December 2019 - Thirty-five Years & Counting
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Sunday, 01 December 2019 09:49
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Two new stallions poised to carry DG Bar Ranch’s sporthorse breeding legacy far into the future. 

by Kim F. Miller • photos: Tamara with the Camera

The Interstate 5 non-horse person traveler might whiz past the Hanford exit that’s about midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The horse person, however, is likely exiting there on the quest to find a beautifully-bred Royal Dutch Warmblood horse. Horse people know Hanford as the home of DG Bar Ranch on the DeGroot family property. DG Bar Ranch is co-owned with Willy Arts, who leads the breeding and training program. The program has put its horses on the national and international dressage map consistently throughout its 35-year existence.


With the development of two new homebred stallions, Koning DG and L Primo DG, DG Bar is positioning itself for another 35 years of providing top quality young horses for the amateur and professional dressage market.
With the famous stallion Idocus retired from breeding at age 29 and Gaspard de la Nuit, by Steffen Peter’s Olympic partner Ravel, poised to ascend the competition circuit as a gelding, DG Bar “has been in need of good new stallions for some time,” explains Willy.


Ashlyn Dodge presenting Koning DG during the 2018 KWPN NA Licensing. Photo: Tamara with the Camera

Both 4-year-old Koning DG and 3-year-old L Primo DG are sired by the increasingly popular KWPN champion, Bordeaux, and are fully licensed by the registry.

Their sire is well known for passing on rideability and temperament to his offspring. Koning’s dam, Darcy CL, comes from a mare line with a phenomenal dressage career. Darcy herself was the highest scoring mare in the Pavo Cup as a 4-year-old, and then went on to become the reserve champion 5-Year-Old at the USEF Young Horse Championships.

L Primo DG (Bordeaux x Satina DG by Contango) during KWPN NA licensing scoring 90 points for confirmation and 85 points for movement.

In his IBOP, and the DG Bar Cup, Koning scored a remarkable 85.5, with a 9 walk; an 8 for trot; 9 for canter; and 8.5 for rideability and for talent.

L Primo DG has an equally impressive resume. At the KWPN-NA keuring in September of this year, at DG Bar, the jury raved about him in superlatives and scores. Said Bart Henstra and Arie Hamoen in their report: “This stallion has a fantastic modern dressage type. He has uphill conformation with a well-shaped and muscled neck, well-developed withers with a long, sloping shoulder, a good topline and very correct, lean legs.

L Primo DG during his licensing performance.

“L Primo DG was also presented in the IBOP,” the report continued. “He is athletic and very focused on the rider. His walk is clear and active. His trot has good technique and body use and is adjustable. Especially his canter was very well balanced, long-strided and athletic. With a 9 for conformation, canter and rideability, this interestingly bred L Primo DG impressed everyone.”

L Primo received the highest score of all horses in the keuring, and won the 3-year-old DG Bar Cup on 83 points.

L Primo’s dam Satina, by Contango, shares responsibility with Bordeaux for how well the youngster has turned out. He already has three foals on the ground, and Willy sees early indicators that the pairing’s many excellent traits are going forward into the next generation.

Obelisk DG 2019 colt by L Primo DG x Flemmingh.

Ashlyn Dodge riding Dalina DG (Jazz x Contango) half sister to L Primo. They will be showing Grand Prix this year.

A Reliable Gamble

Sporthorse breeding is often described as a gamble, but after 35 years, the DG Bar team is producing consistently reliable results. “Breeding is selecting,” Willy explains. “The goal is to increase the quality as you keep producing horses over the years.” Eight to 10 foals a year is the manageable number for DG Bar in terms of having the time needed to tend to each phase of the breeding cycle.

“The most important years of a horse’s life are from conception to 5 years old,” Willy says. “By ‘conception,’ I mean starting with the mare’s nutrition before and during the pregnancy, then after the foal’s birth. It’s very important that foals be handled a lot, that they learn proper manners to deal with people, and have their feet trimmed, etc. They don’t need to be ‘worked,’ they just need to be handled.”

After weaning, DG Bar babies are paired with another youngster. The weanling pairs split their time between a large stall and the pasture. As yearlings, colts and fillies are separated and sent to live full time in small group pastures, except when they come in for hoof trimming and basic veterinary care. At 2, all DG Bar horses have complete x-rays taken as a baseline for their future management.

Koning DG during his undersaddle presentation.

Darcy CL (Jazz x Junior) the dam of Koning DG.

At 2.5 years old, the young horses come into regular barn life while the DG Bar team determines the best approach and timing for each youngster’s training. Willy emphasizes that the 3- to 5-year-old years are crucial. “It’s all about how they get started, how they experience everything they are introduced to. That determines their foundation for training. The 4- and 5-year-olds focus on the basics of under-saddle work, going on the bit, etc. As 5-year-olds, they are typically very well prepared to go home with new owners ready to bring out the potential of their careful breeding and early development.

