1.   THREE STAGES OF FOALING  (from 2009 article by Denise Steffanus in THOROUGHBRED TIMES)  BELOW

2.   BUYING A FOAL with Jens Meyer (Horse Magazine) GO TO ARTICLE







Extractions from original article, with additional data and images.


Phyllis Lose, V.M.D., acclaimed author of Blessed Are the Broodmares and Blessed Are the Foals explains in a candid, no-nonsense manner how to recognize early labour, help deliver a foal and care for the mare and baby after foaling.


Foaling occurs in three stages of labour: Preparation, Delivery, and Passing of the foetal membranes.The first stage of labour is misunderstood by the average horse owner. They think that the first stage of labour is when the mare is getting ready to break her water. Actually, the first stage of labour can last for days. We could save so many foals by educating those who truly want to learn how to recognize the first stage, so that they don't miss a birth or fail to alert their vet.


Photos: GreenGate Stables

                                  Stage I: RECOGNIZING EARLY SIGNS

When you bring her in each evening, take her temperature when she first comes in.  Then look at the mare, her udder, her vulva, the muscle tone of her tail, and her gumsCheck her respiration rate and her heart rate. I know this is a lot to ask, but it’s a learning process. Write all this information down on a chart.” 

Count back 21 days from the mare’s projected foaling date and begin to monitor her vital signs, demeanour, characteristics and measurements for changes. This is most easily done when the mare comes into the barn for her evening feeding. The notations on the first day of monitoring are used as a baseline to compare the mare’s progress as she approaches parturition. Hang her chart on the stall door.  

Chart example: 

Date      Temp        Heart       Resp        Gums       Vulva          Udder            Belly                Demeanour

1/15      100.1        35          10           Pink         10"          19" flat     Central/Wide           Bright

1/16      100           34          11           Pink         10"          19" flat     Central/Wide        Comfortable 


Normal Vital Signs

Temperature: 99 - 100.5 F

Heart rate: 30 -44 beats/minute

Respiratory: 10 -15 breaths/minute

Gums: Pale pink to Bubblegum pink


Because there is only slight variation in the mare's vital signs as an indication that she will foal that night, it is important to take them at the same time each evening and under similar conditions.  So, if you typically take the mare's vital signs immediately when she comes in and 30 minutes before feeding, make sure you stick to the same routine every night.


Next, step back and take a look at the mare from the front and from the back.  Note the shape and position of her pregnant belly.  Two weeks prior to parturition, her bulging belly will be centrally distributed and protruding on both sides as the foal lies crossways in the mare's uterus.


"When she is ready to foal the mare will suddenly seem to have taken on a slab-sided appearance. That's because the foal has moved from transverse to longitudinal, getting ready to exit the narrow birth canal." 


Lift up the mare's tail and note the position and tone of her vulva and its level at the bottom in relation to the point of her buttocks. Measure it from top to bottom and record it on the chart.  Also note the resistance of the tail muscles while lifting it, as just prior to Stage II she will lose all control of her tail.  A noticable softening will occur in the muscle around the tailhead and in the massive gluteals which will fall away notoceably from the spine. 

Lean down and get a good look at the mare's teats. Initially they will be flaccid, dry and very dimpled, but as foaling time approaches she will develop udders.  Note their circumference and feel its temperature, which will increase prior to foaling.

“Check the dimples in the teats.  That’s a very significant sign. When the dimples are there, you usually have time. As soon as the teats become full and the dimples disappear, you know that foaling is imminent.”


Photos credit: Yellow House Ranch


Note the mare's demeanour. A good horseman who is familiar with the mare will be able to note even subtle changes in her disposition. Because all horses are individuals, each mare reacts differently when foaling is imminent - some may be more affectionate, others may become crabby, yet others may shun attention and seek solitude.


The Main Event


"All of a sudden one evening when you're standing behind or in front of her, you'll see that she looks slab-sided, and you'll say, 'Oh! Has she lost her foal?' Walk around to her side and you'll see a profound abdominal drop right in front of the stifle, and that's the foal. It has moved into position, ready for parturition."


The udder is shaping up, and the vulva is maybe a little relaxed, but not much. But when you look at it and measure it, you'll know. This is the way beginners can really learn to tell when a mare is about to foal.


You will see a sudden drop in body temperature and an elevated heart rate. Her respiration rate will be up a little, but not enough that you would necessarily notice it if you had not been checking it. The mare’s gums will be a little redder, and you’ll see the vulva drop down an inch or two. When you feel the mare’s udder, it will be warmer than it has been and at the same time, the dimples will be filled out and it will look like white milk rather than wax oozing from the teats, and the mare takes on that dramatic slab-sided effect. That’s when you know things are changing and you’re counting down to foaling.


Milk Day 300 - 310                                                    Day 320                                           Day 330 (Mare foaled following day)


Photos credit: Yellow House Ranch


"All mares go through all these changes.  Some may take hours, others may go through them more quickly.  A tricky maiden mare can fool you, but old mares usually won’t.  If people would keep a record or a chart, they would be right there and prepared when that mare’s water breaks and she begins to foal. That's the Moment of Truth!"


Signs Of Imminent Foaling

Foaling Necessities

Drop in body temperature.

Elevated heart rate.

Elevated respiratory rate.

Reddish gums.

Vulva relaxes and drops one to two inches.

Glutteal and tailhead muscles relax; tail pull is flaccid.

Dimples vanish as teats engorge; udder is warmer.

Mare looks slab-sided as foal moves into position.

Mare’s demeanour may change.

Large, safe foaling stall.

Good variable lighting.


Tail wraps.

Container for placenta.

Clean towels.

Disinfectant wash.

Foal enema.

Naval iodine.

Studies suggest that approximately 80 percent of foals are born between midnight and 6 a.m. as mares generally prefer privacy at foaling time. If she is disturbed too much, it may be enough for her to delay the birth process temporarily, until human observers are not around. This is why you are cautioned to minimize interference and become quiet and harmonious with her, in her environment.Whatever behavioural or physical changes she goes through as foaling approaches, it's important not to expect to see all of them before recognizing that she is about to give birth. Your mare is an individual and her displays could be subtle enough to miss, or she may clearly demonstrate every symptom, at every stage.


In the first stage of foaling, mares will become restless. They will not eat and they may pace or walk in circles, look back toward their flank, and twitch their tails. Some mares lie down and stand up repeatedly and some will not drink water. This restless period is usually shorter for older mares although this is the longest stage of foaling and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to six hours.  As labor progresses, mares may assume a straddling, crouching position and may urinate frequently. Shortly before the foal emerges the mare may sweat profusely, especially around the flanks. When the mare breaks her water or starts expelling fluid, the first stage of parturition is completed.


The second stage of parturition which is the expulsion of the fetus or actual birth, is of shorter duration than the first stage. The mare may be standing or lying down as contractions begin, but she usually will lie on her side for the actual birth.

The second stage is the critical time when you have to act fast when things are happening and where the seconds, not the minutes, count."

Imminent delivery

Stage II begins when the mare's water breaks, which sets in motion a cascade of events that unfold quickly.  During Stage II of foaling, most mares will produce a healthy, vibrant foal to the world with no complications and no need of assistance.  But in those instances where foaling goes awry, it is important to recognize what is normal during delivery and what situations require quick action to save the foal, the mare, and the mare's reproductive future. 

"When the water breaks, the mare can be standing up or lying down but most of the time, she's standing up. She might make a circle of the stall once or twice and then drop down, usually on her sternum. Then in about a minute or two - it varies with the mare - she'll roll over onto her side. That means she's getting down to business; she's going to deliver a foal."

The foal is generally born after 10 - 20 minutes heavy labour although maiden mares tend to take longer to expel the foetus.


Under the mare's tail, a whitish glistening sac ("bubble") about the size of a grapefruit will begin to protrude through the vulva. The mare may get up with part of the foal exposed but will normally lie down again to complete the birthing process.

In the leading end of that sac will be the tip (foot) of the first foreleg to emerge, followed by the other foreleg, approximately at the ankle of the first. The feet emerge sole downward, and are soon followed by the foal's muzzle which is nestled between the front legs near the knees as the baby's shoulders, slightly askew, pass through the birth canal.


Another thrust or two from the mare's contractions will eject the foal. Because the foal is still deriving its oxygen through the umbilical cord it might momentarily appear to be stillborn. Do not interfere, except for clearing the foetal membranes and fluid from the nostrils.


At this time, (a bonus of about 500 [cubic cm] or so) of blood continues to pass from the placenta via the still attached umbilical cord as well, so let the foal remain close to the mare to prevent an early or unnatural separation of the cord.

Almost immediately, a healthy foal will become animated and attempt to scramble out of the sac. Within a few minutes, its activity may break the umbilical cord or the mare might tear it away as she licks her foal during bonding. Often, the umbilical cord may remain intact until the mare breaks it as she rises to her feet. When it does sever, keep the naval site clean, and immediately apply antiseptic to the stump.

