KWPN Breeder of the Year 2020

The Van der Steen brothers,  from Esch (NED) have been awarded KWPN breeder of the year in the jumping division. Their Witven Stud bred several standout jumpers, including GC Chopin’s Bushi, performing at the highest level of the sport under Ireland’s Denis Lynch and ranked second on the WBFSH rankings as well as being in the running for the KWPN Horse of the Year election.

The foundation of the Van der Steen brothers’ breeding success is the mare Zeggy, a daughter of the stallion Enfant de Normandie. Cor van der Steen had made it his personal goal to breed jumping horses, especially jumpers that would be able to perform at the top level. This led him on a search for a broodmare with a great jumping pedigree. At this time, the stallion Jasper was very successful under Austrian rider Hugo Simon. “Jasper was a great fighter, small but with the heart of a lion,” Cor van der Steen begins; “I was very impressed with him, and did not have to think long and hard when I heard a mare foal to Jasper was for sale. We went to look at her immediately, and the owner told us the dam, an Enfant de Normandie daughter, was again in foal to Jasper and for sale as well. After some negotiation, we managed to strike a deal, and that is how Zeggy came to us, along with her daughter Debby. That spring, Zeggy gave us a colt by Jasper, which we sold as a three-year-old and went on to make a great name for himself under US rider Candice King. Named John M, he won over $1 million in earnings, was crowned Horse of the Year and took part in the World Equestrian Games in Stockholm. Later, he was approved for Studbook  Zangersheide, changing his name to John Z.”

“His sister Debby we kept as a broodmare. I like intelligent horses, and that is partly why I have a love for thoroughbreds. I have been to Newmarket, the heart of the British Thoroughbred industry, and have seen the statue of Blakeney, the father of Julio Mariner XX. I have seen the stallion himself as well, and used him various times on Debby. That produced among others the 1,30m horse Ilca and the international jumper Dinky Toy. By Randel Z she gave us the BWP registered R- Marius, who was competed at international level by Dutch rider Bert Romp. He won five shows in a row on the Belgian tour, went to the finals in Gesves and was then sold to the Spanish Sara Solla family.”

“In addition to thoroughbreds, I am also a fan of the Holstein breed. In particular Landgraaf and his offspring really appeal to me. That is why I decided to breed Debby with Burggraaf once, producing the mare Kebby, who performed in the sport up to 1,20m level and was later used for breeding. I also bred her with the thoroughbred Julio Mariner xx, and that gave us the mare Peggy who jumped at 1,35m level under Maikel van der Vleuten and was also a broodmare for us.”

“Peggy herself was a wonderful mare, and for her we looked for a Holstein stallion, so we could maybe add some size. Nairobi was our choice, a stallion who did not bring much himself, but has a pedigree built on the very top of Holstein sires. His sire Lauriston goes back to Latus I, a stallion I was very confident in. His dam side saw Burggraaf combined with the thoroughbred Uppercut xx. That pairing produced the mare Ushi, who competed in the grassroots sport herself, and combined with the Holstein stallion Contendro II it gave us the international jumper Buschi.”

“I think a good jumper does not have to be big, but needs to be compact and possess a lot of power combined with a short foreleg. This allows them to crouch down and really use their power to jump upwards over the fence. In addition, they have to be intelligent and eager to learn. The very best horses are also delicate, not for everyone to jump on. Bushi was the same in the beginning. When our mares go to the fields, they have to cross a path were we have laid out some ground poles; an intelligent foal will want to jump those right away and not want to bump its legs. A foal that keeps stumbling over the poles will not make a good jumper. Right away you have an important selection criterium in my mind.”

“Of course, we do not breed only top stars, but out of the about 80 foals we bred, at least 20 will be in the sport at advanced level or higher, and some have gone on to the absolute top. The title of breeder of the year which was given to us this year for me is the crown of our labour; a confirmation that we have achieved what we set out to do, Which was breeding, at least four horses, for the world top sport.”

Text by Pim Koudijs

Photo: Cor and Frans van der Steen

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