thought about all the details. They used a new ring, in which the horses jumped loose and two new judges entered the inspection team. Bernard Demets and Maikel Van der Vleuten debuted and both were enthusiast about the quality. Bernard Demets: ‘I followed all of the approvals in Europe and I remarked that AES has just the same quality as any other studbook.’ Maikel Van der Vleuten replaced his father Eric for the first time and felt comfortable judging aswell. ‘I don’t look so much at the pedigree. I just like a horse that can jump, no matter which pedigree it has. And those jumpers I really remarked today. Jumping champion Black Bird, brother of Orient Express Of the 28 stallions which were licensed, Black Bird (Street Hassle) appeared to be the most complete jumper of all. The French bred horse showed a lot of balance, great canter, scope and a good technique. Also his bloodline is top, as he’s a grandson of Quickstar out of the same mother as Orient Express (Quickstar), the third placed horse in the GP of Aachen last year. Their mother is also the half sister to the stallion Dollar de la Pierre. Owner Joop Aaldering also wants to mention the other owners of this horse, Mr. Van De Lageweg and Mr. Sinnack. ‘I bought Black Bird in France as a foal. The breeder Mr. Boureau was the best breeder of France that year. By him I also bought Quick Study, Street Hassle and Hors La Loi. He also bred Orient Express.’ Black Bird will in the future listen to the name Gare du Nord. He is also invited to do the saddle testing of KWPN in the end of the year, but thanks to his AES approval, he will already breed this year. Joop Aaldering: ‘I already had several requests from mare owners, so AES gives me this perfect solution.’ Dressage champion not for sale Dressage rider Wilma Van der Steen is the owner of the new crowned dressage champion Gletsjer, a nice and modern bay horse with elegant moves. The owner doesn’t have a stud, so she’s still not sure what will happen to her horse in the future. ‘I want to sell him because I don’t have a stud. Horses are not my job. I just ride dressage until intermediaire level. I do it for pleasure, but this horse is capable to do more.’ Wilma bought the horse as a foal.  He’s always had the looks from when he was born. Kees Van Den Oetelaar is super happy with the new champions and also with the average quality at this gradings. ‘A few years ago at AES you sometimes saw simple or not correct horses, but those we didn’t see any more today. We were very delighted with the lot of dressage horses. We could license and approve ten of them. In the past we often had not enough dressage blood on the list. Stallionneer Wim Schoukens brought none of his own stallions to Schijndel, but had one horse to present for a friend of his: ‘I recommend AES to all of my friends. Here you get the chance that you deserve and they give you enough time to prove it afterwards. My stallion Gotthardsen was approved for AES as a four year old. We didn’t need to do any obliged stallion competition or testing, so we gave our horse all the time he needed to grow out. When he was six, he was still green. The other approved stallions already jumped around like a perfect schooled horse. But a few years later my horse jumped Aachen and all of the others were gone. Who’s right then?’ Gaetan Stalpaert got the four year old stallion Don Darco de Bornival approved. He has chosen the AES because he doesn’t want to have any further obligations afterwards : ‘My horse will only start to jump as soon as the fences get higher. Until then I don’t want to exaggerate. I will not let him breed. I just wanted him to be licensed because that means extra value, I think.’ Adrie Jespers, the business partner of Wiebke Van De Lageweg and a neighbour of the riding place Molenheide in Schijndel, comes to watch every year. ‘I often remark interesting horses here! About the setting I can just say that you feel something is really changing at AES.’ Another stallion presenter came with a horse, previously not approved in another studbook. ‘I hope they take him here. Then I can do the stallion competition next year and then the judges that disapproved him will hopefully see that they made a huge mistake.’ Other stallion owners stated they chose AES because the public gradings here are much cheaper. Rik Van Miert of WBFSH: ‘No hesitations anymore’ Kees Van Den Oetelaar had to fix many things when he became the new AES director last year. Many illegalities had to be changed. That’s what WBFSH sub director Rik Van Miert said. The Belgian official came from Belgium to attend the gradings in Schijndel: ‘We had a lot of decent conversations with the new team of AES. We made clear that something had to change and when seeing the way how this grading is organized now, I really feel like they have understood our wishes. I think this is not the most eyecatching stallion approval, but horses get  the time to be decently presented to the judges. There is a good atmosphere and I think some horses show nice quality. Nothing makes me believe AES is still working as it did before. They are self-conscious and listen to what we ask.’