                                        ....Psssst! Our Good Vet gave us this 5:5 Tip as a rule of thumb:

Approximately 5 minutes after the waters break, you should see the bubble emerge.

Approximately 5 minutes after the bubble appears, you should see the feet emerging.

And another tip from us: Have a clock or watch nearby to help you keep track of time. During foaling (in good or bad situations) one minute can feel like 100 years and the reverse is also true: Those 5-minute intervals can pass very quickly without you realizing it!  ;-) GGStables.


1. Mare should foal within 30 minutes of water breaking.

2. For shoulders to be properly aligned, feet should emerge sole downward, 2nd foot at ankle of the first.

3. Muzzle should nestle between forelegs, close to the knees.

4. Getting the mare to her feet and forcing her to walk could correct malpresentation.

5. Scrub hands and arms meticulously before reaching into the mare.

6. When repositioning the foal, act ONLY between the mare's contractions.

7. Do NOT apply undue traction / pulling on the foal.

8. Allow the umbilical chord to sever naturally and apply antiseptic to the naval stump.

9. Retention of the foetal membranes beyond 3 x hours is a medical emergency. A mare that does not foal within 30 minutes of breaking her water is in big trouble.


Even for a mare you assume will have no difficulty foaling on her own, be vigilant when stage II begins, paying particular attention to the mare’s contractions after she lies flat on her side. If neither the bulging white sac nor the tip of the foal’s hoof-sole downward- appears through her vulva after two or three strong contractions, immediately call the veterinarian ... then go into action.

"You should run to the mare's head, put a halter on her if she's not wearing one, and get her on her feet.  Here's the purpose: The foal is full of moisture. It's soft. It's pliable because it hasn't come out into the air.  Whatever is causing this 'blockage', these non-productive contractions - when you get her up, gravity allows that wet, soft foal to slide back into this great, big, expanded uterus, and when it slides back, even if it's only an inch or two, whatever is lodged can correct itself."

Lose acknowledged that getting the mare to her feet and forcing her to walk will be a challenge. "Someone lead her and someone follow her with a whip or stick or something. I don't mean to be cruel, but it's her life and her foal's life.  Just drive her, make her walk, and keep her walking.  I get so emotional about that because people say, 'I don't want to hit the mare.' You have to hit her and make her walk. It means her life."


So get the mare up, no matter what. Any delay in progress once the countdown begins indicates problems. With nerve and courage, you will be able to make the mare get up and keep her walking until the vet gets there. She'll only walk a certain length of time anyway, and she'll drop down on her own - no one in the world can hold a pregnant mare up when she's trying to deliver.  When she does drop down, you pray that nature has helped you reposition or at least loosend whatever it was that was that was blocking the birth, even if the veterinarian isn't there.


Repositioning Malpresentations


If getting the mare to her feet and walking her does not reposition the foal correctly, it is necessary to take more intrusive action by reaching into the mare as she is led at a brisk walk.


"Don’t be timid. Scrub your hands and arms meticulously, scrub the mare, and slip your hand inside and see what you can feel. It’s very tight in there, and the foal takes up every available inch. When you put your hands in there, they can protect the mare from damage and help the foal in a harmonious way. Allow only one person to apply traction and only when the mare is pushing. Don’t pulljust keep your hand there, and when she contracts, help her. Please don’t apply traction unduly. The purpose is to help the mare hold the progress she has made. If you need to apply traction, then once the shoulders are cleared allow the mare to take a breather. That’s a time when she has a little hiatus. After that, and assuming you are applying traction, direct the foal’s head, neck, and forelegs toward the mare’s hocks. Don’t take it straight out because you could possibly hurt the foal’s spinal chord.”


The most common malpresentation is when the foal’s legs or head get hung up during delivery. Those that a foaling attendant might be able to resolve, include:


A foot deflected toward the ceiling of the vagina.

A foreleg deflected backward under the foal.

A foreleg positioned to emerge knee-first.

A foal's head turned to one side.

The foal's chin caught under the rim of the pelvis.


If you feel a little foot in there, and it’s lodged in the ceiling of the vagina:

This can penetrate the rectum, causing the mare to sustain a recto-vaginal tear. Slip your hand over the top of the little sharp foot, cup your hand and hold the foot in the palm of your hand and just lower it an inch or so, then let the mare push the foal right out. It might hurt your hand a little bit, but it doesn't matter at a time like that.


If the forelimb is deflected backward:

During a break between the mare’s contractions, push the foal back down into the uterus. When you locate the flexed limb, grasp it above the knee and elevate it as high as the area will permit. Simultaneously slip the palm of your other hand underneath the flexed foot so that it will ease into your palm. Use your palm to absorb the stress and protect the mare’s reproductive tissues as you help the foot slip into the proper position.



If one foot emerges but the second does not follow it approximately at the ankle of the first foot:

Feel around carefully for that second foot. Work your hand up the foal’s head from the muzzle, down the neck, and follow the forearm down to the second foot. This will assure that you are manipulating a foreleg, not the hind leg. If the second forefoot is lagging behind you can give it a little tug, but you don’t want to make it even, or the foal won’t fit through the birth canal. Having one foot a little behind the other enables its shoulders to slip through.


If both feet are positioned properly but two or three strong contractions do not advance them further out of the vulva:

The foal's head may be hung up. Close behind the second foot, you should feel the muzzle nestled between the front legs near the knees. If you can feel that little muzzle, you are home free - a wonderful feeling. But if you can't, there may be such a thing as the head deflected to the side or bent backward, or the little chin might be tucked in under the rim of the pelvis, and that's a nasty thing. Reaching into the mare as she walks, and between contractions, grasp both forelegs and begin to push them steaily backwards. Be careful and patient until you reach the point where you can slip your hand between the foal's chin and the hard, bony pelvis. With the foal's chin in the palm of your hand, continue carrying it forward again while intermittently pushing each foreleg backward.



            RED BAG FLAG

If the appearing bubble is red, this means that the allantoic membrane failed to rupture and is separating from the uterus lining, and the foal is in danger of suffocation. 


Note: Complicated malpresentations like this or a breech birth are more challenging, and best handled by your vet, but if no one more experienced is available during a “red bag” delivery, intervene IMMEDIATELY: Rupture that membrane manually to find the white membrane within, and help the passage of the foal



A mare, not a cow...

Lose urges horsemen to attend as many foalings as possible, watch educational videos on the subject and read as much as they can in order to discern between a normally progressing delivery and one that requires intervention. She offered this strong warningDo not allow misinformation to influence you. If you have learned all you can about foaling and you think you know what to do, don’t allow someone who’s been around cows tell you to do something else. A mare is not a cow! These are the most dangerous people to be around horses!"

At-risk mares:  Have a frank discussion with your veterinarian in advance about any mare that might be expected to develop complications and devise a plan to address those issues.


The third stage is all about the placenta, the healing of the uterus, and the way the mare regenerates after delivering a foal—all these things that if people are careful with them, they’ll have mares producing foals for years. So it’s terribly important.

After the mare foals, the foetal tissues will hang from her vulva as they gradually slip out. Because the placenta is attached to the endometrium (lining of the uterus), it has a profound impact on future fertility. Dislodging it by force such as allowing the mare to step on it and pull it loose or tugging on the placenta by hand, can cause the mare’s uterus irreparable damage. 

Once the umbilical cord severs and the mare rises to her feet, gather up the cord and other foetal membranes and tie them up with a piece of baling twine so they hang no lower than the mare’s hock level. This not only prevents her from stepping on them and injuring her reproductive tract, it also allows the weight to assist gravity in passing the membranes naturally. This normally occurs within two hours of foaling. If the mare has not expelled the placenta by then, immediately contact your veterinarian. Retention of the foetal membranes beyond three hours is a medical emergency.

While expelling the membranesthe average mare will experience colic-like pain, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain, so be especially vigilant that she does not injure her foal if she begins to act colicky. The wobbly newborn is in danger of injury during this period, as a mare suffering the pain of the placenta peeling away from the uterus is often distracted as well as unused to having a foal close by. If the mare’s response to the afterbirth pain is endangering her foal, administer Banamine or an oral colic preparation to the mare. (Always consult your farm veterinarian before administering any type of medication.)

The Placenta

Until your vet can examine the placenta, never discard it. Instead, place it in a bucket with a lid to safeguard it from animals. The placenta provides insight into the pregnancy and the health of the foal and characteristics such as color, tissue thickness, or areas where the blood flow has been compromised can be significant clues if a problem arises with the mare or her foal.


