By Caroline Ironside (July 2010)
Witcham House Farm Stud has been in existence for over 20 years and is owned by Katy Holder-Vale. Over the years the stud has been quite diverse with importing, breeding, backing, schooling and selling horses, with a strong influence towards the Hanoverian breed.
I remember many years ago ordering a video which showcased several UK stallions available at stud. I thought at the time that this was a fantastic concept, especially as a mare owner looking at future sires for our mares.
Katy is a well known figure throughout the Sportshorse industry with several qualifications to her name. In this article, she takes time out of her busy schedule to give us an insight into how it all began for her along with her future goals and aspirations.
Here Katy explains the background to Witcham House Farm Stud along with how she becomes involved in horse breeding:
"In 1983 I moved to Witcham House Farm and converted the derelict barn and outbuildings into a house surrounded by twenty-one stables. I had two horses I was Eventing and started doing liveries, resting racehorses and some teaching at the College of West Anglia.
I had bred some quality foals from a really good event mare, but the starting point for the stud was when one of my neighbours, who had a very well bred Thoroughbred Stallion asked me to stand him at stud. We did this for several years and then bought our first Hanoverian stallion Maple Drambuie in 1987. I found him in a dealer’s yard and if I had not bought him he would have been gelded. He was a fun competition horse and we show jumped, did dressage, and even went drag hunting with him. He was popular locally and bred a lot of nice horses that did well mostly at riding club level."
On this video was a beautiful bay uphill-moving stallion, with the biggest loose jump I had seen on a horse. The name of this young stallion was Glücksfall (Glücksstern x Wisenbaum) a Licensed Hanoverian stallion and this was the first time (of many) that I was to come across Wicham House Farm Stud and their stallions.
Since then Katy and her stallions have gone on to make a great name for themselves across the UK, with the offspring doing well in all disciplines.
Katy goes into more details about the stallions she has stood at stud over the years:
"Now specialising in Dressage, I had produced a client’s ex International Show Jumper, "Against The Odds", from Novice to Advanced level dressage in four years. I had got the desire to ride and train a really good horse, so decided it would need to be a stallion to earn its living, so went to the bank manager, who was rather amazed by the project, and I got a loan.
After looking at forty two Stallions in Germany, I finally found the young "Glücksfall" who was Licensed and 100 day Performance Tested. He immediately attracted breeders and proved to be a great Dressage talent, winning through the levels and competing at Grand Prix. His stock have always been very easy to train, long legged, pretty heads, elegant types and two of my best mares are his daughters."
Katy Holder-Vale & "Glücksfall"
"Our next two Licensed Hanoverian Stallions "Elroon" (Escudo I x Wienerwald) and "Classic Juan" (Crazy Classic x Don Juan) were imported at the beginning of 2004.
Classic Juan (CJ) was born in 2000 and initially schooled and trained at Celle, the Hanoverian State Stud. Once he passed his licensing and successfully completed the thorough 300-day performance test, Witcham House Farm Stud bought him. Proving an outstanding talent, he first turned his abilities to a Dressage career. He has won 26 affiliated classes and is graded Medium with 157 BD Points. He qualified for Rheingold International Young Horse Championships at Hickstead as a 5 and 6 year old."
"He has had fantastic performances in the SEIB British Breeding Young Horse Evaluations, qualifying for Finals of the Dressage section with a very high mark of 8.33, and also qualifying for the Finals of the Show Jumping section. Classic Juan also took part in The British Eventing Breeding Championships for four year olds, qualifying for the National at Tweseldown, where he was placed 5th beating top opposition (including 2004 Olympic Gold Medallist Lesley Law). CJ has been consistently placed and won his last 2 events of the season.
Classic Juan’s foals have been winning at County Shows, Hanoverian Regional Shows, and have been placed at the British Dressage Breeders’ Nationals and the Hanoverian Annual Shows. He is proving very popular with breeders as his foals have his beautiful head, good conformation and brave personality.
