Geneva, Switzerland – March 16, 2021 – In this edition of Breeders Uncovered, we speak to Margrith and Florian Noël from “Le Thot” Stud, which is located in Normandy, France – www.elevage-du-thot.com. We would also like to thank Judith Noël for making the interview possible.
What is your earliest equestrian memory?
My father was part of the Swiss Cavalry, and each member had their own saddle and horse at home. I was young, and when his horse had gone, he used to hang his saddle at the bottom of the stairs. Me, being the young child I was, at around four or five, I used to spend a lot of time climbing up on this saddle and pretending to go horse riding.
I was born around horses and having two older sisters, who were passionate about horse riding, my parents always wanted me to follow in their footsteps. On Wednesdays or Saturdays, my parents would force me to prepare a horse or a pony, by brushing them, but I really didn’t like doing it. I learnt to ride when I was young, as this was the ‘normal’ thing to do when you’re young in our family. I always went with my sisters to camps during the summer, where we did a lot of riding, and other activities. Each time we went, I’d bring my bicycle, so I’d actually end up spending more time cycling around the equestrian centre than horse riding. I also had a friend that owned a pony, and we used to race each other in fields and on the beach. So, we spent more time racing than doing equestrian.
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
For us as a family, it was Ideo du Thot, a horse who won the World Cup in Las Vegas in 2007. To have a horse of his level, that was truly exceptional, a true one-of-a-kind horse. This was an incredibly proud moment for us. As a mother, it has made me very proud to have three children who are passionate about riding, and when they compete on our own horses that we’ve raised, that makes me especially proud.
How did you get into the breeding side of the sport?
It all started when I married Jean-Francois Noël, whose father was very involved in breeding horses. His father was a Normand cattle breeder, who also had a few mares, and he started getting involved when he was very young, breaking-in the horses. We developed the business little by little, buying a few foals, and trying to develop them, and by crossing them with our own bloodlines. This was how the breeding business grew, and it was like this that we bought the bloodline of Ideo, which we then crossed with ours, which enabled us to continue to grow. It’s interesting to see how far we’ve come, because we started just the two of us, with three horses; that was 35 years ago, and now we have been able to become a well-performing and large breeder.
Could you summarise what the main elements of breeding a top show jumping horse are, what is the background behind it, how do you decide which pairings to breed, etc.?
It’s a mixture between physical and mental attributes, and the horse’s education. The horse has to be well raised, well-fed, and very mentally strong. The breaking-in of the horse, and the development is also integral in breeding a top-class horse. It’s also very important to have a good base, which facilitates having horses that are straightforward to ride, and straightforward mentally. It’s very central to have a good mare, because once you have a good mare, then the choice of father is wide open, so it’s most vital to get the choice of mother right.
Has there ever been a time when pairings have had unexpected results?
Yes, Samourai du Thot, who was once the best French eventing horse on the world rankings. This horse came from a mix that we didn’t believe would amount to such a world-class horse. The mother was a good, complete horse, but not a particularly well-known horse, but a horse that had a lot of sense; we paired her with Milor Landais, and this led to a real surprise in Samourai du Thot.
We sometimes try to get stallions that don’t necessarily tick all of our boxes, that are sometimes quite ordinary. This gives us the opportunity to do something different, like mixing them with pure bloods, Anglo-Arabs, to really get something unique.
The partnership between horse and rider is clearly important; is that something you’re looking for when you sell to new owners, or when they ride the horses themselves?
It is something that we look for, but often, the way the market and the industry works, that’s not something that we have full control over. We do a lot of business with traders, so this makes things complicated sometimes, when there could be a client who doesn’t fit well with the horse, we can’t take the horse back and replace it with another, because when we have 12-15 foals, they’re all different.
We do try to produce and develop horses that are easy to ride and deal with, as lots of people are searching for more or less the same thing in a horse. They’re looking for a high quality, chic, well-ridden horse, scope as the more well-ridden a horse is, the easier it is to work with. So, we try to produce the best horse for our clients, and we try our best that they arrive to them in the best possible condition.
