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Cadiou: Life skills inform decisions

FRANCE (by Eric Fournier) Pascal Cadiou is an innovative, influential and motivational leader. It is his own life experiences and his solid and extensive network of connections throughout the breeding world that informed his decision to take over the reins of the Selle Français studbook two years ago when Bernard Le Courtois stepped down. His knowledge of the ups and downs of being a professional breeder also contributed to his thought process.

(Editor’s note: This interview was completed just prior to the start of Rio 2016 – when theFrench won Olympic team gold in both eventing and showjumping – with two horses from each quartet representing the Selle Français studbook.)

Pascal Cadiou
Pascal Cadiou

It is knowledge that he is keen to share, although his task is not made easy by the current economic climate and because breeding is becoming more and more Europeanized. “My greatest satisfaction is that the Selle Français is doing well internationally, mainly in show jumping,” he said. This is the background and the belief of a president who is highly motivated to bring the Selle Français flag to the forefront on the world stage.

Pascal Cadiou was born in Algeria 56 years ago. His father was in the military but 1962 events forced the family to return to France. The Cadiou family settled in the Parisian suburbs, five kilometres from the ‘Centre Equestre de Presles’ riding school run by Louis Colot, who influenced Pascal Cadiou’s professional path and helped guide him towards eventing. He passed his ‘Baccalaureat Scientifique’ but quickly got involved in horses. “I often went to Normandy with Jean Pierre Gautier, we would buy foals, and later we would work them and sell them on.” Cadiou really developed his taste for eventing and dressage with Goeland du Park (a Selle Français mare by Toscan du Bois out of a Goeland dam).

Cadiou’s breeding career started in 1982 on his farm ‘Vanneau d’Irleau’ near Niort, with the birth of his first foal Quetai d’Irleau (Filou AA - Isamina A x Starter). The mare was then put to two great sires of her time: Double Espoir (Ibrahim - Quatrieme Espoir x Plein d’Espoirs) and then Grand Veneur (Amour du Bois - Tanagra G x Le Mioche xx). “I was working on a farm of 120 hectares and there was a lot to do with the cows and cereals. At the same time I was breeding more and more foals, up to 20 at the end of the eighties; I was crossing the Selle Français with Anglo-Arabs. It was popular back then. It was easy and profitable to sell the foals, so much so that in 1987 I stopped breeding cows to concentrate on the foals”.

Cadiou reminisces about Pull (Fury de la Cense), that he bought as a five-year-old and later sold on to Japan, and Chinassou and Umia d’Irleau, both carrying his stud name. “I used stallions from Vendée (Hurlevent, Prelude de Cheux…) they were a good cross with Thoroughbred and Anglo-Arab mares. Some sold extremely well, others not so well, but I remember them all with fondness”.

In 2006, Cadiou moved to the Haras de Rochefort (Rochefort sur Mer) with Celine Marche. It was an old French national stud which had housed amongst others the famous Anglo-Arab stallion Arlequin. Later he bought out his associates Benedicte and Frederic Lavaud. 

Q - Nowadays, what is your main activity?

The priority is growing grass (80 hectares) to feed over a hundred broodmares that come to my stud to be inseminated each year. We have three and a half people taking care of them, collecting the semen from stallions that pass through and stay for a year or two: Fetiche du Pas (Le Tot de Semilly - Voltige du Pas x Almé), Opium de Talma (Carthago - Joyeuse x Qredo de Paulstra), Pezetas du Rouet (Quidam de Revel - Belfleur du Rouet x Grand Veneur) and Rebozo LS (Dollar de la Pierre - Anja x Ramiro Z) are currently at stud here… I sell fewer horses these days due to a lack of time. The aim is to sell the young stock between three and five years old. I also keep a close eye on the performances of my mare Verite Tout Court (Jokus Latour - Tyrole x Prince Ig’Or, AA). 

Q - What is your socio-professional background?

I was close to the French Federation for equestrian sports back when Pierre Durand was president, and I kept a very close watch on the breeding side of things alongside Rene Bizard and Hubert Hardy at the Haras de la Roche sur Yon in Vendée (Atlantic coast). A region where there was a good production performing well. In those days the breeding in the west of France was extremely good. I followed the creation and development of the Association National du Selle Français (ANSF) but didn’t really understand how it worked. It mainly offered an advantage to the more militant of the breeders.

I decided to support Yves Chauvin as candidate for the presidency of ANSF in 2007 and I became part of the administration. I spent a lot of time listening to what people were saying and as I was a showing judge I felt the idea of having a panel of judges was a good one. Two years ago, after I had clarified what was expected of me, my responsibilities and the legal side of things, I took over from Bernard le Courtois (Brullemail Stud) as president of ANSF. There were few people willing to take on the job. I am also an administrator for the Groupe France Elevage (French Breeding Group) directed by Arnaud Evain. 

Q - What was the situation when you started as president of the ANSF?

Seventy percent of the funding was public money. Obviously, we were behind in becoming financially independent, and we needed to improve this. But the timing was bad, with the end of the Haras Nationaux (National Stud) which had for many years governed the trends of the national Selle Français studbook. The transition was not going to be easy. Relations between the l’Institut Francais du Cheval et de l’Equitation (previously the National Stud) and l’Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA – the national instute for agronomic research) were not good and getting worse. It was important to establish a healthy dialogue between the two. In the past the French administration had always supported the breeders, the lack of this support was felt by the breeders. Development of ANSF is now inevitable and it is being supported by the highest political authorities in the country. 