A colt scored 8.8, the highest mark for a Dressage foal at the Futurity Evaluations in 2006. In 2008 Classic Prada was awarded the highest mark ever of 9.75 and an Elite Premium, with the judges marking her 3x10 for movement! On top of this, two other of his foals were awarded First Premiums in Eventing. 2009 saw the very striking Classic Mellidy being awarded Elite with 9.11, and the very smart foal Classical scoring 8.82 for dressage and Eventing.
Classic Juan was one of the only stallions to receive a Stallion Progeny Performance Award by the British Equestrian Federation. In 2010, Classic Juan received two Elite awards for topping the Sire Rankings for overall and for Dressage.
Elroon was born in 2001 and Licensed by the Hanoverian Verband in 2003. We imported him from Germany in January 2004. He then returned in the autumn of 2004 to pass his performance test at Adelheidsdorf with high marks for temperament, character and rideability.
After returning home, he showed impressive performance in the SEIB British Breeding Young Horse Evaluations, winning the Dressage and Show Jumping sections. A week later he qualified for the British Dressage Panacur Potential International Dressage Horse National Championships and was placed third in a Burghley Young Event Horse National Qualifier with the best jumping mark of the day.
The following year he qualified for The British Dressage Panacur Potential International Dressage Horse National Championships and also Rheingold Potential International Dressage Horse at Hickstead. Elroon has won numerous affiliated Dressage classes, with his scores regularly in the high sixties and seventies.
Since Elroon started breeding, his foals have won at Hanoverian Regional Shows, and have been placed at the British Dressage Breeders Show and the Hanoverian Annual Show. He is very popular as his foals have superb movement and a commanding presence.
In 2006 the smart black foal El Vino scored 8.4 and El Spice scored 8.2 in the British Equestrian Federation Futurity Championships. 2008 saw El Porsche score 8.3, El Sweetie 8.4 and several others scored well and qualified for the British Hanoverian Show. In 2009 El Dinky scored 8.53 in the dressage and 8.25 in the eventing at the BEF Futurities, along with El Riata scoring 8.35 in the dressage and 8.17 in the eventing, and El Fantastic 8.11 in the dressage and several others scored First Premiums."
As Katy has several stallions based with her I asked her if there was one that she favoured most:
"Of the current stallions, my favourite is the new boy Flammengold (Florestan x Paradesmarch). I own him jointly with Volker Brodhecker whom I originally bought Glucksfall from, 19 years ago. Flammy, as we call him, is by the popular Florestan and like his famous father has a very laid back temperament.
He is the favourite at the moment as we are having fun together doing PSG, and he has a very appealing personality. His children are doing extremely well in Germany, winning at all levels, and the very promising Frank Sinatra has been placed in Intermediare I. While in England, Paul Hayler recently won his first Intermediare I with Fabioso. Four of my best mares are in foal to him so we eagerly await 2011! Volker will stand him in Germany next season from January to the end of April and then he will be back here in the UK for the rest of the year."
"Flammengold" by Florestan I
Katy’s stallions are all performance-tested and proven in sport, besides their successful breeding careers, so are managing to do two jobs at one time. However, I asked Katy what she felt was more important:
"I think these days the Sports Horse Stud business in England is full of great stallions, so to get plenty of good mares a stallion needs to be a successful, sound competition horse, as well as producing super foals that do well in the BEF Futurity, and go on to win under saddle."
The stallions at Witcham House Farm Stud have a large variation in bloodlines, which gives mare owners a large choice, so I went on to ask Katy what bloodlines she felt have had the most influence in the world of breeding.
"I have trained in Germany to be a judge, and have chosen to breed Hanoverians, so I totally follow their inspiration. If you look at the medal winners at past Olympics, Hanoverians top the list of breeds. The system is carefully designed to select and performance-test all the breeding stock. Each year the society produces a book of the breeding values for every licensed stallion; as a breeder this can be invaluable to help you make educated decisions on your stallion selections."