Barbara Young looks at a British stud making huge strides in taking on Continental sport horse giants.

By: Horse Deals

Barbara Young looks at a British stud making huge strides in taking on Continental sport horse giants.
Bruce Menzies rides Old Lodge’s home-bred Sultan V to Foxhunter victory at HOYS this year. Picture by Real Time Imaging.

Old Lodge: new ideas

When Bruce Menzies and the home-bred Sultan V added the HOYS Grade C title to their win in one of the world’s most prestigious novice show jumping finals, the Horse & Hound Foxhunter, it was the culmination of a phenomenal 12 months for the Sussex-based Old Lodge Stud.

The stud had already more than proved its promise through a succession of champion foals, as well as winners at international level, licensed stallions and top broodmares. But the HOYS performances — added to by the seven- and eight-year-old championship win for Nicky Boulter on Super Trooper de Ness — was the icing on the cake for this slick, dedicated operation that is aiming to put
British breeding at the top of the show jumping tree.
"It’s been a seriously exciting and rather outstanding year," says stud manager Corrina Duncan, who joined the operation 10 years ago to advise on the breeding programme. "Each year, we’ve improved significantly on the one before. Much of this, of course, is due to the fact that the horses are progressing into more prestigious classes."

The stud was established in 1997 after the purchase of a number of top quality Dutch-bred mares with proven bloodlines and Corrina is justifiably proud of Old Lodge’s achievements in 2009.
"Brickfield Boy, whom we bought as a foal, won two classes at Olympia with Geoff Luckett, led the International Stairway series for most of the summer and won at the Royal International Horse Show, too.
"Little Lefanie, whom we bred, also won two classes and was placed in two international classes at Hickstead, our home-bred Little Miss won the young riders championship for the third time and we’re very excited about the younger horses."

Corinna isn’t joking about the younger horses because horses owned by Old Lodge have dominated many finals. Of the home-breds, Faise took the five-year-old title at the BSJA young horse championships at Addington and Abdul Aziz, who was fourth, has already qualified for next year’s winter novice final. Mohammed qualified for the HOYS six-year-old final and more six-year-olds, Hussah and Abeer, were placed at Addington. At the same show, Zalza won the non British-bred five-year-old championship and Figaro was among the winners of the non-British four-year-old final.
"And of course we mustn’t forget the amazing Super Trooper de Ness, who also won the Royal International B and C Championship and has qualified again for 2010," adds Corinna.

Old Lodge is owned by Rising Star Investments Ltd — the man behind it prefers to be known simply as an investor who’s very keen on the sport and is involved in the decision making. He originally owned racehorses at his stud in Newmarket.
"Work commitments meant he couldn’t always watch his racehorses when they were running and the advantage of show jumping is that we can jump the horses whenever he has time to come and see them," explains Corrina. "He comes to many events, from raw four-year-olds at training shows to international competitions. He likes watching the ‘babies’, but is often horrified by the catering and stabling facilities at smaller shows! If he can’t make it, I send him a report detailing where each horse is jumping and results from the previous week and fax him any press cuttings. I always call him if there’s anything exciting to report such as a win, qualification, new foal or an exciting horse for sale. I might recommend horses and riders to him, but he has the final say. It’s his hobby and he takes great enjoyment from the success we’ve had."

Each year, Corinna — who is currently juggling the job with bringing up her young baby — has input into the breeding programme. The mares are artificially inseminated by a wide range of stallions that best complement each individual. This includes star names such as Quidam de Revel and Voltaire, as well as up-and-coming sires.
"By following stallions’ careers, we’ve been able to use them before they’ve become famous, including Corland and Baloubet du Rouet," says Corrina. "The use of frozen semen has also made stallions available to us which are no longer alive."
But one rule Old Lodge adheres to is to only use stallions approved for breeding by a studbook affiliated to the World Breeding Federation of Sport Horses.

"As with any large breeding programme, we’re always looking for horses to complement the stud and competition yard. Mares with proven pedigrees and who have jumped to grade A or higher or have progeny proving themselves are always interesting," explains Corinna.
"Super Trooper de Ness was purchased not only because of his amazing scope, but also because his pedigree suits many of our mares. And although we’re having plenty of success with home-bred horses, we do occasionally buy young stock from other studs. We’ve been extremely lucky with some of those purchases."

Corrina works as the "middleman" between the owner, riders and yards where horses are boarded.
"This prevents the owner having to deal with the day-to-day management of such a large team of horses and people and helps him concentrate on the fun side of the sport. My favourite part of the job is organising all the coverings and marketing of the stallions," she says.
The fact that this operation is based on the owner’s pleasure, rather than business, allows Old Lodge to take a different — and long-term — approach.
"I think our success is partly due to the fact that we work together and work hard, but also because we focus on breeding only from the best damlines we can find," says Corinna.

Most horses are currently at livery, as gaining planning permission for facilities at Old Lodge Stud was difficult, although this is now all in place and the groundworks have started.
"It will be a truly magnificent yard when it’s completed," says Corrina.
Another change from the norm is that the stud has focused on sending horses to riders who might not be household names.
"We love supporting up-and-coming talent and those who have fantastic riding ability but are maybe lacking horsepower, as well as established names such as Geoff Luckett and Shane Breen," explains Corinna.
"Choosing the right people is very important and we have a great team. All our riders work together well to support each other. We have a ‘team meeting’ to see how we can improve and everyone knows they can put forward ideas. The better each individual does, the more prestige for the Old Lodge banner."

Corrina says that in matching horse and rider combinations, the main criteria is that riders are hardworking and prepared to take advice. They must also be willing to work with the horses when they’re youngsters.
"Each horse is an individual and its programme must be developed according to this. For example, Faize, who won the five-year-old championship at Addington, is very forward and mature, while the size of Abdul Aziz means he shouldn’t be chasing against the clock at the moment. Long term, Abdul may be the better horse."

The HOYS Foxhunter win is probably the most memorable moment to date for Old Lodge.
"It’s the most prestigious young horse class in Britain and the stepping stone to international level," says Corrina. "Past winners have gone to the Olympics, so, apart from the prestige, it proves we’re on the right track."
The seven-year-old Sultan, who is described by rider Bruce Menzies as "outstanding" and is on the BEF Equine Pathway, has taken time to develop.
"We’ve taken him very steadily and not pushed him unless it was a really important class, when he’s shown he has all the ability, scope and speed you need," says Corinna. "He was also the first horse we named after a member of the owners’ family and Sultan’s a very important name to them — by this time we’d been
breeding horses for four years, so you can see how special he was to them.
"As a foal, he just had a look and feel about him. It also helped that his dam produced Brickfield Boy five years before. Our ultimate aim is to breed an Olympic horse and Sultan’s looking good!

"Super Trooper was champion of his stallion grading, so has always been special, but we’ve only owned him since he was five. His dam and sire were Nations Cup horses, so the breeding’s there. And he’s proved so popular at stud that he’s presently off having more semen frozen for 2010 — we were running out!"

So has Old Lodge a secret winning formula?
"Not really. We listen to all the advice we can and you have to add a little bit of luck! And we’re grateful to everyone who’s helped us get where we are," says Corinna.

One thing’s certain. You can make your own luck and, by doing their homework and being prepared to wait for success, the team at Old Lodge looks set for more success.