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Pieter Devos and Klaas De Coster: “Open access to the best genes in the world will benefit breeding and sport as a whole”

Monday, 20 April 2020
Interview

Photo © Mares of Macha
"We want to differentiate ourselves by being exclusive in the quality of our collection, not in our prices. At the end of the day, there will be more top horses, and that is to everyone’s advantage,” Pieter Devos tells about the project 'Mares of Macha'. Photo © Mares of Macha.

 

Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

 


 

In breeding, the importance of a good mare is a well-known fact. However, gaining access to one can be difficult. That was, until the beginning of April 2020 when the ambitious project ‘Mares of Macha’ launched. The concept has been developed by a group of close-knit equine enthusiasts – Pieter Devos, Klaas De Coster and Frederik De Backer – who aim to give breeders world-wide access to frozen embryos from a selection of outstanding mares. World of Showjumping had a talk with Devos and De Coster to learn more about their passion-fueled project.

“There are of course proven stallions that again and again produce really good offspring, but the mare is 70% of the breeding,” De Coster begins when talking about the background for this project. “If you look at the black-type pedigrees the good mares keep producing with all types of stallions. If you can pinpoint one common denominator when it comes to successful breeding, it is the mare and the damline.”

“With our project we aim to offer breeders access to mares with the very best bloodlines in the world. We select the mares based on performance, offspring and damline, with the aim to open an outstanding gene-pool to everyone. Access for all to proven breeding is at the core of what we do. As a breeder, you can upgrade and choose something new for your breeding program,” De Coster says.

All the frozen embryos on offer at ‘Mares of Macha’ are produced using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), an equine reproductive method that has been commercially available for less than five years. “I believe this is the method for the future,” Devos says. “When it comes to the risks involved in the ovum pick-up (OPU), it all depends on where it is done and who is doing it – that is why we went to Italy with our project. The Italians are the pioneers in this field.”

“In Italy, they have been doing ICSI for 13 years,” De Coster says. “It is Dr. Cesare Galli himself doing the OPU on our mares – there is nobody more experienced in this method than him”, De Coster tells about the Italian scientist, with his own Avantea-laboratory in Cremona, Italy.

“As a reproductive method, ICSI is also very beneficial when it comes to the stallion selection,” De Coster fills in. “We can use stallions like Chacco Blue or Heartbreaker. With other methods, this is nearly impossible. The fact that all ICSI embryos are frozen, is another advantage for us; shipping and implanting them after they are sold is simple. If you buy a frozen embryo from us, we can keep it stored for up to a year, and ship it whenever you have a recipient mare available. We focus on all the pros and believe that this is the future of breeding.”

Photo © Mares of Macha
“With our project we aim to offer breeders access to mares with the very best bloodlines in the world. We select the mares based on performance, offspring and damline, with the aim to open an outstanding gene-pool to everyone," Klaas De Coster explains. Photo © Mares of Macha.

“Bringing something completely new to the market might lead to people questioning what we are doing and we accept this,” Devos says. “In the future, my own mares are going to be a part of this project and I want them to be safe,” he continues. “When I joined the project, I first wanted to make sure that we find the best options for the mares – and tackle the rest after. The welfare of our mares is the most important in this project."

“There have been a lot of people doing this before us,” De Coster points out. “However, no one has been doing it on this scale – with these kinds of mares. Funky Music, Werly Chin De Muze and Goya – all of them have really good offspring and that is why they are with us. Mares chosen based on their sport careers include Arera C, Sancha LS and VDL Groep Eureka. Now everyone can have easy access to mares of this caliber.”

With exceptional mares as their foundation, ‘Mares of Macha’ is named after a goddess in Irish mythology, which is often represented with a foal – illustrating the pivotal role of the project’s mares. With 14 MoM’s already included, Devos and De Coster are open to widen their offer. “Of course, we are open for further exclusive mares to join our platform,” Devos says. “However, they must be something really special. We are not looking to become the platform for thousands of mares. We have our criteria that the mares must meet; either in sport, through their damline or through their offspring. In the best case, they have all those factors combined.” 

“We want to offer exclusive breeding material, at set and transparent prices – to everyone”, Devos explains. “Our frozen embryos are unsexed, and all of them will be offered through our website – we don’t keep any for ourselves. We want to differentiate ourselves by being exclusive in the quality of our collection, not in our prices. At the end of the day, there will be more top horses, and that is to everyone’s advantage.” 

“I do the top sport and I know what is needed to jump at the highest level,” Devos – currently ranked number four in the world – continues. “And I also know how difficult it is to find the right horses! That is why ‘Mares of Macha’ is a concept I believe in. I think that the higher the quality is on the young horses that enter the market, the better it is for us riders and for the top sport. Of course, I would hope that some of these horses will find their way back to me in the future. However, I want to create this opportunity for everyone – not only for myself. We want to bring the standard higher, in both breeding and in sport.” 

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

 



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