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"Also Jan Vinck chooses AES"

Jan Vinck 
Good news for every AES breeder. Jan Vink of Black Horses will be one of us and that will be a great aid for everyone. The Dutchman not only will register all of his own foals at AES. He’s also paying fifty percent of every registration of any other new foal in the studbook. Through his British pancake company Abra-Ca-Debora he’ll be a great new sponsor of AES. We talked with Jan Vink about the past, the present and the future, a future in a super modern equestrian complex. For example, in his giant new young horse stable, he uses an ingenious robot, unseen in this sector. Lately Jan Vink is taking centre stage in show jumping world. In dressage he was famous many longer. The coming years his influence on the breeding will only raise. Recently he bought a share in the breeding stallion Canturano. His dreams are big, his plans are ambitious and then we’re using understatements. We started the interview on a provisory table in a little storeroom in the rented barn at Sliedrecht, The Netherlands. ‘The meaning was to stay here for no longer than one or two years. We’re here for twelve years now already.’ Luxury  is totally absent. It’s only at the end of our talk, that his plans arise. Jan shows us his new building outline on the Ipad and drives us to his new stable for young horses a few miles away, where everything will happen automatically. On a square domain of sixty hectares, Jan has permission to build a new training stable next to this new young horse stable. ‘After twelve years of misery with unaccepted construction permissions, now we have all the permits in our hand.’  “A beautiful horse eats just the same as an ugly one.” ‘You have a hobby, sir?’ It’s now fifteen years ago. Jan Vink goes to the doctor and hears that he has high blood pressure. The doctor says: ‘You have a hobby, sir?’ He answers: ‘Producing pancakes and entertaining my wife and five children.’ The doctor reacts properly: ‘That was not the question. I asked if you had a hobby.’ Jan Vink came home with the good advice of the doctor and decided to buy two foals, because he already had the land. ‘I became passionate about the pedigree of the foals and I was enthusiastic to breed my own foals. Therefore I had to wait three more years until my foals had been grown up. I didn’t have the patience for that, so I decided to buy two mares. Three years later I already had quite a number of horses and I rented the place where we still have the stallions today.’ And the blood pressure? That one luckily reduced to normal standards. Mr. Vink already had a history with horses. ‘My father was a farmer. When I was twelve, he bought a new tractor and together he got a foal as a present from the tractor dealer. That’s how it all started. Later I’ve been active in driving sport. I still have some driving horses in the barn. Fascinated by breeding ‘I like breeding.’ It’s the understatement of the day, used by Jan Vink. He’s not a man of a lot of talking. Breeding became his passion. However he has some three hundredth horses, he know the great grandfathers of most of them. He’s not just a rich business man who has horses for his reputation. Almost every day he visits the stables, to get hold of what’s happening. His last new acquisition is a mare by Kannan x Baloubet du Rouet, a combination of the two leading show jumping sires of the moment. The full sister of this new mare jumps 1.60m. Vink bought her at the Global Stars Auction in Opglabbeek to use her pedigree for breeding. He’s going to flush embryo’s before the mare will enter the top sport. Furthermore in the barn there are descendants of Quickstar, Arko III, Carthago, Cornet Obolensky, De Niro, Darco, Mr. Blue, For Pleasure, Montender, Jazz … Also at mother’s side there is a story to tell for every horse. The line of Jazz, the mother of Tango, the sister of Charmeur, a daughter of Intradella Z, a sister to Indoctro and another one to Arko III, … ‘The motherline is even more important than the father.’ Lately Vink also uses his own stallions to breed with. ‘Not only to save money, but because I believe in them. Otherwise I don’t keep them.’ “A stallion must prove himself.” Of his young stallions, the AES licensed stallion Mr. Pancake BH (Quickstar x Elan de la Cour) is one of the favorites today. The four-year-old French bred stallion came in his hands through Kees Van Den Oetelaar. He crosses the blood of the legendary Galoubet A twice. His first crop of foals looks promising. Therefore Jan Vink does all the breeding. ‘I like to see foals playing in the field. You can immediately see which ones are more athletic.’ Jan is specialized in the breeding and enjoys this part. He raised the standards, so despite of the quantity, the quality is guaranteed. With a full truck to AES approvals Remarkable at Black Horses is the X factor all the horses have. Take A Lee Springpower (Argentinus x Cornet Obolensky), the famous stallion comes from Westphalia, where he got ten points for jumping. You see suppleness and power come out of this perfectly balanced body. No stallion in this stable has a long head. The legs are well constructed. The upper body is nicely muscled. Jan Vink has a taste. ‘A good or a beautiful horse eats just the same as an ugly one.’ Jan Vink likes to go to stallion approvals, and then you need a correct and flashy horse. ‘We prepare our stallions at home for the approvals. On April 4, the truck will be loaded fully with stallions, which we will present at AES in Schijndel.’ Jan Vink trusts the AES procedure more than any other studbook, because of some negative experience elsewhere in the past. ‘Last year I presented a son of Mr. Blue out of a top damline at KWPN. A promising horse for the future, but the judges decided to not give him a chance. I also had a stallion out of the same mother as VDL Groep Tomboy (ex-Eric Van der Vleuten). This one was rejected because there was not enough sport in the motherline. This I really couldn’t believe! In my  opinion a stallion has to prove himself. It’s not a studbook that needs to decide which stallion has quality and which ones not.’ Because of that Jan Vink feels better with the AES method. He has stallions at the approvals and registers the foals. This year he expects 39. “While busy doing, one learns everything.” ‘Initially I did believe in the policy of KWPN. I listened to anyone. I bought champions of the foal tests, but the horses never turned out to be a good sport horse. I learned a lot by making mistakes. Gradually I created an own image on a horse. I started analyzing and I remarked that a proven motherline increases your chances a lot. While busy doing, one learns. A good example of following my own idea, was the purchase of my stallion A Lee Springpower. I liked him because of his skills, and because of seeing the mother jumping. After buying him, I also acquired his mother in Germany. Two weeks ago this mare Coralee won the CSI2* GP of Roosendaal under the saddle of Siebe Kramer. Pancake manufactory While busy doing, one learns. That’s the spirit that made a successful business man of Jan Vink. His drive made of him one of the biggest pancake producers in Europe. His company “De Bioderij” was established beginning of the nineties. Gradually the company grew out to an internationally respected company. The products are distributed to all the big retail chains and food service companies in Europe and to other continents. The company does export to approximately thirty countries worldwide. The main company is based in Sliedrecht, the Netherlands, but there are subsidiaries in Great-Britain, Belgium … Rentability and productivity Rentability is the most important cause for the pancake industry. For the horses rentability is just subordinate. ‘It’s a hobby and it has to stay a hobby, like the doctor said! It costs a lot, but I hope one day it will self-regulating. First I’m going to invest more money in a new accommodation. When everything runs at the new place, I hope to get some return.’ Jan Vink takes his Ipad and shows his plans. Next to the new loose house for young horses, at the sixty hectares domain, he’ll be building a training facility with two indoors, 78 boxes, cleaning places, walker and all other requirements. For the finishing touch he’ll be using lots of cane and wood, because Mr. Vink has a tast. ‘When you do it, do it good!’ That’s his message to every entrepreneur. ‘The new stable for young horses I already built, has to be expanded with 48 meters. The total surface build on will be three hectares. I want to collect all the activities, so we can work more productive. Only the mares in foal will be separated. They will come to my house, because I suddenly also got permission to build a new stable there. I’m making 25 individual boxes and four wider stables.’ ‘I have the meaning to produce horses from four to six year old at our own facility. Afterwards they will be brought to an international rider for top sport. I work with Siebe Kramer for some years, but I also want to work with some other.’ Jan is a progressive man. Only the best is good enough. Productivity is not only important in his pancake company, but also in the stable. Therefore he started to do embryotransfer at home. ‘The vet flushes the mares at home and uses my own mares as surrogate mares. Those who are not good enough, become carrying mothers. I select seriously when the horses get two years old. I only keep the best for breeding.’ “Horses are fed eight times a day.” Inventive stable At the end of our stay, Jan Vink takes us to his new loose house for young horses. At the arrival we immediately remark the forage mixing machine. Automatically all sorts of different hay and silage are mixed in perfect proportions. The system is ingenious and never seen before, nowhere in the world. After the preparation a robot drives alongside all the stables to feed the horses (eight times a day) and to sweep up the alley. The system detects when the time has come to feed again, so the horses always have a chance to eat. ‘I don’t know if it’s cheaper than working manually. The system was created tailor-made and was very expensive. I did it just for the horses, because they are much healthier now. The concentrate is mixed between the silage, which means absorption happens way slower and more effective.’ We can witness the yearlings look much more beautiful than anywhere else. And that’s not all. Jan Vink has a straw blower. A pitchfork is not used in here. Also not to muck out. The huge loose stables each have a well in which two meters of manure can be stored. Mucking out is only one day work a year. Horses have to climb out the wells when they are not yet fully filled with manure. Also that is interesting for the condition and to create muscles. The water bowl raises automatically with the height level of the manure. There are outdoor paddocks of 20 x 50m for the horses to stretch their legs one time a day. Furthermore Jan Vink watches his horses continuously via camera surveillance. To keep a few hundredths of horses, Jan Vink only needs one employer. That’s productivity. That’s Jan Vink!  
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"I respect AES’s open frontiers policy"

Gavin Alexander 
No limit, that’s the spirit of Gavin Alexander. He’s a successful business man in finance for years but the last ten years he invested money in horses, just as a hobby ofcourse. At his sixty hectares yard Haras de Lillebec in Pont Audemer, Normandy, the Englishman has 20 stallions, most of them are licensed or approved. Each one gets all chances to make a sports career at top level. No horse will be sold. His hobby is not meant to be profitable. Just the semen is for sale. Sitting still is not Gavin’s habit. ‘When the stallions are retired from sports, I want them still to do something!' Once a business man, always a business man! An Englishman in France. You must have a story to explain that. Correct. I grew up in Great-Britain, but my wife Corrine is French. We have a family in France and since ten years we expanded the family with one horse. Things went fast. Today we have 24 horses competing: three mares, one gelding and the rest are all stallions. And they are AES licensed or approved? Yes, most of them. Sixteen in fact. I’m probably one of the biggest owners of AES stallions. Nevertheless the stallions do not breed as much as I intend. It’s the meaning to promote them more from now on. So far I’ve always just wanted the stallions to jump in the picture. I’ve given them all chances in the sport and that has worked out well. We’ve had some very nice results over the past years. I hope the name of our stud Haras de Lillebec is well known now and the stallions will be respected by the breeders. I’m ready for the next chapter, which will be the breeding. I suppose you spend all of your time between horses now? No, my wife is very into it aswell. I have three riders and other people working for me. They have everything they need to work properly, such as an indoor, outdoor rings on grass and sand, a tred mill and a gallop track. In the weekends I’d like to go watch my horses in France at the shows. During the week I work in London most of the time. Why do you prefer AES for the stallions? Because AES gives the horses time to grow up. We bought the horses young, so we wanted them first to prove themselves in the sport. AES is the Studbook with the same philosophy. They respect results more than any other studbook. We have six stallions competing at 1.50m-level right now with Christophe Grangier. Also I respect AES because it’s an international orientated studbook, just like I am as a breeder. I spend half of my time in France and half in London and I don’t want to be stuck with my farm in France neither. That’s what I don’t appreciate about Selle Français. It’s very closed, so it’s almost impossible to get in there with foreign bloodlines. I don't rely on nationality, but on quality. I see many studbooks try to protect their own horses, which is not the right way of working. You have to be able to approve the quality of no matter which horse. I think AES has the right approach there. Why does a business man gets interested in the breeding? Let me be clear. For us horses are still a hobby. No stallion will ever be sold and because they live much longer than they are in competition, I want them to breed. I want actively to be on the scene somewhere in the horse world. Because we are not riding ourselves, we intend to do so in the breeding. Horses give us a lot, so we want the best for them. That costs a lot of money. By selling semen we gain something back. With stallions, because of their breeding opportunity, you have a long term cashflow. Winsome vd Plataan is probably your best known stallion? Ofcourse, that’s the one we bought at nine years old. All the rest was no older than three when I bought them. Winsome was already World Champion in Lanaken as a six-year-old. He’s been jumping at GP-level for many years with Aymeric de Ponnat, Clement Boulanger, Jonathan Chabrol and now Christophe Grangier. His world cup participation in Bordeaux was probably the most beautiful moment of my life with horses so far. I hope there are many more moments like this to come. Right now we also have Rouge de Ravel, Top Gun du Grand Moustier and some others jumping in the GP’s. We’ve always wanted to make sure we have several jumping at high level, so we don’t always have to rely on the same horse. We always saved Winsome. Now he’s fifteen and still competing. Although