Would anyone make their way to the Open Days in these stormy conditions? It seemed as if the wind blew everyone to Lanaken. Even from across the Channel, because Z has a strong reputation in Great Britain. Someone from France came to see Levisto Z. Zangersheide inspires young and old, amateurs as well as professionals. The youngest was Guillaume, 19 years old, who has the ambition to become a breeder and a professional rider, which is why he came over from Oostende. The oldest was Pol, 76 years old, who still takes his mare for walks and would like to breed one more time. Z is catching because it´s rock solid, we´re often told. Z is hospitable and not just during the Open Days. Z is efficient in everything. When the talk is about stallions the names Caesar Z, Kazan Z and Aganix du Seigneur Z generate a lot of interest. But Dourkhan Hero Z and the Dominator sons D’Aganix Z and Querido Z were also talked about a lot. A selection…
Interest is huge, Nick Van Turnhout laughs. Together with Niels Bruynseels, Stijn Van Campenhout and Nick Vrins he is one of the four musketeers from Woodland’s: ‘We are presenting two stallions here: Chacwood PS (Exelero 2 - Kenwood), bred by Paul Schockemöhle, and Royal Red vh Lindenhof (Tangelo vd Zuuthoeve – Kannan). Zangersheide is leading and when your stallion is approved here that is a great reference. Everyone knows that this is the place for the better-quality stallions. I like to compare it to the sport. You always need a little bit of luck on the day. Here too the poles should stay in place. You have to pull it off here and now and that always creates a bit of tension, in a nice sort of way. At the same time I won´t deny that the Z stallion inspection is a fine place for trade. Here the better-quality stallions are presented and we are always ready to invest in young talent’, Nick says with a wink. ‘There are always stallions that catch the eye. First I look at the stallion and then I take a look at the catalogue.’ And by coincidence, just then there´s one who catches the eye…
Michel Haelterman is the man behind Stud De Laubry, professionally he is the Belgian importer of for instance Carlsberg and Taittinger. He presented two stallions: Pablo de Laubry (Perigueux x Diamant de Semilly) and Cristal de Laubry (Comme Il Faut x Nabab de Reve). ‘I prefer the Z inspection because in my view it´s irresponsible what the BWP expects from 3-year-old stallions. Making young stallions jump under saddle at such a young age is not beneficial for their development. That´s absolutely not my take on things, so that´s why I opt for the Z stallion inspection. Cristal and Pablo are two smashing horses and I want to treat them with respect.’ How important is this inspection for Michel? ‘These stallions are not for sale, basically. What I particularly enjoy is seeing how they hold their own among their peers. They were actually, still out in the field until seven weeks ago. And it´s just great to have them evaluated at this stage by experts from breeding and the sport. I´ll tell you what I see as the moment of truth. When they jump in the finals of the World Championship here as a 7-year-old. That´s when you find out if you have a good horse or not. In the meantime it´s nice when they are approved and jump the stallion competition, but the moment of truth is the WC Young Horses. So I have no stress now (laughs). Three years ago I had about a dozen or so foals and these two stood out from the others. That´s why we´re presenting them here. They come from proven pedigrees, for example out of London´s sister. I have faith in their future and this inspection is an interim evaluation.’
Names can be so wonderful: Vrolijk! (Happy, ed.) Father, mother and daughter Vrolijk presented their stallion Detective Vive Z, a stallion by Dominator 2000 Z out of Zinfandel (Numero Uno) and from her line we know several international horses such as Sebastian, in combination with Christian Ahlmann and Scott Brash. Yes it´s a fine name, La Mama smiles: ‘We are the Vrolijk family (the Happy family, ed.) and usually that´s true. A few years ago we had a stallion approved at the Z inspection. And to be fair, this time Detective Vive Z didn´t show himself that well, we have to admit. It can happen. I prefer proven stallions and was looking for a young Diamant for my mare and that automatically leads to Dominator. An attractive stallion who lives up to all expectations. In retrospect you can always be right. I was hoping for a filly but it turned out to be a colt. We breed for personal use because our children are riders. Selling is not our forte, we know what we have, our daughters are teenagers and we know our horses. And the nicest thing is seeing your own children jump with home-bred horses, don´t you agree? A stallion inspection is fun, but above all it´s a family affair. For this year we have already decided to use Dominator Z and Cicero Z again, together with a young stallion, but which one we´re not sure yet.’ What´s your ultimate dream? ‘Seeing one of our children take part in the WC with a horse we´ve bred ourselves. How great would that be?’