This is the foal’s life-support pod while it is in the uterus. The placenta is intimately attached, albeit weakly, to the inner lining of the uterus during pregnancy by millions of microscopic hairs called villi that act like Velcro

These villi transport nutrients to the placenta, which in turn nourishes the foetus.

Inside the mare, the placenta's slick, grayish-white membrane is next to the foal and the blood-red, velvety surface interfaces with the uterus. But when the foal is born, the umbilical cord pulls the placenta inside out so instead it looks like a gray pouch with red velvet lining.

When spread out on a flat surface the placenta resembles the silhouette of a foal. The remnants of the umbilical cord trail off from the center of the large main body, midway between the horns. There is a considerable opening from which the foal emerged.

It has two elongated pockets called the pregnant horn and the non-pregnant horn that are attached to the main body of the placenta. The pregnant horn will be much larger, smoother, and not wrinkled. The non-pregnant horn will be much smaller and very wrinkled. The non-pregnant horn is most often the area of the placenta to be retained, as it seems to have a stronger attachment and therefore resists peeling away. The end of each horn should be smooth, intact and complete, just like a finger of a glove.

Any variation of this is a signal for action. Do not confuse the large exit hole in the placenta as being partially retained tissue. The body of the placenta is seldom if ever retained, normally it's the tips of the horns. Retention of even a small piece can endanger the mare’s life, causing her to develop acute metritis (a profound uterine infection), septicemia, laminitis, or all three, so seek professional advice immediately.







Genetics can get so complicated it gives one a headache. So, with humble acknowledgement (and apologies) to works of both Keith T Weber and I have put together an illustrative article on the subject...  DNA is a long, linear molecule that contains a sequence of specific codes, instructions or blueprints for living cells’ behaviour: which cells should grow and when, which ones should become muscle, a kidney, lung or other cells, etc. All of the structural and functional proteins in a cell are encoded in the genes.

Foals resemble their parents simply because they were formed using approximately half DNA from each parent through the sperm and egg, so while blood-related horses may have similar characteristics, they are never exactly alike. Two parents – say, athletes jumping at Olympic level - may produce a brilliant foal destined for the same path and some years later, could produce another that can’t hop its way out of a wet paper bag, even with a sugar cube trail!

This is the key to understanding and appreciating that these differences will occur, entirely due to the different genetic information within either sibling.


Meet Bravo, the son of Alpha and Annie.

Bravo dated a pretty mare named Beta, they were married and had a colt they named Charlie. To better understand what happened genetically, try this simple experiment by replacing genes with marbles:


  1. Take out your box of marbles and select 10 x black marbles, and 10 x white marbles.
  2. All 20 marbles will represent Bravo’s genetic makeup. The black marbles were contributed by his father, Alpha; White marbles were contributed by his mother, Annie.
  3. Place all 20 marbles in a paper bag and shake them up. Without looking, draw 10 marbles (50%). These marbles represent the genes that were given to Charlie, from Bravo.
  4. Repeat the exercise with pink and green marbles to represent Beta and her parents’ contribution.
  5. The 20 x selected marbles you now hold in your hand are most likely different quantities of the four colours. This is Charlie.
  6. Repeat the exercise to see how the same 20 x marbles’ colour representation changes each time. Because the DNA pieces were basically random, in the same way each foal from Bravo and Beta will get a different subset/configuration of their DNA.

The laws of averages also says that if you repeat the above experiment numerous times, you will eventually average 5 x of each colour.


What?!...So, how can we possibly plan good breeding, and be young enough to see results, that is?


Well, now! Breeders have heard of ‘back massing’ which means the potential for relatively distant ancestors of Charlie to have substantial genetic influence on him, because the distant ancestor – let’s call him Adam the Superhorse  - appears a multitude of times in Charlie’s pedigree.

So, if we will eventually get even numbers of each colour, is back massing a real consideration? If you were a breeder or a population geneticist, and if our breeding farms contained hundreds of horses each then the answer may be yes. However, at best breeders deal with individuals (or small numbers of horses) and calculating time consuming back massing percentages –which operate on averages within populations - may be a waste of time. Breeders deal with individuals (like Charlie) while population geneticists deal with, well, populations.

Back massing is actually a bit more complicated than our experiment to create Charlie, in that it deals with the potential for distant ancestors (10 or more generations removed) to influence Charlie today. To add an additional layer of complexity, we consider that Adam the Superhorse appears numerous times within Charlie’s 10 generation pedigree. Attempting to illustrate this with bags of coloured marbles would be crazy – put them away! – as we would need thousands of bags of marbles and impeccable record keeping (and here we should give a grateful nod to meticulous recordkeeping of the European Verbands) Luckily, we can solve this problem using computer simulations to quickly and accurately illustrate genetic assortment and flow from Great-grand-daddy right to Charlie.


While preparing to breed Charlie, owners Mr. and Mrs. Brown reconstructed Charlie’s pedigree backward 20 generations. When finished, they discovered that Adam the Superhorse appeared many times between the 10th and 15th generation. In fact, Adam appeared 2,322 times in Charlie pedigree, even though there are over 32,000 names in a 15 generation pedigree and over one million in 20 generations! Knowing this, the Brown’s wondered how important Adam’s genetic contribution really was.



After all, the Superhorse was a very famous equine within their breeding, and documenting direct –and substantial-- lineage back to him would be very good indeed.The Brown’s read everything they could find and learned how to calculate percent contribution (a back massing statistic). The results were staggering. Apparently, 49% of Charlie’s genes could be traced directly back to Adam.

Normalized for 15 generations, the result was still an impressive 0.4% genetic contribution. The Brown’s continued their work using all kinds of analyses and fancy computer software to provide a better estimate of genetic fidelity that accounts for the possibility that Adam’s foals may be breeding to each other somewhere along the way, thereby multiplying his genetic prepotency.


They also allowed for the general breeding program to be specified (for example, linebreeding, outcrossing, etc.) which can have important consequences.They came up with different figures: The normalized percent was 0.36% genetic contribution to Charlie’s genes.The results of the estimates are different because percent contribution may overestimate genetic prepotency by assuming that genes flow as equally proportioned bundles.

On the other hand, genetic fidelity may underestimate genetic prepotency because it assumes genes are contributed in a completely random fashion. Which estimate is correct? Probably neither! The correct answer possibly lies somewhere between the two estimates. Both are valuable as useful information to assist breeders but most breeders do not employ random breeding practices as they develop their lines. Rather, successful breeders tend to be very selective about their breeding program and “selection” in of itself is certainly not random. Since breeders are selecting for specific traits it stands to reason that Adam the Superhorse’s genes –which are ultimately responsible for many (but not all) of his award winning traits—were similarly selected.GENETIC DILUTION

While using these genetic fidelity simulations the author documented what was identified as a “very important” lesson: If breeders wish to maintain or amplify a sire’s prepotency they need to “double-up” on those genes fairly frequently. In fact, without this “doubling-up” using the important sire (or his finest progeny) his genetic effect will be extinguished within five generations. The flip-side of this same coin is that it will take equally as long to extinguish the genetic aftermath of a serious breeding mistake. Another lesson that was made clear is that when looking at the prepotency of sires 15 generations removed the only ones that will have any real influence on today’s horses are those sires appearing at least 15,000 times in the pedigree (under a linebreeding program). That’s really an inbreeding scenario since there is only slightly over 16,000 sires at the 15th generation!








Excerpt from article in Horse Magazine, and additional use of foal images.

Jens Meyer originally worked at the State Stud Celle before acquiring his farm at Dorum, knows much about breeding and is in great demand from breeding associations all over Europe as a classifier and judge.

 If I want to buy a foal and I'm coming to the Hanover Foal Auction how can I increase the chances of getting a good foal?

"At the auctions they are really well selected foals. We have 8,000 foals and for all the breeders it is a big deal to bring their foal to the Foal Auction because they have a very good chance of getting a good price. They offer all their good foals at the selections, and so what makes it to the auction is very high quality.

Photo Left:  Bennie de Ruiter Stables 

It is a little difficult to make the selection because the foals are all different ages and picking the quality in foals so young is not that easy. But most of them that come to the auction have been winners at Foal Shows.  For example at my Foal Show there are 80 foals and they select the top three to five, to go to the auction."

When you get to the Auction, you have several chances to see the foals?

"The first chance we have is with the DVD and catalogue before the auction.  Then you can find related horses, see what they are doing, how they are competing and what is the quality of the mare.  In the end every foal is pretty but three years later it looks like the mother. For me, the best option is to buy a foal out of a high quality mare - the dam side is more important than the stallion.  Buying a foal is the best chance to get a top horse because when the foal is two or three, then it would probably be too expensive."

What are the important things to look for?