Can you share some behind the scenes insights into your breeding programme?
There are a number of important factors, such as good mothers, good cross-breeding, and diversity. The horses that we think have a high sporting pedigree, we sometimes keep until they are six years old, before we do the embryo transfer. We also raise the horses all in the same way, to try and get the best out of them. That’s the method that we use, but there are times when we have to adapt to all the different horses and their needs.
How long do you keep the foal before it goes on to its next home or before you break it in?
We can sell certain foals when they are still with their mother, it’s rare but it does happen. We break them in during the winter, when they are between two or three years old. So right now, they are pretty much all broken-in. To test them a little bit, we get them to jump two or three times by themselves, and they are mounted a few times. This gives us a real insight into what the temperament of the horse is, and to know what the horse will be like later on. In the spring, we will start putting them all on grass, and collect them back in next September, at the end of year three. At this point in time, we are in a point of selection, we are doing the first competitions at three years old, the first presentations, and then the trading starts, as soon as the veterinary visits have been completed. There are horses that were sold already during winter, but we try to sell them on a case by case basis, some horses are ready, but we keep some slightly longer, as they are still very young.
How many horses are you breeding during the year?
We have on average 30 each year, but roughly half of those are ours, and then half of them are from other owners, mainly international.
What is your main ambition with your career in breeding horses?
To continue to increase the quality of our horses, year on year.
Which homebred horses are you most proud of?
It’s definitely Ideo du Thot, but he’s getting a bit older. This year, we have Diaz du Thot, who is with Constant Van Paesschen, and Diadem du Thot, who is with Laura Kraut in the United States, who we hope will get to the top, like Ideo did.
Aside from breeding, what are your other ambitions and aspirations?
As we live next to the sea, we have a lot of horses that come here for a thalassotherapy programme (on rehabilitation from injury or on pure enjoyment). We’ve had some very good horses come here, such as Paille de la Roque from Steve Guerdat. We’re always striving to improve this side of the programme, and we’re also continuously trying to develop the sporting side of things with our young horses, as it’s very fulfilling to create value out of our young horses, when they are just four, five or six years old, and it’s also amazing to get some real performances out of them.
For us as breeders, and as a family of five, we are always trying to improve our knowledge, communication, our structure and our organisation. There are a number of people working here now, and we want it to be a nice place to work. It’s a family business, and breeding is our passion, it’s what we live for.
How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?
They are four legendary competitions, and we dream to have a horse compete in them. It’s thanks to the sponsors, like Rolex, that these competitions have become so notorious, and that they have such a worldwide visibility. It’s always a pleasure to go and watch horses compete on such nice grass arenas, like Aachen.
We go to the competition in Geneva every year, as it happens in December, which is always less busy for us. So, it’s a bit of a winter treat for us, to go to Geneva and see old friends. They are without a doubt the best competitions in the world, so we watch all of them, whether that’s in person, or on TV.
Out of the four Majors that make up the of Show Jumping, which of them would you like to go to most, and why?
We dream of going to Aachen, it’s the pinnacle of our sport. We also love going to Geneva as a family, it’s the closest one out of the four to our heart.
Who is your biggest inspiration? Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?
I was in England with William Funnell, working on his stud farm. I found it inspiring, that he bred just as many foals as us, and brought value to the process of breeding young horses. He also is part of the Great Britain national team, so he is a real inspiration, but the most inspiring thing I take from him, is that he brings value from the very beginning of the breeding process, to the very end.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I was told one day that we should all go and work together as a family, as there is a common ground between us. We all shared the same passion, yet we didn’t always get along, so I was told that it would be really good for us to all work together.
I was also told that no matter what you do, do it to the best of your ability.
Source: Press Release From Rolex Grand Slam
Photos: © Élevage du Thot via Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping