Talking Trakehners

By: Horse Deals

Talking Trakehners
The five-year-old stallion Contis, who has now started his eventing career

Horse Deals visits Godington Stud, a specialist home of sporting Trakehners

Just a stone’s throw from the M40 in rural Oxfordshire, Godington Stud is an epicentre for classic Trakehner breeding.

Set in 30 acres of typical English countryside, this successful operation was established by owners Roger Truelove and Victoria von Wachter 25 years ago with the focus on breeding and producing excellent sport horses from the breed they most admire as a proven performer.

"Trakehners are brilliant all-round sport horses, but they specialise in an almost dog-like attachment to humans — not everyone’s cup of tea, but great if you want a real friend," explains Roger. "On the stallion side, we aim to offer breeders affordable world-class stallions with correct conformation, quality paces and above all, exceptional temperament.

"Trakehners also have the advantage of being beautiful. The young horses we breed and produce are from proven competition lines and we try to produce jumping ability, since good paces can usually be expected."

Situated near Bicester, the stud features a main yard with six extra-large stallion/foaling boxes and five smaller boxes, together with a large haybarn, and two further covered yards provide winter housing for groups of various sizes. A dedicated vet’s examination room is busy in the breeding season and the outdoor school is in constant use throughout the year.

For the past 20 years, the stud has been managed by Ruth Burnard, who joined as a trainee fresh from a college AI course. Highly experienced in all aspects of stud work, stable management and production of young horses, Ruth also events several of the stud’s progeny up to three-star level.

As stud directors, Victoria is responsible for all aspects of horse care and training, breeding policy and ridden work, while Roger looks after finance and all aspects of land care and maintenance.

Victoria, who started as a biochemist but is now a practising barrister, and Ruth are also authorised NVQ assessors and BHS Instructors, and the stud usually has a couple of full-time working pupils.

"Victoria’s ridden since before she could walk," says Roger, a keen rider and consultant engineer working mainly in telecommunications. "She was a junior international eventing team member and has continued competing throughout her career. Victoria’s mother was a keen breeder and we bred in a small way until we bought the stallion Roland as Victoria’s competition ride and people started asking to use him."

The stud was established as a base for this foundation stallion and has grown organically from modest beginnings.

"We were breeding in a small way since the 1970s but moved to Godington 21 years ago," says Roger. "The size of the broodmare herd and their followers has been more or less constant, but the number of stallions owned, leased or offered by frozen semen has varied.

"We only use proven sports lines and those with a history of easy rideability. Because of the extensive performance statistics available, these decisions don’t rely on hearsay. We can also draw on the experience of closely observing more than 1,500 stallions at gradings over the past 22 years."
According to Roger, the successful breeding policy relies on producing good, safe general sport horses for the ambitious amateur rider, with an emphasis on dressage and eventing.M

"We aim to breed confident horses that go forward sweetly from the leg. We breed them to be user-/human-friendly and looking to form a partnership with their rider. We try to breed horses that say ‘yes’."

"Temperament’s all-important — a horse can overcome any number of difficulties if it has the will to succeed,"

The stud’s principal stallion Godington Hannibal, a 16.1hh bright bay Trakehner with 9in bone, offers top-class pedigree, performance and progeny, stamping his stock with his good looks and athletic ability.

Hannibal’s sire Roland was three-times champion Trakehner stallion and produced numerous winners in-hand and at top-level under saddle. And Hannibal's dam, Godington Havel V, was a Premium and State Premium mare, performance test champion and winning show jumper.

Hannibal himself has an impressive track record, having competed with Swedish international event rider Dag Albert in the UK and Europe including the World Cup final at Pau.

"Hannibal’s reached the pinnacle of eventing, qualifying for four-star and being selected for the Swedish Olympic squad," says Roger. "He’s brave and so sweet-tempered — everyone’s favourite."

The latest addition to the stud is the 16.1hh grey stallion Contis, who was a crowd favourite at the Trakehner grading in Neumünster in October 2006.

Contis’s sire is the Premium stallion Interconti, an exceptional mover with clear influence as a refiner, who has enjoyed remarkable success with his early foal crops.

Interconti’s breeding contains a concentration of the important performance-oriented bloodlines of the modern Trakehner breed. He is the last son of the great Consul, a sire of great influence in both the Trakehner and the Hanoverian breeds all over the world.

"Contis is very laid-back but, being five, still capable of showing brilliance one day and being a bit of a ‘teenager’ the next," says Roger.


Hannibal offspring are normally beautiful with correct limbs and they can all jump and Contis foals all have fabulous movement and are laid back.

"We expect our stallions to show perfect manners whatever the circumstances. They must travel and compete alongside in-season mares and then come home and serve — maybe the same mare."

The stud, which offers both natural covering and AI, is justifiably proud of the progeny, many of whom have gone on to become proven performers.
"Among Roland’s progeny, our senior stallion Hannibal is probably the highest achiever, but his younger full-brother Haarlem is at the same level. Roland also produced a number of grand prix dressage horses and international show jumpers for our clients," says Roger.

"Progeny of Hannibal himself have enjoyed numerous show successes and his older offspring are performing. One example is his daughter Barcelona, who was well placed at two-star eventing in 2008.

"Contis is too young to have progeny in sport, but his first foal crop took three of the four championships at the Trakehner show in 2008. This year’s crop’s even better but we were unable to show them due to pressure of eventing.

"Our stallion Amerian, who died some years ago, was recognised as the leading Thoroughbred sire of show jumpers in the early 1990s and also produced numerous eventers.

We’ve also enjoyed success with progeny of our Roland and Hannibal daughters by outside stallions. We’re currently eventing Umbria, who is a Premium performance-tested five-year-old mare out of a Roland daughter.

"Our stallions have covered everything from a 13.2hh pony to a Percheron, but customers are usually looking for temperament, correct conformation and movement. Those factors are important whatever the mating and whatever the plans for the foal. Many stud customers are looking to breed a replacement for their own use; customers buying young horses usually want the same but don’t want to wait.

"In the past, Dag Albert, Kitty Boggis and Izzy Taylor have ridden our horses with great success. Now Ruth rides everything, which means we can afford to have more on the circuit. She has brought on Godington Haarlem to three-star level, with a fourth place at Weston Park CCI2* the highlight so far."

The stud has sold young horses all over Britain and hearing about their successes is one of the greatest pleasures.

"Because we sell ridden horses and are careful about who they go to, they usually have a home for life and become very close to their owners.

"Every horse and owner’s different and they have specific requirements, which we go out of our way to meet if we can — or make it clear if we can’t. The key is that correct expectations make a happy customer," says Roger.