The most wanted sperm in horse breeding

The success on the international stage has stirred the interest of horse traders in the 10-year-old stallion Totilas.

By Danielle Pinedo

Super dressage horse Totilas' semen is now up for sale. The prize-winning stallion could get 100 mares pregnant in 2010 alone.

The stallion brochure and the terms and conditions on the website are in Dutch only. But the bilingual 'sperm application form' has been filled out 50 times, mostly by Germans and Americans, since it was announced Tuesday that the most successful horse currently on the dressage circuit will now be used to breed.

Semira Noman, who works with Totillas' owners, is busy processing all the requests that have come in. "I have had phone calls from crying Americans," she said. "People get very emotional at the thought they may ride a descendant of Totilas. They email us entire photo collections of their mares. It is really amazing what one announcement can bring about."

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Totilas and his rider Edward Gal won one dressage prize after the other in 2009. The juries at the Concours Hippique International Officiel in Rotterdam, Jumping Amsterdam, the Dutch national outdoor championship and World Cup series in London all gave him the highest scores. The highlight of the year was the European championship they took by breaking a world record - only to break it themselves months later - in Windsor in August. First prizes seem unevitable when the combination appears at the starting line.

'Not for sale'

The success on the international stage has stirred the interest of horse traders in the 10-year-old stallion, part of the Dutch couple Kees and Tosca Visser’s stable. Astronomical figures about his value circulate and several horse-minded websites have reported he is to be sold to an Austrian female equestrian for 10 million euros. "Rubbish", said Kees Visser, in one of his rare responses to press requests. "Totilas is not for sale. I once joked that if someone where to show up on my doorstep carrying a suitcase with 15 million euros, I might sell," Visser explained. "That statement has started to lead a life of its own and I keep reading different versions of it in numerous publications."

Dutch horses

The equestrian industry is the largest sports industry in the Netherlands after football, with a turnover of about 1.5 billion euros annually.

According to international listings, the Dutch dressage and jumping horses are the most desired for breeding. At the 2008 Olympics, the gold, silver and bronze medallists all rode horses that came from the Netherlands.

Owners of high ranked horses prefer to keep their value secret, but people involved say horses like Okidoki, Ude and Tomboy were sold for several millions.

But while Visser rules out selling the horse, he will now use it for breeding purposes, although even if only for a limited number of occasions. Visser and his wife said they long contemplated whether to use the horse for breeding at all, as stallions’ characters can change after they have covered a phantom mare, a breeding mount used to collect the semen. "But our first experiences have been positive," Visser said. "We tried it once before the Jumping Amsterdam event and Totilas had no trouble at all during the show. He may have been a little more restless, but he covers remarkably easy. If in the coming months we find his sporting career comes under pressure, we will stop breeding with him immediately."

Anxiety has made way for relief

Visser had already had many personal offers for Totilas semen in the past, but since the launch of the dedicated website www.totilas.nl he has had hundreds of information requests in addition to the 50 applications. Interested parties are notified within 48 hours if they qualify to receive Totilas' frozen sperm. That depends on the mare's pedigree, because Totilas owners have a name to live up to.

The costs of the service depends on the number of inseminations needed, Semira Norman explained. "Like humans, some mares get pregnant easier than others and some are more susceptible to frozen sperm than others. People should expect to pay around 5.500 euros."

Kees Visser expects about 100 covers a year, which means Totilas could yield 500,000 euros in 2010 alone without being sold. Much to the relief of Edward Gal. "I was a little afraid he might injure himself on the phantom mare," the rider said. Now that the first trials have been a success, anxiety has made way for relief. "Everybody is happy now," Gal said.

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