By Caroline Ironside (Dec 09)
Lynne Crowden is a name that is well known in the sports horse breeding world, she is an Evaluator for The BEF Futurity Series, Chairperson of the Lead Body for Performance Sports Horse & Pony Breeding, Non Executive Director of the National Equine Database and does a lot of work with the Warmblood Breeders Studbook UK and the British Hanoverian Horse Society.
You would think that this takes up most of her time, along with her horse breeding, but besides all the above hats, she still has a lot of time for her family (four children and five grandchildren) and her own job.
Lynne is definately a person you could say is an advocate for British Breeding, with the success of her stallions and mares, not to mention her continued success each year with her youngstock. She has a very keen eye for a horse and we were delighted that she had the time to fit in an interview with us, as we were keen to find out more about her and her breeding goals.
Lynne with some of her breeding stock
Lynne gives us an insight into how it all started....
"I became involved with horse breeding because I was always mad about horses but, sadly, never had one as a child…only begged or borrowed rides. I was living in Northamptonshire at the time and had just restarted riding as my husband was running marathons. It was a question of fitting it all in around day job and children. "
"The breeding side came with a very old friend who was standing stallions at stud and I was taken with the idea of breeding thoroughbreds which I thought, and still think, are very special. From this first thought, and with her help, I went on with my husband to establish a breeding partnership and we bred a small number of thoroughbred foals. We bred six money winners from eleven foals, which was almost unheard of, and by using mares with good “black type” – ie performance in racing in the pedigree. We bred good trainers’ horses and sold to the northern based trainers and we ran some on ourselves on the flat. Our biggest achievement during this time was to breed the thoroughbred Pink Gin who raced in the Grand National and won over £58,000!
The problem with thoroughbred breeding is that the sales channels are very controlled and it is hard to get the value for a good middle market horse. We moved to warmblood breeding because I was looking for a better and more suitable dressage horse for myself, and it needed good ridability, a strong back and enough movement. The best prospects were, in 1987-8, in Holland and Belgium. The prices though were very high and so I decided that I couldn’t justify the cost for part time dressage but that I wanted broodmares that had a better “engine” for dressage than the thoroughbred crosses that we had here. I bought three broodmares from Holland and these, together with my foundation TB mares, were the start."
I asked Lynne what she felt it took to become a top breeder in the world...and she was very "humble" in her reply.
"I certainly would not rank myself amongst the top breeders in the world….yet! I certainly aspire to it but the real proof is sufficient horses at a high level competing successfully and internationally. What is needed then is a breeding strategy for long term prospects – not just cute foals and young horse class candidates; access to top riders and trainers for those horses; a financial commitment to your horses that means you have no money for anything else…and a lot of good luck."
I was keen to learn more about how it all started, so I asked Lynne what her first stallion was and how she found him...
"Our first stallion was Woodlander Igor – who we still own – and he was a Dutch stallion that I found through a very good Dutch stallion keeper who has stayed a great and reliable friend. "
"He was always a horse with great charisma and a very good top and bottom line. In today’s breeding, he is a bit old fashioned but he has had very good results for good amateur riders. He has wonderful conformation, has been a schoolmaster all his life for every rider the stud has had, and never had a lame day until he was nineteen and competing with a novice at PSG and damaged his suspensory ligament.. A very good stallion for a thoroughbred mare."
With Lynne's keen eye for horses I asked her what she thought was important to standing a potential world class stallion.
"What is a world class stallion? I don’t think you can tell until his progeny have world class results. Clearly stallions like Donnerhall, Weltmeyer, Consul, Lauries Crusader, Florestan and those “big” brands are world class because they have covered many mares, many years ago and their offspring are old enough to be in the dressage sport at a high level. We can only aspire in the early stages to measuring against “National” level stallions and the measures are complex.
For the personal performance of the stallion he needs high percentages (70% plus) and a top ten place at National competition; he needs inspected progeny that are scoring 8s and above in studbook evaluations (licensed stallions or Elite/Select mares are the equivalent) and his offspring need the good fortune to end up in the hands of riders and trainers that can optimize the genetic template. This is a bit of a tall order even for a “National” Class Stallion."
BWBS Champion Stallion 2003
Woodlander Del Ametri
"I believe that Del Amitri is of world class standard but has had little chance to prove himself although he has licensed son and select mares as well as very high scoring progeny at 8.5 and above. His daughter Donna Summer was a First Elite mare and is now training with Katrina Cantrell Bennett…so fingers crossed. Woodlander Rockstar evidences a better performance in his own right with both National and International achievement and at a very young age. He has Select graded daughters and consistently produces champion foals and youngstock. We are still waiting for a licensed son."
BWBS Champion Stallion 2005
Woodlander Bombay Sapphire
By Buddenbrock out of a Weltmeyer dam
"For me, and for our customers and clients, the top stallions need to bring movement and elasticity and an inclination to work. I can forgive some small conformational defects but not big ones and I would always look to the mare for the correctness or weaknesses that you can live with."
As Lynne has bred over 200 foals I wondered what her thoughts were when looking at potential stallions.
"Over the years my standards for a stallion have become higher and higher and I now want a lot more “blood” in a stallion prospect. Forgetting my own, I would use only a very small percentage of the best stallions that I see. I study them and their progeny and I am very careful with new young stallions to understand their back pedigree. I am in a good position to compare the offspring of my stallions with those of the best outside stallions and however good the results I would still choose to go outside for 25% of my crosses.
To choose an outside stallion I would always want to have seen him in the flesh and preferably more than once. I visit stallion shows, performance tests, the World Breeding Championships, the German Bundeschampionat and the State Studs where you can watch the day to day working of the stallions. I am nervous of the very big brand studs as they have the greatest ability to “manage” their product. A good stallion from a Division I, rather than a Premier League, stud would be my choice."
Mares obviously play a very important role in Lynne's breeding programme, and one only has to look at the success of them in the dressage arena to know that Lynne's mares also speak for themselves in the competition arena.
"In a broodmare I want exceptional quality of either type, or movement, or both AND a very convincing dam line with licensed stallions or top performing horses coming through. As with a thoroughbred mare, the pedigree needs to show longevity and soundness as well as performance and I would only ever buy a mare with a beautiful and well set on head and neck. This is not just cosmetic. This is a big influence in the ability of the horse to move in the right balance.
There are exceptions to the dam line rule when you buy, perhaps, from a small private breeder with an old mare line where there was never the money to put the horses in the sport or even produce the youngstock to the best level. St Pr Savannah, the dam of Rockstar and Wesuvio, fell into this category as she has no provenance in her dam line. She was, however, an amazing sporting type, was performance tested and was selected for the Hannoverian Jumping Programme."
St Pr St Savanah
Sao Paulo x Lanthan x Glueckstern
"As the mare herd has grown, it comprises foundation mares bought ten and twelve years ago as either foals or young broodmares plus their daughters and granddaughters. My Davignon mare, bought in 1997, has three state premium daughters, two of whom are still with us and one of whom bred our first German licensed stallion. From St Pr Savannah, bought as a four year old, I have kept two daughters, the older of the two is now an Elite mare."