Sunday, February 11, 2018

Backing Up the Bitching

Seriously, I'm trying to write more.  I just have too many damn balls in the air.  Sorry this entry took a few weeks to see the light of day. The title is "Backing Up the Bitching", but I'm not sure how much "backing up" this will be--it's more of an attempt at conversation.

Facebook Thread

I've been pleased, and a little concerned, about the conversation my journal has initiated on FB. There's definitely a need for conversation, but open up the gateway, and a flood of bitching begins. That's the beauty and the beast of social media. We need to have a platform to express our frustrations, but we also need to step back and look at the bigger picture.  Since most of us breed in isolation, it's easy to become hyper-focused on our own issues. Some of them are universal, effecting all of us--some of them, however, are, indeed, individual. A horse did badly at a keuring. The jury didn't license your stallion prospect. You got taken advantage of by a KWPN stallion owner who was happy to sell shitty frozen semen to North America.  Oh, wait.  That's all of us!

Backing Up the Bitching

I am a supporter of the KWPN system, and, by proxy, the KWPN-NA system. There are problems in both systems--they're not all insurmountable, however. Let me throw out a few thoughts:


In the bigger picture, we are both blessed to be held to the same standards and protocols of the KWPN, and cursed by it. What works in Holland doesn't necessarily work here. There has to be a balance of maintaining the standards and continuity of selection with the specific and particular needs of North America. It doesn't seem as if we have anyone currently in our corner on this. Yet, when people make broad statements about the KWPN never allowing the KWPN-NA to become competition, or they're protecting their frozen semen market, so that's why they don't approve stallions, I don't buy it.  Yes, I've seen some politics in play over the last 30 years, but I don't think that's the norm. I think the bigger issue is that North America remains a market to sell riding horses for big bucks, and the breeding stock and frozen semen market has been a disappointment overall. As a matter of fact, if we had a bigger market for breeding stock and frozen semen, I think the KWPN would be all over it, and we wouldn't be in the bind we're in.

Another bigger picture issue is that the KWPN-NA, whether due to its contractual or perceptual adherence to the KWPN philosophy, or due to its lack of awareness of the bigger picture in general, has tended to be an organization ruled by what we can't do, instead of an organization that looks at the possibilities and figures out how to get there. In any progressive business model, "Can't do it" and "No" are off the table in the brainstorming sessions. Nothing short circuits progress faster than a contingent of people who negate every idea because it's going to be too difficult, too expensive, or too risky.  The place for realists is in the implementation phase, not the vision phase.

Stallion Approvals

As far as stallion approvals and the scarcity of stallions available fresh cooled, there are a lot of factors in play here. Yes, we're in trouble.  As much as I have pontificated about the importance of marelines over the years, it's still the stallions that have the biggest impact on the breeding population. We definitely need more stallions and younger stallions in North America. That being said, standing a stallion in North America is a nightmare.  We don't have a big enough mare base to sell enough breedings year after year to offset the costs of buying, importing, marketing, and, if necessary, competing a stallion. Consequently, anyone who brings in a stallion is bringing him in either for their own breeding or sport purposes.  Also, North American mare owners are unrealistic in their expectations.  Every stallion needs to be the winner of his performance testing, have all first premium foals, be available for fresh cooled semen six days per week, and be out competing and winning with good video online to prove it. We're ridiculous. Yet, we'll spend thousands of dollars on frozen semen from a three year old stallion, with no offspring on the ground, whom we've never seen in the flesh, because he's black and we saw one fancy video on Facebook.  Crazy. Still, we need new, young stallions. I go to Holland at least twice a year, definitely once for the Stallion Show and once for the Horse Days. I have internalized what the modern KWPN dressage horse looks like. We have only one KWPN-approved stallion standing in North America who is producing anything close to what the modern Dutch dressage horse looks like. If it weren't for frozen semen, we would already be at least a full generation behind our Holland counterparts. There are some solutions to this. One, say a prayer, and hope ISF buys a new stallion.  Two, say another prayer and hope someone, anyone, buys a new stallion. Three, and the more practical, establish a KWPN-NA Stallion Selection Team that is not beholden to the KWPN Selection Committee. Right now, any stallion approval decision isn't based on North American need, it's based on significant input from the KWPN Stallion Selection Committee. Four, similar to what the regions of Holland and Germany did before the advent of transported semen, let the KWPN-NA function as stallion station for frozen semen. In the days of old, breeders of a region established niches based on the stallions available to them. This was a really good thing for the breeding populations.  Why not have the KWPN-NA buy 25 or 50 doses of a one or two stallions every year, then sell those doses to breeders at cost? We could have a team in place that determines the needs of the breeding population--the team negotiates the price of the doses--and, best yet, the team holds the sellers accountable for the quality of the product.  Years ago, the KWPN-NA sold Ferro, Ramiro, and others.  It was a great thing for the breeders, and it produced some really good horses.  There's no reason we can't do this again.

Register A

As far as Register A and its value to the studbook, I maintain it's a very good thing. There's a comment on the FB thread about its muddying the quality, or causing some interruption in the consistency of the KWPN standards, but I don't see it this way.  As I remember, when the Euro culture was created, all European studbooks were charged with finding a way to incorporate each other's breeding stock.  The KWPN is the only one that did. The other studbooks just accepted an inordinate number of foreign stallions with limited inspection and limited requirements. I see Register A as an improvement section of our studbook.  I also agree with the KWPN's loosening of the Register A requirements for entrance into the studbook. Granted, it may appear that I have an ulterior motive in saying this since we now own Gaudi, an AES-approved stallion whose offspring will all be Register A, but if you look at the requirements, he has fulfilled all but the performance--the new requirements for Register A horses to enter the studbook are for keur-eligible mares to undergo the performance requirement. The only thing that changes is that a mare can receive the ster predicate and still be Register A. This is a good thing. It brings more horses to keurings. It recognizes the positive influences through Register A.  Win win situation.

Growing Our Organization

I may be wrong about this, but I think our organization has had about 1400 members consistently for 20+ years.  It hasn't grown. Stating the obvious here, but any business needs to constantly vitalize its base and attempt to increase its market share to stay viable.  We haven't figured this out

The most profitable thing we do for our members is register foals.  That brings in a shitload of money...which ends up paying for a really expensive Annual Meeting, benefiting, on average, 50 to 100 people per year not on the BOD, Member's Committee, or some supporting committee. The Annual Meeting costs A LOT of money. I'm talking multiple tens of thousands of dollars. It is our biggest outreach and expenditure of the year, yet it benefits well less than 10% of our membership.  There's a problem here.

Don't get me wrong.  I have loved Annual Meetings.  Some of the best parties I've attended in my adult life were at Annual Meetings--and, there were some great personal connections, networking, and general information.  All this being said, overall, they are a waste of money. If the purpose of the Annual Meeting is for the different boards to get together in person, that can be accomplished more cheaply and more efficiently than by paying for expensive rooms in a top Florida hotel. If the goal is education of the membership, then that, too, can be accomplished more effectively by reaching out to multiple regions of the USA and Canada, and hosting a series of regional meetings, rather than one "resort" location that asks the attendees to shell out a significant amount of time and money. Again, I have wonderful memories from Annual Meetings, but, as a business owner and long-time member of the KWPN-NA, I'm offended by the amount of money spent on such a small percentage of the membership. The one benefit I see to the Annual Meetings is networking.  You do make connections with other breeders and enthusiasts.  Still, there are more effective, more efficient, and more cost-proportionate means of doing this, especially given the social media tools at our disposal.

Bitch, Bitch--Moan, Moan

So, that's my rant. It's easy to bitch when you're not involved anymore. By "not involved", I mean in the day-to-day workings of the organization--I'm certainly involved in breeding, stallion ownership, and the promotion of the KWPN horse. This is all about progress.  It's all about improving the breeding environment for Dutch horses in North America. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018



By now, I'm sure you've heard our big news:  We have purchased the AES approved, KWPN stallion, Gaudi (Totilas x DeNiro x Romancier x Troublemaker xx)! We are beyond excited both about Gaudi and the response the news of his coming to North America has generated. Not including our own girls, we've already booked almost 40 mares! So, a huge thank you for those of you who have already scored a date for your mare with Mr. Gaudi.

First and foremost, thank you to the Jansen family for agreeing to sell us this special stallion. We are thrilled that he will become a major influence on our breeding program, as well as the programs of many breeders in North America.

We're in the middle of a big website overhaul, so if you have questions about Gaudi or breeding to him, give me a shout.  Right now, the best place to find information is on his FB page, Gaudi at SSF. Our new site is gorgeous.  Tami Johnson from Masterworks has designed it. Scot's Journal is moving back to, so be on the look out in the next couple weeks.

In short, he is Totilas x DeNiro x Romancier. Anyone who has read my journal over the years know how I feel about Totilas. He will go down in history as one of the most influential sires in Dutch breeding. Then DeNiro. Hard to beat that combination. DeNiro continues to lead the World Breeding Rankings for Grand Prix dressage horses. Add the R line and a dose of TB, and you get an unbeatable pedigree.

More importantly, this mareline is amazing. Gaudi's dam, Annabel, is the leader of the KWPN index for dressage mares. She herself is elite, preferent, prestatie, and did a top performance evaluation. She's produced the approved stallions, Bretton Woods and Chagall D&R (both of whom are schooling Grand Prix)--plus is grandmother to the KWPN stallion, Four Legends. She's also produced multiple keur mares, NMK mares, and top, high-selling auction horses.

Gaudi himself made it through the first three steps of the KWPN approval process with much promise and praise, but was injured before he could attend the 70 Days Test. He was licensed AES, then received his full approval once the selection committee saw his offspring. Consequently, he's not approved KWPN, but he's approved AES, which is an erkend studbook.  This makes all of his offspring out of KWPN mares or other erkend studbooks eligible for Register A papers. Gaudi is PROK, so he has completed all the requirements of an approved stallion except for the performance test.  Due to breeder demand, the KWPN is in the process of adjusting the Register A requirements for entering the studbook--it now appears that only keur eligible mares will have to do the IBOP.

Gaudi brings the best pedigree possible, out of arguably the best contemporary KWPN mareline, and a super character and type, all wrapped up in a 16.2 hand, black-with-four-white-feet, supple, powerful dressage package.  On top of this, he's free of Jazz, Ferro, and Flemmingh, making him an important outcross for a huge percentage of the KWPN mare base.  He is a "dreams come true" horse for the Tolman family and the SSF breeding program. You can thank my wife that he's being made available to North American breeders--I wanted to keep him just for our program.

A Change in Focus

In keeping with the impetus for my recent journal entries, I'd like to share some of our thoughts, history, and long-range planning that have gone into this shift in the SSF breeding program. We have decided to build our program a bit, and, in doing so, try to fill a void that exists for KWPN dressage breeders in North America:  Affordable access to quality younger stallions.  Actually, we can't "fill the void," because we don't have the facility or financial means to bring in the number of stallions we need, but we can at least begin to do our part.

KWPN-NA dressage breeders have relied on the generosity, good will, and good selection of Iron Spring for a long time.  And thank god for them.  We would be in significantly worse shape without their stallion offerings--and I mean "we". Carol and I have bred to ISF stallions over 30 times. Their stallions have played a huge part in shaping our program. But, if we want to grow and meet the demands of the market, we need other people to come forward and take some of the risk, and the heat; we can't rely on one farm to suffer the responsibility of providing the bulk of the quality stallion selection for our mare base.

Of course, ISF is not the only farm that stands quality stallions, but of the 10 dressage-bred stallions activated with the KWPN-NA, only one of them is under 10 years old, and only two of them under 15. If no one were to import a new stallion in the next three to five years, we would be down to three or four stallions available with fresh cooled semen. And, given that we see on average one new stallion made available every two years or so, the numbers are looking grim. Plus, the core of the KWPN's breeding success has been early identification of top sires at a young age. Breeding programs make the fastest progress by breeding to the younger stallions. Of course, fastest and smartest progress are two different concepts, yet without our having access to younger stallions, we're not only NOT keeping up with the demands of our growing market, we're backsliding. Yes, the heart of a breeding program is the mares. I don't have access to the KWPN-NA data base to back this up, but from my observations, the number of quality mares is steadily increasing. Still, a national breeding program has to have quality sires available. We can rely on frozen semen for some of our options, but until a fair method of purchase is put in place and we have a more reliable product, it can be an expensive and frustrating option. When it works, it's great.  When it doesn't, it's easy to lose thousands of dollars per cycle. We need quality younger stallions available in North America.

We're starting with Gaudi. We have a DeNiro x Santano x Biotop stallion prospect in Holland who will begin the selection process next year. We kept two colts from our 2018 crop as stallion prospects--I'm pretty sure we'll send at least one of them to Holland. We will either keep or buy at least one stallion prospect each year for the next few years. These efforts are more self-serving and self-preserving than they are altruistic. We will breed a minimum of eight to ten mares again this year. For the past few years, I've bred almost exclusively with frozen semen. How much have I spent filling my tank with enough doses to breed eight to ten mares per year? How many of those doses might as well have been flushed down the toilet as put into a mare? How many of my mares decided they didn't want to be pregnant no matter how many doses of frozen semen with no LFG I put into them? It doesn't take long to get well into the tens of thousands of dollars and almost nothing to show for it.
We will breed two or three of our mares with frozen this year, but the bulk of the girls are having a date with Gaudi.

The title of my next entry was "Backing up the Bitching", but I think I'm going to hold off on that for just a bit. In the last couple days, we've had some inquiries about our 2018 and 2019 foals, so I need to do a journal entry that specifies our breeding and sales plans.

In closing, thanks again to the people who have already booked to Gaudi.  We appreciate your enthusiasm about him and your trust in us.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Call to Action

In North America, as I have certainly belabored in my previous post, we Dutch breeders are really on our own. Publications and show programs rarely list bloodlines, let alone the name of the breeder; we have no universally accepted national data base to track the success of our products in sport; the physical distance between us makes eyes-on self-education difficult; we have access to few quality stallions, and are subjected to the ridiculous arrangement of paying almost the full cost of breeding to a stallion in Europe for one dose of frozen semen with no guarantee; and the North American branch of our studbook is constantly stymied by a lack of vision and poor financial management. And I know I'm being repetitive and less than subtle here, we would be better off registering our horses directly through the KWPN and functioning as a breeding region rather than be a separate-but-not-separate organization. Breeders, and their needs, opinions, and decisions, in Holland drive the future of the KWPN. Breeders here drive nothing. We do not have a voice. In spite of the organizational systems and committees in place, our needs are not addressed except by proxy when the needs of the breeders in Holland coincide with our needs. Therefore, it falls to the individual breeding programs to set the standards. I'm too old, too opinionated, and too impatient to have our breeding program continue to be limited by other people's lack of vision.

