By Maryanna Haymon
The story of Doctor Wendell MF is one of a dream and an ambitious goal to breed a Grand Prix stallion.
To start at the beginning, I need to tell you about Doc’s biological mother. She was a direct Sandro Hit daughter out of a SPS Don Gregory/Hill Hawk mother, who was a full sister to three other SPS mares and her full brother is a licensed stallion; top genetics for a good basis. We owned Don Principe (Donnerhall/Prince Thatch), aka Prince, at the time and Sandro Hit was very popular. We wanted to show that Prince would cross well on that line. When Stellar Hit MF was three years old, we decided to sell her, as we needed to pay some medical bills. But before we did, we collected an embryo that would later become Doctor Wendell MF.
Doc was born to an embryo transfer recipient mare and was rejected at birth. My husband, Wendell, and I spent hours trying to convince the mare to let Doc nurse. Eventually, after hobbles, drugs, and multiple attempts, that little black foal was allowed to get to the milk bar. When that small and weedy black colt went outside for the first time, he took our breath away—he had a huge walk with a lot of overstride, an uphill, bounding canter, and a trot with expression. He was everything we had hoped for.
Right at that moment, we planned to develop and sell him for enough money to pay the farm mortgage. Even then, we hoped that he would fulfill our expectations of the first licensed son of Don Principe. At first, he was named Delacroix MF, after a family friend, but his barn name had always been “Doc”. Eventually, another stallion secured that name and I decided to call him Doctor Wendell after my very supportive husband; the best product of our breeding program to date was due to Wendell’s unwavering support.
As Doc grew up on the farm, he had several other colts to run and play with. We keep all of our youngsters outside with run-ins, so they can be normal horses. When he reached the age of two, we started preparing Doc for in-hand shows. Here at Marydell, we believe that the experience of sport horse breeding shows is great exposure to our youngsters, for future shows. They learn to tie, cross tie, bathe, braid, trailer, stand in a stall, and are handled by a stranger.
Doc was an instant star on the line. Being a very precocious youngster, we had our hands full with him and needed a great handler to exhibit those exceptional gaits. Doc was handled by Brendan Curtis for most of his two-year-old year, and Doc was the Champion Colt/Gelding at numerous competitions. As the year went on, Doc became a bit “cheeky” about the championship rounds. He seemed to know he had done well. Those championship rounds had made him eligible for the USDF Breeders Championships Series Finals in both the East Coast Series and Southeast Series. Since we competed at Dressage at Devon every year, we went to the East Coast Series Final.
Doctor Wendell then went on to meet our first big goal and dream- he became a licensed stallion at four-years-old, for the American Hanoverian Society (AHS) and the German Oldenburg Society (GOV), and later, the ISR/Old NA as well. Wendell and I, after much discussion, went with the performance route, rather than the 70 day test for full approval. That meant that Doc had to have five scores of over 64% at Prix St. Georges (PSG) to gain full approval for AHS and GOV.
The plan was that we would compete at the Markel FEI Young Horse Championships, on the way to the FEI levels of PSG and higher. Doc’s experiences at USDF Dressage Sport Horse Breeding shows became a foundation for him to understand that he had two different careers- performance and breeding. He understood the rules and was never “breedy” while under saddle. However, during the jogs- watch out- naked horses! His antics kept us all in stitches.
Doc qualified as a five-year-old under Chris Hickey, placing sixth in the championships. Then, when Chris changed jobs, Jim Koford, Don Principe’s rider, took over the reins. Doc was invited to the Markel FEI Young Horse Championships, again, as a six-year-old; where he finished in fift h place overall.
At last, in January 2015, when it was legal for him to do so, Doc debuted at PSG in Wellington, Florida. In an interesting twist of fate, Don Principe’s breeder, Adelheid Bruning, was making her first trip to Florida and was on hand for the first PSG and Intermediate 1 that Doctor Wendell competed in. Doc did very well, garnering all the needed scores in only two months, in tough international competition, at the most prestigious venue in the USA. This was the final component needed for full approval. In the summer, Jim and Doc qualified for, and competed at, Lamplight in the Developing PSG. In November, Doc won the PSG Open Championship at the US Dressage Finals with his rider, Jim Koford. A stellar year indeed!
In 2016, at eight-years-old, the big game Grand Prix was the plan. We never wondered whether they could do it, but instead wondered how much would be too much for this young stallion. We need not have worried. Developing Grand Prix was easy for Doc. Doc and Jim also competed in Intermediate II, and were ranked fourth place at Intermediate II in the Adequan®/USDF Dressage Horse of the Year standings.
A fun highlight of the winter season was The Dressage Foundation Two-Tempi Challenge, sponsored by The Horse of Course. We accepted the challenge and took the risk. Doc had never been ridden in the dark, under the lights, with 3,000 people cheering and clapping. During the warm up behind the grandstand, we thought for a moment that we had overreached, and Doc was tense and unsure. But the moment he went into the Global Stadium, he lit up, turned on the expression, and strutted. He performed an amazing amount of two-tempis and tied with the other horse in the arena.
When the time came to realize our final goal for Doc—to make enough money to pay the farm mortgage—several people looked at Doc during the winter season in Florida. Most walked away, saying he was too small. At 16.1, Doc was a normal size, not as big as some of the horses winning the CDIs. But he was also short coupled, and when combined with 16.1, would look small. However, that short coupling was what gave him the talent for the piaffe and passage.
So, Wendell and I sent Doc to Germany, to the barn of Jennifer Hoffman, an American who resides just outside Düsseldorf. Jennifer and I met some years ago, when Don Principe was in Klaus Balkenhol’s barn for some training, so I knew that her training and riding would suit Doc. Doc was only with the Hoff man’s for a short period of time; some few weeks to get to know each other, and then to show to clients.
We had a set price that we needed to clear that was his marketing price, which in the end was what we received. However, with several additional commissions and a trainer’s fee, Doc sold for a staggering 1.1 million Euros! Being the breeder of Doctor Wendell MF is the story of a dream— a fully licensed and approved stallion, a Grand Prix competitor. Pay off the farm mortgage, indeed.