By Adriana van Tilburg
Photography: Courtesy Haras de Semilly
Diamant de Semilly has had the odds against him since day one, but has literally overcome every obstacle in his life. Every day that is added to his life is a gift for the people around him. This year, the ‘chef de race’ is turning 30! Maybe he could be considered the French Carthago (Capitol I - Perra x Calando I), because his genetics have now, quite literally, migrated to every studbook.
The only difference is that Carthago moved countries, from Germany to Belgium. Diamant de Semilly has spent his life in Normandy. First at Haras de Semilly (with Richard and Anne-Sophie Levallois) and later during his sporting career and retirement at Haras de Beaufour (Eric Levallois). What makes Diamant de Semilly so special?
A rough start
All breeders know that breeding horses is actually not for the fainthearted. Every birth of a healthy foal is a gift, and that the mare also stays sound is not always the case. Diamant de Semilly was already a special foal from the moment his father, Le Tot de Semilly, was chosen for his mother Venise des Cresles. Richard Levallois recalls: “My father discovered Le Tot. He was also the one who chose the mother of Diamant to cross with this stallion, and history was rewritten, Diamant was made for us! In life, there is not always much time to take a breath, but one day you look back and become aware of so many things. For our part, we owe so much to Germain [Levallois]…”. As a matter of fact, Jules Mesnildrey, who bred Le Tot de Semilly, retained coverings for life to Le Tot de Semilly but was unable to use him because his broodmares came from the same maternal bloodline, so he asked Germain Levallois, in whom had confidence, to find him a good filly. This was Venise des Cresles (Elf III). She gave birth to the small Diamant de Semilly in 1991. Eric Levallois remembers: “Every extraordinary horse comes with a special story. Diamant’s dam died an hour after he was born. The breeder wanted to put the foal down and called my father with the difficult message to ‘either come and pick up the foal or he’ll die’, because he wasn´t prepared to raise the foal with the bottle. So next thing, my father went to pick up Diamant and he did put in the time needed. So yes, if my father hadn’t adopted Diamant we would never have known him.” Richard Levallois recalls: “With Louis, an employee of the stud at the time, we reared him with another foal in the same situation. They both grew up in freedom in the courtyard, coming to take their bottles through the window of the stud farm. With hindsight, it would have been better to find him an adoptive mother, which is preferable for a foal’s temperament, but as things were, he allowed us to save him.” At the age of three, the exceptional qualities of Diamant appeared one amazing day as he was jumping his first rails in preparation for the stallion approvals. Richard and Germain noticed an ease that they had never previously seen in any other horse. The director of the National Stud at Saint-Lô noticed the stallion and wanted to buy him, but the administration refused on the pretext that Diamant was ‘non standard’… in size! At the time, it was a relief to Richard and his father, who believed in their protégé and entrusted him to Eric for his sporting career.
The special bond between horse and rider
Not only is Diamant de Semilly a very special stallion, Eric Levallois is a special person, and together they have shared a partnership for 27 years; a unique symbiosis that has generated a great deal of respect for each other. Diamant de Semilly is an incredibly strong-willed stallion and, at least in the years that I have know them, they have been a remarkable duo. Eric Levallois recalls: “He was a normal-sized foal, and after he joined the other foals in the field I didn’t see him again until he was three [in 1994]. I was very busy riding at that time, but I remember seeing him as a three-year-old and thinking he was a tall horse. A nice horse, bue he definitely knew what he wanted. He was physically strong, and when I bought my farm, Haras de Beaufour in 1994, Diamant arrived in my stables, and we have been together ever since. I go to see him every evening around 9:00 p.m. to feed him, and I’m sure when he is no longer around the place will be very empty for me. “I started to ride him as a three-and-a-half-year-old. I remember that the first time I jumped him he gave me an incredible feeling. He just knew everything. I could do the same line in five, six, or seven strides. I could always do what I wanted the first time. After that I never jumped him at home as a three- or four-year-old – only at the shows. As a five-year-old, the same. We only started to jump him at home at the age of six. He gives everything you ask and already knew the flying change. He has always been very intelligent so I never thought there would be any purpose in jumping him at home. For my own pleasure? He would spend all week in the paddock, and the day before a show I rode him a little. This was how I worked with him as a young horse – I only ever did this with Diamant. .. To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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