Capitol, a global force in breeding

Credit : Werner and Tammo Ernst

Friday 01 February - 09h55 | Sébastien Roullier and Adriana Van Tilburg (translated by Ian Clayton)

Capitol, a global force in breeding

Born in 1975 near Hamburg, Capitol I produced a multitude of males and females who shone in competition before going on to make a lasting impact on the worldwide breeding of show jumping horses. His legacy is such that in 2017, he was present in the pedigree of 16 of the 100 best sires of international winners. Below, part 1 of a profile of this emperor of breeding. 

 - Capitol, a global force in breeding

Since 2008, a statue of Capitol has graced the garden of Ingela and Harm Thormählen.

Holsteiner breeding is famous for its damline number system called Stamm. The first mare book dates back to 1897, and this system, meticulously developed by Georg Ahsbahs, is still being used today. Since then, certain Stamms have become famous, like 18B1, which produced the stallions Roman (Ramzès, AA x Monarch, AA), his brother Farn (Fax I) and Quantum (Quidam de Revel x Cor de la Bryère), 104A, from which come the great winners Retina (Ramzès, AA x Lopshorn) and Corradina 2 (Corrado I x Sandro) and the stallions Capitano (Corporal and Retina) and Corland (Cor de la Bryère x Landgraf I), as well as 162, which produced the sires Carthago (Capitol I x Calando I) and Canturo (Cantus x Calando I),the 776 of Ramiro (Raimond x Cottage Son, Ps) and the 890 of Casall (Caretino x Lavall I) and Berlin (Cassini I x Caretino), without forgetting the 173,from which comes a certain Capitol I (Capitano x Maximus).

This maternal line is the masterwork of Rheder Thormählen and his son Harm, based in Kollmar, 50 kilometres north of Hamburg. Rappel (Heinzelmann x Lorbeer), the great-grandmother of Capitol I, was born in 1939. Saved from the butcher at the end of the 1950s by Rheder, she earned a reputation for jumping over fences around the pasture. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that Rappel was capable of passing on those jumping qualities to her offspring. Indeed, her son Romanus (Ramzès, XX) won a silver medal with the great German rider Hans Günther Winkler at the European Championships in Aachen in 1961, as well as in London in 1962, and was twice the highest-earning German Jumping horse. “Rappel was beautiful – she looked like a Thoroughbred and could jump really well,” recalls Harm.“She had blood, was very intelligent and had a very good character. I competed with her as a child and won right away even though she was already 23 years old. She had five foals with us, but afterwards we could not get her in foal anymore and I started riding her in competition.”

Rappel also gave birth to Romanus’ full sister, Vase, the grandmother of Capitol I, whom Rheder Thormählen always wished to keep despite many offers to sell. Crossed with Maximus (Manometer, XX x Heilbutt), she produced Folia, mother of the future leading sire, and her full brother Maurus. “It was a very good horse, very light with an excellent jumping ability,” recalls Harm Thormählen. As the son of Folia and Capitano (officially from Corporal, although this paternity is disputed), one finds the Anglo-Arab Ramzès (Rittersporn, XX x 532 Shagya X-3, Shag) twice at the third level of Capitol’s pedigree. In Germany, Ramzès was one of the most important sport horse producers after World War II. Retina (Ramzès x Lopshorn), the mother of Capitano, became an international Jumping horse with the German rider Fritz Thiedemann, winning the prestigious Hamburg Derby in 1959 when she was only seven years old! “Through Capitol I, we brought together two very solid maternal lines, that of Retina and that of Folia,” says the proud breeder.