Q - What methods do you use to achieve this?

I believe I am open to dialogue and easily approachable. I have worked towards greater pedagogy for equine producers who need help to find their place in the breeding world. We needed to remotivate and take an interest in the future of the Selle Français. We also needed to modernise our system.

Q - What were your priorities?

To be at the centre of the breeders concerns and concentrate on the zootechnical aspects of the Selle Français breed, mainly for the selection of the breeding horses. I also want to work with the many new and diverse ideas currently being suggested. Being stuck with past ideologies is not the way forward, through dialogue we can move on. We have set up the ‘Selle Français Originel’ (four generations of Selle Français), great efforts are being made to bring new genetics to the forefront (twoand three-year-old stallions) to improve the genetics faster... These are just some of the issues we have been working on. In 2016, over €70,000 will be distributed to the breeders of Selle Français horses preforming well on the young horse circuit organised by the Societe Hippique Francaise. The partnership with IFCE, for the scientific research project SoGen, which aims to characterise the traits of showjumpers, is vital. It will mean that genomes can be identified to help refine selection. I want the studbook to be able to offer more services to the breeders, who are very open to breeding advice, training towards good appreciation and evaluation of foals, and opportunities for professionals and amateurs to meet

Q - Something big in 2016?

The board of directors is working towards moving from the status of national breed association to the status of selection organisation within the European zootechnical laws. The goal is to be approved in five years. We will make our application to the Agricultural Ministry at the end of 2016, and it should go through in 2017. We will have to specify the genetic improvement politics and the selection program within the genetic book. The organisation will work without restrictions and will only have to answer to its board of directors.

 Q - What are the financial resources of the Selle Français Studbook?

For the past two years we have been 70 percent independent financially. The stud managers have come to realise that their future is linked to the future of the owners of the breeding stock. The number of stallions registered in the breeding program has increased along with the membership. To this we can add the perpetually stable contribution from the ‘Fonds Eperon’ (an initiative that provides financial support to innovative and structuring projects from horse racing betting levies), but the contribution from the Ministry of Agriculture is 38 percent less than it was. It is, therefore, important to offer useful services to the breeders to motivate them to join us. We must become indispensable.

Our funding also comes from the formalities linked to the entries of foals in showing classes at regional and national level. We have estimated that a breeder will have paid around €500 in entry fees to the studbook by the time the foal is three-and a- half years old. We have become used to organising events with a certain expertise and we are looking for a long-term sponsor. We also have the income from the merchandise we sell. Our expenses have stabilised since last year. The Selle Français studbook employs seven contracted people equivalent to full time. 

Q - What interaction is there between the studbook, the Societe Hippique Francaise (SHF) and UNIC?

We have to work together. The SHF head office is in charge of competition results, UNIC (Union Interprofessionnelle du Cheval) is responsible for international relations. We communicate and work hand in hand with them to put together events at an international level. 

Q - How do you feel about WBFSH?

We are not comparable to the German studbooks, but we have noticed that they are very powerful and have a lot of influence on an international scale. Though we do wonder about the efficiency of the WBFSH and feel they should have more transparency and be stricter in some areas; for example, proof of bloodlines. The WBFSH should ensure that members demand a covering certificate when their mare is covered and not only base the inscription of the foal in the studbook on a DNA test. We would like the WBFSH to work with the FEI to stop the horses’names being changed when they are exported and for the breeders to get a bonus of, say, two percent of the winnings in international shows. 

Q - The Dutch and German studbooks have auctions for approved stallions. The Selle Français doesn’t. Why is that?

Auctions for approved stallions were held at Saint-Lô about five years ago, but they were not a great success. So the idea was abandoned and we will not go back on that decision, even if, in the future, our status allows for it. In France there are two agencies whose sole role is to organize equine auctions. No doubt they have expertise in that field. The Selle Français studbook does not want to be in competition with them. We prefer to concentrate on our zootechnical objectives, improving our client relations and marketing and communication operations to allow the breeders to promote their young stock. 

Q - What is the difference between a register and studbook?

The Selle Français studbook organizes its aims around a breeding program. We rank, categorize, analyse and organize the products into a hierarchy. Those are the fundamental differences between a studbook and a register, which is closer to a group of breeders with commercial interests such as the AES (Anglo European Studbook) 

Q - How can you judge the success of a studbook?

Some satisfy themselves with the competition results and rankings on websites such as Horsetelex or Hippomundo. These websites do have a purpose but they are not the only elements to consider. We do not feel they reflect what the French territories have been developing over the past 50 years. A studbook is a group project; it is a way of being in a group that has common objectives. I believe in underlying social ties. 

Q - Why are stallion owners so important?

I consider they are part of breeding activities. No progress can be made without them. They spend a lot of money in buying new stallions to promote. They are a link in the breeding chain. You start with them, you talk to them, they deliver pieces of advice, and they know the market. Most of them have a European approach on genetics. 

Q - Should breeding remain an agricultural activity or not?

Of course it must remain in that field. The concern is about the status of the breeder. Is he a farmer totally involved in agriculture? Is he partly in agricultor and also a doctor, a lawyer... That's the point to be clarified. There is no doubt that breeding has to be viewed alongside agriculture.