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February 28, 2011

Paul Schockemöhle Discusses His Equine Empire

Photo by Karl-Heinz Frieler.

The new owner of Totilas reveals his thoughts on the status of U.S. dressage breeding, overall breeding philosophies and plans for his newest stallion.

Paul Schockemöhle estimates that he owns 3,500 horses, including 35 show jumping and dressage stallions, and employs more than 200 people. A three-time winner of the European Championships in show jumping as well as Olympic team bronze and silver medalist, he once trained world-class riders Ludger Beerbaum, Otto Becker and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum.

But despite all that, Schockemöhle, 65, is now best known for one act—the purchase of 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games triple gold medalist and world record holder Totilas last October.

While originally known for his show jumping breeding program, Schockemöhle has expanded his dressage influence over the last 30 years as he grew his empire. Based out of two farms, a training farm in Mühlen, Germany, and a stud farm in Neustadt-Glewe, Germany, Schockemöhle stands top-ranked dressage producers Sandro Hit, Don Schufro and Sir Donnerhall along with offering Totilas at an 8,000 Euro (more than $10,000) stud fee.

He also hosts an annual Performance Sales International Auction, featuring 25 dressage and 25 show jumping prospects. At the 2010 PSI Auction, the highest priced dressage horse, a 5-year-old Hanoverian stallion Riccidoff (Riccione—Don Sarina, Don Davidoff), sold for 680,000 Euros ($917,000) to U.S.-based breeder Betsy Juliano’s Havensafe Farm, where George Williams is head rider.

For the Chronicle’s inaugural Dressage Breeding issue, he agreed to answer some questions from staff writer Lisa Slade.

Lisa Slade: How did you get involved in breeding?

Paul Schockemöhle: I got into breeding 35 years ago on a low level, with just some mares. When the border opened, I bought a quite big farm in East Germany. Then I had the possibilities and facilities to go bigger. I didn’t want it originally in that scale, but it finally happened that I did a lot of embryo transfer, and I needed a lot of mares. We need quite a lot of horses, so that’s why I came to this stage of breeding. Like I said, the East Germany farm was bigger than I wanted originally, but it was near a highway and easy to get to.

I did it on a small scale with 15 mares for myself, just show jumping, originally. Then when I really opened up a stallion station we started with dressage stallions as well. We were quite lucky to get Sandro Hit in the first year. It started very quickly, and I think now everybody knows about our stallion station.

L.S.: What was your motivation behind buying Totilas? What’s your overall plan for him?

P.S.: Totilas is a special thing. I saw the horse for the first time at the [2009] European Dressage Championships in Windsor [Great Britain]. I really realized how good he was then. I had never seen a dressage horse like him in all my life. I fell in love with him. When I heard in the beginning of 2010 from insiders that the horse was probably for sale after the World Championships, I got into negotiations with the owner, and I bought him at the World Championships.

My overall plan is to breed him and have him for the sport also. I have a very good partner in Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff. Her stepson [Matthias Rath] is riding Totilas, and I think he’s a very good rider. They are co-owners now, and we do the whole thing together. We split the profits.

L.S.: What qualities do you look for when buying stallions? How much of it is their breeding and how much conformation or performance record?

P.S.: If I’m buying stallions, I believe that they can produce sport horses. Most of that is by their breeding. I think it’s important to have good bloodlines and very good performance and good conformation; all these things are important. Otherwise I believe that you will not succeed.

L.S.: Do you specifically breed horses for dressage or show jumping?

P.S.: All the mares I have, they are either specialists in dressage or jumping. I breed about 85 percent jumping mares and only 15 percent dressage, because many more horses are needed in the jumping, and many more people do show jumping than dressage.

L.S.: Do you breed hoping all will be international-quality Grand Prix horses or are you also breeding for lower level riders as well?

P.S.: We try to always get the specialists, but not every foal we breed will be a star. I would say we sell 50 percent of the horses we breed [about 700 foals a year] before we start riding them. Then the others we start riding, and I think we finally end up with 200 good horses a year. The others will be sold going in smaller classes and divisions, being nice riding horses and so on.

L.S.: How much of your breeding and sales business is done with Americans?

P.S.: In America, we don’t do as much business. We sell some frozen semen there, but I hope in the future we will sell more. We work all over the world, but in America there are not so many breeders for sporthorses. The whole American business has been Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and Standardbreds, that’s their bread and butter. A lot of European horses are still imported. The first time I was in America some 45 years ago, a lot of Thoroughbreds were ridden in show jumping, but they disappeared 100 percent.

They are breeding some good horses already in America, but most are imported from Europe and the mare stays here. I believe that will improve in the next 10 years.

Even with the auctions, we sell most of our horses privately. The horses we sell privately, 95 percent are sold out of Germany. They go to Spain, Italy, the Nether-lands, Denmark. They’re still mostly sold to Europe but some are going to the Middle East, Far East and Central America.

L.S.: Why do you think Sandro Hit is such a popular stallion today?

P.S.: I bought Sandro Hit as a foal. He was a very nice type and a very good mover. Knowing his mother [Loretta], who produced very, very good horses before and after him, the father [Sandro Song] I had myself, which I liked as well. Sandro [sire of Sandro Song] produced new lines in Germany in both jumping and dressage—dressage with Sandro Hit and jumping with Sandro Boy.

Sandro Hit produces very nice foals. They are all long-legged foals, all dark colors; there are normally no chestnuts by him. They are all good for the breeders. It is, in general, a smart thing breeding to him because the Sandro Hit foals are very easy to sell. He has already produced more than 10 Bundeschampions. Finally, I think he’s known all over the world. He produced a lot of nice horses, and they’re all very good to ride. I have three Sandro Hit sons, and they are nearly all fully booked. We try and have a lot of different bloodlines. That is one thing about Totilas—he is absolutely different bloodlines than other stallions we have.

L.S.: Do you worry the gene pool for dressage horses is getting too small?

P.S.: I don’t think the gene pool is too small. We have, especially in the last few years, seen new bloodlines that were quite successful, like the father of Totilas, Gribaldi. He unfortunately died last year, but I think we have quite a lot of different lines, and I think that’s important. At our farm, we have lines not only from Germany but also Denmark and especially the Netherlands. They are all mixed now, more or less.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. "Paul Schockemöhle's Equine Empire" ran in the Feb. 28, 2011 Dressage Breeding issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.