Dedicated from an early age to breeding

Dedicated from an early age to breeding - Capitol, a global force in breeding

Cumano and the Belgian Jos Lansink at the Aachen World Equestrian Games in 2006.
Credit : Scoopdyga

Folia produced no less than six approved stallions: Capitol I and his full brothers Capitol II and III, Cellebrio (Caletto II) and Latus I and II (Landgraf I). It should be noted that U-Capitola, full sister of Capitol, gave rise to her own branch, from which are issued, among others, Quite Easy I, II and III (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I) and their half-brother Casir (Cor de la Bryère), who competed up to the 1.60m level with Denmark’s Lars Pederson. Receiving the Elite label, he was elected Stallion of the Year in 2008 by the Danish studbook DWB. For its part,the sire line of Capitol I can be traced back to the Thoroughbred Cottage Son (Young Lover x Cottage). His son Codex (Holst, x Lothario) was sold in Belgium, where he began a brilliant career in 1965. Sire of numerous winners, he is also the damsire of the famous Darco (BWP, Lugano van la Roche).

Capitol I’s initiation was entrusted to the German Sören von Rönne, an international show jumping rider based in Neuendeich, a few kilometres south of Kollmar. “Irode him long before he became famous!”, recalls the Team gold and Individual bronze medallist from the World Equestrian Games in 1994 in The Hague with Taggi (Holst, Landgraf I x Benedictus). “He stood at a stallion station in Elmshorn [between Neuendeich and Kollmar – ed.] and the Holsteiner Verband said they needed another stallion for the presentation in Neumunster. So Irode him in Elmshorn and saw a few jumps and immediately wanted to jump with him. He was incredible – you cantered up to the obstacle and he was completely focused on you and the jump. He had a lot of scope and a good jump, and he gave you a very secure feeling and wasn’t spooked by anything.”

Bought by the Verband, the stallion quickly dedicated himself to breeding at several stations in Germany. “Capitol covered the biggest number of mares during the period when he was available for natural breeding,” notes Harm Thormählen.“Small, energetic mares suited him best,” adds Sören von Rönne. “We can see that clearly with Cassini I and Cento, from daughters of Caletto II, Carthago, from a daughter of Calando I, and Clearway, from Wodka II (Lord). For my part, I crossed Capitol with Kantara (Grandioso x Ladykiller, XX), the mare I rode in Juniors, which gave me one of my biggest winners: Cantaro, who topped the World Rankings in 2002.” Cantaro is just one of the many elite sons of Capitol.

According to Theo Molenaers, a horse dealer, trainer and breeder with more than 40 years of experience in the Show Jumping world,“the descendants of Capitol I were synonymous with quality, practicality, power and a very good character. During the time when Capitol I’s foals were rising in the sport, he was very much in demand – in Germany as in Switzerland and Belgium. He produced a lot of good and very good horses. At one point, almost the whole Swiss team descended from Capitol! And his influence is still very strong in worldwide breeding. For me, Capitol I is one of the cornerstones of Holsteiner breeding.”

Dr. Thomas Nissen, general director of the Holsteiner Verband, does not disagree: “For Holsteiners, we have used Capitol I a lot. He has passed on his power, style, willingness, confidence and ease of handling to his descendants. Crosses with the blood of Cor de la Bryère (SF, Rantzau, XX x Lurioso), and especially with his sons Caletto (x Consul) and Calando (x Colombo x Cottage Son, XX) have brought out the best of these strong points. For example, Caletto II, who was very sensitive and energetic, mixed well with the sang-froid and easy-going nature of Capitol I. From this combination we got Cassini I and Cento.” 

A lineage which has spread across Europe

A lineage which has spread across Europe - Capitol, a global force in breeding

Berlin and the Dutch rider Gerco Schröder at the European Championships in Mannheim in 2007.
Credit : Scoopdyga

