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Some mothers do have them! Or do they?

Classic Touch with Ludger Beerbaum (GER)

By Christopher Hector
Photography: Peter Llewellyn

What makes a good broodmare...? When you get two of Europe’s most respected breeders of jumping horses who have diametrically opposing views on mares, then you quietly go to work on the databases to try and find which of them is correct, and it is a real surprise to learn that 3the numbers support both opinions.

Holland's Jan Greve feels that you can't combine a successful jumping career with motherhood. He told me: “I’m not sure why this happens but it seems to me that you cannot use the animal’s body twice – as a showjumper until it is 14/15 and then into breeding, it hardly ever works. Ratina didn’t work. It might just be that it is too much to expect from the body. It’s funny but everybody has a certain age when you produce the best, with a milking cow, it is the third to the fifth calf that gives more milk. I cannot explain why it happens with horses but it does seem that you can’t use the body double, to be a good sport horse and then to be a good mother.”

The equally respected Belgian breeder, Joris de Brabander has the opposite opinion. I asked: You obviously don’t believe the theory that very good competition horses never produce very good offspring… And he replied: “That’s not true. The better they are, the better they can jump, the better the foal. It is true that very good jumping horses normally don’t have good chances, they are too old to breed, or they are in the hands of rich people, or they are in countries where they don’t have a breeding culture, and very often when a guy has a very good competition mare, he uses his own stallion which is very often not good enough. If you breed to very, very good mares, it is always better than breeding to the others.”

And yet... the most famous of his mares, Fragance du Challis (Jalisco B - Nifrane x Fury de la Cense), who has produced astonishing jumpers, was herself at best a respectable national-level jumper, whose only international placing was a 45th in a 1m35 class at two-star Wieze. Unlike most jumping mares, she started having foals as a two-year-old and continued supplying eggs throughout her jumping career, rather than turning to breeding at the end of a long international career.

Classic Touch

Let’s look at two of the most famous mares of all time, starting with Classic Touch – classic Holstein breeding: Caletto II x Landgraf x Roman. The mare famously won the individual gold medal for Ludger Beerbaum at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. She was then ridden for a while by the owner's son, before going to Piet Raijmakers and with him in the saddle won a Grand Prix at Moorsele in her final year of competition, 1998. She was lightly campaigned, with 35 international placings in her eight-year career, retiring at the age of fourteen...