Spectacular Spain

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spainIn part one of our story published last month, we recapped our successful search for a black qualified stallion in Spain, Persiles YET and the visit to a Barcelona breeding farm where we found two rare chestnut mares that we purchased in foal.

During the next part of the trip we attended a regional show, Anducab, near Cordoba.

During one part of the trip we attended a regional show, Anducab, near Cordoba. While looking for a hotel, Judy could only find a one star hotel in the town were the show was to be held but found a family run hotel, Palacio Guzmanes, in nearby Bailen. We arrived near sunset and were simply awestruck by the view driving into Bailen. The castle and basilica were lit up and we learned the next day the town had been declared a Spanish heritage site on the 500th anniversary of the castle. Bailen is the location of several pivotal battles in history. Of course we didn’t have to ask if dinner at 10 PM in Spain was alright, once we were settled into our room up 4 flights of stairs! The view from the terrace at breakfast the next morning was olive groves, horizon to horizon.

At the horse show the next day I heard a lady speaking with an American accent and turned to introduce myself. I asked where she was from and she said, “My name is Ruth Harwood. I live here now but was in Switzerland riding FEI horses for years. But Spain feels like home.” To which I, of course said, “Where’s that?” She replied matter of factly, “San Antonio, Texas. My family has a guest ranch on the Frio River.” Even more strange, my sister holds a kind of reunion on the Frio each year and Judy had called Ruth’s family a week prior to our trip looking for a place for us to stay!

One thing that is so special about horse owners and breeders is that an instant bond was formed and after talking horses for a while, she said, “Let me introduce you to some of the breeders and if you come back in the future you can stay at my house.” It was obvious that everybody knew her and we even met the owners and trainers of Mater Christi, who were pleased to show us their show stock. Ruth then arranged for us to tour several ranches after the show, including Mater Christi. Of course, none of us knew that a few months later this farm would be named Best Breeder at Sicab 2015. Ruth also explained that the economy of the region had changed from mining to farming, truffles and growing those special black pigs to produce jamón ibérico, which was lunch that day. This meat can sell for as much as gold. The pigs eat acorns under the oak trees and the quality of the meat is monitored by the Dept of Agriculture. Imagine driving through the countryside where every turn is a postcard and meeting other horse enthusiasts at every stop.

On the home front, we were selling horses like hot cakes (24 between January 2015 and March 2016), so my horse crazy family clambered “We need more mares to go with these great stallions”. While the internet creates some new problems for our society, its power in our industry is clear. By a chance long distance electronic meeting, Judy developed an immediate connection with a breeder in the Czech Republic near Prague, Barbora Kalinova. Through her, we purchased two additional mares. Espinilla PLC, a qualified mare in foal to one of Evento’s most important sons, Distinguido X. Distinguido qualified for 2 Olympics and WEG. We also purchased DUC Dina, sired by Barbora’s Dobres PLC and a granddaughter of Duque CXIII, one of the only horses in the breed with 4 special ANCCE stamps on his pedigree. Duque is qualified, ANCEE Young Recommended Stallion for Dressage Morphology, and Improvement Stallion for Morphology. Dina has 2 qualified mares in her illustrious pedigree, her dam, Sultana XXVII and Dobres dam, Lotus. Both Espinilla and Dina are decendants of the famous Guardiola sire, Educado X by Centella V, Champion of

Spain. Educado sired 400 offspring, including 50 show winners. Shortly after Espinilla arrived in Texas, we were surprised with a bonus. ANCCE announced the

2015 horses qualified as “young recommended breeding stock for morphology” (Joven Reproductor Recomendado Aptitude Morfologica) and she is now one of just 328 horses in the world and one of only a few mares on the list. So we will have the opportunity for a very rare cross of a 3 stamp mare with a 3 stamp stallion this spring. Since 3 of the imported mares were in foal, we have now rearranged our mare herd to align with our 3 great breeding stallions, importing a total of 8 horses by our family. These additions will complement the rest of our herd based primarily on the lines of Gaucho III, Centella V and Indiano XVIII.

In spite of the wonderful experience this trip turned out to be, I cannot in good conscience recommend importation to novice buyers or breeders. There are many details where things can easily go wrong. For example, one of our pregnant mares became infected in transit and showed up ill in New York quarantine. This led to a nightmare dilemma of where to house and treat her. She couldn’t return to Spain; she couldn’t remain at N.Y. quarantine more than a few days; N.Y. quarantine would only release her to an approved quarantine facility and she had to be transported in an approved quarantine trailer. Most of the approved facilities do not have isolation barns and refused to take her. After several pretty terrifying days, our U.S. agent was able to arrange for transport to Cornel University Veterinary School of Medicine.

There was considerable danger of a premature delivery and the total expenses soared to multiple times to purchase price of the mare. Fortunately, the pregnancy was saved and she delivered a full term healthy filly and all signs of infection were cleared. Insurance coverage helped soften the financial blow and the sale of the foal will offset the rest. The point is that this one chance exposure via a water bucket or handler very nearly wrecked all our careful plans. What if we had insured her only for mortality, without major medical coverage?

What if we had only insured her for Spain and the U.S. rather than along the entire route, not thinking to add extra coverage during transport through France,

Belgium and Holland? What if there had been no approved facility with isolation that would take her? There are many excellent horses in the U.S. and so importation should only be considered for special cases. The search and the arrangements are quite labor intensive. Some horses that looked great in the promotional material turned out to have serious flaws on closer review. We could write a book about all the various tests required for importation. It is much more complicated than a simple positive or negative for CEM. It is critical to have trustworthy agents and mentors and deal with reputable breeders to successfully navigate all that. We hit many bumps in the road, avoided many more and ultimately made it through, in spite of encountering unexpected delays and expenses. Rancho Del Lago looks forward to a bright future, blending the new stock with our already well established herd.

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