Donnerhall OL Revisited

I need to apologize to my readers because I published a pedigree of Donnerhall OL along with a discussion of his potency in North American Sport Horse Breeder that was not fully correct. Of course I believed it was  correct then and I know I checked my pedigree work several times, but somehow I still got the lineage of Manolete wrong, and that has made a huge difference in how I now view his heredity. The mistake in the ancestry affects only that of the dam-sire Markus OL, but has significant results in Donnerhall's overall potency. The portions of my original article analyzing the sire's (Donnerwetter OL) relevance are still very solid and I believe can be relied on, although later on in this article I will add some background facts that will upset some long held notions of those that adhere to the warmblood philosophy.

When I wrote that piece for my book (2010) the prevailing opinion was that this beloved horse, Donnerhall OL, was not producing another like himself, and while he did pass on the ability to collect and his nice disposition, he seldom passed on his fantastic and spectacular movement.

Today that opinion has changed. I don't pay much attention to the warmblood chatter anymore, perhaps if I did I would have caught my mistake earlier, but my personal focus has shifted from the European to the North American sport horse. However, my friend in Australia, Paula McRae, who is a successful warmblood breeder especially of dressage prospects (McArthur Warmblood Stud, NSW), has asked me questions about my conclusions on Donnerhall OL because in her opinion my deduction did not match his record as a stud. I respect Paula and her knowledge very much, and she is well informed on warmblood bloodlines, both from study and her own breeding experience. This year when she brought the subject up again, I did some more thinking about it, and then realized that his pedigree had to be wrong.

Incorrect pedigrees occur more than you think. My long experience in pedigree study has taught me if a sire or mare produces far above or below what their pedigree design illustrates then there has to be an error in the recorded lineage. How can this happen? Sometimes a stallion gets at the mare without the manager knowing (Capitano HO and Mambrino Patchen AT are good examples), sometimes a horse is intentionally substituted for another (a ringer--Tadcaster/Bend Or is a good example), sometimes it is a recording mistake (the dam-sire of Halla HE is a good example--see Standardbred Sport Horses for the solution to that mystery). But much to my shame in my work on Donnerhall OL, it is my own mistake; I had the wrong ancestry in my computer program for the Thoroughbred Manolete, sire of the dam-sire Markus OL. And when I modified the inaccuracy it changed the entire dynamic of the dam, Ninette OL, and her interacation with the sire side--in other words it indicated more potency than I originally credited to her.

Donnerhall OL, with his corrected pedigree reveals a much stronger lineage via his dam-sire Markus OL, enough to be significant sire. His dam carries two full sibling groups, both coming via Markus OL: the full sisters Arabella/Arabeske and the full siblings Godin/Carelda. I had the incorrect data on the parentage of Arabella and so I never saw that she and Arabeske were full sisters, in addition they also form a filly factor because they were present by both a son and a daughter, which is a huge help for a broodmare's career.

Further, I missed that there is a very strong 3/4 brother design of Fervor/Orchidee which are behind both Oleander and Der Lowe, making them more powerful, and those lines are probably where a good portion of his dressage talent arrives from. Oleander/Der Lowe are Thoroughbreds, and they combined with Dwinger HA in the sire are leading genetic powers in this sport horse. Dwinger HA, when his pedigree is extended, is a concentrated source of Fling HA and his full siblings, and they are in turn products of the old Mecklenburg Stud stock of the later 1800s, which is made up largely of Norfolk Trotter, Yorkshire Coach, Irish Hunter  and abundant Thoroughbred. This base then later combined with the heavy influx of Thoroughbred power arriving via Der Lowe and others, which then is the power of Donnerwetter OL.

It is the genetic impact of the close sibling configurations and their interaction in the two halves of this pedigree via Der Lowe/Oleander that move Donnerhall OL from an average stallion to a very good sire. But there is also a notable full sibling potency arriving from Godin/Carelda and I found a substantial build up further back of their sire Gruson OL, six lines in the 6th through 9th generation, plus his lines strongly empower the Freigraf OL lines because he is his dam-sire, therefore Gruson OL is a key line to consider as well.

Next, I extended Gruson's lineage to discover what he emerged from, and was surprised to see he is largely a concentration of the base bloodlines of Emigrant OL, Duke of Cleveland YC and Norman AN. Emigrant OL is a product of the Mecklenburg Stud, and his bloodlines are therefore Thoroughbred, Norfolk Trotter and Yorkshire Coach. Duke of Cleveland YC is a Yorkshire Coach Horse, which is a combination of Thoroughbred with Chapman Horse (Cleveland Bay). Norman AN, while identified on the online database as a Selle Francais is really a Anglo-Norman, which is a heavy French trotting breed, the precursor to the Selle Francais,. (The Selle Francais did not become a breed until 1958, but Norman AN was born in 1868--therefore he is not a Selle Francais). The lower dam quadrant is pretty lack luster, but I decided to extend that also and found once again dominance in Anglo-Norman, Thoroughbred and Mecklenberg stock.