Sandy and Willy are a young couple from just across the border with the Netherlands. They´re considering to have their mare impregnated, now they have to choose a stallion. ‘My stepdad used to have a riding school, that´s how I got into horses,’ Willy begins: ‘I have ridden at ZZ level. Due to circumstances I had to stop and later I met Sandy, who owns a horse. Even after you have stopped, the horsey bug never leaves you. Sandy now owns an Andiamo Z mare who we want to use for breeding.’ They have not yet made up their minds, or have they? ‘Sandy´s focus is more on exterior, I consider the pedigree and the offspring.’ Willy is gravitating towards Aganix Z, Sandy has her eyes set on Columbus Z. ‘With that in mind we came here, wanting to see both stallions in the flesh. Because photos are not always a realistic representation, which can work both ways. You´re either disappointed or pleasantly surprised. Willy has known Zangersheide for some time already. He had been to Lanaken before to have a mare inseminated and has fine memories of it. That´s why he has returned. For Sandy it´s her first visit: ‘Everything here looks great. I think I could work here, are their any vacancies? Right now I work at a pig farm but am completing an education for equine sports massage. If the choice is between pigs and horses, that´s an easy decision, right?
Every year Bergmans Stables comes to present several stallions. Educating and schooling young horses/stallions is their job. ‘This year we had six stallions to start with, but three weren´t ready yet. So we only brought those we know that are ready.’ Bergmans Stables schools young horses for the stallion inspection, for example for Luc Henry. Adonis Butterfly Z (A Golden Boy Hero Z - Chacco Blue) was their own breeding product. For Marc Kluskens they presented Riesling vh Roosakker (Comme Il Faut - Echo vh Spieveld) and Freeman Heureka Z (For Pleasure - Verdi TN) for Luc Henry. ‘No matter how well prepared the stallions are, it´s literally always a matter of letting go and that causes a little thrill. You can never predict how they respond to new circumstances. Usually it´s not such a big deal, but there are exceptions who freeze or don´t show themselves as they really are. Most of them remain cool and focus on the job.’ Can you glean something from the presentation? ‘What you recognise is the technique, although that´s no indication of how high they may jump later. What you do learn from their education and presentation, is their mentality and that´s also an important quality.’
Dutchmen Joost Frencken and his good friend Dennis presented Harley DAT vd Eijkhof Z at the inspection, a son by Harley VDL (Heartbreaker) out of a Calvados dam whose 3rd dam is also Kannan´s dam. ‘It didn´t look too bad’, Joost reckons: ‘But I´ll always accept the Jury´s decision, so no stress for me. I bought Harley as a foal and according to me he is a candidate stud stallion. I like the Zangersheide formula: short, to-the-point and a professional Jury team. They are horsemen who day in day out earn a living with horses and the sport. They know what it takes every day, so I really value their judgement. And I won´t pretend that the costs aren´t part of it and again, from this point of view Z is also more interesting than other studbooks.’ For Frencken the inspection is commercially interesting as well. He has no intention of using his stallion for stud services. Harley wasn´t approved. ‘Well, you have to take it as it comes. The jury and the trade are the determining factors and that´s out of your hands. Every breeder also deserves a bit of luck’, Frencken says philosophically.
Perry De Winter is the breeder of prize-winner Gancia de Muze (Niels Bruynseels). First he went to Deauville where he reaped success with the presentation of Royal Touch vh Schaeck. His other stallion Remember Me van het Schaeck (Million Dollar x Shindler de Muze) was not approved in Lanaken. Why Deauville and Lanaken? ‘That way we have two weekends to look forward to’, De Winter smiles: ‘Deauville is like a holiday, you see. Remember Me has taken part in a few free jumping competitions and that always went pretty well. Those competitions are a good preparation for stallion inspections. But okay, that doesn´t say a lot, it´s still just a snapshot in time and you have to accept that. When he´s distracted and loses focus maybe he won´t show himself? It´s possible. The main thing is that I have already seen what he can do and from that I conclude that he´s a good stallion. Even though we haven´t seen all of it today.’ Perry De Winter also operates his stallions for active stud services. ‘Royal Touch is quite marketable. When a young stallion like that services between 30 and 40 mares, then that´s good. We have had stallions approved here in the past, like Million Dollar (Plot Blue), who is Remember Me´s sire. Breeding an approved stallion is so much fun.’ After the stallion inspection Perry De Winter was keen to see some Z stallions he wants to use this year: ‘Aganix Z is definitely on my list. He produces lots of good offspring. And I´ve highlighted Caesar Z: a Chacco Blue out of Ratina Z is the best of the best.’
