By Chris Gould
Photography: Private collection
“You have to have luck. Without luck you have nothing.” This was the modest theme that repeatedly came up in a conversation I had recently with Augustin Walch, founder of W Charlot Farms. Now turning 80 this year, after immigrating from Munich 40 years ago, he is arguably Canada's most successful Warmbloood breeder. Certainly he has the numbers and the accolades.
W Charlotte Farms stallions have over 300 offspring in the Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association (CWHBA) studbook alone. No doubt there are hundreds more in other North American and European studbooks.
Walch will, however, accept some credit for his intuitive ability to select horses, claiming “I see a horse; if I like it I buy it.” Horses like his stallions Rio Grande, Viva Voltaire and Cabardino are well known examples of how good his ‘eye’ is. What is less well known is that Walch, in addition to breeding, has imported over 200 horses mostly for resale and mostly for the hunter market.
“In North America the hunter business is the best business... if the horse is three or four and looks good and jumps nice, people buy it.” He knows what he is talking about having been top of the USEF Leading Breeder of Hunters list from 2004 to 2013, and again from 2016 to 2019.
When asked if he had a business model right from the start, he again pointed to luck. Luck in starting with a good Hanoverian mare Sarabande and her daughters, Sandra and Sabrina, by Kassio. In Germany he bred horses as a sideline to a 50-horse boarding stable, so clients were on site. “In those days you lunged the horse in both directions, trotted in hand, and if it looked sound, you shook hands and the horse was sold.” He learned two things. First “if you have good customers you have a good name,” and, second, sell the buyer what they want. “If someone wants a foal we sell a foal, if someone wants a three-year-old we sell a three year old.”
This might seem like simple advice, but with the advent of x-rays and vet checks, selling became more complicated. If the x-rays were not perfect Walch has often offered a five-year warranty on specified risks. This requires trust on both sides. It also builds buyer confidence. He has only ever had one horse come back and that was resold quickly as well. This emphasis on trust has resulted in a network of clients that buy horses on a regular basis year after year. “When you have happy clients the business goes on.”.. To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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