February 2019 - An Exit Interview
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Friday, 01 February 2019 04:51
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Maplewood’s Julie Winkel reflects on 15 years in the sporthorse breeding business.

by Kim F. Miller

“When they’re done, I’m done,” was always Julie Winkel’s plan for when she would shutter Maplewood Stables’ sporthorse breeding program. Fifteen years after inadvertently getting into the breeding business, that time has come. Maplewood’s sires, Osilvis and Cartouche Z, are 23 and 22 now and the babies due this spring will be their last.

“It’s a little sad in a way,” admits Julie. Yet, the horses’ legacy is ongoing and extends beyond the nearly 100 offspring they’ve produced. Both are healthy and will live out their lives at the 165-acre multi-faceted facility in Reno. There’s plenty of activity there to keep them entertained, much of it catalyzed by their arrival 15 years ago.

The Young Horse Trainers program grew directly from Maplewood’s need for help with the new youngsters, and the Horse Industry Training Program was a related outgrowth of that.

Foals by Osilvis and Cartouche Z. Photo: Tricia Booker Photography

Julie had no plans to get into breeding way back when. Looking for a young horse to develop into the Grand Prix ring, she was intrigued by a then 6 year old Dutch stallion, Osilvis. She purchased him as a grand prix jumper prospect and soon became curious about what type of offspring he produced. Six months later she was judging in Harrisburg, PA, and, coming from the West, figured she was already halfway to Europe, where she could find out. After hopping the pond, she watched 10 of Osilvis’ yearlings frolic and free-jump at a breeder’s farm in Ireland. Instantly wowed, she bought five. Then she decided to breed some of her retired Thoroughbred mares to Osilvis and so began the breeding program at Maplewood.

With the breeding business came a mission of “creating horses for the American market,” Julie explains. “For the average trainer, professional, adult or junior who could bring them along from a young horse and compete with them because of their character.”

Osilvis and stablemate, the Zangershiede stallion Cartouche Z, have great bloodlines, but Julie admits pedigrees weren’t the priority in buying either of them. “I really focused on horses with scope and talent and with personalities that made them easy to work with.”

The two stallions balance each other out as Maplewood foundation sires.  Sired by Silvia II, out of a Nimmedor mare, Osilvis brought bone, substance and calm to Thoroughbred mares. Cartouche is lighter in body and more sensitive in temperament: a good pair with Warmblood mares. Both reliably passed their scope and athletic ability onto their get. Above all, “they threw such amazing brains,” Julie says.

Along with producing horses, both had solid careers in the Grand Prix ring with Julie in the irons. Cartouche and Osilvis also partnered with Julie’s son Kevin Winkel for success in the same ring.

Cartouche Z. Photo: Cloud 9 Photos

With the breeding endeavor’s closing, about 40 Maplewood horses are for sale – but to the right owner, Julie points out. They include a few older competition horses competing at Grand Prix and about three horses in every young horse age bracket. The mare band, a few of them in foal, is also for sale, but only to the right buyer. Julie prioritizes opportunities to place several mares together in the same good home.

Triggering Other Things

Maplewood’s quick jump into breeding necessitated what became the Young Horse Trainers School, a unique and much-admired program. “I had this great bunch of 3-year-olds in the field and I realized I was not going to be the one to ride them for the first time.” She was not happy with methods used by the first succession of young horse trainers she brought on board.

Osophia (by Osilvis) and Kevin Winkel. Photo: Tricia Booker Photography

Jose Alejos was recommended by close friend Linda Allen, the international course designer and young horse promoter who knew of his work at the La Silla breeding program in Monterrey, Mexico. “It would be amazing if you could get him,” Julie recalls Linda telling her.

Following some initial skepticism, it was. “I asked him if he needed a bunkhouse for three months or so, and he said, ‘No, I’ll be done in a week.’ I reminded him these were 3-year-olds that had never worked under saddle, and he said, ‘If you don’t like my work, don’t pay me.’”

As is now legend, Jose taught the young horses and 10 students at the same time. Working in a round pen, he demonstrated his method for presenting the saddle and saddle pad, then coached as each intern applied what they’d watched to their youngster. After the saddle presentation, he cinched up the girth “and let them buck and buck like no other,” without making any fuss and explaining the reaction as a prey animal’s natural response to a predator. The bridle came next, followed by getting the horse to move away from his pressure on the ground.

Osilvis. Photo: Flying Horse Photography

“Within 20 minutes, Jose was mounted and bored with the round pen so they went into the bigger ring, and they were doing walk, trot, canter, stop, move their shoulders and hindquarters and flying changes in both directions,” Julie recounts. Then he said, ‘That’s enough for today!’

“Watching how the horses reacted to him, it was so different than anything else I’d seen,” Julie continues. “The horses totally understood him and they were enjoying it.”
By the fourth day, the interns had tacked up the horses in full english saddles and followed Jose to the Grand Prix field where they played over banks, ditches, logs and other natural obstacles. By the end of the week, they rode the youngsters in group lessons without incident, including jumping. After that, the 3-year-olds went back into the field for the next year, and returned to their under-saddle lives as well-educated 4-year-olds “who hadn’t forgotten a thing!”

Linda in turquoise, Jose on gray horse. Photo: Tricia Booker Photography

That mutually beneficial outcome led to the first Young Horse Symposium in 2011, then the first annual Young Horse Training School in 2012. Over eight years, 160 to 180 students have learned from Jose and fellow presenter Linda Allen’s methods and taken them back into their corner of the equestrian world. Participants have come from all over and with wide ranging degrees of horsemanship mileage.  One participant was fresh from representing his country in the 2014 World Equestrian Games and several have come from well-known breeding programs.

Linda Allen has been a key player in every year of the Young Horse Trainers School, Julie notes. “She’s a good friend and a great educator.” The Young Horse week “has always been the most amazing week of the year for me.” This year’s session takes place in early September and will go forward with outside horses once the Maplewood crops have aged out.

Photo: Tricia Booker Photography

Fond Farewell

The stallions reaching retirement coincides with the right time for Julie to focus more on the “many other areas in which I feel I can contribute to the industry, especially education.” With offspring excelling for their owners in every division on the hunter/jumper circuit, there is plenty to be proud of. “It’s really fun to go to shows and see them in the different divisions.”

As for advice to those already in or pondering a move into the breeding world, Julie offers perspective and words of wisdom. “Start small and really research the mare and stallion line. Be a horseman, think outside the box a little and really think about what you want to develop and be realistic about how long it will take.

“Breeding should not be a factory,” she continues. “It should be about having the time it takes to develop good horses, whether that’s five, six, seven years. They all develop at a different pace.  Be educated about the development part of it. That’s so important to their bones and their brain. Take the time to let them grow up as slowly and naturally as possible. It also means they last longer.”