An analysis of the breeding of the horses at the European Championships confirms once again the dominance of the Donnerhall line. There are three own sons of the great stallion, two by De Niro, two by Don Schufro and one by D-Day. The next best represented stallion is Gribaldi, with four, then another Trakehner, Michellino, with three, while there are also three by the Weltmeyer son, Wolkenstein II, and one by another son, Welt Hit II. There are three representatives of the F line, two by Florestan, one by his son, Fidermark, while the R line is represented by two Rohdiamants, and one by Rubinstern Noir. Strangely, there is only one Jazz – Parzival.
Still the performances of Valegro and Uthopia are a triumph for Dutch breeding – and for a somewhat neglected stallion, Ferro. Perhaps his tendency to throw short legs, had something to do with it, and his failure to produce a real super star. Still he was a decent producer, with two of his progeny competing at the Beijing Olympics: Mythilus for the USA and Prestige (who also competed at Rotterdam) for Spain.
Valegro is by the Ferro son, Negro out of a mare by Gershwin, a son of the great jumping sire, Voltaire, out of a mare by the Ladykiller xx son, Heidelberg. Negro competed with Anne van Olst but not to Grand Prix as the wide world of the web would suggest. Negro has a respectable breeding index of 149 with a reliability of 92 (by way of contrast Jazz is at 189/97) Negro is out of a mare by Variant, one of the pioneer competitor/dressage stallions, despite a tricky brain, he made it to the small tour with Anky van Grunsven. With a nice sense of timing, Negro’s first approved son just passed his KWPN performance test – Diego, out of a Don Gregory / Rubinstein mare. He might be one to watch.
The other Ferro grandson, Uthopia, is by Metall, who is out of a mare by another great jumping sire, Ramiro. Metall has only been a moderately successful stallion, with a breeding index of 124 (94), but since he was acquired the day after Uthopia’s triumph by Dutch stallion mover and shaker, Joep van Uytert, that might all be about to change. Uthopia is out of a mare by Inspekteur, out of a mare by Ulft – that’s a double cross of the stallion that Dirk Willem Rosie considers the most important sire in Dutch dressage breeding.
Dirk worked for the KWPN from 1994 to 2006. During this period he was the editor-in-chief of the Dutch equestrian magazine, De Strengen. He is the author of Selecting the Dressage Horse. He is an unashamed fan of Ferro and his sire, Ulft, and the success of the British horses was no surprise to him…
“Ferro has always been a little bit too much pepper. A lot of direct Ferros, are too hot, too difficult, so if you dilute this huge amount of pepper, then in the end, in the next generation, you get the components exactly right for Grand Prix. Ferro is in my opinion the most important producer of horses with the elements for the Grand Prix, even more than Jazz. Ferro brings a more complete dressage horse with a great mind, whereas Jazz has great value in trot – he is probably one of the best progenitors of trot and all that goes with that, piaffe and passage – but he also has difficulties in walk and canter, whereas Ferro, especially in the second generation, has no weak points.”
Dirk is not so worried about the relatively low breeding value of Metall and to a lesser extent, Negro:
“Often that can be due to chance, if Metall would have had a great sport career himself, then things would have been different. Negro was injured when he was on his way to Grand Prix. It is difficult to explain why one stallion has a higher or lower breeding value. For me, I would choose Negro, and I have done that in the past, rather than Metall, but I am not surprised that Metall brings very good horses.”
“Don’t forget the dam line, Uthopia is in-bred to Ulft and Ulft is the major dressage producer of Holland, although you never see it in the breeding values because Ulft is from an older generation, but with hindsight we can say that Ulft really did the great job in producing dressage horses in Holland.”
Once again we see jumping blood on the pedigree…
“Yes, Ramiro in the pedigree of Metall, in Negro, there is not a lot of showjumping in the dam line, you get Variant, who was a very specific dressage progenitor, not an easy character. Ferro himself was a fair producer of showjumpers – I think Ferro produced almost as many international showjumpers as dressage horses. That is a compliment, that means Ferro is a completer horse, that his mind is better for performance than a pure dressage horse. I don’t mind if there is a bit of showjumping blood, as long as we don’t use it as an argument to reject specialization. Obviously Ferro was a better dressage horse than a showjumper, so obviously he has meant more for dressage breeding than showjumping breeding in Holland. You have to be practical in these matters.”
The top ten demonstrates two things. One that Donnerhall dominates – three of the top ten are by that great sire. The other, that if you want to breed a Grand Prix dressage horse, you better start with a Grand Prix sire. Seven of the top ten are by stallions that competed Grand Prix: Donnerhall, Jazz, Gribaldi and Solos Carex, while Michellino competed in the Small Tour, as did Negro. The importance of Ulft is also underlined, not just through his son Ferro, but as the dam sire of Parzival and Michellino.