"There are some things we don't want to see.  For example you have a foal that is trotting around with the tail up, that means the foal is not relaxed and doesn't show its true movement. It's as if you put your riding horse into a box for 14 days and you let him out, he shows something that is not really there.  So you want to see a foal that is relaxed, his tail and back are swinging and the hind end engine is good. With a foal, to see the movement is a little special and to get a guarantee you need to find the answer in the pedigree, and out of the construction, and out of the success the mare has in the performance test. Then you look in the stallion book of Dr Christmann (the annual Hanover Jahrbuch Hengste) and look at what the stallions have produced and you can see a red line and know this is what he produces. Compare then the stallion's results with the mare's side and you nearly get a guarantee that you get the foal you want.

For me, when I am looking for a dressage horse it must have a different construction than a jumper.  Especially for a dressage horse the top line is very important but to see in a foal how the top line will develop is very difficult.  That's when you have to think about the stallion and the mare.  Even when you look at the first presentation of the foals you cannot be sure - some foals do not show well that day - the foal has travelled two hours to the auction and maybe doesn't show so well and there are some really smart breeders and they can get their foals to trot but what you see is not always what you get - better to think about the pedigree.  So, after I have looked at all the foals I mark the ones I am interested in and then I want to see the foal on the hard ground. There you see the truth . . . and if the foal is correct and the feet are good.  Nobody talks about this but enough problems come later, we don't need to start with feet problems.  We want good legs. Okay, some foals when they start are not entirely straight but you must decide - is this a problem or not? This you can see on the hard ground, not in the grandstand, 50 metres away."

The hard ground Jens is referring to is the bitumen road next to the stables where the mares are kept.  It is perfectly acceptable to go back to the stable and ask the breeder to bring the foal out for a further examination.

"The walk is also essential. When you see a foal inside the Auction Hall they present them in trot and it's very difficult for the foal to come back relaxed and walk so once again you can see if the walk is correct on the hard ground.  But there will still be a little speculation because every foal can walk because they have long legs and a small body - this is again when you look to the mother - what is her walk like? Look at the mother, look at the foal and compare - how will the foal develop? Especially for the dressage horse, the conformation is the important thing, not just a pretty foal.

What is important is where the hock is and with a foal you cannot see it - you have to know the stallion and his conformation and again, look at the mare.  You cannot see it in a foal. The stallion has this (the right position), the mother has this, then it could be that the foal has the right position for the hock." 

For the dressage horse, there are some stallions that are breeding horses that are slow and out behind.

"In the Hanoverian 10 years ago we needed canter, so we used a lot of Holstein bloodlines but then in the end you also get the problem from the Holstein - same with the Thoroughbred.  We want to see that blood in the third generation - again, analyse the pedigree.  Fifteen years ago it was fashionable to try and breed a Holstein dressage horse.  You go and look at them at the stallion selection when they are two and a half and wow - very good movement - but when you go to ride them, no movement.  This is the problem,  the horses can't work through the back, they are not swinging and in the end, are not dressage horses.  In this time we saw Corlandus and some very good Holstein dressage horses so you can find them, but you are very lucky if you do but most of them we do not need for dressage. So, when you see a pedigree that is half Holstein half Hanoverian and use them as a dressage horse the risk is high that you have a horse with no swinging back - it's best not to buy those problems, they come by themselves.

Photo left: Cairo, GreenGate Stables

The L-line in Holstein was the line where they tried to save the movement in Holstein and their breeding authorities are really anxious to bring back the L-line to get the movement because they have a closed studbook and it is not very easy for them. You can see it in Landadel, he produced very good dressage horses especially with Hanoverian lines but there was always a problem with the walk - not enough walk.

When you see dressage horses and the breeding is just dressage, dressage, dressage and there is no jumping blood in it you lose the canter.  It is also very important that the dressage horse does a little jump because you see the willingness in a horse - they must have willingness.

For me, when I bring my stallions to the performance test all my good dressage horses must also do the cross country.  This says the horse wants to work.  In the Dutch studbook they do not ask the horses to jump and I do not think this is the right way.  It is important they have a strong back and this you can lose if you go just one way.  So when you look at pedigrees you need a lot of experience."


"Yes, I have a stallion with Ramiro on the pedigree and I am very pleased with this. This was from a generation where the horses could carry themselves and were not so specialized in jumping, when they went to the performance test they did everything.  But now the jumping lines are so specialized they can nearly not do the performance test.  They are not carrying themselves, they are not swinging.  In the end the stallion for me must be able to do all the elements of the performance test.  You can see it in the French breeding. . .  Mr. Melchoir bred jumpers with jumpers  with jumpers in the end he has no horse - it jumps two metres but you cannot ride it into a corner.  Function comes from construction and this is very important.

When we buy a jumper foal we must still have rideability. Do you want a horse that needs an artist or an acrobat to sit on? Maybe that artist can get the horse to the fences but in the end, with a horse, we want to have fun."

What lines do you like to see on top for a dressage foal?

". . . Lines have become like fashion, you have a red or a green pullover.  Which one do you like more? We have to find out this line can do this and that line can do that; this line is breeding to this mare family. . . in every pedigree we see a stallion we do not like or we can find always a reason so we can say this pedigree is good or this pedigree is bad.  To find what the whole family is doing is very important for me.  It is not like buying a car . . . in a horse it's not so easy. . . I go out and buy a Sandro Hit / Donnerhall / Rubinstein and I have a good horse? No."

Photo, left: ( Radiant - 2010 Royal Classic / De Niro colt,  Verden Elite Foal Auction.

Photo right: Bennie de Ruiter Stables


But can you say I want a dressage horse but I can't stand spooky horses?

"Yes, we have lines that are spooky - I give you an answer from the past. When you say Argentan and he produced many horses that were a little spooky but in his time the stallion was good - he produced type. So you get the type from him but you get the problem that sometimes they are spooky. But when you know from the mare family that they are super honest horses and they need blood, they are too slow and have not the willingness, and you have a slightly spooky stallion, that can work.  But when people say every Argentan is spooky, that is not true.  He was good for our breeding, he produced a World Cup winner. . ."

As a practical demonstration of 'reading' a pedigree I ask Jens to talk about one of the young stallions he has in his barn, Lord Laurie. I'm interested that you have a young stallion by Lord Loxley. I guess you don't like the pedigree of Lord Sinclair...

"Okay, let us look at the papers from Lord Laurie. Okay, with Lord Sinclair you say it could be better, but when you see Lord Loxley's pedigree - I rode this mare Weltlady by Weltmeyer.  I rode Weinlady and I know her mother, this Domspatz mare.  In the end Lord Sinclair was a champion, he was a trot horse and is now doing Grand Prix.  Lord Loxley is another successful competitor. . . Weltlady scored over 8 in her performance test and she is also a trot horse.  She won material classes and she was sold for big money to Belgium. Weinlady by Weingau was also a trot horse - she could really move - then comes Domspatz and then Marcio blood. In the end you have a really big chance that you produce trot and we need trot for the future.

Lord Loxley, below.


What you don't have on this pedigree is any refiner and in the end you end up too heavy.  So then you have to look at Laurie, a mare I bought at the farm of Max Schultz.  . . . so we took the mare into the Hanoverian book and she scores 8 and that is a big deal. . . She is a very pretty mare, you see the influence of Lauries Crusador, he gives the neck, legs and saddle position - uphill.  In the end he gives us what we want from the Thoroughbred.  And this we need because otherwise we have breeding of the old days - the 70's - and in the 70's we have correctness, good legs, strong legs, a strong back, all the things we lost with this fashion breeding.  But we need a drop of Thoroughbred blood in it to give these old bloodlines what they lack.

Then comes jumper blood, but this mare Gretl produced an S-level dressage horse and an S-level jumper. Then comes Ferbel by Ferdinand and she is the grandmother of Brentano."


Photos: Thoroughbred stallion, Lauries Crusador

But I have seen this mare Ferbel, and she looks like a tank...

"She looked like a tank.  Short legs, so it is important to have this Thoroughbred blood but from 'the tank' we get powerful movement. . . When you look at heritability, movement and type is not together but when you get them together you have a horse worth a million.  So we look for solutions. Look back a little farther, here comes Marbel, she is the mother of two Garibaldis.

Now with Lord Laurie we must see what happens. I am very glad that the breeders have used him quite well.  We didn't show him for the Bundeschampionate or anything, hopefully he makes good foals, which is what we want.  What we want especially is a lot of Lauries Crusador influence in the third generation...we did this before with Absatz in the third generation. Hopefully from the old lines we get the trot, and hopefully from the Lauries we get the good conformation and correctness. . .but we will see."




Specialists or All-rounders? Degrees of heritability and genetic correlations in the Hanoverian breed.  by Dr. Ludwig Christmann  

"How safe is it to assume that the shape of a horse's head will be passed on from one generation to the next?  What happens to the basic gaits and the typiness if we select for jumping ability only?  Ludwig Christmann researched these kinds of statements in the course of his study of the development of the breed value estimation based on the results from mare inspections and mare performance tests at the Institute of Animal Breeding at the University in Goettingen. These results are not only necessary for the estimation of the breed values, they, in themselves, also bear important information with respect to breeding."

