They’ll just be one big happy family.
Dutch Warmbloods (KWPN) are taking a page from the American Quarter Horse breeding technology book this year as Edward Gal’s Grand Prix partner Sisther de Jeu prepares to give birth by proxy to five foals in her first year of retirement. The first, a filly by Charmeur, was born last night in Friesland in northern Holland.
Owner Emmy de Jeu of De Jeu Dressage in The Netherlands provided some exclusive information to The Jurga Report about the mare and her utilization of the embryo transfer process. Sisther de Jeu competed at the Grand Prix level with rider Edward Gal, including winning a bronze medal for team dressage in the 2011 European Dressage Championships.
Gal and Sisther competed until fetlock arthritis made training and competition uncomfortable for the Gribaldi-sired mare.
“She was in pain and not enjoying life anymore,” de Jeu said. “I agreed with Edward and Nicole (Gal’s trainer, Nicole Werner) to pull her out of the sport and try to start breeding with her. I am a breeder and that’s why my late husband bought her as a foal from the famous breeders Huub and Tiny van Helvoirt; (they were the) breeders of Jazz and Charmeur.”
On February 17, 2013, Gal and Werner announced Sisther de Jeu’s retirement. The mare left the high-powered world of international dressage and transitioned to a countrified life at Stal Seldsum, the farm of veterinarian Esther de Melker in northern Holland. Sisther was paired with a 24-year-old Friesian horse as a pasture companion.
“She was settled in a few weeks and very, very happy to have a friend,” Emmy said.
The choice of Stal Seldsum was no accident. Esther de Melker has experience with embryo transfer and has been very successful the past four years.
“We started (breeding) Sisther with Charmeur as they are both bred by Mr. an Mrs. Van Helvoirt, as is Sisther,” Emmy recalled. ”I thought it would be honoring their name if I brought these two horses together.”
That was just the beginning. “After two Charmeurs, we switched to Jazz; (he was) also bred by van Helvoirt. Jazz is still very fertile and the best stallion of the last decade in Holland, with lots of offspring at the highest level. So, two Jazz embryos were successfully placed also.”
When the next cycling opportunity came, de Jeu decided to be more adventurous, and try a young stallion. “We took Glock’s Zonik as he is doing very well with HansPeter Minderhoud and he was going to compete for the five year old World Champion Young Horse in Verden on a wildcard.” Zonik finished in the top ten with Minderhoud.
Glock’s Zonik (Blue Hors Zack x Blue Hors Romanov) had been purchased for the Glock Performance Horse Center from Andreas Helgstrand in Denmark after he had topped the Danish Warmblood young horse championship, including a “10″ score for his trot.
De Jeu was named KWPN “Dressage Breeder of the Year” for 2013. She had a busy year, including selling seven mares or fillies to Australia, as well as planning Sisther’s breeding schedule and partners.
While we know about Sisther de Jeu, who are the mares carrying the foals on her behalf? “I mostly used my own mares: two three-year-olds, two older ones and one I swapped with Esther (she took one of mine),” Emmy answered. “Esther is very good in synchronizing the mares and I am happy with the fact they are my own mares. I know them and I know their quality, which is also important for a foal.”
Jubilee’s dam of record is Sisther de Jeu; her birth dam is Fabelle de Jeu, a four-year-old by Fürst Romancier x Serano Gold, from the de Jeu Dressage broodmare band.
How common is the practice in The Netherlands? “Embryo transfer is done in The Netherlands regularly but it is not common,” she replied. “It costs quite a bit of money and you only want to do it with special mares like Sisther or when a mare is too old and you would like an offspring of her.”
The offspring are accepted into the KWPN studbook, de Jeu said.
De Jeu is very pleased with the first of her foals. “Jubilee is a spitting image of Sisther: dark bay, broad neck, beautiful face with even a star and sneb (“snip” in English) as Sisther has, and super bright,” she reported. “She was standing within 15 minutes and drinking within 30 minutes after birth–also cantering through the box the whole day, she has a fire going on already.”
Sisther de Jeu’s prolific year brings to mind an April Fool’s joke from a few years ago, after Australian Olympian Lucinda Fredericks’ superstar eventing mare Headley Brittania mothered several foals via embryo transfer. Horse and Hound stuck its tongue in its British-humor cheek and announced that an exclusive new four-star three-day event would be held in England. What’s the hitch? All entrants must prove that record-setting Badminton and Burghley winner Headley Britannia is their mother. April Fool! But one day, it just might be possible.
That was back in 2008. Those foals are now six. Perhaps we will make note of multiple high-performing get of mares as well as stallions in years to come. Emmy de Jeu would be happy if we started with the 2014 crop of her beloved Sisther de Jeu.
Remember that name.
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by Fran Jurga
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