Home Breeder Profile Bernard Le Courtois says au revoir, leaving the ‘Mail’ legacy

Bernard Le Courtois says au revoir, leaving the ‘Mail’ legacy

Bernard Le Courtois and Almé

By Christopher Hector and Jean Llewellyn
Photography: Roger-Louis Thomas†; FEI/Christophe Tannière

In 2024, Bernard Le Courtois will see his latest foals born at Haras de Brullemail – the studfarm he created in 1986 alongside a picture-perfect XVIII-century Normandy manor house. As one Selle Français chapter closes, this retrospective is a tribute to the breeder behind the legend.

For nearly 40 years, Bernard Le Courtois has celebrated the fruits of his immense labours, while adhering to his personal motto: ‘success will bring success’. And if being successful means breeding champions, there’s no doubting the significance of his lasting influence in sport horse breeding around the world, and in particular on Selle Français.
As a retirement tribute, and as the Le Courtois name has been linked to stories that changed sport horse breeding history, we offer a fascinating retrospective of a man and his horses – some of whom were rescued and returned to France – with thanks to Christopher Hector for his valuable collaboration.
The legendary Almé served in France between 1971 and 1974, then at Zangersheide 1975-1985, and again in France from 1986-1991.
But it was his sire, Ibrahim (The Last Orange x Porte Bonheur), who is recognized as having the greatest single impact on showjumping breeding. Almé arrived when Ibrahim was crossed with Girondine (Ultimate xx) and, 30 years after his death, he continues to influence showjumping at the highest level.
The most successful sire at the last Olympic Games (Tokyo 2020 in 2021) was Chacco-Blue with five representatives – of which the most successful was Explosion W – out of a mare by the Almé grandson, Baloubet de Rouet. The Olympic stallions with the next largest groups were Casall (Caretino x Lavall I) and Kashmir van Schuttershof (Nabab de Rêve x Tenor Manciais) with three each. Noteworthy is that Nabab de Rêve is a great-grandson of Almé.
Almé is directly responsible for historic legends such as Jalisco B, who produced Quidam de Revel. An other Jalisco son, Papillon Rouge, himself ranked sixth in the world at one point. At the time of his relatively young death at the age of 19, Jalisco was ranked 30th in the world as a sire, but one wonders how high he might have climbed had today’s modern reproductive technology been available then.
Almé was also influential in both Germany and the Netherlands. His grandson, Acord II (Ahorn Z) has also left his mark, while Almé’s son, Animo, was highly ranked, as was his own son, Andiamo Z.
Bernard Le Courtois has every reason to be proud of the Almé legacy, since he was the one who rescued the great stallion from the clutches of Belgian breeder, Léon Melchior – hence the ‘Z’ sometimes wrongly tacked onto his name since. Melchior had nothing to do with his breeding as he was already an established sire in France when Melchior acquired Almé in 1975.
But this story should be told by Bernard himself: “The French breeders and riders became aware of the enormous loss represented by Almé’s exportation, but few breeders were prepared to go abroad to have their mares covered, although some made the effort in 1991. In the meantime Almé had been operated on for an inguinal hernia and in 1984 became mon-orchid. The Dutch then sold him and he returned to Belgium.
“But what, I hear you say, were the French doing at that time? What were they waiting for to bring their stallion home? Particularly when they had several opportunities to do so.
“An offer had been made by the UNIC on behalf of the National Stud Farms, I remember the offer being ff350,000. A ridiculous sum (double the price of a three-year-old at the St-Lô stallion sale) for the best stallion in the world, even if he was 18 years old and mon-orchid... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber