Ross Millin had a dream – to introduce new genetic material that would rejuvenate the South African Saddle Horse industry. It took time, patience and ingenuity, but the plan is at last coming to fruition. Louise de Wet reports.
In 1997, when Ross Millin thought of a name for his Saddle Horse stud, he decided on Newline. His long-term vision was to import new blood from the US and inject new genetic material into the South African Saddle Horse industry. Because of the rand-dollar exchange rate, acquiring proven sires was impossible, so Ross had to find other ways to achieve his goal. Importing frozen semen was one option, but due to the initial strict South African import regulations and the increased costs to US stallion owners who already collected frozen semen, this proved difficult.
In 1997, the stallions Supreme Heir, Harlem Globetrotter and Merchant Prince were identified as potential sires from which good semen could be obtained, but the effort didn’t succeed.
A coveted sire
In 2005, Ross saw a stallion’s offspring that were beginning to make their mark in the In Hand Division at the American Saddlebred Horse World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. The stallion was Undulata’s Nutcracker. His foals all had incredible quality, a unique, natural flexing ability at the poll and a bouncing animation in their movement at the trot. This combination hadn’t been seen in any other stallion’s offspring.
The dream, then, was to acquire an Undulata’s Nutcracker offspring to import to South Africa. In the following years Undulata’s Nutcracker’s dominated the In Hand Division at shows. With his innate quality and prepotency, this stallion redefined the modern American Saddle Horse.In August 2007, through Fred Sarver, a trainer and the breeding manager at Leatherwood Farm, Paris, Kentucky, Ross had the opportunity to buy a beautiful young broodmare named Katharine’s Perfect Night (Mountainview’s Oh Heavenly Day – Katharine’s Perfect Gift). Ross’s idea was to breed her to Undulata’s Nutcracker, then import both the mare and foal – a colt, it was hoped – to South Africa.
But at the time Ross bought her, the mare was in foal to Commander in Chief, the first South African stallion to have been exported to the US. While she was still nursing her colt, it was difficult to get Katharine’s Perfect Night in foal to Undulata’s Nutcracker. The plan needed some rethinking.
A match Made in Heaven
Before the American Saddlebred Horse World Championships, Ross examined the registration certificates of foals by Undulata’s Nutcracker. He realised that mares by the stallion Attaché Thunderbolt should be a good cross when bred to Undulata’s Nutcracker. He found such a registered colt belonging to Willowbank Farm, named I’m in Heaven. The owner agreed to sell weanlings by Undulata’s Nutcracker.
Kevin Eltringham, a long-time friend and the trainer of the Newline Stud horses, attended the Kentucky State Fair in August 2008, where I’m in Heaven went on to win the American Saddlebred Horse Weanling World Championship.
Ross was delighted but also disappointed, as he knew I’m in Heaven wouldn’t be for sale. But Willowbank Farm had many more colts, unregistered at the time, too young to show at Louisville. Kevin called Ross to fly over to Louisville to inspect them and Ross landed in Kentucky within 48 hours. At an Open Day during the Kentucky State Fair, Willowbank Farm showed some of their weanlings to the general public and Kevin picked the best to show to Ross. All the weanlings were special, but one stood out above the rest – a liver chestnut colt out of an Attaché Thunderbolt mare.
Ross soon became the owner of his “dream” – and named his acquisition Undulata’s Made In Heaven. At three months, the colt already had the quality and breeding of a future sire. His dam, Believe In Love, is by Attaché’s Thunderbolt and out of the grand show mare Santana’s Starbright, by Sultana’s Santana. Although it’s an enormous financial gamble to import such a young foal, Ross decided it was a risk worth taking to improve the South African Saddle Horse gene pool. The fact that he could pick the best colt available at the time convinced him he’d made the right decision.
Dealing for Premier Night
Meanwhile, Katharine’s Perfect Night’s Commander in Chief foal was above average in quality and Ross decided to bring both colts back to South Africa. They were due to arrive in mid-January 2009.But in November 2008, Fred Sarver contacted Ross with the opportunity of a lifetime – one of Fred’s clients had an embryo transfer foal that he was prepared to exchange for the Commander in Chief colt. This was a colt by the stallion CF First Night Out (see box: A prestigious sire), and out of the mare A Daydream Believer.
A Daydream Believer is by Attache’s Born Believer. She’s already the dam of six prize-winning horses at the American Saddlebred Horse World Championships, qualifying her to be entered into the Broodmare Hall of Fame (BHF) status. Few broodmares ever attain this status.Ross realised the Newline Stud would be able to import two colts with unique new bloodlines to South Africa. After he’d done some pedigree research and had seen pictures of the young colt, the trade was an easy decision to make. Ross named his new colt HS Daydream’s Premier Night. In his bottom-line maternal pedigree, he has BHF mares in all six generations. Very few modern stallions can boast so many in their maternal pedigree, and Ross firmly believes the maternal side of a potential sire is extremely important and should not be underestimated.
A test of patience
Getting the colts to Kevin Eltringham Stables took almost three months. It was a test of patience and perseverance with some frustration. After 40 days in quarantine in Lexington, Kentucky, they were shipped in the middle of January 2009. The colts stayed over unexpectedly in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for 10 days and finally arrived in South Africa at the end of January. They spent another 30 days in quarantine at Milnerton.
When the two colts were collected at the end of February, their exceptional quality was evident even though they had long winter coats. Their personable natures and eagerness to learn were enthusiastically discussed. It was traumatic for the colts to come from winter in the Northern hemisphere to summer in the Southern hemisphere. They’ll be warm for a while, then have to grow their winter coats again. But in spite of this climate change, they’re happy in their paddock at the Kevin Eltringham Stables, in Paarl.
Now the colts just have to grow up to be stallions, and Ross will see whether his belief in them and their bloodlines will be justified. The Newline Stud broodmares, which are on George Borcherds’ farm in Middelburg in the Karoo are waiting for them.
The next two years will seem a long time to wait and Ross and all other interested parties – and there are many – are filled with anticipation and excitement. The African adventures of Undulata’s Made In Heaven and Daydream’s Premier Night have just begun.For more on the colts’ pedigrees and to see photographs of them and other horses owned by Newline Stud, visit www.newlineza.com.
Will Shriver’s legacy
Undulata’s Nutcracker is a grandson of Callaway’s Hills Stables’ great former sire Will Shriver. Strangely, this stallion’s genetics are absent from the South African gene pool. In 1976, Will Shriver was World Grand Champion Five-gaited Horse; his influence on the modern American Saddle Horse is enormous. Most US breeders of American Saddle Horses believe he put substance and the rack (triple) back into this breed. After his death, this was carried forward, mostly through his sons CH Caramac and Callaway’s Blue Norther. Undulata’s Nutcracker is by CH Caramac and out of the mare Christmas in New York (by New York Times).