American Hall of Fame Show Jumpers

Brief Analysis of American Show Jump Champions

This is a brief analysis of those super show jumpers, the select few, that have made it into the American Show Jumper Hall of Fame. After adding a paragraph to my article on Gordon Russell who produced two hall of famers, it hit me that I should take a closer look at the genetics of the best jumpers we have had in America. Peter Birdsall did an admirable job of cataloging the best hunters and jumpers in his 1980s texts, but I decided to take a look at the genetics of those few that broke all the records and made it to the Hall of Fame. What I found surprised me a little. First of all only 20 horses have made it so far to the list. Two of those (Snowman and Main Spring) are of unknown breeding, and I expected more warmbloods- but found only 1 Trakehner (Abdullah) and 1 'Dutch' warmblood who is actually 1/2 American Tb (Calypso). The rest were all Thoroughbreds.

Now this being the end of 2011, and me being a product of our modern sport breeder experience, I fully expected to see by this time the proven merits of the 'european' warmblood more in evidence at the very top of the game (although I am sure undisputable greats like American-bred Dutch warmblood Judgement and his rider Beezie Madden will be added shortly.) But we in America have been breeding our own heavy type 'warmblood' since the mid 1800s- in that it is part coach horse mixed with racehorse (see Sport Horse Recipe). At that time it was regular practice to add Cleveland Bay, Irish Draught or other coach types to our racehorse to produce our heavy hunters; and of the unknowns in the hall of fame it seems likely from his known history and temperament that Snowman was a part Irish horse- a heavy hunter.

That said, the evidence is undeniable that the Thoroughbred has reigned supreme at the very upper levels of achievement seeing that 16 out of the 20 (80%) are Thoroughbred and significantly for us is that many of those are of American Thoroughbred lines.

It has to be just our lack of knowledge that has allowed us to agree with the 'warmblood' association's view of our domestic Tb. And I am ashamed to admit that when I was actively involved in breeding in the 'european' manner and following the warmblood registries instructions that I accepted their decidedly unfavorable view of our domestic Thoroughbred. But the evidence is clear, our Thoroughbred produces sport horses of the very highest excellence and ability.
Now, as breeders we want to be enlightened to what bloodlines- domestic or foreign, produce the winners- it is a key to our success. And in the hall of fame inductees you do see the same bloodlines repeated over and over- such as Nearco-Pharos, Teddy, Black Toney-Domino, Man O'War-Fair Play, Hurry On, Rock Sand, Dollar, Blandford, The Tetrarch-Roi Herode. For example, the magnificent Sinjon carries Roi Herode on his top line through The Tetrarch and his dam sire is War Glory a 3/4 brother to War Admiral, a Fair Play grandson. And we see that For the Moment descends from Teddy on the sire line through Bull Lea and from Double Jay, a grandson of Black Toney, on the dam side.

I said this will be a brief analysis, and so I will just pull a couple of these top American Tbs out for our inspection. Pictured above is Gem Twist, who won individual and team silver at the Seoul Olympics (1988)- he also was the Grandprix Association 'Horse of the Year' a whopping 3 times (87,89,92). Click on link below to view his pedigree.

Gem Twist's Pedigree

Looking at his topline you will see he descends from Bonne Nuit- who is a grandson of Roi Herode and also has the great Dollar line in his dam- these are French jump lines. Notice also the presence of Bonne Nuit's half sister Brave Bonnie- who is out of a Domino line sire (American sprint! line) as well as reinforces the Dollar influence. We find three more lines of Roi Herode through his best son The Tetrarch. Don't miss the Man O'War son Great War, and that the dam carries two lines of War Admiral through daughters, as well as three lines of Black Toney, and another line of The Tetrarch. These are the genetic powers behind this world beater.

I found a curious coincidence when looking at the genetics (pedigrees) of the hall of famers. There was another world beater back in the 1950s, this was a mare called 'Miss Budweiser' whose registered name was Circus Rose. She is a 3/4 sister to Sisterly Love who is the dam of New Twist the grandfather of Gem Twist. Check out her pedigree and compare to Gem Twist. She is by Great War (Man O'War son) out of a daughter of Valorous a Pennant son (Domino line).

Circus Rose (Miss Budweiser) Pedigree

One other thing before we leave Gem Twist- his father Good Twist, a stallion, also made the Hall of Fame list (seen at top of article). Described as a speed horse with a tremendous jump, he managed to win an amazing 21 international level classes in both Europe and America.

Next let's look at an incredible mare: Touch of Class. In the 1984 Olympics Touch of Class won two Gold Medals. She also had the first double clear rounds in Olympic history. What a mare! Usually teamed with Joe Fargis, she also won on the Nations Cup teams in Aachen, New York and Washington, and she won the Grand Prix of Tampa. After the Olympics she and Fargis continued their winning ways including making first in the World Cup U.S. east coast standings. She then retired to broodmare duties where she also succeeded. Her pedigree can become a blue print for us, illustrating how to breed top mares- mares that succeed both in sport and as mothers.

Touch of Class Pedigree

We see Black Toney-Domino on the sire line through Blue Larkspur, but also through two lines of the inbred Ultimus (Domino). A strong filly factor of Sir Gallahad daughters (Teddy line), the full brothers Fairway and Pharos multiple times on both sides of the pedigree, a strong presence of the 3/4 brothers Chance Play and Mad Hatter from the Fair Play line, as well as a beautifully sex balanced Blandford and his 1/2 sister Felina. Great background build up of the taproot mare Canterbury Pilgrim through lines of Chaucer and Swynford. All and all a extremely strong genetic structure.

For those of you who aspire to breed the best jumpers these are bloodlines that are proven transmittors of jump talent- look for them and build them into your foals.

American Sport Sources

American Thoroughbred

Bloodlines of Dressage Champions of the USDF

Bloodlines of Eventing Champions

This article has been published in the spring breeding issue of Horse Connection magazine

See what an amazing job Horse Connection did- with incredible photos and design- sure dresses up my plain presentation. Red, White and Blue Bloodlines

Cavalier Royale - a standout modern show jump sire