In my reactions to warmblood breeding in North America (and in other things), I can be accused of many things:  blatant egotism, vociferousness, intolerance...and more.  Yet, anyone would be hard-pressed to question my passion for breeding or my decades-long support of hundreds of fellow breeders. I look out into the world of warmblood breeding in North America, and see a significantly more educated population of breeders with a significantly higher quality of breeding stock. If we can find some means of cohesion, our breeding programs are poised to rival those of Europe. We continue to suffer due to the limitations I mentioned in the previous paragraph, but, despite these inherent restrictions, the passions, research, hard work, and financial investments of North American breeders have substantially improved our situation--I'm just not sure we realize this yet. I'm not sure, as a whole, we recognize the potential that exists.

There are a number of viable paths moving forward.  Staying the course and allowing the effects of time and market to prevail will, most likely, be the option most people select, albeit by default. We have North American studbooks and organizations that will either self destruct or become obsolete, but the sport horse industry is only going to grow. Tell me Andreas Helgstrand doesn't recognize this. What about the now-annual VDL auctions? Yes, we have some significant shortcomings to overcome, especially in that all-important aspect of network of affordable, quality young horse trainers who can take the stock from North American breeders and get them to a place, training-wise, market-wise, and proximity-wise, that it becomes more viable for buyers to shop in here rather than in Europe. I'm not pollyanna about the significance of our lack of a training system and breeder-to-buyer network--it is a huge obstacle. But, I'm saying we have more pieces in place than we've ever had, and our market is becoming stronger and larger. We, as breeders, need to start making some more productive noise than bitching on Facebook. We need to sharpen the focus of our individual breeding programs, and, at the same time, come together, regardless of studbook affiliation, both to address the growing demands of our growing industry and to take advantage of the opportunities inherent in this growth.

For the Tolman family and Shooting Star Farm, this means we need to grow our program...and, there in lies the topic for my next journal entry!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking Forward at SSF at the Beginning of 2018

Hawking, Frost, and Tolman Time

Stephen Hawking's latest newsworthy update is that the Earth will become an uninhabitable fireball about 600 years from now. Is it wrong, or, more accurately, inappropriately self-serving, that I'm thinking about exactly where my breeding program will be at that time and who will be in charge of it? The following thoughts are second, third, and fourth impulse. My first draft seriously hated on the KWPN-NA, Trump, and breeders who don't take their craft as seriously as I do. With some rather direct feedback from the love of my life, I've modified the" adolescent" tone of my initial writing and focused the goals of this entry. I want to see change in the approach to sport horse breeding in North America, and, although I'd love to spout off in an emotional and verbose post, for the benefit of the greater good, it's worth modifying the alacrity and impulsiveness of my reactionary voice.

Life is so funny. And short. Of course, it doesn't seem short when you're living it, but it really is. It's been ages since I've done a journal entry. Part of it, as I've said before, is that 300 likes on Facebook seems a more effective means of communicating and significantly more gratifying than writing into the empty space of my journal, but another part of it is my total immersion into the world of breeding KWPN dressage horses for 30 years and my frustration with the limitations inherent within the structures of our current studbook organizations and national mindset for breeding the best sport horses in the world. I've allowed myself to get to a point of not caring--which is not good. As my wife would say, "Be part of the solution, not part of the problem." I have enough of a platform to at least make some noise.

Not to veer into politics, but take a page out of Mueller's playbook:  Follow the money. The dairy industry is huge. The USA is the leading milk-producing country in the world.  Look at corn. Who produces better and more corn than we do? What about pork? Or eggs? Or wheat? Soybeans? Beef? If sport horses were a larger aspect of our economy, we would have a more systematic, unified, research-based, and enthusiastic approach to producing them. As it is, it appears that we have myriad individual organizations competing for a limited number of breeders and buyers. Yet, if you look at the numbers, the equine industry in North America is HUGE. Have you been to an Equine Affair? There is an opportunity for real growth in our world, but we are limited by the constrictions of our current systems. We can be breeding, training, and selling the best horses in the world. To make matters worse, maybe we already are.  But, guess what?  No one is listening. We are working in a void. Of course, if Stephen Hawking is right, which I believe he probably is, then my consternation is completely moot.  Who gives a crap, really?

Unfortunately, I still do. Our farm motto is "A place where dreams come true." This remains more than a platitude for me. For those of us who truly love horses, they are stuff of which dreams are made. This love is visceral, part of our very beings. Every time Carol and I talk about slowing down or minimizing our program, something inside me hurts. I still envision the enormous potential for breeding in North America. I know that I still have things to offer people that can make a difference in our achieving this potential. I see our own program as just beginning to reach a place of producing really important horses who can be part of this potential. I am not, in my heart, an isolationist--I am a gatherer of information and ideas, an educator, and an artist, of sorts. I am a voice. Perhaps, that is my most important contribution to the future of breeding KWPN sport horses in North America:  My voice. So, that's what this convoluted, self-indulgent introduction to a journal entry is really about, I guess.  After a bit of an absence, I have things to say.

Carol and I have seriously thought of moving our entire breeding operation to Holland. In addition to the obvious benefits of stallion selection, breeder recognition and appreciation, the access to a systemic approach to training, and the proximity of competitive venues, there's also the benefit of a studbook that is responsive to its breeders' opinions and needs. We don't have that here. The KWPN-NA is, for the most part, a volunteer organization made up of people who genuinely want what is best for sport horse breeding in North America. But, we have always been confined by individual egos, a lack of vision, and the demands of the parent organization, the KWPN. As it stands, we as breeders and owners, would be much better served if there were no KWPN-NA--if we were to register our horses directly through Holland and function as a breeding region, with a small board of directors who organize the keurings and specific demands of our particular region. Since we, the Tolmans, don't get to make this decision, we have to work within the system that currently exists. This is frustrating to me. I am a person of ideas. I am a person willing to take risks, knowing I may fall flat on my face and suffer the ridicule of peers and those people who, due to their own insecurities and shortcomings, are happy to see other people fail. This being said, I'm also a person who does extensive research, has more than a modicum of insight into the workings of the equine industry, and has the benefit of 30 years of successes and failures, the latter probably being the more important. I believe we, as a country, can produce the best sport horses in the world. I also believe we are limited by disparate organizations, a lack of vision, and a lack of focus.

So, what can be done? A more idealistic and altruistic Scot has tried a number of approaches over the years:  I devoted myself to my studbook, only to have my efforts consumed by the egos and personal agendas of the leadership; I played the altruistic card and imported stallions for the benefit of as many North American breeders as I could accommodate, only to have my motives held suspect and my credit card balances exploded; additionally, and more effectively, I've offered free counsel and advice to anyone who asked, with much appreciation and subsequently established friendships. Therein, lies my answer to this quandary for me personally. I need to focus on what I do best. Create the best breeding program that my instincts, research, and passions can engender, then share my thoughts and experiences with people who are interested enough in the ideals of their own programs to seek out more information.

