by Christopher Hector
Photography: Ros Neave
Dr Ludwig Christmann was my first contact with the Hanoverian Verband several decades ago when he led the Study Tours around the breeding district. His knowledge, and patience, made it so much easier to get a grip on the Hanoverian system. Since then he has been a constant source of information, advice and friendship. It was great to catch up with him at the Frankfurt show in December, and somewhat of a surprise to find that his highlight for the year was the stallion licensing, dominated by the Dutch sire, Vivaldi.
The most influential stallion at the licensing was Vitalis (2007: Vivaldi - Tolivia x D-Day, bred by A. de Crom in the Netherlands).
Q What will he add to the Hanoverian mix?
It is not only Vitalis, it is Vivaldi in general. When you look at the sons and grandsons of Vivaldi, you can see his qualities.
Q So you think it is Vivaldi more than Vitalis, certainly in Holland they think Vivaldi is the most exciting younger stallion…
I remember when he first started as a stallion there was a question mark behind him, it was felt that Vivaldi would not be a Grand Prix producer, but now we see offspring of Vivaldi competing in Grand Prix. At our licensing, Vivaldi was the most influential stallion, I think he had 16 stallions with his blood at the licensing. The riders like the mix of traditional Hanoverian blood, particularly from the ‘D’ line, and some Dutch blood.
The highlight of our stallion licensing – the result was the best we have ever had – not just the prices the stallions brought, but we had very good feedback, especially from the dressage people, there was fantastic quality.
Q What do you think that Dutch blood is adding to the mix?
I think Vivaldi is a pre-potent stallion, a good type, and what you get from the Dutch horses is the spectacular front legs, and that is what the dressage riders want. They are very active horses in front, the Dutch horses. But you also need a good, active hind leg and the push from the ground to succeed at the highest level.
On the other hand, the Dutch are using more and more German blood to improve the rideability of their horses. When you look at the Dutch population and the Hanoverian population, they are two different types of horses, and I think the cross helps us make a step forward. Of course, we also have to be careful that we keep the active hind leg – one of the secrets of why the De Niro’s have been so successful is that the hind leg is always very good, very strong and very much under the body. We get more uphill horses from the Dutch horses, sometimes maybe the neck carriage is a little too high, so we have to be careful that we are not losing the suppleness of our horses in the back – that is the strength of our horses, but not the strength of the Dutch horses. Hopefully we are creating a horse that combines the best of both populations.
I think when you look at the top stallion at our licensing, he had good movement, including a good walk. He was supple enough. This is what you want to do when you breed – you try something new, new genetics, then you get a big variation of different types and you have to select the ones that are useful for you. There is always some risks when you breed different types, like the Hanoverian and the Dutch type, you can get the worst of both, but you can also get the best of both. That is what breeding is about.
Q When I look at the results of dressage competitions at the highest levels, the successful Grand Prix horses are nearly always sired by successful Grand Prix horses, so I worry when I look at a horse like Vivaldi, who never got out of the Small Tour – do you feel that if you are breeding for the big sport, it is better to use a stallion who has competed Grand Prix himself?
I think you need both. I think you need the stallion’s own performance and you need also the genetics. Sometimes you have a Grand Prix horse but not with the genetics behind that performance and that can also be a little bit risky. Look at Cosmo for example…
Q He’s a wonderful horse, but I don’t think we would want to breed to Cosmo…
When you look at Cosmo’s pedigree, this is not the pedigree you want for a Grand Prix horse. When you look at the pedigree, Vivaldi has the pedigree of Grand Prix competitors, Krack C and Jazz.
In Germany, the breeders want to breed a saleable horse, that is the most important thing. There are some breeders who want to breed a Grand Prix horse, but the majority want a horse that is saleable, a horse that is a super young horse. But if you want to breed a Grand Prix horse, the stallion should have both the genetics and his own performance.
I think the talent for collection, for piaffe, that is passed on. Look at the results – look for example at Desperados, then you already have four generations Grand Prix on the sires’ side – Desperados himself, De Niro, Donnerhall and Donnerwetter, all Grand Prix horses. I think this is where the trend is going. Look at jumping and you see the same trend, the top horses, most of them have sires that were 1m60 jumpers, I think that is the trend...
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