"I kind of feel like we are going in the right direction," says Edgar Schutte, partner with his wife Susan in the Hanoverian and sporthorse breeding and sales endeavor, Rainbow Equus Meadows. He's a master of understatement in that comment. Located on 112 acres of grass pastures in the Sierra Foothills town of Lincoln, Rainbow Equus, for 23 years, has produced horses succeeding at literally every level of the sport. Lantinus, for example, a son of Rainbow's Landkoenig, represented Ireland in 2008 Olympic show jumping and won the Aachen Grand Prix
Although Rainbow's seven current stallions and their predecessors have offspring in Europe and all over the world, American amateurs, mostly women, are the program's biggest client base. That's largely because Susan and Edgar rejected the mandate of some mentors when they started Rainbow Equus.
Hanoverian Foal Champion Euro R by Escudo II
"They told us we would have to choose between pretty and performance," Susan recalls of that era when imported European Warmbloods were just coming to the fore in the American hunter/jumper and dressage markets. Susan, an active hunter and equitation rider, and Edgar, who rides dressage, refused to make the proposed choice. "We made a very conscious decision to have both pretty and performance," Susan asserts. "Even though some had presented that to us as an impossible goal." Several generations of horses for amateurs and Olympians alike made a jest of those pronouncements and Rainbow Equus has now set new sporthorse standards.
Elite Hanoverian bloodlines dominate Rainbow's stallion string and each offers a slightly different look, talent and personality. Good character, however, is a trait they all share, along with the band of top quality Rainbow Equus mares. Character, per Susan's definition, is: "The ability to be joyfully worked with, to not put up resistance, to want to work."
Pablo and Edgar during AHS breed orientation course.
Personality is part of the package, too. "We allow that here," Susan notes. From early on, the Schuttes adopted a holistic management approach on the farm. It is most tangible in a health care context that emphasizes prevention, and it's also seen in how they nurture their horses' spirits. Gentle and consistent handling begins at birth and continues through age-appropriate introductions to all of their horse's early life lessons.
Rainbow's horses, of all ages, spend most of their time in grass pastures. Youngsters have plenty of time to grow up in a herd environment and simply be horses. They typically begin under-saddle preparation as 4-year-olds. First-time visitors often ask how their new young horse will handle his first trailer loading experience. It's not an issue, Susan says. "Our horses are immersed in a relationship of trust from birth through their growing years. So, they have no reason not to trust us when we ask them to do something."
Nick Karazissis clinic in
The Rainbow Horses
Susan and Edgar did not set out to be big-time sporthorse breeders. They met as the result of a wrong phone number and their shared passion for horses became the foundation for a loving partnership that is Rainbow Equus' firm foundation. "We both loved horses and we had this beautiful property," Susan recalls. "What we have created evolved out of our passion, and we each bring our own skills. God owns this farm and has given us these gifts and we work for Him."
The breeding business began with the purchase of six top-flight broodmares from Europe. Bloodline expertise is one of Edgar's gifts and his selection of the original band of mares was validated in success at breed shows those early years as he and Susan campaigned and sold their youngsters. Their breeding ambitions crystallized in 1990 with the purchase of 11 more top mares. Handling all of the breeding work themselves from the get-go, "we learned to minimize our chances of failure," Susan notes. Proper diet, based on balanced nutrients from home-grown hay, and the aforementioned emphasis on preventative health, played a huge part in attaining that goal.
USEF Hunter of the Year Quality Time by Landfriese II
Kalypso was their first stallion, purchased in the early 90s, and their next was the legendary Fuerst Gotthard, who passed away of old age in 2009 after an extremely successful career as both a performer and a producer. Rainbow Equus currently stands seven sires: Baron Van Gogh, Escudo II, Landfriese II, Landkoenig, Pablito, Pablo and Rubignon.
Although Rainbow Equus Meadows is now one of North America's largest sporthorse producers, quality has always been the priority, Edgar stresses. The fact that several European breeders have now bought young horses, sometimes in utero, from Rainbow Equus illustrates how well that strategy has paid off. "It's a nice indication of the demand for horses of the quality we are producing," says Edgar in another understatement.
The list of each Rainbow stallion's accomplishments and successful offspring is long. The Pilot son, Pablo, for example, has produced more Grand Prix horses, in jumping and dressage, than any other stallion in North America, notes Edgar. Pablo's son, Pablito, produced more mare and foal inspection champions than any other Rainbow sire. These include the only Oldenburg mare to receive perfect 10s for jumping from all the judges, Edgar reports.
