By Caroline Ironside (Dec10)
Cheryl Mitchell is a very well known personality within the horse breeding fraternity in the UK. Through her foundation stallion Sambertino, her studfarm has gone from strength to strength over the past few years; along with her stallion station in Germany, she is able to offer breeders in the UK and Europe a wide selection of stallions.
Her Approved coloured stallion Sambertino, who is an established advanced dressage horse, is also a top producer of Grand Prix dressage horses and Licensed stallions, and is continually proving to be a popular choice with mare owners each year. With his added attraction of being coloured, he is one of the most popular breeding stallions in the UK.
Cheryl’s German venture Gestϋt WM has also taken off with great success and offers mare owners a fabulous selection of dressage and showjumping stallions from some of the best German lines available.
As Cheryl has two ventures in two European countries we felt that it would be great to speak to her and gain some of her knowledge from her own breeding ventures over the years, and we are very grateful for Cheryl to take the time out, especially just before Christmas, to speak with us.
As with all my other interviewees, I asked Cheryl the background history to Flax Lion Stud.
"We got into breeding rather by accident!! We were looking for a coloured dressage stallion for my daughter’s trainer, with the idea being that he would be passed on to my daughter as a school master after a few years - it seemed so simple at the time!!!
We had a bit of false start with our first boy and were reminded of the adage “No such thing as a free lunch”!! When we decided to look again, in view of our earlier experience, we had a longer list of requirements - a well bred coloured stallion, successful in competition and ideally already approved for breeding - this reduced the number of potential horses quite significantly though.
We bought Sambertino (Samber/Wellington) in 1999 from Holland - this seemed to be the obvious place to look for a coloured warmblood, being Samber’s home.
At the time, he was owned by the van Manen Stud in Ede, where amongst his stable companions were Olympic Ferro and Democraat. Gemma, one of the stud partners, was his rider, and together they successfully qualified for the PAVO Cup (National Young Dressage horse champs) as a 4 and 5 year old."
Besides the stallions, I asked Cheryl about the qualities she looks for in a breeding mare, and where she has sourced her mares from.
"The qualities we look for in mares are competition performance ability, soundness in conformation and temperament, bloodlines that would compliment one of our stallions and a proven dam line.
We have only owned 2 breeding mares to date, and leased 1 mare for Samaii."
"Rosita (Sullivan/ Falco), a coloured KWPN mare, was bought as a yearling in 1999 whilst on a disastrous boating holiday in Holland - we handed the boat back slightly worse for wear and went horse hunting!!! Rosy is half sister to John Whitaker’s young coloured jumping stallion, Zilando.
We bred one foal from her in 2002, Veritas by Democraat, a KWPN coloured filly. At the keuring, she was awarded Premium foal and at the same time, Rosy was awarded Ster. Veritas is now successfully jumping with her owner in the USA.
Elite Berolina (Brentano II/ Wenzel II), a bay Hanoverian mare, was bought as a competition horse from the Assoulines in 2000. She was bred and performance tested in Germany before being sold through Verden auction.
She has had 4 foals:
2002 - Santano (Sandro Hit) - Hanoverian colt, winner of the Heinz Timmel Cup as a foal.
Reserve Champion WBS stallion with his owner, Grand Prix rider, Katrina Cantrell.
2004 - Samaii (Sambertino) - Oldenburg coloured colt, shown as a yearling, placed 2nd at the BD Championships and in the Warmblood class at the Royal Show; First Premium with BEF and 3rd overall for 2005 (owner/ breeder); Licensed Premium stallion with ZfdP; 30 and 70 day tested; Young horse class winner; Life approved with Oldenburg, Westfalen, Rheinland and all South German Verbands. He is sire of Championship winning and Premium foals in the UK and Germany.
2008 - Dillon (Don Ricoss) Hanoverian gelding, to be backed in 2011
2009 - Florence (Sambertino) Oldenburg Premium filly and full sister to Samaii.
Evita (Ex Libris/Traumdeuter), a bay Hanoverian mare we leased in Germany, specifically to breed with Samaii. In 2009 she produced Stevie Wonder, a minimal tobiano Oldenburg colt who is showing great stallion potential."
STEVIE WONDER (Samaii x Ex Libris)
With her Stud in the UK and her Stallion Station in Germany, I wondered if Cheryl was veering more towards standing stallions at stud, so I asked her what the catalyst was for this different approach.
"We didn’t really make a transition to keeping stallions - all the horses were bought for competition and most of them happened to be stallions! If they were licensed and approved for breeding, it also meant they might be able to make a contribution towards their upkeep!"
"The stud in Germany wasn’t really planned either!!! We had met Ecki Wahlers around 2000, via the parents of German A Team rider Carola Koppelmann (Le Bo), who were the original owners of Dollar Girl and from whom we purchased a Donnerhall stallion.
Ecki had been riding him for us for a few years, when we sent Sambertino over to join him. We found the training charges much cheaper and the quality of riding much higher in Germany.
We purchased Don Ricoss as a foal in 2002, and after he licensed, and with a demand for chilled semen from Sambertino too, (he had only been available via frozen so far), a German breeding facility seemed a good idea. However, it wasn’t quite as simple as getting a dummy mare and an AV!!
DON RICOSS (Don Frederico x Weltmeyer)
An EU license has to be obtained to become a semen export station, which enables it to be shipped with health papers, outside its country of origin. Tight criteria have to be adhered to with regard to location of quarantine stallion boxes, exercise areas, fencing etc, etc. Building work on the new stables, lab and collection room started at Gestuet WM in 2005 and the license was obtained ready for the beginning of the 2006 breeding season. The first year, GWM ran in conjunction with Emma Hindle’s Brookhouse Stud, which was a brilliant start. Chequille Z stood at GWM that season, as did Christian Heinrich’s recently licensed Breitling son, Benvenuto. Emma also brought several of her other boys, including Diamond Hit, up to the stud for a joint stallion presentation.
Since 2007, we’ve held an annual Gestϋt WM stallion show and foal presentation every April. We have been really lucky with the weather for an outdoor event and had glorious sunshine every year bar one. Visitor numbers have grown really well, and in the last couple of years, people have even arrived by the coach load!!
In the breeding season, 8 stallions stand in the quarantine station. Each horse has a large bank of health tests at the beginning of every year which is followed by monthly EVA and CEM tests - this then enables them to combine a busy competition schedule with breeding throughout Europe. Samaii has his first Finnish foal due next year!! GWM also freezes semen for worldwide export, and we currently have agents in France, the USA, Australia and New Zealand."