Breeding Cafe: Breeding meets Sport

In the KFPS Breeders’ Café at the Nieuwe Heuvel in Lunteren Piet Bergsma, Peter Spahn, Rien van der Schaft and Willem Lokhorst, hosted by Alice Booij, were seated around the table for a conversation about the combination sport and breeding. Former national dressage coach Rien van der Schaft acknowledged that, compared to thirty years ago, Friesian horses now have good canters. According to him this is the result of correct selection procedures in breeding.

Breed, sport and health

Willem Lokhorst had primarily joined in his capacity of breeder, Willem 508 stems from his De Meikade Stables, but for him sport is a crucial element. He selects talented sport stallions for his broodmares and his mares complete IBOP- or ABFP Tests. And he adds: ‘Beautiful dressage horses are much in demand by the market.’ Grand Prix rider Peter Spahn has sport stallion Elias 494 under the saddle and the new stud season has also started again for the Jorn 430 son. As a top sportsman riding among Warmbloods, Spahn has a different perspective on the Friesian horse than the average rider has. Head of the Stallion Inspection Committee Piet Bergsma summarises the selection of stallions as follows: breed, sport and health. Peter Spahn emphasises that functional use of the hind leg is closely interlinked with use of the top line. The top line shouldn’t be too weak or too tight, that makes a horse difficult to train. All gentlemen present like to see a horse in free movement so that its natural movement can be assessed without any trace of tension.

Stamina

Peter Spahn is always on the lookout for talented young Friesian horses. He’s especially interested in healthy horses that have stamina, which he calls the ‘interior’: ‘Horses that have no problems with the higher dressage work and that have low levels of muscle acidification, appear more frequently in specific pedigrees.’ Peter keeps lists of Friesian horses that have competed at Grand Prix level. The information he has gathered shows him that the list contains many horses with a straight hind leg, whereas Jury member Piet Bergsma has a preference for horses with a slightly sickle-hocked hind leg. For both the key factor is how the horse uses its body.

Character

Topic of the discussion is once again the character of the Friesian horse. For Peter Spahn it was this character that made him decide to switch to Friesian horses: ‘It is this pleasant, cooperative character that is so important for a sport horse. It’s the same character sought after by recreational riders.’ On top of that, the gentlemen around the table seek a horse that is durable too, that keeps going for a long time. Willem Lokhorst selects his broodmares on health aspects, like stance of the legs, and quality of legwork. Regarding movement the men are in one mind about it, suppleness is essential. Piet: ‘No one wants a horse whose movement is nothing but show.’

Future

Answering the question about where we will stand in ten years’ time, Willem reckons that breeding is on the right course. There’s lots of demand for Friesian horses, which is a good sign. Peter Spahn hopes there will be a Friesian horse at the Olympic Games; Rien van der Schaft is convinced this is about to happen. Breeding is still moving forward with small steps, although according to Piet Bergsma these steps are no longer as large as they used to be in recent decades: ‘The sport index for stallions and mares provides a lot of information. We don’t want to breed show horses on a string, what we want is a utility horse.’