You’ve probably seen Horses Unlimited’s stallions at some of the largest horse shows in the country. Their Pik Bube II son, Pik L, won five PSG and I-I classes at the 2003 and 2004 Dressage at Devon with all scores above 70%, was fourth at the 2003 Pan American Games and was on the gold medal winning team, and first placed individually, at the 2005 Junior National Team Championships with Noel Williams.
Two other Horses Unlimited stallions, Wild Dance and Leonberg, have also earned high accolades. With Hubertus Schmidt, Wild Dance was reserve champion at the 2005 Nurnberger Burgpokal Finals. This is the finale of a prestigious show circuit in Germany for seven to nine year old dressage horses competing at Prix St. Georges. With Dr. Cesar Parra, Leonberg was second in the grand prix for special at the 2005 Dressage at Devon. And that’s not to mention their Olympic horse Galant du Serein, Adonis, Noble Champion or Glorioso Noir.
And if that was not enough top bloodlines, two other young stallions have also recently joined the collection—the Lord Sinclair son Lord of Dancing, and the Diamond Hit son Donovan, who was the Vice Champion at the 2006 Bundeschampionship (the German National Championships) and the 2005 Champion at the same show.
While you’ve heard of their stallions, did you know that Horses Unlimited is quietly breeding the next generation of international stars right here in the United States?
In the Blood
For Horses Unlimited’s CEO, Anne Sparks Whitten, it’s not just about the stallions. “I love the process of learning about the bloodlines,” she says. “It’s not enough to choose a lovely stallion and a lovely mare. Producing top horses requires an in depth understanding of how the bloodlines nick together.”
This fascination with breeding and genetics is in Anne’s blood. Her grandfather was also a breeder, not of sport horses, but of American Saddlebreds. Anne recalls, “He was a big influence for me. His philosophy was to research, read, mentor and study everything possible about bloodlines. He would study the bloodlines and then locate a mare that would fit what he was trying to accomplish with his stallions. He impressed upon me the need to choose the best bloodlines, not settle for average or what was readily available.”
Her grandfather also emphasized the fickleness of genetics. “He told me that it is crucial to look backwards in a horse’s pedigree. The stallion almost always looks like their damsire. You have to do your time researching. You cannot only know today’s and yesterday’s sires, but must know your bloodlines at least through 50 years ago.”
Although Anne has always owned and ridden horses, it was after college and becoming a mother than she was finally able to pursue her interest in breeding. Taking her grandfather’s advice, she read everything she could and consulted with breeders in Europe to learn about mare and stallion lines. “I was very fortunate to find great people who didn’t just want to sell me a horse, but who were willing to share their knowledge,” she explains.
“The Europeans have lived with these bloodlines for generations and know not only which lines cross well with each other, but also amazing little details about conformation, personality and work ethic that you can never learn from a book. This information has been priceless,” Anne says.
With her European friends’ help, Anne has carefully selected stallions and mares for the Horses Unlimited breeding program. While the stallions compete on the international circuits, the mares and foals call Albuquerque, New Mexico home.
“Sometimes people ask me why New Mexico,” Anne says with a laugh. “And I explain that the climate is very agreeable for raising babies, and for us. We can ride outside all year and still experience all the seasons.” Not only that, but New Mexico offers central access from both coasts with the international airport only 10 minutes from the farm. While Anne has known about the secret of New Mexico her entire life, Hollywood celebrities and artists have recently discovered the hidden treasures.
The temperate climate and irrigated pastures of the farm clearly are agreeable to the mares and their offspring. In 2005, the Horses Unlimited youngsters made their first trip to the prestigious Dressage at Devon. The then two-year-old stallion Pikko del Cerro HU, by Pik L out of the Rohdiamant mare Rohweena, showed what American breeders could produce.
The bay colt won the two-year-old colt class and the “Born in the USA” award with a 90%. He was placed reserve champion Cosequin/USDF Colt and reserve champion colt/gelding.
“We were so proud of him,” Anne recalls. “We pulled him out of the pasture for Devon. He had never even been to a local show. It was an amazing experience.”
Several other Horses Unlimited youngsters also brought home top ribbons and Pik L placed third in the get of sire class, beating out numerous well-known stallions.
“Breeding horses is not for the feint of heart,” Anne says. “There are so many challenges that arise, but to see the foals on the ground mature into horses like Pikko del Cerro is one of the most rewarding feelings.”
More Stars in the Making
Pikko del Cerro HU is not the only youngster attracting attention. This year’s inspections revealed another top crop. The ISR/OLD awarded all four of the presented youngsters an 8.0 or higher on movement. These four foals represented three of the Horses Unlimited stallions—Noble Champion, Glorioso Noir and Pik L.
The RPSI inspectors seemed equally impressed. Noble Champion’s four-year-old daughter, Nuestra Sonrisa HU, was awarded a 9.0 on her canter, an 8.0 on her trot. She received premium mare status and was entered into Marebook I.
The Leonberg filly La Estrella Fugaz HU was awarded premium foal, and Lilium HU, also by Leonberg, received an 8.0 for movement. Lancalot HU, by Leonberg, received an 8.6 on movement. The handsome colt will strut his stuff at Dressage at Devon.
A handful of other youngsters will also make their way to Devon, including Pikko del Cerro’s full sister Pikko de la Luna HU. This yearling was the top filly at her 2005 American Hanoverian Society inspection. Leonberg will be represented by his young gray son Liberando VT. The yearling colt was the champion colt at his ISR/OLD inspection, where he received an 8.4 on movement.
Anne and the staff of Horses Unlimited are looking forward to seeing how the young horses stack up against some of the best young horses in the country. “The quality of horses at Devon is top notch,” Anne says. “Your horses have to have a great day to do well. But of course that’s the fun of showing—it’s always a nail biter!”
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