A Little Light Banter - Our Trip to Biddesden Stud

by Ginny Smith and Amanda Bliss

Biddesden House

Driving down the small winding country lanes west of Andover, the first sight that you catch of Biddesden Stud is quite breathtaking – the lovely mellow redbrick of the 17th Century Biddesden House, home to the Guinness family since the 1930s.

We were met by Finn Guinness and Katey, the young rider who joined the team at Biddesden in 2006, and is being trained by Lizzie Murray and Corinne Bracken. We were introduced to a number of the horses that she rides during the course of our visit; and she gallantly ran a fair distance up and down the lane with Persiflage, the 8 year old Anglo Arab stallion that we had come to see for our Cavalier Royale x Clover Hill mare, to show off his paces. He needed a little persuasion to settle to a trot when she first set off – it was only later that Finn revealed that he had just come in from covering a mare, so no wonder that he was slightly fired up!

Persiflage’s pedigree reflects the enthusiasm for what Finn referred to as his “projects” – the commitment that he, and his father before him, have shown over the years to the breeding of outstanding quality Anglo Arabs for eventing. Biddesden is, of course, the birthplace of Tamarillo, of whom more later. “Persi’s” sire is Primitive Rising, the TB whose name appears in the pedigrees of so many successful eventers. His dam is a pure-bred Arab, Doyenne, by the French-bred stallion Pavot al Maury. French Arabs are often bigger than their English counterparts, apparently, and will usually be performance tested.

Finn told us that Persiflage was sent as a young unbroken colt to his brother’s stud in Ireland, and whilst there ran with a small herd of Connemara mares. We saw one of the offspring from these matings at Biddesden, an extremely attractive pony that would make a lovely mount for a young rider. Persiflage was broken as a four-year old and since returning to Biddesden has been Katey’s “project”. He has been brought on slowly and carefully, and is now eventing at Intermediate level. Katey described him as a bold and brave ride across country, (perhaps it’s the training that he received over Irish banks and ditches!), and he obviously loves his showjumping from the photos on the stud website! He was impeccably behaved during our visit, standing patiently and posing to have his photograph taken, and we very much liked his elegant head, light and athletic paces, and his overall frame. The one critique of him might be that he is a little narrow in front, but given that our Cavalier Royale mare is built like a tank, that might just be an advantage! He is known to be very well liked by some senior figures in the eventing world, who have been prepared to back their opinions by using him on their own mares - always a recommendation!

After Persiflage, we were introduced to the gorgeous 19 year old Arab stallion Sisyrinchium, whose sire, Druv, held the Endurance Sire of the Year award for many years. Biddesden still have a limited number of straws of frozen semen available for Druv, who died in 2007, available to approved mares. Sisyrinchium himself has a string of achievements to his name, including winning at Towerlands International Show as a 3 year old, and gaining the title of British National Ridden Champion in 1997. He has a number of offspring doing well in eventing, and Finn is especially pleased about a young gelding, Highlight, (Sisyrinchium x EuphemismXX), owned by Marcus Reid, who is just beginning to compete him; the horse’s beautiful action and effortless jumping reminds him of the young Tamarillo.

Sisyrinchium

Above: Sisyrinchium

As a departure from breeding Arabs and Anglo-Arabs, Finn has more recently explored using a warmblood stallion on their TB/AA mares, and we saw a very nice Indoctro mare in one of their fields – they have used Indoctro with good results on several occasions. But we got the impression that Finn’s heart was not really in this particular “project”, and that he will always remain principally committed to the Anglo Arab. He did, however, tell us the story of a conversation with an Italian acquaintance recently, who, when he asked her for her opinion on top eventing sires, replied without a second’s hesitation: “Chapultepec La Silla (Laudanum XX x Alme Z) – wouldn’t consider using anything else!”, and this had obviously intrigued him enough that he now has a mare in foal to this stallion from the La Silla stud in Mexico!

chapultepec sb

Above: Chapultepec La Silla

And of course we couldn’t leave without discussing that great little horse Tamarillo. The roll-call of his achievements listed on the Biddesden website tells its own story, as does the lovely photo of Mary Guinness holding the Landrover Burghley Trophy after Tam’s win there in 2008. Tamarillo was one of only two foals by the Arab stallion Tarnik, the other, his full brother Telemachus, severed a tendon in a field accident as a 3 year old and had to be put down. Tarnik was bred at the Janow Podlaski stud in Poland, and gained outstanding results in the compulsory stallion tests before coming to the UK, where he won the stallion class at Ascot in 1977 and was Reserve British National Champion. He competed successfully in eventing and showjumping. Tamarillo’s dam Mellita was out of the pure-bred Arab Darya, and the female line goes back to the foundation mares brought in from Crabbet Park in 1939 by Finn’s father. Her sire was the TB Master Spiritus.
 
After a wonderful guided tour of the mares and foals in some of the outlying fields we very reluctantly tore ourselves away, and made our way to a local pub for a (very late!) lunch. It had been a memorable visit, a feast of beautiful horses, and much to ponder.

(The OED definition of “Persiflage”, by the way, is – you’ve guessed it! – “a little light banter”)

Links :
Biddesden Stud : http://www.biddesdenstud.co.uk
La Silla : http://www.studbooklasilla.com.mx

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