Breeding Uncovered: Willy Wijnen – Breeder of Ben Maher’s Explosion W

Aachen, Germany – April 15, 2021 – In this edition of Breeders Uncovered, we speak to KWPN – Royal Dutch Sport Horse (Dutch Warmblood) 2019 Breeder of the Year, Willy Wijnen, who is responsible for producing British show jumper, Ben Maher’s (GBR) exceptional gelding, Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet).

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

When I was young, I remember my grandfather, who was in the military, he started spending more time around horses, but not show jumping or dressage horses, these were work horses. I can’t remember a specific memory, but I remember when horses became part of my life, and that was thanks to my grandfather, when I was around eight years old. For as long as I can remember, horses have been my life.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

My proudest moment of my equestrian career was when Barina (grandmother of Explosion W) was four years old, when she competed in the national championship in Utrecht. She ended up coming third, but I was incredibly proud. It was an amazing moment, especially considering I was a very small breeder at the time. Marianne Van Rixtel was the rider, and it was a wonderful performance, from both of them, as in this time, Barina was both a jump horse and a dressage horse.

How did you get into the breeding side of the sport?

I was looking to breed Barina, as she was a magnificent mare. I invested a lot of money and time into the best stallions, I would travel around Holland, Germany and France, going to all these stallion shows. I was looking for a horse that would be a really good combination with Barina.

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.?

The first question I would ask, is whether the stallion would fit well with the bloodline of Barina, as well as what the history of the stallion’s mother line looked like. The stallion is obviously very important, but I believe that the mother line is even more important.

Has there ever been a time when pairings have had unexpected results?

It has happened, but there is not a lot of rhyme or reason. I often get calls from people, asking for good information about breeding for their mares, which I cannot do, as I don’t know the intricacies of that specific mare, as every horse is different, so it’s very difficult for me to comment on whether it would be a good combination, without knowing the bloodline of the horse. On a more personal note, of Barina’s 17 progeny, nine of them are top horses, competing at national and international top level dressage and show jumping, and nine of them have gone on to be very good mares for breeding. She also has very good offspring including five approved stallions.

The partnership between horse and rider is clearly important; is that something you’re looking for when you sell to new owners?

I have some quite complex feelings and thoughts about the horses, I look in their eyes and then I look at their frame and their base. This helps me determine whether it would be a good rider and horse match-up.

How long do you keep the foal before it goes on to its next home?

In the beginning, when I had my company, a lot of the foals would go straight away to another owner, as I had no time for them. I had time for the breeding side of things, but not for nurturing the foals, breaking them in and their future. Nowadays, things are different, I have a lot more time to take care of all aspects of the process, but I’m not at a point where I’m interested in selling many of my foals. Explosion W was sold when he was seven years old, I knew he was a very good horse but he needed some time, so he could develop. So my rider, Mareille de Veer, spent a couple of years in training with him and know he is now one of the best jumping horses in the world.

How many horses are you breeding during the year?

I usually breed around six or seven each year.

Which homebred horses are you most proud of?

I am very proud of Explosion W, but he is not the only horse I’m proud of. I also have a half-sister of Explosion W called Zarina III, she is the offspring of Heartbreaker x Baloubet du Rouet. She is a breeding mare and her offspring is amazing. Every rider in the world would love her offspring!

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think it has been very important for the riders and the sport. The Rolex Grand Slam really is an incredible programme, with some beautiful shows.

Out of the four Majors that make up the of Show Jumping, which of them is your favourite, and why?

Aachen. It’s difficult to put it into words, it’s just the most amazing show. Everything about the show is brilliant, the people, the facilities, the show itself.

What is your main ambition with your career in breeding horses?

My biggest ambition in breeding is to breed a horse that competes at sport at the top level. For every breeder, having a horse they bred competing in the Olympics, is the ultimate dream.

Who has inspired you the throughout your career?

I’ve been heavily inspired by the VDL stud in the north of Holland – I’ve always admired the way they do things up there. I have horses with them, such as approved stallion Liamant W (Diamand de Semmily x Heartbreaker x Baloubet du Rouet), and a young stallion called Power Blue W (Chacco Blue x  Heartbreaker x Baloubet du Rouet).

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The best piece of advice I’ve been given, and that I could give too, is when you start with breeding, start with a good bloodline, that is willing to work and is in good health including good x-rays. The bloodline should have a lot of sporting history and quality in it, as having this will allow a breeder to lay the groundwork for their whole operation. The mother line is the most important aspect, I think it’s worth around 60 or 70 per cent of the focus, with the other 30 to 40 per cent going to the stallion.

Source: Press release from Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping

Photo: © Rolex Grand Slam