Technically speaking, Rose Sullivan is a “backyard breeder,” but the horses from her SE Farm are unlikely to stay in their eventual owners’ backyards for long. The horse show mom turned breeder operates her business in her family’s backyard, a 7.5 acre property in Ventura County’s Santa Rosa Valley, but the Belgian Warmbloods bred, born and raised there carry bloodlines likely to propel them into the winners circle on the national and international jumper circuit.
Rose credits Mark Watring’s main Grand Prix mount Sapphire with inspiring her to become a breeder. Rose and Brian Sullivan’s daughter Mickey rode successfully with Mark as a junior, just around the time that the Hidden Valley trainer was starting his ongoing Grand Prix run with the gray Holsteiner gelding. “I fell in love with Sapphire,” enthuses Rose, who has since bred nine Sapphire siblings via locally-available semen from his sire Liostro.
By next summer, Rose hopes that two of these youngsters will be approved by the Belgian Warmblood’s studbook, the BWP. Both of these young stallions, Leone SE and Leonado SE, are out of Rose’s Pikadero mare, Piktorial, via embryo transfer. Rose is a firm believer that mares contribute at least half of the quality in an offspring. Piktorial is SE Farm’s foundation mare, and a very fertile one at that. Thanks to embryo transfer, Piktorial has produced six babies in two years.
Breeding is a risky business. Big quantities of money and time are invested and the returns aren’t fully known until five or six years down the line. Going with the Belgian Warmblood lines is Rose’s way of hedging her bets. International show jumping superstars Darco, Parco, Jus de Pomme, Oh Star, Big Ben and Clinton are just a few of the famous horses in the BWP. “Darco is the number one jumper breeding stallion in the world today,” Rose points out. “And these bloodlines are among the best in the world.”
Rose also likes that fact that the BWP is an international studbook. “My friends in Argentina can breed to my stallions and get their papers.”
The BWP is not so open-minded about veterinary issues. Rose describes it as one of the strictest in this regard and she is grateful for that. The registry requires clean x-rays of all stallion and elite mare candidates. “Why do you think my 19-year-old Darco mare, Mystery, is still doing the four-foot jumpers at Thermal?” Rose asks. “It’s because her conformation is flawless and her x-rays are clean.”
Like her daughter Mickey, who contested the Maclay Finals at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and Prix des Nations championships at Spruce Meadows, Rose is a can-do horsewoman. She has her own ultrasound machine and learned to use it for palpating and the other work necessary to prepare her mares for successful insemination. She works closely with Dr. Richard Beck of Winners Circle Equine, on both artificial insemination and ICSI, intra cytoplasmic sperm injection. The latter technique has enabled some miracles. Because of extreme uterine scarring, Mystery is incapable of conceiving, yet the mare’s powerful jumping pedigree, including Darco, can be passed along via ICSI.
Since starting SE Farm five years ago, Rose has produced eight foals by ET: two via ISCI and one by oocyte transfer. The babies, ranging in age from yearlings to coming 4-year-olds, have received rave reviews from both BWP officials and knowledgeable sporthorse enthusiasts. At the BWP kuering at her farm this past summer, all nine of the mares she presented received premium status, Rose reports proudly. “My Darco mare was awarded elite mare status, the only elite mare in the entire U.S. this year,” Rose adds. “And all my foals were premium and two of them, a Cathalido filly and a For Pleasure/Darco filly, were tied for second in the nation.”
In addition to accessing the world’s top stallions through fresh and frozen semen, SE Farm also stands its own sire, the homebred, ET-produced Clair de Lune. His sire is the accomplished jumper Contender and his dam is the scopey Hanoverian jumper L’Vienna.
Clair de Lune
Clair de Lune received his stallion approval this past summer and raised appreciative eyebrows in the process. Kenneth Vinther from CWD Saddlery handled Clair during the approval and had this observation: “I’ve never seen a horse jump like that: He’s a freak!” Rose relays. That ability might come from his mother, who is closely related to Rodrigo Pessoa’s Baloubet du Rouet. With domestic and European Grand Prix and World Cup wins, Clair’s sire Contendor might argue that point, but either way the end result is a hot prospect for the big jumper rings.
With the handsome, grey, 16.1 hh Clair de Lune approved, SE Farm now has a full complement of breeding options available. “I guess I’m doing something right when everything on my farm is premium!” Rose notes. The next milestone will come when her horses are old enough to sell. With her oldest crop just now coming 4, Rose has recruited a rider from her native Argentina to get them started properly. She anticipates that most of these youngsters will be available for purchase as 5- or 6-year-olds.
“I think a lot of people who go into breeding don’t understand how long it takes,” Rose reflects. “It’s expensive to maintain so many horses and my breed doesn’t even finish growing until 4, and they fill out at 5 or 6.”
Owning her own property and the help of family and many friends makes the breeding endeavor possible. The Sullivan daughters Mickey and Katie have helped Rose start and train the homebreds and several for-sale horses over the years. Trainer Mike Edrick has assisted the Sullivans in selling and leasing going show horses, which pays many of the breeding business bills. And Rose describes Maximino Rodriguez as “my number one key player.” He manages her stallions, breaks the 3-year-olds and is essential to all aspects of Rose’s business. “I would be lost without him.”
For more information on SE Farm’s horses and breeding services, contact Rose Sullivan at 805-551-6336 or firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.sefarm.com.