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Explosion W’s breeder Willy Wijnen: “All this time, I have thought about breeding as my hobby”

Tuesday, 01 February 2022
Interview

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
“35 years ago, I bought Barina and that is how the story of my breeding operation began," Willy Wijnen tells – here with Barina's grandson, the 2020 Olympic Champion Explosion W. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

World of Showjumping met Willy Wijnen, the breeder of Olympic Champion Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet Du Rouet), at home on Barina Plein in Berlicum, the Netherlands – a square named after no other than Explosion’s grandmother Barina.

In 1979, Wijnen – an engineer – started up a hydraulic company, which ended up very successful and had over 100 employees. To balance his busy days, Wijnen rode as a hobby, competing in both dressage and jumping. “35 years ago, I bought Barina and that is how the story of my breeding operation began. I am a very small breeder; I started with one mare and all the horses I have today are her offspring. It is a relatively small bloodline, but a strong one.”

At the moment, Wijnen has 15 horses and still thinks of them as a hobby. “Or maybe a bit more,” he smiles modestly. “Even though my parents had nothing to do with horses, I believe that horses have been in my blood. My grandfather had horses – not sport horses though, but working horses. He also bred cattle and was among the best in the country at this.”

Barina

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
World of Showjumping met Willy Wijnen, the breeder of Olympic Champion Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet Du Rouet), at home on Barina Plein in Berlicum, the Netherlands – a square named after no other than Explosion’s grandmother Barina. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

Wijnen bought Barina as a foal from his neighbour and the mare ended up carrying 17 foals, producing both dressage and jumping horses, among them six approved stallions – as well as Untouchable, the mother of 2020 Olympic Champion Explosion W. “I looked all over the world to find a good mare, but eventually found Barina at my neighbour’s place,” Wijnen tells. “She was expensive back then, I paid 3750 Guilders for her. In the beginning, I thought she perhaps was too small, but luckily, she got bigger as she grew older. She was not an easy horse to handle, but even today, her type would be good. I rode Barina in the woods – it was a daily moment that gave me so much. There were many people who wanted to buy her, but she was my horse, my hobby, and she passed away at home when she was 30.”

“I think for breeding and sport, Barina was one of the best horses from the Netherlands, maybe even in the world,” Wijnen continues. “It was her looks that first impressed me; her eyes and her frame – she had a strong foundation and was flexible in her body. She was an absolute top horse with three good gaits. I started to breed with Barina when she was four years old. I sold most of the foals, because I was busy with my company, but kept a few mares for myself. All this time, I have thought about breeding as my hobby. When I started, I had a very relaxed take on breeding; I had no time! It was not possible for me to do more with the horses. I used auctions to sell the foals, and many people came directly to me to buy.”

“If I would start now, I think I would make a better mix. In the past I used 70/30% dressage and jumping stallions on Barina, now I would do 50/50,” Wijnen continues. “We got many different types of horses out of this bloodline. What is important for me is sport, the looks don’t matter so much. I have tried to find stallions that have been successful in the sport; in jumping I prefer stallions that have performed well on 1.60m level and I like to use Diamant de Semilly, Chacco-Blue, Chianti’s Champion, Cumano… I keep a close eye on the young horses, but only breed with stallions that have already proven themselves in the sport.” 

Explosion W

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
"To me, it seems that Explosion is 85% like his mother. I think his mentality comes from Barina and Untouchable; the way he fights for his rider,” Wijnen says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“I saw Baloubet at the beginning of his career, with Nelson Pessoa,” Wijnen recalls when asked what made him choose Baloubet Du Rouet – Explosion W’s dam sire – for Barina. “Having seen Baloubet in the sport, I thought I had to have a foal from him. I was not convinced about his frame, but with Barina I had a very nice mare, and I believed the combination would be good. Baloubet had quality and length, Barina was a very strong horse with an unbelievable mentality.”

Combining Baloubet Du Rouet and Barina resulted in Untouchable, the mother of Explosion W – who herself jumped at 1.60m level. “Untouchable had an unbelievable character, she was a real fighter. Just like Barina, she was problematic to saddle break though; you needed patience with her, but when you took your time, everything turned out fine. She was an athletic horse with a top mentality. I would have liked her to be a bit more relaxed though. To me, it seems that Explosion is 85% like his mother. I think his mentality comes from Barina and Untouchable; the way he fights for his rider,” Wijnen says

“The first time I saw Chacco-Blue, I was not sure… but then I discovered the first generation of his foals, and they were excellent,” Wijnen tells about his choice of stallion for Untouchable.