Escudo II, by Espri, has topped the list of jumping and riding horse producers (most dressage prospects fall into the "Riding" horse category in breeding evaluations). Landkoenig, by Landadel, has a stellar family tree of winning offspring, the aforementioned Lantinus being just one of them. Another Landadel son, Landfriese II, has a remarkable nine licensed sons. Offspring include the Nations Cup winner Landquick; USEF Hunter of the Year, Quality Time; and multiple Grand Prix dressage horses and upper level eventers.
Rainbow Equus Meadows' stallion, Baron Van Gogh.
Photo © Reg Corkum
Rubignon, by Rubenstein, was longlisted for the Swedish team and he has set records for producing talented and rideable offspring in Europe and America. For two years, he produced more offspring than any other stallion in the Swedish Warmblood studbook.
Relative newcomer Baron Van Gogh is reflecting the hunter market's growing preference for jumper lines. "In the past, a lot of our customers wouldn't buy a jumper sire for a hunter," Susan explains. "We've been able to change that because our babies have good movement, type and conformation, as proven in their inspections, and they can also jump." In short: the whole package sought by the American market. Baron's sire is top European jumping producer Burggraaf, (Landgraf x Cor de la Bryere), but with Kansas-based trainer Brandie Holloway, he is exceeding high expectations in his earliest outings on the Hunter and Hunter Derby circuit. After eight weeks competing in Ocala, FL, Baron will return home for the breeding season.
mare with Pablo foal.
Like any good breeding program, mares share top billing at Rainbow Equus. Part of that is due to their genetic contributions and part of that is due to their role in establishing the Schutte's 24/7 approach to serving the needs of their mare-owning customers. "I'm a mare owner first," Edgar asserts. "I know how frustrating it can be to miss a cycle." Because Edgar, Susan and their staff do all the collecting, semen processing and insemination themselves and on-site, they can always respond immediately to the needs of their clients' mares. "Sometimes we are so tired at dinner we can barely lift our forks to our mouths," says Susan, but the couple clearly wouldn't have it any other way.
The Rainbow Equus team prides itself on efficiency and cost effectiveness. Their stallions have a remarkably high conception rate, thanks to good genes, good management and state-of-the-art breeding lab equipment. That translates to keeping breeding costs down for clients, a long-term Rainbow priority that is particularly helpful in today's economy. Great service and great stallions explain why their business rose 15% in 2010, a year that saw many breeders struggle.
Immunall & Afterace
Starting with stallions and mares in optimal health is one key to cost effective and successful breeding, Edgar notes. To that end, the Schuttes have become U.S. representatives for two products that have been effective with their own and clients' horses: Immunall and Afterace. The Schuttes first saw Immunall improve the fertility of some of their stallions and mares that had a hard time getting pregnant. As they began to share those results with customers, several asked about using the all-natural herbal supplement to improve their horse's overall health. Its popularity has taken off in several disciplines, especially eventing, in which winners of the last two years' Rolex Kentucky Four Star events were, and remain, on the product.
The end of a successful breed show
Afterace helps to flush lactic acid out of muscles and tendons, reduces inflammation and, over time, gets rid of calcified areas, Edgar explains. "A lot of people use this instead of injecting hocks," he says. Both products often provide benefits beyond that which they were purchased for and improve a horse's overall well-being.
Immunall and Afterace were natural extensions to Rainbow Equus' efforts to maintain a healthy, natural environment for their horses. Although Edgar and Susan did not start out with the intent of running a big business, they are. For the past 15 years, they've typically had between 50 to 70 horses on the property, from weanlings to riding-ready youngsters. While they've grown in size, they've never lost sight of the original mission. "Our success is in growing affable, user-friendly horses equipped with well-behaved dispositions, talent and great rideability," concludes Susan. "These nice attributes and desirable qualities come from our well chosen mare base and quality stallions' genetics and immersing our horses in a trusting relationship from birth and through their growing years.
"With this foundation, we solidify these predestined and cultivated qualities and traits for new owners to have a positive and enjoyable partnership with their horse."
For more information on Rainbow Equus Meadows breeding program and sales horses, visit www.rainbowequus.com or call 916-645-1471.