Christmas Newsletter 2019

Our annual Christmas missive comes at the end of very long and busy season, in fact the last inmates of the Stallion Centre for collecting for worldwide export have only just left us! It was an early start to the stud season as well, with mares arriving to foal down and for AI from mid-March. A busy summer followed, and the vagaries of the British weather were challenging to say the least, with many mares cycling abnormally, which, as we are sure many vets will agree, was an issue throughout much of the UK.

The weather also played a part in our annual Open Day on the eve of Badminton Horse Trials at the beginning of May – we had changed the format from afternoon to evening, and it was just as well we did as the afternoon was unseasonably warm and would have been hard on the stallions attending. As usual, this event was well supported by many owners and friends.

We were delighted that William Funnell came to present The Billy Stud’s two foundation stallions CEVIN Z and BILLY CONGO (both of which stand with us) – two great stallions that are producing quality offspring, both for eventing and show-jumping; Gemma Tattersall put both the legendary CHILLI MORNING and his son CHILLI ROCKS through their paces and Nick Gauntlett bought his lovely intermediate eventer PARTY TRICK (by Chilli Morning). Our near neighbours, New Priory Stud, bought their outstanding show-jumping stallion WALDO VAN DUNGEN, and we are always pleased to host CHOLDERTON IXION, an exceptional Cleveland Bay stallion, who now has frozen semen for worldwide distribution. The evening also offered a thrilling opportunity to present our new TB stallion JAMHOORI – a very exciting breeding prospect for the future alongside our wonderful WELTON DOUBLE CRACKER and WINDSOR

In July we held a very successful Native Pony Breeding Seminar in collaboration with RBST. Delegates came from all over the UK, representing the majority of the Breed Societies, and enjoyed some fine presentations on various aspects of conservation work, as well as a much welcomed networking opportunity. Andy Dell spoke about his SPARKS project to improve genetic diversity and Lizzie Briant gave an illuminating presentation about her role with HM The Queen and her native ponies. Our stud vets, Kelly Harrison-Tait and Lucy Collins presented excellent papers about stallion and mare fertility issues and the recent advances in medical technologies that are now available to overcome them.

One of the challenges for our native equine breeds is finding a use for them and the seminar proved particularly useful in identifying new ways of utilising them, which will hopefully ensure their survival for years to come. In addition to our stud and foaling work, our team was kept busy collecting and shipping chilled semen from our standing stallions out to offsite mares. As always, our thanks and appreciation goes to our Stud Vets – Lucy Collins and Kelly Harrison-Tait of B&W Equine Vets, supported by Senior Partner Chris Shepherd, who did a fantastic job this season.

As some of you may already have heard, Tessa will be retiring and moving back home to Devon at the end of the year, although she will still consult for WKS. We can hardly believe that 25 years have passed since Tessa first joined us to help establish and develop WKS into one of the world’s leading non-TB studs. Harry Thirlby, who most of you know and who has been Tessa’s Assistant Manager over the last 5 years, will now take over the running of the stud and we wish him the best of luck.

We thought we would end with Tessa’s reflections on her time with WKS….

Over the last 25 years, over 1250 stallions have visited WKS and 750 foals have been born. It has been fascinating to work with such an enormous variety of sports horses across all disciplines, through Arabians for racing, endurance and showing and particularly rewarding to follow my passion for our Native breeds, literally working with all breeds great and small. It was an honour and privilege to work alongside Martin Boyle to develop the frozen export side of the business, and exceptionally rewarding to see it grow from our first export in 1996 (Shire and Exmoor to
Australia and USA) to our position today with an enviable international reputation as market leaders in AI both with frozen and chilled semen.

The world of horse breeding has seen many changes over the last 25 years – here are some of the standouts for me:-

  • The establishment of AI (in non TB racing studs) as one of the most important assets to the equine breeding industry both in the UK and overseas.
  • The vast improvement in the choice of bloodlines.
  • The advent of internet and how emails in particular have rapidly increased the efficiency of communications with importers.
  • The increasing knowledge of vets and the development of AI clinics, which has led to an improvement in conception rates.

As well as a couple of things that haven’t changed! :-

  • Stud fees haven’t kept pace with inflation.
  • Fertility of good breeding mares over the years has not changed – although the latest techniques mean that for “difficult and old mares” the conception rate is greatly improved.

Finally we would like to congratulate Tessa on her much deserved Unsung Hero Award, as received at the recent inaugural British Breeding Celebration Ball.

We hope you all have a peaceful Christmas and wish you all the very best for 2020. As ever, it would be great to see you here at any time if you are nearby.