we don’t use him a lot in the winter. We want him to last a bit longer. One horse jumps maximum twice a month. As opposed to yourself, your horses not often come out of their country. We concentrate on the Grand National circuit in France, which provides Grand Prix’s up to 1.55m in which you can enter three horses. When you do the international shows, you are only allowed to bring maximum three horses for the whole weekend. At the national shows we are also able to show the young ones. Also they have to move on. As I mentioned we have 24 horses. Fifteen of them are now four year old. Also they have to start competing. Do these horses all come from France? A great number does come from France, but I also purchased horses in Belgium. We bought all of them apart from one when they were young and not yet approved. I liked to buy at auctions. Maybe fifty percent of my horses come from an auction. Most of the horses were six months, two or three years old when I bought them. Why auctions? Because as soon as you get known as a buyer, people start asking too much money for their horses. At auctions you pay the price that you want to give for it. I have more control about my expenses at auctions, I feel. How did you select horses as a non horseman? For sure I listened to lots of people, but I never relied on one person. I did a lot of research and in the end I made the decision myself. I studied bloodlines and I tried to be very consequent. I have sons of Kannan, Nabab de Reve, Cassini I, Kashmir vh Schuttershof, Cumano, Quidam de Revel, Berlin, Diamant de Semilly, Quick Star… You still keep on buying new ones? No, twenty stallions is enough. The stables are full. We have no more room and we’re not expanding anymore. Also I’m not going to breed foals. There are other people much better qualified to do that than me. I keep on focusing on the stallions. We want to make the best of the horses we have and become a bit more commercial. AES can help you with that? I think AES is much more respected than ever before. Also I feel AES is helping and promoting the stallion owners in France. I feel that they are interested to move on. I think also personal service is an important mark. Kees Van den Oetelaar came to visit me in Normandy, which I’ve appreciated a lot. Would you ever again leave France? It would be quite complicated to leave France with all these horses, so for the moment not. France is the perfect country to work with horses. We have lots of place and many top ranked national and international events.  
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"Before I retire, I want to breed a champion for my grandson"

René Van Paesschen 
‘I’m afraid of the black hole. As long as I can, I go on with the breeding, hand in hand with the AES studbook. Ten years ago I started working with this studbook, because they show respect for their breeders.’  René Van Paesschen is 84, he is still a well known breeder and dealer, but also the father of Olympic medalist Stany Van Paesschen. These days he is also approached as grandfather of the coming man in Belgian show jumping Constant Van Paesschen (19). Horses from René Van Paesschen’s breeding brought Constant in the top ten of Belgian show jumping. Now granddad doesn’t want to rest on his laurels. Together with his partner Joris Van Den Bergh, he breeds between thirty and fifty foals a year.  Rene Van Paesschen has realized a lot in his life. He prepared his eighteen year old son Stany for the Olympic Games in Montreal 1976, where he immediately grabbed bronze team medal. For several decades, Rene Van Paesschen was next to François Mathy one of the biggest dealers of show jumping horses in Belgium. He had a lot of big clients in Italy and he delivered a lot of horses to Gerhard Etter in Switzerland. In his village Wisbecq, close to Brussels, he built the famous international equestrian infrastructure Haras de Wisbecq. Van Paesschen sold the place several years ago. Now the Saudi team, which is coached by Stany Van Paesschen, is based at Haras de Wisbecq. Rene Van Paesschen sold the equestrian center, but at home he kept on breeding intensively. ‘Breeding is very dear to my heart. I’ve always been working with sBs, but I started to work with AES, because they show more respect to the breeders. Right now it’s too soon to see the result of this change, but I’m confident. The horses I breed now are much better than the ones I had before. I’m convinced my best foal still has to be born. That’s why I keep on breeding. I want to breed one more champion for my grandson.’ ‘I went to sBs gradings with Copin vd Broy, but they didn’t want him. Afterwards AES approved him and right now he’s one of the best horses in the world.’ René is breeder, but also stallion owner. Mainly therefore he came to AES. ‘Here you work with people who are real horsemen. I used to be member of the sBs Studbook in Belgium, but I found the judges at the approvals not capable enough. Those people were fair enough, but they didn’t have the skills. They don’t think about modern horse sport. I got frustrated. Stallions they didn’t accept, were sold to foreign countries, where they approved them easily. For example: I went to sBs gradings with Copin vd Broy, but they didn’t want him. Afterwards AES approved him and right now he’s one of the best horses in the world under the saddle of Marcus Ehning, one of the best riders in the world. I used Copin  vd Broy in my breeding, which resulted in the young stallion Bonaparte VP Wisbecq. This five-year-old stallion won the championship in Canada and he’s also AES approved.’ The horses born in Wisbecq with René Van Paesschen carry this surname VP Wisbecq. However most of his young horses have the name ‘Van De Kapel’. René Van Paesschen: ‘Those ‘Van de Kapel’ horses I breed together with Joris Van Den Bergh of Kalmthout. They are born in his stable, but we work together already several years. Our family’s know each other since many decades. My grandfather already bought working horses from Joris’ grandpa. Nowadays I help Joris picking the stallions. I also found the good mares for him and I help selling foals and young horses. We do everything together. Also my own young horses go to Kalmthout, where they grow up. Once they have to be ridden, my rider trains them and if good enough, they go to Stany and Constant. ‘The stallions Understone and Bingo vd Kapel are actually the best I have.’ An example of such a horse is Understone vd Kapel (Happy Wind d’Hof ten Bos). This nine year old stallion was born in the sBs studbook, but he got approved by AES. He’s a descendant from the Femke P line. So he’s related to Moujik de Sohan, Intradella Z and Femke de Kalvarie. After some injuries, Understone is breaking through this year. He won the national Gold League Grand Prix with Constant Van Paesschen. Stany Van Paesschen mentioned in the press conference this stallion probably becomes one of the best horses in his string. Another of René Van Paesschen’s favorites is Bingo vd Kapel (Obus del Cour Wisbecq), a half brother to Understone. René: ‘In Spain this spring Bingo jumped seven clear rounds on a total of nine courses under the saddle of Constant Van Paesschen. A stallion with so much quality, had better been marketed by a professional stallion. I’m too old to take also that part on my account.’ About the charisma of AES, René wants to add the next: ‘If your horse performs, it doesn’t matter in which studbook it is registered or approved. If an American comes by to buy a horse, he doesn’t ask in which studbook it is entered. Important is to breed commercial horses and then you have to respect good young stallions. That is what AES does and that is why I feel attracted to them.’ It’s clear that René still knows the ins and outs of the market at age 84.  
