Headmore Stud in Hampshire has been producing some seriously impressive dressage horses in recent years. But dressage breeding was never the original plan for stud owner Sarah Oppenheimer and her daughter, international grand prix rider Alice Oppenheimer.
On episode 52 of The Horse & Hound Podcast – which also marks the show’s one-year anniversary – Alice explains how her mother “accidentally fell” into breeding after she took on a thoroughbred hunter as a broodmare after the death of her owner.
“Mum started breeding some eventers, as that was her thing at the time. But Darren and Suzanne Lavendera were based just down the road and one day Darren rang up my mum and said, ‘You’ve got to come and see this colt we have just imported; he is unreal’. So mum popped round to see him and came back saying that she had fallen in love with this colt – his name was Dimaggio and she was going to use him on the thoroughbred mare we had,” recalls Alice.
“So when Dimaggio was three years old and started covering, mum was one of the very first people to use him, in that first year. The pairing created Headmore Donato, who was owned by Nicky Morris and was the dam to Maeve Morris’ Headmore Footloose, who has now won four national titles.”
As well as Dimaggio, who went on to become a legendary sire, one of the most significant horses in the Headmore breeding programme was Rubinsteena (Ruby). The Rubinstein I daughter was bought from Julie Deverill at Half Moon Stud and went on to become a star broodmare for the stud. This “amazing” mare, winner of the H&H outstanding mare award in 2019, was the dam of, among others, Alice’s grand prix horses Dirubinio, Diffinity and Davina, plus the younger mare Bella Ruby, currently winning at small tour level.
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“It is so special competing home-breds. In 2019 these three all stepped up to grand prix level and I love that I have a photo of all three of them as foals,” says Alice. “The relationship we have with them is amazing – I know them like the back of my hand and, being related, they do all have similarities.
“Another huge part of producing horses that you have bred is that it’s not like buying a horse, when you can pick what you want. When you breed to have to be able to adapt and learnt to ride the horse you’ve bred. It’s a slightly different way of riding, in that you have to be able to adapt, rather than choose horses that suit you.”
To hear more from Alice, tune in to this week’s episode of The Horse & Hound Podcast, available for free on all major podcast platforms.
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