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, but this year is different. Carol and I have decided this is my last year teaching and that we will focus more on SSF. It's going to be a year of changes, adventures, and challenges. I don't have the need or desire to completely reinvent myself at this point in my life; however, the older I get, the more meaning Robert Frost's words hold for me. "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep."

I will begin 2018 with some thoughts and plans for Shooting Star Farm, some thoughts on the direction of the KWPN, and the current state of breedings and breeding plans for the SSF girls. Look for more entries in the next few days.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summer Update

Hey, everyone.  Thanks for bearing with through yet another LONG journal/blog hiatus. Lots to catch up on.

Young KWPN-NA Event

Kate Bruning and Michaela have planned an educational day at SSF this coming Saturday.  We're going to start the day with a conversation about breeding and the philosophy behind our breeding program, then a show and tell of all our horses.  I haven't heard the whole schedule, but I think we have a young horse trainer, an equine dentist, and a blacksmith doing demos and answering questions.  Plus...I'm making lunch and hosting a cocktail hour in the afternoon.  If you're interested in any or all of the event, you don't have to be young or KWPN-NA to attend.  Just shoot me an email or a text and I'll get details to you.

2017 Foals

All babies are safely on the ground (knock on wood).  For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know already we had a banner colt year.  Six colts and one filly.  This was supposed to be the year we kept a few fillies, and, as luck would have it, the one mare that had a filly is the mare we kept a filly from last year....oh, well--there's always next year.  Here are the babies and descriptions:

Magic Mike SSF (Governor x Contango x Elcaro)

Mikey is a big, solid, beautiful boy.  Solid bay except for one hind white foot.  He looks almost exactly like his full brother who was number one in NA two years ago.  Mikey may be a little heavier in type, but he's equally as good a mover.  He had a pre-sale option on him, but the buyer backed out. No reason.  I'm hoping to get some video footage of him this weekend during the Young KWPN-NA event that is being held here. 

Milestone SSF (Uno Don Diego x Totilas x Jazz)

Tall, black, and beautiful. This boy has the best walk we've ever seen on a foal.  His movement is very much like his famous mom's was at this age.  Miles is already sold, and I'm sure he'll be a phenomenal dressage partner in a few years.

Marcus Aurelius SSF (Roven xx x Jazz x Roemer)

Marcus is Orchis's last foal.  He's smart as a whip, beautiful, and the easiest to handle of any of the dozen Orchis babies we've had. I haven't decided just what to do with Mr. Marcus.  I really want a stallion from this mare.  We'll see.  

Mamet SSF (Vitalis x Donatelli x Jazz)

It looks as if Davey is moving to Holland to be raised as a stallion project.  I'll keep you posted.  We have a stunning collection of foals this year.  Davey is my favorite.

Mahatma SSF (Vitalis x Freestyle x Jazz)

Matty is all dressage horse.  He's got the perfect neck set; he lifts his body up and carries himself; he is super expressive with both the front and hind legs. He maybe a little small, but he's fancy as hell.  Carol and I are both excited about the Vitalis cross on your mares. Matty has a first option on him, but I haven't gotten off my ass to get any video footage of him for the buyer.  Hopefully, this weekend will give us that opportunity.

Mona Liscia SSF (Netto x UB-40 x Pass the Glass xx)

What a character Ms. Mona is.  She is so damn athletic.  I think I keep saying this, but I have no doubt Eliscia SSF will become one of our best producers.  This is another top filly from her.  Mona is already sold.

Moves Like Jagger SSF (Totilas x Sir Sinclair x Jazz)

You have no idea how disappointed I am this foal wasn't a filly.  Oh, my god. We have loved the UB-40 cross on BoWendy, but the Totilas cross is even better.  This boy has the killer Totilas walk and canter and his mother's trot mechanism.  He's a super colt. He's already sold.

2017 Breedings

We're running about 50/50 on  breeding success this year, which is a lot lower than I normally run. I've heard of a lot of people having a tough time getting mares in foal. Hopefully, the second half of July will bring us some good heat cycles and get us some pregnancies.

Gazania (Bon Bravour x Santano)

-ET from Vitalis
-pregnant to UB-40

Hyacintia (Charmeur x Santano)

-ET from Gaudi
-pregnant to Just Wimphof

Galearites SSF (Totilas x Jazz)

-bred to Vitalis to carry--no pg
-bred to Don Martillo for ET--no embryo
-bred to Veneziano for ET--no embryo

D'Orites SSF (Donatelli x Jazz)

-pregnant to Belantis

ZaVita SSF (Contango x Elcaro)

-bred to Democraat--no pg
-two funky cycles without breeding
-this mare didn't conceive the last time she was nursing a foal

Werites SSF (Freestyle x Jazz)

-bred to Veneziano--no pg

Eliscia SSF (UB-40 x Pass the Glass xx)

-bred to Don Olymbrio--too early to check

Carpe Diem SSF (Farrington x Pass the Glass xx)

-bred to Governor--don't think she's pg--need to check again tomorrow

BoWendy (Sir Sinclair x Jazz)

-haven't bred yet

I am determined to spend no more money of frozen semen or breedings this year, so we'll use up what we have in our tank, then whoever is not pregnant by early August gets the year off.  We have Don Olymbrio, Wynton, Don Tango B, Democraat, Donatelli, Governor, Barroso, Roven xx, and some Nubian goat semen that I'm saving for when I get really desperate.


Knock on wood, people like our horses.  Thank you for that. Katmandu SSF (Governor x Samber), Felicites SSF (Rousseau x Jazz), J'Orites SSF (Florianus II x Donatelli), Liberto SSF (Sir Sinclair x Freestyle), Lamborghini SSF (Sir Sinclair x Donatelli), Milestone SSF (Uno Don Diego x Totilas), Mona Liscia SSF (Netto x UB-40), and Moves Like Jagger SSF (Totilas x Sir Sinclair) have all found great homes this spring and early summer. And, I'm pretty sure Mahatma SSF (Vitalis x Freestyle) will convince the woman who has an option on him how cool he is once I get off my butt and get her a video.  

That means we don't have a lot of horses for sale:

Magic Mike SSF (Governor x Contango)

-description above

Kublai Khan SSF (UB-40 x Vincent)

-we have held on to this special boy because we really wanted him as a stallion.  Unfortunately, he just isn't tall enough.  He's only 15.1 hands as a two year old.  I'm sure he'll grow and hit damn near or above 16 hands, but, as a two year old with his pedigree, the KWPN wants him taller. He's one of our best movers ever, and he's super sweet. He will make someone an exceptional dressage horse.  I just have to decide if we're going to geld him before we sell him or not.

and, maybe...

Marcus Aurelius SSF (Roven xx x Jazz)

I'm really hoping to keep this boy. But, I'm also committed to simplifying our lives, and having stallions on the property does anything but simplify a life. I just don't know what to do on this one.

As always with any sales, we're happiest with payment plans, so tell us what works for you. On most horses, we give an automatic 20% discount to return customers and FEI-level riders.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Excited and Ready for Spring!

