Thursday, February 19, 2009

Brentina: From recovery to retirement to repro?

Years ago in Dressage Today I read an interview with Debbie McDonald. Although I can't find it again to verify my recollection, I think Brentina had a history of recurring colics, and maybe even a past surgery. Debbie was quoted as saying that the mare's colic scares made her feel every day with Brentina was a gift. In every article and every interview, she credits Brentina for her success and seems humbled by her. I think the picture on the left pretty much captures the love in their partnership.

The news about Brentina
Last week, at age 18, Brentina underwent colic surgery. Thank goodness she is recovering well. She is heading toward retirement at this point, and a retirement ceremony may still be possible this spring. Word has it that for her next trick, she'll be a a mommy -- via embryo transfer (ET). ET is becoming more reliable but it's by no means a done deal. Brentina is not so young, and fertility matters. The success rates even under ideal conditions aren't much better than 60%. Let's cross our fingers.

Brentina at 3
Breed the best, ride the rest
This isn't the first time there's been buzz about breeding Brentina. In 2005 Practical Horseman announced that motherhood was imminent. The owners were reportedly selecting a stallion. As far as I can tell, though, she does not have any babies on the ground.

Brentina is by Brentano out of the dam Lieselotte, whose grandsire is the influential thoroughred sire Der Lowe. Brentina's star quality was evident even as a three year old. At the Verden auction in 1994, her sensible nature and beautifully cadenced trot set her apart from the other stock (see photo, right). According to Dressage Today, Dec. 2001, Brentina's owners engaged in an intense bidding war with a Swedish breeder over Brentina. How lucky for us that they had the winning bid.

No deadbeat dads
Selecting a stallion for Brentina would be an interesting task. Although there are some amazing broodmares out there, generally the stallion is the better half of the breeding equation (after all, the selection process for stallions is far more stringent than for mares). Most stallions are valued for their ability to pass on their characteristics and "stamp" their foals. In some case I'm told that some broodmares are valued for their genetic "neutrality" (their babies tend to take after the stallions). How do you pick a stallion when you want the mare's traits to shine through in the foal? Years ago when the famous hunter mare Rox Dene was bred, her owners stated in a Practical Horseman article that they struggled to pick a stallion for just that reason.

So who will be the lucky sire for Brentina's baby. Don't you suppose they'll get frozen semen from Europe? Of the stallions in the U.S., who would you pick? Contucci? Dacaprio?


  1. Neither or.

    Because of her elite mare status, she has her choice of the Hanoverian book. I doubt that they'll stray from that.

    But we'll wait and see.

  2. Aren't they both hanoverians? And, I"m not sure she can be an elite mare w/o having a baby on the ground, just elite candidate -- unless somehow her performance trumps their usual rules. Correct me if I'm wrong...

  3. Contango is KWPN. DiCaprio is still a young stallion that doesn't have a ton of dressage horses.

    Elite mare is determined by breeding (pedigree of the mare) and performance. She would easily make elite status.

  4. ConTUCCI is a hanverian -- that is the horse I named in my post. Dacaprio is born in 1996, so he is not young -- has sired 3 licensed sons, and 20 State Premium mares so far. In contrast, Sandro Hit in Germany has 9 licensed sons and 2 state premium mares. I don't think too many U.S. horses will measure up to SH though.

    Elite mare is determined by breeding ability. After the performance test, a mare is an EM candidate, but until a baby is on the ground they are not an elite mare. I did check the hano rules about this, and here is the quote from their web page: "The Mare Performance Test (MPT) scores a mare’s rideability, gaits and jumping talent. Eligible high-scoring Main Studbook mares that pass this performance test to become Elite Mare Candidates (EMC). Once they have completed the final requirement of producing an AHS-registered foal within three years they are awarded the prestigious title of Elite Mare (EM)."

  5. I would expect for ET from an 18 year old mare with unprovern fertility you'd pick a decent stallion with really good fertility. If you pick the best stallion in the world but can't get any fertile embryos out of her (particularly with frozen semen) it's not going to matter.

  6. Based on the article in 2005 that said a breeding was imminent -- and then no baby -- I wonder if there might have been a failed attempt previously. Hoping Miss Brentina will be able to pass on her genes...

  7. That picture of Debbie and Brentina is simply gorgeous. I love that they've had such a long fruitful partnership and that their is a real relationship there, not just professional working status.

  8. I admire Robert Dover's exacting standards and "aggressive" approach but Debbie M has always struck me as a total non-Diva -- totally humble and grateful. She always seems to downplay her own abilities and credit her horse.


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