The scores of mare inspections and mare performance tests of a total of 5,347 mares tested from 1987 to 1993 were taken in to consideration for this project. The degree of heritability is a way to measure the genetic strength of a characteristic, up to which degree a characteristic will be passed on to the next generation.  The investigation is based on the fact that related animals are more alike than unrelated animals. The heritability can be expressed in percentage.

Heritability Consideration:


 <20% =Insignificant.  20-40% = Average 40%< = Strong. 

Obviously it only makes sense to evaluate heritable characteristics and use these as selection criteria.  The stronger the heritability, the faster we can achieve progress in our breeding program.  An average heritability degree is a very useful tool in animal breeding.  

Chart 1: Degrees of heritability of characteristics scored at mare inspections (computed by means of a BLUP animal model)

Correctness of gaits




Hind legs






Breed & sex type




Saddle position






     CHART 1 (left) portrays the degrees of heritability of those characteristics scored at mare inspections. Clearly the type determining traits - head, neck, saddle position and frame - are located in the average to strong area with 23 % (frame) and 41 % (head).


      The degrees of heritability for the foundation characteristics like front legs (16%), hind legs (18%), correctness (14%) are significantly lower. This statement conforms to the results of other authors, even with the results regarding other animal species like cattle.




 We have to presume that the environment greatly influences the development of the limbs. I define the word environment as the area where a horse grows up starting at its position in the womb to hoof care feeding  and keeping.  The heritability of the size (36%) is fairly high, which coincides with observations in real life. 


Chart 2: Degrees of heritability of characteristics scored at mare performance test (Computed by means of BLUP animal model)









Free jump



      CHART 2 (left) reflects the degrees of heritability for traits evaluated at mare performance tests. The heritability    of the basic gaits lies between 26% (walk) and 37% (trot), an area which is very useful in breed issues. 

       The trot is the movement with the highest degree of heritability.  This fact coincides with statements from other research programs.  The heritability degree for rideability lies with 29 % in the same area as the heritability degree for basic gaits.

Very important: Free Jumping
With 40% it was established that the predisposition to be able to free jump has the highest heritability degree of all mare performance test criteria. This fact also proved to be true in other research programs, i.e. the stallion performance test.  The high degree of heritability underlines the importance of free jumping: in a young horse free jumping gives the strongest indication for an aptitude to jump even though we know that other factors come into place when converting the aptitude for jumping into actually jumping courses.  It is safe to say that a predisposition for being able to jump or not will most likely be passed on to the next generation.  This means that progress in breeding jumpers can be achieved fairly easily  and quickly.  The development in breeding jumpers in Hannover as well as in other breeding areas validates the statement above.

(Last year) a delegation from Sweden visited our breeding area including Professor Ingvar Fredricson, the Director of the National Stud Farm Flyinge. From what he says, Sweden used to be famous for its dressage horse breeding program.  (During the last years) Sweden rapidly progressed in its breed program for jumpers, while they noticed a backlog in their dressage horse breeding program.


Genetic Correlations
I now address the correlation between the various characteristics known as genetic correlation. It gauges if and to what extent the development of a characteristic depends on another characteristic.

Genetic correlations are portrayed in units from (-1) negative one to (+1) positive one. 

A genetic correlation of (+1) between two characteristics means the following: A selection for one characteristic causes the same breed progress for another characteristic without specifically selecting for it. 

A genetic correlation of (-1) means: While achieving a certain breed progress for one characteristic, at the same time you achieve the same amount of setback for another characteristic. 

A correlation of zero means that two characteristics are independent from one another.  When selecting characteristic one, neither progress nor setback is to be expected with characteristic two.

Table 1: Estimated values of genetic correlations between criteria of the mare performance test.





Free Jumping


 +  (0.52)

 +     (0.60)

 +      (0.68)

  -      (-0.10)


 ++   (0.82)

 ++    (0.83)

 + -     (0.02)


 +      (0.73)

 +       (0.11)


 + -     (0.06)


In TABLE 1  (above) genetic correlations between mare performance test criteria can be determined. It is clearly visible that all three basic gaits are positively connected with values of 0.52 to 0.82. Also, the correlation between the basic gaits and the assessment of the rideability is positive and high 0.68 to 0.83. This means that the assessment of the rideability depends greatly on the quality of the basic gaits. Of the three basic gaits, the trot has the largest influence on the rideability. Considering the strong heritability, as shown above, this fact underlines the importance of this movement in a breeding program.

The Importance of Elasticity
The interplay between rideability and basic gaits indicates the importance of elasticity.  A horse allows a rider to sit comfortably when he vigorously pushes off the ground and the movements swing through his entire body with a powerful but elastic and swinging back. This horse causes less problems with the contact, the activity in the mouth and with the reactions on the rider's aids, than a horse whose appearing stiffness influences not only the quality of the basic gaits but also the suppleness.


The relation between the assessment of the free jumping and the evaluation of the basic gaits/rideability is of a different nature.  The genetic correlation between the ability to jump and the trot and rideability is almost zero. This indicates their independence from one another.  A slightly positive relation lies between the ability to jump and the canter with 0.11, a slightly negative relation between the jumping ability and the walk with negative 0.10.  Therefore, if we select only for jumping ability, we shall achieve a slight improvement of the canter and a slight deterioration of the walk in the entire horse population.

Table 2: Estimated values of genetic correlations between criteria of the mare inspection and criteria of the mare performance test (computed by means of a BLUP animal model)






Free jumping


 +  (0.10)

 +  (0.20)

 +  (0.19)

 +  (0.30)

 +/-  (0.00)


 +  (0.27)

 +  (0.27)

 +  (0.40) 

 +  (0.29)

 +/-  (0.09)

Saddle position

 +  (0.26)

 +  (0.28)

 +  (0.33)

 +  (0.32)

 +/-  (-0.27)


 +  (0.48)

 +  (0.60)

 +  (0.60) 

 +  (0.67)

 -     (-0.20)

Breed/sex type

 +  (0.35)

 +  (0.54)

 +  (0.52)

 +  (0.60)

 -     (-0.11)










TABLE 2  (above) describes the genetic correlation between various exterior characteristics and performance criteria.  The exterior evaluation results for the head, the neck, the saddle position and the frame, hold a positive relation to the dressage results, trot, canter, walk, rideability.  The score for the frame has the highest positive relation to the basic gaits/rideability.  This is not surprising since the score for the frame includes to a large extent the development of the top line. Weaknesses in this area like too short, too long, straight croup, tight or hollow loins, have a negative impact on the quality of the basic gaits and the rideability.

In summary, this research confirms that a rideable horse with good basic gaits can be bred when applying the traditional standards of evaluating the exterior.

They All Jump With a Different Style
This, however, does not apply to free jumping. We have a saying in the racing community: "They all run in very different styles."  It is similar with the jumpers. A negative correlation can be found for almost all exterior criteria with exception of the head.  The lowest correlation lies in the relation between the saddle position and the free jumping with negative 0.27.  This does indicate that a poorly developed saddle position does not hinder a horse to become an outstanding jumper.  In fact, there are a number of first class jumper producers like Grannus, Wanderer, or Calypso II who – as we all know – produce barely sufficient saddle positions.  In general this means that the type
will suffer if we select exclusively for jumping ability without considering other criteria.


                                                             Grannus, Wanderer and Calypso II  

However, the relations between the above mentioned criteria lie nowhere close to the extreme negative. A large enough number of above average jumpers exist who carry the preferred type characteristics.  If we increase the use of these sires, it is absolutely possible to improve the type while breeding jumpers.  Numerous examples for a positive development can be found, i.e. Espri, Hanoverian Stallion of the Year, or his son Escudo who represents the almost ideal type.  A couple of weeks ago the first free jumping event for horses who belong to the project Hanoverian Jumper Breeding took place.  This event also exhibited Hannover’s significant progress in this field. The genetic correlations will ultimately change with a corresponding selection.The portrayed genetic relations between the three areas - type, dressage ability and jumping ability clearly demonstrate: the predisposition for jumping and the predisposition for dressage are almost independent from one another.  A slightly negative relation exists between the different criteria for type and the jumping ability. However, this relation is not negative enough not to allow a type improvement in jumpers. 


The results substantiate the versatility of horses within type and talents.  Compromises always deem necessary.  It appears unrealistic to strive for breeding only horses in ideal type and with the equal predisposition to be a top dressage horse as well as a top jumper.  It is, however, realistic to breed an appealing horse with a significant predisposition for either dressage or jumping and at least an average talent for the other area.






