Sporthorse Breeders Banning Together

by Ingrid Edisen

About twelve years ago, around Chip Dalton’s kitchen table at Wind Swept Farms in Georgetown, Texas, just north of Austin several sporthorse breeders assembled and formed a consortium called The Central Texas Sporthorse Breeders’ Group (CTSB). Since then, the group has grown and numbers from 18 to 25 member farms. It has hosted tours, open houses, and expos. Today, the group maintains a well-organized Internet presence.

As far as she knows, Dalton explained, there are only two other groups like theirs in the United States—in the Mid-West and North Carolina.

Nowadays some of the CTSB farms have grown larger and even more active in breeding, selling and importing. Represented are Arabians, Morgans, Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Andalusians, Iberian sporthorses and crosses. There are the warmblood types: Oldenburgs, Trakehners, Hanoverians, Holsteiners, Dutch, Belgium, and Fresians.

In 2003, several CTSB members saw their horses’ progeny stand in the top ten national rankings.

Of course, sporthorses are just what the name implies-horses that are used as athletes whether it be for jumping or dressage-or pleasure. Dalton explained that in formally CTSB defines a sporthorse as a horse trained for the Olympic equine events of dressage, jumping, eventing and driving, although the rise of endurance riding has added a new dimension to the term.

Breeders range from folks like Pam Floyd of Heartland Farm who offers two warmblood fillies to the larger operation of Richard and Carol Schmickrath of Brookstone Farm in Georgetown with several tens of Dutch warmbloods and a hundred-acre breeding operation. Since 1977, this couple has done it all—horse buying trips to Europe; years of study under the famous Spanish Riding School’s Franz Rochowansky (who passed away a couple of years ago) and then moving for almost a decade up to Maine to apprentice under Olympic rider Michael Poulin. Their efforts have paid off in FEI dressage horses that have won nationally and internationally. They have upped the ante of quality of breeding in this area by example and education.

There is also Sandra Heinrichs who was one of the first to import a Dutch warmblood stallion into this area. His name was Royal Dutch (nicknamed “Bentley”) and she stood the dark bay at her Silver Hills Stables. I recall marveling at Bentley’s huge cannon bones, which made my backyard horses legs look like toothpicks! Heinrichs is still breeding to other stallions and has a healthy slate of sale horses.

Jan Colley of Lost Ridge Farms and Dalton agreed that with the Internet, their group reaches a much larger audience, which makes marketing easier. Colley said she thought that most of their sales came from outside the Central Texas area now. She stands a premium Danish Oldenburg stallion named Aslan who was the ’93 champion at the Lexington, VA Breed Show.

CTSB actively fosters keurings. For the uninitiated, this is means that accredited judges, often from Europe, visit Central Texas and inspect the offspring and breeding stock, then rate the individuals and record them into various official breedstock books. All of this increases the value of the horses since they are critiqued and documented on conformation, bloodlines, temperament, and movement.

Cean Embrey of Top Flight Farms summed it up when she stated: “It is unfortunate that some buyers think they need to go to Europe to find a quality sporthorse prospect. If you look at the USDF (United States Dressage Federation) Horse of the Year national rankings, you will see that the majority of horses are ‘Made in America,’ and a significant portion are bred right here in Region 9. [Note: Region 9 is a USDF zone that contains five states, of which Texas is one.] The breed inspectors who come from Europe for our keurings/inspections tell us that they are seeing [just] as high of quality.... With the increasing success rate of using frozen semen, mare owners in the U.S. can now breed to prominent international stallions.”

Embrey had her first two “frozen semen” foals born last year, sired by a famous keur Dutch Warmblood stallion named Wellington of Holland. Also, in 2003 her filly “Pfirst Class” who Embrey bred, raised and trained ended up as the top national Dutch Warmblood at Training Level dressage.

Breeders don’t just specialize with one breed on their farm. Catherine Powell of Bryn Dar Farm in Dale offers not only registered Oldenburgs, but Anglo-Andalusians as well. And if you’re interested in a Tobiano Oldenburg, Powell offers that as well.

Joyce Porter who owns Foxhill Farm got into the breeding aspect because horses are her passion. Sure, she forfeits trips to Hawaii or wherever, she said, but it’s worth it. Last year, her home-bred colt Wromeo, an Oldenburg, who placed first in the colt German Oldenburg Verband registry and third USDF Sporthorse of the Year rankings.

Ellen Day of Violet Crown explained that, “our family purchased a fabulous two-year-old Hanoverian mare for my daughter to ride in dressage. After graduating from high school, my daughter would have preferred riding, but I insisted she attend college. So I, a non-rider, was left with the possibility of breeding this mare. With a lot of help from my vet, Janet Arlitt, I have assisted my four mares to breed and raise ten foals with three more coming this spring.”

Alida Darlington of Emerald Meadows got into Trakehners “because they were identified by bloodlines and not by place of birth as most warmbloods are.” She breeds very few horses and makes sure they are top quality.

Dalton now shows her six-year-old Oldenburg gelding “GW” at second level—he descends from Grusus/Wind Shadow/Waldgott. She also breeds Hanoverians.

Judy Ritchie of Wolftrak Farm and her husband, Steve, decided to get into the breeding business (on a very small scale) when they bought their place near Thorndale, northeast of Austin.

“We both love the babies, although we know we can’t keep all of them, and have to sell them if we want to continue breeding. We have two broodmares, and with both of us working full time, we feel that two babies a year is enough for us. We are definitely present at each birth (I sleep in the barn for a couple of weeks ahead of time, and so far we haven’t missed one.), and Steve imprints all of the babies. We handle them as much as possible, and they are all very people-oriented. We’ve received numerous compliments on their manners and attitude, even though they still will act like babies at times,” Judy said. This past year was a banner year for Wolftrak Farm. We bred two mares to a Trakehner stallion named Pyatt Charly. He was a young stallion, just starting his career in dressage under Leslie Webb, and had received an 81% at First Level! Unfortunately, he had to be euthanized due to a spinal injury... and one of our mares was the last mare bred to him before this happened. Anyway we were told what nice babies they were, and that we should show them at the breed shows... At the end of the year, we received notification from USDF that Nicky placed 5th for Colts of 2003, and he was the 1st place Trakehner for Colts of 2003. Angel did not have the requisite number of scores to qualify for USDF placing, but the American Trakehner Association named her the 1st place Trakehner Filly of 2003. They also named Nicky as the 1st place Trakehner Colt of 2003. It was quite a nice tribute to Pyatt Charly to have two of his babies be awarded first place. As far as my favorite part of the breeding business, that would be hard to say. I love watching the mares grow rounder and rounder, and wonder what will be born. I love watching the babies grow up into the gorgeous creatures they become. I love actually starting them under saddle, and helping them realize all that potential.”

Candace Costis of Canyonwood became interested in dressage because she realized her 16 hh black Morgan mare was such a lovely mover and she also enjoyed the company of folks involved in the local dressage community. She also had Arabians and is tailoring her breeding of them for the racetrack. She related, “I am a breeder because I can’t help myself. I have always wanted to breed all of my animals - cats, fish, dogs, chickens, and goats.... Although I have always surrounded myself with various animals, all of them well trained, I lost interest in everything else when I finally acquired horses.” Her small operation specializes in hands-on rearing of the foals. “I am happy that trainers always comment on my horses’ good manners, intelligence and willingness. Basically, I want my horses to be the answer to the buyer’s dreams,” she explained.

To find out more about the group, check out the Central Texas Sporthorse Breeders website. Contacts include: Chip Dalton at (512) 930-4003, email. You may contact Joyce Porter.

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