Choosing between sport and breeding is a Catch 22

The Pen-Van der Werff Family has been into breeding Friesian horses for a mere six years but have already booked a number of very significant successes. ‘We have learned an awful lot from older breeders’, says Yvette Pen. ‘It’s our objective to breed good-quality Friesian sport horses, preferably at the highest level.’

So Yvette and Jeroen started out with two filly foals with full papers. Yoyke C (Onne 376 x Tsjerk 328) and Yersie C. (Hessel 480 x Beart 411). Both mares are the thirteenth generation of pedigree 15. A pedigree that goes back to 1907 and has brought forth a number of very famous stallions, such as Pier 448 and Jehannes 484.
After their good experiences with Gert, Yvette and Jeroen purchased another Uwkje daughter, Pippa C Crown AA (Norbert 444 x Beart 411), also from pedigree 15. At that moment Pippa was a 3-year-old and Gert sold her under the condition that they would take her to the inspection. Pippa finally succeeded in acquiring the Preliminary Crown predicate at the Central Inspection, which was upgraded to Crown after an IBOP of 80 points. ‘That really makes you think about what you want to do. Only giving such a mare the run of the field is no option. So you start studying stallion lines and that’s what prompted us to go into breeding.’ A year later Yvette and Jeroen also bought Uwkje and now they had a collection of mares from the same pedigree. In the end Yersie managed to obtain the Crown predicate, even though she had not been accepted into the Studbook when she was a youngster. ‘Initially Yersie wasn’t even accepted as a 3-year-old. She simply didn’t show
what she’s worth in the ring. When this failed people around me told me ‘you should sell this horse, she’s not going to make it’, Yvette recalls. ‘But I knew that all this horse needed was a little more time, from the onset she was a bit shy.’ Later, with Corina van den Bunt in the saddle, Yersie succeeded in winning not just the Friesian Talent Cup but also the Pavo Fryso Cup and she scored 89 points for her IBOP.
Every year again choosing between sport and breeding is a Catch 22: are we going to choose the one or rather the other? ‘Embryo transfer and ICSI make it possible for a mare to be of full value for the sport as well as for breeding.’ Up till now the ICSI sessions have produced six embryos: four by Tymen 503, one from Hessel 480 and one from Foeke 520.
The Pen Family adopt a critical attitude towards their mares’ aspects that need to be improved. Yvette: ‘It’s no good trying to improve all your mare’s aspects in one swoop, it’s a gradual process. Take a good look at what you wish to improve and take that into account for your stallion choice. For me personally a stallion’s own performances in the sport are very important.
That tells me a lot about his intelligence and his suitability as well as trainability.’
These breeders are looking forward to three foals this year. They are expecting a Fonger 478 foal out of Yersie, the first foal Yersie is carrying herself. Their Crown and Sport mare Coryolob (Jisse 433) is pregnant by Matthys 504. And a surrogate mare is going to give birth to a foal from Pippa and Nane 492. ‘I have my hopes set on filly foals that I can use to continue our line.’ The family is happy with all the successes and grateful for the good start they have had thanks to Gert Cent, the breeder of the ‘C-mares’. Yvette: ‘Novice breeders cannot succeed without the support from experienced breeders. We need them to get us started and to learn from them. That’s the way we can build on what they have already achieved. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel, so much expertise is already available.’