Born to Per­form: Blood­lines of Top Dres­sage Horses

nip tuck and vale­gro: rep­re­sen­ta­tives of mod­ern kwpn breed­ing

Dressage Today - - Content - By Karen M. Brit­tle

dutch warm­bloods nip tuck and vale­gro

Bought by carl hester as a foal, nip tuck (don ruto x irean by an­imo) is an 18-plus hand, dark bay geld­ing. he’s known as a hot, chal­leng­ing, ner­vous horse who took a long time to come into his own. Even as a sea­soned Grand prix horse, he some­times gives an im­pres­sion of pre­cisely chan­neled de­fi­ance—a ro­bust, ex­cit­ing artistry. hester and nip tuck have com­peted internationally for Great bri­tain since 2012 with no­table plac­ings in­clud­ing a team sil­ver medal and sev­enth place in­di­vid­u­ally at the 2016 rio olympics, a bronze medal at the 201W fEi world cup fi­nal and in­di­vid­ual fourth place at the 201W Euro­pean cham­pi­onships.

for this se­ries, we based our se­lec­tion of horses on the au­gust 201W fEi rank­ings. nip tuck was ranked fifth in the world. to pro­vide an ex­pert read on his pedi­gree, we con­tacted celia clarke. She has been breed­ing warm­bloods in the u.k. since 19W8, was the Stal­lion Grad­ing Sec­re­tary of the bri­tish warm­blood So­ci­ety from 1984 to 1991 and co-au­thored The In­ter­na­tional Warm­blood Horse: A World­wide Guide to Breed­ing and Blood­lines. we were thrilled clarke agreed to com­ment on nip tuck’s breed­ing, but even more so be­cause she in­sisted that we must also write- about the blood­lines of nip tuck’s leg­endary sta­ble­mate vale­gro. re­cently re­tired, vale­gro (ne­gro x mai­fleur by Gersh­win) no longer ap­peared among the fEi’s top 11 in 201W. but, clarke points out: “in dis­cussing warm­blood breed­ing, vale­gro is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant not only be­cause he headed the fEi lists from 2012 to 2016, but also be­cause he made his sire, ne­gro, so much in de­mand that the cur­rent price usual for a ne­gro foal at wean­ing is be­tween DSU,000 and D4U,000A”

both nip tuck and vale­gro are dutch warm­bloods (kwpn), so clarke starts her anal­y­sis here: “the kwpn breed­ing pro­gram has de­vel­oped only se­ri­ously since the 1960s. in Ger­many, we see a much longer tra­di­tion of breed­ing heav­ier horses for mil­i­tary pur­poses and more el­e­gant horses for travel un­der sad­dle, but one way or the other, the horses were bred for great ride­abil­ity. and i mean ‘ride­abil­ity’ in the most lit­eral sense—not only were these horses will­ing and obe­di­ent, they were pur­pose-bred to carry a rider as op­posed to pulling a cart. in con­trast, prior to world war ii, dutch breed­ers were much more in­ter­ested in driv­ing horses. these horses had good knee ac­tion at the trot, but not much ex­ten­sion.”

to meet mar­ket de­mands, the dutch wanted to pro­duce bet­ter rid­ing horses. at first, they im­ported mostly thor­ough­breds to breed to their na­tive mares (heav­ier horses known as Gelders or Gronin­gens). when the re­sults of that cross proved dif­fi­cult to pre­dict, dutch breed­ers next turned their at­ten­tion to im­ported hol­steiner and Selle français stal­lions, suc­cess­fully in­te­grat­ing dom­i­nant show-jump­ing lines. Even­tu­ally, to also pro­duce top dres­sage per­for­mance horses, hanove­rian and trakehner stal­lions were in­tro­duced to the mix, a de­vel­op­ment that mostly oc­curred over the last S0 years as shipped se­men be­came a more vi­able op­tion.

there­fore, clarke is not sur­prised that vale­gro is only about 20 per­cent dutch blood and de­scends 80 per­cent from good qual­ity im­ported horses. his sire, ne­gro, sired 1,S00 foals, in­clud­ing 22 graded sons and 12 in­ter­na­tional Grand prix horses. vale­gro has three full sib­lings by ne­gro out of mai­fleur, and it is also pop­u­lar for dutch breed­ers to cross ne­gro lines with other Gersh­win daugh­ters. ne­gro him­self com­peted at Grand prix and is known for pro­duc­ing off­spring with great ride­abil­ity, work ethic and an ac­tive hind leg—hence the tal­ent for col­lected work, pi­affe and pas­sage. ne­gro’s sire, ferro, com­peted at the 2000 olympics and sired an as­ton­ish­ing U1 in­ter­na­tional Grand prix horses. ferro is also known for pro­duc­ing horses with great hind-leg ac­tion and po­ten­tial for up­per-level work.