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"AES is trendsetter"

ris De Brabander 
Joris De Brabander doesn’t need an introduction anymore. The Belgian stallion owner and veterinarian focuses on embryo transfer and currently is one of the best breeders of the world. His ‘de Muze’ horses such as London (G. Schröder) and Walnut (H. Smolders) recently jumped in Aachen and London in the medals. Several of Joris De Brabander’s best stallions are AES Approved. For example Bamako de Muze, the half brother to Mylord Carthago. Why AES? ‘This studbook has set out new directions over the last ten years’, speaks Mr. De Brabander. ‘AES was the first studbook listening to the wishes of breeders and stallion owners’, speaks Joris De Brabander, who’s willing to tell the world why he so much likes to go to the AES approvals. ‘If we gladly wanted to have one particular stallion approved, other studbooks often turned a deaf ear to our aim. The louder we screamed a stallion had top quality, the more the studbooks became critical. I have never experienced that with AES.’ ‘Other studbooks are looking for mistakes. AES searches for quality.’ Joris De Brabander also appreciates the ‘open minded’ inspection method. ‘They examine differently, but that doesn’t mean that other studbooks do better. Others are often looking for mistakes. AES searches the quality in the horse. AES is maybe less stern about model and vet check compared to the Belgian studbooks and the Dutch KWPN. I think also that is a good deal. I think those studbooks in Belgium and Holland are wrong. As a stallion owner I want to do my very best for the breeders and I don’t want to be slowed down by anybody else. Therefore I feel attracted to AES. Other studbooks only believe only in their own stallions and bloodlines. AES is open to anything, also to new competences. They were one of the first to allow embryo’s and clones. I know that from my own experience, as since last year I have the clone Quidam de Revel II Z at stud. He was approved by the AES.’ ‘AES is open to anything, to new bloodlines and new competences.’ Joris De Brabander thinks it is praiseworthy that the percentage of approved stallions is higher here than anywhere else. ‘It’s better to permit one stallion more, than to miss all the good ones. Stallions which are not good enough, are automatically dropping out. It’s a self regulating market. In the end we’re all looking for quality sport horses. That’s why I hate silly rules of some studbooks. If the regulation hinders the great horses, then the owner has to take another direction. AES makes the demands not so high, but already discovered the natural ability of show jumpers like Hickstead, Plot Blue, Montender and more recently Billy Congo. Who says breeding needs ‘zero tollerance’ vet check? Who says show jumpers need to be good trotters? I think the most studbooks use it just as a market strategy. They say they breed only healthy horses, but that’s nonsense. These days during the vet check one is mainly looking at X-rays, but a horse can suffer so many other complaints. I am convinced that you can only test the soundness of a horse in the sport. And facing extreme quality, one flaw is no problem. That’s how I judge when buying a horse. I don’t give away a top horse because it has a minor fragment. ’ In short: ‘The strength of AES is you will not be punished with a stallion you really believe in. They give you the chance to prove how good he is. Your enthousiasm will not be nipped in the bud.’ Joris De Brabander has most of his top stallions fully ‘Approved’ with AES, but he praises also the restricted ‘Registred’ status. ‘AES has helped some Belgian breeders a lot with this. Via the ‘registred’ status Belgian breeders got the right to breed with their own, nowhere else approved stallion again. No other studbook in our country allowed that for many years.’ Also the home inspection of AES is an extra service to the client, he thinks. Mr. De Brabander: ‘All other studbooks organize the inspection on one particular moment. If your stallion is not in great shape at that time, you have no chance. It’s ridiculous that they don’t have a solution for that. One time I used the home inspection of AES. I had four stallions at the same time ready and thought it was easier to do it at home. I think then it’s normal that you pay for all expenses, such as transport and working hours of the judges.’ To his credit, Joris De Brabander has a critical attitude. Thus we don’t put aside the remarks he has with regard to AES: ‘I think for the breeders there is not enough charisma from the studbook to the outer world. A website or a magazine could strengthen the community feeling, but these are details you can work on and I heart Kees van den Oetelaar and his team are doing that right now.’ Indeed. A proof of that is this brand new website with all the news of AES horses in the sport and interviews with AES supporters. Stay tuned at Joris De Brabander and his AES-stallions With Taran de la Pomme, the new grey stallion of Kevin Staut, and Golden Hawk (ex. Figo de Muze) of Shane Breen, Joris De Brabander has already two half brothers of the Olympic sensation London (Gerco Schröder) approved with AES. As we mentioned in the article, he also has the AES approved clone of Quidam de Revel at stud. His youngest talents are Cadeau de Muze, the son of Nabab de Rêve and Atlanta (Katharina Offel), and also the four-year-old Denzel vh Meulenhof, by Marius Claudius and Narcotique IV de Muze (Ludo Philippaerts). Denzel was sent away at the AES approvals because the judges thought he jumped too high. AES waited for the stallion at the exit and welcomed him with open arms. His grandmother Querly Chin (Chin Chin) is the world famous mare, also mother of Walnut de Muze (Harrie Smolders). Last but not least also Bamako de Muze (Darco) is AES approved. This half brother to Mylord Carthago is competed by Joris’ daughter Karline De Brabander at GP level.  
