Blue-blooded boys

By: Horse Deals

Blue-blooded boys
Youngstock in the fields at Groomsbridge Stud

Horse Deals visits Groomsbridge Stud, a specialist home of Thoroughbred sport horse sires

Set in 60 acres of neat post-and rail-paddocks within a picturesque country estate, Groomsbridge Stud in Linton, just south of Newmarket, offers a five-star service based on years of expertise.Tom and Sally Forster’s Thoroughbred and sport horse stud and AI centre aims to stand quality stallions and provide breeding services at affordable prices."My policy is to breed tough, sound horses with good temperaments that will hopefully end up in nice homes," explains Sally, who started breeding in 1992 when her competition mare retired."Our first foal was born in 1993 — originally, we bred as a hobby, although I’ve always had a keen interest in reproduction and how to get difficult mares in-foal."

Sally says that having been on the receiving end of poor service, they originally took in mares for friends in the same position."Then in 2004, we made the decision to create the business we have today. We aim to breed for eventing, but with the conformation and temperament that gives horses another job if their talents don’t lie in that direction."

The small but highly efficient team includes Tom, who helps with the stallions and foaling, Sally, who looks after training, evaluation, foal care and semen collection and shipping, stud groom Rachel Haylock, and vet Chris Phillips from Rossdales, who checks in every day.The facilities include "nursery paddocks" for new-borns, stallion paddocks and a 60x20m arena and 22 boxes split into five yards with a dedicated foaling unit.

"The one thing our customers have in common, whether they’re bigwarmblood breeders or someone breeding for themselves, is that they appreciate honesty and service," explains Sally. "Our vet’s happy to spend time talking to clients with difficult mares and people appreciate this. Our customers have stayed loyal and increased in number."Sally and Tom, who have a solid background in showing, driving and hunting, as well as producing young horses, have long favoured theThoroughbred.

"Thoroughbreds are like Marmite — you either love them or hate them — and having grown up with talented, sound Thoroughbreds, they’re the only breed that gives me the buzz I need," explains Sally. "I don’t have a huge preference in bloodlines, although I seem to have a lot of Northern Dancer blood at the moment. Really, that’s just because that particular stallion had the attributes I required at the time."

The stud stands three Thoroughbreds. High Tension, by Sadler’s Wells, produces horses in the eventing mould."He’s sweet-natured with great movement, but his stock are a little slow to mature. Although they look talented, many aren’t quite physically ready to go and do things yet," says Sally. "Hisfoals are rangy with almost a touch of arrogance about them but they’re very easy to do."

Groomsbridge May I, by Makbul, is a multi champion in-hand. His dam graded with SHB (GB) and successfully jumped 1.35m BSJA courses. Sadly, a paddock injury means this black stallion who sired the winner of both the hack and Anglo/part-bred foal classes at the Show Horse Association show, can no longer be ridden.

"He’s one of very few competition-bred Thoroughbred stallions," says Sally. "He’s special because without fail he produces quality foals with great temperaments and ultra correct conformation. They’re also very tough and unfussy."Last month saw the arrival of the American-bred Worthily, who will make his debut next season."I’m sure he’ll be special, as he has a great temperament and trainability. He won Listed races as a two-year-old and competed at medium level dressage," says Sally.

Groomsbridge is popular with other stallion owners too. Among those who have stood there or come in for semen collection are star stallions Sambertino, Amour G, Adonnis and Forest Gump."We offer natural cover only with High Tension and the other two boys stand by natural cover for Thoroughbred mares or fresh/chilled semen for others," says Sally.

There are four home-bred mares in residence, with another joining the breeding ranks next year."We like to concentrate on our customers, so breeding for ourselves is only a tiny part of what we do. More exciting is the fact that we’ll be offering embryo transfer for the first time in 2010," says Sally.