(Horse Magazine) Jan Greve is famous as a breeder of jumping horses – I guess everyone knows about his great stallion, Voltaire, but I was also interested to learn that he has also been a serious breeder of dressage horses… and that this interest goes back to one of the foundation mares of his famed De Watermolen Stud.


Photo Dr Greve and Creool. Photo link: De Watermolen Stud 

        There are few breeders more knowledgeable, and there can be none better able to express their philosophy of breeding, or more generous with their time.  It is hard to get the ultra-busy Dr Greve sitting in front of a tape-recorder, but once you do, and once he starts talking about breeding, then away you go! 

“It started 48 years before, with an old mare from the middle of the country, then we bred with her, a Lucky Boy and bred that filly to Amor and that started a dressage line. That was a very talented mare. I try not to mix the lines – dressage and jumping – I try to get to the strong point of a family and keep to it. If you have a good showjumper, don’t mix it with a dressage horse.”

But the feeling in Hanover now seems to be that you need a bit of jumping blood to stop the dressage horses getting too soft?

“I don’t think you need it, but I think you need to look at a good canter, especially how strong and correct they are behind in the canter, then it is no big deal to do the piaffe and the pirouette, they can take the weight on the hind leg – and that’s what the jumpers do. People have to be careful in the dressage world that they don’t just look at a nice head, and a nice trot, and lose the canter.”

But the horse you sent to the world young dressage horse championship was not the usual dressage bloodlines?

“That stallion, Scandic is something special, something new. Scandic comes from a very very good jumping family. There was a Lucky Boy mare who was very good, and she had a daughter by Acteur, but the lady who owned her made one mistake, she fell in love with the Trakehner, Michelangelo and she bred her good showjumper to him – and she bred a mare, Joline – a very modern high blooded type of mare, 170 big. I told her that I had been in Sweden, and that she should go to Amiral, he was a nice horse with a good character. She believed me, and we put in some frozen semen from Amiral and that produced the mother of my stallion. I saw Solos Carex as a young horse in Denmark, he was an amazing young horse, and he is still competing internationally with Tina Wilhelmson.”


So you were trying to breed a dressage outcross?

“I didn’t breed him in name, but I am sort of the mental father. His first name was ‘Shot in the Dark’, because he was twice bred to stallions the mare owner had never seen, but we changed the name to Scandic because there is so much Scandinavian blood in him.”

But why did you go there for a dressage stallion, rather that the fashionable D, W, R, F lines in Germany?

“Because everyone does that. When I was a boy I hated going by the bus to school, everybody standing in the same line, I don’t like that, being too crowded. I wanted to breed something new. For dressage horses, you need power behind, sometimes you need those strong mares behind, don’t look always to a nice front end and forget about the hind end, they did that for years.”

What has been the strength that Voltaire has given to jumping breeding?

“Good character, his progeny are very willing to do the job right. They are very sound horses. They are very strong in the back, and when you look at conformation, that strong back is very important for showjumpers, even though he is an old horse he hasn’t given up in the back. That’s what the Concordes have too, the strength in the back.” 


Voltaire: A stallion who was both an exceptional competitor in his own right (a winner of the Berlin Grand Prix) and an enormously influential sire, with just 30 of his progeny appearing on the World Breeding rankings. Before he died, Voltaire sired 40 stallion sons and countless broodmares. The individual silver medallist at Athens, Royal Kaliber is by Ramiro out of a Voltaire daughter.

What sort of mares does Voltaire work best with?

“Mares with a little bit of blood, and bold, very bold, strong characters – maybe too strong characters. Mares that might be too bold and not careful enough. Voltaire was very very careful, sometimes that is his weakest point. It’s very close the relationship between genius and the crazy one, and between ‘careful’ and ‘afraid’ there is just a little margin in there. Some Voltaires are too careful, too small hearted – that’s why a lot of them jump very tied up behind, when you freejump them. They are not bold enough to open up, they are very careful. You have to treat them right as a young horse, don’t take the heart out of them. That’s why Voltaire needs a mare that is very strong – Nimmerdor is a very good cross.  A lot of Nimmerdors are very good as young horses, but when they get older, they are not careful enough, they are too full of themselves. Pilot works very well, Joost works well. Sometimes when you come back to the Le Mexico mares, but you have an in cross of the Furioso then.”

Has Concorde been the best son of Voltaire?

“Who can tell, he is the best we know of, there might have been better ones that we cut!”

Sadly for Jan, Voltaire (photo Left) died not long after the death of another fine jumping stallion, Julio Mariner. This horse, an English Thoroughbred, was a fine example of Bernard le Courtois’ observation, that sometimes a change of locale is vital in a stallion’s career. In his native Briton, Julio Mariner was a superstar on the track, winning the St Leger, but had limited success at stud before he was imported to Holland by Jan in 1988, when he soon set about carving himself a niche in jumping breeding history.

Looking at the career of Julio Mariner, what do you think he added to the breeding program?

“He produced extremely careful horses, and very quick from the ground, amazing quick reactions. And of course, when you breed to the Thoroughbreds, the main goal is to produce mares. You don’t use a Thoroughbred to produce good sport horses mainly it is to produce good half blood mares. The problem is that a lot of his mares are not too big, but the small ones are the better ones, 15.3 hh, 16 hh from Julio make excellent mares – but lots of people didn’t want to use them because they were too small. I have lots of Julio mares, and you can use them with a bigger stallion.” 



Photos above: Scandic

Finalist at the 2004 World Young Horse Championships, Scandic is a great example of Dr Greve’s breeding philosophy, and willingness to go ‘outisde the square’.  His sire, Solos Carex in an international dressage competitor, by a horse of classic jumping breeding: Castro by Cor de la Bryère out of a Landgraf mare.  On his dam’s side, Scandic is related to Luidam (by Guidam) finalist at World Young Jumping Horse Championship in Lanaken. 

Who is your next important stallion?

“I think Karandasj will do the job. He is competing internationally, and he comes from a very good family. He is by the Darco son, Fedor.  The mother is a full sister to a good 1.40 horse we had, and the half sister to him is Kahlua who won a silver medal with Eric Lamaze at the Pan American Games.  He makes very good quality horses, they are very willing to work for you – there was one sold to America for a lot of money, one won the four year old in Dublin last year, and the six year old class in Portugal.  They are looked on as pleasure horses, very nice in the mind and they try to do the job right for you.  Nice horses to work with.

In deals and deals, I lost Guidam, I sold him, something I should never have done, he was the best I had after Voltaire.  I bought him as a two year old.  I used a lot of French blood in the beginning, more than anyone else – but I don’t like the mouth, hard to ride, soundness problems.  Stifles are very important and there you find a lot of problems with stifles, not all of them, but quite a few.”

And does the search go on for another good Thoroughbred stallion?

“Every day I am looking, every day. I have a horse called Painter’s Row by Royal Academy, he’ll breed some nice showjumpers.  He was in Oldenburg for two years, then Holstein, then Italy and now we presented him again in Holland. We found nine of his progeny in Holland and free jumped them, amazing good jumpers – I think they misused him at first, thinking he should be a dressage stallion… nothing to do with dressage.  I think from Holstein should come a few nice horses by him; they are three years old now.  He breeds horses with very good reactions, very good technique. Then these idiots here rejected him because of their semen thing, say the semen is not good enough – in the lab.  It’s so crazy so now he is in Denmark and they love him.  We use him with frozen semen and the semen works very well.  It’s just an idiot system they have here in Holland with the semen, they think they can predict in the lab, but there are so many factors in the fertility scene, that you cannot know, or we cannot find out, or it costs too much money to find it out.  So we toss all these good horses away, a waste of good stallions.

Photo Left: Thoroughbred stallion, Painter's Row




You can only sell one thing – the showjumper who jumps the best, or the best dressage horse.  That’s the only thing that sells – the main goal of breeding is the sporthorse.  I have one mare, and everything she breeds has a chip either in the fetlock or in the stifle, or in the hock. Whatever. But they jump like hell, and make me so much money you can’t believe it!  You have to take a chip out here and there, but they can jump. One is in Canada that had a chip in one hock, one in Ireland by Carthago had chips in both hocks but jumps unbelievable – so I don’t throw that mare away. It would be nice if the mare bred foals that did not have chips, but that is not the goal of the breeding – the goal is to breed good jumpers.”

OCD is heritable?

“Everything is heritable but it is a very difficult pattern of heritability, but for sure it is in the mare line.  Some mares give it to all their foals.  The problem with the stallion is that you cannot always see if the stallion will produce it.  That’s why we are thinking of changing the system in Holland so it is not so strict on the stallions, but to look what he breeds – if there are 20 foals, do they have more OCD than the other ones?  There are some ‘false negatives’ – stallions that don’t have it but spread it.  There are others where it comes back, maybe in the third generation but not in the first.”

Would you knowingly breed with a stallion that was an OCD carrier?

“It depends. If I have a very strong mare and there are a lot of other reasons to use the stallion, then I use him. We have a few here in Holland that we know they give OCD, it’s not so nice, but some of them are good. There is one dressage stallion, 5 out of 10 have it and the sons by him also have it, but they are very nice horses. You don’t throw them away because they make OCD horses – it is a part of the breeding, you have to know it, but it’s not the main goal.”

Should the stallion owner be required to disclose to the mare owners if his stallion breeds OCD?

“In Holland we throw the stallions out, they are not allowed to breed. Every horse that is KWPN approved is OCD free, or it is not allowed to breed.”

So is OCD now less of a problem in Holland?

“We see it much less than in other countries. We have in Holland much sounder horses than everywhere else. I have 45 two year olds of my own, and I have been x-raying them to see where we should go, and what not to do, and with the German blood we always have something different. The ones that are not sound are nearly always the ones from a German mother – in Holland we have made very good progress on the soundness side, but we must be careful not to throw away too much of the rest.”

What is the goal in your jumping program?

“To breed international showjumping performers, to go to the top. It is very important to know your mare, that’s the most important thing. If I have a Julio mare, not so big but sound and very quick and reactive, then I am looking not for a Thoroughbred – I’m looking for a heavy horse, and maybe one that is not careful enough – that doesn’t matter because the Julio mother will give them carefulness for sure. But if I have a heavy mare that is very strong and very powerful, but a bit slow, then I am looking for a different stallion. Always try to improve what is lacking, don’t double up, don’t breed a big bully to a big bully.  Try to find a good match up.”

If you breed a well bred jumping mare to a good jumping stallion, how sure can you be that you will get a jumper?

“Seventy percent. If you are very careful then you can do 70% then it depends on little things, like the rider. It depends also on the mare lines, some mare lines are so strong. I have one old mare, the three quarter Thoroughbred mare, Twiggy, and Ovidius, the good sire in Holland now is her grandson. Madison was a good jumper out of this mare. From the same family comes Baltimoor that jumped internationally with Geir Guliksen. Now we have a Carthago son out of the same family. Nearly all of them jump – how good they are in the end depends on who gets them.”    

Photo Left: Ovidius

At Aachen in the Grand Prix of 2004, three of the four horses in the jump off were from the Holstein C – C cross. How important are those two C lines?

“It is the same philosophy that we were talking about before of not doubling up.  Cor de la Bryère – extremely careful, they lack a bit of scope sometimes because they are not so good in the back. The other is the Capitol line, dumb power.  No brain, just power, a lot of power. If you mix that, get a little bit of quality from Cor de la Bryère (by the Thoroughbred, Rantzau) and add to that the power, then you have the right mixture. You hope for the right mixture.  Sometimes we use that Capitol line, because we have quite a lot of blood, and we need power. For the Julio mares you need scope and power, all the quality is there, you just add scope.”

Do you think that showjumping breeding has developed so far that now we have a hundred very good jumping stallions so we will not have the great ‘hero’ stallions like Ramiro, or Almé or Gotthard in the future?

“There are more good ones than there were in the past for sure, and it is not so easy to be a star like Voltaire or Ramiro, because a lot of people are sending their mares to many different stallions, not just using one stallion.  Ramiro, he made some nice horses but he also made some normal horses, very normal.  But now there are so many stallions everywhere that no one stallion gets enough mares to be the superstar.  But among those ‘equal’ ones there will be one in the end who will be the better stallion for sure.  It is always the same family they come from, the dam line is so important, always look to the dam it is much more important than the father.”

Photo Left: Quidam de Revel

If you could have any stallion in the world now – free gift – who would you take, Quidam?

“I used Quidam years ago when no-one heard of him.  I bought Guidam out of his first crop.  I heard that Quidam de Revel was jumping good and he has got the most fantastic pedigree in the world, it’s all international or Olympic horses.  So I looked for, and found Guidam, who also proved to be a very good sire, I’m always looking for something new.

Quidam de Revel is no longer a goal for me, everyone is using him. It was nice to breed to with him at the time when no one used him, too crowded on the bus.  And I believe his son Guidam is better, if he gets the same mares as his father he is better, more rideable, more elasticity, more power to collect.  That is very important for the showjumper, to be able to collect your body, to make a stride on a metre and jump up – that is one of the most important things.  There are some nice young horses, Carry – a Holstein horse in Germany – he’s a nice horse.”

What about Darco?

Darco is fantastic. You need a special mare, you don’t want to go with a big bully to Darco, you need some blood, with a strong back. It’s not so much looking around for stallions, I like to know my mare all year round and then find a stallion that will fit that mare.  Aldatus, he is in Ireland now, he makes good horses. I think he will be very popular in a few years time.”

                                                                                                          Photo Right: Darco

You are not only a breeder – you have a training barn?

“I have a dressage rider, he has about 10/15 horses, my son is now home, he was with Henk Hoorn for two years and he is riding jumping horse, then we have a young man who rides the young horses. We have quite a lot of horses coming out every day. I like to give every horse a chance to see where they go to. I sold Authentic to Beezie Madden as a three year old, now I have the opportunity to hold onto horses longer and see where they go.

The problem with the modern breeding world is that there is too much fashion, everybody runs everywhere, and that means nobody arrives somewhere. They run from here to there. Five years ago I was talking to a breeder at a stallion show, and he said "it’s funny near me there is a man who always has good horses". In the past he only went to his next door neighbour who is a stallion owner, and this man always had the best horses. Now he is running all around the world ordering semen everywhere, but it is still the same breeder who has the best horses, the others can’t compete with him because their mares are not good enough. You can in-breed to a donkey if you want – but you still have a donkey. You need the power of a good mare. That is the part that people forget, you need the power of a family. If you don’t have much money you are better to buy not such a good mare from a good family than buy a good mare from a shit family – she will never breed, she doesn’t have the genes to breed. This mother was a very small Lucky Boy mare, 158 cm, I think she was a twin, she was born in the field but this little thing has bred unbelievable horses in dressage and showjumping. That’s a very strong mare. It is not always the individual that you look at – that’s a fault of the fashion world, they look too much for the special horse, they want a star mare or a kur mare. You need a good family, that’s the only thing that comes back.

From this strong old family there were Dutch champions as early as the 1950s, one side went to the dressage, one more to the jumping, but still the same strong family, with sound legs and a good mind. This is one of my main lines, and the second one is Twiggy. I bought her by luck. Her mother was by Koridon, who jumped 1.90 metres.  She’s a good jumper herself, she’s a full sister to Best of Luck who went to California.  She bred Dammen, he’s a son of Almé, and a stallion in Sweden because of the semen thing.  She bred with Creool, she is the grand-mother of Ovidius, a very good six year old stallion, she had one by Ahorn that jumped internationally – everything out of that mare line can jump.


Photos Left: Dammen

I’m not sure why this happens but it seems to me that you cannot use the animal’s body twice – to have it a showjumper until it is 14/15 and then into the breeding, it hardly ever works. Ratina didn’t work. It might just be that it is too much to expect from the body.

It’s funny but everybody has a certain age when you produce the best, with a milking cow, it is the third to the fifth calf that gives more milk. I cannot explain why it happens with horses but it does seem that you can’t use the body double, to be a good sporthorse and then to be a good mother.”

Everyone seems to have gone off using embryo transplants – once they were the big thing in Europe, now no-one very much is doing it?

“Because it cost a lot of money, and not enough comes out of it. It is not like a cow, with the horse it is very important in the first four or five months, which mare is next to the foal. They tried to use the cold blood mares – nothing – the cold blood mare just stands under the tree, and the foal just stands around too and he is a dummy, he is ruined for life before he is one year old. We should have known it because an orphan is a terrible animal, people treat orphan foals like dogs – bring them into the kitchen, oh he is so sweet – and they kill everybody. I have seen 3 or 4 like that in my practice and they were all shot, by the time they are three or four years old, they are dangerous, no education. That’s the trick with the mother, it is very important who educates the foal. What they use now are Warmblood mares, maybe that is better.”

What I used to do with the 3 year olds is breed one or two foals, then try the mare as a sport horse. I don’t do that anymore. Now I will have 10/15 three year olds and I pick 2 or 3 that I like, and if they free jump well they go straight into the broodmare band, they don’t do anything else. Don’t try to do everything with them... it doesn’t work. With the Thoroughbreds, they did tests on thousands of foals and the foals from the mare aged 6 to 10/11 were the best.”



