A study of this successful Danish dressage horse's lineage

Atterupgaards Cassidy (Caprimond X Doreen) is a 15-year-old chestnut gelding who has competed internationally since 2011. Cassidy’s long-time partner, Cathrine Dufour of Denmark, has ridden him to two European Young Rider Championships, in open CDI events and right along to the 2016 Olympics, where they placed 13th individually. Since the Olympics, the team has remained highly competitive and is ranked third in the world as of this writing.

cassidy danish warmblood bloodlines

Atterupgaard, a breeding farm in central Denmark, is owned and operated by Michael and Kristine Munch Sinding. Their breeding program has achieved international acclaim in the dressage world. In fact, three Atterupgaard-bred horses competed in the Rio Olympics: Cassidy with Dufour, Atterupgaards Orthilia with Fiona Bigwood (UK) and Smeyers Molberg with Marcela Krinke Susmelj (Switzerland). Olympic success placed these horses high in the FEI rankings for dressage, which put three horses from the same breeder in the top 25 simultaneously for the first time ever.

Atterupgaards Cassidy, a 15-year-old Danish Warmblood, and Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour have been together since 2010. (Arnd Bronkhorst - arnd.nl)

Atterupgaards Cassidy, a 15-year-old Danish Warmblood, and Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour have been together since 2010. (Arnd Bronkhorst - arnd.nl)

Thomas Back Jensen, press officer for the Danish Warmblood Studbook (DWB), says the success of the Danish studbook can be traced back to the four pillars the studbook was built upon: “Above all, our stallion managers’ have great vision for the future and this guides them again and again in selecting the most interesting bloodlines from abroad for Denmark. The other three pillars are successful breeders, strong dam lines firmly established over the years and a proven, functioning selection system.” Sinding’s breeding strategy exemplifies this philosophy and it is deeply reflected in Cassidy’s pedigree: Take note that his sire, Caprimond, is a Trakehner while his mother, Doreen, is a Hanoverian of exceptional breeding.

DWB approaching breeding with science

Dr. Maren Engelhardt, an internationally recognized expert in Trakehner sport-horse history and bloodlines, elaborates: “I read Cassidy’s pedigree as a tried and proven cross. A Trakehner stallion crossed with Donnerhall and Pik Bube I blood has worked very well many times.”

Here, we see legendary Trakehner sire, Caprimond, crossed with proven broodmare, Doreen, a Hanoverian who is by Donnerhall and out of a Pik Bube I mare.

According to Engelhardt, this “golden recipe” of Donnerhall X Pik Bube I is represented in a long list of highly successful performance horses and sires of performance horses (including Don Frederico, Heike Kemmer’s Olympic gold-medal partner Bonaparte and many more). Engelhardt adds: “What I find very encouraging in Cassidy’s pedigree is that both sire and dam are long gone, but they have produced modern horses who can really shine at today’s upper levels of dressage despite what some would call old-fashioned conformation. [Though refined, Caprimond had a shorter, more powerful build than many of today’s dressage sires and Doreen was a more heavily built mare.] The inner traits both Caprimond and Donnerhall were famous for—willingness to work, ability to perform and mental health—are priceless and all too often totally overlooked in our modern sport-horse world, where higher, faster and flashier seem to be all the rage.”

In addition to these “priceless” traits, Caprimond is known for siring horses who have a talent for dressage and well-formed, refined heads and necks. “When I look at Cassidy’s pedigree, another thought I have is that a moderate dose of inbreeding can be a really good thing, and Caprimond is a great example of that,” said Engelhardt. He is referring to Trakehner stallion Flaneur, who we see twice on Caprimond’s side of the pedigree. Flaneur was a consistent stallion known for passing on good overall performance capability and temperament.

Karina Christiansen, breeding advisor for DWB, says, “Caprimond has an inbreeding degree of 2.03 percent because of Flaneur appearing twice in his pedigree. But it’s important to note that Caprimond is totally unrelated to Cassidy’s dam, Doreen. Cassidy himself is an example of outcrossing (with an inbreeding degree of 0), as you will not find the same genes on the sire and dam side of his pedigree.” Christiansen says generally the DWB tries to avoid inbreeding because of the risk of concentrating genes related to negative traits. She points out that inbreeding is more common in the Trakehner studbook because the registry is closed. (More about the Trakehner registry and history in the July issue.)

Engelhardt says Cassidy’s pedigree also demonstrates that a good amount of Thoroughbred blood remains relevant in modern breeding. “Caprimond came from a stallion line founded by Arogno, a 50 percent English Thoroughbred, via his dam and with significant Arabian blood via his sire Flaneur [a direct grandson of the great Arabian Fetysz ox]. Arogno has a long-standing reputation of excellence in producing upper-level dressage horses, especially when crossed with Hanoverians. I think that’s what we see here—he provided much refinement, improving on the solid Hanoverian mare base. Cassidy’s pedigree and performance are just an extension of this.” The dam side of Cassidy’s pedigree also contains some English Thoroughbred (Manolete and Pik As). Engelhardt explains, “The ability to ‘connect’ blood influence within the pedigree usually yields very good results and somewhat diminishes the risk of producing an unforeseeable result, which is more likely to occur, genetically speaking, when crossing two extremes [such as a draft with a Thoroughbred].” In Caprimond and subsequently Cassidy, we see consolidation of the positive traits of their Thoroughbred ancestors.

Cassidy’s dam is also an extremely special horse who has had a major influence not only on the breeding program at Atterupgaard but on the Danish Warmblood breeding program in general. Doreen was bred by the Pape family of Germany and was purchased by Sinding in the 1990s to become a foundation mare at Atterupgaard. Doreen’s offspring carry the traits of Donnerhall: exceptional trainability and the strength needed for collected exercises. Doreen has had 16 foals at Atterupgaard and two of her foals by Caprimond have had especially noteworthy influence on the stud. The first is Cassidy with his high FEI ranking. The second, his full sister Atterupgaards Dicte, a broodmare, is the dam of three licensed stallions who are themselves making their mark on the breed.

This article first appeared in the June 2018 issue of Dressage Today

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