Don Olymbrio

(Jazz x Ferro x Sultan x Doruto)

I'm so excited that the KWPN has given erkend status to both Vitalis and Don Olymbrio. We're expecting two Vitalis babies this year and purchased two more doses, and we purchased three doses of Don Olymbrio last year for use this year. As much as I love the flexibility of using the Register A option, I hate the logistics necessary to complete the studbook status of the offspring. 

We're headed toward foaling season at SSF!  ZaVita SSF is first up, but Orchis is threatening to foal early again this year.  She's due about three weeks after ZaVita, but my guess is she will foal first.  Knock on wood she holds out until at least 310 days.  Orchis is at 294 days today.  Keep your fingers crossed. This will be Orchis's last foal. At her age, her body deserves a break. She's been an amazing producer for us. We wouldn't be where we are as a program without her.

2017 Foals

We still have some options open on upcoming foals.  Our plan is to keep at least two fillies, but it will depend which mare produces what.  I've instructed each of them in both our desired color and sex, but who knows if they've listened to me.

Governor x ZaVita SSF (Contanto x Elcaro)                    

 colt option taken, filly option not available

Uno Don Diego x Galearites SSF   (Totilas x Jazz)

 colt option may be available, filly option not available

Roven xx x Orchis (Jazz x Roemer)                              

possible colt option, filly option not available

Vitalis x D'Orites SSF  (Donatelli x Jazz)                         

colt option taken, not sure if filly option is also taken

Netto x Eliscia SSF (UB-40 x Pass the Glass xx)                             

colt option taken, filly option open

Vitalis x Werites SSF (Freestyle x Jazz)                         

 colt option open, Michaela has first choice if it's a filly

Governor x Carpe Diem SSF (Farrington x Pass the Glass xx)

both options open

Totilas x BoWendy (Sir Sinclair x Jazz)

colt option possibly open, filly option not available

Even if an option is taken and you're interested in one of the potential babies, give me a shout. Last year, we had an option on our Governor x UB-40 filly.  The woman came to look at her and thought she was too tall. This filly went on to be the number one foal in North America and a permanent member of the SSF herd.  Our base price is 15K, 12K to repeat customers and current FEI level riders. The prices will be higher on both the Uno x Totilas and the Totilas x Sir Sinclair if they're colts we decide to sell.  Generous payment plans available on all of our babies.

2017 Breeding Plans

It's the first week of April, and I'm just about committed to my breeding picks on all our least, I'm committed to my frozen semen purchases--it's still possible I'll change my mind about which straws to thaw for which mare.  Here's where I'm at right now:

Governor x Elcaro x Belisar
Governor x Sir Sinclair x Jazz
Don Olymbrio x UB-40 x Pass the Glass xx
Don Olymbrio x Farrington x Pass the Glass xx
Vitalis x Donatelli x Jazz
Vitalis x Freestyle x Jazz (Michaela could switch this one)
Experiment x Bon Bravour x Santano
Experiment x Totilas x Jazz
Desperado x Charmeur x Santano

Sorry, Carol gets mad at me when I give away absolutely everything I'm thinking.  Both the experiment breedings are intended for us to keep, colt or filly.

Back up semen in the tank:  Roven xx, Donatelli, and Democraat. And, as always, I will rely on the kindness and solid genetics of Iron Spring Farm stallions if my frozen exploits aren't working out.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

KWPN Stallion Show 2017

I had decided not to do a Stallion Show recap this year, but my thoughts are so jumbled and undecided about what I saw, the state of dressage breeding within both the KWPN and KWPN-NA breeding populations, and how both of these things affect our breeding program that now I'm thinking it could be a helpful process to write about it.


As I say every year, these thoughts are just my opinions.  I'm not intentionally trying to bash anyone's horse. Because of conversations I've had with a number of people over the last few days, I know there are number of people who disagree with me; so, take this for what it is, one person's opinion.

Overall Focus of Stallion Selection Committee and Direction of Dressage Breeding

A strong mareline has always been a consideration when selecting stallions, but, over the last few years, we've seen the SSC put a markedly stronger focus on sport results in the mareline.  In theory this makes complete sense. A young stallion from a mother line that has produced successful sport horses should himself have a higher probability of being a sport horse and be more likely to produce sport horses.  Not rocket science. Yet, this has led to the selection of a number of stallions that are just not breeding horses.  Having a strong mareline with sport results isn't enough to make a top stallion. The horse himself has to have that something special or extra that makes him a stallion type. From watching the newly selected stallions and the four, five, and six year old stallions under saddle, I think we've approved a number of nice geldings. During the first years of specialization, the KWPN's focus was all about type--they wanted uphill, modern horses in a rectangular dressage model. As can be documented in other breeds, cattle and dog breeding, etc., selecting for a specific type for too long hurts the overall soundness and functionality of the population. We saw this in the overall balance and temperament of some of our horses.  There was a rash of horses with such extreme movement that they could barely take a corner, and we've seen some horses with questionable rideability. What we've seen the last few years is a necessary correction--the jury has been looking for lines proven in sport, so they know the horses have stayed sane and sound, and taken type off the table. Additionally, we've had to look for non Jazz, Flemmingh, and Ferro blood, so the jury has accepted some horses that may have been worth the try, but haven't consistently worked on our population.  What this says to me is that it's more important than ever for us as breeders to have our own plans.  We need to be clear and strong in our vision for what we want our programs to produce. It is through the work of strong breeders that we can bring more focus and consistency to the direction of KWPN dressage breeding.

This Year's Selected Stallions

The stallions presented for the second ring this year were a manifestation of what I've written above.  They're mixed in type and quality. There were a lot of good dressage horses--I'm just not sure how many breeding stallions. 


The Amperes were not special this year.  The Ampere x Jazz x May Sherif made it through.  He's nice, but by far not the nicest Ampere I've seen.  I will feel more comfortable breeding to Ampere or an Ampere son when I see some upper level sport horses being produced.  I still worry about the stifles and the temperament. I know it's not completely Ampere's fault he didn't make it in sport, but neither did Rousseau, so that's two stallions in a row in a pedigree that didn't have what it takes to stay sound and sane enough to become competition horses. Gives me pause.


Well.  I've been seriously bummed that neither our two attempts with Apache frozen nor our multiple attempts with Indian Rock (Apache x Cabochon) worked, but now I'm thinking fate may have been being kind to us.  It was not a good stallion show for Mr. Apache.  His newly presented sons were nice but not as nice as in previous years.  The SSC took the Apache x Hitchock x Onyx, and he was selected for the Championship Ring, but he didn't show well.  His sons under saddle were the real story, though--they were difficult as hell. Grand Galaxy Win was the only one who appeared truly rideable.  Combine this with the fact Apache himself is so hot and has such difficulty traveling for competition and I'm putting the brakes on my Apache fandom. Fantastic movers and fairly consistent types, but he needs to be bred to a mare with a stellar work ethic and temperament.

Aqiedo x Jazz x Juriaan

Aqiedo is one of Adelinde Cornelissen's top horses.  I'm sure the jury took this colt because of this. He has a lot of power, but not enough front.  The mareline is uninteresting.  Even if he eventually gets approved, no one will breed to this horse.