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
"I follow him closely and we have a good relationship with Ben and his groom Cormac. Wherever Explosion competes, I watch," Wijnen tells. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

The early days with Explosion W was all about time, Wijnen tells. “Saddle breaking him took three and a half months. Later, he went to a rider, then back to the field, and then we continued step by step. I know it cost me money, but I did it anyway. As a young horse, I never wanted him to be competitive in a jump-off, but to only do relaxed rounds. I think every horse has a maximum of jumps in them, and starting their career slowly is important. I had a good future in mind for Explosion; I could see he had all the capability. Now, I follow him closely and we have a good relationship with Ben and his groom Cormac. Wherever Explosion competes, I watch.”

Explosion W is the results of the first embryo transfer that Wijnen did. “Now, I also use ICSI, with 85% the same blood as Explosion,” Wijnen says. “It is difficult to say how the breeding world will be affected by the new technologies. I think that the natural way perhaps still is the best way, but with some mares and stallions that is simply not possible. I believe we have a lot of new opportunities with ICSI. The foals that I have seen born with this technology all seem to be high quality. In the future, another step further will be the sexing of embryos. However, I do have my doubts about the quality of the horses – perhaps it will decrease, but only time will tell. In the end I think the world is big enough and there are a lot of riders: We do need a lot of horses!”

Strong dam-lines and successful stallions

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
“When you start as a young breeder, it is so important to begin with a good mare," Wjinen says. Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

“In my opinion, the damline counts for 70% of everything you do,” Wijnen says. “When you start as a young breeder, it is so important to begin with a good mare. You should focus on a bloodline with a good character, a big heart, flexibility in the body and willingness to work. However, a good mare is hard to find – I know many good bloodlines, but the best mares are not for sale,” Wijnen says.

“When I look at a jumping stallion, I want to know how they were when they were three and four”, Wijnen continues. “Many good riders can make a good horse. When I go to a stallion for breeding, I look at their bloodline, their frame, how they looked when they were very young back when they first started their sport career. Also, I look at the first generation from each stallion – it is very important in my opinion. I follow the young horses closely; are they big enough, are they flexible, how is their mentality, how is their frame work? And they have to have good feet. And eyes! In the end, the final choices I make are mostly based on a feeling I get. I go to stallion approvals and young horse competitions with my good friends Sjefrie van Esch and Jos van Schijndel and we compare what we see, and we talk a lot. For me, attitude and mentality are the two most important factors. When you have two cups of boiling water and you combine them, the water doesn’t get any hotter, does it? I believe it is the same with horses.”

“It is difficult to tell if a young stallion will be good,” Wijnen says about the current stallion approval system where horses as young as two-and-a-half-year-olds are judged. “What can you tell about a stallion on hand? Not much,” Wijnen continues. “It is possible for a young stallion to be spectacular in free jumping and do nothing in sport later on, and vice versa. For me, it is important to start the young horses slowly and I believe stallion approvals should be later on, under the saddle and last a maximum of 20 days – not more. I think it would be better for the horses. Right now, it all goes too fast for the young stallions. Today, if you breed with a very young stallion and after a few years it does nothing in sport, you have ruined a bloodline; in my opinion it is better to wait and see how the stallions perform.”

Management is the basis of top sport

Photo © Nanna Nieminen/WoSJ
“I start each day with my horses,” Wijnen says. “Every day, you should look at the horses yourself." Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

When it comes to successful horse management, Wijnen believes daily control is key. “Management is so important – you have to have control over the horses every single day,” Wijnen says. “I think good management is the basis of top sport; if you look at how Ben manages his horses, this is a proof of how it brings good results.”

“I start each day with my horses,” Wijnen continues. “Every day, you should look at the horses yourself. I am the one who gives the horses food here and no one else, and I check them myself. My horses have a healthy frame, and they are out all the time. They might be dirty, but they are out in all kind of weather. I believe this helps them staying healthy and keeps the vet away."

“However, I do believe there is still room for improvement in my own breeding program,” Wijnen closes off. 

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping.com

 



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