Stalwart bloodlines brought back to life

Semen from showjumping sire Norson will be available to Irish breeders for the 2018 season

Ann Gustavii's Nordic Imp Gii, by Norson, with her foal by Drakkir G
Ann Gustavii's Nordic Imp Gii, by Norson, with her foal by Drakkir G

Siobhán English

Back in the 1960s the thoroughbred stallions Nordlys and Water Serpent featured in the back-breeding of countless Irish horses, Ambassador, Big Idea and Ideal Water to name but a few.

Irish breeders now have an opportunity to regain some of these precious bloodlines thanks to renowned Swedish-born breeder Ann Gustavii.

Norson (pictured below), a stallion son of Nordlys, was exported to Sweden in the late 1980s. In recent weeks it has emerged that a small amount of semen from the Irish show jumping sire which has remained in storage ever since is now to be made available to Irish breeders ahead of the 2018 breeding season.

"The semen has been stored in liquid nitrogen since 1989 and is in excellent condition," Ann said.

"This can be proven by the fact that in recent years he sired a foal out of one of our older mares, Lar's Imp. She was 20 at the time and I had great difficulty getting her in foal. That filly is now breeding for us."

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Norson pictured in 1990 with the late with the late Lars Gustavii.

Ann and her late husband Lars first discovered Norson in Co Wexford in 1989. He had been standing at stud with the late James Maguire. "When I found Norson I was not looking to buy a stallion," she remembered. "I was looking for mares with proven pedigree from some of the superb old thoroughbred stallions that Ireland has been so famous for.

Norson pictured in 1990 with the late with the late Lars Gustavii.
Norson pictured in 1990 with the late with the late Lars Gustavii.

"Eventually we came to this farmer who was said to have a mare related to Battleburn, but while there I took a liking to Norson. When I saw both Nordlys and Water Serpent on his passport I offered to buy him."

Norson himself had jumped as a young horse with Pat Phelan, son of Norson's breeder Maurice Phelan, but an early injury saw him retired before his prime. He had covered a limited amount of Irish mares, but these did include Roll Up, dam of Parkgate who jumped with success under Captain John Ledingham.

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A considerable number of his offspring were purchased by the late Max Hauri. "He bought nearly all of Norson's progeny he could find, as all of them could jump," Ann said.

One also proved to be a successful dressage horse by the name of Wilson who represented Sweden.

At that time progeny by Nordlys were in great demand as he was producing such top show jumpers as Ambassador who had kick-started his career under the late Tommy Brennan before going on to claim individual gold at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 with Graziano Mancinelli.

Nordlys was also the sire of Mullacrew, the dam of Cruising - without doubt Ireland's most famous sport horse in recent decades.

Other famous progeny by Nordlys include Gone Away, ridden by Raimondo d'Inzeo, and Abbeville, another who started out under Tommy Brennan and later competed for Brazil with Nelson Pessoa under the name Miss Moet.

"The dam Ferns Lass also competed herself as a show jumper, and was exported to Belgium after the birth of Norson," Ann said.

Ferns Lass is by Water Serpent, while her dam line boasts the Irish Draught Ballycotton who also features in the pedigree of such great RID sires as Pride of Shaunlara.

"All these years I have kept the semen for my own use, but as I wish to move back to the UK, I now need to sell it. It is expensive to store," Ann said.

"The semen is frozen in maxi straws, which are 1 straw for one dose, and each straw usually contain at least 800 million spermatozoa. They are still stored at the place where they were frozen, so are in prime condition.

"I have already enquired about shipping it to Ireland. As it is stored in liquid nitrogen it will not be accepted by any airlines and so will have to be moved by road. This will happen close to Christmas.The semen centre will do the paperwork, and the cost of the transport will be shared with everybody who purchases straws."

In recent weeks Ann has received numerous enquiries from across the globe, but has stressed that she would love to see some new progeny by Norson on the ground in Ireland.

"Ireland has some of the best broodmares around and I think it would be wonderful to use Norson to bring some of those old bloodlines back into pedigrees."

"Norson had the most amazing mentality, balance and soundness so it would be wonderful to see it passed on once again," she added.

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