Blue Horse Zack

With Zack recently becoming erkend, the jury clearly wanted one of his sons. Well, not only did they take one, they made him Champion of the whole shebang.  Zack x Negro x Krack C x Contango.  Good pedigree.  Weakish mareline, though his mother is producing well. The horse is definitely uphill and has good use of the hind leg, but he doesn't use his body well at all.  He's short coupled and stiff in the back.  Not a breeding stallion in my opinion.  He's also really tall for a horse who won't be three until May 1st--1.71.  The jury has seen him more times than I and they have more information about the mareline, so I'm assuming I'm wrong about this horse.  Which is fine.  I liked him, and he was the best of the ones presented, but he wouldn't have been my pick for the Championship Ring, let alone the Champion. I spoke with a number of people who really liked this horse, so, again, I'm probably just being grouchy or something.

     Speaking of the Championship Ring

The KWPN charged the owners of any horse selected for the Championship Ring 7000 Euro for the extra promotion and time in front of the audience. 7000 Euro.  Evidently, they get at least some of it back if they put the horse through the testing and all of it back if they put the horse in the Select Sale, but that would certainly put a damper on my stallion being selected for the Championship Ring if I knew it was going to cost me 7000 Euro.

Bon Bravour

Regular readers of my journal know I'm a huge Bon Bravour fan.  Well, unfortunately, my disappointment in his sons is growing. The one son they accepted this weekend should not have been accepted.  He had no canter.  Bon Bravour x Flemmingh x Jazz x Chronos, so double Chronos.  He's a beautiful type and showed a lovely trot in hand, but, overall, a really disappointing horse.  The Bon Bravour son, Iconic B ( x Jazz),  was Champion of the testing this year.  Under saddle this weekend, he, too, was disappointing. He seems to be a nice horse, good character, decent trot, but I really didn't like his canter either. It had power, but almost no articulation in the joints.  I don't think anyone has found the right niche for Bon Bravour.  Now, given that he's been chemically gelded, we'll see if anyone gets that chance.


Here's another stallion we've bred to repeatedly without success, and maybe that's not a bad thing. I was super disappointed in the Bordeauxs this year.  The SSC took two of them, the Bordeaux x Apache and the Bordeaux x Painted Black.  All of them are wide behind and long in the hind leg.  Just not impressed.

Capri Sonne Jr. x Hexagon's Louisville x Rubiquil

They must have wanted a Capri Sonne son badly to take this horse. He's really old fashioned, completely uninteresting pedigree (although he does have some sport horses in his pedigree), and he became less and less impressive each time we saw him. He might turn into a good dressage horse, but he is not a breeding stallion.  I will be surprised if he breeds half a dozen mares.


We've seen enough Charmeurs now to know what to expect.  They tend to be a little heavy, old fashioned, powerful, and hot.  Some of them are really special, but even the special ones tend to push rather than lift in their movement. I loved the Charmeur x Rubin Royal horse. He was my third favorite horse of the whole show, but I would like to see him lift more in his movement and sit a little better.  The jury also selected the Charmeur x Hotline--another good horse who had more lift, but was a little stiff in the topline.  He looked better in hand. I think it's time to break from Charmeur and see what his offspring do in sport.

Danciano x Diamond Hit x Belissimo M x Sandro Hit

I quite liked this horse.  Short front leg, good use of his body, good in hand, a little slow in the hind leg.  He's not an ideal type, but he uses his body well, has a good depth of muscling, and has an interesting outcross pedigree. No information on the mareline.


We all know DeNiro is currently the top producer of dressage horses across all studbooks.  It's just no contest. You may also know we bought a DeNiro colt this summer as a stallion prospect, so I'm obviously a fan.  That being said, he's a really inconsistent producer type wise. Some are small, some huge.  Some really strong movers, some seriously lacking power and articulation. I know the jury was disappointed in the selection of DeNiros presented to them.  They are giving three of them a chance at the testing, the DeNiro x Santano (full brother to ours, half brother to both our UTV mares, Gazania and Hyacintia), the DeNiro x Riccione, and the DeNiro x Florencio (out of the Wendy line)--all three of these boys are completely different types and different kinds of movers.  I think we're going to have to see them under saddle, and, maybe, wait a few years to know just how successful DeNiro is going to be on the Dutch mare population.

Good news and bad news for us:  Having the full brother of ours accepted is great for our mareline and reassures me that our colt has the pedigree and mareline to be interesting to the KWPN, but it's doubtful a full brother will get approved in Holland, so we'll most likely bring him to North America for approval.

Desperado (Vivaldi)

The Desperados were really consistent.  Nice strong types, good bodies, but all of them are a little to heavy on the forehand.  The jury took the Desperado x Wynton and the Desperado x Fidertanz.  Both are good horses, but both could come off the forehand a little more.

Easy Game x Summertime x Sixtus

All Trakehner breeding.  Lovely horse. Flat in the movement and needs more power, but nice breeding to cross on the KWPN population.  We'll have to see what he produces.

El Capone

I loved the El Capones. Super dressage horses.  A little inconsistent in their power, but super articulation--all of them were better in hand, showing really good bending of the joints.  The type is consistent, maybe could be a little longer lined and slightly more modern.  I was surprised the jury didn't put the one they selected in the Championship Ring.  El Capone x Krack C x Roemer.

Enzo Ferrari x Jazz x Burggraaf

This was a nice horse.  Super supple, powerful, really expressive with the knees and hocks.  In hand he looked weak in the loin connection, but I didn't see this in his free movement.


A number of people were quite enthusiastic about the Ferdeauxs.  I am, too, but with reservations.  I can't get over their hocks--sickled and pointy, consistently.  They're uphill, large framed, a little old fashioned and good movers.  They accepted the Ferdeaux x Jazz and the Ferdeaux x Metall, who was invited to the Championship Ring.

Ferdinand x Santano x Hemmingway

This was my second favorite horse of the show. Loved him.  Big frame but still modern, powerful, very good mover, balanced, maybe a little straight in the shoulder.  I knew he was going to be invited into the Championship Ring--I would have made him the Champion.

Five Star x San Remo x Gribaldi

Another super horse.  I thought he was going to be invited into the Championship Ring.  Fantastic mover.  Powerful and supple.  Great type.  Maybe a little short in the croup. Especially good bending of the joints.

For Romance x Don Crusador x Wolkenstein II

Nice horse.  Really nice in hand.  I think he's an interesting outcross. Supple.  A little heavy.

Gandhi x Don Vino x Weltmeyer

Beautiful horse.  Uphill, great type, slow in the hind leg.


The Johnsons were really consistent in type and movement.  They tend to have really pretty fronts, a lot of depth in the muscling, maybe a little short in the croup and slow in the hind leg, but nice dressage horses.  The jury only selected one of the Johnsons, the Johnson x Fidertanz x Rubin Royal.  Interestingly enough, he was the one that least looked like a Johnson. He was a really good mover, really supple and through his body.  In hand, he began to look tired and sunken in the back.

Lord Leatherdale

The KWPN has jumped on the Lord Leatherdale x Negro cross hardcore over the last few years.  It's produced some good horses, but we've yet to see those horses produce especially well.  They only took one this year, the Lord Leatherdale x Negro x Ulster.  There was nothing special about this horse; however, his dam is the famous mare, Dolly.  She has to be the reason he was accepted.


