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Furioso: A celebration of great force and influence

Pierre Jonqueres d’Oriola riding Virtuoso, Fontainbleau 1958

By Christopher Hector
Photography: Collection Roger-Louis Thomas

The dictionary tells us that ‘furioso’ means with great force or vigour... Which is a pretty good description of stallion Furioso’s influence on modern sport horse breeding. Born in 1987 and registered to KWPN, he is by Purioso (Oldbg), out of Natascha, by Irco Polo.

When I was talking recently about the ‘F’ line with that acute observer of Warmblood breeding, Eugène Reesink, he suggested that rather than the influential son imported to Oldenburg, Furioso II, the real hero was Furioso himself. It’s not surprising, since as a Dutch breeder, Eugène is well aware of the enormous influence of Furioso II’s full brother, Mexico in the development of the modern Dutch dressage horse.
But we should go back to France, just after WW2, where the breeders, like so many others in Europe, were starting out on the process of breeding what was to become the modern sport horse.
In 1946, a National Stud Commission was formed in France to buy foreign stallions to increase the French gene pool. According to Jean Delannoy, in his definitive article on Furioso in Annuaire de l’Étalon Sport Français, 1992, the talents of the team were well matched: ‘The Commission was composed of the general inspectors Mr. Richard and Mr. Vincent, and the Stud Farm officer and founder of UNIC Mr. Maurice O’Neill. Richard’s speciality was the conformation and gaits of a good horse, Vincent was an expert on Thoroughbreds, and O’Neill, with Irish horses being popular, was in a particularly strong position for a search in England.’
They were shown Furioso. Admittedly his career did not greatly impress; he was now seven, and had raced 21 times and only came close to winning three times. Still ‘his dignity, harmonious length and general conformation were enough to seduce.’ Mr O’Neill, who had never ridden such a well-balanced horse, forgave him his slightly knock-kneed forelegs, his somewhat tight hock, and his long-legged conformation. He was purchased for 800 pounds from Mr Blunt.
The then recently appointed director of the Haras de Pin, the Viscount of Poncins claimed him for his breeding area. He ‘had been won over by this big brown bay, thick limbed, who walked like a lord with a magnificent pace, very energetic and showing a great deal of amplitude, his tail swinging at each step. His trot and gallop were good but not exceptional. He had never jumped either fence or bar in England, and, to the great surprise of onlookers, was never to jump in France. Although very energetic and full of life, he was docile in his stall and of good temperament.’
And the import, who combined two of the dominant influences on showjumping breeding, Precipitation xx (1933: Hurry On xx x Bachelor’s Double xx) and Son in Law xx (1911: Dark Ronald xx x Matchmaker xx) lived up to the Commission’s expectations.
By 1954, Furioso was topping the list of sires of winners in France thanks to jumpers like Virtuoso and Dolly II. He held the position until 1961 – by which time he was 22 years old. He was third behind Foudroyant II and Nithard in 1962, and second behind Foudroyant II in 1963, but was number one again in 1964 and held the spot until 1969, two years after his death. He was a prolific sire of Olympic horses, including the gold medallist at Tokyo, Lutteur B (out of Bellong x Obok) and Pomone B (1959: Harmonie x Barnum) who carried d’Oriola to victory at the World Championship in Buenos Airies in 1966, when she was only seven years old.
Still it might be argued that Furioso was more influential in Holland and Germany than in France, where no stand-out stallion star emerged to petpetuate his heritage.
Perhaps Furioso’s crucial influence in France has been as a damsire: Ma Pomme, the full sister to Pomone B, produced a string of national and international jumpers, and importantly, when bred to the Ibrahim son, Quastor, produced the stallion Fair Play III, the sire of Narcos II... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber