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The recent death of the great dressage stallion Keystone Dimaggio was sad news. His contribution to British breeding was immense, as demonstrated by so many of his offspring, including the winner of the recent grand prix at Addington, Headmore Delegate. I’m sure his legacy will live on in our British teams for many years.

Stallions from Andreas Helgstrand’s stables in Denmark attended the British stallion showcase (Bury Farm, 9 January) this year and much online debate has ensued about whether their movement and temperament is suitable for the British market, or whether the offspring result in “too much horse”.

It isn’t necessary to breed huge movers for high level dressage, but quality certainly doesn’t need to be sacrificed in the quest for rideability.

Breeders have spent generations producing those stallions from Denmark, they are masterpieces born of much research and endless crossings of bloodlines. It is highly unlikely that an average mare is going to produce a similar super athlete if bred to one of them — much more likely he would simply enhance her. If, by chance, this “problem” did arise and one did breed something of a similar quality and movement, it could be sold well enough to buy 10 horses that were more conservative movers.

Stallions (and mares) must have three good gaits — and some of the British ones didn’t. Any obvious defect in paces, such as a lateral walk, should not be passed on through generations. Tension at the stallion show is no excuse; some competition venues are equally full of atmosphere. Horses need be able to show purity in the paces to be competitive, and ultimately breeders should preserve the natural gaits for future generations.

Breeding for purpose

It’s important that we honestly assess our own needs, abilities, mares and stallions, and ask why we are breeding. Amazing young stallions often produce amazing young horse winners. Grand prix stallions tend to produce grand prix horses. Grand prix stallions under saddle in competition won’t show the same extravagance in the paces as a young stallion that is being chased by a man with a plastic bag on a fishing line just out of camera shot. The two are not comparable.

My advice for those choosing stallions is to seek unbiased guidance, look for horses that have stayed sound and work in a relaxed way, and research bloodlines renowned for passing on suitable temperaments.

Stallions such as Florestan, Rubinstein and Donnerhall are legendary for passing on good character. Jazz and Weltmeyer are often more feisty and suitable for the experienced. It’s sensible to expect an inexperienced rider to need guidance with any young horse.

Most breeders try to produce quality horses with good temperaments. The two are not exclusive to each other — it is a myth that all well-bred horses are sharp or badly behaved. Horses play up for myriad reasons and the easier the horse finds the work, the better behaved he is likely to be.

In both sport and breeding competition is a good thing, and we shouldn’t fear or discourage it. It makes us all up our game.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 4 February 2016