Understandably, the SSC has taken a chance on any halfway decent horse with Negro in the first three generations over the last few years. I've become a Negro appreciator, but not a huge Negro fan--still, there is no denying he produces FEI horses, and lots of them, and all of them with a strong ability for collection. The type is often a little too short and thick for my tastes. Of course, if you think of the Andalusians and Lipizzaners that are so well-suited for the extreme collection necessary for exhibition dressage, it's no wonder the the Negros also excel at the collection--many of them are built like the Iberian horses. There were a bunch of Negros in Den Bosch, but the SSC only took one of them, the Negro x Johnson x Vincent. He's a big, oddly built, heavy horse with a weak loin and back, and a short croup.  Imagine my surprise when the jury put him in the Championship Round.  I was stunned.  He has a good use of the hindleg.  He has a great mareline.  But...not a breeding horse in my estimation. Again, I've only seen the horse once.  The jury has seen him a couple of times.  There's obviously something I don't see they really like about him, so I'm probably off about this one, too.

Ravel x Krack C x Wolkentanz II

Here's a horse I thought should have been in the Championship Ring. Lovely, long-lined horse.  Super mover.  Great articulation of the joints.  Interesting pedigree and mareline. He's a little long in the hindleg, but he uses it super well. He's the best Ravel offspring I've seen. I'll bet he gets some mares.

Rousseau x Apache x Jazz

This was an interesting horse.  Really nicely balanced.  Modern type.  Pretty front.  He could have a little more power, but he improved in hand.  I was surprised he didn't go for a higher price in the Select Sale.  Could be that his pedigree is so infused with KWPN stalwarts he won't attract that many mares. Could also be that some Rousseaus are known to be sensitive and we had just witnessed a number of Apaches being difficult. Put that on top of Jazz, and you could have a handful.


The jury wanted a Sezuan.  They took two. I liked both of them a lot. You couldn't have found two half brothers who looked and moved much more differently.  The Sezuan x Jazz is HUGE. 1.77.  Great horse. Got a little tired as the day went on and seemed slower in the hindleg, but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt because of his size.  In contrast, the Sezuan x DeNiro is 1.63.  Short legged, supple, weaker in the back, but super expressive.

United x Uphill x Metall

This was a really nice horse. I thought he had a chance of being invited for the Championship Ring. Great mover, nice type, good use of the body, supple.  Maybe he could have a little more power, but he was fantastic in hand, and he looked better and better every time we saw him.

Uthopia x UB-40 x Flemmingh

Such a pretty horse. Beautiful front.  Lovely mover.  Could use more power.


We have a lot of Vivaldi sons now, so it takes a really special one to get approved.  The Vivaldi x Ferro is special.  For the record, this was Keagan's favorite horse of the show. Great mover. Lots of power.  I don't understand why he wasn't in the Championship Ring.  He was the high seller of the Select Sale.  Went for 160,000 Euro.  Super nice horse.

While I'm talking about Vivaldi, I need to state again how wrong I was about him as a sire.  I still see his offspring sink down their backs and throw out their front legs, but under saddle they work.  They have such good temperaments and attitudes that they work hard and get strong enough to compensate for the weakness in their topline.  I'm way behind on using him in our program.  I wish his frozen were better--I'd use him on a few mares this year.


Zhivago wasn't used much in Holland, but he's been used extensively in Sweden and parts of Germany.  Two sons were presented this year. They're remarkably similar in type, but one significantly stronger and more correct than the other.  He produces a beautiful front, really good movement, but the offspring drop off behind the wither and can have a weakish back.  He's another horse out of the Wendy line, so you can be guaranteed there's a strong capacity for movement in the gene pool.  The Zhivago x Licato x Caretino was one of my favorites of the show.  I think he would have been invited to the Championship Ring if he had been bred in Holland.

Quasar de Charry x Londonderry x Bogenschuetze

I can't tell you anything about this pedigree, other than the Dutch typically don't like Quaterback or his sons. Obviously, he was chosen as an outcross for KWPN lines.  He's a nice horse in type, but so clearly not Dutch that I'm afraid he won't cross consistently on our mares.  He's really slow in the hindleg, needs more power, but a nice type and clearly a stallion type.

Young Horses Under Saddle of Particular Note

As you have probably surmised if you've read the rest of this entry, there weren't that many young stallions under saddle that wowed me. I'll just write about the ones I did like and a couple a number of you are probably interested in hearing about.

Dettori (Desperado (Vivaldi) x De Niro)

This is a nice stallion. He showed good use of his body, good movement, good depth of muscling, and the right blend of hot and workable.  I liked him a lot.

Four Legends (Wynton x Ferro)

When I saw Four Legends as a two and a half year old, I liked him, but I thought he was small and needed more power.  As most everyone  knows, he's gone on to develop beautifully under saddle, selling for 600,000 Euro at the Excellent Dressage Sale last summer.  He looks fantastic. He's still a little small, but he's a top dressage horse. It will be interesting to see what he produces.  My guess is he's going to need to be crossed on large-framed, long-legged mares.

In Style (Eye Catcher x Lorentin I)

I wasn't crazy about this horse last year, but under saddle he's a really nice stallion.  He got a little tired toward the end of the presentation and lost some of his strength and pizzaz, but he's a nice horse. Much better under saddle than he was in hand and free moving last year.

Incognito (Davino VOD x Vivaldi)

North American breeders should pay attention to this horse. He's owned by Nijhof, so there's a good chance we'll have access to his frozen.  He's a lovely horse.  Supple, powerful, and really rideable from what I could see.  I liked him a lot.

Indian Rock (Apache x Vivaldi)

Mr. Indian Rock was better behaved than his half brother, but he was still a handful. I like him under saddle, but he may just need to get stronger to have the same impressive presence as he did last year at the selection. I was less disappointed about not having a foal coming from him after seeing him than I was before. Given what a handful the Apache offspring seem to be, I think I'm good waiting a bit.

The Everdales

There were two, Inspire (Everdale x Don Romantic) and Inverness (Everdale x Johnson).  I can't remember which one I liked, but I liked one of them a lot and one not at all.  I know that's not helpful.

Henkie (Alexandro P x Upperville)

Henkie is equally as impressive under saddle as he was a couple of years ago in free movement and in hand.  He's really a top horse.  And, for the first time ever, the Oldenburg Association has made an exception and licensed a Gelders stallion.  He deserves it.  From the first few foals of his I've seen, I don't think breeders have found the right mares for him, however.  The foals are small, lacking power, and development.  We'll see what they look like as three year olds.

The Totilas Boys

Here we go! I'm not normally a vindictive person, nor am I one who is wont to rub people's noses in their own verbal feces, but from the beginning Totilas has struck an emotional nerve in me, and I have nearly deified him. Every negative post about him hurt me personally. "He's completely manufactured. None of that movement is real." "He will never produce offspring that move like him." "He's been bred to the best mares in the world, so if he does produce something good, it's probably the mare and not him." Bullshit.  Bullshit.  And more bullshit. Totilas is a stallion who produces balance, a great walk, a great canter, and a developable trot. Consistently. He's not consistent in type.  Some of them can be small.  Some of them can be hot as hell.  But, without fail, he produces an athletic horse, and from a wide range of pedigrees. His sons were hands down the best young riding horses we saw in Den Bosch.