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"I want to chart the British breeding"

Kees van den Oetelaar 
Recently Kees van den Oetelaar has become the director of the Anglo European Studbook. He and his brand new team will keep the same eye on a horse, but the management is modernising a lot. Kees van den Oetelaar: "We want to do things much more different and efficient, but the horse remains in the center." It may be very clear that the Dutch horse dealer Kees van den Oetelaar is the best qualified man to lead British breeding to the top of the World Breeding Rankings. He’s a real expert in breeding. He discovered stallions like Concorde, Lord Z, Verdi, Spartacus, Marius Claudius, Cannabis Z, Guccio, Warrant and many others.  We visit Kees at his home in Schijndel, The Netherlands. Horses come and go, and a lot of other horses he shares with colleagues. For example VDL Groep Verdi (Maikel van der Vleuten), Spartacus (Marco Kutscher) and Eldorado vd Zeshoek (Hanno Ellermann). Kees became famous as a dealer. He exported thousands of horses, but recently he has focused on top jumpers. At the Olympics in Beijing his references collected gold, silver and bronze medals. At the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, eleven horses that he exported, competed in the championship. Let’s start with the beginning. When did you first fall in love with a horse? I’m born between horses. My parents and uncles were dealers as well. I learned a lot from them. I picked up the good aspects but also noticed things I would do different. I suppose they didn’t only sell show jumpers in those days… In the beginning when I started dealing horses, everything was business. I just tried to buy the horse in front of me as cheap as possible. I bought ponies, draught horses, foals and sport horses. I was only seventeen when I sold 24 horses to Italy. Transporting horses was very primitive. I had to find out everything myself. Only a bit later, I shipped the first horses to Great-Britain. Business was completely different when I started. Dealers and breeders usually are two different people. You are both.  I’ve always been interested in breeding. My father started breeding with a French mare which he took away from the German army during World War II. My father was far ahead of his time. Fifty years ago he already liked blood horses. Most other breeders only used the heavy Belgium horses those days. That French mare would still be a beautiful mare today. My father also performed brilliantly in cross country with that mare. He won the Dutch championship, but never was handed out the medal. Only officers, rich and noble people were allowed to have good horses and win medals. That’s why my father had to hide his mare always. Luckily times have changed. So you were in one line with your father regarding breeding theories?  Indeed, he knew what he had to breed. He was the man who introduced the modern jumping style with hind legs up in the air. Before, horses jumped with the hind legs under their body, but my dad realized the hind end had to go up to clear the fences. He emphasized a horse had to be built horizontally to be able to jump round and smooth. Hind legs may not have a big angle, the canter must be adjustable. Things like that I picked up from him. All this knowledge made of you a key judge in the AES stallion commission. Now you lead the studbook.  I’ve been judging for AES since it was founded, almost twenty years ago. First time I was on the inspection just as a visitor. Henk Minderman, the founder and former director of the studbook, asked me to judge. I did it and kept on doing it until today. I’m very passionate about judging. I go to every single stallion selection in Europe. How come two Dutchmen have influenced this British studbook over the years? Henk Minderman already lived in Great-Britain, and has done so for several decades. I have done business with England since the start. I know maybe fifty percent of the horse people in the country. For many years I sold thousands of horses over the sea. It started in 1978 and I have still the same clients as in the beginning. Sometimes I watched a class in Great-Britain with fifty horses. Twenty of them came from me. Another reason why we were maybe best placed to lead the studbook is as Dutchmen we were much more into the breeding than the British people. English people talk about riders, Dutch people talk about horses. That’s the difference. We need to make British people aware of the sense of the studbook. AES was the first big studbook for sport horses in Great-Britain. How is breeding progressing in the country? From the first year, we had a lot of people interested in what we did, because there was no professional studbook. Because of a lack of structure the bloodlines of many horses have been lost. Now we want to try to get back all this information about good breeding lines in Great Britain. One time our breeder Charlie Edwards had four horses at the Olympic Games, but nobody new. Today nobody can answer me when I ask which are the five best mares of Great-Britain. I also don’t know, because there is no information on that. We need to work on that in this country. How come a country like this has never had a decent studbook?  Please don’t think Britain is not a breeding country, because that is not true. I’m sure there’s no other country with more interest in the breeding, than Great-Britain, but there is a lack of structure right now. If you see the horse mania at Hickstead, it’s unbelievable. Only everybody has to realize more how important the mother line of a horse is. The breeders are never told how to breed, so they cannot know. We want to be the guide for them now. I tried that for several years, but never really had the opportunity. Now that I’m the director of the studbook, I am the determined to in that direction. Okay, but it has improved a lot already since the start of the studbook twenty years ago.  