The DG Bar method is what Willy calls a “full circle” system, meaning he and the staff take the young horse through each phase of its young life. The end result fulfills the marketing aspect of the breeding business. “Our strategy has always been that when you sell one horse, that horse and its owner wind up selling more horses for you.” Happy outcomes lead to word of mouth and visibility that is a self-perpetuating form of sales.

“We have a lot of repeat customers,” Willy notes. Some are such long-time clients that they call DG Bar first when looking for their next horse or respond enthusiastically when Willy calls them with a prospect he suspects they’ll especially like.

Opalina DG 2019 filly by Koning DG x Contango.

Tamara Locatelli showing Kiamenta DG (Bordeaux x Painted Black). Kiamenta is from the mare line as Koning DG.

DG Bar also does traditional forms of marketing in that they campaign several horses, at all levels, on the regional and national dressage show circuit. For many years, DG Bar held its own annual dressage show that attracted close to 500 horses in its heyday. They discontinued that in 2007 to pare down their agenda to strictly breeding, developing young horses and training horses and a few riders.

The spacious DG Bar property features a beautiful barn, covered arena with a cozy lounge area, ample turn-outs, jumping chutes, Eurociser and more amenities for the typically 60-70 horses who live there. At any given time, there are usually six or seven horses going nicely under saddle for potential buyers to try.

Tony & Betty De Groot at the 2015 keuring (their last photo taken together).

Broad Influence

DG Bar’s influence extends well beyond those who have purchased their horses. Willy came to the United States from his native Holland in 1985, to help dairy farmer Tony DeGroot enable his wife Betty to get back into her childhood passion for horses: “to spend less time with cows and more time with horses,” as the DG Bar legend goes. While guiding the breeding program every step of the way for 35 years, Willy has regularly lent his expertise to the U.S. sporthorse breeding world by serving on various industry committees and embracing numerous educational roles. In DG Bar’s early days, he campaigned foundation stallions Wanroij and Volckmar to major successes that helped establish the program’s name and reputation.

DG Bar has hosted many educational clinics, and its annual KWPN-NA keuring – in September – is free to the public and packed with learning opportunities. Up next is hosting the registry’s annual meeting in March of 2020. This, too, will include lots of learning. “We’ll be focusing on selecting horses,” Willy explains. “The broodmare, pedigrees, what tools are available and how to use them. It’s going to be very hands-on.”

He expects it to be a great learning opportunity whether or not the participants plan to become breeders themselves. “The kind of information that will be covered will help a great deal in evaluating and buying horses, and with training programs,” Willy says. “Lots of training problems, for example, can be identified as conformation problems.” Learning to identify such issues early can help avoid unfortunate buying decisions or determine a training program best suited to a horse’s mild conformational challenges.


4th Generation enjoying vaulting practice.” style=

A Team Effort

“When we sell a horse or somebody wins a ribbon, it’s the result of a joint effort,” Willy says. “It takes an army to make everything happen and it all happens in a great atmosphere.” The tone of that atmosphere was set by Tony and Betty DeGroot. Tony passed on in 2015, but the positive approach he had toward life, people and business continues to be vibrantly reflected in every DG Bar Ranch endeavor.

That starts with the fact that several members of the DG Bar team are family members.

Along with Willy, granddaughter, Ashlyn Dodge, is a principle show rider for DG Bar. She competes horses up to the FEI level, brings youngsters along and gives lessons to training clients. Granddaughter, Amber DeGroot, helps with daily care and exercise. The DeGroots’ youngest daughter Tamara Locatelli is a NAJYRC Silver Medalist who now trains primarily at home. Granddaughter-in-law Caitlin Hamar also competes and handles administration matters for show registrations, farrier services, veterinary and other care. Daughter Elizabeth Veenendaal manages billing, feeding schedules and other behind-the-scenes tasks.

Caitlin Hamar riding the 3yr old DG Little John (Johnson x Sandro Hit) 3yr old gelding, they will compete in the FEI young horse this year.

Amber De Groot handling the youngster Maserati DG (Gaspard De La Nuit DG x Ferro).

“They all grew up here at the horse barn,” Willy reflects of DG Bar’s unique three-generations of family business. Now, the fourth generation is starting to become involved. The youngest are starting their riding life with vaulting, a discipline that Ashlyn pursued for several years. “It’s a great way to establish a good seat while getting acquainted with the horses and riding,” Willy observes.

“Whether it’s caring for, working with or riding the horses, there’s always something going on, everybody is always willing to help and everybody works hard.”

All of that hard work leads the way in filling the sporthorse pipeline with talented U.S.-bred horses and gives equestrian travelers a great reason for trekking to Central California’s Hanford.

For more information on DG Bar Ranch, visit