Famed for his winning partnerships with household names Pennwood Forge Mill and Apollo followed by the stallions It’s The Business and Hello Oscar, former International showjumper Geoff Glazzard is now known as “the stallion man.”
In demand as a grading judge in Britain and Europe, Geoff is renowned for his breeding knowledge and stood his own stallions for many years.
In an ideal world, every stallion would possess presence, 100% conformation, scope and a good, level-headed temperament. But no-one is perfect, so what makes a good stallion?
“The conformation needs to be pretty correct,” says Geoff, “It’s no good using a stallion that will pass on faults to his offspring that can affect performance and soundness. But I will say that a fault that isn’t hereditary wouldn’t be graded harshly.
“For instance, a horse who turns a foot out slightly but all other aspects of his conformation are good would be marked down a little, but as long as it didn’t affect his performance, movement or jump, such as landing over a fence, he wouldn’t be failed.”
Because of his competition experience, Geoff is often called upon to judge a stallion’s jumping ability.
“I’m generally looking for a jumper, but most importantly, I want an athlete.”
A good walk – a good length of stride and a walk with intention and purpose – is required, and the canter needs similar qualities.
“A horse with a stuffy, ‘stompy’ canter could pass this on – that’s not needed on the most wanted list!” explains Geoff.
Some faults can be forgiven if there are exceptional qualities elsewhere, but bad hereditary faults are still bad.
“The whole point of grading is to weed out all but the best stallions to use for breeding purposes,” says Geoff, “Britain still has a way to go to catch up with Germany and Holland, but we’ve made a solid start.”
Stallion gradings mark conformation, movement and performance. Conformation marks are vital because low scores at this stage equals failure.
“It wouldn’t matter if he looped the loop over a fence, low conformation marks won’t add up to a pass,” explains Geoff, “Although it’s sod’s law that some horses with perfect conformation will be glued to the floor when it comes to jumping.”
A good temperament is a must.
“Regardless of talent, if his temperament won’t allow training and production, he’s no good from a sport or breeding point of view. He won’t reach the top of his discipline if the attitude is wrong and temperament is hereditary,” says Geoff. “Some stallions are known to produce sharp horses – that’s fine when they’re put to a level, laid-back mare – but a bad-tempered horse could pass this on. Keeping him as a stallion would be false economy.”
Presentation is important
Geoff suggests that before entering a grading, owners look at presentation.
“It’s not the grader’s job to look through a shaggy mane and tail. Present your horse properly and turn him – and yourself – out well.”Manners are another must.“Horses must be mannerly and have respect for their handler. At a grading, the stallion has to walk, stand and trot at command, and he should trot in-hand at a good pace,” says Geoff. “The pace should be dictated by the handler, but the handler has to be fit enough to show the horse off properly.”The old adage of never being complacent around a stallion is particularly important at a grading.“Handlers must be aware, even more so than at a show. There are a lot of other stallions around and they can become competitive and start to show off, behaving in a coltish way,” explains Geoff.
The elusive X factor
Manners are important, but Geoff is also looking for presence.
“A stallion has to have that elusive quality and be a man, drawing your eye when he walks in, making you think ‘Wow!’”, he says.
Loose-jumping down a grid is another important grading phase for potential showjumping stallions.
“The grader has to assess what they see. They can only observe. The horse has to know what a grid is and be able to jump down it to the best of his ability,” says Geoff. “At this stage, usually three-year-olds, colts are going to show their natural ability, but will also show their natural attitude towards jumping. And if they don’t like jumping, there’s no point in passing this onto their offspring and no point keeping them as a stallion.”
Not every stallion passes his grading, but that doesn’t mean he won’t succeed in a chosen discipline.
“There will be a good reason why he hasn’t passed. Occasionally it can because the horse has had a bad day and perhaps he’ll pass when re-presented on another day. But listen to the grader’s opinion and if the stallion is never going to pass because of conformation or temperament, geld it. A gelding can often have a far better life and much more freedom,” says Geoff.
“Keeping a stallion involves a lot of work, extra time, facilities and money. Stallions have to be special to justify the extra costs and hassles that come with them. And take note, if professionals have a talented stallion with good conformation and for some reason it loses concentration at a crucial time in the ring or behaves badly at a show, they geld it.
“The vital question is ‘What is the horse going to put into the next generation?’ Stallions have to be exceptional – full of presence but mannerly, talented but with a good temperament and focused and level-headed in their discipline, even when surrounded by mares.”
A tall order, but it has to be adhered to if British breeders are to produce horses that will gain recognition at championship level.
“Holland has a different system, stallions go through a process of elimination rounds before they attend the actual grading, so only the top ones make it to the final,” concludes Geoff, “Once Britain has enough stallions to go down that route, we’ll have made it as a sport horse breeding nation.”