Of course. Otherwise you are not on ninth spot in the World Breeding ranking. In the beginning there was only one inspection in Great-Britain. Later on we started organizing gradings in Europe as well. Now we are going to organise approvals in Ireland, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Croatia, Scandinavia and Italy. Some breeders in Britain are very ambitious. I think about Donall Barnwell & William Funnell, family Light, Mark Evans, but I forget to mention a lot other names. Now my ambition is to convince every breeder in Great Britain to raise the standard. Also breeders with two or three mares can be very interesting for us. In the Netherlands and Belgium those small breeders have delivered most of the international jumpers over the years. What things do you want to change precisely? I want more registrations of foals. I see mainly in Europe many stallions are AES approved, but their offspring were entered in foreign studbooks. That’s the only reason why we are not higher on the World rankings yet. Stallions like Arko III, Plot Blue, Hickstead, Vangelis S were not used enough in their younger years. I hope the status ‘Approved’ will get more appreciation from the breeders in the future. Tripple X wins the Grand Prix at Hickstead and he doesn’t cover one more mare because of that. If the KWPN stallion Verdi would win the Grand Prix at Hickstead, he covers ten more mares the day after. We need better marketing. Therefore we need to modernise a lot and bring breeders closer to the studbook. We have opened our new headquarters in Rusper, West-Sussex managed by Steve Lamb. We work with all new capable people. Everything is more efficient right now. We changed the lay-out of the passports. We even have individual QR codes on the passports so you can open the horse’s pedigree via a app. We have a new website with a database in which everybody can look up all details of our horses. We are also planning on making a new AES app for competition results. And we are going to offer more information for example of the mothers of approved stallions to our breeders. We are going to set up a medical database which will make it possible to enter digitally all medical history such as applied drugs and vaccinations and the veterinary exam. If a passport is lost, the medical history isn’t. In the future I want to create a module in which the breeder can find where and when his horses are going to jump. We want to make things easier by using modern technology. My son is only one year and a half and he already knows how to switch on the Ipad. I’m not a technician, but I have an advanced mind. Standing still for one day is the same as running behind one year. To realise my dreams, I am helped by my co-Director Joris van den Oetelaar in all of this. Another example of what we want to change: to revalue licensed stallions, we want to let them jump the young horse series in England. AES has to stand close to the sport, that’s why we want to make alliances with the national federation. All together in one boat, we have to move up the British horse. We made already a huge progression, but the fame is missing until today. Which evolution do you think AES will go through the next coming years? I think we will become the best studbook in the world. AES is the studbook with most real horsemen. We also have the space to breed in England. We also are determined to exclusively go for the sport. We keep on working internationally, but in the end my main goal is to support British breeding. If today a non-European investor wants to buy a young horse, he goes to Germany, France, Holland or Belgium. I want to make them also consider British breeding. Last year, after twenty years with Henk Minderman leading the studbook, you became director. How did that go? Henk Minderman kept only twenty percent of the shares. The time had come to bring new energy in the studbook. I was chosen as the new director. Afterwards I bought the shares of the other shareholders. Now there is much more room to do everything necessary to raise the level. I already wanted to spend more money in young horse competitions, in new passports and in technology, but I was blocked all the time. How do you think breeding in general will progress the next years and decades? I’m convinced that the sport horse has to change every ten years. So I’m convinced it will happen also in the future. I’m sure sport horses need to become more modern in the future. It’s just the same as with cars. Every year they launch new models, new skills. Horses are the same. We have to breed more horses that everybody can ride. Horses must be adapted to the people. More and more amateur riders want to jump high courses and they need horses for that. That’s why we need to breed horses that jump technical courses easily, without need to put pressure, without spook, without complexes. A four-year-old has to help his rider yet when a distance is not right or when the turn was not ridden very well. We also need faster horses, because the time allowed is much shorter these days.  I think the quality of our studbook is that we work with capable people who judge the natural skills of young horses. We detect quality without the horses being prepared. We also are more tolerant than most of the other studbooks, because we don’t want to miss one top stallion. Plot Blue for example was presented at KWPN gradings, but didn’t get the chance to jump. Afterwards he came to AES. We saw him in poor condition. He looked like a yearling, but we noticed the skills. Time has learned who had it right. Same with Big Star, Montender, Copin vd Broy, Marius Claudius, Presley Boy, Arko III and many others. Since you started judging for AES, you didn’t miss any approvals. So that all of the stallions mentioned above were graded, is also thanks to you. How did you become an expert in judging horses? I go to every stallion grading in the world, so I have trained myself until now. I learned a lot from my father. It’s hard to say how exactly I judge. I am guided by a certain feeling. The first thing I look at, is the head of a horse. I see intelligence in the eyes. When I see the conformation of a horse, I can see if he’s a good mover or jumper and if he has good balance. Noticing that Big Star is a top horse right now, is not difficult at all. Discovering him as a three-year-old is much more difficult, and I hope we will find many more stallions like him in the future. 
