Cassiana (Cassiano x Pionier) jumping at Takapoto Estate.
Credit: Kimi Knight / Knight Equestrian Images

The breeding game isn’t for the faint-hearted, but East Coast Performance Horses’ Nicki Booth thrives on the challenge it presents and is super excited for the future.

“Everything we have bred so far has gone out and done well and I have to say, our foals this year are pretty darn outstanding,” she says. The excitement in her voice is palpable. “Just their type and presence is fantastic. I feel I am starting to really get the mares with the right stallions.”

She does a huge amount of research, particularly over the wetter winter months, to make sure the matches are perfect, as well as seeking advice from leaders like Dr Lee Morris and her team at EquiBreed along with the likes of VDL’s Janko Van De Lageweg.

“It does all depend on the mare but I think the Dutch have their bloodlines well nailed at the moment and I am pretty happy with the stallions I picked from Europe to use last year.” Included in the predominantly VDL mix was Paul Ffoulkes’ Candyman GNZ, some new young blood and a throwback to the 1980s.

If a mare isn’t producing what she wants, Nicki will quickly move her on. “If we are not producing what people want, we just won’t be here in the next 10 years,” she says. ECPH made a history last year with New Zealand’s first-ever foal from a frozen embryo, through EquiBreed. Glenn, as he’s known at home, is now happily hanging up on the little hill paddock with his yearling buddies. Nicki has been flat out freezing embryos this season too. “One of my precious mares we imported from Ireland is getting old so we have been harvesting eggs from her. It is amazing to think that when she isn’t around we can still be bringing her progeny out over the next five to 10 years.”

Their oldest ‘baby’ is the seven-year-old Roxette ECPH who is doing well in the hands of Kim Bird. “I think we were lucky that the early ones we bred all went to great riders who have produced them really well.”

Nicki has 10 mares in her herd, with a couple who have multiple babies a year through embryo transfer. “There are more back yard breeders now – people breeding one or two for themselves and not coming to the big breeders to buy their next three or four-year-old. I would like to think we are one of the leaders in New Zealand. I am pretty proud of what we have produced so far.”

ECPH, who sponsor ESNZ Jumping’s five-year-old series, produced nine foals this year and it doesn’t take long after Nicki posts something on Facebook about one of the babies for people to message her. “Seeing them head out the gate so young is made easier if they’re going to good homes to be produced well and showcased in the best possible way. At the end of the day, we have to sell. It is hard though when a yearling walks out the gate and I think it is the nicest so far.”

The Masterton based ECPH operation is very much a family affair and Nicki says she couldn’t do it without the support of her parents Jenny and Craig who take care of things while she works as an equine technician three days a week. Nicki did get a little competitive riding herself this season, but her focus is very much on breeding New Zealand’s next superstar showjumper.


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