Two girl friends from Antwerp, Anika and Lara, are both amateur riders who are taking their first steps in breeding so a visit backstage is a must. ‘My first stallion was Dominator Z and I´ve already sold that foal. Because he was a Dominator he immediately generated interest. That way breeding is lots of fun and inspiring’, they laugh in unison.
This was the first time Wim Luyten from Oirschot came to present a stallion: Don Juan Z, a Dominator Z son, but he wasn´t approved. ‘It makes you feel proud as a breeder when you can present an approved stallion. If we´ll make it that far we don´t know. It looked good and it´s fun to have this experience. I do this for a hobby and I´m not planning to let him stand stud. For me it´s about the experience. And at best he catches the eye of the Jury and potential buyers.’ For Luyten the Z inspection was a deliberate choice: 'I find it well-organised and more transparent.’
‘A retired couple are looking around with interest: ‘Last year a foal from our line, from our mare Donna, became Champion here at the Z-Festival: D’Amour van den Haze Z (Dominator x Zapatero). It wasn´t ours, but it piqued our interest because it stems from our line. We are Z members but actually have never visited before. We have sold a few broodmares and some of their offspring have done really well here, both at the Z-Festival and at the Z-Quality Auction. So we figured the time had come for a visit and we are pleasantly surprised with the set-up. I´ll tell you what´s so great here, it´s all so reliable. Not only the stallion inspection but also the accommodation. No golden door handles, instead rock solid quality, no fuss or pomp. It´s all functional and efficient. That´s what Z represents.
Maxime is 28, comes from the Walloon city Ciney and considers herself a small breeder. ‘I breed two foals each year. Did you know that Zangersheide keeps gaining in popularity here in Wallonia? In terms of service alone Z is head and shoulders above the others. Z is a modern business. I visit every event. Our breeding is a family affair and we also use Z stallions like Dominator Z, Columbus Z and Dourkhan Hero Z. And it pays off because up till now we have been able to sell all our foals. But we have never been to the Z-Festival before. I have travelled down here to the Open Days specifically for the stallion presentation and I´ll just wait and see. Maybe afterwards I´ll again choose a Z stallion from the collection.’
Every year Gert Timmermans visits the Z events. ‘Me and my son are here specifically for two stallions: Kazan Z (Baloubet du Rouet – Heartbreaker) for sure and also for Cicero Z (Carthago Z - Randel Z). I quite like him too. I´ve been a Zangersheide member for ten years now and I breed two to three foals each year. Although I have to admit that I haven´t been here for a few years and that´s all down to bad luck. Breeding is purely hobby for me. Two years ago I had a foal by Chellano Alpha Z: stillborn with the umbilical cord around its neck. Another foal, by Solid Gold Z, died after a few months due to maple leaf poisoning. And if that wasn´t enough, one of my mares died after having given birth. That hit home really hard. So much so that I temporarily lost motivation. But now I´ve got over it and have come anyway. I like the sight of foals. On one occasion I went to the Z-Festival with an Asca Z foal, just for the experience of showing it. I have that kind of passion. I´ve never been a rider, remember, but by now I own fourteen horses. Fortunately there´s plenty of space here. It was my neighbour who introduced me to Zangersheide. I had a carriage with a Haflinger. My neighbour suggested coming along to Zangersheide, which I didn´t know. This all happened fourteen years ago. That was on the Open Day and I was hooked. When I came home I told my wife I wanted to go into breeding and she told me I must be crazy. Occasionally I looked after my neighbour´s mare, later I bought her and bred an Asca Z foal from her. She won a few free jumping competitions and she was sold off. That´s how it started. Then I met Andre Leemans from The Padenborre and my breeding developed rapidly. I had the opportunity to buy a good bloodline from him and that´s how my line took off.’
Zangersheide inspires people from 7 to 70. Willy from Limburg is 70 years young. He is a chicken farmer who sells bio eggs. As a side line he breeds about three foals a year which he takes to the Z-Festival. Willy is clearly ahead of the game and has already sold foals at the Z-Online Auction. Selling his foals is a necessity, Willy says: ‘Those riders are expensive characters. And when things don´t work out I´m the one who loses out. I will have none of that, so I sell them.
In the stallion unit we also spot Patrick Sebrechts, together with a breeder friend. We know Patrick as the breeder of Bellissimo Z, the horse that jumped to Silver at last year´s BC and Bronze at the EC with Thibeau Spits. ‘I´ve been a regular visitor of the Open Days for years because it´s always interesting to scout the stallions. Every year you have to make a choice. This year I used Dourkhan Hero Z and my mate chose Comilfo Plus Z. For me the stallion´s dam line and what she has produced so far is leading. Seeing the stallions in the flesh is really important too because photos or videos don´t show everything. Their presence can only be appreciated by seeing them live. Colts are sold sooner than the fillies, who stay on. That makes stallion choices rather difficult. Because if you want to sell a colt, a well-known sire makes the colt a lot more marketable. At the same time we have to breed with the future of sport in mind and that requires fast, dazzling horses, so then a younger stallion is a more obvious option.’ Why does Patrick opt for Z? Asking the question is as good as answering it. He laughs: ‘Bellissimo Z finished 4th in the Z-Ranking last year and I received a premium of €4,000. My brother breeds with BWP, was also honoured and went home with a bunch of flowers. There you go. That is of course, not why we breed but still, it´s a fine recognition. For let´s be frank about it, you never know what happens in breeding and it´s not always a success story. With Bellissimo Z everything has worked out well, but in her early days she wasn´t an easy character.’
They´ve come from just across the French border: a father who is a hobby breeder and his daughter who rides his horses in her spare time, have come to visit Z. ‘Because my daughter is totally smitten with Levisto Z and wants to convince me to use him for breeding.’ I keep tabs of the competitions for young horses and don´t come across many Levistos in Belgium. I´ve seen many good offspring by Asca Z. Cicero Z too is always good, especially for blood mares. Catoki Z has always been one of my favourites. We´re here to learn and we´ll see what happens. I want to see D’Aganix Z too, he´s also on my shortlist.
We breed just one foal per year, only for personal use. My daughter has a retired sport mare and we now use her for breeding. ‘I´m a first-timer here at Zangersheide’, the daughter says. ‘It´s marvellous here, a paradise for horses.’
Very early on Sunday morning the two British boys from Imperium Stud drove from Great Britain to Lanaken: ‘We are a trading stable as well as breeding stud and have driven over specifically for the Open Days and the stallion inspection. Our particular favourites are Cicero Z and Dominator Z, we´re definitely going to use them. We breed some six foals a year and this is our first visit to Zangersheide. We´re quite pleased we´ve come, you won´t find this in Great Britain. Everything is different, except the weather, that´s the same. We are truly impressed. Another reason for coming is the fact that Z has a very good reputation in Great Britain. Z is recognised as one of the best studbooks.
Annemie is a veterinarian specialised in equine reproduction. So it pretty much goes without saying that she also breeds, under the name of Stud De Kersenheuvel. Her husband stayed at home with the children but she has come with a neighbour, also a breeder. ‘In recent years we´ve frequently used Z for breeding. Foals are sold off if we get the right price. I used to ride more, but the clinic, a family, a little one, that all eats up my time so riding has faded into the background. I had two competition horses. One has been sold and I´m expecting a Colorit Z foal from the other one. Then I have a Voltaire mare from the Bella Donna line, who´s in foal by Cicero Z. I´ve recently purchased a mare by Andiamo Z - Darco - Quidam de Revel for my breeding and that´s why I´m here, to check out the stallions. I always want to see them before I decide to use them. They have smashing stallions here. I´m quite taken by Caesar Z too. My neighbour Pol is 76 and owns a Vigo d’Arsouilles mare he would like to breed a foal from. He still takes her out for walks.
The Van De Voorde family has come from Oostende to please their son, who´s crazy about horses. A few years back they bought two foals, by Cabrio Z and Asca Z. Presently they own two mares to breed with. ‘That´s the reason for coming to Z, but above all we wanted to please our son. He´s completely obsessed with horses’, the father laughs. How badly? ‘Very badly, horses are his life and there´s nothing else.’ The son is called Guillaume, 19 years old and ambitious. ‘The first horse my parents bought was a Z horse. Zangersheide radiates professionality, in sport as well as in breeding. I´m determined to become a professional rider and start in breeding. I´m still following an education but I´m more interested in horses. I still don´t know that much about it so I find it a bit risky to use young stallions. If I had to choose a stallion right now I would prefer a proven stallion and then the name of Aganix du Seigneur Z springs to mind because he brings good offspring….what time is it now? 12.20hrs? Then we´re off for the guided tour.’