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"We made our dream come true"

Mark Evans 
Castell Sporthorses is an up-and-coming family owned and run stud, based in the heart of Mid Wales. It was set up in 2006 by Mark Evans (58) and Amanda Forster, a couple with combined experience in show-jumping, eventing and breeding. The Stud is founded on a lifelong ambition to breed and produce top quality horses destined for success in show-jumping. AES is not just the registering studbook, but acts like a partner to provide the necessary quality here. Mark, you started up in 2006 and have over one hundredth horses now. It went fast! When I started in 2006 I bought some mares from Kees Van Den Oetelaar and I went to auctions to get some foals to start the breeding program with. The first foal I had was already special when you see her pedigree: Berlin x Heartbreaker x Concorde. Right now she is one of my better breeding mares, giving me excellent foals. That’s what I like about breeding. What’s the goal? I want to breed the best show jumpers as we can. My wife Amanda Foster is a good rider. She’s producing the horses. That does fit perfectly into it, isn’t it? How did you get into breeding? I was already used to work with animals before. I was a sheep and cattle farmer before, but I was set up with all the work. When I met my new partner we decided to give it a try with horses. She was a good rider and I adored horses. So we sold all the animals and bought horses. Amanda showed you the way? No, the passion was always there. I could ride before I could walk. My parents always had horses at the farm to work on the field. Also my children used to ride ponies. When my daughter was good enough to jump on a big horse, I looked for a better quality one in Holland, my first purchase across the sea. That time I met Kees Van Den Oetelaar. When I met Amanda I realized there was a future for me as a professional horse breeder. Kees has always helped me to find good quality horses. He’s a very good horseman. I’ve always trusted his word and that has helped me a lot. You were set up with the work at the farm, but it’s going to be no less now with a hundredth horses, I guess? There’s no less work indeed, but at least  I’m enjoying what I do now. I’m getting a bit older. You have to like the work to continue at my age. So that’s the case now. You have no other job, so the breeding is supposed to be profitable. Is that reasonable? As a horse breeder your only income is selling horses. We’re not selling the young ones. We really focus on bringing them along and keeping the best ones. Of that category, we’d like to sell one horse every year very expensive, so we can continue doing the same thing. It means indeed that at the moment it’s very tough. We’re just newcomers, the horses are too young, and then there is the recession all over Europe. People expect good quality horses for little money. Only when you keep a horse until it has the age and the experience for the big work, the prices have grown. We’ve had a stallion called Zanzibar (Oklund) Ellen Whitaker is riding at the moment. We bought him from Kees as a two-year-old. We sold him as a seven-year-old to an Arabian owner and now he’s proving himself in the international sport. That’s how we like it of course. Zanzibar, like most of your horses, was KWPN registered. Why are you changing? Because I bought many KWPN horses in Holland, I continued registering there. I must say KWPN is very well organized. They do everyting in-depth, but they are slow and expensive. AES is also developing and doing the job very well. So I see no reason why I wouldn’t go there. Times are hard enough so we have to mind the money a bit more. Also when you apply a passport with AES, you will get it back within two weeks. When the foal is in the field, it has a paper. That’s important for a well structured breeding company like ours. Also when you sell a foal it is useful when it has a passport. Indeed, nevertheless we try to not sell our foals. We try to see what they really can in jumping. We start looking when they are two years old and we try to keep all the good ones, as I said. It’s a lot of hard work with fifty foals a year, and if I didn’t have a top rider as my wife, then I would sell them all as foals. But the work we do now gives me great satisfaction. Fifty foals a year that’s impressive. You’re a big client for the stallion owners! We have 35 up to 40 foals a year by foreign stallions, most from Holland. Every mare has a few possibilities. First plan always is to use chilled semen we buy mostly from Kees Van den Oetelaar or Team Nijhof. We try to use the best young stallions with the strongest motherliness. I’m confident in what they’re doing. If that first option doesn’t work out, we use fresh semen from England or from our own stallions. If you have fifty foals a year, you must have quite some room and helping hands over there in Wales? We have 400 acres, so that’s quite some. Wales is lovely with the hills and the streams in the landscape. It is a super region to keep horses and I have room enough. The two-year-olds have a hundredth acres for themselves. They have streams, ditches and edges. They really grow up in a natural way and they’ve seen a lot. Nothing really frightens them anymore when you put a saddle on. I have somebody working for me who’s breaking in the horses. I also have somebody next to Amanda riding the horses. In fact I try to not having too many people working for me, because I think you work more efficient with a smaller group of people. We do a little bit and we leave a little bit, you understand? So you do a lot of work yourself? I see all foals being born in the summer. That’s my responsibility. I really see the joy of that part of the work. How beautiful is that seeing foals coming on earth. I don’t use camera’s or anything else. I stay with the mare, for every single foals being born. You understand at the end of the foaling season I’m totally dead. Did your farm need extreme makeover when you switched over from sheep and cattle to horses? Not really in fact. Just the fronts of the stables had to be changed for horses. One big  stable we divided in 25 stables. I didn’t have to worry about the place, because we used to have 3.000 sheep and 200 cows before. I bred cattle for the show ring, such as the Belgian blues. When do you expect the first results of your horse breeding activity will be seen? Our dream really is to breed top foals that become show jumpers for the best riders of the world. Zanzibar V is the nicest reference so far, but we didn’t breed that one ourselves. The six-year-old stallion Chagall (Vleut) is probably going to be the next super horse. He’s a seven-year-old AES Licensed stallion, also born in Holland. You bought some and you bred some. When you overlook the last eight years, did you make starters mistakes? Yeah, the mistake mostly done by a breeder is using the wrong mares. Also I made some stupid decisions of course, but sometimes you cannot really predict. You only see how good or how bad the mare is, when the foals get older and seem to be not good enough. Luckily I didn’t make too many faults. Breeding is my life. I’m totally obsessed about it. I read books about it, I analyze bloodlines and I follow the sport. You always have got to learn by listening people and doing research.  Only then you get to know what a good horse is like. Can you compare breeding horses to breeding sheep and cattle? Yes, at some point you can. You just have to feel what a good animal is. It’s a feeling! Furthermore with horses I’d like to have 45 up to 50 percent thoroughbred for a jumper. Today the rings get smaller and the courses are more technical. In my breeding philosophy I really take that into account. I like the quick ones. Most of the horses will have this quality, so maybe my horses are all quite the same type, just like it was before with the sheep and cattle. If horses are not satisfying enough, I sell. I really know what I want in a horse. All the time I keep on judging the horses. I also want to have enough size in my horses. Mares that breed to small, will be sold. Recently I sold one mare because I thought she was too stiff. These days you need supple horses. Our business is young, so our stock of horses is still in progress. We’re still designing the pattern.
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