     Governor (Totilas x Jazz)

I don't know if Governor is my favorite of the Totilas sons under saddle, but he certainly appears to cross well on my marelines.  Under saddle, he looks a little odd.  His neck is developing muscling underneath rather than along the crest, he looks small and short coupled, and his tail is often held off to the side.  That being said, he's super adjustable and really supple.  His hind leg is always under him, and he shows great suspension and softness in his movement.  He's also developing a lot more power. Additionally, he has a superior temperament and good rideability.

     Glock's Toto Jr. (Totilas x Desperados)

I stood next to this horse last summer at the PAVO Cup. He's not very big.  In the ring, however, he looks huge.  He has so much presence. And, he's HOT.  His front leg use is expressive and commanding. His hind leg is not as good as Governor's.  A bigger concern for me is how quickly he falls onto the forehand when his rider releases the reins. In the test we watched, the riders are supposed to bring the hands forward three times while on the circle to demonstrate the horse in self carriage.  There were three horses in the ring during Toto Jr.'s test.  The other two clearly put their hands forward, way up the neck, for a solid two count. Toto Jr.'s rider moved her hands forward about four inches in a half count.  When she did release the reins completely, the horse clearly went onto his forehand. I don't think he's in true self carriage. I think a big part of that is he has a weakish hind leg.  This being said, he certainly looks impressive, and he's bred a lot of mares.  The foals I've seen are quite small, but they're good movers.  We'll see.

     Trafalgar (Totilas x Lord Loxley)

Such a cool horse.  He's gorgeous, really well put together, a super mover, super rideable.  I was completely impressed by him.  I don't know enough about his pedigree to make any commentary, but I'm going to be watching to see what he produces

     Total US (Totilas x Sir Donnerhall)

When Michaela and I saw Total US this summer at the PAVO Cup, he was so hot that I kind of wrote him off. At the Stallion Show, he was still really hot, but much more rideable. He is a fantastic mover and the best type of all the Totilas sons. I thought about breeding to him last year, but upon learning he is a cribber, I decided against it. Come to find out, there are a number of Totilas offspring that crib.  I hate that.  We've had two direct offspring and three grandchildren so far, and none of them show any indication that they're cribbers.  For the positives he brings to the equation, I think it's worth the risk.

The Valegro Show

I didn't take any notes during the tribute to Valegro, but there are a number of breeding observations that can be made from the horses that took part in it.

Valegro Himself (Negro x Gershwin)

He is undoubtedly a cool horse. Such talent and physical ability. I don't know whether it's all of the muscling from years of dressage training and competing or if it's his genetics, but he's built much more like the horses bred and raised for exhibition dressage.  His legs are short, his body is wide, he's fairly short coupled, and he's pretty heavy in type.  On the pedigree databases, he's listed at 172 cm.  I don't believe it.  I haven't stood right next to him, so I could be wrong, but he seems much shorter than that. His dam is listed at 170 cm. In one of the loveliest moments of his tribute, his breeders led his dam through the arena to very appreciative applause.  That mare is not 170 cm.  She looks like a fuzzy pony. She's cute as can be, and she deserves as many accolades as the KWPN and the public can afford her, but she's tiny. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just trying to put all the pieces together in processing what we look for when we're breeding dressage horses.  I'm not sure size matters.

The Negro Sons and Grandsons

I don't have specific notes on many of them. As I mentioned earlier in this post, Negro consistently produces horses with a capacity for the movements and rigor of upper level dressage. There were a ton of Negro offspring in the ring at one time.  All of them were demonstrating a strong ability for collection. I'm just going to talk about a couple stallions to whom we North American breeders have access

     Everdale (Lord Leatherdale x Negro)

I've always thought Everdale moves and looks more like a cart horse than a dressage horse, but I was so blown away by his offspring inspection that I had to breed to him. Now that he's a few years older, he's looking better and better. He wasn't terribly expressive, but he actually looks more modern in type and more correct in his movement than he did as a young horse.  I was impressed by him.  I'd like to see him have more power and be a little more electric, but he's developing really nicely.

     Glamourdale (Lord Leatherdale x Negro)

I've seen this horse a number of times now.  He always looks the same to me.  Black. Powerful. Not much bending in the body. Consistent. He's beautiful and clearly talented, but I just don't see him progressing and developing as much as I would like. He looks the same now under saddle as he did a couple years ago in the PAVO Cup.

A Few Other Horses of Note

I'm going to wrap this up soon.  We have a snow day today, and I had all kinds of plans, but I've spent most of the day watching the Patriots' Victory Parade on TV and writing this journal post. Carol is outside working on the barn, so I should probably get my lazy butt outside and help her.  Before I close, I want to mention a couple other stallions, however.

Eyecatcher (Vivaldi x TCN Partout)

I have loved this horse from the first time I saw him under saddle in the warm up ring. There are very few horses that have his ability to articulate the joints in movement the way he does.  I could watch him all day.  He had surgery a bit ago and had to go through a recovery period, so he's a little behind in his training, but he looked amazing in Den Bosch.  He was my favorite of the entire show again this year.

Expression (Vivaldi x Vincent)

Here's another impressive Vivaldi son.  Expression is much longer lined than Eyecatcher, but he clearly lives up to his name.  I love to watch him under saddle.  When he was a bit younger, I thought he looked kind of big and clunky, but he's developing beautifully.  

Jack Sparrow (Expression x Vivaldi x Negro x Rohdiamant)

If I could have taken home one horse from this year's show, this is the horse I would have picked. Given his pedigree, he was the center of some confusion and controversy.  He's the product of two half siblings.  His breeder ordered Uphill for his mare, but, without knowing it, received Expression. I don't think they figured it out until the DNA test. At any rate, he was the best young stallion presented this year.  Of course, the jury couldn't accept him because of the inbreeding, but he sold to Andreas Helgstrand and is now licensed Oldenburg.  If his frozen semen becomes available, I will breed to him.

Jurist (Don Tango B x Krack C x Aram x Pion)

This colt was not selected for the testing. He's one of four I put an asterisk next to immediately.  He's one of two for which I wrote, "Wow!" Within 30 seconds of his being in the ring, I was sure he would be Champion or Reserve of the whole show. He was also Michaela's favorite. Someone had just asked me if I had seen any horses that blew me away, and I had had to reply, "No." This horse blew me away. Super balanced, super bending of the joints, supple.  And, he got even better in hand. The jury said he didn't have enough power, so they didn't accept him.  There were a hell of a lot of horses with significantly less power than this horse they did accept, so I was suspicious and did a little investigative work.  It seems that Don Tango B has been turned out and taken out of training because he is so difficult. Interesting.  He was approved, even with OCD, because his full brother was a successful Grand Prix horse being groomed for the Dutch team, but died unexpectedly. Hard to have better sport in the mareline than that. Again, the jury has a lot more information at its disposal than do I--they probably know something I don't know, but the Tolman family loved this horse. 

In Conclusion

I hope this is helpful information.  Again, take it for what it's worth.  For all you know, I'm Trump's 600 pound kid sitting in a bedroom in New Jersey trying to hack the KWPN. Advice is always worth what you pay for it. Nonetheless, writing this has helped me articulate my thoughts, so I appreciate the forum.