The former British dressage star mare DV Stenkjers Nadonna — who won team medals under Gareth Hughes in 2013 and 2014 — has had her first foal by embryo transfer (ET).
The bay colt is by De Niro and was born to his surrogate dam, Massey, on 4 June at Newton Stud in Devon.
‘Donna’, by Donnerschlag, is owned by Jane Brewin and her husband Kevin Sparrow, the renowned dressage and young horse photographer.
“He’s mainly Jane’s, but my role is to help make it all happen and take photos of it when it does,” Kevin told Horse & Hound.
“He’s a lovely foal. He charges round the stable and weaves in and out of his recipient mother’s legs already.
“I look at hundreds of foals a year and they’re all cute, but when it’s your own it’s incredibly special. I know it sounds cheesy, but there’s something in your heart that goes, ‘Oooooo!’
“This is the first time I’ve been a ‘parent’ and it makes you very emotional.”
Donna is liver chestnut and De Niro is very dark bay, but the foal is bay. He received a copy of the gene for a dark coat colour from his sire, which is dominant over the recessive chestnut gene from his dam.
De Niro leads the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses dressage sire rankings ahead of Gribaldi, Jazz and Sandro Hit. He was carefully chosen to complement Donna.
“You look at how you can improve a mare and we wanted height as Donna is only 16hh, as well as some of De Niro’s brain and his canter, to combine with her trot. If we’ve got all that we could be on to a good thing, but only time will tell whether it’s all come together,” said Kevin.
The colt has been named Dascha after one of Santa’s reindeers, as Donna is the name of another of Santa’s herd — albeit both with slightly amended spellings.
The couple are undecided as to whether this will be the foal’s official passport name.
“He’ll be passported with the Oldenburgs, who are visiting Newton Stud in September, and stay in Devon until he’s two,” added Kevin. “Then we’ll see; if he’s good enough, he’ll go to Germany to be prepared for grading.
“When you have a mare like Donna you have to breed from her at least once to see what you get. It would be a crying shame not to.”
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Newton Stud’s Lorna Wilson, who also owns the semen import company Elite Stallions, said: “We’re delighted to be entrusted with such a high profile foal of this caliber and Massey is proving to be a very good mother.”
Kevin and Jane may flush another embryo from 18-year-old Donna this year, and are considering using a less proven stallion this time round.
If her 2016 ET foal had been a filly, it would have been passported with the Danish warmblood society as Donna is a double-branded Danish mare.
The mare now lives at home at the couple’s Oxfordshire base where she is enjoying semi-retirement and a lot of turnout, although Kevin reports that “she still has an aversion to cows”.
“She lives with a little Welsh pony called Cassidy who puts up with her moods,” added Kevin.