As a true leading sire, the grey has seen many of his sons approved. And numerous Holsteiner breeders have made use of Cassini I, a top performer at the highest level with Germany’s Franke Sloothaak. This grey is notably the sire of Cumano (x Landgraf I), partner of the Belgian Jos Lansink, Individual gold medallist at the Aachen WEG in 2006 and father to numerous very good horses, particularly in France. During those same Games, the Netherlands’ Gerco Schröder was a Team gold medallist with Berlin (x Caretino), who also shone in breeding. Cassini also produced Rosalia la Silla (x Contender), fifth in the London Olympic Games with the Mexican Alberto Michán Halbinger, the stallion Carambole (x Concerto II), a great winner with the Dutch rider Willem Greve, Cassinis Chaplin (x Cascavelle), excellent with Great Britain’s John Whitaker, Connaught (x Sir Shostakovich, Ps) very good with Germany’s Thorsten Wittenberg and the Egyptian Mohamed Talaat, Cassionato (x Quidam de Revel), a very good team horse for British rider Michael Whitaker,the stallion Cabrio van de Heffinck (x Calato), a big winner with Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts, Cassino DC (x Reichsgraf), very good with Spain’s Gerardo Menendez Mieres, as well as Vienna Olympic (x Contender), excellent with the Qatari Sheikh Ali Al Thani. Outside of Holsteiners, one can cite Equita van’t Zorgvliet (BWP, x Darco), ultra-competitive with Germany’s Daniel Deusser, and Juvina (AWÖ, x Grannus), exceptional with the American Georgina Bloomberg.

And while the blood of Capitol I has considerably advanced Holsteiner breeding, it has also contributed to other studbooks. As an example, Sweden’s SWB grew thanks to Cardento (x Lord) – “the best son of Capitol I,” according to Harm Thormählen –, Team silver medallist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and 2002 WEG in Jerez de la Frontera with Sweden’s Peter Eriksson. He notably produced H&M Cue Channa 42 (x Robin I) and Zacramento (x Cortus), European Team runners-up for Sweden last year in Gothenburg with Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Douglas Lindelöw, Flip’s Little Sparrow, the daughter of the fantastic Butterfly Flip (SWB, Robin I), excellent with their compatriots Peder Fredricson and Stephanie Holmén, Nice Stephanie (x Ralmé), a big winner with France’s Pénélope Leprevost, Matrix (x Maximus), very good with Swedish rider Lisen Bratt-Fredricson and Argentinean José Maria Larocca, Cafino (x Roderik), a big winner with Swede Alexander Zetterman as well as Caramell KS (x Flyinge Electro), very good with his compatriot Svante Johansson. Cardento is also the father of Check Picobello (Z, x Orlando van de Heffinck), very successful with Canadian Eric Lamaze and the stallions Quarto Mail (SF, x Alligator Fontaine) and Ares (KWPN, x Zandigo), who is competing atthe highest level with Mexico’s Nicolas Pizarro.

For its part, the KWPN has regularly made use of C-Indoctro (x Caletto II), who has rewarded it with numerous champions, including Nassau (x Sovereign Bill, XX), Individual and Team bronze medallist at the European Championships in San Patrignano in 2005 with Netherland’s Jeroen Dubbeldam, Arera C (mother by Voltaire), a great winner with his teammate Maikel van der Vleuten, Imothep (x Calvados, ex-Sable Rose), excellent with Irish rider Darragh Kenny, Picolien Zeldenrust (x Concorde), a big winner with Brazilian Doda de Miranda, Cas 2 (x Numero Uno), in full ascension with Dutch rider Harrie Smolders, Valentino Velvet (x Burggraaf), very good with the Frenchman Simon Delestre, Nike (x Octrooi), excellent with Grégory Wathelet and Katharina Offel when they were representing Ukraine and with Doda de Miranda, Unique (x Voltaire), very competitive with the Saudi Arabian Abdullah Al Sharbatly, VDL Oramé (x Ramiro), very good with the Netherlands’ Jur Vrieling, as well as Zaire (x Marlon), a solid winner with British rider Guy Williams. Not to forget that Indoctro also gave BWP Hello M’Lady (ex-Picobello Gwindeline, x Baloubet du Rouet), one of the highest-earning horses with Great Britain’s Scott Brash. Part 2 next week. 

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