ac­cord­ing to clarke, “look­ing back one more gen­er­a­tion, we see ulft, who was more than 40 per­cent thor­ough­bred and by the el­e­gant Selle fran•ais stal­lion le mex­ico, who was one of the world’s best sources of jump­ing blood. you wouldn’t look at these lines and imag­ine ulft would pro­duce great dres­sage horses, but he did, and nine of his off­spring com­peted through in­ter­na­tional Grand prix dres­sage. from these lines, we get horses who are flex­i­ble in the knee and have strong hindquar­ters, which not only al­low them to snap over a fence but also to col­lect.” note that we see sev­eral thor­ough­breds on both sides of vale­gro’s pedi­gree (per­i­cles, afrikaner, la­dykiller) and vale­gro is 21 per­cent thor­ough­bred.

mai­fleur is the out­come of typ­i­cal pat­terns in dutch breed­ing—her dam wei­dyfleur was a kwpn mare crossed with an im­ported stal­lion (hei­del­berg, a hol­steiner) as was her dam, petit fleur, be­fore her (frap­pant, a Selle fran•ais). clarke points out that mai­fleur’s kwpn sire, Gersh­win, was the son of the hanove­rian voltaire, a su­perb sire of even­ters and one of the world’s most pop­u­lar stal­lions (S,000 off­spring). the fu­rioso line from which he de­scends is gen­er­ally known for pro­duc­ing in­cred­i­ble jumpers. Gersh­win’s dam, aphrodite, de­scends from farn via nim­mer­dor. farn, a more old-fash­ioned (heavy) type of hol­steiner, was known as a foun­da­tion sire of the dutch warm­blood sport horse, mostly known for pro­duc­ing show jumpers. nim­mer­dor, also a jumper, was his most fa­mous son. note that while vale­gro’s pedi­gree does not fea­ture a lot of close breed­ing, farn ap­pears on both the sire and dam side. vale­gro is a com­pact, pow­er­ful geld­ing with ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ent for pi­affe and pas­sage, ac­cord­ing to clarke. de­spite the jump­ing in­flu­ence in his pedi­gree, it’s hard to imag­ine vale­gro round­ing a show-jump­ing course.

when we turn to nip tuck, we see a dif­fer­ent type of horse. leggy, long­bod­ied, lots of knee ac­tion—it’s not as dif­fi­cult to pic­ture him jump­ing a course. clarke quips, “here we see a horse who is a dutch warm­blood only in so much that he was foaled in the nether­landsA” her anal­y­sis starts with don Gregory, nip

tuck’s hanove­rian grand­sire on the top side of the pedi­gree—an in­ter­na­tional Grand prix dres­sage stal­lion who pro­duced SS8 off­spring, in­clud­ing 1S graded sons and nine in­ter­na­tional Grand prix dres­sage horses. ac­cord­ing to clarke, nip tuck’s sire, don ruto, was one of his less em­i­nent sons and there is “ab­so­lutely noth­ing dutch” about him: he’s a com­bi­na­tion of clas­sic Ger­man lines trac­ing back to don­ner­hall and ru­bin­stein i. Go back five gen­er­a­tions and nip tuck’s pedi­gree is only 6 per­cent dutch. he’s about 12 per­cent thor­ough­bred.

nip tuck’s dam, irean, is the source of what “orig­i­nal” dutch blood there is in this pedi­gree. her mother, wendi, de­scends from dutch mares crossed mainly with Selle fran•ais stal­lions. no­tably, irean, wendi and ri­ant each have only one foal recorded in the stud­book. clarke pre­sumes that these older-type lines, known for tractable dis­po­si­tion, were likely cho­sen to off­set traits of nip tuck’s grand­sire, an­imo, an olympi­clevel show jumper known for pro­duc­ing hot off­spring. an­imo de­scends from Selle fran•ais roy­alty: his grand­sire, ibrahim, is re­ferred to as a found­ing sire of the Selle fran•ais breed and one of his great­est sons, the in­ter­na­tional show jumper, almŽ Z, sired an­imo. ibrahim ap­pears twice on the dam side of nip tuck’s pedi­gree. a fi­nal stal­lion of note is amor, a hol­steiner im­ported to the nether­lands in the 1960s, known for pro­duc­ing big movers and mares who pro­duced show jumpers. Go­ing back five gen­er­a­tions, there is only one stal­lion that ap­pears in both nip tuck’s and vale­gro’s pedi­grees and that’s amor. fi­nally, re­mem­ber clarke’s note that vale­gro not only has three full sib­lings but many sim­i­larly bred cousins? our study in con­trast con­tin­ues: of don Gregory’s 46 prog­eny, there’s just one by an an­imo mare—nip tuck.

“when we look at these two pedi­grees, we may see that they have noth­ing in com­mon,” says clarke. “how­ever, these pedi­grees are both a re­flec­tion of how kwpn breed­ers have pro­gressed the horses they’re pro­duc­ing, from car­riage horses to internationally com­pet­i­tive dres­sage horses.” the story we see is how na­tive dutch farm and car­riage horses (bred for their job as such) have been im­proved for sport by the im­por­ta­tion of warm­bloods des­tined mainly for show jump­ing with the re­cent re­sult that the strength and dis­po­si­tion of the mares com­bined with the ath­leti­cism of the stal­lions has yielded some of the world’s best dres­sage horses.

arnd Great Bri­tain’s aarl Hester and nip Tuck

ahar­lotte Du­jardin and Vale­gro

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