The Breeders Interview – Gerzanne Stud, New Zealand
In every edition of The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine, we speak to a selection of breeders from around the world about their experiences and successes with their breeding programme. We are delighted to share some of these incredibly insightful features online.
The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine (TABM): Please share with our readers a short background of your farm.
Sue Spratt, Gerzanne Stud, New Zealand: The English poet and short story writer Rudyard Kipling, wrote of New Zealand: “Last, loveliest, loneliest exquisite apart”.
Gerzanne Stud is situated in this last, loveliest and loneliest paradise – all true but LAST stands out. We are so far from the international Arabian scene that Australia has been, for New Zealand, our ‘go to’ place to purchase horses.
When my four children were young they all rode horses – hunting and showjumping. Once they outgrew their ponies, none of us could bear to part with them so a friend suggested we purchase an Arabian stallion. Having no idea what an Arabian stallion was, I contacted our local stock and station agent, who found us a very successful Crabbet Stallion in Australia. Zarife (Sala x Daralga) who was bought sight unseen and so began my passion with Arabians.
Champion Stallion TF Fezzan. Credit Gerzanne archives.
TABM: What have been the bloodlines that you have focused on, and why did you choose them? Has this focus changed over the years?
Sue: Knowing nothing about Arabians, I purchased Lady Wentworth’s book on Arabian horses, The Authentic Arabian Horse, and studied their pedigrees as well as standard of excellence.
At this time there were very few Arabians available – none in New Zealand and very few in Australia; those that were available were predominantly Crabbet.
This led me to Fenwick Stud where I was lucky enough to purchase a three in one package – Robinia (Shafreyn x Ruheym), with a filly Beenie (by Fabulous by Riffal) at foot and Robinia was in foal to Sindh (Silver Vanity x Silfina). She later foaled the filly, Suumah, and thus began the foundation of Gerzanne Stud in 1966.
S Emeera by Emerald J out of SS Bahiya taken at 2 days old. Credit Gerzanne archives.
TABM: What were your breeding goals when you first started? Have they changed over the years?
Sue: In the early years, 50 years ago, there were no goals – other than to breed good useful horses with good conformation.
The next step for Gerzanne began in the late 70s with the importation of a stallion from the Maxwells’s Lodge Farm in the UK. This was Fakhr El Nil (Fakhr El Kheil x Bint Jehan). Sadly, he proved to be sub fertile and while we sought a resolution to the problem, we used the two imported stallions, Gai Cadet +USA (Gai Parada x Fiera) and Arabian Park Bandero +AU (Banderol x Silver Orbe) before a replacement was offered by Lodge Farm. This was the stallion Kandahar Ibn Kazra (Shakhs x Kazra).
A visit from Marion Richmond of Simeon Stud in 1989 changed my focus. Her 1986 stallion Simeon Shomer (Simeon Sa’ar by El Shaklan out of Damirah) out of Simeon Shirli (Dresden x Simeon Sharon) arrived at the stud. He made such an impact in New Zealand and he also turned things around at Gerzanne. Simeon Shomer was a full brother to Simeon Sanegor, who was exported to the USA.
In 1999, my husband and I were honoured to receive an invitation to attend an open day at Simeon Stud, where the long awaited sire Asfour (Malik x Hanan) was being shown to the public for the first time. From that moment on, I aspired to own and breed straight Egyptian horses – for their history and for their beauty.
Simeon Shermin. Credit Rolf Hess.
TABM: Please share key moments that stand out in the early stages of your breeding programme?
Sue: The key moment without any doubt is the day that Simeon Shemini (Asfour x Simeon Shuala), a three-month old straight Egyptian colt, was purchased from Simeon Stud in 1995. He arrived at Gerzanne Stud a few months later, and he was bought in partnership with Bev Jones, our secretary in our Kiwifruit Post Harvest Venture. The decision was made to amalgamate our two studs, Gerzanne and Jabulani, and we have been best friends ever since.
Simeon Shemini more than fulfilled our expectations. In his first four years, he won every major title there was to win in New Zealand but it was not his show-ring successes that identified him; it was success in the breeding arena.
Simeon Shemini has sired over 22 New Zealand National Champion progeny and 18 Reserve National Champion Progeny – all out of Gerzanne mares.
One of our greatest moments was when Simeon Shemini’s first foal, the colt SS Barabas (ex SS Barzani by Simeon Shomer) born in 1999, was exported to The Royal Stables in Jordan, owned by HRH Princess Alia.
SS Bahiya – dam of SS Emeera by Emerald J. Credit Gerzanne archives.
TABM: When was it that you realised that you were a successful breeder? And what, in your opinion, defines a ‘breeder’?
