Equestrian Life
Dressage breeding has come a long way

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Remi Destinys Child (De Niro/Remi Lambuca) and her filly foal, Remi Fidertanzerin by Fidertanz - © Cheryl O’Brien

Elite Mare Remi Destinys Child (De Niro/Remi Lambuca) and her filly foal, Remi Fidertanzerin by Fidertanz - Champion Hanoverian Foal 2013. Lambuca is the first frozen semen foal produced at Remi Stud, and to date has produced 5 Elite Mares, 2 Supreme Champion Hanoverian awards, multiple Champion Foals, and was awarded Champion Hanoverian Family in 2010 and 2014.

© Cheryl O’Brien



THE AUSTRALIAN DRESSAGE scene has continued to develop in leaps and bounds over the past two decades.  It wasn’t that long ago that we were riding Thoroughbreds off the track in all disciplines, and to see the wonderful purpose-bred performance horses competing today is a credit to all Australian breeders.   As a Hanoverian breeder for more than 20 years, I am delighted and excited to be part of this development. The influence of international bloodlines, mainly through the availability of frozen semen in recent years, is allowing Australian breeders access to genetics previously unavailable, and we can now utilise Warmblood genetics that have been documented in Europe for centuries to develop our breeding programs.  In particular, the introduction of purpose-bred genetics has allowed us to breed modern, elegant performance horses that are talented for all disciplines. However, the background of the majority of these horses is the wonderful TB mare that is so readily available in Australia.

A breeding program should be based on strong foundations and developed in generations.  Knowing the traits inherited from the respective bloodlines is a valuable tool when breeding performance horses.  In Australia, the majority of dressage riders are amateurs, and mostly female, therefore rideability and temperament are the two most important traits I select for.  I don’t want to breed a horse with spectacular movement if it doesn’t have the temperament to be able to ride it.  All my broodmares are tested under saddle before being bred, and I use this information as a guide when selecting a prospective stallion.  I have imported two Hanoverian stallions over the past few years, Lauries As and Fisherman’s Friend. Together with their correct conformation and movement, they were selected for their amazing temperaments.  They scored 10 and 9 respectively for their temperaments in their Stallion Performance Tests in Germany.  As I am breeding performance horses, I believe a breeding stallion should be out competing under saddle, and therefore both of my stallions compete all year and come home to breed during the breeding season. This is a wonderful testament to a stallion’s character and temperament, and shows breeders that they have strong genes for rideability that they will pass on to their progeny. (Unfortunately, Fish has recently retired from competing due to an injury this past breeding season.  He is now 17 years old, and has had an amazing career under saddle, from being the Leader of the Stallion Dressage Quadrille in Celle, Germany, to winning the Australian Championship title every year from Medium level dressage through to Intermediate II dressage.  Has that feat been duplicated by anyone in Australia I wonder?)

Some breeders in Australia tend to select their stallions based on fashion and hope to command high prices for their foals by breeding the flavour of the month.  Whilst I also incorporate new and “fashionable” stallions into my breeding program for their genetics, I am careful to breed these stallions to strong mare lines where I know the temperament is well established.  I believe that a mare contributes at least 60% towards the foal, and therefore a good, well performed mare is vital if a new breeder wants to establish a successful breeding program for the future. And don’t disregard the humble TB mare!  Most older breeders in Australia started their breeding programs with a TB mare bred to a Warmblood stallion – including myself. If selected correctly, with the attributes that we need to combine with the Warmblood genetics, they can successfully contribute to the breeding of a performance horse.  This TB influence is invaluable.  I particularly like it in the second generation, and always keep TB mares in my breeding program.  A wonderful example is Surabaya xx (Mighty Kingdom xx/In The Cup xx) who we sadly lost last year at 26 years old.  She produced 10 Hanoverian foals (plus three TB foals) to seven different Hanoverian stallions, and has produced four Elite Mares and four competition geldings, including Remi Rockefella (Barastoc Champion) and Remi Lethal Weapon (aka Underdiscussion), Aachen CICO 3* Eventing Champion 2012.  Surabaya is the only TB to be awarded Australian Champion Hanoverian in 2013, and her daughters were awarded Champion Hanoverian Family in both 2009 and 2013.  Such is the influence of a beautiful TB mare.

The performance genetics in Australia continue to develop in a positive way, and breeders are producing many talented horses for the Olympic disciplines, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that most horses are owned by amateur riders in Australia.  That is not to take away anything from our professional riders, but in order to maintain and develop our dressage industry for the future, breeders should be producing horses with a willingness to work, good temperaments and rideability as a priority.  The modern, well-bred dressage horse today is generally endowed with good paces, but without trainability it makes what should be an enjoyable hobby a very difficult and frustrating task. Add to that the ever-increasing costs of owning and caring for a dressage horse, and it will be the amateur rider that leaves our wonderful sport. By using strict selection criteria in our breeding programs,  riders and breeders alike can look to the future of Australian dressage with much excitement and anticipation.


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