Donnerhall OL is powerful in the genetics provided by Dwinger HA (Fling et al--18 lines), Der Lowe/Orchidee and Arabella/Arabeske (Thoroughbred), and Gruson OL. So what does that mean? If you are an average warmblood breeder then you know the important modern lines but you don't have too much knowledge about what they really are made of, or what part of the talent they are responsible for. And I do not claim to have all the answers for you, but I do have some new information to give you and feel it is especially relevant because of the intellectual fog that has settled into the equestrian psyche via the current dogma being pedaled unceasingly in warmblood literature about the European's vast experience in sport horse breeding: hundreds of years they boast. It is about time someone with a half a brain checked this claim out, however, because you may not like what I am about to report, you may want to stop reading right here.

Donnerhall OL is a genetic hybrid concentration of Anglo-Norman, Thoroughbred, Norfolk Trotter and Yorkshire Coach. Take a moment to digest that except for the Thoroughbred, the rest of the genetic sources in this dressage star are Trotter breeds. Surely the lovely fluid movement is coming from the Thoroughbred lines, but also take note that the style, the slinging motion with great shoulder action and tremendous hind end impulsion come via the trotter.

So, wait a minute...where are the hundreds of years of European sport horse lines in this pinnacle of dressage performance? That is my point: there is no such thing as a several hundred year old European sport horse breed that impacted the modern Olympic style sport horse! They have bred Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds since the very late 1800s, but guess where that stock came from? I know you have read continuously that the European warmblood sport horse goes back anywhere from 200 years (www.isroldenburg.org) to 700 years ago (www.holsteiner.com)--depending on the source, but truthfully the sport model did not arrive until the 1900s. The "centuries of experience in sport horse production" mantra is a tremendously effective propaganda campaign, but unfortunately it is fiction, not fact.

Neither is Donnerhall's pedigree unique in his antecedents--all the sport lines in the European sport horse go back to those brought in by the Mecklenburg Stud mentioned above, plus Irish Hunters, and here is an even bigger surprise: American Running Horse and American Trotter lines as well. They took the Schwere Warmbluter (draft horse), the Holland Black Draft, the Marsh Horse (draft) and the Norman Draft (these are their centuries old breeds by the way--not sport horses), and added the true sport breeds over and over until they could finally function as sport horses. Further, if you follow back the successful sport stock, you will be hard pressed to find the draft base at all, because it did not produce outstanding sport ability--the draft horse is the performance opposite of the sport horse. Instead it really all began with the coaching, hunting and racing stock of the British Isles. 

Because I have succeeded in tracing back the sport lines into the 1600s I have developed a deep understanding of the sporting lines in the modern horse. You will most likely not understand when I tell you that all roads lead back to the Irish Hobby and its descendant: the Running Horse (Barb/Hobby hybrid). But truly this is where the pedigree tracing and historical records led me, to the Irish Hobby, a small, sturdy, fast, stamina loaded, gaited horse with a world renown docile disposition. It is possible to go even further back in time to at least 600 BC in Northern Spain where the Hobby stock originated. The   Anglo-Norman, the English and American Thoroughbred, the Norfolk Trotter and the American Trotter (Standardbred now) all arise from a common sport horse: the English Running Horse and its parent breed: the Irish Hobby.

At the same time I was making my intellectual journey through time, the science community was bringing us discoveries on the horse genome that confirmed my findings (speed gene, gait keeper gene, origin of breeds via mtDNA and Y-chromosome studies and even the large heart gene). In addition, I have just recently completed tracing the jumping trait and that also goes straight back to these same populations of sport horse (science usually calls them the 'native English' horse). The result of all this is I now know where sport ability comes from, and which lines are potent in it. This prospective has changed everything about how I view and evaluate sport horses.

Most European sport warmbloods arose from the coach horse development phase of the late 1800s, which came about from huge importations of the high class coaching, racing and hunting stock of England and Ireland, and this base coaching stock was then over time lightened and improved with more Thoroughbred and Trotter---the racehorse breeds.

What is important in fruitful sport horse breeding, and what makes a powerful lasting bloodline is the concentration of the sport sources over and over through the generations. Great confusion has arisen in the importance of potency because a good performance horse can have a loosely formed pedigree, leading breeders to think concentration of traits isn't essential. Depending on how the genes divide and connect it is possible for a horse to receive in his phenotype a winning hand resulting in super performance, but then when put to stud the horse who is loosely bred cannot pass on his talent. To set type, that is to be an effective stud horse, the horse must have a strong genetic structure in the genotype, and until I revisited Donnerhall's lineage and made the alterations to it, I could not see this in him. Donnerhall's extravagant dressage talent arises from the old Anglo breeds he is potent in, not some mythical European sport horse that they have been breeding for centuries!

Read what bloodlines are powering a Hanoverian line that is powerful in American Hall of Fame dressage stars: Duellant HA.

What is interesting is another more recent dressage star, Verdades DU, has many background bloodlines in common with Donnerhall OL, adding more certainty to where dressage ability arises from, the Thoroughbred and Trotter lines.