What is most valuable: The power of Donnerhall?  The rideability of Rubinstein?  The movement of Weltmeyer?  You choose - who is the best of the BIG 3? Or is the way forward, a wonderful cocktail of the threeChris Hector looks at Germany’s hottest dressage bloodlines... 2006  (Abbreviated version below, bold and italics - mine. See full article:



Donnerhall, born in May, 1981 has certainly enjoyed the most competition success. Of the three, he is the only one not to come from a ‘good family’.  Admittedly his sire, Donnerwetter disappeared into the United States over a decade ago, but while there are a couple of Donnerwetters ‘gracing’ the German dressage arenas, they are pretty ugly, untalented creatures.  Even Donnerhall’s famous rider, Karin Rehbein noted that despite the large number of foals Donnerhall has sired, she has yet to find one that matches up to the stallion.

Donnerhall scored 131.92 for 2nd place in his 1984 Adelheidsdorf performance test.  His competition career is the stuff of legend. He won many Grand Prix, Grand Prix Specials and Freestyles for Rehbein. In 1994, Donnerhall was individual bronze medallist (and team gold medallist) at the 1994 World Championships at The Hague. He won the European World Cup Freestyle League final standings twice, in 1997 and 1998 and retired that same year.

Certainly that is what Donnerhall seems to give to his offspring: A trainability and a strength to handle the more collected work, even if their natural paces are not that spectacular. It would seem more likely that the mix of Donnerhall and a large drop of ‘blood’ (i.e Thoroughbred) in the sire is more likely to produce competition horses. Donnerhall’s son Davignon (o/o a Pik Bube mare) is the sire of Duvalier (o/o a Bolero mare) and even those direct Donnerhall progeny that do well at FEI level - like the mare, Dona Castania- are out of Pik Bube mares. The other son consistently producing exciting looking youngsters is Don Primero, again out of a Pik Bube mother.

Don Primero was the 5yo 1990 Bundeschampionat Dressage champion and went on to win at Grand Prix level. Davignon won the 1992 Bundeschampionat 4yo Riding Horse title with a record score of 9.36. The year 1997 saw the first of Donnerhall grandsons starring at the Bundeschampionat, with the gelding Duvalier winning the 5yo Dressage title while the following year, this class was won by Del Piero,  the black Donnerhall son o/o a Matcho AA mare.

The Donnerhall son De Niro (out of an Akzent II mare) started competing at Grand Prix level at the tender age of seven and his foals looked great - better than their dad - especially those crossed with Rubinstein and/or Weltmeyer

Another impressive Donnerhall son is Dream of Glory who sired the 1998 three year old stallion winner, Dreamy's Dream  and had a number of representatives in the finals at the 2000 Bundeschampionat, and they all looked sweet rideable horses. Once again, Dream of Glory is out of a Pik Bube/Romadour II mare).

One son, Donnerheist (out of a Belgian mare by a Belgian born son of Wendekreis) had a very successful competition career up to Medium level, but died before reaching FEI level. De Niro semen has been used successfully, and more recently, semen from Davignon. The Don Primero stallion Donario (out of a Pik Bube mare) was imported in 2000.




Born in 1984 he is only slightly younger than Donnerhall, but has already produced an Olympic representative in the form of Rosemount Wallstreet.

Weltmeyer was a sensation the day he was born, according to his breeder, Hermann Meyer (the ‘meyer’ in Weltmeyer) and he proved Meyer right when he was champion of his licensing in Verden. At the Bundeschampionate, Weltmeyer continued his triumphal progress. According to deputy breeding director of the Hanoverian Verband, Dr Ludwig Christmann: "He moved through the arena unflustered. His trot was magnificent. It could not have been any better. The judging committee gave him the top score of 10. His canter stride was a leap forward flowing through the entire body of the horse. It earned a 9.5. The walk was ground-covering and earned an 8.0. In addition he received a 9.5 for conformation and for his overall impression."

Weltmeyer went on the win his performance test at Adelheidsdorf with a dressage score of 143.94 - more surprising, he had a jumping score of 141.44, although it must be confessed that he has yet to produce jumping progeny. With the huge demand from mare owners for Weltmeyer, state stud director, Dr Bade took the unprecedented step of not sending Weltmeyer out to a stallion station, but keeping him at the breeding station in Celle where he was bred to 200 main studbook and State Premium mares from all over the Hanoverian breeding district. This was a ‘kick start’ the like of which no other first season stallion had received, and there are still those who question Weltmeyer’s success, claiming that it comes in no small part from the superior mares he covered.

Still there is no doubt that Weltmeyer is a sensation as a breeding stallion. In 1991, a colt from his first crop, Wittinger (o/o a Raphael mare) was champion of his licensing, and went on the following year to - like his dad - win the title at the Bundeschampionate, and his performance test. At the 1992 licensing, Wolkenstein II (out of a mare by Wendekreis) was reserve champion, and then won his performance test the following year.

In 1997 Weltmeyer’s first grandsons made their appearance with Welser (mare by Lanthan) reserve champion at the licensing, while the following year, Waterford (x Matcho AA) won his licensing and Welser placed second in the performance test.

Weltmeyer at last count had produced 64 licensed sons. Interestingly, unlike Donnerhall who found the perfect match with Pik Bube, Weltmeyer has clicked with mares by a number of sires, from the slightly more old fashioned mare lines of Dr Schulz-Stellenfleth (Wolkenstein I, II, III) to Welt Hit I to VI, out of a mare by the Thoroughbred, Hill Hawk (The first of the Welt Hit brothers won the 4 year old stallion class at the 1995 Bundeschampionate).

Weltmeyer is also proving a valuable sire of broodmares, and Donnerhall / Weltmeyer cross has produced some very nice horses. Weltmeyer is no freak, he comes from the most successful dressage family in the world, the ‘W’ family that begins with Woermann who was the sire of World Cup, the sire of not only Weltmeyer but also Walt Disney, and Warkant. Woermann is also the sire of Wenzel I & II and Winterkoenig - exported to Australia.

A great thing about Weltmeyer is the potency of his semen, even at the age of 17, his breeding station reported they could get between 10 and 15 serves from each collect, and his frozen semen is consistently the best on the market.




The youngest of the big three. If Weltmeyer comes from a ‘good family’ Rubinstein comes from Royalty. His dam is Antine, one of the three daughters of the mating of the Thoroughbred stallion, Angelo and Dodona (the two male foals from this pairing were Olympic dressage stars, Amon and Ahlerich). Rubinstein is by Rosenkavalier - Rosenkavalier is by Romadour II, who is the sire of World and Olympic champion, Rembrandt, out of Antine’s full-sister, Adone. From another full-sister, Annette came Romancier (also by Rosenkavalier) who stands at the Blue Hors Stud in Denmark.

Rubinstein was acquired at an early age by Mrs Gudula Vorwerk-Happ of the famous Vorwerk stud in Oldenburg. Rubinstein was third in his performance test at Adelheidsdorf remarkably finishing in a higher position (4th) in the jumping rankings than he did in the dressage (5th).

Rubinstein was ridden in his early tests by that gifted rider/trainer Martina Hannöver, winning ten of his eleven starts at S-level. In 1995, Rubinstein scored eleven first and second placings at Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special level, and he was seriously being talked about as a candidate for the mighty German team to go to Atlanta. Then Mrs Vorwerk and Martina had a falling out, and the ride on Rubinstein went to Heike Kemmer, and the magic was lost. Nicole Uphoff rode the horse for a season, but even she could not get Rubinstein motoring again - his weaknesses, the lack of power and scope, particularly in the trot, were glaringly apparent. Still, by this stage, Rubinstein’s most exciting son Rohdiamant, a foal from his first crop (out of Elektia V who is by the Anglo Arab stallion, Inschallah) was doing the performing for him. In 1993, Martina rode Rohdiamant into equal first place (with Wolkenstein II) in the 3 year old Championship at the Bundeschampionate

Rohdiamant is now an exciting Grand Prix horse, ridden by the German based, US born, Lisa Wilcox, and just missed out on the American dressage team to go to the Sydney Olympic Games. He too is proving an exciting sire, with his son, Roman Nature winning the 3 year old Stallion title at the 1998 Bundeschampionate, and the 5 year old stallion class at the big stallion show at Zwolle. Rohdiamant’s full-brother, Royal Diamond (born in 1994) won the 5 year old Bundeschampionate last year.

In his second crop, Rubinstein sired Regazzoni out of a Werther mare. Regazzoni was the champion of his stallion test at Münster-Handorf with a score of 140.53. Regazzoni is already the sire of a number of licensed stallions - and working at an FEI level himself, looks (even to Nicole Uphoff) just like a stallion version of Rembrandt.

Rubinstein is also the sire of Rotspon, born in 1995 out of a mare with classic Hanoverian bloodlines - Argentan, Pik Bube, Wendekreis. Rotspon topped his 1998 performance test but sadly did not get a chance to compete at the Bundeschampionat,  seemingly because Dr Bade did not wish to promote the son of a Westphalen stallion standing at an Oldenburg stud.  Like Weltmeyer, Rotspon produces wonderful semen.