Geoff Glazzard on stallion grading

By: Horse Deals

Geoff Glazzard on stallion grading
Geoff Glazzard on stallion grading

Geoff Glazzard won some of show jumping’s greatest prizes before turning to horse breeding and acting as a grading judge. He tells Horse Deals what he looks for at a grading.

Famed for his winning partnerships with household names such as Pennwood Forge Mill and Apollo, followed by the stallions It’s The Business and Hello Oscar, former international show jumper Geoff Glazzard is now regarded as "the stallion man".

A judge in demand at gradings both here and in Europe, Geoff is renowned for his knowledge of breeding and owns Beech House Stud in Staffordshire, where he stands stallions and has bred many top performers.

What judges look for at a grading

The British-based Anglo European Studbook (AES) is fast becoming a force on the word stage and Geoff does the majority of his judging with this society.  "We use the ‘KISS’ format — keep it simple — and mark 50% on conformation, movement and temperament, with the other half awarded for jumping," he says.  Geoff suggests that before entering a grading, owners look at presentation. "It is not the grader’s job to look through a shaggy mane and tail. Present your horse properly and turn him — and yourself — out well," he recommends.

Manners are another major requirement.  "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.

"Owners and 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 to each other behave in a coltish way," explains Geoff.

Although he’s looking for good manners, Geoff also wants a potential stallion to have presence.

"He has to have that elusive quality and be a man, drawing your eye when he walks in and making you think ‘Wow!’" he says.

Loose jumping down a grid is another important phase of grading young show jumping stallions.

"The judge or grader has to assess what they see. They can only observe. Your horse has to know what a grid is and be able to jump down it and show himself to the best of his ability," says Geoff.  "At this stage, usually as 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 attitude onto their offspring and no point in keeping them as a stallion."

Although not every stallion passes his grading, this doesn’t mean he won’t succeed in a chosen discipline.  "There will be a good reason why the stallion hasn’t passed. Occasionally, it can be because the horse has had a bad day and will be re-presented another time and perhaps pass. But listen to the grader’s opinion and if the stallion is never going to pass because of conformation or temperament, get it gelded. 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. Horses have to be special to justify all 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."

That’s a tall order, but it is one that needs to be adhered to if British breeders are to produce horses that will gain recognition at championship level.

"Holland has a different system, where stallions go through a process of elimination rounds before they even attend the actual grading, so only the make it to the final," concludes Geoff. "Once Britain has enough potential stallions to go down that route, we’ll have made it as a sport horse breeding nation."