Sue: When we look at the honours board in our stables and see the list of New Zealand National Champions and Reserve National Champions we have bred and who have won over the years. Gerzanne has never stood their stallions at public stud. Therefore, we are extremely proud that our successes are all from mares we have bred ourselves.
Looking at their names they all go back to our foundation mares that were imported 50 years ago, each one an improvement on the previous generation. Some are now fifth generation Gerzanne-bred horses.
We are constantly looking to improve on each generation and to date Gerzanne has imported eight stallions from around the world in our search for perfection. In 2005, we imported the beautiful mahogany-bay Botswana (Thee Desperado x The Minuet) son TF Fezzan, out of the Ramses mare Ramses Forever (Prince Ibn Shaikh x Ramses Rahwana). He was bred by Talaria Farms in the USA, who also own Botswana. This stallion has consistently been Leading Sire at the US Egyptian Event for over a decade.
TF Fezzan is making his mark at Gerzanne, and he was awarded the title of Champion Stallion at the 2009 New Zealand Championships. We are delighted with his foals. SS Kais (ex Simeon Setami by Simeon Sadik) would have to be a standout. He is the 2011 New Zealand Intermediate Champion Colt and the 2013 New Zealand Champion Stallion. SS Kais has been retained by Gerzanne.
We should also mention what an honour it was for us when Rula (Simeon Shomer x Seetha) was named 2014 WAHO Award winner. She is the last daughter of Shomer and she incorporates the bloodlines of three stallions imported by us to Gerzanne.
SS Sirius (Emerald J x SS Sihri) at 2 days old. Credit Gerzanne archives.
TABM: As a breeder, how do you feel about the showing world? Do you think that changes are needed to celebrate breeders more?
Sue: We have read extensively some wonderful things and equally many negative things about showing in other countries – especially the cruelty of showmanship and the politics involved.
We cannot speak for the rest of the world but for us at Gerzanne, the show-ring is the best way to promote our horses and as long as it remains a level playing field, we are happy with the status quo.
SS Tiflaa, a filly by TF Fezzan. Credit Gerzanne archives.
TABM: Do you think that breeders are a dying breed, pardon the pun?
Sue: Sadly, to pardon the pun – New Zealand has over the last 10 years lost a number of large breeders which has resulted in a huge gap and a flood of horses on to the market.
The boutique “breeder” who owns 1 or 2 mares and breeds them to different stallions without any real direction has now become a reality. However I think this is not only a NZ problem.
The Arabian Breeders Magazine is certainly promoting many smaller unknown breeders and bringing breeders on the whole to the fore.
TABM: Do you think that breeders and dedicated breeding programmes still have a place in the world today?
Sue: Yes, we do think that dedicated breeding programmes have a place – unless we have them, we will never move forward. What would the world look like today had there not been Ansata, Imperial, Gleannloch, and many others who have contributed to the gene pool and progress of the Arabian horse.
TF Fezzan. Credit Gerzanne archives.
TABM: Over the years, what have been your key successes, perhaps the ones that define your farm?
Sue: Gerzanne has always believed that the mares are the heart of the stud and we now have a broodmare band of international quality mares. They are peas in a pod – even we find it difficult to tell who is who at times!
Mares at Gerzanne stud. Credit Gerzanne archives.
TABM: And finally, what is next for you and your breeding programme?
Sue: We embarked on a straight Egyptian breeding programme in 1994 with the importation of Simeon Shemini, followed by three Straight Egyptian mares from Simeon Stud – Simeon Seviat (Anaza Bay Shahh x Simeon Simona); Simeon Setami (Simeon Sadik x Simeon Sucie) and Simeon Saharon (Imperial Madaar x Maardassa). We also imported Savannah KA (Makhnificent KA x Sultan Raqwa) from Kehilan Arabians in the USA. However, we have always run an Egyptian-related programme side by side with the straight Egyptian programme.
In 2011, Bev and I went to Paris to the Salon De Cheval and it was at this show that a mare took my breath away. After my return to New Zealand, I could not get her out of my system and all I could think about was to bring her bloodlines into our breeding programme. The mare was Emandoria (Gazal Al Shaqab x Emanda). At the same show there was a beautiful colt, Emerald J (by QR Marc), who is out of Emandoria.
At the age of 83, the time has come when for us to import another stallion is not on the cards, so in the last two years we have used frozen semen from Belgium. As Bev and I do all the breeding, handling and so on, we have found the use of frozen semen to be the way forward for us.
We now have two beautiful Emerald J babies in our paddock – the filly SS Emeera and SS Sirius, a colt. These two beauties have surpassed all our expectations and we cannot wait for the next chapter.