Up until quite recently the story of the breeding of dual Kentucky winner and Olympic silver medal winning horse Winsome Adante remained a mystery. Look up his details on the FEI website and the category marked ‘breeding’ still states enigmatically ‘unknown’.

As Winsome Adante, who is ridden for the United States by Kim Severson, began to draw notice to himself by winning three-day events, all most people knew about him was that he was bred in Britain and was by the former winning racehorse Saunter. After that the trail of information went cold.

In 2001, the year he won Blenheim, someone from Sport Horse Breeding (GB) traced his breeders, Staffordshire farmers Chris and Janet Gooch. Since then the accolades have started to trickle in and Chris and Janet’s comfortable new redbrick bungalow near Cambridge houses a small collection of breeders’ awards.

On the wall in the dining room, next to a picture of a day old Winsome Adante (‘Danny’) with his mother, Justwith Genoa (‘Tyi’), there are two certificates from the World Breeding Federation which show Danny having won the World Breeding Rankings for sport horses in both 2001 and 2002. The cabinet in the lounge contains two silver cups awarded to the breeders of the winning horse at Kentucky, one still wrapped in cellophane.

“I keep the cups in the cabinet so I don’t have to dust them,” laughs Janet.

While professional horse breeders often spend a lifetime trying to breed a superstar through the endless study of bloodlines, the good natured Gooches struck lucky the first and only time they tried to breed an event horse thanks to some advice from a horsey friend and an ample helping of gut feeling.

Wanting to put the mare Tyi, a present from Chris to Janet who had always wanted a horse of her own, in foal, the couple visited a number of Staffordshire studs looking for the right stallion.

“As soon as I saw Saunter I fell in love with him,” says Janet. “His temperament and looks were faultless and really he was just a bigger version of our own mare. She was just 15.2hh and we thought at the time that she would be too small to produce anything of note.”

Janet, a passionate animal lover who has never ridden due to a severe allergy to horses, had joked to her daughter, Sarah, before the mating that she was going to breed her an event horse. At the time, Sarah was based with event rider Antonia Gray (now Brown) to get the grounding she needed for a career with horses.

As for Tyi, she had come from Janet’s horsey friend Marian, who bred her by Bohemond. Tyi arrived at the Gooches’ 400-year-old farmhouse near Lichfield when she was six months old. She was sent away to be broken, after which Sarah Gooch rode her in a few showing classes.

At the age of four, Tyi was put in foal and Danny was born during the morning of 6 April 1993, just as the Gooches, who had been keeping a close eye on their mare throughout the night, popped back indoors to make themselves a cup of tea.

The new foal was given the prefix ‘Winsome’, just like all the other various horses and ponies the Gooches had bred over the years, and Chris Gooch always rated the young Danny, who spent his formative years running with a herd of cows.

“We would call him to come in with a bucket of food and on the way he would jump over a log and ditch. When he was three, he jumped out of a field over a water trough and a five-bar gate. I couldn’t understand
how he got over it until I saw him jump back,” says Chris.

When Winsome Adante was four, Sarah backed him and passed him on to a friend, Sarah Harrison, to event. Danny finished seventh at Aston-le-Walls during his first pre-novice run, and runner-up on his second outing at the now defunct Withcote Hall.

Sarah found Danny brave, bold and the kind of horse who listened carefully to her instructions — in fact, he was everything anyone could want in an event horse. She rated him so highly that she purchased him from Chris and Janet Gooch, but shortly afterwards he was talent-spotted at an event and sold to Linda Wachtmeister in the States for Kim Severson to ride.

“He certainly fell into the right hands. He has everything a breeder could wish for,” says Janet. “It gives us a lot of pleasure knowing what he’s done and where he is.”

Fate played a part in the fact that Janet Gooch never sent Tyi back to Saunter, for the stallion died shortly after siring Winsome Adante and the Gooches loaned their mare to a local girl for riding. There was also another reason for giving up breeding horses.

“It always worried me where they went when they left the farm,” says Janet. “It took me ages to find the right home for Tyi.”

As they packed their bags and prepared to leave Staffordshire, Janet put Tyi on the market and visited several studs in order to find her the best home. Now at the Future Sport Horse Stud, Tyi recently produced a filly foal and is currently in foal to the late Rock King.

The Gooches, meanwhile, have yet to see Winsome Adante contesting a major event and the only time they have glimpsed him recently was on TV at the Athens Olympics.

The couple keep in touch with his progress via Jane Atkinson, Kentucky’s event director, but they have never spoken to Kim Severson or Linda Wachtmeister — they have Kim’s number, but have never called — although they would clearly love to do so, and they also have a hankering to go and see where Danny is living in the States, but how would they react?

“I cried when I saw him on TV,” laughs Janet. “I can’t imagine how I would cope if I saw him for real. I think it would all be too much.”

  • This breeding feature was first published in the February issue of Eventing magazine.
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