By Rebecca Harper 

The team at East Coast Performance Horses are starting to see the fruits of their labour, and will be keeping a close eye on their young progeny out competing next season.

Nicki and Jenny Booth run their breeding operation from Whareama in the Wairarapa and have a strong herd of broodmares. With a number of young horses now out competing it is an exciting time for them, and makes them a perfect fit as sponsors of the Five-Year-Old series, as well as the Young Horse Show.

“We aim to breed performance horses for the New Zealand and international markets that are simple enough for the everyday rider but also talented enough to keep going with top level riders,” Nicki explains.

“We have a really really good herd of broodmares at the moment, beautiful mares with lovely temperaments and great types, all from Grand Prix bloodlines or have jumped Grand Prix themselves.”

Of particular note is 20-year-old Picarla, a mare they imported from Ireland seven years ago. “She really kicked it all off for us and got me right into the bloodlines and interested in the stallion lines. She’s out of the same mare as Mr Blue, making her technically a half-sister, and he was the world number one sire for a period.”

Jenny says they have extensively bred the mare, who was never broken in and was sourced as a three-year-old out of Holland purely for breeding. “Before we bought her she was in Ireland and they bred her every second year, all her progeny we can find are jumping Grand Prix in Ireland.”

They pull embryos out of her annually, as well as her carrying a foal. Her oldest progeny in New Zealand will be five next season. “They’re ones to watch, for sure,” Nicki adds.

One of her progeny, Californication ECPH, who is by Corofino II, came out as a four-year-old for half a season. “He’s got a wonderful temperament, is very trainable and very easy to ride. He came out as a stallion and was a pleasure to have out. We have cut him now, purely because we are not set up for stallions at home.

“We did look at importing a stallion ourselves, but unfortunately in New Zealand the breeding pool is not big enough to sustain that business and there is so much frozen semen available now.”

They also have Californication’s half-sister, by Cassiano. Because of her breeding, the decision was made to put her in foal this year and continue the Picarla bloodline. The plan is for her to come out next season as a five-year-old.

“I jumped a mare called Ngahiwi Emilionaire up until she was seven, when injury forced her retirement. In 2012 she won the six-year-old at HOY. She’s in my broodmare herd and her foals are looking pretty outstanding.”

Their oldest progeny competed as six-year-olds this season, including Roxette ECPH in the South Island. “Georgie Goodworth purchased her off us and did a fantastic job, winning the Canterbury Championships Five-Year-Old title.

“We also have two really nice four-year-olds up north, Chalo ECPH with Jackie Jermyn and Shawnee ECPH with Vicki Prendergast. They do a fabulous job on them and allow the horses every opportunity to be the best they can be. It’s exciting because they are starting to get going and show what we’ve been working on for the last seven years.”

Nicki says they love to see young horses jump and go well, which is why the five-year-old series is such a good fit for them.

“There’s better mares, semen and sires in the country and people have really stepped up their game. We feel the five-year-old is the gateway series into top level sport for a lot of these horses. I won’t be riding something in the series every year, but we are still interested and love sitting down and watching it, looking at the breeding and seeing them progress through the seasons.

“We decided we were interested in sponsoring the Young Horse Show as it’s the big show for young horses for the season and the Hawke’s Bay group do such a fantastic job.”

They have a three-year contract to sponsor the show, with two years left to run.

“We have a great relationship with Janko from VDL in Holland, and he works closely with EquiBreed NZ. We feel quite privileged that every second year he tries to come to New Zealand and likes to come on farm and see how our breeding programme is progressing. He gives Nicki a lot of advice, we are using old and young up and coming VDL stallions,” Jenny says.

They also value their relationship with Dr Lee Morris at EquiBreed and consider themselves lucky to be the recipient of the ground-breaking first frozen embryo, with a foal on the ground at home. “It gives breeders the opportunity to take the embryo late in the season, freeze it down and inseminate the mare in a more timely fashion for the breeding season.”

Nicki says this works particularly well for an older mare, like Picarla, who probably won’t carry many more foals. “But we can take embryos and it allows us to continue breeding our special mares for a long time.”

Jenny says in reality, while the ultimate aim is to breed a horse Nicki can ride, not every horse will suit her, and she can’t be riding 25 at a show. “The best time to buy a young horse off us is pre-break, they can do so much, put in the hard yards and form a relationship with the horse. There are always opportunities, we never turn away a customer, there are options for all ages – everything is for sale.”

Find out more about East Coast Performance Horses