Trésor d’Opaline/aka Trésor (Major de la Cour - Opaline des Pins) at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Hong Kong ridden by Samantha Lam (HKG)

By Adriana van Tilburg
Photography: Peter Llewellyn

If there is one mare who wrote herself onto the history books of Belgian Warmblood breeding, it would be Opaline des Pins (Garitchou A - Jasmina x Almé). Bred by René Henry, she was born in Daubeuf-prés-Vatteville, a tiny community situated in the Eure region of Normandy, south of Rouen, an area synonymous with world-class sport horse breeding.

The bloodline of Opaline des Pins was bred to perform, so let’s begin with her Anglo Arab sire, Garitchou (1972: Nikou - Maritchou x Aiglon VII, 49.85% Arab, bred by Pierre Bouchet). I received some very interesting insights from Adrien Cugnasse, the editor of Jour de Galop: “In my opinion he was a really great sire. He not only sired Opaline des Pins, but he is also the damsire of Andiamo Z (Animo), who was an amazing jumper. He is also dam sire of Merva des Hayettes (Ramino) who was the champion of the seven year olds during the jumping World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in Lanaken. And Nolisco (Olisco) who jumped at 1m60 level in Australia. It is important to know that he was a strongly built stallion for an Anglo Arab. He was also kind of difficult from both his sire and damline. He comes from a temperamently full pedigree.
“The stallions were in these days owned by the French National stud and they cared only for the conformation. The stallions did not compete in sport, they were only shown rarely in free jumping. I heard that he was a really good jumper when he was three years old. You have to understand that Anglo Arab stallions were not fashionable to use and his biggest foal crop was only 25 offspring. Much of the time his foal crops were eight or nine offspring. Garitchou’s dam, Maritchou, looked like a Warmbood. These horses were bred in the past for the army and not for racing. The quality of Garitchou’s family is in eventing and showjumping.

Quintus (Pavarotti van de Helle - Opaline des Pins) ridden by Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe†

“Garitchou was sent to Normandy to Haras du Pin and his covering fee was not expensive. In those days, if you had a sub fertile mare or no money you picked an Anglo Arab stallion. At the end of his life breeders finally valued Garitchou’s qualities.
“Maritchou, his mother, was an amazing mare. Another top jumping horse was Mobily Allah Jabek/ex Jack de Rooses (1997: Quidam de Revel - Royaltie du Bec x Garitchou, bred by Simon Vanhersecke) who competed under different saddles with several riders at 1m60,” (including the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Hong Kong with Ramzy Al Duhami (KSA) and the 2010 FEI World Cup Final in Geneva with HRH Prince Abdullah bin Moteb Al Saud).
Ten years ago the French magazine Grand Prix published an article about Opaline des Pins. Her breeder, René Henry, a Normandy farmer whose own father had been a breeder of draft horses and Trotters, explained about Opaline’s history: “I purchased Jasmina in 1966 from Colette Lefrant-Ducornet. She was one of the best breeders of her day and she sold her foundation mares to Haras de Brullemail of Bernard Le Courtois. The year 1966 was a year of problems for farming and not so many horses were sold. So I bought Jasmina, who was a good-sized mare with good behavior and she had a very good conformation. She became the champion of the three-year-old mares at Haras du Pin. Jasmina had a pedigree with some of the best bloodlines of Selle Français. I wanted to change the blood, which is why I chose an Anglo Arab stallion. Garitchou was standing at Haras du Pin, he was a good looking horse. He was first-class in terms of conformation, he had good gaits. I saw him at the presentation of stallions ayt the beginning of the year. The other option was to use Uriel, but he was not looking good enough in my opinion to make the combination with Jasmina.”

Jus de Pomme (Primo des Bruyeres) at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games
under the saddle of Ulrich Kirchhof (GER)

Opalines des Pins

Opaline des Pins was born in 1980 and in 1984 gave birth to Shogun II (Night and Day xx) bred by Solange Lefevre. In 1985 she was sold to Belgium where she was owned by the late Arnold de Brabandere. Marcel van Dijck had Richebourg at stud and was already connected to Opaline des Pins. He recalls: “I didn’t know Opaline des Pins before I saw her at a competition. My best friend Notaris de Brabandere was looking for a mare and we purchased Opaline des Pins from Mrs. Gilbert Lefevre. Opaline was a big mare with enormous power. She was too difficult for sport, too hot, as we say. I only saw her sire Garitchou in a photo, also a very sturdy Anglo Arab. Opaline died at my feet the day after she have birth to Trésor. The night after he was born I woke up because I heard a lot of noise, and she was showing signs of colic so I called the vet. She really was in so much pain that the foal stood scared in a corner. The vet came, and together we saw how when she passed away the foal went to sit on her head. That was something to never forget. She died due to internal bleeding.
“For me, Primo des Bruyeres, together with Codex and Buenaventura xx, was the best stallion of my career. They still would have a place now in the modern breeding.”
Opaline des Pins produced five approved stallions that all jumped at 1m60, with three Olympic competitors:
• Shogoun II (Night and Day xx)
• Jus de Pomme (Primo des Bruyeres)
• Quintus (Pavarotti van de Helle)
• Richebourg (Bayard d’Elle)
• Trésor d’Opaline (Major de la Cour)
Jus de Pomme won two gold medals at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games under the saddle of Ulrich Kirchhoff. Quintus finished eighth individually under the saddle of Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe† at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, the same Games at which Trésor d’Opaline competed with Samantha Lam. In 2003 Richebourg was crowned as BWP horse of the year, while 2009 saw Quintus become a BWP Ambassador.
On paper Opaline des Pins has two daughters, however only one has offspring. This is the mare Topaline (Major de la Cour) who competed at 1m50 level.
According to Olympic champion Ulrich Kirchhoff: “I believed in Jus de Pomme from the very first moment. From the moment I made my first jumps with him I always said this horse will do something very special. He was so special as a stallion, as a sport horse, and as a friend in handling. Yes, of course I have followed his family. The mother of Jus de Pomme and all the others are extraordinary.” Jus de Pomme also became German champion with Kirchhoff in 1996, and that year was a member of the winning Nations’ Cup team in Aachen... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber

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