Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

McKibbin has a clear focus for breeding

Dams are just as vital in the mating stakes

John McKibbin's colt by Connor was purchased at Barnadown by Kieran Kennedy for €15,000
John McKibbin's colt by Connor was purchased at Barnadown by Kieran Kennedy for €15,000
Siobhan English

Siobhan English

Top-class horse producers the world over will always emphasise the importance of the dam when choosing a young horse, yet for others, stallions are often thought to be the most influential part of the stallion-mare mating equation.

The belief is that if the stallions consistently throw successful foals, they quickly develop national and international reputations and earn high stud fees. This is true, yet genetically, the mare is responsible for at least 50pc of the foal's make-up. In fact, some Irish producers will make that closer to 70pc.

A rule of thumb in the breeding world is that you can breed a mediocre stallion to a great mare and still have a nice foal. But breed a great stallion to an undesirable mare? The results will be disastrous. Temperament, conformation and talent are each critically tied to the mare's genetic structure, a structure she passes from generation to generation.

Therefore, understanding the mare's crucial role in the breeding process is an undeniably essential part of the breeding equation.

No-one knows this better than John McKibbin, who this year had his best year to date with the sale of top-quality sport horse foals boasting the best of performance bloodlines.

From a small broodmare herd of just five, the Northern Ireland breeder not only topped the Elite Foal Sale at Cavan with a colt by Darco, but also made €15,000 on another great prospect at the Supreme Foal Sale held during the Irish Breeders' Classic in September.

Mr McKibbin has always believed in the importance of the damline.

"Unless the dam has a performance record, you are at nothing," he said. "And they are just so hard to find here in Ireland," he said of suitable Irish mares for his breeding programme.

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Instead, he has found several in Belgium. One such mare is Zidane, who jumped up to 1.10-metre level and was awarded Keur status before being shipped to Ireland.

"I bought her in foal to Emerald and she has since produced three foals by Darco, one of which topped the Cavan sale at €15,000 when bought by former top international Belgian show jumper Ludo Philippaerts, who himself competed Darco to the top level in the sport."

Just weeks earlier, the foal had finished runner-up in the HSI Sport Horse Foal qualifier at the Meadows Equestrian Centre.

By Heartbreaker, Zidane is exceptionally well-bred and her grand-dam Acapulca is a half-sister to the 1.40-metre show jumper Mr Blue.

Through his businesses, Leestone Sport Horses and Show Jumping Stallions Ireland, John McKibbin has made some valuable contacts worldwide, and has found the power of the internet, in particular social media, to be invaluable when searching for new mares.

While browsing the internet one evening he came across Acajou van het Kloosterhof for sale in Belgium. "I simply typed in 'Heartbreaker mare' and she popped up," he said. It indeed proved a lucky buy.

The mare had jumped to 1.35-metre level and had been retired through injury, but boasted an exceptional jumping pedigree as a full-sister to PrimeVal Dejavu, who this summer competed at the Olympic Games under Mohammed Bassem Hassan of Qatar.

In addition, she is a half- sister to the 1.45m show jumper Charmeur van het Kloosterhof (Fuego du Prelet) and the two-star event horse Calloa van het Kloosterhof (Caretano).

Impressively, the great-grandam Givolda (Zeus) produced no fewer than six international show jumpers, including J.F. (Silvio I), ridden by Charly Jayne, and Well Done II (Sheraton), ridden by Nadja Peter-Steiner.

In 2014, Acajou van het Kloosterhof produced a filly by Kannan, but this year her colt by Connor attracted much attention during the Supreme Foal Sale at Barnadown, where he was snapped up by Kieran Kenendy for €15,000.

"I would imagine Kieran will retain this guy as a stallion, and Charles Hanley also bought another nice stallion prospect by Cruising out of my good ISH mare Crosskeys Cavalier," he said. It is clear that breeders, whether they have one mare, three mares or 10 mares, need to set long-term goals. For John McKibbin, his plan is very clear-cut.

"I was once told I cannot breed foreign horses and sell them to mainland Europe because there is so much choice in Europe, but this year alone I've sold two to Belgium.

"At least both will be known as being born in Ireland and registered as an Irish Sport Horse. And who knows, I might watching them jump in Lanaken in five years' time."

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